Skinner, Onias C.

Born: 1817-07-22 Floyd, New York

Died: 1877-02-04 Quincy, Illinois

Flourished: Quincy, Illinois

Onias C. Skinner was a farmer, lawyer, circuit court judge, and associate justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Skinner received his education at an academy in Whitestown, New York. Leaving school at the age of fifteen, he held various jobs in New York City and Philadelphia. In 1836, Skinner emigrated to Illinois, settling in Peoria, where he engaged in agricultural pursuits. Deciding on a career in law, Walker moved in 1838 to Greenville, Ohio, where he read law with Hiram Bell. Two years later, Skinner earned admittance to the Ohio bar and entered into a partnership with Bell. He practiced in Greenville for eighteen months before returning to Illinois, establishing a residence and law practice at Carthage. In August 1844, he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Illinois House of Representatives. During the Mormon War, Skinner led an anti-Mormon meeting in Warsaw. He served as aide-de-camp to Governor Thomas Ford, and in June 1844, Skinner was special counsel in Joseph Smith's preliminary hearing on charges of treason. Skinner later served as defense counsel for those accused of murdering Smith. He subsequently moved to Quincy, where he commenced practicing law. In 1848, Skinner won election, as a Democrat, to the Illinois House of Representatives, representing Adams and Brown counties in that body from January to November 1849. In 1851, Skinner was elected judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of Illinois. In June 1855, Skinner won election as associate justice of the Illinois Supreme Court, filling the vacancy caused by the resignation of Samuel H. Treat. Skinner served on the bench until his resignation in April 1858. After leaving the Supreme Court, Skinner resumed his law practice in Quincy. He served as a member of the 1870 state constitutional convention and practiced law until his death.

Skinner was married three times. In July 1845, he married Adaline M. Dorsey in Darke County, Ohio. She died of cholera in 1850. In 1853, Skinner wed Sarah Harris Wilton, who died in 1861. He wed for the final time in 1864, marrying Helen M. Cooley.

John Palmer, ed., The Bench and Bar of Illinois: Historical and Reminiscent (Chicago: Lewis, 1899), 1:54; John Dean Caton, Early Bench and Bar of Illinois (Chicago: The Chicago Legal News, 1893), 94; Theodore C. Pease, ed., Illinois Election Returns, 1818-1848, vol. 18 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Illinois State Historical Library, 1923), 390; Illinois Journal (Springfield), 13 September 1848, 3:2; John Clayton, comp., The Illinois Fact Book and Historical Almanac, 1673-1968 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1970), 217; The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Illinois of the Nineteenth Century (Philadelphia: Galaxy, 1875), 216-17; Dallin H. Oaks and Marvin S. Hill, Carthage Conspiracy: The Trial of the Accused Assassins of Joseph Smith (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1975), 84, 94, n38; Ohio, U.S., County Marriage Records, 1774-1993, 15 July 1845, Darke County (Lehi, UT: Operations, 2016); U.S., Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 (Provo, UT: Operations, 2010); U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Quincy, Adams County, IL, 101; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Adams County, 14 January 1864, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Gravestone (Sarah Wilton Skinner), Woodland Cemetery, Quincy, IL; Gravestone, Woodland Cemetery, Quincy, IL. Illustration courtesy of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, IL.