The Prosecutor

When August Walgvogel shot Milo Goodenough, his prosecutor in the case was Prescott County District Attorney J.C. Button (he is listed as J.O. Button on some sources, but the J.C. appears accurate). The murder of Milo Goodenough was the first murder trial in Prescott County and Mr. Button was a young prosecutor at the time. He held the office for only two years. Was this young, new prosecutor using what must have been a sensational trial to make a name for himself? Is that the reason behind his zeal in prosecuting what should have been (as far we know) a simple case of self defense? It’s something to think about!

I found quite a bit of information on District Attorney Button. He lived a very interesting, exciting life and had many experiences and adventures. The following is taken from the History of Trempealeau, Wisconsin:

“J.C. Button, for many years a distinguished figure in the legal procedure of Western Wisconsin, is now living in retirement, in the village of Trempealeau at the ripe old age of 84. He has known varied experiences, has seen the world in many lands and climes, has taken an active part in the formation of many of the policies of several Mississippi Valley  Counties and has lived to see his fondest hopes and ambitions realized. High thinking and clean living have given him a store of vitality which is still unimpaired, and the world has brought him a full measure of joy and contentment, his only sorrow being the passing away of friends and relatives, whom the passing years have taken one by one.   His ruggedness of health and staunchness of character are inherited by a long line of worthy forebears.  

The father, Charles button, was of Colonial English stock. As a young man he studied medicine, but never engaged in extensive practice, choosing instead to spend his life in agricultural pursuits. He was married in New York State to Cynthia Watson, who was likewise descended from Colonial Stock.  

From New York they went to Lorain County, Ohio, and there, JC, the subject of this sketch was born June 3, 1830. When he was an infant they went to Oakland County, Michigan, and settled on the Stony Point Road, not far from Pontiac. In 1836 they moved to Illinois and settled on a farm 12 miles south of Ottawa. 

From there in 1843 they came to Green County, Wisconsin and took up their home eight miles east of Monroe, the county seat. The father died in 1844 and the mother in 1878.  Living in pioneer communities and fatherless at the age of 14, young JC had meager opportunities for schooling, most of his schooling being obtained in a little log schoolhouse.  

In 1848 he entered the Academic Department of Beloit College and was graduated from the Collegiate Department in 1852.  Then he started out for California in search for gold.  The parting with his mother was a pathetic one.  Standing hat in hand, with his mother’s arm about his neck, he promised never to use profanity, never to indulge in any game of chance, and never to taste or handle intoxicating drinks of any sort. This promise he has kept to this day and to it he attributes his health and happiness. His goodbyes said, he joined his party and continued west as far as Salt Lake City, Utah. There he and a friend struck out alone and located in Salem, Oregon for a time. 

From there a young Button went to Portland and from there by ship to San Francisco. After a trip to San Francisco and neighboring mines, he embarked on a ship which carried him to the west coast of Panama, where he secured a team to take him to Graytown, on the Gulf Coast.  

Then, touching at points at Florida and Cuba, he reached New York and returned to his home. Desiring to further perfect  his education he went to Janesville, Wisconsin and entered the office of Sleeper and Norton where he studied law and was admitted to the bar.  It was in 1858 that he opened an office in in St. Croix Falls, Polk Cty, Wisconsin, and started housekeeping in a home which he erected with his own hands.  

In the Fall of 1859 he was elected to the office of District attorney and moved to Osceola, the county seat. At the expiration of his term he moved to Prescott, and entered into partnership with J.S. White, a partnership which lasted until 1876. Soon after his arrival in Prescott he was elected District Attorney of Pierce County, a position in which he ably served for a term of 2 years.  

Having been in continuous practice of his profession for 20 years part of the time as a public official, Mr. Button determined, in 1877, to take a well deserved vacation traveling in Europe and Asia Minor. Accordingly, he set out and visited in turn, England, Scotland, France and Spain, Egypt, the Holy Land, Turkey and Albania, Greece, Italy, Alsace-Loraine, Germany, Russia, Holland, Belgium, Wales and Ireland.  

Among the many notables whom he saw may be mentioned Queen Victoria, and it is remarkable that he attended the funeral of King Victor Immanuel of Italy who died January 9, 1878 and of Pope Pius IX who died in February of the same year. 

Upon his return to America Mr. Button came to Trempealeau County in the fall of 1878 for the purpose of assisting his brother, S. W. Button.  SW Button had been in partnership with Judge Newman and upon the elevation of Judge Newman to the District Court bench found the work too strenuous for his failing health and so called his brother JC to his assistance, going himself to the panhandle country in Texas, where his health was restored, after which he took up the practice of his profession in Sparta, Wisconsin. 

Accordingly, JC Button took up his home in Trempealeu Village, where he has since resided. For one term he was District Attorney of this county.  He is a man of sincere conviction, and his highly honored and respected throughout the community.  Mr. Button was married, June 16, 1858 to Charlotte Wheaton, daughter of Cyrus Wheaton of Green County, Wisconsin.  

Mrs. Button died in December of 1890.  Their only child, Charles, died at the age of 4 years and ten months of age.”

Button died May 3, 1922 in Trempealeau, Wisconsin, taking his reasoning behind prosecuting August Walvogel with such a vengeance to his grave.  

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