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Solomon Mitchell, Depostion


Bouvier (1856) “The testimony of a witness reduced to writing, in due form of law, taken by virtue of a commission or other authority of a competent tribunal. ... Before it is taken, the witness ought to be sworn or affirmed to declare the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It should properly be written by the commissioner appointed to take it, or by the witness himself...or by one not interested in the matter in dispute, who is properly authorized by the commissioner. ... It ought to answer all the interrogatories, and be signed by the witness, when he can write, and by the commissioner. When the witness cannot write, it ought to be so stated, and he should make his mark or cross.”


Unlike an affidavit, which is a simple statement by an individual, depositions mirror court proceedings and can be introduced as evidence at trial. Both attorney’s questions and the deponent’s answers are recorded, and the deponent can be cross-examined by opposing counsel just as they could be in court. Every county in Kentucky had one or more County Examiners, whose duties included taking depositions.

The date and place at which each deposition was taken was to be recorded, and the deponent should have been sworn to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” just as if they had been in court. Some depositions record that oath in full, others, like this example, mention that it was sworn.

The concluding paragraph by Examiner E. F. Chappell points out some other interesting things. Notice that the testimony was read back to the deponent Solomon Mitchell, who presumably asked that some of the text be edited and clarified. Also notice the statement of fees and costs at the end. Generating and copying legal documents was done on a fee-for-service model that compensated attorneys, sheriffs, clerks, and jailors for their work.