Up to the year 1800,
Erie County constituted a part of Allegheny, and all judicial proceedings
took place at Pittsburgh, the county seat. The act creating Erie a
separate county is dated the 12th of March, 1800. The county was too
sparsely settled to maintain a distinct organization, and by the act of
April 9, 1801, Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango and Warren were thrown
temporarily together for election and governmental purposes. Meadville was
designated as the place where the county business should be transacted.
This arrangement continued for two years.
The first court in Erie
was held by Hon. Jesse Moore, in April, 1803. The hours for convening were
announced by the Crier by the blowing of a horn. This horn continued to be
used for the purpose until 1823. The Supreme Judges at that time were
obliged to hold Circuit Courts in the several counties of the State, and
in the course of their duties Judge Yates visited Erie on the 15th of
October, 1806, and Judge Brackenridge in 1807 and 1811. Judge Brackenridge
was one of the ablest and most eminent men of his period, but extremely
eccentric in his manners. He was the author of "Modern
Chivalry," a work of rare wit and finely written. He sat in court
when here in 1807, with his dressing gown on, kicked off his shoes and
coolly elevated his bare feet upon a table. When the news was received
that he was approaching Erie, he was met in the English style, by the
Sheriff, attended by quite a party of gentlemen on horseback. A session of
the Supreme Court was held in the city in 1854, at which Judges Lewis,
Woodward, Lowrie and Knox were present.
The County Courts were
held by the President Judge, aided by two Associate Judges -- usually
farmers of good standing -- until May, 1839, when a District Court was
created to dispose of the accumulated business in Erie, Crawford, Venango
and Mercer Counties. Hon. James Thompson, of Venango, was appointed to the
District Judgeship, and filled the position until May, 1845. The term
originally was for five year, but was extended one year by request of the
bar. Previous to 1851, both the President Judges and Associate Judges were
appointed by the Governor. The first election by the people was in
October, 1851, when Hon. John Galbraith was chosen President Judge, and
Hon. Joseph M. Sterrett and Hon. James Miles, Associates. The office of
Additional Law Judge was created in 1856, Hon. David Derrickson, of
Crawford County, being its first incumbent, and expired by the operation
of the constitution on the 17th of April, 1874. The Associate Judges were
abolished on November 17, 1876, and since that date the entire duties of
the court have been performed by the President Judge. All Law Judges in
the State are elected for ten years.
The constitution of
1873, or the "new constitution," as it is usually called,
allowed the President Judge of each district, where there was an
Additional Law Judge, to elect to which of the districts into which his
original jurisdiction had been divided he might be assigned. Under this
provision, Judge Wetmore selected the Thirty-seventh District, consisting
of Warren and Elk Counties, and Judge Vincent, Additional Law Judge for
the district, became President Judge of Erie County, which had been
created a district by itself.
The following is a list
of the President, Special and Additional Law Judges, with the dates of
Judges-- Alexander Addison, Pittsburgh, August 17, 1791.
Allegheny County, March 3, 1800.
Jesse Moore, Crawford
County, April 5, 1803.
Huntingdon County, January 24,1825.
Nathaniel B. Eldred,
Wayne County, March 23, 1839.
Crawford County, April 3, 1843.
John Galbraith, Erie
County, November 6, 1851.
Warren County, June 29, 1860.
Samuel P. Johnson,
Warren County, December 3, 1860.
Lansing D. Wetmore,
Warren County, first Monday in January, 1870.
John P. Vincent, Erie
County, April 17, 1874.
William A. Galbraith,
Erie County, first Monday in January, 1877.
Judges-- David Derrickson, Crawford County, first Monday in
John P. Vincent, Erie
County, first Monday in December, 1866.
James Thompson, Venango County, May 18, 1839.
Judges have died in office, viz.: Hon. Jesse Moore, at Meadville, on the
21st of December, 1824, Hon. Henry Shippen at Meadville in 1839, and Hon.
John Galbraith at Erie, on the 15th of June, 1860. The law at the time of
Judge Galbraith's decease provided that the Governor should supply the
vacancy till the ensuing election, and Hon. Rasselas Brown, of Warren, was
accordingly appointed to succeed him, and served till December of the same
year. One Judge for the district -- Hon. Alexander Addison -- was
impeached and removed from his office.
One President Judge --
Nathaniel B. Eldred -- resigned in 1843 to take the place of Naval
Appraiser at Philadelphia. He was afterward appointed Judge of the Dauphin
Two of the Judges were
promoted to seats on the Supreme Bench of the State. James Thompson was
elected one of the Justices of the Supreme Court in 1856, and held the
position until 1872, the full term of fifteen years, the last five of
which he presided as Chief Justice. Gaylord Church was appointed a Supreme
Judge in 1858, to fill a vacancy caused by the resignation of one of the
members of the court. He retained the place for a brief period only.
The residences of the
Judges have been as follows: Judges Addison and Clark at Pittsburgh;
Judges Moore, Shippen, Church and Derrickson at Meadville; Judges Eldred,
brown, Johnson and Wetmore at Warren; Judges John Galbraith, William A.
Galbraith and Vincent at Erie. Judge Thompson came from Franklin in 1842,
and made Erie his home until a short time after his election as Supreme
Judge, when he removed to Philadelphia.
The following are
living: Judges Brown, Derrickson, Johnson, Wetmore, Vincent and William A.
Judges Addison, Clark,
Moore, Shippen, Eldred, Thompson, Church and John Galbraith were
Democrats, as are also Judges Rasselas Brown and William A. Galbraith.
Judges Derrickson, Johnson, Wetmore and Vincent are Republicans. Hon.
William A. Galbraith, our present Judge, is the only son of Hon. John
Galbraith, the first President Judge elected by the people. Judge Gaylord
Church was the father of Hon. Pearson Church, now President Judge of
Crawford County, who was elected at the same time as Judge William A.
Galbraith. The following shows the competing candidates for President and
Additional Law Judges since the offices have been elective:
1851 -- President
Judge, John Galbraith, Democrat; Elijah Babbitt, Whig.
1856 -- Additional
Law Judge, David Derrickson, Republican; Rasselas Brown, Democrat.
1860 -- President
Judge, Samuel P. Johnson, Republican; Rasselas Brown, Democrat.
1866 -- Additional
Law Judge, John P. Vincent, Republican; Benjamin Brant, Democrat.
1870 -- President
Judge, Lansing D. Wetmore, Republican; Samuel E. Woodruff, Independent
Republican; Rasselas Brown, Democrat.
1876 -- President Judge -- William A. Galbraith, Independent Democrat;
William Benson, Republican.
districts since the organization of the county have been as follows:
1800 -- All of the
State west of the Allegheny River.
1803 -- Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango, Warren and Beaver.
1825 -- Erie, Crawford, Mercer and Venango.
1851 -- Erie, Crawford and Warren.
1860 -- Erie, Crawford, Warren and Elk.
1870 -- Erie, Warren and Elk.
1874 -- Erie alone.
It is worthy of note
that the district has been designated the Sixth almost or entirely from
the day the county was organized.
The regular terms of the courts were fixed May 31, 1882, as follows:
Quarter Sessions -- First Monday in February, first Monday in May, first
Monday in September, second Monday in November.
Civil List -- Second and third Mondays in January, third Monday in
February, second and third Mondays in March, second and third Mondays in
April, third Monday in May, first and second Mondays in October, third
Monday in January.
Argument List -- Last Mondays in June and September, third Monday in
November, second Monday in February and fourth Monday in April.
To the above are added each year special civil lists of from six to eight
weeks, extending usually through the months of March, April, May and June.
Judge Galbraith's salary is $4,000 a year, which is a little more than
one-half of what the Judges are paid in Philadelphia, who do scarcely
two-thirds as much work.
Erie County is attached to the Eastern District of the Supreme Court,
which holds its sessions at Philadelphia. The hearing of cases from Erie
County commences on the first Monday of February in each year.
The most celebrated trials that have been held in the county were the
suits of John Grubb vs. Hamlin Russell, in 1827, occupying some six days;
the Girard suit for 10,000 acres of land, which took up about a week in
June, 1854; the Hunter will case, from LeBoeuf Township, which lasted
nearly eight days on the first trial in January 1880, and was compromised
on the third day of the second trial in April, 1880; and the case of
McFarland vs. Lovett, for malpractice, which commenced Monday, March 21,
1881, and ended Saturday, April 2, being the longest ever tried in the
Although a number of persons have been tried for murder in the county, the
death penalty has only been enforced against a single individual. Henry
Francisco was sentenced by Judge Shippen on November 11, 1837, and hung by
Sheriff Andrew Scott on March 9, 1838, within the yard of the jail, which
then occupied the site of the present court house.
United States Courts
By an act of Congress passed in 1866, Erie was named as one of the places
for the sittings of the United States District and Circuit Courts for the
Western District of Pennsylvania. Previous to 1870, the Circuit Courts
were held by a Judge of the United States Supreme Court or by the District
Judge, or by both sitting together. The duties of holding the Circuit
Courts having become too onerous for the Supreme Judges, an act was passed
in 1869 to relieve them by providing Circuit Judges. Cases are appealed
from the District to the Circuit Court, and from the latter to the Supreme
Court of the United States. The District Judge can hold a Circuit Court,
but a Circuit Judge cannot hold the District Court. The Supreme Judges
may, of they choose, sit with the Circuit Judge or hold court alone. The
only time one of the Supreme Judges of the United States has been present
in Erie was when Judge Strong was here in July, 1875.
The first session of the District court was held in this city in January,
1867, and of the Circuit Court in July, 1868, Judge Wilson McCandless
presiding. Both courts were regularly held by him until Hon. William
McKennan, of Washington County, was sworn in as Circuit Judge at the
January term of 1870. Judge McCandless continued to serve until July 24,
1876, when he was honorably retired on account of advanced years, and was
succeeded as District Judge by Hon. Winthrop W. Ketchum, Luzerne County.
Judges McKennan and Ketchum were both sworn in and began their official
duties at Erie. The latter died early in 1880, and Hon. M. W. Acheson, of
Washington County, was appointed his successor. Judge Acheson was present
for the first time in Erie at the July term of 1880. Judge McCandless died
at Pittsburgh in 1880.
The regular terms of both courts at Erie commence on the second Monday of
January, and the third Monday of July. The January term was held at Erie
every year until 1875, since when, for some reason, it has been omitted.
The county receives $150 from the United States for the use of the court
house at the July term.
The other officers of the court since their sessions began in Erie have
been as follows. The terms show when they first appeared in their official
capacities in this city:
July term, 1867 -- Samuel McKelvey, Allegheny County.
January term, 1868 -- Thomas A. Rowley, Allegheny County.
July term, 1869 -- Alexander Murdoch, Washington County.
January term, 1873 -- John Hall, Washington County.
July term, 1882 -- J. S. Rutan, Beaver County.
Col. Hall had been Deputy Marshal for several years before his
appointment as Marshal.
District Attorneys-- July term, 1867 -- R. B. Carnahan, Allegheny
County, July term, 1870 -- H. Bucher Swoope, Clearfield County.
July term, 1874 -- David Reed, Allegheny County.
July term, 1875 -- H. H. McCormick, Allegheny County.
July term, 1880 -- William A. Stone, Allegheny County.
Clerks-- District Court-- Whole term -- S. C. McCandless,
Circuit Court-- July term, 1868 -- Henry Sproul, Allegheny
July term, 1870 -- H. D. Gamble, Allegheny County.
Deputy Clerks at Erie -- District Court-- July term, 1867 --
George W. Gunnison, Erie.
July term, 1869 -- George A. Allen, Erie.
July term, 1873 -- F. W. Grant, Erie.
Circuit Court-- July term, 1868 -- George W. Gunnison, Erie.
July term, 1869 -- George A. Allen, Erie.
July term, 1871 -- A. B. Force, Erie.
July term, 1876 -- F. W. Grant, Erie.
Of the above
officials, Judge McCandless, Clerk McCandless, and Deputy Clerks Gunnison,
Allen and Grant, Democrats; all the rest are Republicans. The Judges,
Marshals and District Attorneys are appointed by the President; the Clerks
by their respective courts.
Under the old system, the selection of jurors for the United States Courts
was wholly in the hands of the Marshal, who summoned any person he
pleased. In 1879, Congress passed an act taking the naming of the jurors
away from the Marshal, making the Clerk of each court a Jury Commissioner
for his own court, and requiring him to appoint another Jury Commissioner
of opposite politics, thus securing representation on the juries from both
of the leading parties. Hon. William McClelland is the Democratic
Commissioner appointed by Clerk Gamble. The Commissioners make up lists of
names from all parts of the district, which are deposited in a wheel and
drawn out the same as by the State system.
The first lawyer to locate in Erie was William Wallace, who came on from
Eastern Pennsylvania in 1800, as attorney for the Pennsylvania Population
Company. He remained until 1811, when he returned to Harrisburg. The
second was William N. Irvine, who settled here in 1804, but also returned
to Harrisburg in a few years, eventually becoming President Judge of the
Adams District. Among the lawyers who located in Erie at an early day, and
who became permanent residents were Anselen Potter, George A. Eliot,
Thomas H. Sill, Philo E. Judd and William Kelly. Mr. Potter was admitted
in 1808, Mr. Sill in 1813, Mr. Eliot in 1816, Mr. Judd in 1821 and Mr.
Kelly in 1822. Dudley Marvin, who afterward rose to great distinction at
the New York bar, came to Erie in 1811 with the intention of making it
home, was admitted to the bar and stayed some time, but concluded to
return to Canadaigua, where he spent many of the active years of his life.
In those days, the practice of the law was a very different business from
what it is to-day. The country was thinly settled, the people were
miserably poor, litigation was upon a limited scale, and fees were
correspondingly small. The lawyers were obliged to practice in a dozen
counties in order to make a livelihood, and some of them were away from
their homes and offices more than half of the time. They traveled from one
county seat to the other on horseback, with their legal papers and a few
books in a sack across the saddle. Among the most prominent of those from
abroad who attended the Erie County Courts were Henry Baldwin, Patrick
Farrelly, J. Stewart Riddell, Ralph Martin and John B. Wallace, of
Meadville, and Samuel B. Foster and John Banks, of Mercer. Mr. Farrelly,
in particular was present at almost every term of court, and it is said
that his practice at the Erie bar was larger than that of any or all of
the lawyers residing here. Several of the gentlemen named rose to high
official distinction. Mr. Baldwin, who moved from Meadville to Pittsburgh,
after serving three terms in Congress, was made a Justice of the Supreme
Court of the United States in 1830. Mr. Farrelly was three times elected
to Congress; and Mr. Banks was appointed Judge of the Berks County Court,
and was the Whig nominee for Governor in 1841.
The following is a list of those who have been admitted to the bar since
the destruction of the court house in 1823, with the dates of their
Allen, George A., June 16, 1868; James W. Allison, June 1, 1875; F. H.
Abel, June 16, 1877.
Babbitt, Elijah, February 1, 1826; Don Carlos Barrett, July 1, 1826; Peter
A. R. Brace, May 3, 1843; William Benson, August 7, 1846; J. W. Brigden,
October 23, 1849; Rush S. Battles, December 11, 1855; Charles Burnham,
November 30, 1865; Gordon S. Berry, December 21, 1865; Charles O. Bowman,
November 30, 1865; W. M. Biddle, April 30, 1866; R. B. Brawley, August 9,
1866; Henry Butterfield, April 2, 1867; S. J. Butterfield, April 2, 1867;
Hiram A. Baker, October 1, 1867; Julius Byles, August 15, 1868; Samuel B.
Brooks, September 29, 1868; Charles P. Biddle, October 15, 1868; G. D.
Buckley, November 27, 1868; W. W. Brown, August 31, 1869; Samuel M.
Brainerd, December 22, 1869; Cassius L. Baker, May 8, 1872; H. W.
Blakeslee, November 22, 1872; Ulric Blickensderfer, December 12, 1873; A.
F. Bole, February 27, 1874; Isaac B. Brown, May 6, 1875; Judge William
Benson, December 4, 1876; M. H. Byles, February 12, 1879; John C. Brady,
September 30, 1879; Charles H. Burton, May 31, 1881.
Curtis, C. B., 1834; George H. Cutler, November 7, 1840; Justin B. Chapin,
May 4, 1848; Andrew H. Caughey, November 26, 1851; Marcus N. Cutler,
January 31, 1857; Junius B. Clark, May 10, 1860; Edward Camphausen, March
15, 1865; Edward Clark, March 14, 1867; Manly Crosby, September 30, 1868;
A. W. Covall, May 25, 1870; C. L. Covell, May 27, 1873; W. B. Chapman,
March 28, 1873; George A. Cutler, October 7, 1873; C. C. Converse, March
11, 1874; D. R. Cushman, June 23, 1874; Herman J. Curtze, January 4, 1875;
Allen A. Craig, December 18, 1875; A. G. Covell, September 7, 1880.
Douglass, John W., May 3, 1850; Samuel A. Davenport, May 7, 1854; John F.
Duncombe, August 8, 1854; George W. DeCamp, August 7, 1857; J. F. Downing,
1859; Myron E. Dunlap, December 12, 1873; James D. Dunlap, October, 1837.
Edwards, T. D., June 29, 1853; Clark Ewing, December 24, 1863; Joseph D.
Ebersole, May 7, 1851.
Fisk, James B., June 10, 1845; A. J. Foster, March 15, 1865; A. B. Force,
August 22, 1871; J. M. Force, November 28, 1879.
Graham, Carson, December 19, 1837; John Galbraith, 1837; C. S. Gzowski,
August 5, 1839; St. John Goodrich, August 2, 1841; Michael Gallagher
(District Court), May 1, 1843; William A. Galbraith, May 9, 1844, Benjamin
Grant, October 27, 1845; John L. Gallatew, December 3, 1846; Jonas
Gunnison, November 9; 1849; George P. Griffith, August 4, 1864; George W.
Gunnison, March 15, 1865; Frank Gunnison, February 5, 1870; Frank W.
Grant, March 12, 1874; Paul H. Gaither, November 19, 1874; William
Griffith, January 27, 1875; Edward P. Gould, May 31, 1875; Edward Graser,
May 6, 1876; Samuel L. Gilson, September 4, 1878.
Hawes, Horace M., November 7, 1840; William M. Heister, May 3, 1841; D. W.
Hutchinson, May 11, 1855; Calvin J. Hinds, May 11, 1860; Charles Horton,
January 29, 1866; John K. Hallock, March 24, 1868; John L. Hyner, April 4,
1870; David S. Herron, September 8, 1875; Thomas C. Himebaugh, May 20,
Johnson, Quincy A., August 6, 1839; John B. Johnson, April 5, 1842; George
N. Johnson, May 9, 1855; M. W. Jacobs, October 29, 1872; A. M. Judson, May
Kelso, Charles W., 1835; William C. Kelso (District Court), May 10, 1839;
Louis F. Keller, November 8, 1869; D. H. Kline, November 14, 1874; Joseph
K. Kelso, June 27, 1876.
Law, Samuel A. (District Court), April 5, 1841; William S. Lane, July 22,
1844; Wilson Laird, February 8, 1849; A. McDonald Lyon, March 20, 1857;
George A. Lyon, Jr., March 12, 1861; Charles M. Lynch, February 6, 1866;
H. B. Loomis, August 6, 1866; Samuel P. Longstreet, January 25, 1869;
James H. Lewis, January 28, 1869; William E. Lathy, March 7, 1871; Theo.
A. Lamb, August 22, 1871; Francis P. Longstreet, August 22, 1871; George
W. Lathy, December 18, 1871; Charles E. Lovett, October 10, 1874.
McLane, Moses, November 2, 1825; Gilman Merrill, November 9, 1826; George
Morton, June 7, 1827; James C. Marshall, August 4, 1829; George H. Myers,
May 10, 1849; David B. McCreary, August 8, 1851; Francis F. Marshall,
October 28, 1857; Selden Marvin, December 14, 1859; William E. March, May
7, 1879; Frank M. McClintock, May 11, 1878.
Norton, L. S., October 12, 1868.
Olmstead, C. G., September 7, 1875; Clark Olds, April 26, 1876; Edward J.
O'Conner, December 5, 1878.
Phelps, Mortimer, September 12, 1850; James G. Payne, February 1, 1861; T.
S. Parker, December 19, 1865; James O. Parmelee, October 7, 1871; John
Proudfit, April 26, 1876; C. L. Pierce, October 23, 1877; William R.
Perkins, June 25, 1878; Rodman F. Pugh, September 4, 1878; Frank L. Porley,
September 30, 1879.
Riddle, John S., August 9, 1826; Albert C. Ramsey, May 7, 1833; John J.
Randall, May 8, 1839; S. W. Randall, May 10, 1839; James C. Reid, August
10, 1848; John W. Riddell, December 26, 1854; David W. Rambo, November 2,
1864; Henry M. Riblet, October 3, 1867; B. J. Reid, January 22, 1872;
Louis Rosenzweig, April 6, 1872; Craig J. Reid, September 11, 1876.
Smith, Silas T., June 4, 1827; George W. Smith, November 7, 1831; Stephen
Strong (District Court), April 8, 1841; Reid T. Stewart, August 5, 1845;
S. Merwin Smith, May 5, 1846; James Sill, October 29, 1852; Samuel S.
Spencer, February 12, 1853; William R. Scott, February 2, 1858; B. J.
Sterrett, May 7, 1861; C. B. Sleeper, August 9, 1865; J. C. Sturgeon,
February 28, 1867; C. R. Saunders, May 24, 1869; Henry Souther, October
30, 1872; James W. Sproul, April 13, 1874; Earl N. Sackett, December 28,
1875; Henry A. Strong, September 17, 1881; A. E. Sisson, November 19,
1881; David A. Sawdey, December 1, 1881.
Virgil, Almon, May 8, 1839; John P. Vincent, February 2, 1841; E. B. Van
Tassel, December 16, 1858; Strong Vincent, December 12, 1860.
Walker, John H., July 27, 1824; John H. Waugh, May 25, 1825; David Walker,
February 7, 1827; W. M. Watts, July 17, 1839; Murray Whallon, October 19,
1839; Irvin M. Wallace, May 28, 1843; Edwin C. Wilson, August 3, 1846; S.
E. Woodruff, October 28, 1846; George Williamson, January 24, 1850; Hy. J.
Walters, April 27, 1857; A. D. Woods, September 3, 1863; George W. Walker,
August 1, 1864; D. M. R. Wilson, December 19, 1865; Calvin D. Whitney, May
10, 1866; C. S. Wilson, October 6, 1870; Thomas S. Woodruff, May 25, 1871;
Jerome W. Wetmore, November 9, 1849; John W. Walker, November --, 1854;
Thomas J. Wells, August 4, 1864; E. L. Whittelsey, May 15, 1877; Emory A.
Walling, September 4, 1878.
Yard, H. C., November 28, 1879.
The public careers of some of the above-named gentlemen include almost the
whole political history of the county. We have room for only a few brief
references. John H. Walker reached Erie when quite a young man, walking
from Pittsburgh to Meadville, where he was obliged to borrow money to
enable him to reach his destination. Elijah Babbitt built his office and
house in 1828, and has stuck to the same spot ever since. Messrs. Walker,
Babbitt and Thomas H. Sill have filled numerous public positions, among
them some of the most conspicuous in the gift of the people. James C.
Marshall moved to Girard in 1830, engaged in business, and did not return
to the practice of law in Erie until 1844. Don Carlos Barrett's name was
stricken from the roll of the bar in 1834, and he soon after left the
county, never to return. John Galbraith came to Erie from Franklin in
1837. He represented the district in Congress three terms. Carson Graham
and John F. Duncombe west West and became prominent in public life, the
one as a Judge and the other as a legislator and popular orator. James D.
Dunlap was the author of Dunlap's Book of Forms, and Benjamin Grant of
several volumes of the State Reports. Horace M. Hawes emigrated to
California and became worth several millions. William M. Heister returned
to Reading, served a term or two in the State Senate, and was Secretary of
State during Gov. Packer's administration. George H. Cutler came to Erie
County in 1835 from Cortland County, N. Y., where he had read law. After a
time spent in other pursuits, he took a second course of reading with Hon.
John Galbraith, to comply with the rule. Selden Marvin came here from
Chautauqua County, N. Y., where he served a term as County Judge with
credit and general acceptability. Henry Souther, before moving to Erie,
had been a State Senator by election, and Surveyor General and Judge of
Schuylkill County by appointment of the Governor. Edwin C. Wilson and D.
B. McCreary served three years each as Adjutant General of the State, the
first under Gov. Packer and the second under Gov. Geary. Gen. Curtis went
to Warren immediately after his admission, and lived there until 1866,
when he came back to Erie. He represented the district in Congress two
terms and served as an officer in the war for the Union. S. E. Woodruff
lived in Girard until 1872, when he moved to Erie. He was Register in
Bankruptcy for twelve years. Strong Vincent served gallantly in the war
for the Union, rose to be a Brigadier General, won an enviable reputation
as a brave soldier, and was killed at Gettysburg. Murray Whallon moved to
California, where he has been elected several times to the Legislature.
Samuel A. Law went to New York and was promoted to prominent legislative
positions. John W. Douglass is now a resident of Washington City, after
long service as Deputy Commissioner and Commissioner of Internal Revenue.
S. M. Brainerd and W. W. Brown were both elected to Congress in 1882, the
first from the Erie and the second from the McKean district.
In looking over the list of attorneys, it is curious to see how few have
acquired fortunes by their practice. A number have become possessed of
large means, but in every instance the writer recalls to mind, their
financial prosperity has been due to real estate investments or to some
other piece of good luck outside of the regular course of their
profession. The law -- in Erie County, at least -- may be the pathway to
reputation, but it is very far from being the easy road to affluence.
Deaths, Removals, Etc.
The following attorneys are known to be dead: Charles Burnham, Peter A. R.
Brace, Gurdon S. Berry, W. M. Biddle, Justin B. Chapin, C. B. Curtis,
James D. Dunlap, Clark Ewing, George A. Eliot, Carson Graham, John
Galbraith, Benjamin Grant, Jonas Gunnison, William Griffith, George W.
Gunnison, Horace M. Hawes, William M. Heister, Charles Horton, John L.
Hyner, John B. Johnson, George N. Johnston, Charles W. Kelso, William
Kelley, A. M. Donald Lyon, Samuel A. Law, F. P. Longstreet, S. P.
Longstreet, Moses McLane, C. L. Pierce, John S. Riddell, James C. Reid,
Silas T. Smith, S. Merwin Smith, Thomas H. Sill, Reid T. Stewart, Matthew
Taylor, William Taylor, James Thompson, Oliver E. Taylor, Strong Vincent,
John H. Walker, Edwin C. Wilson, W. M. Watts, S. E. Woodruff and George W.
Walker. Mr. Brace died at Prairie du Chien, Iowa, Mr. Berry in Titusville,
Mr. Chapin in Ridgway, Mr. Graham in Iowa, Mr. G. W. Gunnison in
Massachusetts, Mr. Hawes in California, Mr. Heister in Reading, Mr. Kelly
in the West, Mr. S. M. Smith in Vermont, Judge Thompson in Philadelphia,
Gen. Vincent at Gettysburg, and Gen. Wilson in Baltimore. Mr. Stewart
married an Erie lady and died on his wedding trip. Judge Thompson dropped
in February, 1877, while arguing a case before the Supreme Court in
The following attorneys are in practice elsewhere: Julius Byles,
Titusville; G. D. Buckley, California; W. W. Brown, Bradford; H. W.
Blakeslee, Oil Region; M. H. Byles, Titusville; W. B. Chapman, Bradford;
John W. Douglass, Washington, D. C.; John F. Duncombe, Iowa; George W.
DeCamp, Kansas; A. B. Force, Pittsburgh; Paul H. Gaither, Eastern
Pennsylvania; D. S. Herron, Oil Region; M. W. Jacobs, Harrisburg; William
S. Lane, Philadelphia; William E. Lathy, Kansas; Charles E. Lovett,
Dakota; James G. Payne, Washington, D. C. T. S. Parker, Pittsburgh; James
O. Parmlee, Warren; John W. Riddell, Pittsburgh; B. J. Reid, Clarion;
William R. Scott, Meadville; C. B. Sleeper, West; C. R. Saunders,
Cleveland; Samuel J. Thompson, Philadelphia; E. B. VanTassel,
Conneautville; Murray Whallon, California; George Williamson, West; A. D.
Woods, Warren; Thomas J. Wells, Chicago.
The following left the country, but their locations, business, etc., are
not known to the writer: R. B. Brawley, Charles P. Biddle, Marcus N.
Cutler, Junius B. Clark, Edward Clark, C. S. Gzowski, St. John Goodrich,
Michael Gallagher, John L. Gallatew, Thomas C. Himebaugh, Louis F. Keller,
D. H. Kline, James H. Lewis, George H. Myers, R. F. Pugh, F. L. Perley,
John J. and S. W. Randall, D. W. Rambo, George W. Smith, Stephen Strong,
B. J. Sterrett, Almon Virgil.
The following have abandoned the profession, and are engaged in other
F. H. Abell, J. W. Brigden, Rush S. Battles, A. H. Caughey, C. C.
Converse, E. Graser, John K. Hallock, A. M. Judson, George A Lyon, E. J.
O'Conner, M. Phelps, William R. Perkins, Irvin M. Wallace, J. F. Downing,
John W. Walker.
Associate Judges-- Two Associate Judges assisted the President
Judge from the organization of the county until the 17th of November,
1876, when the office was abolished by the new constitution, the terms of
Judges Benson and Craig having expired. The Associate Judges were
appointed by the Governor until 1851, at which time the office was made
elective. The incumbents of the position were not required to be learned
in the law, and in every instance were either substantial farmers or
intelligent business men. One Associate Judge, William Bell, died in
office, and Samuel Smith resigned to take a seat in Congress. Before the
constitution of 1838, all Judges were commissioned for life or good
behavior, but that instrument limited the terms of President Judges to ten
years, and of Associate Judges to five years. The following is a list of
the Associate Judges from the time the county was separated from
Allegheny, with the dates of their commissions:
Appointed-- David Mead, Crawford County, March 13, 1800. District
-- All of the State west of the Allegheny River, excepting Allegheny
John Kelso, Erie County, March 14, 1800. Same district.
William Bell, Erie County, December 20, 1800; in place of David Mead,
resigned. Same district.
All below were for Erie County alone, the terms of Judges Kelso and Bell
having expired by limitation.
John Kelso, Erie, July 4, 1803; resigned December 21, 1804.
Samuel Smith, Mill Creek, July 6, 1803; resigned in 1805.
William Bell, Erie, May 9, 1805. In place of John Kelso, resigned.
John Vincent, Waterford, December 23, 1805. In place of Samuel Smith,
elected to Congress.
Wilson Smith, Waterford, March 15, 1814. In place of William Bell, who
died in office.
John Grubb, Mill Creek, January 8, 1820. In place of Wilson Smith, elected
to the Legislature.
John Brawley, North East, March 26, 1840. In place of John Vincent, whose
term expired according to the constitution of 1838. Re-commissioned March
Myron Hutchinson, Girard, March 13, 1841. In place of John Grubb, whose
term expired, as above stated. Re-commissioned March 13, 1846.
John M. Sterrett, Erie, June 4, 1850. In place of John Brawley.
Re-commissioned January 23, 1851.
James Miles, Girard, April 1, 1851. In place of M. Hutchinson.
Elected-- Joseph M. Sterrett, Erie, November 10, 1851.
James Miles, Girard, November 10, 1851.
Samuel Hutchins, Waterford, November 12, 1856.
John Greer, North East, November 12, 1856. Re-elected in 1861.
William Cross, Springfield, November 23, 1861, in place of Samuel
William Benson, Waterford, November 8, 1866. Re-elected in 1871.
Hollis King, Corry, November 8, 1806.
Allen A. Craig, Erie, November 17, 1871, in place of Hollis King.
Commencing with Judge Sterrett, the Associate Judges were either Whigs or
Republicans. All previous to that time were appointed as Anti-Federalists
District Attorneys-- From 1804 to 1850, the present office of
District Attorney was known by the title of Deputy Attorney General, and
its incumbents were appointed by and retained in office during the
pleasure of the Attorney General of the State. The name was changed to
District Attorney in 1850, the office was made elective, and the term
fixed at three years. Below is a list of the persons who have filled the
1804 -- William N.
------ -- William Wallace, Erie.
1809 -- Patrick Farrelly, Crawford County.
------ -- Ralph Marlin, Crawford County.
1819 -- George A. Eliot, Erie.
1824 -- William Kelly, Erie.
1833 -- Don Carlos Berrett, Erie.
1835 -- Galen Foster, Erie.
1836 -- Elijah Babbitt, Erie.
1837 -- William M. Watts, Erie.
1839 -- Carson Graham, Erie.
1845 -- Horace M. Hawes, Erie.
1846 -- William A. Galbraith, Erie.
Of the above, all
but Messrs. Kelly, Foster, Babbitt and Watts were appointed as
anti-Federalists or Democrats. The District Attorneys elected by the
people have invariably been Whigs or Republicans. They are as follows:
1850 -- Matthew
1853 -- Samuel E. Woodruff, Girard.
1856 -- G. Nelson Johnson, Erie. Died shortly after the election and
Charles W. Kelso appointed by the Governor to serve until the October
election in 1857.
1857 -- James Sill, Erie.
1860 -- Samuel A. Davenport, Erie.
1863 -- J. F. Downing, Erie.
1866 -- Charles M. Lynch, Erie.
1869 -- John C. Sturgeon, Erie.
1872 -- Samuel M. Brainerd, North East.
1875 -- A. B. Force, Erie.
1878 -- Charles E. Lovett, Erie.
1881 -- E. A. Walling, North East.
Court Criers and
The following have been the Court Criers: David Langley, Basil Hoskinson,
Robert Kincaide, Joshua Randall, Remras Baldwin, P. D. Bryant, Edward B.
Lytle, A. E. White (since 1851).
The law library of the county consists of 800 to 1,000 volumes, which are
kept upon shelves in the grand jury room. It was purchased largely from
the proceeds of fines in certain criminal cases. This law has been
repealed, and the only revenue for library purposes now is a fine of $1 in
certain cases. The selection of books is made by a library committee
consisting of five members of the bar.
A society under the name of the Erie Bar Association has been in operation
about eight years, the object being to advance the general interest of the
The requisites for admission to the bar are as follows: Before any person
can be registered as a law student, he must be examined by a committee,
who must certify that he has a good English education, is versed in the
rudiments of Latin, and is otherwise well qualified to commence the study
of law. He must then read two years in the office of an attorney. He must
finally appear before an examining committee, and receive a certificate
signed by all the members present, that he is competent to enter upon the
practice of the law. After this, he is admitted, on motion of one of the
members of the Examining Committee. The rule applies as well to attorneys
from other States and counties as to those desiring to enter the
profession originally, but is generally suspended in the case of lawyers
of long practice and established reputation. J. P. Vincent, J. Ross
Thompson, C. B. Curtis, George A. Allen and Theo. A. Lamb have been the
examining committee since 1878.