WITCHCRAFT--WESTMORELAND TOWN ERECTED--INTERESTING ITEMS FROM THE RECORDS--TOWNSHIPS WITHIN THE TOWN--PRICES REGULATED BY LAW--PUNISHMENT OF EVIL DOERS--OLDEST LAND RECORDS--COUNTY CREATED--COURTS AND LAWYERS--RESIDENT ATTORNEYS--OFFICIALS--CENTENNIAL, ETC,.
THE preceding chapter tells of the first attempted settlement by the Connecticut people in 1762, and then the first three years of the struggle for the possession of the soil of this locality that ended in 1771, leaving the Yankees in possession, and they turned their attention to opening little farms, building new forts and strengthening old ones; and the commencement of that herculean work of making this the fitting place for the wealth, comforts and civilization that we now see about us on every hand. There had passed nine years, almost every hour crowded with important events--nine years of blood and flame, of massacres, [p.210] battles, the swarming home-seekers and the dreary exodus through the "Shades of Death"--as was called the way through the wilderness back to the Delaware river. Nine years of bloody lawlessness--no schools, churches or law--save that of common defence against formidable outside enemies. It was an era of terrible education--the shorn lambs exposed to the untempered winter winds. These people, it must not be forgotten, were the immediate descendants of the superstitious of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries--the time of witch burners and when charms and spooks and spells were playing fantastic tricks in nearly every household. Our fathers believed in witches; that the earth was flat; a hell of fire and brimstone, and a literal seven days' creation. They were fresh from a race full of the wildest and crudest superstitions. Pennsylvania at one time recognized as in full force and effect the British laws against witchcraft, as well as all those cruel laws administered by the old Bailey court, where human life was so cheap, and property was the one precious thing in the world.
The records show that two Swedish women, Margaret Mattson and Yethro Hendrickson, were accused before Gov. Penn as being witches. Several witnesses testified respecting the strange conduct of certain cows, geese, hogs, etc., but, luckily, the court thought this was not enough direct evidence to convict the women. The jury returned a verdict: "They have the common fame of witches, but not guilty in the manner and form of the indictment." The governor, however, required security of them for their good behavior the next six months. This was once Northampton or a part of that county. A number of persons were arrested and imprisoned as witches. Luckily, none were executed, as was common in New England.
In what is now Luzerne county, the people hardly had time, from other and more serious foes, to war much on witch women. But many poor old women here "had the fame of witchcraft." Stewart Pearce, in his Annals, says: "Mrs. J-- at W--, bewitched the cattle of Mr. --, and several died, in spite of the efforts of Titus, an old negro witch doctor. For several days Titus labored, using the ordinary remedies, one of which was a gun-barrel filled with a particular kind of liquid. But no effect was produced upon the witch, who continued, contrary to expectation, to exercise all her bodily functions. At length, a fine ox was taken sick, when a new remedy was applied to break the spell. Miller, the sexton of the old church on the public square, taking the church key, approached the ox, and, putting it in the animal's mouth, turned it about three times, repeating certain spell-breaking words known only to himself. The power of the witch was destroyed, and the ox recovered.
Mrs. H--, near Tunkhannock, frequently bewitched the hunters' guns, to remedy which a bullet was fired, from a gun not affected by any spell, into the body of a tree. So soon as the bullet became covered by the growth of the wood, the witch would be seized by severe pain in certain parts of her body, from which she would find no relief until she removed the spell from the gun.
Mrs. --, in the village of P--, bewitched the cows and hogs of Mr. --. The cows twisted their tails upon their backs, threw up the earth with their feet, bellowed, and ran their hind legs up the trunks of trees. The pigs squealed night and day, frothed at the mouth, rolled over, and turned summersaults. Mr -- and his wife were in a state of consternation, expecting they themselves would be seized with similar impulses for ground and lofty tumbling. Fortunately, a celebrated German witch doctor arrived. Taking a gun-barrel, he filled it with a certain saline fluid, plugged up the muzzle and touch-hole, and placed it in the chimney corner. In a short time the husband of the witch came to the house, saying his wife was taken suddenly ill, and requesting Mrs. -- to come and see her; but the request was not complied with, at the instance of the doctor, who represented that the effect of his remedy would be counteracted if the desire of the witch were. [p.211] granted. The next day the witch sent again, urging the attendance of Mrs. -- who again refused to visit her. The husband then placed his wife, the witch, in a wagon and conveyed her to the house of Mr. --, where she confessed she had bewitched his cattle, and implored the doctor to unstop the gun-barrel. This he did, and, as soon as the saline fluid began to flow from the muzzle, the witch was relieved, and the cows and hogs were cured.
In 1772 the people were emerging from their severe conditions slowly, but mostly living in stockades. Charles Miner says the huts of Capt. Butler and Nathan Denison were adjoining each other, then came Mathias Hollenback's, the first man who brought merchandise to sell. Dr. Joseph Sprague opened the first boarding house. A samp mortar was used to pound grain for bread. Venison and shad were plenty, but salt was scarce. Dr. Sprague would load a horse and go two miles on the Delaware, at Coshutunk. Neither a chair, table nor bedstead was in the settlement except such as were made by the auger and axe. John Carey, who gave his name to Careytown, died in 1841, the last survivor of these people.
The Indians had left the valley after the massacre of 1763, and were seen hereafter only as marauding parties and small remnants of scattered tribes. A few friendly ones lived a mile above Mill creek.
From the stockade the people, breakfasting early, taking with them a luncheon, went forth armed to their daily labor. The view here presented, with slight variations, was exhibited in four or five different places in the valley. Stockades or block-houses were built in Hanover and Plymouth. The celebrated Fortyfort in Kingston was occupied. Many returned to the east for their families, and now settlers came in. It was a season rather of activity than labor-moving and removing; surveying; drawing lots for land rights; preparing for building; hastily clearing up patches to sow with winter grain, the sad consequence of which was the harvests of autumn were not sufficient for the considerably augmented number of inhabitants. Until the conclusion of 1772 very little of the forms of law or the regulations of civil government had been introduced or required. Town committees exercised the power of deciding on contested land rights.
Thus: "Doings of the committee, May 22, 1772.
"That Roswell Franklin have that right in Wilkes-Barre drawn by Thomas Stevens.
"That James Bidlack have that right in Plymouth drawn by Nathaniel Drake.
"That Mr. McDowell be voted into the Forty town (Kingston).
"That for the special services done this company by Col. Dyer, agreed that his son, Thomas Dyer, shall have a right in the Forty, if he has a man on it by the first day of August next.
"That the rights that are sold in the six mile township, or Capouse, shall be sold at $60 each, and bonds taken," etc.
It may be regarded as a transition year, full of undefined pleasure, flowing from the newness and freshness of the scene--a comparative sense of peace and security. The year happily passed without "justice or lawyers."
The year 1773 was remarked as one when, from the influx of new settlers, provisions ran short and hunger threatened. Five persons were selected to go to the Delaware for provisions, a distance of fifty miles, and had to cross the Lehigh river. Ice was floating in the river; they stripped and swam across. These men on their shoulders carried back each 100 pounds of supplies. The opening of the shad season was looked forward to with great hopes, and they were not disappointed.
The spring, too, was attended with sickness. Several deaths took place. Capt. Butler buried a son named Zebulon; and soon after his wife followed her boy to the grave. Both were interred on the hill, near where the upper street of the borough is cut through the rocks, as it passes from the main street to the canal basin. This picture of the early settlement, simple in its details, we could not [p.212] doubt, would be agreeable to numbers now living, and not less so to readers in future years, when the valley shall become, as it is destined to be, rich and populous, not surpassed, if equaled in the Union.
Among the first objects of general interest was the erection of a gristmill. This was undertaken by Nathan Chapman, to whom a grant was made of the site where Hollenback's old mill now stands, near the stone bridge on the road from Wilkes- Barre to Pittston. Forty acres of land were part of the donation. Mr. Hollenback brought the mill-irons in his boat from Wright's ferry, and the voyage was rendered memorable by the loss of Lazarus Young, a valuable young man, who was drowned on the way up.
Immediately afterward the town voted: "To give unto Capt. Stephen Fuller, Obadiah Gore, Jr., and Mr. Seth Marvin all the privileges of the stream called Mill creek, below Mr. Chapman's mill, to be their own property, with full liberty of building mills and flowing a pond, but so as not to obstruct or hinder Chapman's mills: Provided they will have a sawmill ready to go by the 1st day of November, 1773, which gift shall be to them, their heirs and assigns, forever." And this was the first sawmill erected on the upper waters of the Susquehanna.
The township of Wilkes-Barre had been surveyed in 1770 by David Meade, and received its name from John Wilkes and Col. Barre, members of parliament, and distinguished advocates for liberty and the rights of the colonies. "Wilkes and Liberty--North Britain--45," was then heard from every tongue. A final division was now made of the back lots among the proprietors. The town plot, now the borough, was laid out by a liberal forecast on a very handsome scale. On a high flat, on the east bank of the Susquehanna, above all fear of inundation, the position was chosen. Two hundred acres were divided into eight squares of twenty-five acres, and these into six lots each, containing, after the streets were taken off, about three and three-quarters of an acre. A spacious square was allotted for public buildings.
Main street was laid off to run in the general course of the river, northerly and southerly, two miles long, and was crossed by five streets at right angles. Two ferries were kept up, at Mill creek and at the foot of Northampton street. This point on Mill creek is now just beyond the northern limits of the city.
Prior to the coming of the first settlers here distilleries had been erected on the lower Susquehanna. This circumstance had an important bearing on the movements of the people of what is now Luzerne county. The rich valley produced with slight labor an abundance of corn. One man who came to northern Pennsylvania on horseback alone had traveled in the wilderness until finally he came to a windfall." The storm had blown down the forest over several acres, and here he alighted, built a pen large enough to sleep in, one end opened probably to allow his feet extended to his fall length. He had seed corn in his saddle-bags, and the only agricultural implement he had was a shoe hammer. With this he planted his corn, and in the fall gathered forty bushels.
As soon as the people here were left alone they commenced planting and sowing. The distillers from the lower district came as corn buyers and shipped in rafts and arks. This suggested the building distilleries here, which was promptly put in execution. There was probably not a settlement in all Pennsylvania but that one of the first public institutions was a distillery, and soon nearly every farm had one.
Reading an ancient "for sale " of a farm, and as a special inducement to purchasers, it was mentioned that there were "two distilleries on the place." The first merchant here was Mathias Hollenback, and from his account book of 1773 is taken the following entries:
One quart of whisky, $1.50; 2 quarts of apple brandy, $3.33-1/3; nip of toddy, 8 cents; 1 quart of rum, 41-2/3 cents; 1/2 sling, 8 cents; 1 egg-nog, 22 cents; 2 bowls of toddy, 50 cents; 1 bowl of sangaree, 47 cents; 1 gill of rum, 6 cents; 1 dram, 6 cents; 2 yards of tobacco, 4 cents; 1 bushel of wheat, 83-1/3 cents; 1 elk skin, $4; 1 pound [p.213] of coffee, 25 cents; 1 spelling-book, 58-1/3 cents; 1 pound of loaf sugar, $1.14; 1 pound of sugar, 25 cents; 1 pound of tobacco, 47 cents; 1 ream of paper, $3.75; 20 bear skins, 30 cents each.
In the year 1772 the people organized their local government. It was a pure and simple democracy. Town meetings were called and here legislation was enacted. Capt. Stephen Fuller was elected moderator. A resolution was adopted that anyone selling liquor to an Indian was to forfeit his goods and be expelled from the colony. They had good evidence that the massacre of 1763 was largely due to the Indians being drunk at the time.
Disputes as to claims under the Connecticut title were beginning to arise, and a land office was established and a record made of all full and half-shares, where the title to 16,000 acres was at once put on record. John Jenkins was surveyor-general and Joseph Biles his deputy.
June 2, 1773, the inhabitants of Connecticut met at Hartford and adopted a code of rules and laws for the government of the Susquehanna colony. This is now a historical document. Its preamble refers to the disputed claims of the country between Pennsylvania and Connecticut; professes loyalty to King George III., and refers all questions to the King's law counsellors. They pledge themselves to be peaceful, loyal and upholders of the laws; agreed to choose for each settlement three able and discreet men to manage local affairs, suppress vice and preserve the peace of God and the King; provided for a general town meeting, on the first of each month; the three directors to meet every three months to hear complaints and settle disputes; crimes enumerated were swearing, drunkenness, gaming, stealing, fraud, idleness "and the like." They agreed to banish all convicted of adultery, burglary, etc. An annual meeting of all males over twenty-one years of age on the first Monday in December, to choose directors, etc. A list of rateable estates and polls was to be made, taxes provided for, and all were required to come forward and subscribe to the articles. Under these articles the following directors were appointed: Wilkes-barre--Maj. John Durkee, Capt. Zebulon Butler and Obadiah Gore, Jr. Plymouth-- Phineas Noah, Capt. David Marvin and J. Gaylord. New Providence--Isaac Tripp, Timothy Keys and Gideon Baldwin. Kingston--Capt. Obadiah Gore, Nathan Denison and Parshall Terry. Pittston--Caleb Bates, James Brown and Lemuel Harding. Hanover--Capt. Lazarus Stewart, William Stewart and John Franklin.
Three years of peace and quiet industry now blessed the people of the "Happy Valley." Little by little they ventured more and more from the stockades. All looked upon the questions between the settlers and Pennsylvania as permanently at rest. These men felt first loyal to Connecticut, but if the proper authorities should decide that jurisdiction really belonged to Pennsylvania they were content. They had paid for the acres they possessed, and thrice a thousand times earned them in defending them from the bloody invaders. Local civil government was established; all males over twenty-one were equally authorized to go to the town meetings and vote their wishes. We can imagine that the exercise of such a franchise was to these good people like the noisy toy to the child. They learned to meet very often, and all regarded it as a sacred privilege and duty to be present. Around every fireside and camp the men talked of public questions of policy; the axe rang in the forests, and in the little clearings men, women and children planted and harvested bountiful crops. Places of worship were provided and schools instituted. A subscription paper was circulated to raise a sufficient sum to induce a physician to locate in the practice among them, and this brought Dr. Anderson Dana. Wool and flax were raised, and the hum of the wheel and the steady pounding of the looms in every cabin bespoke the abundance of clothing, as well as food for all. Steady industry, peace, happiness and content sang in every heart, and already they began to look back upon the recent bloody and cruel past as a necessary preparation for their present fullness of happiness.
[p.214] The Connecticut authorities that had looked on in silence during the three years of the Yankee and Pennamite contention, now seemed to conclude that her people had proved their ability to maintain themselves, and therefore the home government would back them and assert itself in the promises. Accordingly three able and discreet men were sent to Philadelphia to confer with the authorities and adjust all disputes. They went and formerly presented their overtures. They were kindly received, but firmly refused acceding to their offered terms of settlement. The proprietaries regarded their title as clear beyond controversy, and it was a great misfortune to the pioneers that this view was not also taken by Connecticut. This information, had it been frankly given the settlers along the Susquehanna, would have saved much cruelties and great wrongs and injustices.
The most important of the propositions made to Pennsylvania by Connecticut was, "To join in an application to his Majesty to appoint commissioners," to ascertain the rightful boundaries, etc.
In 1774 Connecticut boldly assumed full jurisdiction over the colony of the Susquehanna. Then the good people here were overjoyed. They regarded the sore trials that had for five years hung their skies as with blackest pall now removed to the mother colony, and in future, instead of battles, seiges and exoduses across the "Shadow of Death," it would be amicably settled by negotiations in which their rights and welfare would be fairly and fully cared for.
Connecticut passed an act in January, 1774, erecting all the territory within her border, from the Delaware river to a line fifteen miles west of the Susquehanna river, into a town, with the same rights and powers of her other towns, to be called Westmoreland, and attaching it to Litchfield. Zebulon Butler and Nathan Denison were commissioned justices, and the town of Westmoreland was legally organized. The jurisdiction of Connecticut apparently fully established. The new town was about seventy miles square, and within its limits were several townships, five miles square each, and these divided again into lots which were drawn by lot by the settlers. A town meeting at that time meant calling together the people of all the different townships. Under Connecticut every town kept a regular record of election, orders, votes. etc. Nothing can be more interesting in this age than a few excerpts from these old records, for which we are indebted to Hon. Charles Miner, as given in his valuable History of Wyoming:
"At a town meeting legally warned and held for Westmoreland, March ye 1st, 1774, for choosing town officers, etc., Zebulon Butler, Esq., was chosen moderator for the work of the day. Maj. Ezekiel Pierce was chosen town clerk.
"March ye 1st. Voted that this meeting is adjourned until tomorrow morning at this place, at eight of the clock, in ye forenoon.
"March ye 2d, 1774, this meeting is opened and held by adjournment. Voted, that ye town of Westmoreland be divided in the following manner into districts-- that is to say, that ye town of Wilkesbarre, be one entire district, and known by the name of Wilkesbarre district: And that ye town of Hanover, and all the land south of Wilkesbarre, and west on Susquehanna river, and east on the Lehigh, be one district, by ye name of Hanover district; and that Plymouth, with all ye land west of Susquehanna river, south and west to the town line, be one district, by ye name of Plymouth district; and that Kingston, with ye land west to ye town line, be one district, by ye name of Kingston district; and that Pittston be one district, by ye name of Pittston district; and that Exeter, Providence, and all the lands west and north to ye town line, be one district, by ye name of ye North district; and that Lackaway settlement and Blooming Grove, and Sheolah, to be one district, and to be called by ye name of ye Lackaway district; and all ye settlements on Delaware be one district, and joined to ye other districts, and known by ye name of ye East district.
Select men: "Christopher Avery, Nathaniel Landon, Samuel Ransom, Isaac [p.217] Tripp, Esq., Caleb Bates, Lazarus Stewart, Silas Parke, were chosen selectmen, for ye year ensuing. Isaac Tripp, Esq., refused to accept. John Jenkens was chosen selectman in ye room of Esq. Tripp."
Town treasurer: Zebulon Butler, Esq., was chosen town treasurer.
Constables and collectors of rates: Asa Stevens, Timothy Smith, Jonathan Haskel, Asaph Whittlesy, Noah Adams, Phineas Clark, William Smith, were chosen constables and collectors of rates.
Surveyors of highways: Anderson Dana, Daniel Gore, Elisha Swift, Thomas Stoddart, Thomas Bennett, Perrin Ross, Rufus Lawrence, Samuel Ransom, Jonathan Parker, Isaac Baldwin, Zavan Tracy, Elijah Witter, John Ainsley, William Hibbard, James Lastley, John Dewitt, John Jenkins, Jr., Aaron Thomas, Anthony Chimer, Abraham Russ, Benjamin Vancampen, Benjamin Harvey, were chosen surveyors of highways.
Fence viewers: "John Abbott, William Warner, Ezekiel Pierce, William Buck, Nathan Denison, Esq., Thomas Stoddart, Frederick Eveland, John Baker, Charles Gaylord, Samuel Slaughter, Abraham Harding, Capt. Parrish, John Jamison, John Gardner, were chosen fence viewers for ye year ensuing."
Listers: "Anderson Dana, Daniel Gore, Elisha Swift, Eliphalet Follet, Perrin Ross, Nathan Wade, Jeremiah Blanchard, Zavan Tracy, Uriah Chapman, Gideon Baldwin, Silas Gore, Moses Thomas, Emanuel Consawler, John Jenkins and Phineas Clark, were chosen listers for ye year ensuing."
"Leather sealers: Elisha Swift, Ebenezer Hibbard and Capt. Silas Parke, were chosen leather sealers ye year ensuing.
"Grand jurors: Jabez Sills, James Stark, William Buck, Elias Church, Phineas Nash, Thomas Heath, Barnabas Cary, Lemuel Harding, Hezekiah Bingham, John Franklin, Timothy Keys, were chosen grand jurors ye year ensuing.
Tything men: Philip Weeks, Elihu Williams, Luke Swetland, Justice Gaylord, James Brown, Isaac Parrish, Timothy Hopkins, were chosen tything men.
"Sealers of weights and measures; Jabez Sills, Captain Obadiah Gore, Captain Silas Parke, Captain Lazarus Stewart, were chosen sealers of weights and measures.
"Key keepers: Daniel Gore, Jabez Fish, Timothy Pierce, Uriah Stevens, Thomas Heath, Jeremiah Blanchard, Jonathan Haskel, Zipron Hibbard, were chosen key keepers." Thus was the town organized by the designation of 100 officers.
April 11 and 12, the second town meeting in Westmoreland was held. 206 persons took the freeman's oath, as required by law. A tax was laid of one penny in the pound, to purchase ammunition for the town's use, and other necessaries.
Application to the assembly was directed for a court of probate, and the establishment of a regiment. Pounds already built were pronounced lawful pounds. Roads heretofore established were declared lawful highways, on which taxes might be laid out.
"Voted, That for ye present, ye tree that now stands northerly from Capt. Butler's house, shall be ye town sign post."
This matter of the legal sign post is of weightier import than, without explanation, might be imagined. Newspapers in those days were little known, save in the larger cities. It had therefore been enacted that a sign post be established in each town, on which notices of public meetings, public sales, stray animals taken up, etc., should be nailed or placed, to render them legal. It is proper to add that, as an accompaniment of the sign post, which was also the legal whipping post, a pair of stocks was provided for a punishment of the guilty, and a warning to deter from crime. These monuments of civilization and law were derived from England, and brought over, nay, almost venerated, by our Puritan fathers. The ancient pillory and wooden horse first disappeared, the whipping post and stocks soon followed.
A third meeting was holden April 28, 1774.
"Capt. Butler was chosen moderator, for ye work of ye day. Voted, That Capt. [p.218] Zebulon Butler, Capt. Timothy Smith, Mr. Christopher Avery and Mr. John Jenkins, be appointed agents in behalf of this company of settlers, to attend the meeting of the general assembly, to be holden at Hartford, in May next, etc." The same gentlemen were also appointed as agents to the Susquehanna company, which was to assemble at Hartford, on May 24.
It is presumed that at this time the number of the members of assembly Westmoreland would be entitled to, had not been designated. Thereafter two were or might be elected for each session, during the continuance of the jurisdiction of Connecticut.
The John Jenkins named was the elder, and father of Col. John Jenkins, both distinguished patriots.
The fourth town meeting was held June 27, Zebulon Butler, moderator. Votes were passed to form themselves into companies in a military way, each district in Westmoreland to be a company, and Zebulon Butler, Maj. Ezekiel Pierce and Mr. John Jenkins were appointed as a committee to repair to the several districts and lead each company to a choice of officers, etc.
On September 30 a fifth town meeting was held, Capt. S. Fuller, moderator. Capt. Butler and Mr. Joseph Sluman were chosen representatives to the next assembly, and these were the first persons admitted to the full participation of the rights of members, not as delegates from territories having a power to debate, but not a right to vote, but voting on all questions that arose, uniting in making laws for the rest of the colony, as the other members made laws for Westmoreland, and from henceforth Westmoreland was in all respects a part of Connecticut, as much so as Stonington or Saybrook, Hartford or New Haven.
Voted, That Lieut. Elijah Shoemaker, Mr. Solomon Johnson, Mr. John Jenkins, Capt. Timothy Smith and Mr. Douglass Davidson, be a committee to meet such gentlemen as shall be appointed at or near Delaware, to mark out a road from that river to the Susquehanna. Up to this time, therefore, no road existed from any part of the inhabited country to Westmoreland. Bridle paths were the only avenues to the valley, except that by the Susquehanna river, on which boats brought from below, at great cost, heavy articles of indispensable necessity.
The eighth and last town meeting called during 1774 was held December 6, at which: among a variety of other things, it was
Voted, That Elisha Richards, Capt. Ransom, Perrin Ross, Nathaniel Landon, Elisha Swift, Nathan Denison, Esq., Stephen Harding, John Jenkins, Anderson Dana, Obadiah Gore, Jr., James Stark, Rosewell Franklin, Capt. Stewart, Capt. Parkes and Uriah Chapman were chosen school committee for the ensuing year.
Of those intruders who took land irregularly to the rights of the Susquehanna company, it was then ordered that these men be removed from the settlement. It was further voted that Capt. Stephen Fuller, Robert Durkee, Asabel Buck, Nathan Denison, Capt. Samuel Ransom, John Paine, Abraham Harding, Roswell Franklin and John Jenkins, Jr., be a committee to make inquiry into and search after all suspected persons whom they may judge to be "unwholesome persons to the good settlers." They had power to expel all such people.
These were nine of the most discreet persons in the town, and they held powers of great importance. One fact should here be observed by the reader. The higher crimes were simply a cause for expulsion. This was their mode where now we send men to penal institutions and keep them under lock and key. In some States, in nearly every State in the Union the increase of criminals and penal institutions are the cause of most serious questions to the government. What to do with our convicts? is a serious problem that has come with our other social questions. There is something in the thought of the fathers, expel them--promptly and with little cost. Penning up your criminals, putting them to work under strong guards, has brought in time, the other sides of the question, and our statesmen here seem to be at fault [p.219] in remedying glaring difficulties. A man adjudged a bad citizen was simply ordered to leave, and now when our land is dotted with buildings for the incarceration of suspects and criminals, and others to hold witnesses and to form schools for tender youths, we sometimes hear of certain persons being given so many hours to leave and not return under pain of being imprisoned. It is most singular how mankind adjusts itself to its surroundings. Men have deliberately caused themselves to be returned to the penitentiary; men who had served there until they found their cherished dreams of liberty a burden they could not bear when it came. Authentic cases are related, among others, where a man had picked up a stone and smashed a plate glass window, in order that he might be arrested, saying that arrest meant a house to sleep in and something to eat. One of the ugliest features of our most modern life being our police courts and their machinery to be now found in daily session wherever a few hundred people are huddled in towns and villages. Visit these reeking pens and study the class of people who do most patronize them and then call the roll of the great fathers who laid the foundations of this nation--the entire list of brave and hardy immigrants--and imagine one of those dear old homespun fellows ringing up the police when he had a quarrel with a neighbor! Rather he would seize the bad man by the ear and lead him to the good parson, who would smite him hip and thigh with the sword of the Lord. Imagine, if you can, that during the first three-quarters of a century here, there could have arisen a case recently brought to light in one of our cities, where a rich man found his daughter and a poor laboring young man making love, and finally, to effectually break it up, hired handy detectives, cooked up a case against the young man and railroaded him off to the penitentiary. Yet we tell our children that the pioneers were not so refined as we of to-day--"good enough, kind old people. but crude." Nature seems to demand the storm as well as the sunshine.
The land records, the oldest in this locality, dated July 6, 1772.--"In the twelfth year of the reign of our sovereign lord, George ye Third King, etc."--recites that Silas Gore sold to Jonathan Stowell, of Ashford, Conn. for the consideration of £20, "one whole settling right in the township of Wilkes-Barre--said right, contains the home or house, lot No. 28; the meadow lot No. 50 and the third division or back lot No. 44, as by the drafts of the said town may appear, together with all the after divisions which may yet be made."
There had gathered in the year 1774 a total of inhabitants in the town of Westmoreland of 1,922 souls, and the town at that time was considered large enough to erect into a separate county. An assessment of Wilkes-Barre township 1774, corrected in 1775, contains 120 names and the total assessment was £3,646; the total assessment of Westmoreland was £13,083.
While this was the purest democracy, yet those were people, it must be remembered, who brought with them such ideas as were typified in the whipping post and stocks for the punishment of small offenders. They too believed in the paternal functions of government. They were loyal to King George and fully believed that a good king was the divine order for all government. They believed the "king could do no wrong," and under his beneficent laws there was "no wrong without a remedy." They believed all governments were instituted on the old patriarchal plan, of a "wise father and his helpless children"--they were paternalists in all its purity; and never doubted that unless the government attended to man's private affairs all would go to chaos and confusion. Hence the following list of prices were among the early official acts of the authorities of Westmoreland town:
Good yarn stockings, a pair 10 s.
Laboring women at spinning, a week 6 s.
Winter-fed beef, a pound 7 d.
Taverners, for dinner, of the best, per meal 2 s.
Metheglin, per gal 7 s.
Ox work, for two oxen, per day, and tackling 3 s.
Good hemp seed, a bushel 15 s.
Men's labour, at farming, the three summer months, pay day 5 s. 3d.
Good check flannel, yard wide 8 s.
Good tow and linen, yard wide 6 s.
Good white flannel, do 5 s.
The above to be woven in a 36 reed, etc.
Tobacco, in hank or leaf, per pound 9 d.
Taverners, for mug of flip, with two gills ot rum in it 4 s.
Good barley, per bushel 8 s.
Making, and setting, and shoeing horse all round 8s.$l 33
Eggs, per doz 8 d.
Strong beer, by the barrel 2 l.
This paternal-government idea traveled westward with the settlement of the country to the Mississippi river; but through State by State as it slowly wended its way it grew less and less on the records. This form of paternalism and belief in witchcraft were somewhat companion pieces, both born of the idea that rulers ruled by divine authority, and the people were incapable as little children to make their own bargains. The size and price of a loaf of bread is still regulated in republican France, the same as it was under the empire. The price of a drink of whisky is a curious thing for a great government to attend to; yet this paternalism once entered upon by rulers leads to this and other absurdities, and absurdities on the part of rulers ends in indescribable cruelties, destroying the manly qualities of the people and in the long time sapping their intelligence.
The general assembly of the commonwealth, by act passed September 25, 1786, created the county of Luzerne of territory carved from Northumberland county. This was the first civil administration over Luzerne county, but not the first exercise of government dominion over this territory. One hundred and four years previously Pennsylvania (its boundary lines then indefinite), had been divided in its unknown or unsettled entirety into three counties--Chester, Bucks and Philadelphia. William Penn was then settling his possessions, and by purchase of the Indians extending them in every direction, where the soil yet remained in the ownership of the savages. This pious and good Quaker possessed the secret of gaining and holding the confidence of the wild men of the forests, as well as the most remarkable executive abilities as the head of a strong colony to an extent hardly to be found in the history of the wonderful operation of transplanting a great nation from the old to the new world. Northampton county, from which this was taken, was formed in 1752, of territory taken from Bucks, one of the original three counties. This is the brief abstract of title to the civil authority now over Luzerne county.
There is, however, a short eventful history of this valley, including the entire limits of Luzerne county, that out-dates the organization of the civil government under which we now exist.
The Yankee was here before the Quaker, and in time these two cross-claimed this territory, and thence arose a conflict that in its progress was recorded in blood and the suffering of the innocent that is one of the sad chapters in American annals. The facts of those events are given in the impartial details of other chapters, and here it will only need a short recapitulation of the civil administration of affairs under the colony of Connecticut.
This was made the "Town of Westmoreland," and attached to the county of Litchfield, and subsequently it became the county of Westmoreland, Conn. It was defined as embracing 60x120 miles--containing over 7,000 square miles--the whole of Cameron, Lycoming, Potter, Sullivan and Tioga, and nearly the whole of Luzerne, and parts of eight other counties. This rich domain, had the effort of Franklin and his friends succeeded, would now be a great State of the Union. Westmoreland county raised three companies of troops for the continental army.
[p.221] They were a part of the Twenty-fourth regiment of the Connecticut line. In 1774 Zebulon Butler and Nathan Denison were commissioned under Connecticut as justices of the peace for the county of Litchfield, and they were authorized to organize the "Town of Westmoreland." Under this authority the people met in March, 1774, and organized said town, chose a selectman, treasurer, constables, tax-collectors, surveyors of highways, fence-viewers, listers, leather sealers, grand jurors, tything men, sealers of weights and measures and key keepers. (Certainly a heavy load of machinery for a small craft.) During the year eight town meetings were held.
The claims to jurisdiction of Connecticut ceased with the close of the year 1782, in consequence of the Trenton decision. The following is the official list under Connecticut:
1774, representative to Hartford, Zebulon Butler, Timothy Smith, Christopher Avery and John Jenkins.
1775, Capt. Zebulon Butler, Joseph Sluman, Maj. Ezekiel Pierce.
1876, Col. John Jenkins, Capt. Solomon Strong, Col. Zebulon Butler and Col. Nathan Denison.
1777, John Jenkins, Isaac Tripp.
1778, Nathan Denison, Deacon John Hurlbut.
1780, John Hurlbut, Jonathan Fitch, Nathan Denison.
1781, John Hurlbut, Jonathan Fitch, Obadiah Gore and John Franklin.
1782, Obadiah Gore, Jonathan Fitch.
Under Connecticut were the following justices of the peace: John Smith, Thomas Maffitt, Isaac Baldwin, John Jenkins, Zebulon Butler, Nathan Denison, Silas Parks, Bushnell Bostick, Joseph Sluman, John Sherman and Nathan Denison were judges of probate. John Fitch was commissioned sheriff of Westmoreland county, Conn., in 1776. The same year John Jenkins was appointed judge of the county. June 1, 1778, Gov. Jonathan Trumbull appointed the following justices for the county of Westmoreland, Conn: Nathan Denison, Christopher Avery, Obadiah Gore, Zera Beach, Zebulon Butler, William McKarrican, Asaph Whittlesey, Uriah Chapman, Anderson Dana, Ebenezer Marcy, Stephen Harding, John Franklin (2d), Joseph Hambleton, William Judd; and Nathan Denison, Christopher Avery, Obadiah Gore and Zera Beach were appointed to assist the judges. Other justices appointed were: Caleb Bates, Zebulon Marcy, John Hurlbut, Nathaniel Landon, Abel Pierce, Hugh Fordman, John Franklin, John Vincent and John Jenkins. In 1781 Nathan Denison was judge of Westmoreland county. The records show there were here two lawyers, Anderson Dana and Mr. Bullock, both killed in the battle of Wyoming. Lieut. John Jenkins was, therefore, appointed by the court State's attorney.
This comprises all of the acts and doings of the authorities under Connecticut that can now be reached. With these preliminaries disposed of we can now turn to the records proper of Luzerne county and give its civil side.
A regular civil government was formed here while this was under Connecticut; laws and offices were created and filled. Hon. Steuben Jenkins furnished the following items of history and list of officials. The justices of the peace in the order of appointment were as follows, which list is brought down to the present: 1772, John Smith, Kingston; 1773, Thomas Maffitt and Isaac Baldwin, Pittston; 1774, 1777, John Jenkins, Exeter; 1774, 1777, 1782, Zebulon Butler, Wilkes-Barre; 1774, 1776, 1781-2, Nathan Denison, Kingston; 1774, Silas Parks, Lackawanna; 1775, Bushnell Bostick, Joseph Sluman and Increase Moseley; 1774, 1777, 1779, Uriah Chapman; 1776, 1778-9, William Judd; 1777-8, 1782, Obadiah Gore, Kingston; 1777-8, William McKarrachan, Hanover; 1777-8, Christopher Avery, Wilkes-Barre; 1778, Asaph Whittlesey, Plymouth, and Caleb Bates, Pittston; 1779, Zerah Beach, Salem, Stephen Harding, Exeter, Zebulon Marcy, Tunkhannock, and John Hurlbut, [p.222] Hanover; 1782, Nathaniel Landon, Kingston; 1781-2, Abel Pierce Kingston, and Hugh Fordsman, Wilkes-Barre; 1780-2, John Franklin, Huntington; 1776, John Vincent.
Also the following list of justices of the peace at Wyoming under Pennsylvania previous to the organization of Luzerne county; all of them appointed in April, 1783:
Alexander Patterson, Robert Martin, John Chambers and David Mead, of Northumberland county; John Seely, Henry Shoemaker and Luke Brodhead, of Northampton county; Nathan Denison, of Wyoming; his name was used without his consent, and he refused to act.
Under the constitution of 1776 and the act of assembly approved on September 26, 1786, justices were elected in the county in the three districts formed by the act erecting the county, to serve for seven years. The following were so elected:
1787, Mathias Hollenback and William Hooker Smith, first district; Benjamin Carpenter and James Nisbett, second district; Obadiah Gore and Nathan Kingsley, third district; 1788, Noah Murray, second district; 1789, Christopher Hurlbut, first district; 1790, Lawrence Myers, Kingston township.
Under the constitution of 1790 the governor appointed the justices of the peace, to serve during good behavior, in districts to be made up of one or more townships. The following were so appointed:
1791, Lawrence Myers, Kingston township; Arnold Colt and William Ross, Solomon Avery and John Phillips, Wilkes-Barre district; Guy Maxwell, Tioga district; Peter Grubb and Nathan Beach, Kingston district; Christopher Hurlbut, Wilkes-Barre district; Joseph Kinney and Isaac Hancock, Tioga district; Minna Dubois, Willingboro township; John Paul Schott, Wilkes-Barre town and township. 1793, Moses Coolbaugh, Tioga township; 1796 Asahel Gregory, Willingboro township. 1797, Resolved Sessions, Tioga township. 1798, Noah Wadhams, Jr., Kingston district; Oliver Trowbridge, Willingboro township; John T. Miller, Kingston district; James Campbell and Joseph Wright, Wilkes-Barre township. 1799, Charles E. Gaylord, Huntington township; Constant Searle, Providence township; Matthew Covell, Wilkes-Barre township; Henry V. Champion, Wyalusing township; Elisha Harding, Tunkhannock township; David Paine, Tioga township. 1800, George Espy, Hanover, Wilkes-Barre, etc., townships; Jacob Bittenbender, Nescopeck, Wilkes-Barre, etc., townships; Benjamin Newberry, Northmoreland, Tioga, etc., townships; Thomas Duane, Wilkes-Barre township; Asa Eddy, Willingboro township (revoked March 28, 1805); Jonathan Stevens, Braintrim township; Guy Wells, Wyalusing township; Benjamin Carpenter, Kingston township; William Means, Tioga township; Zebulon Marcy, Tunkhannock; John Marcy and Thomas Tiffany, Willingboro township. 1801, David Barnum, Willingboro township; 1803, John Marsy, Nicholson, etc., townships; 1804, Bartlett Hines, Rush, etc., townships.
District No. 1, for which the first appointment was made in 1806, was composed of Huntinoton, Nescopeck, Salem and Sugarloaf townships until 1811; then of Huntington, Nescopeck and Salem townships six or seven years; then of Wilkes- Barre borough and township and part of Covington township till 1835, when it comprised only Wilkes-Barre borough and township; part of Covington township also belonged to it in 1836 and 1837. Justices for this district were commissioned as follows:
1806, Alexander Jameson; 1809, Abiel Fellows; 1810, George Drunm; 1811, William Baird; 1813, John Buss; 1819, Conrad Sax; 1820, John Myers and Roswell Wells; 1823, James Stark; 1826, Richard Drinker; 1831, Amasa Hollister, Jr.; 1833, Charles L. Terwilliger; 1835, Benjamin Perry; 1836, John Stark; 1837, Eleazer Carey.
District No. 2 was at different times made up as follows: 1812, Wilkes-Barre,
[p.223] Hanover and Newport townships; 1816, Kingston and Plymouth townships; 1819, Kingston, Plymouth and Dallas townships; 1831, Kingston, Plymouth, Dallas and Lehman townships; 1832, Kingston, Plymouth and Dallas townships; 1836, Kingston, Plymouth, Dallas and Lehman townships. Justices commissioned as follows:
1806, Cornelius Courtright and Thomas Dyer; 1808, Jonathan Kellog; 1812, Christian Stout; 1813, Francis McShane; 1814, Isaac Hartzell; 1816, Samuel Thomas; 1817, Jacob J. Bogardus; 1819, Dr. John Smith; 1820, Benjamin Reynolds; 1822, Alvah C. Phillips; 1825, John Bennett; 1826, Thomas Irwin; 1829, Reuben Holgate; 1831, James Nisbitt and Simeon F. Rogers; 1832, Fisher Gay; 1833, Jared R. Baldwin and Watson Baldwin; 1835, Sharp D. Lewis; 1836, Jacob J. Bogardus; 1837, Caleb Atherton and John P. Rice; 1838, Peter Allen and Henderson Gaylord; 1839, Addison C. Church.
District No. 3 was originally composed of Plymouth, Kingston and Exeter townships. Salem, Huntington and Union townships were made to compose this district in 1818, and Fairmount was added in 1835. Justices were commissioned as follows;
1808, James Sutton and David Perkins; 1809, William Trux and Moses Scovil; 1810, Stephen Hollister; 1813, Charles Chapman; 1818, Ichabod Shaw; 1821, Shadrach Austin; 1822, Christian Stout; 1823, John Dodson; 1824, Sebastian Seybert; 1827, Jonathan Westover; 1832, Andrew Courtright and Lot Search; 1835, Jacob Ogden and Newton Boone.
District No. 4 consisted originally of Pittston and Providence townships (revoked March 27, 1820), and, after 18l9, of Hanover and Newport townships. The justices appointed were:
1804, Joseph Follows and Asa Dimock; 1806, William Slocum; 1809, Enos Finch; 1819, Jacob Rambach; 1822, Samuel Jameson; 1823, Bateman Downing; 1831, Thomas Williams; 1838, John Vandemark; 1839, John Forsman.
In 1809 District No. 6 comprised Braintrim and Wyalusing townships; in 1816, Pittston, Providence and Exeter; in 1818, Pittston, Providence, Exeter, Northmoreland and Blakely townships; in 1833, part of Monroe township was added; in 1838, Carbondale townships and in 1839 Jefferson township. The list of justices for this district is as follows:
1806, Josiah Fassett; 1808, James Gordon and Charles Brown; 1809, Asa Stevens; 1815, James Connor; 1816, David Dimock and Isaac Hart; 1818, Peter Winter, Elisha S. Potter and Isaac Harding; 1820, Sherman Loomis and Deodat Smith; 1821, Ebenezer Slocum; 1822, Orange Fuller; 1829, David I. Blanchard; 1830, Ziba Davenport; 1831, Moses Vauighn; 1832, Daniel Harding and Joseph Griffin; 1833, Thomas Hadley and Amzi Wilson; 1835, Erastus Smith and Elisha Blackman; 1836, Samuel Hogdon and Sylvanus Heermans; 1837, James Pike; 1838, Judson W. Burnham, Gilbert Burrows and Elisha Hitchcock; 1839, John Cobb and Alva Heermans.
Under the constitution of 1873, justices of the peace and aldermen were to be elected for five years, and under the act of assemby of March 22, 1877, commissions were to take effect from the first Monday of May, the governor having power to appoint to vacancies up to thirty days after the next municipal election.
When this region, by the Trenton decree of 1782, finally came under the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania, it became a part of the county of Northumberland (county seat Sunbury), which had been taken in 1772 from Northampton (county seat Easton), the latter covering a large section of the original county of Bucks, from which it was formed in 1752.
"To extend to the remote settlement at Wyoming, the advantage of civil government in which they might participate affording them an opportunity to administer their local affairs by persons having the confidence of the inhabitants, chosen by themselves; to give the people an efficient representation in the council and assembly, so that their voice might be heard, their interests explained and their influence [p.224] fairly appreciated," a new country was formed on September 26, 1786, from part of the territory of Northumberland. It was named Luzerne, from the Chevalier de la Luzerne, a most popular minister from the French court during the Revolution, and for many years afterward a prominent figure in the public eye, and was bounded as follows: "Beginning at the mouth of Nescopeck creek, and running along the south bank; thence eastward to the head of said creek; from thence a due east course to the head branch of Lehigh creek; thence along the east bank of said Lehigh creek to the head thereof; from thence a due north course to the northern boundary of the State; thence westward along said boundary until it crosses the east branch of Snsquehanna; and thence along the said northern boundary fifteen miles west of the said river Susquehanna; thence by the straight line to the head of Towanda creek; thence along the ridge which divides the waters of the east branch of the Susquehanna from those of the west branch, to a point due west from the mouth of the Nescopeck; thence east to the place of beginning."
The act creating the county provided for an election on the second Tuesday of the following October, to choose county officers and representatives in the legislature; and that Zebulon Butler, Nathaniel Landon, Jonah Rogers, Simon Spalding and John Phillips should be a commission to buy a site for the county buildings.
In 1790 the county court divided the county into eleven townships. These retained the old names of Wilkes-Barre, Pittston, Hanover, Newport, Exeter, Plymouth, Kingston, Salem, Tioga, Wyalusing and Tunkhannock, but the territory of those townships which had existed under the Connecticut jurisdiction was extended.
The commissioners named above, to procure a site for county buildings, made choice of the public square in Wilkes-Barre; and in 1791 there was erected a two- story hewn-log building, about sixty feet long and half as wide, of which the second story was the courtroom (approached by steps outside), and the lower floor was for the jail and the jailer.
This structure gave way in 1801 for the building of a new courthouse on the same site. The old one was occupied, however, during the construction of the new, which was finished in 1804, when the log building became the Wilkes-Barre academy.
The new courthouse, which was in the shape of a cross and had a low tower and a belfry in the center of the roof, cost $9,356.06, and was used more than fifty years. In the year after the commencement of its construction a jail was built on the corner of Market and Washington streets, and between 1809 and 1812 a fireproof building for the county records, the three costing about $24,000.
In 1835 the legislature authorized the erection of the present courthouse, and its cornerstone was laid August 12, 1856. Under the supervision chiefly of Benjamin F. Pfauts, William A. Tubbs and Silas Dodson it was completed and furnished at a cost of $85,000; builder, D. A. Fell. Provision is made in this building for the public offices, which formerly occupied a separate one.
The jail begun in 1802 served until 1870, although long before that time it had proved inadequate to the demands upon it and was unworthy of the advanced posiiion of the commonwealth in the matter of prison discipline.
On April 2, 1867, the contract for the building of a new jail was awarded to Lewis Havens, at $189,575. On August 18, 1870, the sheriff was ordered to remove the prisoners to this jail, and November 4, in the same year, the building was accepted from the contractor. An expenditure of $18,500.93 above the contract price was incurred for additional and extra work. From a report furnished by the clerk of the county commissioners, it appears that the building and furniture cost $302,536.92. It is located above North street, between River street and the Susquehanna. It is built of stone brought from Campbell's ledge, opposite Pittston, occupies a lot of five acres, and the building covers three-fourths of an acre. It is a fireproof structure, and is at the same time substantially and tastefully built and [p.227] elegantly painted inside. It has in both wings seventy-two cells, thirty-two of which are double, sufficient in all for 104 prisoners.
The building is heated by three furnaces, and all the cooking and heating of water are done by them. It is ventilated by a fan, which is propelled by an engine--precisely as coal mines are ventilated.
Under the old State system each city, borough and township maintained and cared for the poor within its limits. About the year 1858, the question of erecting a county poorhouse was submitted to the people in accordance with an act of assembly, and decided in the negative. By special legislation portions of the county were then erected into poor districts, each under a special act.
In 1860, by an act of assembly, the township of Wilkes-Barre was made a poor district, and a farm was purchased in the township of Newport, about four miles below Nanticoke, on the east side of the river. In 1861 the central poor district of Luzerne county was incorporated. This district embraces the townships of Wilkes- barre, Plains, Kingston, Plymouth, Hanover and Newport, the boroughs of Kingston, Plymouth, Ashley, Sugar Notch and Nanticoke, and the city of Wilkes-Barre.
In 1863 the first poorhouse was built on the farm purchased by Wilkes-Barre in 1860. It was a frame building, 35x74 feet, three stories in hight above the basement, which was finished for cooking and dining apartments. This, with the old farmhouse and a small kitchen, constituted the poorhouse up to 1879, when another building was erected. This was of brick, 35x76 feet, three stories in hight, with a finished basement, which is used as a laundry. The female paupers occupy this building, the old wooden structure being used exclusively for males.
This was incorporated May 8, 1857, under the corporate name of "The Poor District of Jenkins Township, Pittston Borough and Pittston Township." The first directors were John D. Stark, Peter Winters, William Ford and Ebenezer Drake.
The board of directors in 1857 purchased a farm of 160 acres in the township of Ransom, now in the county of Lackawanna. The farmhouse standing on this farm was used as a poorhouse till the year 1877, when the present fine brick structure was erected. This is three stories in hight above the basement, which is used as a kitchen and place of work. The building is capable of accommodating 100 paupers.
Criminals convicted of capital offences have been executed at Wilkes-Barre as follows: July 1, 1779, Michael Rosebury, by order of Gen. Sullivan, for instigating desertions from the latter's command; James Cadden, March 2, 1849, for the murder of Daniel Gilligan below Wilkes-Barre; Reese Evans, September 9, 1853, for shooting Lewis Reese on the Kingston flats in order to rob him; James Quinn, April 21, 1854, for the murder of Mahala Wiggins on the canal near Nanticoke dam; William Muller, April 30, 1858, for the murder of George Mathias, a few miles from Wilkes-Barre, on the Easton road.
In the early history of political parties in this county, the federalists, who favored a strong national government, had a large majority. Within the memory of the present generation the democrats have oftenest had the ascendancy. Below will be found lists of the citizens who have administered the affairs of the county and represented it in various legislative bodies.
In the spring after the formation of the town of Westmoreland Zebulon Butler and Timothy Smith, and in the autumn of that year Christopher Avery and John Jenkins, appeared before the assembly of Connecticut on behalf of the new town. Timothy Smith had attended the last three previous sessions, Joseph Sluman the last two and John Jenkins the last one. Capt. Butler and Joseph Sluman were the next representatives in that body. Butler was also a member in the autumn session of 1775, in which Maj. Ezekiel Pierce was his colleague, and in the spring session of 1776 John Jenkins and Solomon Strong. Col. Nathan Denison was a member in the spring sessions of 1778-9, and the autumn sessions of 1776, 1778 and [p.228] 1780. John Jenkins and Isaac Tripp were the assemblymen at both sessions of 1777; Anderson Dana in the spring, and Asahel Buck in the October session of 1787 John Hurlbut served in the spring sessions of 1779-80 and 1781, and the autumn session of 1780. Jonathan Fitch was a member in the spring sessions of 1780-1 and 1782, and the autumn session of 1782. Obadiah Gore and John Franklin were the members at the spring session of 1781, and the former attended both sessions in 1782.
John Sherman, of Westmoreland, was appointed judge of probate and justice of the peace for Litchfield county, Conn., in 1775.
Up to 1860 this county belonged to a congressional district, which also included Berks, Bucks, Northampton, Northumberland and other counties. The first representative from Luzerne county, David Scott, of Wilkes-Barre, was elected in 1816. He resigned on being appointed president judge. Representatives from the district including Luzerne county have since been chosen as follows:
1818, 1820, George Denison and John Murray: 1820-32, Cox Ellis, George Kreamer, Samuel McKean, Philander Stephens, Lewis Dewart and A. Marr. 1832 (Luzerne and Columbia), 1834, Andrew Beaumont; 1836, 1838, David Petrekin; 1840, 1842, Benjamin A. Bidlack; 1844, Owen D. Leib; 1846,1848, Chester Butler; 1850 (Luzerne, Wyoming, Columbia and Montour), 1854, Henry M. Fuller; 1852, Hendrick B. Wright; 1856, John G. Montgomery--died, and was succeeded the next year by Paul Leidy; 1858, 1860, George W. Scranton--died during his second term, and H. B. Wright was chosen at a special election in June, 1861, 1862 (Luzerne and Susquehanna), 1864, Charles Denison; 1868, George W. Woodard; 1872, Lazarus D. Shoemaker; 1876, Winthrop W. Ketcham; 1877, W. H. Stanton; 1878, Hendrick B. Wright; 1880, from Eleventh district, Robert Klotz, and from Twelfth district Joseph A. Scranton; 1882, Eleventh, John B. Storm; Twelfth, Joseph A. Scranton; 1886, Eleventh, Charles B. Buckalew; Twelfth, John Lynch; 1888, Edwin S. Osborn; 1890, George W. Shonk.
Members of the upper house of the legislature have been chosen from the district, including Luzerne county, as follows:
Council: 1787-89, Nathan Denison; 1789 (October 30), 1790, Lord Butler. Senate: 1790 (Luzerne, Northumberland and Huntington), William Montgomery; 1792, William Hepburn; 1794 (Luzerne, Northumberland, Mifflin and Lycoming), George Wilson; 1796 (same district), Samuel Dale; 1798, Samuel McClay; 1800, James Harris; 1801 (Luzerne, Northampton and Wayne), Jonas Hartzell; 1803, Thomas McWhorter; 1805, William Lattimore; 1807, Matthias Gress; 1808 (Luzerne and Northumberland), Nathan Palmer; 1810, James Laird; 1812, William Ross; 1814 (Luzerne, Northumberland, Union, Columbia and Susquehanna), Thomas Murray, Jr.; 1816, Charles Frazer; 1818, Simon Snyder; 1820, Redmond Conyngham; 1824 (Luzerne and Columbia), Robert Moore; 1828-30, Jacob Drumheller; 1832, Uzal Hopkins; 1836 (Luzerne, Monroe, Wayne and Pike), Ebenezer Kingsbury, Jr.; 1839, S. F. Headley; 1841, Luther Kidder; 1844 (Luzerne and Columbia), William S. Ross; 1847, Valentine Best; 1850 (Luzerne, Columbia and Montour), 1853, Charles R. Buckalew; 1856, George P. Steele; 1859 (Luzerne), Winthrop W. Ketcham; 1862, J. B. Stark; 1865, L. D. Shoemaker; 1868, Samuel J. Turner; 1871 (Luzerne, Monroe and Pike), Francis D. Collins, Albert G. Brodhead; 1872, George H. Rowland; 1874, D. H. Stanton, H. B. Payne; 1877, E. C. Wadhams, J. B. Seamans; 1880, Eckley B. Coxe, resigned and again elected in 1881; 1882, W. H. Stanton; 1884, Morgan B. Williams; 1886, M. D. Roche; 1888, William H. Hines.
Members of the lower house of the legislature have been sent from the district, including or consisting of Luzerne county, as follows, the district comprising Luzerne, Bradford and Susquehanna, from 1814 to 1828. inclusive:
John Paul Schott, 1787; Obadiah Gore, 1788-90; Simon Spalding, 1791-2; [p.229] Ebenezer Bowman, 1793; Benjamin Carpenter, 1794, John Franklin, 1795-6, 1799-1803; Roswell Wells, 1797-8, 1802, 1804-6; Lord Butler, 1801; John Jenkins, 1803; Jonas Ingham, 1804; Nathan Beach, 1805-7; Moses Coolbaugh, 1806; Charles Miner, 1807-8, 1812; Benjamin Dorrance, 1808-10, 1812, 1814, 1819-20, 1830; Thomas Graham, 1809-11; Jonathan Stevens, 1811; Jabez Hyde, Jr., and Joseph Pruner, 1813 (Luzerne and Susquehanna); Putnam Catlin, 1814; Redmond Conyngham, 1815; George Denison, 1815-16, 1827-30; Jonah Brewster, 1816-9; James Reeder, 1817-8; Cornelius Cortright, 1820-1, 1823; Andrew Beaumont, 1821, 1823, 1849; Jabez Hyde, Jr., 1822-3; Jacob Drumheller, Jr., 1822-4; Philander Stevens, 1824-6; G. M. Hollenback, 1824-5; Samuel Thomas, 1825-6; Garrick Mallery, 1826-9; Almon H. Reed, 1827; Isaac Post, 1828; Albert G. Brodhead, 1831-3; Nicholas Overfield, 1831; Chester Butler, 1832, 1838-9, 1843; Ziba Bennett, 1833-4; B. A. Bidlack, 1834-5; James Nesbitt, Jr., 1835; Henry Stark, 1836-7; William C. Reynolds, 1836-7; John Sturdevant, 1838; Joseph Griffin, 1839; Andrew Cortright, 1840-1; Hendrick B. Wright, 1840-2; Moses Overfield, 1842; William Merrifield, 1843-5; James S. Campbell, 1844-5; Nathan Jackson, 1846; George Fenstermacher, 1846; Samuel Benedict, 1847; James W. Goff, 1847; Henry M. Fuller, 1848; Thomas Gillespie, 1848; Johh N. Conynghan, 1849; James W. Rhodes, 1850-1; Silas S. Benedict, 1850-1; Truman Atherton, 1852-3; Abram P. Dunning, 1852-4; Gideon W. Palmer, 1854; Harrison Wright, 1855; Henderson Gaylord, 1855; Steuben Jenkins, 1856-7; Thomas Smith, 1856; Samuel G. Turner, 1857; P. C. Gritman, 1857-8; Lewis Pughe, 1858, 1860; Winthrop W. Ketcham, 1858; John Stone, 1859; Peter Byrne, 1859-60; Dyer L. Chapin, 1859; H. B. Hillman, 1860; William S. Ross, 1861; R. F. Russell, 1861; H. V. Hall, 1861; S. W. Trimmer, 1862; Jacob Robinson, 1862-3; Peter Walsh, 1862-3; Harry Hakes, 1863-4; Anthony Grady, 1864-5; D. F. Seybert, 1864-5; D. S. Koon, 1865-6; William Brennan, 1866-7; James McHenry, 1866-7; Samuel F. Bossard, 1867-9; Daniel L. O'Neil, 1868-9; Nathan G. Wrestler, 1868-9; S. W. Keene, 1870-1; George Coray, 1870-1; John F. McMahon, 1870; Richard Williams, 1871-2; Patrick Delacey, 1872-3; Peter Quigley, 1872-3; B. D. Koons, 1872-3; E. P. Kisner, 1873; Thomas Waddell, 1874; A. L. Cressler, 1874; T. W. Loftus, 1874; M. Crogan, 1874; Charles A. Miner. 1875-80; T. H. B. Lewis, 1875-6; J. J. Shonk, 1875-8; J. C. Fincher, 1875-6; James McAsey, 1875-6; F. W..Gunster, 1875-6; M. F. Synott, 1875-6; C. R. Gorman, T. W. Loftus, 1875-6; John B. Smith, 1877-80; Charles McCarron, 1877-8; George Judge, 1877-8; James A. Kiersted, 1877-8; D. M. Jones, 1877-8; A. I. Ackerly, 1877-80, S. S. Jones, 1877-8; W. H. Hines, 1879-80; George W. Drum, 1879-80; Dennis O'Lenihan, 1879-80; John E. Barrett, 1879-80; T. D. Lewis, 1879-80; Thomas Mooney, 1879. 1880, first district, Herman C. Fry; second district, Philip H. Seeley; third district, James George; fourth district, George W. Drum; fifth district, Robert Timlin; seventh district, W. B. Hierlihy. 1882, first district, Herman C. Fry; second district, Steuben Jenkins: third district, James George; fourth district, James A. Sweeney; fifth district, Robert M. Timlin; seventh district, James L. McMillan. 1884, first district, Charles D. Foster; second district, M. B. Hughes; third district, Henry C. Magee; fourth district, James A. Sweeney; fifth district, P. H. Durkin; seventh district, Nicholas C. Northup. 1886, first district, J. Ridgeway Wright; second district, M. B. Hughes; third district, P. F. Caffrey; fourth district, D. M. Evans; fifth district, P. H. Durkin; seventh, William Rutlege. 1890, first district, C. Ben Johnson; second district, Elisha A. Coray; third district, James M. Fritz; fourth district, William R. Jeffrey; fifth district, John T. Flannery.
The following will be found a correct list of all the sheriffs of Luzerne county from its organization up to the present. The year in which each was elected is given:
Lord Butler, 1787; Jesse Fell, 1789. John Franklin, 1792; William Slocum, [p.230] 1795; Arnold Colt, 1798; Benjamin Dorrance, 1801; James Wheeler, 1804; Jacob Hart, 1807; Jabez Hyde, Jr., 1810; Elijah Shoemaker, 1813; Stephen Van Loon, 1816; Isaac Bowman, 1819; Jonathan Bulkely, 1822; Napthali Hurlburt, 1825; Oliver Helme, 1828; Thomas Karkuff, elected in October, 1831, died in a few hours after he was sworn in, and Benjamin Reynolds was appointed by the governor to the vacancy for one year or until the next election, when James Nesbitt was elected in October, 1832, and served until 1835; Thomas Myers, 1835; Caleb Atherton, 1838; George P. Steele, 1841; James W. Goff, 1844; William Koons, 1847; Gideon A. Palmer, 1850; Abram Drum, 1853; Jasper B. Stark, 1856; Samuel Van Loon, 1859; Samuel Peterbaugh, 1862; Joseph S. Van Leer, 1865; James W. Rhoads, 1868; Aaron Whitaker, 1871; William P. Kirkendall, 1874; P. J. Kenny, 1877; William O'Malley, 1880; John S. Oberrender, 1882; Hendrick W. Search, 1886; Robert P. Robinson, 1889.
The act for the formation of the county provided, that courts of common pleas and general quartersessions of the peace; the court of quartersessions shall sit three days and no longer, and shall be held at the house of Zebulon Butler in Wilkesburg until a courthouse shall be built. Section 9 provided: "That Zebulon Butler, Nathaniel Landen, Jonah Rogers, John Philips and Simon Spawlding are appointed trustees" for said county, to take assurance for a piece of land for a courthouse and a county goal, and thereupon erect a courthouse and goal.
First court convened in Luzerne county met in Wilkes-Barre, May 27, 1787, one year after the county was created. The building where the court was held stood where now is Judge Woodward's house. The court had six judges--no president judge, as that office was not provided for until 1791, when Jacob Rush was the first appointee. Nothing in the way of a new building for the presence and temporary abiding place of the blind goddess could be more primitive than this court convening. It was in the deep woods, in the "dark and bloody grounds" of the valley where the shadow of death had lingered so long, where the wild beasts lurked, the wild man has yet the smoking ruins upon the hillside and where was coming the sad and also bloody contention of white man against his fellow man over the soil in which they lived. Wilkes-Barre in those early days, we are told, while having at one time twenty-three cabin homes, had seen all of them destroyed by the foe except three and this foe was the "Pennamite" against the "Yankee." In 1801 in a carefully kept diary there were but six houses in the place and as late as 1808 there were added but four others, but they were cheap wooden ones--two stone and two brick. Of the latter, the Perry house, on the corner of Northampton and Main and the Slocum residence.
There were four attorneys at the first court, and it was many years after before this list was materially increased. The old-time law practice was different from now. Lawyers were "circuit riders" literally until modern times. They went in bands on horseback from county to county over a wide range of country, as the counties were large and the distances long from court to court. In the crowd was the judge, and, while it was hard work and much exposure, they were a rare set of good fellows. A pair of saddle-bag's contained their extra clothing and the few law books they had to have--the book of first importance then to a "circuit rider" being Chitty's Pleadings, the Pleadings being of first importance. If Jones owed Smith a note it was vitally important in the vast written pleadings informing the court of the facts in the case to know whether Jones had made a scrawl after his signature that could be called a "seal." If it had a "seal," then the action must be in "debt;" if no "seal," then it must be in "assumpsit." Now, if you remember, the "seal" as a signature came from the "divine," wise king, who could not write his name, and wore a great, vulgar gambler's ring, and made his royal mark by pressing the ring on the paper. In short, the practice of the law was far more a mere stream of technicalities 100 years ago than now. Good sense and [p.231] conscience, it seems, were secondary considerations, often were not considerations at all, and the lawyer or judge who could dig up the most learned technicalities, enough to drown all recollection of the original case in hand, was accounted the greatest judge or lawyer. To know the most subtle "learned technicalities of the law" was for a long time esteemed the acme of human greatness. If the poor clients and parties to suits had not been the helpless and unfortunate sufferers of this long-drawn-out illusion, this curious estimate of greatness, we might smile at it all. A hundred years ago there was hardly a contested case in courts where there were not climaxes from first to last in the curious mental quirks in its hunt for great lawyers and judges, that are an index to the public men and education of the time, that it is hard for one now to fully realize. The lawyer is a curious product of every civilization, the "licensed" lawyer a perfected curiosity of the ages. By virtue of his "license" he is a quasi official, and by virtue of his mastery of "precedent" and the nimble technicality of each case does he rise in the scale of honor and greatness. It is very edifying to dwell on the science of jurisprudence--the "garnered wisdom of the fathers," and all that--but it is the "case" lawyer that wins the doubtful case in court almost invariably. Law, theology and medicine are the three "learned professions;" they are the sum total in the way of making a living that a "gentleman" could at one time think of following. All of them were schools of precedent. The members of the "learned professions" were never mere vulgar producers, rather, they were "cultured" consumers. In the scale of life they stood between the herd and the throne. Each a cult, a close corporation sometimes, and sometimes the doctors were a band of wrangling, brotherly-hating healers, and the whole world in agreement that all those who could not professionally talk in a kind of pigeon-Latin were but miserable, low-born "quacks." This condition grew threatening, when the happy thought came to "license" doctors as well as lawyers and preachers, and sores were now healed by making it a crime to save life except by sending for a man licensed to kill. There are comical things, dear reader, in high life as well as in the basement. The difficulty in the whole matter is that we grow up with scales over our eyes and go through life not only a little blind but cut bias, and we miss much "fun alive."
The names of the first justices who met in Zebulon Butler's house:
William Hooker Smith, Benjamin Carpenter, James Nesbitt, Timothy Pickering, Obadiah Gore, Nathan Kingsley and Mathias Hollenback. Lord Butler was sheriff, and about all the other county offices, including prothonotary and clerk, were filled by Timothy Pickering. Court crier was Joseph Sprague.
The four attorneys sworn at this court were Ebenezer Bowman, Putnam Catlin, Roswell Welles and William Nichols (the last a non-resident).
The first president Judge was Jacob Rush, who filled the office from 1791 to 1806.
Thomas Cooper succeeded, and from August, 1806, to August, 1811, presided.
Seth Chapman from 1811 to July, 1813.
John Bannister Gibson from 1813 to 1817. Judge Gibson has a well-defined place in history as Pennsylvania's great and learned jurist. From president judge of the Luzerne court he went to preside in the State supreme court, and of all the brilliant men of the bar of the commonwealth there have been none greater, if indeed there has been his peer in the century. His slightest dictum on the bench is to-day received in all the courts as unquestioned authority. The wording of his opinions is given verbatim, being as the finished Parian marble, and not capable of being condensed or taken in pieces. The law opinions of Judge Gibson are familiar to the courts of the civilized world.
Thomas Burnside was judge from 1817 to 1818.
David Scott became president judge in 1818, and filled the office over twenty years.
[p.232] William Jessup in 1838. He was twice commissioned as judge of the court of common pleas, first in 1838 and next in 1848. A part of the time in the change in the districts, this county came within his circuit. By a compromise arrangement between Judges Jessup and Conyngham, and with the consent of the attorneys of Susquehanna and Luzerne districts, matters were so adjusted as to accommodate the two presiding officers, putting Luzerne in Conyngham's district and Susquehanna in Jessup's.
John N. Conyngham, 1839, resigned in 1870, after serving thirty-one years.
Garrich M. Harding, from July 12, 1870; resigned 1879.
Charles E. Rice, present incumubent, since 1879.
The second regular term of the court, September 5, 1787, presided over by Justices Obadiah Gore, Mathias Hollenback, William Hooker Smith, Benjamin Carpenter, James Nesbitt and Nathan Kingsley. For the full particulars of the first court and officers and the four attorneys then admitted, see Vol. III, Families of the Wyoming Valley, by George B. Kulp.
The constitution of 1790 vested the judicial powers of the State in a supreme court, courts of oyer and terminer, and jail delivery; courts of common pleas, orphans' courts, register court and court of quartersessions for each county, justices of the peace, and such other courts as the legislature may provide. Judges of the supreme court and courts of common pleas to hold office during good behavior. The supreme court judges were ex-officio justices of oyer and terminer courts in the several counties; the governor to appoint for each county at least three and not more than four judges, residents of the county; the State divided into six judicial circuits, and a president of each circuit to be appointed. The president and any two of the lay judges to be a quorum; to hold courts of common pleas and oyer and terminer, and two of the lay judges could hold a court of quartersessions and orphans' court. At the next session of the legislature the State was divided into five circuits--Luzerne, Berks, Northampton and Northumberland, and composed the third circuit. The president judge was to be a person "skilled in the law."
Act of 1851 provided for the election of judges of the several courts, and regulated certain judicial districts, and constituted the eleventh circuit out of the counties of Luzerne, Wyoming, Montour and Columbia. John N. Conyngham, elected president judge for a term of ten years; he was re-elected in 1861. In the meantime Montour county was annexed to the eighth district.
In 1856 Luzerne county was made a separate district, Judge Conyngham presiding. By act June 27, 1864, Luzerne was authorized to elect an "additional judge," who, like the president judge, should be "learned in the law," to hold his office by the same tenure, have the same powers and jurisdiction, subject to the same duties, and receive the same compensation. The governor to appoint until the regular election. Under this law Hon. Henry M. Hoyt was appointed additional judge, and filled the office until December, 1867; succeeded by Edmund L. Dana, who was commissioned for ten years. Judge Conyngham resigned in 1870, and July 8 of that year Garrick M. Harding was appointed to fill the vacancy. He was elected in the fall of 1870 and commissioned for a term of ten years.
The constitution of 1874 made some changes in the judiciary, among others providing that counties containing over 40,000 inhabitants shall constitute a separate judicial district and elect one judge "learned in the law," and authorize the legislature to provide additional judges as the business of the respective districts may require. President Judge Harding and "additional" Judge Dana were in commission at the time of the adoption of the new constitution, of this Luzerne, the eleventh judicial district; and it was entitled to another additional judge. John Handley was elected to serve ten years from the first Monday in January, 1875. At the general election in 1877 William H. Stanton was elected successor to Judge Dana. At the time of the erection of Lackawanna, out of the territory of Luzerne, [p.233] Hon. Garrick M. Harding was president judge; Hon. John Handley and Hon. William H. Stanton were additional judges of the court of common pleas.
The act of April 17, 1878, provided for the division of an erection of a new county out of any county containing 150,000 inhabitants, also providing that the judicial, representative and senatorial districts should remain and that the judges of said districts, or a majority, shall meet and organize the courts. Lackawanna county was erected under the provisions of this act and an election held August 13, 1878, and the final proclamation of the governor made August 21, 1878. The claim was at once made that as the new county had more than 40,000 inhabitants it became thereby a separate judicial district. Gov. Hartranft therefore appointed Benjamin S. Bentley, president judge, who opened the court. Judges Harding, Handley, and Stanton declined to interfere, but in order to test the governor's action an application was made to the supreme court for a mandamus against the former judges to organize the Lackawanna courts. The supreme court holding that Bentley's commission was unauthorized, ordered the judges to organize the court. Judges Harding, Handley and Stanton thereupon opened the courts of Lackawanna county, October 24, 1878. Judge Stanton resigned February 25, 1879, and March 4, following, Hon. Alfred Hand was appointed and commissioned to fill the vacancy. The law authorized the governor in case of the division of counties where there were over 40,000 inhabitants in the new county to issue a proclamation and make it a separate judicial district. The president judge of the old court now was directed to elect to which district he would be assigned and the other law judge or judges were to be assigned to the new district.
If more than one law judge then the oldest in commission to be president. Judge Harding elected to remain in the old district of Luzerne, and Handley and Hand were assigned to the new--the forty-fifth district--the former president and the latter law judge, from March 27, 1879. This of course ended the service of Handley and Hand in Luzerne county.
At the fall election 1879 Hon. Charles E. Rice was elected additional law judge of Luzerne--the eleventh district; commissioner December 4, 1879, for ten years from the first Monday in January following.
Judge Harding resigned to take effect December 31, 1879. Judge Rice entered upon his office January 4, 1880, and on the next day, by reason of holding the oldest commission, he was commissioned as president judge for the term of ten years commencing the first Monday of January, 1886. Gov. Hoyt appointed Stanley Woodward additional law judge to fill the vacancy; his commission dated January 9, 1880. Judge Woodward was elected at the election following and December, 1880, commissioned additional law judge to serve ten years from the first Monday in January, 1881. An additional law judge became necessary and Judge Lynch was appointed; he was elected to a full term in 1892, as will more fully appear in the list of present county officials elsewhere.
Separate Orphans' Courts were authorized by the constitution of 1874 in counties containing 150,000 inhabitants. This was mandatory as to the above described counties and "may" established separate orphans' courts, under one or more judges "learned in the law." The same section register's courts, transferred the jurisdiction to the orphans' court. The separate orphans' court of Luzerne was therefore, May 19, 1874, with one judge, and Hon. Daniel L. Rhone elected to preside. By law this office is now styled president judge of the orphans' court. The term runs ten years. There was no separate orphans' court in Lackawanna authorized by law. Judge D. L. Rhone was re-elected in 1884, and commissioned for a term of ten years from the first Monday in January, 1885.
Many of the eminent men of Pennsylvania have come from the Luzerne bar. In the old time recollections are given an account of James McClintock, the poetic, the brilliant, the great orator whose short career of much promise settled in such [p.234] hopeless gloom and a long life of blank imbecility. His first appearance at the bar, an unknown young man, as blushing and diffident as a girl, his latent powers as unknown to himself as to his casual acquaintance. At a court soon after his coming, by a strange chance, the briefless advocate was appointed by the judge to defend a little girl who had stolen a pair of shoes from the front of a store. The owner had readily recovered his property, but in a spirit of persecution, proceeded to inflict the heavy hand of the criminal law upon the child. The attorney's speech to the jury in defence of that little girl as she sat in the prisoner's box gave him a wide fame as the first orator of the bar of northern Pennsylvania. It made him soon after a nominee for congress. Three candidates were before the people. And in those times the size of the districts and the slowness of getting news was such, that two weeks after the election it was not known who was elected. In the meantime McClintock had married, and Chester Butler gave a grand party to the newly married pair. That evening when the festivities had begun news came that convinced McClintock and his friends that he was elected, and then commenced the double congratulations on his marriage and election. Subsequently came the official news, and he was defeated by a small margin. Within the year his wife died of childbirth, the child was not saved, and in a few weeks poor McClintock was a raving maniac. He was sent to an asylum in robust physical health, his brilliant intellect like sweet bells jangled and out of tune, and from the fever of violence his remarkable mind settled into helpless and hopeless imbecility. The rising, flashing, brilliant meteor; the charred, blackened and burned stick; and cruel fate spun out the years of his darkened life to extreme old age--the dead mind in the living body.
It has already been told how Judge John B. Gibson went from the Wilkes-Barre bench to that of the supreme court and fixed his immortal fame as a great judge. Among others of the bar from this place who were transferred to the supreme court, we note George W. Woodward and Warren J. Woodward. Henry M. Hoyt, ex-governor of the commonwealth, and at this time a practicing member of the bar of Wilkes-Barre. Henry M. Fuller was one of the brilliant and versatile lawyers of Luzerne--in many ways a remarkable man; a member of the legislature, twice elected to congress, was the whig candidate for State canal commissioner, and in 1860 was presented for the nomination of candidate for vice- president, and died at the age of forty years. Death only could check a career that must have been phenomenal had not fate passed its shadow over it.
This bar has furnished as attorney-general, Ovid F. Johnson and Henry W. Palmer.
Hendrick B. Wright was speaker of the house, several times elected to congress, and was president of the convention that nominated Polk for president. Among other members who have been in congress from this bar were Charles Denison, Chester Butler, L. D. Shoemaker, E. S. Osborn and the present member-elect, Hon. George W. Shonk.
In the recollections of the early bar, it is told that George Denison was one of the most powerful advocates that ever stood before a jury in the court. The greatest criminal lawyer of the old times was supposed to be Lyman Hakes. "Hal" Wright, as he was affectionately called by his friends, is remembered as a great lawyer, in the civil, criminal and equity courts--strong before a jury, eloquent before the court, wherein his statement of his case was the strongest presentation of law and fact that could be made.
A curious incident of how our lives are shaped by trivial circumstances is found in the career of George Griffin, who was admitted to the bar in this county in the year 1800; a son of Maj. Jasper Griffin, and a descendant of the noted New England Pecks; born at East Haddam, Conn., January 14, 1778; graduated at Yale college; studied law; licensed in 1799 and came to Wilkes-Barre in 1800 and practiced law [p.237] until 1806; married Lydia, daughter of Col. Zebulon Butler. In the spirit of practical joking he was voted for and elected high constable at the first borough election. Disgusted at the joke he left the place and went to New York city and became one of the most eminent men at the bar. Among his early cases there was a slander suit, wherein he appeared for the plaintiff, and his opening argument to the jury made his fame. Nearly the first sentence of which was the first in importance that made the case for his client: "the constant falling of the water drop will wear away the hardest stone," and from this he proceeded to show that though the evidence showed the words spoken did not at first blush seem so deeply injurious, yet the frequent iteration of what the defendant had set in motion was calculated to undermine the fairest reputation in any community. While in ordinary hands it would have been regarded as but a mild case of assault by words upon a man's character, yet in this case there was a verdict for $5,000, all of which was turned over to Mr. Griffin as his fee. He was in the active practice in New York fifty-two years. In the language of his biographer, George B. Kulp, "a profound scholar in every department of literature and science, but he was above all things a lawyer."
In 1822 and for some time Garrick Mallery was the acknowledged leader of the Luzerne bar. His superiority was not seriously contested so long as he remained in the active practice. He went to the bench, and that left an opening for a spirited rivalry among the other practitioners for the first place. In 1820 were here Roswell Welles, Ebenezer Bowman, Garrick Mallory, George Denison and others, all men of high order of talent in the law. Judge David Scott was, on the bench, a man of great learning and probity, with the courage of his convictions, brave for the right, yet gentle and charitable in his decisions against the unfortunate law- breakers.
John Nesbit Conyngham was admitted to the Luzerne bar in 1820; a young man who came here and located when the world was all before him; a native of Philadelphia; born December 17, 1798; the son of David Hayfield Conyngham; married Ruth Ann Butler, daughter of Lord Butler, the granddaughter of Col. Zebulon Butler, the old Revolutionary hero and patriot; to them were given seven children. Fifty years of his life were spent in the profession here--over twenty years in the practice and thirty on the bench. No man who has ever sat upon the bench inspired more confidence in his decisions than Judge Conyngham; and the entire profession agree, after his long service that the ermine was as spotless when he laid it aside as when it was first placed upon his shoulders.
In a preceding page are given the names of the four attorneys admitted and sworn in at the first court in the county in 1787. The next year was added Abraham Bradley; died May 7, 1838. Then for six years we can find no new name added to the roll of attorneys in the county. In 1794 two more were added: Nathan Palmer, died in 1843, and Noah Wadhams, died May 22, 1806.
In 1798 came to the bar Thomas Graham, died April 26, 1814. In 1799 William Prentice, died October 6, 1806. This closes the list for the past century. The century year 1800 added the name of George Griffin, died in New York city, May 6, 1860. In 1802 Thomas Dyer, who died September 21, 1861, and Francis McShane, died in 1815. In 1806 Washington Lee, died September 10, 1871. In 1809, David Scott, died December 29, 1839. Garrick Mallery came in 1811, died July 6, 1866. In 1812 the name of Alphonse C. Stewart was added. He was here only about a year and went to Towanda on the organization of Bradford county, and was the first attorney enrolled in the new county; remaining in Towanda about four years, and in 1817 he removed to the then wild west--the territory of Illinois --and settled in Belleville, St. Clair county, the mother county of that State. Belleville, then next to Kaskaskia, was the important town in the territory, and here young Stewart was killed in a mock duel by a man named Bennett. The latter had [p.238] taken deep offence against Stewart as the boys had, in the spirit of a joke, told him that Stewart intended to "cut him out," as it was phrased, with his girl. Bennett challenged him and the young men, in a spirit of fun, had him accept, and with guns loaded only with powder, go upon the "field of honor." In some way unknown Bennett slipped a ball into his gun and at the first fire poor Stewart fell mortally wounded, and in a short time died. Bennett fled, was followed to Texas, brought back, tried, convicted and execated--The first legal hanging in Illinois, and when "Bennett was hung" was for many years a reckoning day for events throughout all that part of the State. Only another bloody paragraph to history, the result of a silly practical joke.
In 1813 Thomas B. Overton was admitted; died in 1819. Also George Denison;
died August 20, 1832.
1814, Charles Catlin.
1815, Henry King; died July 13, 1861.
1816, Josiah H. Miner; died March 14, 1818. Thomas Meredith; died April 22, 1855. Thomas Nesbitt was the first resident lawyer of Plymouth; followed by James A. Opp, H. C. Magee, C. W. McAlarney and George W. Shonk. James A. Gordon of this place lived to be the oldest member of the bar in the county, and Hendrick B. Wright, the next oldest, was a resident of Plymouth.
1818, Edward Overton; died October 17, 1878.
1819, George Catlin; died December 23, 1872. Oristus Collins; died in 1884. Steuben Jenkins; died May 29, 1890.
1820, John N. Conyngham; died February 23, 1871. James W. Bowman; died in 1834. Chester Butler; died October 5, 1850. Benjamin D. Wright; died April 28, 1875.
1821, Samuel Bowman; died August 23, 1861.
1822, Amzi Fuller; died September 26, 1847. James A. Gordon; died February 4, 1882.
1823, Joel Jones; died February 3, 1860.
1825, Benjamin Parke----. Henry Pettebone; died May 5, 1851. B. A. Bidlack; died February 6, 1849.
1826, James McClintock----.
1827, George C. Drake; died June 27, 1878.
1828, Sylvester Dana; died June 19, 1882.
1830, Thomas E. Paine; died in 1843. George W. Woodward; died May 10, 1875.
1831, John Wurts; died November 4, 1836. O. F. Johnson; died in February, 1854. Volney L. Maxwell; died January 4, 1873. Henrick B. Wright; died September 2, 1881.
1832, E. W. Sturdevant; died October 30, 1882. William Wurts; died July 15, 1858.
1833, Samuel F. Headley; died July 25, 1860. M. H. Jones; died June 1, 1883. Luther Kidder; died September 30, 1854. D. N. Lathrop; died October 8, 1887.
1834, David Wilmot; died March 16, 1868.
1835, Henry Hills Wells ----.
1836, Israel Dickinson ----. F. P. Mallory died in 1838. Jonathan W. Parker, 1837. J. J. Slocum; died February 27, 1860.
1838, John T. Robinson; died August 28, 1848. Charles H. Silkman; died March 8, 1877. Harrison Wright; died August 25, 1856. F. M. Crane; died January 8, 1877.
1839, John B. Mills; died October 22, 1889. Cyrenus M. Smith ----.
1840, W. E. Little ----. George H. Welles ----. Charles Denison; died June 27, 1867. E. E. Le Clere; died August 11, 1845. [p.239]
1841, E. L. Dana; died April 25, 1889. Lyman Hakes; died December 8, 1873. M. E. Jackson; died July 23, 1870. Horatio W. Nicholson; died June 16, 1855.
1842, Henry M. Fuller; died December 26, 1860. James Holliday ----. W. H. Miller; died in 1877. A. K. Peckham; died March 22, 1865. Warren J. Woodward; died September 23, 1879.
1843, Edward M. Covell; died September 8, 1864. Samuel Hodgdon; died January 17, 1865. E. G. Mallery; died May 27, 1852. C. P. Waller ----. S. S. Winchester; died June 26, 1881. Minor S. Blackman; died May 25, 1848.
1844, Nathaniel Jones ----. James R. Struthers; died May 8, 1885.
1845, Washington Lee; died March 26, 1883. Asher Miner Stout ----. Jacob Waelder. Charless Bennett; died August 6, 1866.
1846, Peter J. Byrne; died June 30, 1875. Milton Dana; died February 18, 1866. J. W. Myers; died November 25, 1847. George C. Waller; died December 4, 1888.
1847. Elisha B. Harvey; died August 20, 1872. E. S. M. Hill; died in 1874. Henry Metcalf; died December 23, 1864. David R. Randall; died August 31, 1875.
1848, G. B. Nicholson; died February 12, 1873.
1849, John B. Conyngham; died May 27, 1881.
1850, Angelo Jackson; died in 1874. W. W. Ketcham; died December 6, 1879. A. C. Lewis; died September 22, 1861. Joseph W. Miner; died February 5, 1859. Daniel Rankin ----. Caleb F. Bowman; died January 25, 1874.
1851, Cromwell Pearce; died June 16, 1872. W. H. Beaumont; died June 19, 1874.
1852, Martin Canavan ----.
1853, T. L. Byington; died June 16, 1888. Charles Pike; died September 12, 1882. Samuel Sherrerd; died June 21, 1884.
1854, George Scott; died September 26, 1861. James S. Bedford; died December 2, 1865.
1855, E. P. Darling; died October 19, 1889. S. P. Longstreet; died April 5, 1881. Lyman R. Nicholson; died July 13, 1863.
1856, L. D. Reynolds; died July 25, 1858.
1857, John Brisbin; died February 3, 1880. Ezra B. Chase; died February 15, 1864. George Sanderson; died April 1, 1870. Calvin Wadhams; died July 20, 1883.
1858. George D. Haughawout; died August 8, 1886.
1859, Isaac M. Cake; died July 2, 1888.
1860, C. B. Brundage; died January 27, 1871. John P. Craig; died February 21, 1862. Arthur Hamilton; died October 22, 1862. C. H. Wells; died March 24, 1888. Joseph Wright; died May 18, 1862.
1861, Albert Chamberlain; died December 21, 1877. T. Holmes Ketcham ----. Ira D. Richards; died February 9, 1874.
1862, John L. Gore; died May 15, 1862.
1864, Edgar L. Merriman; died September 3, 1876. Conrad S. Stark; died March 26, 1880. Rufus F. Bell; died May 26, 1889.
1865, William P. Case ----. Philip T. Myers; died February 13, 1878.
1866, Isaac J. Post; died July 10, 1885.
1867, Joseph H. Campbell; died August 7, 1888. George T. Smith; died September 4, 1871.
1868, R. M. Kidder; died December 25, 1874.
1870, Jabez Alsover; died December 2, 1878.
1871, Dennis A. McQuillan; died September 4, 1886. Wesley L. Wilwarth; died May 8, 1875. [p.240]
1872, James Bryson; died in 1887. William V. Myers; died September 24, 1874. Ivan T. Ruth; died November 19, 1878.
1874, E. W. Simrell ----. Harrison Wright; died February 20, 1885. H. B. Beardslee; died March 11, 1886.
1875, Henry C. Magee; died April 27, 1888.
1876, M. J. Flanagan; died February 1, 1880. W. J. Philbin; died August 29, 1882.
1877, Friend A. Wheelock; died November 24, 1880. D. S. Bennett; died September 16, 1884.
1878, W. R. Kingman; died August 23, 1884.
1879, Nathan Bennett; died June 1, 1889.
1880, A. J. Dietrick; died September 8, 1884.
1884, Ziba Mathers; died March 12, 1888.
1886, James B. Shaver; died April 1, 1887.
1888, Henry Clay Adams; died April 1, 1889. John I. Allen, admitted 1841; died ----.
Resident Attorneys of Luzerne County.--The following is the chronological list of the attorneys of the county now residents, with the date of license to practice:
A. T. McClintock, August 3, 1836; Edwin I. Turner, November 5, 1839; William P. Miner, August 3, 1841; Samuel McCarragher, November 7, 1842; L. D. Shoemaker, August 1, 1842; Wesley Johnson, April, 1846; F. J. Leavenworth, January 10, 1848; George Loveland, August 19, 1848; Asa R. Brundage, April 2, 1849; Francis L. Butler, April 6, 1849; C. I. A. Chapman, January 8, 1850; D. L. Patrick, August 5, 1850; Garrick M. Harding, August 5, 1850; Alexander Farnham, January 13, 1855; Stanley Woodward, August 4, 1856; Agib Ricketts, January 6, 1857; John Richards, April 5, 1858; Jerome G. Miller, April 24, 1858; O. F. Nicholson, April 24, 1858; E. H. Chase, Januray 4, 1859; R. C. Shoemaker, April 4, 1859; Alfred Darte, May 12, 1859; H. B. Plumb, November 21, 1859; Harry Hakes, January 25, 1860; George B. Kulp, August 20, 1860; T. H. B. Lewis, August 29, 1860; Gustav Hahn, February 18, 1861; E. S. Osborne, February 26, 1861; D. L. Rhone, April 1, 1861; Charles D. Foster, April 23, 1861; Henry W. Palmer, August 24, 1861; Charles M. Conyngham, August 18, 1862; George R. Bedford, November 10, 1862; Hubbard B. Payne, August 20, 1863; William M. Shoemaker; September 3, 1863; D. L. O'Neil, April 4, 1864; Clarence P. Kidder, April 4, 1864; George Shoemaker, January 6, 1864; John Lynch, November 20, 1865; Charles L. Bulkley, January 8, 1864; Thomas J. Chase, November 12, 1866; D. J. M. Loop, December 1, 1866; William S. McLean, August 10, 1867; Andrew Hunlock, November 10, 1868; D. M. Jones, February 27, 1869; Elliott P. Kisner, August 16, 1869; Isaac P. Hand, November 15, 1869; Edmund G. Butler, November 17, 1869; Button Downing, November 19, 1869; Charles E. Rice, February 21, 1870; Benjamin F. Dorrance, August 20, 1870; L. W. DeWitt, December 17, 1870; George K. Powell, June 12, 1871; Sheldon Reynolds, October 16, 1871; George S. Ferris, February 19, 1872; E. G. Scott, September 9, 1872; Gaius L. Halsey, September 9, 1872; Ernest Jackson, September 9, 1872; Lyman H. Bennett, December 4, 1872; Malcom E. Walker, January 6, 1873; Michael Cannon, January 25, 1873; John A. Opp, February 24, 1873; John T. L. Sahm, April 23, 1873; William H. McCartney, September 12, 1873; Barnet M. Espy, September 20, 1873; William P. Ryman, September 20, 1873; John T. Lenahan, October 27, 1873; Francis M. Nichols, October 28, 1873; Emory Robinson, January 5, 1874; Quincy A. Gates, January 22, 1874; Franklin C. Mosier, February 26, l874; J. Vaughan Darling, June 4, 1874; Allan H. Dickson, September 14, 1874; Joseph D. Coons, September 14, 1874; P. H. Campbell, September 14, 1874; George H. Troutman, September 16, 1874; Lewis B. Landmesser, April 5, 1875; Seligman J. Strauss, September 6, 1875; G. Mortimer Lewis, September 6, 1875; [p.241] George R. Wright, September 6, 1875; Edward A. Lynch, September 11, 1875; Charles H. Sturdevant, October 4, 1875; Frank C. Sturges, October 18, 1875; John B. Reynolds, November 15, 1875; A. H. McClintock, January 20, 1876; Charles W. McAlarney, February 7, 1876; John McGahren, February 14, 1876; Thomas R. Martin, April 10, 1876; Oscar J. Harvey, May 16, 1876; Thomas H. Atherton, September 29, 1876; George W. Shonk, September 29, 1876; H. A. Fuller, January 9, 1877; Clarence W. Kline, January 10, 1877; F. W. Sturdevant, June 11, 1877; Bernard McManus, November 10, 1877; R. H. Wright, May 22, 1878; P. V. Weaver, September 23, 1878; A. F. Derr, December 2, 1878; James L. Lenahan, January 28, 1879; Frank W. Wheaton, September 2, 1879; Emmett D. Nichols, September 16, 1879; Edwin Shortz, March 20, 1880; Jasper B. Stark, April 26, 1880; Martin F. Burke, May 10, 1880; William J. Hughes, June 7, 1880; Edward E. Hoyt, September 17, 1880; Robert D. Evans, November 15, 1880; William R. Gibbons, April 4, 1881; William R. Raeder, June 6, 1881; George H. Butler, June 6, 1881; W. H. Hines, June 6, 1881; John D. Hayes, June 11, 1881; A. E. Chapin, October 19, 1881; Henry W. Dunning, June 5, 1882; George H. Fisher, June 5, 1882; James D. Anderson, June 5, 1882; William C. Price, October 14, 1882; Dennis O. Coughlin, November 20, 1882; Joseph Moore, November 20, 1882; John S. Harding, November 21, 1882; Cecil R. Banks, January 10, 1883; Cormac F. Bohan, March 15, 1884; Tuthill R. Hillard, June 6, 1885; Samuel M. Parke, June 9, 1885; Peter A. O'Boyle, July 27, 1885; Daniel A. Fell, July 27, 1885; John B. Woodward, September 7, 1985; John B. Hillard, September 7, 1885; Henry H. Welles, October 10, 1885; Moses W. Wadhams, October 10, 1885; Anthony L. Williams, October 12, 1885; John M. Garman, January 29, 1886; Liddon Flick, June 2, 1886; George D. Hedian, June 4, 1886; John Q. Creveling, June 19, 1886; Peter A. Meixell, September 20, 1886; Charles E. Keck, October 18, 1886; Anthony C. Campbell, October 18, 1886; Thomas C. Umstead, December 4, 1886; James R. Scouten, January 6, 1887; James M. Fritz, January 29, 1887; George P. Loomis, January 31, 1887; Edward F. McGovern, June 6, 1887; George Urquhart, June 27, 1887; John F. Everhart, November 15, 1887; Frank W. Larned, May 21, 1888; Darryl L. Creveling, June 18, 1888; Alexander Ricketts, September 28, 1888, George B. Hillman, December 10, 1888; George W. Moon, December 10, 1888; W. J. Trembath, December 10, 1888; William H. Hibbs, March 11, 1889; James L. Morris, April 22, 1889; Thomas Darling, April 22, 1889. Later admissions: T. D. Garman, Granville J. Clark, Harry B. Hamlin, Thomas D. Shea, Frederick L. Smith, Ralph H. Wadhams, Andrew M. Freas, Abner Smith, Paul J. Sherwood, John D. Farnham, U. C. Smythe, D. Ogden Rogers, Charles P. Bohan, Samuel S. Herring, Michael H. McAniff, Michael N. Donnelly, E. F. McHugh, Bradley W. Palmer, Frank H. Bailey, George F. Nesbitt, S. W. Davenport, Sidney R. Miner, John F. Shea.
The above is mostly taken by permission from George B. Kulp's Families of the Wyoming. In his account of the lawyers of the county he concludes as follows:
"As to the gentlemen of the Luzerne bar, reviewing the list from the date of the organization of the Luzerne county courts, May 27, 1787, shows that up to April 22, 1889, there has been a total of 489 members, of whom 165 are deceased, 163 are non-residents, and 159 are still with us, a remarkably equal division.
"Of the ten president judges eight are dead and two (Judges Harding and Rice) are still living. Of the six additional law judges only one is dead and five are living. The only separate orphans court judge we have had is still in service. Of the thirty-five lay judges one survives, all having been called to that higher court from whose decrees there is no appeal. The total of judges and lawyers, dead and living, 539.
"Nine Luzerne lawyers have abandoned the profession to take places in the pulpit. Of these, four became Episcopal ministers, one rising to the bishopric, [p.242] three preached in the Methodist Episcopal church, one in the Presbyterian and one in the Baptist. Popular prejudice will stand surprised to find that a calling, the practices of which are so persistently ascribed to satanic influences, has contributed thus liberally to the noble army marshaled for the overthrow of its alleged patron.
"To the armies of the country the Luzerne bar has given more than her quota. She had two soldiers in the Revolution, two in the war of 1812, and ten in the Mexican war. To the forces whose energies won in the Civil war of 1861-5 she contributed five generals, three colonels, one lieutenant-colonel, three majors, twelve captains, ten lieutenants, and twenty-three privates, while three others served in the navy.
"In high civic offices she has had one United States senator, sixteen congressmen, two governors, two attorney-generals, one minister in the diplomatic service, four judges of the supreme court, two judges of the United States court, and eleven judges of common pleas courts in other counties or states, in addition to ten law judges she has furnished our own bench."
A Judge Impeached.--Thomas Cooper was born in England, October 22, 1759; educated at Oxford and became eminent in chemistry and medicine. He was driven out of England for political offences and came to America in 1794, and soon after his arrival in this country commenced the practice of law. He was a strong Jeffersonian, and for a severe attack on President Adams, he was tried under the sedition law, fined $400 and imprisoned six months. But the democrats soon came into power and in 1806 Gov. McKean appointed Mr. Cooper judge of the court of common pleas for Northumberland, Luzerne and Lycoming counties. In his rules of the courtroom he was stern and severe and the people and lawyers soon came to dislike him. In 1811 he was summoned before the senate committee and put upon trial to answer the following charges:
1. Fining and imprisoning Constable Hollister in 1807 at Wilkes-Barre for whispering in court.
2. Fining and imprisoning John Hamah for wearing his hat in court.
3. For passing sentence of one year on a Wilkes-Barre horse thief and the next day learning he was an old offender, recalling the prisoner and sent him for three years.
4. Deciding important points in a case in which he had a pecuniary interest.
5. Setting aside the verdict of a jury in an intemperate and passionate manner.
6. Browbeating counsel and witnesses.
1, 2 and 3 he did not deny but defended, 5 and 6 he emphatically denied. There were other charges numbering to ten, but they were not very serious, even if true. Judge Cooper had able counsel and spoke four and one-half hours in his own defence, but the committee reported against him and he was turned out of office. He never again entered public life; quit the practice of law in a short time and became professor of chemistry and geology in Dickinson college and then in the University of Pennsylvania, and was made president of South Carolina college and became a citizen of the state, where he died aged eighty-one.
County Commissioners: 1794, Jesse Fell, Alexander Johnson.
1795-6, John Phillips, John Jenkins, Thomas Wright.
1800-1, Lawrence Myers, E. Blackman, Thomas Wright.
1803, E. Blackman, Arnold Colt, Oliver Pettebone.
1804, Arnold Colt, Ezekiel Hyde, Oliver Pettebone.
1805, Oliver Pettebone, Benjamin Dorrance, E. Hyde, Eleazer Blackman.
1806, E. Blackman, Benjamin Dorrance, Elisha Harding.
1807, B. Dorrance, E. Harding, H. Tiffany.
1808, E. Harding, H. Tiffany, James Wheeler.
1809, H. Tiffany, J. Wheeler, Benjamin Perry. Peleg Tracy was clerk of the
board from 1804 to 1809.
1810, Benjamin Perry, Thomas Walles, Noah Wadhams, Samuel Bowman.
1811, B. Perry, N. Wadhams, Thomas Park.
1812, B. Perry, N. Wadhams, Abiel Fellows.
1813, Cornelius Cortright, Napthalia Hurlbut, Abiel Fellows.
1814, N. Hurlbut, C. Cortright, Benjamin Carey.
1815, C. Cortright, Benjamin Carey, James Reeder.
1816, Benjamin Carey, James Reeder, Lord Butler. From 1810 to 1816 Jesse
Fell was clerk of the board.
1817, Lord Butler, James Reeder, Isaac Hartzell.
1818, Lord Butler, Isaac Hartzel, E. Shoemaker. Arnold Colt was clerk 1817-8.
1819, E. Shoemaker, I. Hartzell, Cyrus Avery.
1820, E. Shoemaker, C. Avery, Joel Rogers.
1821, Cyrus Avery, Joel Rogers, Samuel Yost.
1822, Joel Rogers, Samuel Yost, Hezekiah Parsons.
1823, Samuel Yost, H. Parsons, Stueben Butler.
1824, H. Parsons, Steuben Butler, Elisha S. Potter.
1825, Steuben Butler, E. S. Potter, Deodat Smith.
1826, E. S. Potter, Deodat Smith, Arnold Colt.
1827, D. Smith, A. Colt, John Bittenbender.
1828, Arnold Colt, John Bittenbender, Isaac Harding.
1829, John Bittenbender. I. Harding, William Swetland.
1830, Isaac Harding, William Swetland, Cornelius Cortright. From 1819 to
1830 Jesse Fell was clerk.
1831, William Swetland, C. Cortright, Jacob Rambach.
1832, Cornelius Cortright, J. Rambach, Luman Ferry.
1833, Jacob Rambach, Luman Ferry, Joseph Tuttle. From 1831 to 1833, E.
1834, Luman Ferry, Joseph Tuttle, Sebastian Sybert.
1835, Joseph Tuttle, S. Sybert, Samuel Saylor. Thomas Myers, clerk, 1834-5.
1836, S. Sybert, S. Saylor, John Fassett.
1837, S. Saylor, John Fassett, William Koons.
1838, John Fassett, William Koons, Gorton Wall.
1839, William Koons, Gorton Wall, Philip Yost.
1840, Gorton Wall, Philip Yost, Nathaniel Cottrell. Chester Tuttle, clerk from
1836 to 1840.
1841, Philip Yost, N. Cottrill, Thomas Irwin. This year Chester Tuttle was
clerk. He was succeeded in 1842 by Edward Dolph, who was in the office to 1844.
Jared R. Baldwin was clerk from 1845 to 1850.
1842, N. Cottrill, Thomas Irwin, J. Benscotter.
1843, J. Benscoter, John Rosencranse, Jr., Thomas Irwin.
1844, J. Benscoter, J. Rosencranse, Jr., E. Chamberlin.
1845, J. Rosencranse, Jr., E. Chamberlin, Charles Berry.
1846, E. Chamberlin, C. Berry, Philip Meixell.
1847, C. Berry, P. Meixell, Ira Branson.
1848, P. Meixell, Ira Branson, Robert Eaton.
1849, Ira Branson, Robert Eaton, Jacob Besicker.
1850, Robert Eaton, Rowland Richards, Isaiah Stiles.
1851, L. H. Litts, Isaiah Stiles, R. Hutchins.
1852, Isaiah Stiles, R. Hutchins, Peter Winter.
1853, R. Hutchins, Peter Winter, Abraham Smith. From 1851 to 1853 Chester
Tuttle was again clerk.
1854, Peter Winter, A. Smith, Daniel Vail.
1855, A. Smith, D. Vail, Silas Dodson.
1856, D. Vail, S. Dodson, W. A. Tubbs.
1857, S. Dodson, W. A. Tubbs, Benjamin F. Pfouts.
1858, W. A. Tubbs, B. F. Pfouts, John C. Dunning.
1859, B. F. Pfouts, J. C. Dunning, John Blanchard.
1860, J. C. Dunning, J. Blanchard, Daniel Rambach.
1861, John Blanchard, Daniel Rambach, Samuel Vaughn.
1862, D. Rambach, S. Vaughn, Nathan Kocher.
1863, S. Vaughn, N. Kocher, Stephen Devenport.
1864, N. Kocher, Stephen Devenport, Uriah A. Gritman.
1865, S. Devenport, U. A. Gritman, William Wolf.
1866, Uriah A. Gritman, William Wolf, William Franck.
1867, W. Wolf, W. Franck, W. W. Smith.
1868, W. Franck, W. W. Smith, Michael Raber.
1869, W. W. Smith, M. Raber, B. F. Louder.
1870, M. Raber, B. F. Louder, G. W. Bailey.
1871, B. F. Louder, G. W. Bailey, Charles F. Hill.
1872, G. W. Bailey, C. F. Hill, A. J. Williams.
1873, A. J. Williams, C. F. Hill, R. Gersbacher.
1874-5, A. J. Williams, R. Gersbacher, N. Seibert.
1876-8, N. N. Dean, Samuel Line Peter Jennings.
1879-81, L. C. Darte, Stephen Turnbach, James D. Harris.
1882-4, Thomas W. Haines, Casper Obordorfer, Henry Vanscoy.
1885-7, Thomas W. Haines, Thomas English, Cyrus Straw.
Charles T. Barnum, clerk from 1855 to 1863. Steuben Jenkins, clerk from 1864 to 1869. Steuben Jenkins and George M. Nagle, clerks in 1870. George M. Nagle, clerk 1871 to 1873. P. F. Lynch, clerk 1874-5. H. C. Jones, clerk 1876. S. A. Whitebread, clerk 1877 to 1881. S. A. Whitebread and H. W. Search, clerks in 1882. H. W. Search, clerk 1883-4. Robert P. Robinson, clerk 1885.
For list of present commissioners see elsewhere.
County Boundary Line Established.--The uncertainty of the line in the separation of Lackawanna from Luzerne county was in the end settled by three commissioners, John F. Snyder, W. H. Sturdevant and W. A. Mason, who had been appointed for the purpose, and the boundary line they established is as follows: Beginning at a point on the Susquehanna river a little over a mile above the mouth of Falling Spring brook; thence south and east, crossing the Pennsylvania and New York canal and railroad company's track to a chestnut and two yellow pine trees, the line being all the way through improved lands; thence south to a small brook on the north side of public back road and to the left bank of the Lackawanna river, crossing the tracks of the Bloomsburg division of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western railroad, to the inersection of the Pittston back road with the Moosic road, to the branch railroad to the central breaker of the Pennsylvania Railroad company; thence to a cut-stone corner in Little Mill creek; thence up the center of the bed of the creek to a cut-stone corner; thence south and east crossing the track of the Delaware & Hudson railroad and the Erie & Wyoming Valley railroad at Pleasant Valley station, leaving the station on the right, crossing Spring Brook railroad and Spring Brook at cut stone on easterly side of wagon road leading up the stream; thence to the northwest corner of the Jasper Irving tract, and a corner of the Edward Kennedy tract and the corner of Spring Brook township near Covey swamp; thence south to the crest of the mountain sloping toward Spring Brook to a cut stone at the waoon road at the foot of the mountain, crossing Spring Brook 150 feet below the old Dolph sawmill; thence across Spring Brook railroad and Trout creek, to the southeast corner of the Richard Gardner tract; thence across Monument creek, to the corner of Jacob Yoner and William Parker tract; thence on the line between these tracts, across the branch of Monument creek and Pittston road to a corner of Robert Gray and Joseph Lawrence tracts, thence along the line of the [p.247] William Monee tract to a cut-stone corner of Keating's field, and to a cut stone near the road, thence crossing John Christ's and Mathias Baff's tracts to a cut-stone corner in the northerly line of John Spohn tract; thence to a cut stone for a line in the road leading from Meadow run to Bear lake, to a corner in the left bank of Choke creek; thence down Choke creek along the center of its bed to the Lehigh river."
This line, it may be understood, was to settle the dispute over a little fraction of land claimed by both counties and gave it to Luzerne county.
County Government, 1892.--Congress.--This county is the twelfth district; Hon. George W. Shonk, present member has declined a renomination.
Legislature.--Senate, twentieth district, M. E. McDonald (D); twenty-first district, W. H. Hines (D), nominee for congress. House, first district, C. Ben Johnson (D); second, E. A. Coray (R); third, J. M. Fritz (D); fourth, W. R. Jeffrey (R); fifth, John T. Flannery (D); sixth, Thomas M. Moyles (D).
President Judge, Hon. C. E. Rice (R). Additional law judge, Hon. Stanley Woodward (D), Hon. John Lynch (D). Orphans' court judge, Hon. D. L. Rhone (D). Court stenographers, J. F. Standish, Jr., S. F. Innes. Minute clerks, Michael Donnelly, John Shea. Treasurer, John S. McGroarty (D). Clerks, Thomas W. Hart, John Turnbach, Jr. Recorder, Joseph H. McGinty (D). Deputy, J. J. Ferry. Clerks, P. F. Lynch, P. Shoemaker, W. R. Toole. Register of wills, Phillip Weaver (D). Deputy and assistant clerk of orphans' court, Charles P. Campbell. Clerk, Frank Needham. Coroner, Dr. W. F. Pier (D). Commissioners, Harry Evans (R), Thomas Smith (R), T. M. Dullard (D). Clerks, James M. Norris, T. R. Peters and Patrick Norton. District attorney, John M. Garman (D). Assistant, P. A. O'Boyle. County detective, M. F. Whalen. Sheriff, R. P. Robinson (R). Chief deputy, John Robinson. Assistant deputy, John Dougher. Prothonotary, J. C. Wiegand (R). Deputy, J. T. L. Sahm. Clerk of the courts, A. L. Stanton (R). Auditors, W. E. Bennett (D), J. J. Brislin (D), G. W. Rimer (R). Jury Commissioners, Patrick Finn, John H. James. Prison couamissioners-- the county commissioners, ex-officio, with Hon. L. D. Shoemaker (R), and W. P. Kirkendall (D). Warden of the county prison, Thomas W. Haines (R). Assistants, Dwight Wolcott and Thomas Smith. Matron, Mrs. T. W. Haines. Physician, Dr. G. H. Kirwan. Mercantile appraiser, Thomas McGraw. County solicitor, Joseph Moore. County surveyor, James Crockett.
Of the Luzerne county centennial, we learn from the Historical Record, as follows:
"It was on the 25th of September, 1786, that Luzerne county was erected, and the centennial of that event was commemorated with interesting exercises. The celebration was very properly held in the courthouse, Judge Woodward adjourning court at 10 o'clock, out of compliment to the historic occasion. Luzerne county has had no less than three centennial celebrations--that in 1872, in honor of the laying out of Wilkes-Barre, in common with the National centennial, and in 1878, the one hundredth anniversary of the battle and massacre of Wyoming. This being the case, the present centennial lacked the feature of novelty, and was permitted to pass without the pomp and circumstances usually incident to such occasions. The Wyoming Historical Society determined to not let the occasion go by unobserved, and a meeting was arranged for, Gen. E. L. Dana being the chief mover in the matter.
"The hour set was 10 o'clock, at which time Judge Woodward was still on the bench. He stated, that in view of the historic event, so important to the county history, he had adjourned the court and ordered the fact to be spread upon the day's minutes as a perpetual record. The Judge then went on to give some historical data. He proceeded to read from the statute for erecting the county, which was an act of September 25, 1786. It provided that Luzerne county be set off from the [p.248] northern portion of Northumberland county. He exhibited the first continuance docket or minute book of the county organized under the statute, from which it appeared that the first session of court was held May 29, 1787, in the house of Zebulon Butler. The first business was to organize. Dr. William Hooker Smith, Benjamin Carpenter, James Nesbitt, Timothy Pickering, Obadiah Gore, Nathan Kingsley, and Mathias Hollenback were sworn in as justices of the peace. Timothy Pickering--who might have served as a prototype for Gilbert & Sullivan's Poo Bah in the Mikado was made prothonotary, clerk of the peace and of the orphans' court, register of wills and recorder of deeds. Joseph Sprague was made court crier. Lord Butler, the first sheriff of the county, was instructed to take measures for the erection of a jail.
Judge Woodward exhibited the commission of Sheriff Butler, who was a grandfather of the Judge's wife. It bears the signature of Benjamin Franklin. The legal practitioners who were sworn in were Ebenezer Bowman, Putnam Catlin, Rosewell Welles and William Nichols. The speaker exhibited the first legal paper --a capais, September term, 1787, Samuel Allen vs. Henry Burney--Catlin, attorney. At that time the county contained only 2,730 taxables, now the same territory has a population of nearly half a million. Having concluded his hasty retrospect, Judge Woodward said he would come down from the bench, and turn over the meeting to its proper custodian, the Historical society.
"Judge Dana, president of the society, took the chair, and after a few appropriate remarks called upon Rev. E. Hazard Snowden, the oldest minister in the county, to open the exercises, and he addressed the throne of grace in language peculiarly adapted to the occasion.
Judge Dana read a brief but valuable paper by Dr. Hollister, of Providence, who was unable to attend, on the "Birth of Luzerne County." In it reference was made to the attempt to locate the county seat on the west side of the Susquehanna, and of Ethan Allen's scheme to bring his Green Mountain boys here, and establish an independent government in Wyoming.
"Hon. Steuben Jenkins, the veteran Wyoming historian, read a paper descriptive of the government of Wyoming prior to the erection of Luzerne county. It had to deal with the quartersessions, the speaker said, as Judge Woodward had with the common pleas. The troublous times were described, as also the local dissatisfaction with the new regime, which placed all the offices of profit in the hands of a single individual--Timothy Pickering--and he a Pennamite. The paper was a valuable contribution to local history.
"Mr. C. I. A. Chapman took exceptions to the language of the act changing the boundary of the new county. He made the point that instead of changing the western boundary from west to north, one degree west, as provided by the act, the change contemplated was from west to north, eighty-nine degrees west. The latter represented the contemplated change of one degree, while the former implies a change of eighty-nine degrees, which was not contemplated. Mr. Jenkins replied that he was aware of the technical error, but he could not change the language of the act.
"A most elaborate and scholarly paper was presented by Hon. E. L. Dana, on 'The Chevalier de la Luzerne,' from whom the country derived its name. Most of the subject matter was entirely new, having been obtained by the speaker's son from the unpublished archives of the French government. The paper revealed, what few people are aware of, how warm a friend Luzerne was to the struggling colonists, and the practical aid given by him to the American cause. Not the least interesting was the official advice to Luzerne of the naming of a county for him, together with his reply, which was replete with words expressive of his love for America and for Pennsylvania, in which he had lived for a time.
"The assistance given by the Paxtang rangers to the Connecticut settlers at [p.249] Wyoming, in their contest with the Pennamites, was graphically portrayed by Dr. W. H. Egle, of Harrisburg, who read an admirable paper on "the House of Lancaster to the Rescue." Dr. Egle was probably the best reader of the day, and his portraiture of the hardy Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, who rallied to the standard of the Yankees in their struggle against what they believed to be the tyranny of Pennsylvania, was graphic in the extreme. Dr. Egle is one of the most extensive historical writers in the commonwealth, and the historical society was fortunate in securing his presence. His address was warmly received and generously applauded.
"F. C. Johnson gave a synopsis of a paper now being prepared by him, presenting what is virtually a chapter of unwritten history, referred to only by one historian, Miner, and disposed of by him in a sentence or two. The subject was 'The Proposed Exodus of Wyoming Settlers in 1783.' In that year the Connecticut settlers in Wyoming, discouraged by the decree of Trenton, which had decided the land controversy in favor of the Pennamites, determined to seek the friendly shelter of another State. A petition was drawn up and signed by 400 settlers, asking the assembly of New York to grant a tract of land on the Susquehanna, beginning near the Pennsylvania line and continuing to Oquago, immediate settlement to be made. The memorial was taken to Albany by Obadiah Gore. on horseback, where he met the favorable action of both senate and assembly. The exodus never took place, as such, though some of the petitioners did seek a retreat along the waters of the upper Susquehanna. As time passed by, Pennsylvania rule was found less oppressive than had been anticipated and the Wyoming people remained on their possessions. The paper was interesting, as being made up of new material, the original petition, with signatures, having been furnished the speaker by the secretary of the Oneida Historical society, and most of the other matter having been found among the State historical records at Albany.
"William P. Miner, for many years editor and proprietor of the Wilkes-Barre Record, read a most interesting paper on the progress of printing in Luzerne county. The paper began with an account of his trip on horseback from West Chester to Wilkes-Barre in September, 1832, having been promoted from the office of assistant 'devil' in the West Chester Village Record to the position of imp of the ink balls in the office of the Wyoming Herald, printed and published by Asher Miner and Steuben Butler. Mr. Miner described the primitive method by which the Herald was printed on a Ramage press, inked with wool-stuffed buckskin balls held in each hand. Mr. Miner alluded to these papers in his possession--Wilkes- Barre Gazette, 1797 to 1800; Luzerne Federalist, 1801 to 1811; Gleaner, 1811 to 1818--as well as many subsequent.
"C. I. A. Chapman was called upon and made some extempore remarks on the changes in the landmarks of justice, which he had witnessed in his life time--one, the incapacity of woman to possess property in her own right, the other, imprisonment for debt, and his recollection, when a boy, of seeing Rufus Bennett, the last survivor of the Wyoming massacre, in jail for a paltry debt of a few dollars. Mr. Chapman exhibited a drawing of the old public square, made by him twenty years ago from memory, and showing the buildings as they appeared about 1840. The picture excited general interest."