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