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Beaver County was created on March 12, 1800.
Named for the Beaver River, the county was formed from parts of
Allegheny County and Washington County. It was not fully detached from Allegheny County until 1803. The county seat,
also named Beaver, was incorporated on March 29, 1802.
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Map of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries is taken from US Census website and modified by Ruhrfisch in April 2006.
As told by Judge Daniel Agnew, 1877
There are occasions when the celebration of a public event, by appropriate ceremonies, is instructive to those whom it concerns, marking their progress as a people in refinement and culture; and this one is eminently so. What can be more deeply interesting to American freemen than the dedication of a temple to the service of that great and ruling principle, upon which hang all their rights, their interests, and their happiness?
Law! Grand, immutable, inscrutable energy! Springing from the unfathomed depths of the Great Jehovah, permeating all his works and carrying blessings everywhere, it is the type and the very basis of human institutions. Deprived of human law, what would be the condition of man? Without it might would be right, fraud success, and violence redress. And without law what is justice? A forrn without life, a voice dying on the air. To give efficacy to this great regulating, refining, enduring principle, you have assembled this day to dedicate this beautiful structure to the service of the Ministry of Justice. It is a building worthy of its projectors, creditable to those who planned and built it, and a testimonial of honor to the people who gave their means to erect it. Long may it stand, a work of high art, a monument of liberality, and a tower of safety for the rights of the people.
This house marks an epoch in the history of the county. As we survey its surface we behold the evidence of improvement in the physical and mental condition of its inhabitants, and mark the progress made since its organization. If we recur to the first decade of the century, we discover a people in a rude state of civilization, living in round log cabins, made with the axe and the auger drawing a scanty support from the earth by the labor of their hands, and possessing few comforts and no luxuries-simple in garbs woven by their own hands, and colored from the barks of the forest. They were without much education, uncouth in speech, and unpolished in manners. Yet, to their praise be it spoken, they were, not withstanding these accidents of situation, virtuous, sincere, hospitable, courageous, and honest; having strong religious convictions, a just sense of right and wrong, and full of patriotic fire. Such were the early settlers of Beaver County-not barbarous, but made primitive by the wilderness around them. Their type was the sun rising in cloud and fog, and half obscured. Now, looking abroad, as when the orb of day has risen to meridian splendor, casting effulgence on every hand, we take in a people abounding in wealth and comfort, enjoying the advantages of education in manners, morals, learning, and art; and gaining a bountiful supply for all earthly need, from trades, professions, and avocations unknown to their simple ancestors. No longer confined to the scanty avails of manual efforts, they reach far into the realms of thought, drawing forth the rich fruits of all the intellectual forces. Now schools, academies, and colleges stand thickly on the soil; great mills and manufactories utilize its products; beautiful dwellings, and graceful and grand creations of architecture adorn and dignify the rich domain; the wolf, the bear, or the catamount, once contesting the title of the settler to the forest around him, no longer alarms with his howl or his cry, while the ox, the horse, and the sheep now fill their places; and the forest itself has given way to green pastures, and fields of waving grain and bending corn. Science and art, too, have added their grand achievements in the telegraph and the railroad, conveying instant thought and the persons and products of men to distant climes. Even now we listen to the sound of far off voices and of music, brought by the telephone over hill and dale, and mountain and valley, and across the rivers that run to the sea. The sun, too, has turned portrait painter, and takes your likeness in a few seconds.
But the changes of nature and in the circumstances of the people are not the only mutations we see. Law is the central thought of this dedication, and the change in the subjects, character, and forms of litigation is not less remarkable. In the earliest times these were of the simplest kinds. Trespasses on lands or cattle, or the humble personal effects of the settler and the small tradesman; breaches of petty contracts for work or of sale, and contracts for lands in their most simple state; these were the common subjects of conflict, and brought into use the simplest forms of actions-trespass, and on the case, replevin, trover, assumpsit, covenant, and in ejectment. Let me instance a suit brought at the first term, February, 1804. Thomas Hartshorne v. Thomas Sprott, Esq. Replevin for one sow and ten pigs, marked with a crop off the right ear and half a crop out of the under side of the left ear, of the value of $10. Verdict for the defendant--a new trial, and judgment of the plaintiff for $6 damages-costs, $35.87. The squire paid well for his pork. Beyond these simple forms of action the rural lawyer rarely looked' Perhaps he had read of others in black letter books, but they were useless mysteries.
Now mark the contrast! The land is filled with new kinds of business, new agencies for their executions, new forms of art, new products of labor, new machines, new wants, new supplies, and novelties of every sort. Even new beings exist-artificial persons, creations of the law-these have arisen with new purposes and new methods of proceeding. Corporations lie thickly about us. Some assist at birth and others at death; some take care of the living, and others of the effects of the dead. They take charge of our property and persons, insure them against danger and death, transport them from place to place, educate, facilitate, and employ. Higher types of hand labor and of machine work, and grander modes of intercourse now fill the earth. Commerce swells the avenues of business with new subjects of trade, new forms of contracts, and new agencies of performance. These, and others too numerous to mention, have brought new modes of proceeding as various as shells on the seashore; and new remedies for wrongs have multiplied like the locusts that swarm over the plains.
Now bills for specific performance, bills for injunction, bills for account, and bills without count; bills of discovery, of revivor and interpleader, writs of mandamus, quo warranto, of error coram vobis et nobis, and writs that few understand; actions for death and negligence against cities and towns, corporations and individuals. Complaints of all kinds, more than one can state, now thicken around the crowded brain of the lawyer until he seeks refuge in specialties, and we are introduced to the corporation lawyer, the insurance lawyer, the admiralty, the land and real estate, the orphans' court and quarter sessions lawyer; the proctor, the solicitor and the counselor. They swarm from the hive like bees, and the ladies will be glad to know that, like bees, they take their queens.
But we are reminded that the law must have its place of enforcement. A court is said to be a place where justice is judicially administered. Take care of the pronunciation of this definition, lest "in" unite with "justice," and the caviller say a truth is told. The location of the seat of justice at Beaver brings up memories of local history, some of which operated on the minds of the men of 1800 in placing it here. On this beautiful plain, in times long gone by-more than a century and a quarter ago-the mercurial Frenchman found a lodging among the wild men of the forest, unsuited to Parisian taste, yet made fit by his loyalty to his king. In front flows the Ohio-the Frenchman's "La Belle Riviere," and the Indian's "Clear Water." Above, the Big Beaver rolls down over miles of rocky falls. Far back before civilization had planted her footsteps on the virgin soil ' it took its name, by translation from the Indian tongue, from the useful animal inhabiting its waters. The- town took its name from the stream, and the county its from both.
The earliest mention of the name of the stream I have noticed is found in Conrad Weiser's journal of his journey to Logstown. Of course it had a previous existence. Leaving Heidelberg Township, Berks County, on the I I th of August, 1748, Weiser crossed the "Allegheny Hills," coming on the 22nd to the "Clear fields," now in Clearfield County. On the 25th he crossed the "Kiskeminetoes," coming to the Ohio the same day. The Allegheny was then so called, and is thus named in the treaties with the Indians at Fort Stanwix in 1768 and 1784, both describing the boundary of the purchases as striking the Ohio at the Indian village of Kittanning. On the 30th of August Weiser came to "Beaver Creek," and finally reached Logstown, on the north bank of the Ohio, below the present town of Economy. The "Little Beaver," twelve miles below the "Big," is mentioned by Washington in his journal of his mission to the French Commandant at Fort Le Boeuf and Venango in November, 1753. On his arrival at Logstown he says the "Half King was at his hunting cabin on Little Beaver, and was sent for there."
A most interesting account of this region is given by Christian Frederick Post, a German and Moravian preacher, twice sent out from Philadelphia, in 1758, to the Indians living west of Fort Du Quesne. In his second Journal, November 16, 1758, he says: "We went down a long valley to Beaver Creek, through old Kushkushing, a large spot of land, about three miles long. Kushkushing was a Delaware town, near the junction of the Shenango and Mahoning, which form the Big Beaver, and on the west side of the Beaver." In Weiser's journal the town is called "Caskaskie." Here lived the famous chief of the "Turtle Tribe" of the Delawares, known as "King Beaver," or "The Beaver;" and here we meet the origin of the present name of the stream, it being evidently a translation of the Indian name. Both men and tribes were distinguished by the names of favorite animals. In the Irrequois Confederacy, or Five Nations, there were eight tribes of each nation, known as the Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Turtle, Deer, Snipe, Heron, and Hawk. The Delawares were not of the confederacy, but their tribes were distinguished in a similar manner. I have not discovered the Delaware name for "Beaver," but among the Irequois it was "Non-ga-nee-ar-goh." "King Beaver," or "The Beaver," is frequently mentioned, and his speeches preserved in the conference with the Indians-in that of George Croghan, deputy of Sir William Johnston, His Majesty's Superintendent of Indian Affairs, at Fort Pitt, in July, 1759; of Brigadier-General Stanwix, at Fort Pitt, in October, 1759; and in the journal of Colonel Henry Boquet of his expedition in 1764 from Fort Pitt to the Indians westward. At the conference, November 10th, with the Turkey and Turtle tribes of the Delawares, "King Beaver" is set down as the "chief of the Turkey tribe, with twenty warriors." This proves that his name, "Beaver," was personal and not tribal, being taken, probably, from the stream on which he lived, as before mentioned. I have taken these facts from an article on the origin of the name of Beaver County, written by myself, therefore it will not be deemed plagiarism.
The town of Beaver is emphatically a child of the State, and its large lots (300 by 120 feet) and wide streets (100 feet) bear no impress of private economy. It was laid out under authority of the Act of 28th September, 179 1, by Daniel Leet, whose survey was adopted and ratified by the Act of 6th March, 1793, and covers the site of the old French and Indian town, upon which Fort McIntosh was built. Beaver County was erected by the Act of 12th March, 1800. The act recites the reservation contained in the Act of 13th of March, 1783- "to the use of the State of 3000 acres on both sides of the mouth of Big Beaver Creek, including Fort McIntosh." The out-lots of Beaver, and the grant of 500 acres for the use of an - academy, were also laid out upon this reservation. A similar reservation of 3000 acres was made at the junction of the Allegheny with the Ohio, on which the town of Allegheny and a common pasture for the lot owners of 100 acres (the present parks) and the out-lots, were surveyed under the Act of 11th September, 1787;
Fort McIntosh was built in 1778, and from it General McIntosh marched with 1000 men against the Sandusky towns, and built Fort Laurens on the Tuscarawas. Some of the lines of Fort McIntosh were visible when I came to Beaver in 1829. One of these lines and the places of the terminal bastions may yet be discerned upon close observation. It was a strong stockade, and mounted one six-pounder. A covered way descended the face of the hill to the bottom, where a well was said to be dug, water not being had on the plain short of the hill, a half a mile in the rear. Fort McIntosh was the scene of the last treaty with the Indians, which extinguished their title to the soil of Pennsylvania. The treaties of 1768 and 1784 at Fort Stanwix were made with the chiefs of the six Nationsthe Mohawks, Oneydas, Onondagoes, Senecas, Tuscaroras, and Cayugas. These treaties were made after the Tuscaroras had joined the Five Nations. The treaty of Fort McIntosh was made in January, 1785, with the Wyandotts and Delawares, the last claimants of title, and ran in the words of the description of the boundary line between the purchases of 1768 and 1784. In anticipation of the extinction of the Indian title, the State had, by the Act of 1783, laid off the country west of the Allegheny and north of the Ohio into two grand sections, intended as donations to the Revolutionary soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line, and for the redemption of the certificates of depreciation from the continental scale given to them for their pay. The Donation Lands lay north of a due west line from Mogulbughiton Creek, above Kittanning, to the Ohio State boundary. The Depreciation Land, as it was called, lay south of this line, which ran between five and six miles south of the present town of New Castle.
These historical reminiscences are not foreign to my theme, for they are connected with two germane subjects-the litigation attending the land titles in the county, and the location of the county seat. The Depreciation Lands were ordered to be sold at the "Coffee-house," in Philadelphia, but bringing very lowprices, the sales were suspended. Of the Donation Lands many of the tracts were undrawn, and a large tract of country, called the "Struck District," was withdrawn from the wheel as unfit, on account of its broken and hilly character. A part of the "Struck District" lay in Butler County. Afterwards came the Act of 3d April, 1792, which opened to settlement and survey the unappropriated :lands north of the Ohio, and west of the Allegheny River and Conewango Creek. It was a most unfortunate law for the State. It provided two modes of appropriation-one by warrant and survey, the other by actual settlement and survey-the 9th section making void and subject to new warrants all warrants under which an actual settlement should not be made within two years after the original warrant. Under this section sprang up that once famous contest in the Courts of the State and of the United States, whether the warrants were void, or voidable only by non-fulfilment of the conditions of settlement; and its kindred question, whether the Indian war excused or only suspended the performance of the condition. At the passage of the Act of 1792 this region was uninhabited, by reason of the Indian war, excepting in a very few instances of settlement near the rivers. As a consequence, capitalists, residing chiefly in Philadelphia, immediately availed themselves of the warrant mode of acquiring title, appropriating large tracts of country. The warrants of the Pennsylvania Population Company, organized by John Nicholson, are generally dated on the 14th day of December, 1792, and covered a large part of the territory of Beaver County, north of the Ohio. The Indians being defeated by General Wayne at the battle of Maumee, on the 20th of August, 1794, he concluded a treaty of peace with them on the 3d of August, 1795, which was ratified by the Senate, on the 22d of December following. This was the signal for actual settlements under the Act of 1792, and in the spring of 1796 came that great wave of settlers which quickly covered the lands of the county. Now the contest began. The settlers, believing the warrants forfeited by non-settlement under the warrants within two years, sat down upon the surveyed tracts, in disregard of the titles of the warrantees. A warfare followed, which for nearly forty years distracted this unhappy region, and delayed its improvement. This is not the time and place to trace in a brief address the history of that great controversy, the conflict of decisions, and the compromise legislation resorted to compose the strife; yet the subject is wen worthy of an abler pen, and teems with interesting incidents. It was in the closing years of this controversy that my own knowledge of land law began.
On the dissolution of the Pennsylvania Population Company, in or about the year 1812, its lands in this county passed, in 1813, into the hands, chiefly, of William Griffith, of New Jersey, and John B. Wallace, of Philadelphia. Their adventure failed, probably by reason of the universal depression following the war of 1812. A partition was made, Mr. Griffith taking the land contracts, including the compromises, which were all on time, and Mr. Wallace the unsold parts generally. Mr. Griffith's portion afterwards passed into the hands of assignees or trustees, and Mr. Wallace in December, 1818, conveyed the remainder of his portion of the Farmers and Mechanics' Bank of Philadelphia in payment or security for debt. These lands of the bank lay for years without attention. In 1832 the bank, fearing the consequence of delay, sent out its agent and attorney, William Grimshaw, the well-known complier of several school-books and minor histories. He was a man of imposing appearance, tall, severe and high tempered--a man well calculated to impress the settlers with fear of the law's tangled net-not personal fear, for few knew the feeling. He was active and efficient, compromising with some and suing others. A large crop of ejectments followed, some of which found their way to the Supreme Court with various fortunes. About ten years later the Messrs. Huidekoper, of Meadville, having purchased the interest of the assingees of William Griffith, compromised on fair terms, and to their credit, be it said, brought few or no suits. But time will not allow me to pursue this subject. It would be interesting to a Philadelphian, familiar with the names of the families of 1792, to run over the names of the warrantees of that year. To this day, as I walk the streets of that city, I read their familiar names on the door-plates of their houses. By compromises, by trials, and by the operation of the Statute of Limitations, under a change of judicial interpretation, the titles of this county became settled and an era of improvement began.
It is probably not well known to the Bar of Beaver County, as few date their admission beyond 1850, that the variety of the original land titles in Beaver County exceeds that of any other county in the State. On the south side of the Ohio we have all the various titles, underwarrants, improvements, and licenses, both of the proprietary and the State governments, applicable to the purchase under the treaty of 1768, to which may be added Virginia entries by settlement under the "corn" law of that State of 1778, and by special grants, recognized by Pennsylvania in her settlement of boundaries with Virginia. One of these titles by Virginia entry is to be found at and below the mouth of Sawmill Run, opposite Pittsburgh, the property being owned in my younger days by West Elliott. General Washington was the owner of titles, under Virginia, to lands lying chiefly in Washington County. On the north side of the Ohio we have the titles under the Donation and Depreciation surveys, with some marked peculiarities, and titles under the Act of 1792, by warrant and survey, and actual settlement and survey, involving characteristics still more marked, including the doctrines of abandonment and vacating warrants. These varying elements have also given characteristics to the tax titles of this county, differing in some respects from those in other parts of the State. The difference in the kind of warrants on the north and south side of the Ohio and in the modes of survey on both sides, often conflicting with each other, made the land titles of the county intricate and difficult.
Returning now to the more specific matter of the place selected for the administration of law, I may recur to the Act of 1800 fixing the county seat and the reasons therefor. A county is one of the great municipal divisions-of the State, essential to the convenient and efficient administration of the goverment. The first inquiry of a calm and judicious mind is, Where is the true centre of convenience, interest, population, and territory-not one of these, but all? It was quite natural that the legislators of that day would remember the town which the State herself had laid out with generous squares, and liberal avenues, and in which she had reserved eight squares for "public uses"-uses which she reserved to herself to appoint. It was on the site of the old French town, and of Fort McIntosh, to which a fine military road had been laid from Fort Pitt by Gen. Broadhead, a road on the south of the river, known to this day as "Broadheads," reaching the Ohio and coming down the hill opposite Beaver. The location of the town was most favorable. Beaver stands on a beautiful, healthy, and commanding plateau, elevated about 130 feet above the river, and containing about 1000 acres, fronting upon the Ohio to the southeast, and just below the Big Beaver. Of this plain one whom many of you knew, a son of one of Beaver's earliest and most eminent lawyers, and a child of genius, has beautifully written. Here he was born, here his eyes rested, when running a race with death, to the balm of California skies. But death outran him, and he died in Sacramento in January, 1870. His remains now lie here where he wished them to rest. Allow me a single extract from this description: -
"The skies which overhang the hill-guarded plain are peculiarly rich and soft-are in unison with the scenery which is boldly beautiful rather than sublime. It seems as if, in carving the outline of my native village, God had cut an exquisite brooch to nestle on the bosom of nature. Here dear ones sleep in a tasteful cemetery; among them my honored father, and the mother, whose memory has, for many years, been to me a living passion. I often think, that when my rambling life is over, if it please God, I would love to sleep, until the voice of Jesus shall quicken me into the full immortality of redemption, where the brawl of my native river shall sweetly and sadly resound round my grave. These hills shall lovingly guard, and these skies overshadow many generations after I and mine shall dwell together in the dust. Then shall they be fused and furled in fire-the time of the end shall have come. Happy they who shall stand up in the lot of childlike believers in Jesus! Something whispers, Jam claudite rivos."
These were among the last brilliant utterances of the Rev. Franklin Moore, D.D., in his flight ere death caught up, before he had crossed the continent. But the beauties of the plain and the memories attending it were not the substantial reasons for fixing the seat of justice here. It had centrality of territory, population, convenience, and interest. Beaver stood on the bank of the great river of the West. Entering the county on the southeast at the mouth of the Big Sewickly, the Ohio ran northwest to the mouth of the Big Beaver, then turning in front of the town it ran a little south of west to the Ohio State line. The Big Beaver coming in from the north, and bearing onward the waters of the Mahoning, Shenango, Neshannock, Slipperyrock, Connoquennessing, Brush Creek, Hickory Creek, Brady's Run, and minor streams, concentrated the valleys of all these water courses, like the radii of a circle, on the Ohio at the mouth of Big Beaver. So Raccoon entering the county at White's Mill on the south ran north nearly midway, entering the Ohio just below the Beaver plain. Thus nature had planted this fine plateau right at the centre of four great valleys, on the north, east, south, and west. These valleys and their corresponding ridges constitute the great channels of travel, all centring here. These again are fed by the smaller valleys and ridges leading into them-the Six Mile Run, Four Mile Run, Two Mile Run, Dutchman's Run, Crow's Run, Tevebaugh, entering the Ohio on the north side, and Logstown Run, and various streams down to Mill. Creek on the south side; while Raccoon bore to its mouth the waters of the Big and Little Travis, the Service, and other streams. Thus stood Beaver at this natural centre of travel, and the men of 1800 chose the on1v true centre of convenience, population, and territory. It was no leap in the dark, but the unbiased judgment of men consulting the public interest. They knew that the natural course of travel is along the valleys, and upon the ridges, such as the Ohioville, Achortown, Broadhead and Frankfort roads, and that public thoroughfares do not seek to cross hills and dales, in ups and downs, like the teeth of a saw, at the expense of horse flesh, vehicles, and taxes. These reasons, self-evident then, have never changed, because nature remains the same, and even railroads follow the same law of travel.
The county was organized in 1803, under the Act of 2d of April. The Commissioners erected the public buildings on two of the reserved squares, the court-house on that now occupied by this building, and the jail on the next adjacent, on the same side of Third Street. The first Court was held in Feburary, 1804, in the house of Abner Lancock, on the lot lately owned by John Clark. The jail being first built, the Court was held in the second story of it until the old court-house was completed in 1810. That building was enlarged and improved in 1846, the wings having been rebuilt previously-the eastern wing in 1840, and the western afterward.
A new court-house had been sorely needed for years. Not only had the old one become unsuitable, unsafe, unhealthy and uncomfortable, but the division of the former offices among a greater number of persons, and the creation of new offices, and the accumulation of records, papers, and record books, the increase of population, and vast change in the subjects and character of litigation heretofore described, and other causes, all rendered a new building adapted to the wants of the present day an absolute necessity.
Here let me prove a tender spot, which like a wound needs it. I mean the inexcusable weakness of architects who sacrifice the purpose of a building to architectural effect. This is especially true in court-rooms. I speak from experience, having presided in many. I have had to place the witness at the end of the bench, and cluster the jury and counsel around him, and thus to put justice in a corner. The architect, big with grand conceptions and holding before his eyes some ideal of genius, reaches to fame through lofty heights and groined arches, whose grand proportions return the sounds of the voice in rumblings and echoes, mixed with the original tones, destroying their distinctness, to the loss of sense and to the prejudice of public interest. The purpose of a court-room is the administration of justice, but how can justice be administered by men architecturally deaf? Anything impairing hearing is an absolute wrong to justice. Women and low voiced men are rarely heard in such a room, and their testimony must be repeated by counsel, thus endangering accuracy and encouraging a vicious habit of repetition when not necessary, but used by counsel for effect on the jury. Human tribunals are imperfect at the best, yet how much worse it is when the access to justice is cut off by barring out distinctness of sound' The loss of monosyllable will destroy the truth of a statement. See the consequence in a trial for life and death. The only real success in a court-room known to me, was the result of an accident. The new Supreme Court room at Harrisburg is built alongside the Land Office, whose low height of ceiling regulated that of the new court-room. As a consequence, hearing is good. I would except also the new Supreme Court room in Philadelphia, which is also good.
At the first court held in February, 1804, the Hon. Jesse Moore, presided. He was the President Judge of the sixth circuit, composed of the counties of Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Mercer, and Erie. His associates were Abner Lacock, John H. Reddick, and Joseph Caldwell. Abner Lacock resigned, and David Drennan was appointed, and took his seat on the 5th of February, 1805. On the death of Judge Caldwell, his vacancy was not filled, the number of associates, in the mean time, having been limited by law to two. John H. Reddick and David Drennan continued together until 1830, when Judge Reddick died, and Thomas Henry was commissioned May 19, 1830, by Governor Wolf. Judge Drennan died in 183 1, and on the 19th of August the Governor commissioned Joseph Hemphill.
In 1806 Beaver County was transferred from the 6th to the 5th circuit, and Samuel Roberts became the President Judge of this county as part of his district. He was the author of the Digest of the English Statutes in force in Pennsylvania. On his death in 1820, he was succeeded by William Wilkins, his commission dated on the 18th of December. On the appointment of Judge Wilkins to the District Court of the United States, Charles Shaler succeeded him as President Judge of the 5th District. He sat in Beaver until the formation of the 17th District, by the Act of Ist April, 1831, composed of the counties of Beaver, Butler, and Mercer. John Bredin, of Butler, was appointed President Judge of the new district, and continued to preside until his death, on or about the 22d of May, 185 1. He was followed by myself, appointed in July, 185 1, elected in the following October, and re-elected in October, 186 1. 1 continued until December, 1863, when I became an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Judge L.L. McGuffin followed, then B.B. Chamberlin; after him A.W. Acheson, followed by Henry Hice, Beaver County having in the mean time gone into the 27th District, composed of Beaver and Washington, and is now a separate district, numbered the 36th.
At the first court in this county, in Feb. 1804, the following gentlemen, attorneys in the fifth circuit, were admitted to practice in Beaver, viz:
Alexander Addison, Thomas Collins, Steele Semple, A.W. Foster, John B. Gibson, Samson S. King, Obediah Jennings, William Wilkins, Henry Haslet, James Allison, John Simonson, David Redick, Parker Campbell, David Hays, C.S. Sample, Henry Baldwin, Thomas G. Johnston, Isaac Kerr, James Mountain, Robert Moore, William Ayres, and William Larwill. Among these names will be recognized some of the most eminent men in Western Pennsylvania, at a time when the Bar of the fifth circuit was unsurpassed by any Bar in the State. The only name I miss from this roll is that of James Ross, the leader of the Bar at that early day, unrivalled for learning, polish, and legal erudition.
Of those who located in Beaver, James Allison and Robert Moore were among the most eminent, both being men of learning and ability. John Banister Gibson, afterwards the great Chief Justice, remained but a year and a half, leaving the county young, and before he had achieved reputation.
When I came from Pittsburgh to this county in 1829, the resident lawyers were James Allison, Robert Moore, John R. Shannon, William B. Clark, and Sylvester Dunham. The court was frequented, however, by eminent lawyers Walter Forward, W.W. Fetterman, Henry M. Watts, and William Wilkins. N.P. Fetterman, a younger brother of W.W. Fetterman, did not come until 1832. The most regular practitioner from abroad was Isaac Leet, of Washington.
Here allow me to correct an error in the county history of James Patterson. I did not study law with Robert Moore, but with Henry Baldwin and W.W. Fetterinen. Mr. Baldwin was afterwards a Judge of the Supreme Court of the United States, not of this State, as set down. He was an extraordinary man, highly endowed, both physically and intellectually. His voice was of remarkable strength, and led me to make my first observation upon the quality of voices. On the 4th of July, 1828, in the Presidential contest between Mr. Adams and General Jackson, he delivered, in favor of Jackson-whom he supported with great ardor-an elaborate address (having copied it, I attest the labor). The meeting took place in the rear of the James S. Stevenson property, now occupied by the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railroad Company, on Penn Street. The crowd was immense, and I stood upon the very verge, so distant that, though I heard the thunder of Baldwin's voice, I distinguished but little he said. But when Judge Wilkins spoke, his voice, with scarcely a tithe of the power, travelled over the crowd in silvery tones, so clear, so distinct, and so musical, not a word escaped me.
Of the Beaver County lawyers, Robert Moore died on the 14th of January, 183 1. At the following April term, Judge Shaler, on leaving the bench, delivered a beautiful and just tribute to his memory.
James Allison died on the l7th of June, 1854; his son, William, a most promising lawyer, having died before him, on the 23d of July, 1844.
John R. Shannon died in February, 1860. Sylvester Dunham had left the bar many years ago. He is dead, but the time of his death is unknown to me. William B. Clark is yet alive, living on the Pennsylvania Railroad, three or four miles out from Pittsburgh.
The first Prothonotary of the county was David Johnston; the first Sheriff was William Henry, not Thomas, as published lately.
The first suit brought at February term, 1804, was an action for slander, by William Fulks. I mention this because he was reported to have been the first permanent settler north of the Ohio in 1792. He was one of the few hardy men who braved the Indians, and settled in now Ohio Township. between what was known as the Salem meeting-house and the Little Beaver. With his settlement is connected a memorable occurrence. Suits were brought against many of the settlers in the United States Court, at Philadelphia, and judgments by default pretty generally taken. Judgment went against Fulks, and the Marshal, W.B. Irish, of Pittsburgh, in 1808, came with a posse to dispossess him. When approaching his land the Marshal and his men were waylaid and fired upon, a bullet intended for Irish killing Hamilton, a settler, who had compromised, and was. accompanying the Marshal by request. It is said by some the bullet was intended for Ennion Williams, agent of the Pennsylvania Population Company.
Time would fail to recount the many memories and the interesting incidents of the early settlements, and now, in closing, let me invite your attention to one more thought, the last, but most important-I mean die debt man owes to law. We are a peaceful, prosperous, and happy people. After the bounties showered down upon us by a kind Providence, to this great principle, more than to all others, do we owe our choicest blessings.
Source: Address of Daniel Agnew at the Dedication of the New Court House of Beaver, Pa., 1 May 1877.
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