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History of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present online

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fore him. In his charges he was remarkably
happy and successful in presenting cases to
juries, in enabling them to perform their
duties intelligently, and in preventing them
from falling into errors. Of eminent sagac-
ity, clear perceptions and sound conclusions,
he enjoyed during his official career the con-
tidence and respect of the bar, and in a great

degree that of the appellate court, which
reviewed his judgments. As an evidence of
the esteem in which he has been held, there
is subjoined an extract from the York Gazette
of September 24, 1839, which, as published by
a political opponent of Judge Durkee, is all
the more valuable tribute to his worth:
"We find in the Adams Sentinel of a late date,
a communication, in which the Hon. Daniel
Durkee. president judge of this judicial dis-
trict, is spoken of in terms of high com-
mendation. We feel proud of this justly
merited tribute to the worth of one of our
citizens; and here at York, where Judge Dur-
kee "is at home," we feel sure that every
woi'd will be attested bj' every one who reads
it. We hope that this district will not lose
the services of so upright and excellent a
judicial officer under the operation of that
provision of the new constitution, which lim-
its the tenure of office of president judges of
the courts of common f)leas to ten years.
Every friend of justice and morality, all who
desire to see the bench occupied by a stern
foe to vice and disorder, are interested in
keeping the judicial ei-mine upon the shoul-
ders of Judge Durkee." As a practicing
lawyer, Judge Durkee always occupied a high
position at the bars of York and Adams Coun-
ties. His specialty was the conducting of
trials before juries. He managed his causes
with great tact and judgment, and while at
the bar, always had a large portion of its
forensic practice. Few causes of magnitude
or importance were tried in which he was not
one of the leading counsel. His influence
with a jury, whether he addressed them from
the bar, or charged them from the bench,
seemed almost magical. Although Judge
Durkee was not indebted to the culture of
the schools, he had evidently practiced self-
discipline long and carefully. But it was
from nature he received his best gifts — gifts,
the absence of which no amount of educa-
tional facilities can supply. The character-
istics of his mind were clearness and origi-
nality. Both these mental qualities, so rarely
met, even singly, he possessed in a very con-
siderable degree. They manifested them-
selves on the bench, at the bar, in social con-
versation, and even in casual remarks, in the
working out of his intellectual processes, in
the language he selected, and in the fig-
ures and illustrations he employed. For
this reason he was always listened to with
attention and interest. It was well known
that there was no danger of being wea-
ried by anything feeble, or commonplace or
I obscure in what he said Most frequently
I the products of his mind exhibited the fresh-

c:::^^C^J .0^^^


ness of vigorous and independent thinking,
were expressed in strong, idiomatic English,
which, adapting itself to the tournure of the
thought, fitted close to it, and conveyed to
others his ideas with all the clearness in
which they existed, in his own mind, were
elucidated by illustrations, which were apt,
striking, felicitous, and, when the subject or
occasion would admit, were enlivened by the
scintillations of genuine wit. In his legal
investigations and discussions, he always
sought for the reason of the law, and endeav-
ored to be guided by principles rather than by
discordant and irreconcilable decisions.
With his great powers of mind, he united
great kindness of heart and an eminently sym-
pathetic and affectionate disposition, causing
him to be beloved in his neigborhood, and
idolized in his family. Judge Durkee had
none of the arts and stooped to none of the
tricks and methods of the politician. His
popxilarity grew out of his genial and kindly
disposition, and his well known integrity.


A large part of the judicial history of York
County is inseparably associated with the
career of Hon. Kobert J. Fisher, who, for
more than thirty years, presided over its
courts. On the 4th day of November, 1828,
when twenty-two years of age, he was ad-
mitted to practice in the several courts of
York County. He had received a thorough
legal education at the Yale Law School, New
Haven, Conn., and in the ofBce of his father,
George Fisher, Esq., at Harrisburg, who was
widely known and honored, and was for many
years a leading member of the Dauphin Coun-
ty bar. For twenty-three years he worked
diligently at the bar, attaching to himself by
his integrity and ability a large clientage and
a host of friends. In 1851 he was elected to
the bench of the Nineteenth Judicial District,
composed, then, of the counties of York and
Adams. Being twice re-elected (1861 and
1871), he was, until 1875, the only law judge
of the two counties, accomplishing a vast
amount of labor, and rendering with prompt-
ness and widely recognized learning, decis-
ions which have commanded general respect.
His rulings have almost universally been up-,
held by the appellate tribunals, and his
opinions have been quoted as an authority
in this and other States, with more frequency
than those of almost any other cotemporane-
ous nisi prius judge. Although an earnest
Democrat, during his official career, he care-
fully abstained from all connection with pol-

*By H. E. Niles, Esq.

itics. Judge Fisher possessed, in an unusual
degree, the rare ability of viewing a question
impartially and deciding on principle un-
affected by prejudice or fear. Particularly
was this characteristic strikingly illustrated
in his course during the Rebellion. Now
that the intense excitement and intolerant
partisanship of the time have passed away,
his uudeviating adherence to the established
principles of the common law, appears most
admirable. Though a decided and uncom-
promising Unionist, he was, nevertheless,
determined in his opposition to every unwar-
rantable encroachment of the military upon
the civil power. When passion and fear de-
prived others of their judgment, he seems
never to have lost his cool discretion, either
in the presence of Federal soldiers or rebel
invaders. On one occasion, a citizen had
been illegally arrested by the military author-
ities at the hospital on the commons, and a
writ of habeas corpus was taken out in his
behalf. Upon its return, the prisoner was
brought into court by a squad of soldiers with
fixed bayonets. That show of force, however,
failed to affect the action of the court.
Promptly he required the soldiers to recog-
nize civil authority, saying that as citizens
they had a right to be there, but as armed
men, they must withdraw. After a hearing,
the prisoner was released. At the time of
the Confederate occupation of York, in 1863,
the rebel commander sent to Judge Fisher
for the keys of the court house. He replied
that he did not have them, and that the
commissioners were the only legal custodians
of the public buildings; upon another sum-
mons being sent, however, he went with the
messenger and found that the soldiers had in
some way obtained admission to the prothon-
otary's office, and were preparing to destroy
the records there deposited. As the chief
judicial magistrate of the county, he warmly
expostulated against the destruction of these
valuable evidences, the loss of which would
be irremediable. The general at first said
it would only be just retaliation for the
depredations of the Northern armies in the
South, but after a long discussion, the judge
compelled him to acknowledge the unlawful-
ness of all such acts of useless plunder, and
persuaded him to withdraw his men. The
records and valuable documents of the county
were thus saved by the coolness and firmness
of the venerable judge. There are several
other occasions, which many citizens recall,
during those turbulent times, when he showed
like remarkable courage, facing mobs with
fearless dignity and with unusual mildness,
but at the same time unusual determination,.


maintaining order and insisting upon the
supremacy of the civil law.

Judge Fisher comes of one of the oldest
and most respectable families of the State.
Born in Harrisburg, May 6, 1806, he is the
son of George Fisher, Esq., and Ann Ship-
pen, daughter of Robert Strettell Jones, of
Burlington. X. J. He was baptized Robert
Strettell Jones Fisher. Robert Strettell was
a member of the Provincial Council from
1741 for twenty years. Robert Strettell Jones,
his grandfather, was a member of the New
Jersey legislature and secretary of the Com-
jQittee of Safety in 1776. His great-grand-
father, Isaac Jones, was twice mayor of Phil-
adelphia (1767 and 1768,) and a member of
the common council in 176-1. His great great
grandfather Fisher was one of the original
company of Quakers, who came from England
with William Penn, in 1682, and who laid
out the city of Philadelphia. His grand-
father, George Fisher, received from his
father a large tract of land in Dauphin
County, upon which he laid out the borough
of Middlotown. Judge Fisher was twice
married, and in the quiet scenes of domestic
life he always experienced great satisfaction.
His first wife, Catharine, daughter of Horatio
Gates Jameson, M. D., became the mother
of eight children, and died in 1850. In 1853
he married Mary Sophia, daughter of Eben-
ezer Cadwell, of Northbridge, Mass., who
bore him two children. His eldest son,
George Fisher. Esq., is a well established
member of the York County bar. and his other
son, Robert J. Fisher, Jr., having been for
several years connected with the patent oi35ce,
is now one of the three examiners in chief.
In matters of religion. Judge Fisher has
always been eminently catholic. From child-
hood, his associations have been largely with
the Protestant Episcopal Church, although
particularly charitable toward those of differ-
ent faith and order, and a frequent attendant
at their services. In 1870, he became a com-
municant member of St. John's Church, in
York, has been for many yeai's a vestryman,
and was the first chancellor of the diocese of
central Pennsylvania.



Mr. Schlegel (Slagle) was born in Lancaster
County, Penn., in 1735. His father, Christo-
pher Slagle, of Saxony, came to Pennsylvania
in 1713, and the following year took up a large
tract of land on the Conestoga Creek, and
built a mill. Subsequently he transferred
his interests therein, and removed, in 1737,

west of the Susquehanna, locating near the
present site of Hanover, now within the lim-
its of Adams County, on Slagle's Run, a
branch of the Little Conewago. Henry was
one of four sons, — Daniel, Jacob and Chris-
topher, and followed the occupation of his
father, a farmer and miller. He was com-
missioned one of the provincial magistrates
in October, 1764, and continued in office by
the convention of 1776. In December, 1774,
he served on the committee of inspection for
York County, commanded a battalion of as-
sociators in 1779; was a member of the Prov-
incial Conference of June 18, 1776, and of
the subsequent convention of the 15th of
July. He was appointed by the assembly,
December J 6, 1777, to take subscriptions for
the Continental loan; November 22, 1777,
acted as one of the commissioners which met
at New Haven, Conn., to regulate the price
of commodities in the colonies. He repre-
sented York County in the General Assembly
from 1777 to 1779; appointed sub-lieutenant
of the county March 30, 1780; one of the
auditors of depreciation accounts for York
County, March 3, 1781; member of the con-
stitutional convention of 1789-90; commis-
sioned by Gov. Mifflin, one of the associate
judges of York County, August 17, 1791, and
continued as such on the organization of
Adams County. He represented the latter
county in the legislature, sessions of 1801-2.
Col. Slagle died at his residence, near Han-
over; his remains were interred in the grave
yard adjoining St. Matthew's Lutheran
Church. The various offices held by him
show conclusively that he had the confidence
of the community. He was an ardent patriot,
a faithful officer, and an uj^right citizen.
Only one or two of his descendants are now
living. .


Jacob Rudisell was born in Hanover, and
early in life became a prominent man of
public affairs in bis section. In 1784 he
was commissioned justice of the peace
under the constitution of 1776. Under
the constitution of 1790 he was appointed
one of the first associate judges of York
County and served in that position until
his death, which occurred in the village of
Littlestown, Adams County, having gone
there with a sleighing party on the even-
ing of December 6, 1800. Judge Rud-
isell was a man of good education and
excellent character. He was a born penman
and attended to a great deal of Orphans'
Court work, and conveyancing for his friends
and neighbors in and around Hanover. He



was one of the original trustees of York
County Academy. The inscription on his
tomb in St. Matthew's church-yard shows
how highly he honored his life partner.


Mr. Barnitz was born in York, in the year
1780. He was appointed associate judge of
York County, by Gov. Snyder, in March,
1813, and held the office until within a few
years of his death, which occurred April 19,
1844, when he was seventy -four years of age.
He was twice chosen a presidential elector,
and held several local offices with great
credit, and was a man of high honor and
integrity. A meeting of the bar after his
death passed resolutions in commendation of
his life and character.


John L. Hinkle, was born in Hanover,
September 25, 1781. He was appointed
justice of the peace for his native town,
March 14, 1817, under the constitution of
1790, and also turned his attention to sur-
veying. For many years he conducted a
hardware store. He had an innate love for
politics, could speak the Pennsylvania Ger-
man language with great fluency, and made
many trips over York County in the interest
of his favorite candidates. For many years
he exerted possibly more influence over the
German vote of the county than any other
person who ever lived in the county. He
was appointed associate judge of York Coun-
ty, December 10, 1818, and served until the
expiration of his term of office as provided
by the constitution of 1838, viz. : Febuary
27, 1841. He died in Hanover, February |
18, 1846. j


George Dare was born near Lewi sherry, this
county, July 12, 1789, of Scotch-Irish par- i
entage, he and his ancestors being members
of the old Moneghan Presbyterian Church,
now in the borough of Dillsburg. He fol- ■
lowed the occupation of a farmer, and filled
the office of justice of the peace in Moneghan [
Township. He was appointed associate
judge of the courts of York County, April
5, 1841, and served till March 28, 1846. He
died September 25, 1863, at the age of
seventy-five years. He was a man of the
highest honor and integrity and highly
respected by his friends and neighbors.


Mr. Bonham was born at Lincolnton, S. j
C. November 10, 1791. Moved from South
Carolina to Lancaster, Penn., 1814; mar- I

ried Margaret Dritt, daughter of Gen. Jacob
Dritt, March 17, 1818; married Eliza-
beth Stehman May 19, 1825. He came
to York in 1827 and occupied a promi-
nent position in this community, and filled
important public stations. He was a mem-
ber of the convention that formed the con-
stitution of 1838, representing York County
in that body, together with Charles A. Bar-
nitz, John R. Donnell and Jacob Stickel.
He was for ten years one of the associate
judges of the county of York, having been
appointed March 26, 1840; and held the
position until the expiration of bis term in
1850. Judge Bonham had attained a ripe
old agef when he died on Wednesday.
May 14, 1856, and although he had been
for some years retired from the bench, a
meeting of the bar bore testimony to the
high esteem in which he was held by them
and community.


Jacob Kirk was the son of Isaac Kirk, and
was born of Quaker parentage, at New Mar-
ket, Fairview Township. He first gained
local notoriety as a great advocate of public
education. He was appointed a justice of
the peace under the constitution of 1790,
and also became a prominent land surveyor
in his native section of the county. He was
appointed associate judge of York County
after the expiration of the term of Judge
Bonham, in 1850, and held the office until
the election of judges in 1851. In 1854 he
was elected first county superintendent of
common schools. Owing to feeble health
he resigned the office before the expiration of
his term, and soon after died in his native


Mr. Isaac KoUer was born February 5,
1800. He was a prominent and highly re-
spected citizen of Shrewsbury; had been one
of the principal men in the organization of
that borough, and was postmaster during
Andrew Jackson's administration. In 1851,
by amendments to the constitution of the
commonwealth, judges were made elective,
and at the Democratic county convention of
that year he was nominated as one of the
candidates for associate judge, together with
Hon. Eobert J. Fisher, president, and Hon.
Mills Hays, associate He was elected in
October, and was commissioned for five years
by Gov. William F. Johnston from the first
Monday of December following. On this
last mentioned day he took his seat with the
other judges of the new bench. He exercised
the duties of the office until 1854, when he


died. October 21st, in the fifty-lifth year of his !
age. At a meeting of the bar ou that oc-
casion, the tribute of respect to his memory
was tbat of an upright and affable judge, and
an amiable and honorable member of society.
His son, Benjamin F. Keller, Esq., has been
justice of the peace in Shrewsbury for thirty
years, and in 1879 was clerk of the courts.
He had eommenoed the study of civil engin-
eering and law, under Thomas P. Potts, Esq.,
but has held official positions ever since.


Mills Hays was a sou of Jesse Hays, of {
Welsh descent, who emigrated to Newberry
Township from Chester County daring the
year 1770. He married Margery Mills, a
Quakeress, and resided near the village of
Yocumtown. Mills Hays was their third
child, and was born in 1786. On August 13,
1817. he was appointed one of the three jus-
tices of the peace for the third district, com-
posed of Newberry and Fairview Townships
under the constitution of 1790, and served in
that capacity continuously until the fall of
1839. Under the amendments to the consti-
tution in 18-31, he was elected associate
judge of York County, serving one full term
of live years. He died in the village of New-
berrytown in June 1858, aged seventy-two


Mr. Eieman was born in 1802. In 1854 he
was appointed associate judge in the place of
Hon. Isaac KoUer. deceased. The popular-
ity of this appointment was made apjaarent at
the polls the next year by his election to
the office. In 1860, Judge Rieman was re -
elecled, receiving then his third commission.
He died October 19, 1862, aged sixty years.
Judge Rieman, by his will, made August
28, 1867, bequeathed $6,000 in trust to
the borough of York for the benefit of
the worthy poor. The direction was to
invest the money in United States six per
cent bonds, the interest to be paid to the
benevolent society, and in case of no such
society he directed the borough authorities to
organize such, to be called the Benevolent
Society of the borough .of York.


Mr. Newcomer was born at Kralltown,
Washington Township, York County, April 25,
1809. Early in life he turned his attention to
farming. During the militia days he drilled
a company in his native section and after-
ward commanded a volunteer company.
He had few advantages of acquiring an edu-
cation when young, but on attaining man-

hood became a constant reader. He had an

extraordinary memory, had acquired a vast
fund of scientific information, and was a
great student of ancient history. He re-
moved to Hanover, and in 1866 was elected
associate judge of York County and served
continuously until 1871. He died in Han-
November 24, 1874


Peter Mclutyre was born in Sterling,
Scotland, and came to York. He became a
manufacturer of whips on a large scale, and
was a prominent and active citizen. In 1860
he was appointed by President Buchanan
collector of the port of Charleston, but did
not enter upon the duties of his office on
account of the unsettled state of the national
afi'airs. He was chief burgess of the borough
of York, in 1857, and was elected associate
judge in 1863. and re-elected in 1868, but
served only a year of his second term. He
died October 2, 1869.


John Moore was born of English parents
in Fairview, and early in life became a prom-
inent man of public affairs in his native
township. The i^ublic school system had
no firmer advocate in the upper end. He
was kind hearted, jovial and always en-
joyed good company. After serving in
various township offices with great acceptance
he was elected associate judge of York
County, and served from 1871 till the expira-
of his term of office in 1876. He had no
successor, the office being abolished. He
died a few years ago at his country home in
Fairview, a few miles west of Lewisberry.



Samuel Johnston, the founder of the bar,
was admitted to practice on the 2Sth of Oc-
tober, 1755, and opened an office in York.
In 1764 he was elected prothonotary, which
office carried with it at that period the offices
of clerk of the court, register and recorder.
• He remained prothonotary until the Revolu-
! tion, when the laws were made of non-ef-
fect, and all officers displaced, by reason of
the separation of the colonies from Great
Britain. Smith, Hartley and Clark, York
attorneys of Revolutionary fame, studied law
in his office. Gen. Henry Miller also studied
law under him, but before completing his
studies joined the army. Graydon, in his
Memoirs speaks of him, when prothonotary,
as a "respectable man, who had been in the



practice of the law, and had a very good li-
brary." Also, "I was well received by Mr. !
Johnston, but with that formal, theoretical
kind of politeness which distinguishes the |
manner of those who constitute the better |
sort in small secluded towns; and if in these
days (1765), the prothonotary of a county of
German population was not confessedly the
most considerable personage in it, he must I
have been egregiously Avanting to himself.
This could with no propriety be imputed to [
my patron. Although apparently a mild and j
modest man, he evidently knew his conse
quence, and never lost sight of it." He was
twice married.


Mr. John Smith, father of the Hon. James |
Smith, was born and educated in Ireland, in
which country he was a respectable and en- j
terprising farmer. What induced him to
prefer this one of the colonies, was that
some of his brothers and uncles had emi-
grated hither before him, having come over
with Penn when that proprietor first visited
this province. Those of his relations settled
in Chester County and became Quakers;
their descendants still live in that county
and the county of Lancaster.

Mr. John Smith proceeded with his family
to Lancaster County, and finally settled west
of the Susquehanna m what is now York
County. Here he continued to reside until
about the year 1761, when he died in the
neighborhood of Yorktown at an advanced

James Smith, the second son of John and
the subject of our present biography, was
aged about ten years when he came with his
father into this country. He resided in the
paternal mansion for some years; but when
his brother George had begun to practice
law, he removed to Lancaster, and com-
menced in his office the study of the same
profession. He completed his law studies
under the tuition of his brother, at the time
of whose death he was aged but twenty- one.

Not long after he was admitted to the
practice of the law, he removed to the neigh-
borhood of the place where Shippensburg

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 91 of 218)