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

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now stands, in company with Mr. George
Koss, who was the friend and companion of
Mr. Smith in early and after life. The chief
occupation of Mr. Smith in his new abode
was that of surveying; though whenever oc-
casion offered, he gave advice on subjects
connected with his profession. After a few
years he removed to the town of York, where
he made his permanent home for the rest of

*From Glossbrenner's History.

his life. Here he commenced the practice of
the law, and continued in it with few inter-
missions until near the time of his death.

Hitherto Mr. Smith had led a single life,
but in or about the year 1700 he married
Eleanor Armor, daughter of John Armor,
who lived near New Castle in Delaware, and
who was brother of Thomas Armor, a justice
and surveyor ia York Count}' before the Rev-
olution. Eleanor, at the age of twenty-one,
came to reside for a while with her uncle in
York, but in less than a year after her arrival
she was wedded to one of the best of bus-

Mr. Smith begun about this time to have a
Very extensive practice. He attended the
courts of all the neighboring counties. With
no other events in his life than those which
are incident to most gentlemen of his pro-
fession, he continued in York until the be-
ginning of the Revolution. But here it
should be remarked that Mr. Smith was for
some time the only lawyer in York; for
though Joseph Yeates and other lawyers of
the neighboring counties did much 'business
here, yet Mr. Smith had (with the exception
of perhaps a few years) no brother in the law
that resided here. When Thomas Hartley,
afterward colonel in the Revolution and a
member of congress, commenced practice
here in the year 1759. there were but two
lawyers in the county of York, viz. : himself
and Mr. Smith.

At the commencement of the Revolution
Mr. Smith was distinguished as one of the
warmest friends of our liberties.

In 1774 he was chosen a deputy from the
county of York to attend a provincial meet-
ing at the city of Philadelphia, which meet-
ing began on the 15th of June, and was con-
tinued by adjournments from day to day.
Mr. Smith was one of those who were ap-
pointed by this meeting, or rather "commit-
tee for the province of Pennsylvania." to
"prepare and bring in a draught of instruc-
tions to the representatives in assembly

In 1775 he was elected a member for York
County in the "Provincial Convention for
the Province of Pennsylvania, held at Phila-
delphia, January 23d, and continued by ad-
journments from day to day to the 28th." In
the same year he received a military honor,
viz., the appointment of colonel.

In 1779 he was deputed by the committee
cf York County "to join in a provincial con-
ference of committees of tbe Province of
Pennsylvania." The conference was held at
Philadelphia, and began on the 18th of June
and ended on the 25th of the same month.



In the same year ( 1776) he was elected a
member of the convention foi the State of
Pennsylvania, which commenced their ses-
sion at Philadelphia on the loth of June and
ended on the 28th of September. This con-
vention framed the first constitution of the
commonwealth. In the same year (1776) he
was elected a delegate from Pennsylvania to
serve in the Continental Congress, at which
time he signed the Declai-ation of Indepen-

IMi-. Smith was likewise a member of con-
gress in the year 1777-78. When congress
sat in York, the board of war was held in his
law office.

After the cessation of his congressional
labors he continued to reside in York, devot-
ing himself with great success to the practice
of law.

In October, 1780, we find him a member of
the General Assembly of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Smith becoming burthened with a
weight of years, and having a sufficiency of
this world's goods, relinquished the practice
of law in ISOl.

An event happened in the autumn of 1805
which is much to be regretted, viz. : the de-
struction of his office by fire. His books
and papers of business, which were on the
lower floor, were saved, but all his numerous
private papers, which were in the upper part
of the building, were destroyed. Among these
were the records of the family and manu-
scripts of his own, connected with the history
of the times, and numerous letters from Ben-
jamin Franklin, Samuel Adams and many
other men distinguished in the Revolutionary
history of our country. Mr. Smith corre-
sponded, both during and after the Revolu-
tion, with many of those patriots with whom
he had been in intimate connection while a
member of congress, etc. As their letters
were destroyed, the burning of the office may
be considered a public loss.

Mr. Smith employed his latter days in con-
versation with his friends and in reviewing
and re-perusing those works which had been
the delight of his yoath. In view of his
present and increasing infirmities, he made
his will April 25, 1806. He died at his
house in York on July 11, in the same year,
at an advanced age.

There is no small ditference of opinion
with regard to the age of Mr. Smith. His
tombstone, erected by his son James in the
yard at the English Presbyterian Church at
York, states that he was ninety-three years
old at the time of his death. Many of his
surviving friends say that he could not have
been so old, and place his age at about


eighty-seven; others say that he was n
more than eighty-four or five. Two points,
however, we have ascertained, viz. : that he
was but ten years of age when he came to
America, and was but twenty-one years of
age at the time of his brother George's death.
Supposing his age then to have been eighty-
seven (a matter on which there is some doubt)
he must have been born in 1719 and come
with his father to America in 1729 and have
lost his brother George in 1740, at wliich
time he (James) had completed his study (if
the law. An obituary notice of Mr. Smith
says, " He was the oldest advocate in York,
and perhaps in Pennsylvania, for he had been
in practice of the law more than fifty years."
He could not but have been a member of the
bar between sixty and sixty-five years.

Mr. Smith was remarkable for . an uncom-
monly retentive memory, the strength of
which did not seem to be impaired by age.

He was uniformly facetious and fond of
anecdotes, which he always told with a happy
manner. Possessing in a high degree that
faculty of the mind which is defined by
metaphysicians to be the tracing of resem-
blances or analogies between distant objects,
he often exerted it in the halls of justice,
producing a wild and roaring discord from
all within the reach of his voice.

Mr. Smith at different times had many law
students. Among them may be mentioned
the Hon. Robert Smith, who began his studies
here but did not complete them, and who is the
same gentleman that afterward became sec-
retary of state under the United States Gov-
ernment. David Grier, who practised law
and died in York, was likewise a student of
Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith left a widow and two out of
five children surviving him; they are all now
gathered to the house appointed for all living.


Gen. Clark was born about the year 1751,
in Lancaster County Penn. When about
twenty-four years old he entered the service
of his country, and was distinguished dur-
ing the war of the Revolution by his /,eal in
the cause of liberty.

Early in life Gen. Clark held a number
of civil and military offices, the duties of
all of which he faithfully discharged.
Among other trusts committed to him during
the Revolution was his appointment by Con-
gress, February 6, 1777, as one of the
auditors for the army under Gen. Washing-

We have now in our possession a number
of original copies of letters to Gen. Clark,



from Gen. Washington, Gen. Green, and [
other distinguished officers of the Revolu-
tion ; and from them we learn that Clark,
was a familiar correspondent of the father
of our country and of many of his illus-
trious contemporaries.

Gen. Clark had just commenced the prac-
tice of law* when the troublesome times of
the Revolution came on, and receiving ;
shortly afterward the appointment of aid-de-
camp to Gen. Green, he abandoned his prac-
tice and devoted his whole services to his

Some years after the termination of the
Revolutionary struggle, Gen. Clark resumed
the practice of law and continued in it
until the time of his death, which was in
the year 1810. On the 27th o£ December
in that year he attended court and pursued
his business as usual. In the evening of that
day he went to bed at about half past eight
o'clock, in his usual health and at nine
o'clock on the same evening his race on earth
was run. At the time of his death. Gen.
Clark was sixty-eight years of age.

The following is a copy of a letter from
Gen. Washington to Congress. We insert
it as a better evidence of Gen. Clark's worth
than anything we could say in eulogy of his

" Headquarters, Valley Forge, January, 1778.
"I take the liberty of introducing Gen. John
Clark, the bearer of this, to your notice. . He en-
tered the service at the commencement of the war,
and has some time past acted as aid-de-camp to
Major-Gen. Greene. He is active, sensible and en-
terprising, and has rendered me very great service
since the army has been in Pennsylvania, by pro-
curing me constant and certain intelligence of the
motions and intentions of the enemy. It is some-
what uncertain whether the state of his health will
admit of his remaining in tlie military line : if it
should, I shall perhaps have occasion to recommend
him in a more particular manner to the favor of
Congress at a future time. At present, I can assure
you, that if you should while he remains in York
"have any occasion for his services, you will find
him not only willing, but very capable of executing
any of your commands. Respectfuly.

George "Washington. "f

Gen. Clark left to survive him five daugh-
ters: Mary, Harriet, Lavinia and Juliana,
and another daughter married to Mr. George
Bedinger, Shepardstown, Va. ,and one son,
George Clark, who was living in York in

Gen. Clark was a prominent member of
the Masonic fraternity. The aprons worn by
him as Master and Royal Arch Mason, were
presented to the York Lodge by his surviving
daughter, Miss Julianna Clark, in 1881, and
in return, an appropriate present was made

»He had studied under Samuel Johnson, Esq., of York.

by the lodge to her. His remains were
buried in the churchyard of St. John's Epis-
cojial (Church at York, where there is erected
to his memory a handsome monument.


David Grier was born in 1742, and was a
son of William Grier, of Mount Pleasant
Township, York County (now Adams). He
removed to York, studied law with James
Smith, and was admitted to the bar April 23,
1771. At the breaking out of the Revolu-
tionary war, he was made captain of one of
two companies raised by York County for a
regiment, which was commanded" by Col. Will-
iam Irvine, and of which Thomas Hartley was
lieutenant-colonel. This was part of the
Sixth Pennsylvania Battalion raised under
authority of Congress. January 4, 1776. He
was commissioned January 9, 1776, and pro-
moted major October 25, 1776. He was
made lieutenant-colonel of the Seventh Penn-
sylvania Regiment, Continental Line, which
regiment he commanded while Col. Irvine
was prisoner, who had been captured at
Three Rivers, in Canada, where, according to
letters of Col. Hartley, ' ' Capt. Grier and his
men behaved with great gallantry and
spirit." The Sixth Battalion, which became
the Seventh Regiment of the line, returned
to Carlisle from Ticonderoga, in March,

In September, 1777, he participated in the
battles under Gen. Wayne, and was wounded
in the side by a bayonet at Paoli.

Col. Grier practiced law after the war, and
was a prominent citizen of York. He was a
member of the General Assembly from the
county in 1783-84, and a presidential elector
at Washington's first election.


William Barber was a descendant of the
Barbers who were among the first settlers of
Columbia. He was admitted to the bar of
York County, March 2, 1793, and was ap-
pointed prothonotary of the court ^'i co.u
mon pleas in 1806. Mr. Barber, from his
prominent position, was hell in high esteem
bv his contemporaries for his integrity and
other estimable qualities.


David Cassat was born in 1768. He en-
1 tered Dickinson College when under the

presidency of the celebrated Dr. Charles Nes-
\ bit, and was a classmate of Chief Justice
I Roger B. Taney. After his graduation he

came to York and studied law with John
I Campbell, beginning in the year 1791, and




was admitted to the bar xMarch 4, 1794, and
soon acquired distinction as a lawyer. Mr.
Cassat was a man of most excellent character,
of the strictest integrity, and was held in
high estimation by every one. He was
thoroughly public spirited, and either led or
supported every important enterprise that
tended to increase the material interests of
York. No man in York, during his day, was
a stronger advocate of public education, and
he spent much time in its support. In 1814
he became one of the charter members of the
old York bank, and was chosen its first pres-
ident, which position he held until his death.
It was greatPy through his enterprise that the
lork Water Company was organized, and he
became its first president. He was a man of
good judgment, keen discrimination, high
moral character, and genial and aflFable mari-
ners. He won many friends, and had a laro-e
practice. He died May 28, 1824, at the
early age of fifty-sis years. His daughter,
Isabella, was the wife of our late venerable
townsman, Samuel Small, Sr. The library
at the collegiate institute, from her father, is
entitled the Cassat Library.


Thomas Carson Hambly is now the oldest
member of the York Bar. He was born August '
'.». Ii98. at Chri.stiana Bridge, New Castle
Co.,' Del. At the age of six years he
moved to Wilmington where he remained
thirteen years, and was educated at the acad-
emy there. Ho removed to Pennsylvania,
and went to Milton, Northumberland Count}',
and there taught in the classical school of
which Rev. Kirkpatrick was principal. He
studied law with Samuel Hepburn, Esq., and
was admitted to practice in January 1828
He removed to York April 1, of that year!
and was for three years the editor of the York
Republican, succeeding Samuel Wagner,
Esq When Gov. Ritner was elected, h*e ap-
pointed James Todd attorney- general, who
appointed Mr. Hambly deputy" for the county
of York. At this period an exciting contest
arose as to the site of the new court house,
and he was employed as council for the party
who favored its present location.

Joseph Small had been elected by the
Whigs county commissioner, David Small was
clerk of the commissioners. The matter was
contested both in the courts and in the leo-is-
lature. '^

In 1837 Edward Prigg and others came
from Harford County, Md., and committed an
act of kidnapping, in carrying off a negro
woman from York County, which occasioned
a correspondence between Mr. Hambly and

the governor of Maryland, and the latter and'
I Gov. Ritner. Commissioners were sent from
; the legislature of Maryland and the contest
continued until Gov. Porter was elected. The
; legislature of Pennsylvania passed a law I
authorizing Prigg to appear at the York
I county court and surrender himself on his
' own recognizance. Mr. Hambly tried the
case on the part of the commonwealth and
convicted Prigg. Tho State of Maryland ap-
pealed to the Supreme Court of the United :
States. The council were the attorney gen-
era] of Maryland and Mr. Meredith, for'M^iry-
land, and the attorney-general of Pennsyl-
vania, and Mr. Hambly for Pennsylvania.
The judgment was reversed, the Court declar-
ing the law unconstitutional.*

In 1840, a contest arose in the Presbyter-
ian Ciurch which divided the congregation,
and even families, between the old^and new
school parties. The church in York became
divided. Tlie old school party brought suit
for the church property. Hon. Alexander
Hayes, president judge of Lancaster presided;
Mr. Hambly with C. Mason, Esq., tried the
case for the plaintiff, to whom were opposed
Messrs. Chapin, Durkee and Evans. The
plantiffs lost the case and the supreme court
affirmed the judgment, although the law upon
which the court below ruled the case was de-
clared to be erroneous. 1. Watts d- Sergt. 1
Mr. Hambly v^^as the projector of the York
& Cumberland Railroad now the Northern
Central Railroad from York to Hamsburg and
procured its charter, and after three yeara of
strenuous effort got the road built, and was its
first president. He also with others succeeded
in establishing the York Savings Institution,
afterward the York County Bank. In 1S.")1
he was tendered the position of mini.ster to
Brazil, but soon after went to California,
where he remained fourteen years, and then
returned to Philadelphia and has since lived
in retirement there. Mr. Hambly is now in
the eighty-sixth year of his age.


Edward Chapin, Esq., was for fifty-five
years practicing attorney in the courts of
York County, and for the larger portion of
that period an acknowledged leader of the

He was born in Rocky Hill, Conn., on the
19th day of February, A. D., 1799. On both
sides he was de.scen*ded from a. long line of
distinguished ancestry. His maternal great
grandfather was the celebrated Jonathan Ed-
wards, for many years president of the col-



lege of New Jersey, and the ablest of Amer-
ican theologians. His theological works have
given him a world-wide reputation. His
maternal grandfather was Jonathan Edwards,
familiarly known as "the second President
Edwards," who was president of Union Col-
lege. Both were, like Mr. Chapin, graduates
of Yale College. His father, the Rev. Calvin
Chapin, D. D., was a recognized leader in the
Congcegational Church of Connecticut. He
was president of Union College, and was the
originator of and pioneer in the movement
for the prohibition by law of all traffic in in-
toxicating liquor. Of this cause he was the
earnest advocate during his whole life. He
did not live to see it successful, but his work
has, since his death, produced and is now
producing good fruit. The Chapin family
descended from Deacon Samuel Chapin, the
first of the name to emigrate from England
to America. He came at a very early period,
and settled in New England. His descend-
ants, numbering over 4,000, assembled in
Springtield, Mass., a few years since.
Among them were representatives from all
parts of the United States, many of them dis-
tinguished in the professional, political, and
literary walks of life. Rev Henry Ward
Beecher and Rev. E. H. Chapin, D. D., of
New York, President Lucius Chapin, of Be-
loit College, Wisconsin. Hon. Solomon Foote,
United States senator from Vermont, and Dr.
J. G. Holland were present. Among the lineal
descendants of Deacon Samuel Chapin is the
Adams family of Massachusetts, which has
furnished two presidents of the United

Edward Chapin, Esq., graduated at Yale
College in the class of 1819. He read law
in Connecticut, and after his admission to the
bar there he resided for a time in Bingham-
ton, N. Y., where his father had large landed
interests. He removed to York in 1823, and
was admitted to the York bar on motion of
Walter S. Franklin, Esq., on April 10 of that
year. He soon acquired a reputation as an able
lawyer and profound thinker, and during his
professional career was engaged in many of
the most important causes tried in York and
Adams Counties, especially those involving
intricate and difficult legal questions. In
the construction of obscure wills and deeds
Mr. Chapin was especially skillful, and he
pressed upon the courts his views on such
questions with such force of logic and pro-
foundity of legal learning, that even when
unsuccessful, it was usually easier to reject his
conclusions than to demonstrate their incor-
rectness. Judge Fisher, who presided in the
courts of York County during eighteen

years of Mr. Chapin's practice here, has said
that his legal arguments were the ablest and
most thorough and exhaustive he ever lis-
tened to.

Mr. Chapin was an intimate personal friend
of Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, who practiced
I law in the adjoining county of Adams dur-
ing part of Mr. Chapin's professional life.
They were each in the habit of obtaining
the assistance of the other in causes of
J unusual magnitude or difficulty. One of the
latest and most important causes in which
they both appeared, was the Ebert will
j case, an issue framed to determine the validity
, of the will of Martin Ebert. Messrs. Evans
' & Mayer, of York, and Hon. Samuel Hep-
} burn, of Carlisle, appeared for the propounders
! of the will; and Messrs. Chapin and Stevens
for the contestants. It was a contest of intel-
j lectual and professional giants, to which
I the magnitude of the interests involved, as
well as the reputation of counsel con-
' cerned, attracted great public interest.
Though unsuccessful in winning his cause,
Mr. Chapin's address to .the jury has been
pronounced, by competent judges who listened
to it with delight, the most eloquent oratori-
cal appeal ever made to a jury within their
j recollection.

Mr. Chapin was not what is called "a case
lawyer." A close reasoner, a profound
thinker, deeply versed in the principles
underlying the science of law, his arguments
contained few citations of authority and
few references to text-books. He was always
I listened to, both in the county court and in
j the supreme court, with the respectful atten-
tion his great professional learning and abil-
ity deserved.

Mr. Chapin was a great reader. He pos-
sessed a considerable knowledge of most
branches of natural science. His learning
and culture embraced a wide field.

As a legal practitioner his conduct was not

only above reproach or suspicion of unfair;

ness or impropriety, but he rejected as

beneath him many of the methods resorted

! to by practitioners who are regarded as repu-

1 table. He once told the writer of this sketch,

and his life bore witness to the truth of the

statement, that he never, during his whole

professional life, solicited or sought directly

I or indirectly the business or employment of

j any individual. Content with the business

that his talents and reputation brought, he

used no artifice to extend his clientage.

He was the counsel of the York & Mary-
land Line Railroad Company from the
inception of that enterprise, and of the
1 Northei'n Central Railway Company, into




which it afterward merged from the time of
his death.

Mr. Chapin's delight and recreation was
in the cultivation of fruits, flowers and vege-
tables. He was extremely fond of gunning,
and his portly form, armed with a gun which
few men could hold to their shoulder, was a
familiar figure about Peach Bottom in the
ducking season.

Mr. Chapin died on the 17th day of March
1869, leaving to survive him a widow, since
deceased, a daughter, married to Edward
Evans, Esq., and a son Edward, now a prac-
ticing attorney at the York bai-.


John Evans, the only son and second
and j'ounger child of Joseph and Elizabeth
Evans, was born May 9, 1800, in Hummels-
town, Dauphin County. His father was a native
of Dauphin County, a mill-wright by occupa-
tion and a man of unusual intelligence. His
mother was born in Lancaster County. His
paternal grandfather was a Welshman. When
he was about six years old his father died
and his mother removed to Columbia.
He there attended school several years.
When about fourteen or fifteen years of age,
he came to York and entered the York County
Academy to prepare for Princeton. While
he was in York his mother died, and the
guardian to whom his property was intrusted
having failed, his property was lost and he
was unable to acquire a collegiate education.
He then for a time obtained employment in
the store of William Ness.

He read law with the Hon. Thaddeus
Stevens under the instruction of David Cassat
Esq., and was admitted to the bar August 3,
1822, James Buchanan, afterward presi-
dent of the United States, being one of the
committee of examination. He was married

Online LibraryJohn GibsonHistory of York County Pennsylvania From the Earliest Time to the Present → online text (page 92 of 218)