Morton L. (Morton Luther) Montgomery.

Historical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. online

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Online LibraryMorton L. (Morton Luther) MontgomeryHistorical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. → online text (page 26 of 227)
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floor was arranged in one large room for the
"courts," and the second floor in three rooms — the
eastern half having been in one room, and the
western in two rooms. An entry separated the
former from the latter. The stairway was con-
structed in the southeast corner of the court-room.
The "bench" was arranged along the northern side
of the room, and the "bar" was inclosed by a semi-
circular railing, the ends of which extended to the
wall on both sides of the "bench." The "jury box"
was situated in the northwest corner of the room.
The court-room was entered by two door-ways,
one on the south side and the other on the west.
The latter was little used. A large stove was lo-
cated near by and wood was generally piled up
against the door, on the inside^ during cold weather.

The crier's seat was situated a few feet west of
the center of the room, adjoining the "bar," and the
"prisoner's dock" was next to it on the east. The
crier was a prominent figure in the room by reason
of the elevation of his seat.

The floor was laid with brick. Benches
were arranged on inclined platforms
along the southern and eastern walls.
The seating capacity was rather limited
for a public place. The dimensions of
the building were about forty by fifty
feet. A marble tablet was built in the
eastern wall near the centre, which con-
tained the following inscription;
J. L., C. W., S. H., 1762.

These initial letters represented the
names of the officiating county commis-
sioners, Jacob Lightfoot, Christopher
W'itman and Samuel High.

The steeple contained a bell and
town-clock. The bell was cast in Eng-
land in ]76.'3, especially for the county;
and the clock was a thirt3'-hour clock,
imported from London about 1755.

Previously, for ten j^ears. the judges
of the courts held their sessions of court
in an inn of the town. There were no
rooms in the building for the county officials, but
many were not necessary, for five offices were
vested in one individual for upward of twenty
years, these having been prothonotary, recorder,
register, clerk of the Orphans' court and clerk
of the Quarter Sessions, and the person was James
Read, a lawyer.

By a letter addressed to the Pennsylvania Ga::ctte,
dated the 20th of February, 176G", it would ap-
pear that "public offices were opened on Monday
previous at Reading." It is not known in which
building they were opened, if not in the Court-

Election polls were held at the several windows
on the first floor, which were properly marked for

•■^the voters. The poll for the electors of Reading
■ was at the eastern window on the side facing south.
This building was used for the purposes of hearing
and determining criminal and civil matters until
1840, the last term of court having been the April
term. During the follow-
ing three months, the coun-
t)- records were transferred
from the "State-House" to
the new Court-House. It
was sold to Joseph Kendall
at public sale and he re-
moved it in JMav, 1S4-1.


The smallness of the old building had been felt
for many years and the increasing inconvenience
had become so objectionable by the" year 1837 that
the taxpayers and officials determined to remedy
the difficulty by securing a new building, and in
that behalf a petition was presented to the judges
at the August Sessions, setting forth— "That, in
consequence of the rapid increase of the population
and public business of the county of Berks, the pres-
ent Court-House ha,s become too small and incon-
venient for the transaction of business, and also for
the accommodation of those persons who are obliged
to attend court," and praying the court "to recom-



mend to the county commissioners the erection of
the necessary buildings for the accommodation of
the Court and the Public."

This petition was referred to the grand jury, and
they recommended a new building, selecting the
northeast corner of Fifth and Penn streets as the
place for its erection. This return was approved
by the court on Aug. 11, 1837, but the site was
changed to the northeast comer of Sixth and Court
streets, in order to obtain. a larger lot for the pro-
posed building. The county commissioners then
purchased two adjoining lots (120 by 230 feet)
and during the years 1838, 1839 and 1840 erected
on the site the western half of the present three-
story brick building which fronts on Sixth street,
the dimensions being 63 feet wide, 118 feet long
and 60 feet high. The total cost was $63,000. A
substantial fire-proof two-story extension was added
at the rear in 1869 ; and this was subsequently en-
larged, when numerous important improvements
were introduced. The first session of court was
held in it at August Term, 1840.

Gas was introduced for lighting purposes in May,
1849, shortly after the Reading Gas Co. had estab-
lished its plant. Previously oil in lamps was used.

A new clock was placed in the steeple in October,
1851. The bell weighed nearly seventeen hundred
pounds. From that time on, this has been the
"town-clock," and town-bell for indicating "town-
time." The clock-dials have been illuminated at
night-time by electric light since 1895.

The first floor was arranged in four compartments,
the corner room, facing the streets, having been
occupied as an office by the sheriff; and the second
floor in four compartments for prisoners. The
sheriff and family occupied the remaining rooms
of the building; and this practice was continued
till the prison system was changed by special legis-
lation for Berks county, in 1848. The property was
sold on Feb. 5, 1849, to William Rhoads, for $7,460,
and by him converted into a store. It has been oc-
cupied for store purposes ever since.

A new prison was erected on the "Common," at
the head of Penn street, by the county commission-
ers in 1847-48, at a cost of $17,000. It is construct-
ed of stone from Peon's Mount, and is situated on
a lot of ground 170 by 300 feet, which is inclosed
on the north, east and west by a high stone wall.
The tower is 96 feet high. It is still standing, a
fine specimen of superior workmar^ship.

An addition, or "annex," was erected at the rear
in 1869. The total number of cells is 94 — ^in the
main part, 44, and in the annex, 50; arranged in
two stories.

State-House.— The "State-House" was erected
by the county commissioners in 1793 for the accom-
modation of the county officers and the public rec-
ords. It was situated on .the northeast corner of
Fifth and Penn streets; built of brick, two stories,
30 by 90 feet, with a narrow alley extending along
the eastern wall from the front to the rear. An


Prisons. — The iirst prison was erected in 1770,
on the northeast corner of Callowhill and Thomas
streets (Fifth and Washington). It was construct-
ed, of stone and plastered, two stories in height, and
in dimensions 30 by 70 feet. The lot was 60 by 230
feet. A substantial stone wall, 20 feet high, was
■erected to inclose the lot to the depth of 130 feet.

entry extended across the building near the center
with its doorway on Fifth street; and a stairway
led from this entry to the second floor. The first
floor was divided into three compartments ; the first,
adjoining Penn street, having been used for the
prothonotary's office and clerk of Quarter Sessions ;
the central for the recorder, register and clerk of



the Orphans' court; and the rear for count}' com-
missioners and county treasurer. The second floor
was divided into two compartments, the front room
having been occupied mostly for Sunday-school pur-
poses and public meetings from 1819 for about
twenty years, and the rear room for lodge purposes.
The building was sold by the county commissioners
upon the removal of the county offices and records
to the new Court-House.

The rear room on the first floor was used as the
post-office from 1861 to 1865.

necessary buildings, and seven directors were ap-
pointed to proceed in the establishment of this public
institution. They served till the election of three
directors in October following, as provided in said
Act. In the mean time (May 30, 1824) they pur-
chased the "Brown farm," formerly known as the
"Angelica farm," in Cumru township (owned anrt
occupied during the Revolution by General Thomas
jMifflin), three miles from Reading, situated on the
Lancaster road, and containing 417^ acres, for the
consideration of $16,690, and there erected a com-


In January, 1872, a large fire broke out in
Stichter's hardware store, near by, which spread
over the adjoining buildings to the west, and con-
sumed the entire comer, including the ''State-
House." The inscription stone was preserved and
given a place in the rear wall of the building which
was soon afterward erected in its stead.

PooR-HousE. — The poor people of the county
were provided for by "overseers" till the passage
of an Act of Assembly on March 29, 1824, especially
for this county, whereby the county commissioners
were authorized to levy a tax for the purpose of
purchasing land and erecting and furnishing the

modious building to accommodate the poor people
of the county. This building was finished in 1825.
It has since been known as the "Main Building."
Other improvements were subseciuently made upon
the premises, prominent among them being the "In-
sane Building," erected in 1837 and 1843, and the
"Hospital," in 1871-1874. The first poor persons
were admitted on Oct. 31, 1825, from Reading.
During the first year 130 inmates were admitted.
Annually afterward the average number increased
until 1878, when they reached 613; but since then
they have gradually decreased until now, being
about 250.


By the charter of William Penn and the several
grants thereunder, various laws and ordinances
were enacted from time to time ''for the good gov-
ernment of the province/' and the regulation of its
affairs was directed 'by officers, either appointed or
elected, for the entire territory or for the counties
comprising it. The several officers for the county
were as follows :

JUDGES— 1753 to 1790

Various Acts of Assembly were passed before
1722, for a period of forty years, to establish the
powers of courts for the purpose of protecting men
in the enjoyment of their personal rights, of re-
dressing wrongs, of adjudicating the rights of prop-
erty, and of administering estates, and in that
year the law for the several courts of the province
became settled, continuing so till the Revolution,
with the exception of certain amendments by two
supplementary Acts passed in 1759 and 1767.

From the time of the erection of the county in
1752 down to 1776, the following persons acted in
the capacity of justices, the length of service of
several of them being unknown :

Name Term

Conrad Weiser. ..." 1752-60

Francis Parvin 1752-66

Anthony Lee

Jonas Seely 1753-66 ; 1769

Henry Harvey 1752-62

William Bird 1752-55

William Maugridge 1756-66

Moses Starr

James Boone

Jacob Levan 1752-62

James Read

Peter Spycker 1763-90

Joseph Millard 1768-69

Benjamin Lightfoot 1771-74

George Webb 1770-71; 1774

Thomas Rutter. . . , 1770-71

Jacob Morgan 1768-69 ; 1772 ; 1774-77

James Diemer 1766-71

John Patton 1766-75; 1777

George Douglass 1768-73 ; 1775-84

Henry Christ 1766-71; 1784-90

Sebastian Zimmerman 1767-71 ; 1778-84

Nicholas Harmony 1766-71

Mark Bird 1775-76

Daniel Brodhead

William Reeser 1778-84

Jonathan Potts 1776-77

Balthaser Gehr 1775-84

Thomas Dunlap

In 1776, the first constitution of the State pro-
vided that a Supreme Executive Council should con-
sist of twelve persons, who were to be chosen by
ballot by the respective, counties for the term of
three years. The apportionment gave one to Berks
county. The following councillors were elected

from Berks till the adoption of the Constitution of
1790. The term of the first was fixed at two years;
and afterward three years.

Name Term

Richard Tea, elected in 1776, but declined to serve

Jacob Morgan 1777-78

James Read : 1779-81; 1788-90

Sebastian Levan 1782-84

Charles Biddle 1785-87

This Constitution also provided for the establish-
ments of courts of justice in every county of the
State. The following persons officiated as judges
of the county from 1776 till 1790. The first three
were president judges of the courts for a time.

Name Term

James Diemer

Henry Christ 1784-90

Peter Sypcker 1776-90

James Read

Daniel Levan

Valentine Eckert 1785

John Ludwig 1785

Jacob Morgan

Charles Shoemaker 1785-90

Paul Groscup

John Eckert '. .1786-87

Jacob Weaver 1785

John Otto 1786-87

Matthias Reichert 1788-90

Nicholas Hunter 1788

Egedius Meyer 1789-90

John ■ Christ 1789-90

And it provided also that each election district
should elect two or more persons for the office of
justice of the peace, and that the president of the
Executive Council should commission one or more
for each district for seven years. The following
justices were elected in Berks county, and commis-
sioned, from 1777 till 1790— the dash after the year
indicating uncertainty whether or not the full term
was served, and the repetition of the year indicating-

Name Term

Henry Christ ■. 1777-84 ; 1784—

Jacob Shoemaker 1777 —

James Read 1777 —

Daniel Hiester 1777 —

Peter Spycker 1776-90

Jacob Weaver 1777-84 ; 1784—

John Ludwig 1777-84; 1784—

Benjamin Shott ' 1777 —

Christopher Schultz 1777 —

Samuel Ely 1777-84; 1784—

Jacob Waggoner 1777 —

Daniel Rothermel 1777 —

John Old 1777—

Chas. Shoemaker 1777-84; 1784—

Egedius Meyer 1777-84; 1784—

Jacob Morgan 1777-84; 1784—

Thomas Parry 1777 —

Michael Lindenmuth 1778 —



Name Term

Gabriel Hiester 1778—

John Guldin 1780—

Valentine Eckert 1784—

Paul Groscup 1784 —

John Eckert 1784—

John Otto 1785—

Matthias Reichert 1788-91

Nicholas Hunter 1788 —

James Diemer 1788-91

JUDGES— 1790 TO 1909

The Constitution of 1790 provided for the estab-
lishment of Circuit courts in the State to be com-
posed of certain counties^ — not less than three nor
more than six ; and for the appointment by the Gov-
ernor of a president judge of the courts in each
circuit, and also of other judges, not less than three
nor more than four in number, whose residence
should be in the county. All the judges appointed
were to hold their offices during good behavior.

In 1791, in pursuance of the Constitution of 1790,
the State was divided into five judicial circuits or
districts, and each district became entitled to a pres-
ident judge. The Third District comprised Berks,
Luzerne, Northampton, and Northumberland coun-
ties. In 1806, the State was divided into ten dis-
tricts, and Berks, Northampton, and Wayne com-
prised the Third District. In 1811, Schuylkill county
was erected and included in the district, but it was
cut off in 1815. In 1812, Lehigh county was erected
and included in the district. In 1834, the State was
divided into seventeen districts, and Berks, Lehigh,
.and Northampton comprised the Third District.

The county of Berks was erected into a separate
judicial district by the Act of April 5, 1849, and
called the Twenty-third District. It has since been
a separate district, with this, number in the judicial

In 1810 the associate judges were limited to two
in number. The provision in reference to the tenure
of office was modified by the Amended Constitution
of 1838. whereby the term of president judge was
fixed at ten years, and of associate judge at five

In 1850 an amendment to the Constitution was
adopted which provided for the election of the
judges for the terms mentioned. The first election
was held in October, 1851.

The office of additional law judge was created
by the Act of April 15, 1869, for Berks county, with
powers and term similar to those of president judge.

The office of Orphans' court judge was created
for the county by the Act of June 13, 1883, pursuant
to the New Constitution ; and on the 29th of June
following, the Governor made the first appointment.
His judicial powers are confined to matters which
arise in the Orphans' court; and the term of service
is ten years.

The office of associate judge was abolished by
the New Constitution, the incumbents to continue
in office until their terms of service expired.

Before 1874, county officials took their offices on
the second Monday of December succeeding their

election. The New Constitution provided that
thereafter they should take their offices on the first
Monday of January succeeding.

Name Terra

Jacob Rush 1791-1805

John Spayd 1806-09

Robert Porter 1810-33

Garrick Mallery 1833-35

John Banks 1836-46

J. Pringle Jones 1847-48 ; 1851-61

David F. Gordon 1849-51

W. J. Woodward* 1861-71 ; 1871-74

Teremiah Hagenmanf 1875-79 ; 1880-89

James N. Ermpntrout} 1890-1908

Gustav .\. Endlich 1908-09

Name. Terra.

Henry Van Reed§ 1869;1875

Jeremiah Hagenman|| 1869-7^

Augustus S. Sassaman 1876-85

James N. Ermentrout 1887-89

Gustav A. Endlich 1890-190S

Wm. Kerper Stevens1[ 1908-09

orphans' court judges

Name. Term.

Hiram H, Schwartz** 1SS3-1891

H. Willis Bland ■. .1891-19—

Name Term

James Diemer 1791-1819

George Ege 1791-1818

Matthias Reichert 1791-97

Joseph Hiester 1791-94

Nicholas Lotz 1793-1806

Benjamin Morris 1798-1809

Gabriel Hiester 1819-23

Charles Shoemaker 1820-22

William Witman 1S23-2S

Jacob Schneider 1824-29

Matthias S. Richards 1829-45

William Darling 1830-38

WilUam Addams 1839-42

John Stauffer 1843-51

William Pligh 1845-50

Samuel Bell 1851

Daniel Young 1851-50

William Heidenreich 1851-56

David Schall 1856-66

* Warren J. Woodward was elected one of the associate justices
of the Supreme court of Pennsylvania, on Nov. S, 1S74, for the
term of tv/enty-one years. He took and held his seat from' January
1875, till his death on Sept. 23, 1ST9.

t Jeremiah Hagenmaii succeeded Warren J. Woodward, by pro-
motion, on Jan. 13, 1S75, when he was sworn as president judse
for the remainder of the term, ending Jan. 5, IS.SO. He was elected
in November, 1879, for a term of ten" years. Not having been re-
elected, Judge Ermentrout was promoted bv law to be president

i Died Aug. 19, 190S, and succeeded by Gustav .-\. Endlich.

§ Henry Van Reed, a member of the county bar, was appointed
on July 13, 1869, by the Governor, John W. Geary, to fill the office,
and he held his seat till his successor, duly elected, was qualified!
Oec. 6 ],sr;9. He was n|ipointed a second time by the Governor,
John F. Hartranft, on Jan. 12, 1876, to fill the vacancy in this
office, caused by the promotion of Jeremiah Hagenman to "the oflice
of president judge, until his successor, Augustus S. Sassaman, a
member of the county bar, duly elected, was qualified on Tan 2,
1S76, for ten years.

II Jeremiah Jlagenman was elected Oct. 15 1869, to this office for
ten years from Dec. 6, 1869. He was promoted to the office of
president judge, for the remainder of his term, on Jan. 13 1875
to fill the vacancy caused bv the resignation of Warren J 'Wood-
ward, wdio had been elected to the Supreme bench.

H Appointed, by Governor Sejit. 10, 1908, to serve till first
Monday in January. 1910.

••Hiram H. Schwartz was appointed on Tune 29, 1883, to serve
in this office till Jan. 7, 1SS4. He was nominated for the office,
for the full term, by the Democratic Convention in August, 1883,
:ind elected in November following. He died before the expiration
of his term, on Aug. ;.-i, 1891, when H. Willis Bland was appointed
bv the Governor, on Sept. 16. 1891, and he was elected, November,
1S92, for a full term; and at its expiration he was re-elected.



Name Term

George D. Stitzel 1856-66

Charles Kessler 1866-71

David Kutz* .- 1866-70

Henry Rhoads 1870-71

George W. Bruckman 1871-76

Daniel Buskirk. 1871-76


The office of attorney at law is not an elective one.
It never was. But it has existed time out o-f mind.
It began with the administration of justice, and is
inseparable from it. The history of attorneys would
be the history of the courts of judicature. They
have always occupied a prominent place. Their
prominence has resulted from energy well directed
in behalf of the rights and property of mankind, and
also in behalf as well of the establishment as of the
development of principles regulative of associations
in every department of life.

A law was enacted in this State as early as 1710
in relation to this office. Then the justices were
authorized to admit any attorney or attorneys to
plead in any of the established courts during good
behavior. No provision was made as to the number
or ability. In 1715, however, the authority of the
justices was modified. They might admit "a com-
petent number of persons, of honest disposition and
learned in the Law, to practise as attorneys who
shall behave themselves "justly and faithfully in
their practice." And in 1727 a provision was made
requiring such persons before they were admitted
to take the following oath : "Thou shalt behave thy-
self in the office of attorney within the court, ac-
cording to the best of thy learning and ability, and
with all good fidelity as well to the court as to the
client; thou shalt use no falsehood, nor delay any
person's cause for lucre or malice." And these qual-
ifications have continued to this day. Since the
adoption of the State and national constitutions
they have- qualified to support them. This last
qualification is common to all statutory officers.

The following attorneys have resided in the coun-
ty of Berks and practised in its several courts.
The date after each name is the time of admission
to practice.

Name Admitted

James Biddle
David Henderson
James Whitehead, Jr.
Edward Biddle

Daniel Levan, Jr Nov. 11, 1769

Collinson Read Aug. 13, 1772

James Potts Aug. 1, 1773

Daniel Clymer May 4, 1776

Alexander Graydon May 14, 1779

Edward Scull Aug. 17, 1779

Nathaniel Potts Aug. 14, 1781

Jacob Hubley Nov. 14, 1786

George Eckert Feb. 19, 1787

James Scull Feb. 19, 1787

Joseph Hubley Aug. 14, 1787

John Spayd Feb. 14, 1788

Peter Hoofnagle Feb. 14, 1788

* David Kutz having died in office Tuly 20, 1870, Henry Rhoads
was appointed by Gov. John W. Geary, on Aug. 3, 1870, for unex-
pired term ending Dec. 4, 1871.



Marks John Biddle Dec. 9

Jacob R. Howell Feb. 11

Charles Evans ' Aug. 9

William Witman Aug. 20,

Frederick Smith Aug.

Levi Pauling Aug. 18,

Bird Wilson May 14,

Andrew Graff, Jr April 9,

John Hiester •. . .Aug. 6,

William S. Biddle June

Frederick John Haller Nov.

William Morris Aug.

Anthony Morris Nov.

Samuel D. Franks Aug. 10,

James B. Hubley April 4,

John Spayd April 2,

Samuel Baird, Jr April 10,

William Morris, Jr Nov.

Thomas B. Smith July 4,

James Biddle Aug. 9,

Francis S. Muhlenberg. . ". May 8

Nathaniel P. Hobert ' Jan. 13

Charles Davis Aug. 4,

Charles Whitman Aug. 9,

William Darling Nov. 13

Edward B. Hubley April 5

James L. Dunn Nov. 10,

W. C. Leavenworth Aug. 18

Daniel J. Hiester Aug. 4,

Lloyd Wharton March 26,

Lawrence S. Lardner April

David F. Gordon Aug.

Thomas Morris : Nov.

Wm. FuUerton Duncan Jan.

David Evans Jan.

Henry W. Smith Jan.

John S. Wharton March

Edward P. Pearson May 23

Charles J. Jack Aug. 1

Robert M. Brook Aug. 2,

John H. Sheetz Aug. 3

Joseph W. Roland Aug. 20,

George M. Keim Aug. 11

Joseph H. Spayd Nov. 8

Philip Kendall Jan. 1,

Elijah Deckert Jan. 4,

Levi B. Smith J an. 10,

William M. Biddle April 4,

Jacob Hoffman , Nov. 10,

Robert M. Barr Jan. 3

Peter Filbert Jan. 6

John Mayer Jan. 8

Henry Rhoads April 3

William Strong Nov. 8

George S. Wharton Aug. 15.

James Pauling Nov. 7

Francis Aurand Nov. 13

William Betz '. J'an. 10|

George G. Barclay April 10,

Newton D. Strong Aug. 3

.^uFustus F. Boas < Aug. 4

J. Pringle Jones Nov. 2

Anthony F. Miller Aug. 15

Franklin B. Schoener Jan.

John S. Richards April 4,

Garrick Mallery Aug. 14

Dennis W. O'Brien Aug. 7

Jeremiah D. Bitting Aug. 8

Andrew M. Sallade Aug. 11

Jackson H. Sherman Aug.

William M. Hiester Jan.

Peter Shearer April

Matthias Mengel April

George E. Ludwig . . , Nov. 3,

James Donagan Dec. 22

Samuel Sohl April 5

Online LibraryMorton L. (Morton Luther) MontgomeryHistorical and biographical annals of Berks County, Pennsylvania, embracing a concise history of the county and a genealogical and biographical record of representative families, comp. by Morton L. Montgomery .. → online text (page 26 of 227)