Benjamin Whitman.

Nelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r online

. (page 91 of 192)
Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 91 of 192)
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married with William S. Lane, for some time a prac-
ticing lawyer in Erie, and later of Philadelphia.

William Ayres Galbraith, Erie, I'a., was born
in Eranklin, Wnango county, I'a., M.iy it, 1SL>:;, and
came to t'".riL' with iiis ]iarin'ts in lS;i7.' He is a de-
scendant of one (if the most noted families during two
centuries of Pennsylvania's history, whose annals, in-
clusive of the personal history of the late Judge John
Galbraith, the father of William A. Galbraith, are con-
tained in this volume, under the caption, "The Gal-
braith Family." William Ayres Galbraith received
hi., early schooling in Allegheny College, Mead-
ville. Pa., and upon the removal of the family to Erie,
Erie county, Pa., he entered Erie academy, from
which institution he was duly graduated. Studying
law under the preceptorship of his father, he was ad-
mitted to the bar on the 21st anniversary of his birth,
May 9, 1844. In September of the same year he en-
tered Dane Law School of Harvard University, of
which Professors Joseph Story and Simon Greenleaf
were the instructors, and was graduated therefrom in
1845. Returning to Erie, he entered upon the prac-
tice of his profe"ssion in company with his brother-in-
law, William S. Lane. In 1846 he was appointed
deputy attorney general for Erie county (an office
equivalent to the present one of district attorney) by
Judge Kane, the attorney general of the State, which
position he continued to fill until 1850, under John M.
Reed and Benjamin Champneys. From his return to
general practice until 1856 his clientage steadily grew,
assuming such proportions by the latter year that his
health failed and he was compelled temporarily to
abandon his practice. Under the advice of his physi-
cian, to engage in out-door occupation, he took an in-
terest with General Herman Haupt and others in the
Hoosac Tunnel, the building of which required his
personal presence for the major portion of two years
in Massachusetts. Returning in 1858, he was appointed
attorney for the Sunbury and Erie R. R., and quickly
re-entered upon a large practice. From his early
manhood he was actively identified with the Demo-
cratic party. He was a delegate to the Democratic
State Convention in 1846 and of numerous others. He
was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention
in Charleston in 1860, and in Chicago in 1864. In 1861
he was nominated as a Union candidate for State Sen-

ator against Morrow B. Lowry, the regular Republican
nominee, and was only defeated by about 100 votes in
Erie county, which, the preceding >[ear, had been car-
ried by the Republicans by a majority of 3,700. In
1876 he was elected President Judge of the Sixth
Judicial district of Penn-sylvania, as a people's nomi-
nee, though the Republican candidate for President
carried the county by a majority of nearly 3,000. His
term of office expired January 1, 1887, since which
time he has been engaged in the practice of his pro-
fession at Erie. Judge Galbraith has contributed ma-
terially to the growth and development of this com-
munity. He was director of the railroad to the Ohio
line, a director of the Sunbury and Erie R. R. Com-
pany, and was actively identified with the establish-
ment of the car works, the car wheel works, the Bur-
dett organ factory and other manufacturing establish-
ments." He was one of the original stockholders of
the Erie Dime Savings and Loan Company, of which
he is now president. He was married May 25, 1846,
to Fanny, daughter of the late Capt. William Daven-
port, of Erie, a biographical sketch of whom is con-
tained in this volume. Judge and Mrs. Galbraith
have had four children, of whom but two survive.
One child died in infancy, and the eldest, Fannv, wife
of Dr. Arnold P. Gilmore, of Chicago, son of the late
Judge Gilmore of the Washington (Pa.) di-strict, died
May 30, 1893. The surviving children are; Daven-
port and John W. Galbraith, attorneys-at-law, asso-
ciated in the practice with their father in Erie. Daven-
port Galbraith was married June 15, 1886, to Winifred,
daughter of J. F. Downing, of Erie. John W. Gal-
braith was married April 25, 1888, to Mary, daughter
of the late Matthew Henning, banker, of Evansville,
Ind. Mr. and Mrs. John W. Galbraith have one child,
William A. Galbraith.

Colonel Thomas Forster (deceased), son of
John Forster, born near Harrisburg, Pa., May 16, 1762;

teers during the whisky insurrection; appointed asso-
ciate judge of Dauphin county in 1793; member of
the assembly one term; came to Erie county as agent
of the Harrisburg and Presque Isle Land Company in
1796 or 1797; moved his family to the county in the
spring of 1799, settling in Erie; commissioned collector
of the port of Erie inMarch, 1799, a position he filled
until his death in 1836, meanwhile acting as govern-
ment agent for the construction of the breakwater in
Erie harbor; serving as captain and brigade inspector
in the war of 1812, and holding numerous town and
county offices. He married, October 5, 1786, Sarah
Pettit, daughter of Rev. Joseph Montgomery, who was
a chaplain in the Revolutionary army, and the first
member of Congress from Lancaster county under
the Constitution of the United States. She died in
Erie, July 27, 1808. Among her children were the
wives of General E. V. Sumner, General George W.
Wright, Colonel John Harris. Major Herron and Cap-
tain Bailey, U. S. army. Colonel Forster and Rev.
Mr. Montgomery were both educated at Princeton
College, New Jersey.

Thomas Forster, Jr. (deceased), son of Colonel
Thomas Forster and Sarah, his wife, born near Harris-
burg, Pa., in 1796, came to Erie with his father; carried
on a forwarding and commission business at Erie



harbor several years; captain of a military company,
and vestryman of St. Paul's Church; moved to Dun-
kirk, N. Y., about 1828, from which date he was gov-
ernment agent for the construction of breakwaters at
the various harbors on Lake Erie between Erie and
Buffalo, until his death; moved to Westfield, N. Y.,
about 1862, where he died in 1864. He married, in
1821, Juliet M., daughter of Hon. William Bell, of
Erie, a settler of 1800, officer in the Revolutionary
war and associate judge. Mrs. Forster died in West-
field in 1866. Their children were as follows: John
H. and Sarah P., residents of Michigan; William T.;
Theodore M.; Annie M.; and E. S., residents of Erie

John P. Vincent, of Erie, Pa., is the great-great-
great-great-grandson of Levi Vincent, who was with
his family driven from France by the revocation of
the edict of Nantes, and went to England. He came
with his family to America during the reign of Charles
II, probably about the year 1676, and settled at or
near Bergen, in New Jersey. His son, John, also
lived in New Jersey. His son, Cornelius, left New
Jersey and settled on a farm on Warrior's run, about
four miles from the present town of Milton, in North-
umberland county, and was living there about the
beginning of the War of the Revolution. His father,
John Vincent, came with him to Pennsylvania. The
settlers in that vicinity built a stockade fort called
" Vreeland's Fort. " This fort was invested by the
English and Indians in 1779, and after a sturdy
resistance by the settlers, was captured, the English
commander agreeing that if they surrendered they
would be protected from the Indians, which he assured
them he could not do if the fort was taken by storm,
or after so long a resistance as to seriously anger the
Indians. One of the sons of Cornelius Vincent was
killed in one of the skirmishes around the fort. Cor-
nelius Vincent, with his family and his old father,
were taken prisoners, but were all liberated except
two of his sons, Benjamin and Bethuel, the grand-
father of the subject of the present sketch. Benjamin,
though quite a young man, was married when cap-
tured. After they reached Canada, Benjamin was
claimed by a squaw whose husband had been killed
during the fights at the fort, and was adopted into her
tribe. He was skillful with his rifle, and after a time
he was permitted to go hunting, but always accom-
panied by two young Indians. He was determined to
make his escape, if possible, and return to his family,
and for that purpose studied the geography of the
country carefully, while seemingly contented with his
lot. On one of his hunting expeditions he lured his
companions towards the border as far as he could,
until they became uneasy, and at last attempted to
compel him to return to the tribe. He then turned
upon them, killed both, and after much hardship
joined his family in New Jersey, where his father had
returned after being released by the English after the
capture of the fort. Bethuel Vincent was exchanged
at the end of the war, and returned to Milton, where
he died. He was postmaster for a great many years.
He married Martha Himrod, an aunt of the late
William Himrod of Erie. She was of Dutch ancestry,
and was possessed of many of the staunch and in-
domitable characteristics of that nation. Their eldest
son, William, was born in 1791. In the latter part of
1816 he came to Erie county and settled in Water-

ford. In February, 1817, he married Elsie Jackson
Nichols of Lycoming county. She was of Scotch
descent. William Vincent held the office of justice of
the peace, and was postmaster for several years. He
died in 1872. His wife died in 1886. John P., his
eldest son, was born December 2, 1817, in Waterford.
He was educated at Waterford Academy, securing a
thorough English and classical education, under the
instruction of Robert W. Orr, James Park, John
Livingston and Edward A. Geary. In 1839 he began
the study of law with Hon. Elijah Babbitt, aud was
admitted to practice February 2, 1841. In 1862-3 he
was a member of the House of Representatives of
Pennsylvania, and in 1863 was the candidate of the
Republicans for Speaker. He was an active Repub-
lican from the formation of the party. Before that he
cast his first vote for Gen. William H. Harrison for
President. In 1866 he was elected additional law
judge of the Sixth judicial district, composed of the
counties of Erie, Crawford and Warren, and subse-
quently of Erie, Warren and Elk. Under the pro-
visions of the constitution of 1874 the State was re-
districted, and Erie remained in the Sixth district.
Judge Vincent was then commissioned as the Presi-
dent Judge of the district until the first Monday of
January, 1877. He then resumed the practice of the
law, and is still in practice. He is now the senior
member of the bar.

Strong Vincent was born in Waterford, Erie
county, June 17, 1837. He was the oldest son of
Bethuel B. Vincent, and a grandson of Judge John
Vincent, of this county, both of whom are referred to.
His mother was Sarah Ann (Strong) \'incent, a daugh-
ter of Captain Martin Strong, of Summit township,
one of the earliest pioneers, and in his day one of the
foremost citizens of the county. In 1843 his parents
removed to the city of Erie. His school days were
passed chiefly at the old Erie academy. Here he
formed many boyish friendships, which, notwithstand-
ing his long absences afterward from his native town,
were warmly cherished by him as long as he lived.
When he was about 14 years old he was put to work in
his father's iron foundry. For six months he worked
as a day laborer. He was then taken into the office of
the concern. After being thus occupied for a year or
more, he left home and entered the scientific school at
Hartford, Conn., to secure a scientific education. De-
siring later a full collegiate education, he entered
Trinity College. Harvard College had a great charm,
and he persuaded his father to allow him to enter it as
a sophomore in the class of 1859. A college friend,
afterward an intimate army friend (Major W. W.
Swan) thus speaks in the " Harvard Memorial Biog-
raphies " of his college career: "Vincent was a man
of mark in his class, and in the college. His personal ap-
pearance was in his favor. There was not a student
from sophomore to senior who did not on first seeing
him seek to learn who he was. Physically he seemed
fully developed. Of rather above medium height, he
had a well-formed, powerful frame, and his face was
remarkably striking and handsome. He looked many
years older than he really was, and in every respect
his mind corresponded with his body. One would
have said on hearing him converse that he was 25
years old. He was not a hard student. And yet
when the class of 1859 graduated, if the professors had
been asked to name those whom the college would



afterward delight to count among her children, Vin-
cent would have been high on the list." Graduating
in 1859, he began the study of law in the office of
William S. Lane, Erie. In fifteen months he had
been creditably admitted to the bar, became Mr.
Lane's partner, was taking an active interest in the
public affairs of the city and county, and stood high in
the estimation of his fellow citiEens. In 1861, on the
day after the President's first call for volunteers, he
enlisted as a private with his company, the " Wayne
Guards," in the " Erie regiment " of three months'
men. As his Harvard biographer says: " His motive
was pure patriotism. Manhood and patriotism made
him a soldier." He was at once married to a lady to
whom he had been sometime engaged — Miss Elizabeth
Carter, of Newark, N. J. X'incent was elected the
second lieutenant of his company (A) before it left
Erie, was soon afterward appointed adjutant of his
regiment, and on arrival at Pittsburg, Colonel McLane
of the Erie regiment became post commander, and
Vincent post adjutant. His efficient discharge of the
duties began to attract attention. On the mustering
out of the three months' men, he at once re-enlisted in
the 83d Reg. P. V. I. for three years; was again ap-
pointed acting adjutant of the new regiment, and was
elected its major before leaving Erie. On its arrival
at Hall's Hill Camp, near Washington, he was elected
and commissioned its lieutenant colonel. Just after
leaving home he wrote to his wife: " Surely the right
will prevail. If I live, we will rejoice over our coun-
try's success. If I fall, remember that you have given
your husband a sacrifice to the most righteous cause
that ever widowed a woman." During that fall and
winter (1861-62) Vincent rendered frequent service as
brigade inspector. Before Yorktown he was inces-
santly in the saddle in charge of working parties in
the trenches. He made the siege a constant study.
His first battle was that of Hanover Court House.
Shortly after that he was prostrated by the poisonous
air of the Chickahominy swamps, so that his life was
despaired of. While in this condition the terrible bat-
tle of Gaines' Mill took place, in which over "half of
his regiment were either killed or wounded. .The
colonel and major were both killed. The news was
kept from him, but the preparations for retreat revealed
the truth. Sick as he was, he forced his attendants to
let him go, and mounting his horse he led his regiment
until he fell helpless from the saddle. Carried for a
long distance on the back of his faithful servant, John
Hickey, he knew nothing more until he found himself
on board a sick transport on the James river. He was
met by his wife and father in New York, and taken
home, where he remained until October 1, when he
returned to his regiment. During his absence he had
been chosen and commissioned its colonel. In
December this brigade took part in the battle of
Fredericksburg. Here he gained the enthusiastic and
lasting confidence of his men and fellow-officers by
his example of personal bravery, and the command of
the brigade falling temporarily to him, he proved his
generalship when ordered to fall back, by rescuing his
troops from their perilous position.

Socially, he was an unusually attractive man, and
his quarters at Acquia Creek during the following
winter were always a popular resort. Major Swan's
article says of him: "As a general thing his compan-
ions were older than himself; for though Vincent was
but twenty-five years old, his decisive countenance

and confident address made him seem the compeer of
men of forty. Among his associates were officers of
the highest rank. He could adapt himself to all ; could
talk with the politicians on questions of history, with a
general officer on military evolutions, or with a sport-
ing man on the merits of horses, and all respected his

For several weeks Vincent was president of a court
martial, and later was offered the position of judge
advocate general of the Army of the Potomac. This
he declined. " I enlisted to fight," he said laughingly,
when urged to take the staff position. In April, 1863,
he was regularly appointed as ranking colonel to the
command of the brigade. Shortly after this he ren-
dered signal service with it, in support of General
Pleasanton's cavalry at the battle of Aldie. He there
received the special thanks and commendation of the
Commander-in-Chief, General Meade. From Aldie
his brigade marched to Gettysburg. "As we rode
slowly through the town (Hanover) V'incent had the
torn colors of the old 83d unrolled and brought to the
front of the brigade. As they rustled in the moon-
light before him, he reverently bared his head, and
said to one of his staff in tones that will never be for-
gotten: " What death more glorious can any man de-
sire, than to die on the soil of old Pennsylvania, fight-
ing for that flag! " As his command lay quietly on the
field at Gettysburg awaiting orders, he said: " To-day
will either bring me my stars or finish my career as a
soldier." On the afternoon of the 2d, orders arrived
for a brigade of their division to move to the support
of General Sickle's Third Corps. Vincent (so says an
eye witness) in the absence of his superior officer, took
the responsibility of taking his own brigade to the
front, and posting them so as to hold " Little Round
Top." This was the real key, as it afterward appeared,
to the position of our army in that day's fight, and the
rebels strove desparately all that afternoon to take it,
in order to turn our flank, and so drive us certainly
from our position. This hill, since known as \'incent's
Spur (and now marked by a marble slab erected by
" Strong Vincent Post," G. A. R., of Erie), was held
by this brigade, though at fearful loss. The disposi-
tion of these troops was afterward cited in the class
room at West Point as one of the most signal instances
in the war of first-class military strategy by a volun-
teer officer. But it cost Vincent his life. While
standing on a conspicuous rock, encouraging his
troops, he was shot hy a sharp-shooter, and died five
days afterward. The appointment of brigadier gen-
eral was sent him the day after he was wounded, but
it reached him too late. He was buried at Erie with
military honors. A little girl was born to him three
months after his death. She lived only a year and
then was buried in the same grave with " the hero of
the Little Round Top."

Bethuel Boyd Vincent. — The earliest ancestor
of the \'incent family in this country was a French
Huguenot of the name, who fled from religious perse-
cution in France in the middle of the seventeenth cen-
tury, and settled in New Jersey. In 1772 part of his
descendants removed and settled near what is now
Milton, Pa., on the west branch of the Susquehanna.
During the Revolutionary war they ^uffered greatly
from attacks by the Indians and British, some being
killed and others carried as prisoners of war to Que-
bec. Other families afterward settling in Erie county



(the Himrods, Mileses, Boyds, Lytles and others), had
a like experience. Three relatives of the name— John,
William and Daniel— removed to Waterford, in Erie
county, at different times, about the year 1800. Among
the children of \\'illiam are the Hon. John P. Vincent,
lawyer anil ex-County Judge, of Erie, and Miss Sarah

Online LibraryBenjamin WhitmanNelson's biographical dictionary and historical reference book of Erie County, Pennsylvania : containing a condensed history of Pennsylvania, of Erie County, and of the several cities, boroughs and townships in the county also portraits and biographies of the governor's since 1790, and of numerous r → online text (page 91 of 192)