Franklin Ellis.

History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men online

. (page 30 of 193)
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iu their power to call upon the County Commissioners
for the money. And necessity has suggested to us the
expedient of building a temporary Goal by subscrip-
tion, which is now on foot."

Ephruim Douglass to Secretary Armstrong^'

" UmoxTOW.v, May 20, 1784.

" The County Commissioners are so much counter-
acted by the rabble of this country that it appears
hardly probable the Taxes will ever be collected on
the present mode. In the township of Menallen in
particular, which includes this place, agreeable to its
limits in the Duplicate, the terror of undertaking the
duty of Collector has determined several to refuse it
under the high penalty annexed. Two only have ac-
cepted it, and these have both been robbed by some
ruffians unknown, and in the night, of their Dupli-
cates. The inhabitants of the other townships have

2 The act erecting the county provided, Seel i.n ltj, "Tlmt ihis net shall
not take effect until the first day of Septeinln i , \v lii< h will >"■ in Ihcyear
of our Lord 1784, so fur as the same repiv, t^ th- .1. . n"ii •■( Censors,
a Counsellor [,^iMll:.'l>r. - -.ii:i!iv-i..i ii;r (.. i,,:,,! Assembly;
but the inhabitants .: I 1 ' -I -i I' ittlieen-

sning election, eleet ' i- , i ' . ■ i K , ■;' :v's in As-

sembly in conjunctiuti \\<Mi III. lull J II. Ill- <. I \\ .. -nil. 1.(1. ndi'ounty,
agreeable to the diieetiuiis uf the cuiisliiiitiun anU tlie laws now in
force." And from Mr. Douglass' letter it appears that the people of Fa-
yette had supposed that the same provision applied to the election of
all county officers.



not sono such lengtlis, but complain so much of the
hardships and want of money that I fear very little
is to be hoped from them. On the other hand, the
banditti frnin Bucks County, or some others equally
liid, or, liiorc iirolmlily. b'>tli, have established them-
^clves in siiinc part uf tliis country not certainly
knciwn, but tlioii^lit to be in the deserted part of
WasliinL'tim Cuunty, whence tliey make frequent in-
ciii-si<ins intii the settlements under cover of the
niiiht, Irnily the inhabitants, sometimes beat them
iiiinifrrifiilly, and always rob them of such of their
iniipt'iiy :w thry think proper, and then retire to their
hnkiny-placi's. . . . Tliis county, however, and even
this town, lias suirerecl l)y them, though tliey came in
tlie cliaractcr of tliieves and not of robbers here [that
is, to Uniontown]. And yet nothing has been at-
tempted hitherto to punish or bring them to justice,
partly, perhaps, because there are not yet a sufficient
number provoked by their losses, but principally from
the improbability of succeeding in the attempt."

-Deposition of James Bell}

F.LyotIc County,

Jiimes Bell, of George T.nvnship nn
1 on oath before nic, tlio suliscriljur,
tlie fors'i County the 5th day of .Jun

tlio night between the 2<i iinil Z^ ihii
I the Dnelliiig House of PhiUn Jcnkni

toles Cirkr.l ii, thrir hiu.Js, ,vho did violently assault <t
liiin the :.'i .leiihios Mi.a Henianded his Dublicate and money
with their ( 'nrlird |.i-|nls at liis Krcast, and he got up & went to
the Iloou, nhr,-,, |„s imldirate was, while one stayed and kept
sai.l Iiepnunil n„ lii. seat, hut ho understood They Itohbed s'i
Jenliin^ nl hi- llnhlirale warrant and money i threatening if
Ever he had any Ciurerii will, tli- r.u-a,-^ II,. v would burn
hiu, <tail heha.l, or irao.v.ilhr, |.,- .),- >,., ,:,,,; r,,„eernwith

it they would ,1.,... |.,il„,„; ,.,.r ■ ■ I .. , ' ■ , i , > , i ■ a la 11 man With
a riuoling .hirt ,„,, .Iher »a. ol a loidJl. ...e, had on a Hunt-
ing shirt and trowsers, the other was a less sized man with a
Hunting shirt & Trowsers on, and all their faces were streaked
with Black.

"Jamrs Bell.
"Taken made A signed the Day A ycare above written, before

" I^OBEKT ElClIliV."

Chn.topher Iliys to PreAkut Dtchiii^on:-

" WEaT.MunEl.AND COUNTV, 14th Juiio, 178-1.

"Deai! Sir:

"My best compliments wait on your Excellency
and Family. I take this opportunity to infonii your
Excellency that a cnsid-niblr number cf Inlialiit-
ants (formerly Virginians, and in i>p;iiisitiiin tn tlio
Laws and Governini'iit olthis State i liavc now tiirneil
lint open Robbers, and -o ii.dorinus that scare-.' two
days pass that some luitraiic i^ not ciiiiiiiittt-d in
one part or other of tliis Country, tho' Fayette and
AVashington Counties seem, at present, to bo the prin-

cipal seat of Depredation. Last Wednesday the Col-
lector was robbed near Besin's Town, in Fayette
County, of about twenty-two pounds in Cash, his
Warrant and Duplicate taken from him, and his per-
son grossly abused. Sundry other robberies liave
been committed lately in Washington and Fayette
Counties, mostly on the Property of the most noted
defenders of the Country during the late conflict. . . .
I would beg the favor of your Excellency to send me
the late acts of Assembly by my son-in-law, Capt".
Henderson, and the favor shall be gratefully acknowl-
edged by

" Sir, with the highest respect,

" Your Excellency's most obedient
"Humble Servant,

"Chelstopher Hays.
"His Excellency John Dickinson, Esq."

ulfrom Faijelte Count;!, 17S4.-''

'To his Excellency .John Dii
Supreme K.xceutive Council,



"IlonrdSr. — The Inhabitant.'! of Stewart's Crossings beg leave
to represent your Excellency; That we wore much sur]>ris'd on
being presented with yc Copy of a Letter by one of your worthy
niombcrs, which was sent to your Exeelleney, informing you
that a considerable number of ye Inhabitants {formerly Vir-
ginians), in apposition to the Laws and Government of this
State, have now turned out ojien Robbers. "Wc are happy that
we have it in our power to present this to your E.\cellency by
tho hands of a Gentleman, whom we hope will do us the Ilonr
to state us impartially in our fair character without respect of
parties, as this Gentleman is well acquainted with yo circum-
stance of ye whole matter in doing us the llonour of accompa-
nying us in going in search of those Kobbers and suppressing
such Burglars. We acknowledge we were brought up under yo
Government of Virginia, and were ruled by that Government
while the Territorial Disputes subsisted between the two Stales,
But when they thought propcrto adjust ye Boundaries, we were
willing to submit to ye Laws of Pennsylvania, and hope your
E.xeellcncy will find us as true Citizens as any belonging to yo
State, as we have made it evident on every occasion. Wo have
always been willing to risque our all in the glorious cause we
have been so long contending for, which wo can make nianife.-t
by Sundry Gentlemen who are as fully acquainted wilh us as
the author of that Letter which was sent to your Excellency.
And amongst others, Col. JloCieno who has suffered on fatigue,
with those who seem at present to bo the objects of such
malevolent ridicule without the least reason. Wu were happy
in believing that all party matters were buried in oblivion,
but are greatly ooncorncd to find the contrary. Col. Hays
has related in another Letter to your Excellency, that those
who bore the Burden of yc War must now be ruled over liy
I those who are Enemies in tlicir Hearts to yc State. AVc
I would appeal to ye knowledge and Candour of the several
officers who have commanded in this Department, whether tho
people thus stigmatized have been more backward in defense
1 of our common rights than any of our neighbours. We must
beg your Excellency's pardon, for making so free, from ye most
intolerable character your Excellency had of us, but we shall
refer you to that worthy Gentleman Major Douglass, who is



rnthcr bcUor acquaintea with us than Col. Hay?. So makes
bold to subscribe ourselves your Excellency's most obedient and
bumble servants.

" RoBKiiT Beall, Marci-s,

" Zaoh's. Cox.N'ell, Moses Smith,

" Wm. MoCoRMicK, Jas. Davis,

"John Stevexsos, William Conxell."


The act by which Fayette County was erected pro-
vided and declared "That the Justices of the Peace
commissioned at the time of passjng this act, and re-
siding within the county of Fayette, or any three of
them, shall and may hold courts of General Quarter
Sessions of the peace, and General Gaol Delivery, and
county courts for holding of Pleas ; and shall have all
and singular the powers, rights, jurisdictions, and
authorities, to all intents and purpo.^es, as other the
Justices of Courts of General Quarter Sessions, and
Justices of the county courts for holding of Pleas in
the other counties, may, can, or ought to have in their
.respective counties; which said courts shall sit and be
held for the county of Fayette on the Tuesday pre-
ceding the courts of Quarter Sessions and Common
Pleas in Washington County in every year, at the
school-house or some fit place in the town of Union,
in the said county, until a court-house be built ; and
when the same is built and erected in the county
aforesaid, the said several courts shall then be holden
and kept at the said court-house on the days before

Under this provision and authority, the first term
of the Court of Quarter Sessions and Common Pleas
for Fayette County was held in the school-house at
Uniontown on the fourth Tuesday in December,
1783, before Philip Rogers, Esq., and his associates,
Alexander McClean, Robert Adams, John Allen,
Robert Ritchie, and Andrew Rabb, all justices in and
for the county of Westmoreland. The Grand Inquest
was composed as follows: John Powers, Ebenezer
Finley, Henry Swindler, John Beeson, James Ritter,
Nathan Springier, Thomas Kendall, David Hogg,
William McFarlane, Samuel Lyon, John Patrick,
Thomas Gaddis, Jacob Rich, Edward Hatfield, Den-
nis Springer, Charles Hickman, Nathaniel Breading,
Reuben Camp, and Hugh McCreary.

The first business of the court was the admission of
attorneys, viz. : Thomas Scott, Hugh M. Brackenridgc,
David Bradford, Michael Huffnagle, George Thomp-
son, Robert Galbraith, Samuel Irwin, and David Red-
ick. There were brought before the court five cases
of assault and battery, one of assault, and two of bas-
tardy. The court proceeded to fix " tavern rates," to
license tavern-keepers, and to subdivide the county
into nine townships,' viz. : Washington, Franklin, Lu-

i Additional townships of Fayetto County have been erected iis follows:
T.vronc, March, 1784; Biillskin, March, 1784, Bedstone, December, 1797;
Salt Lick, December, 1797; Duubar, Decombei-, 17US; Bridgeport, No-
vember, ISl.i ; Brownsville, November, 1 817 ; Connellsville, Oct. 31, 1822 ;

zerne, Menallen, Union, German, Georges, Spring
Hill, and Wharton. The holding of this first court
for Fayette was mentioned by Ephraim Douglass, in
a letter to President Dickinson, dated " Uniontown,
2d February,. 1784," viz.: "The courts were opened
for this County on the 23d of December last; the
gathering of people was pretty numerous, and I was
not alone in fearing that we should have had frequent
proofs of that turbulence of spirit with which they
have been so generally, perhaps so justly , stigmatized,
but I now take great satisfaction in doing them the
justice to say that they behaved to a man with good
order and decency ; our grand jury was really re-
spectable, equal at least to many I have seen in courts
of long standing. Little business was done, other
than dividing the County into Townships." -

At the June session of 1784, Richard Merryfield
was brought before the court " for prophane swearing
and for contemptuous behaviour to John Allen, Es-
quire, one of the Justices of this Court, now attending
Court. And it being proved to the Court that the
Deft, swore one prophane oath in these words, ' By
G — d,' the Court fine hiin 10.'. therefor, and order
that he find surety for his good behaviour till next
Court in the sum of £50, and that he be committed
till this Judgement be complied with."

The first judge " learned in the law" who presided
in the Fayette County courts was the Hon. Alexan-
der Addison, who held his first term at Uniontown
on the third Monday- in September, 1791, Fayette
County then forming part of the Fifth Judicial Dis-
trict. Judge Addison's successor was Samuel Rob-
erts, who first presided in March, 1803, and was com-
missioned April 30th in the same year.

The Fourteenth Judicial District, including Fay-
ette County, was established by act of Assembly in
1818, and in July of thesameyearThomasH. Baird was
commissioned president judge of said district. His
successor was the Hon. Nathaniel Ewing, appointed
Feb. 15, 1838, to fill a vacancy, and continued in the
office for ten years.

Samuel A. Gilmore was appointed and commis-
sioned president judge of the Fourteenth District
Feb. 25, 1848. In October, 1851, he was elected,
under the constitutional amendment making the
oflSce elective. He was commissioned Nov. 6, 1851,
and served more than ten years. James Lindsey was
elected in October, 1861, and held his first term as
president judge in December of that year. He died
Sept. 1, 18G4. His successor was John K. Ewing,
appointed and commissioned president judge in No-
vember, 1864. He presided at the terms of Decem-

Ilenry Clay, June 9, 1824; Perry,
Nichidson, Dec. 19, lS4.i; Yooglii
Marcli 10,1849; North Union ao.l S
March, 1855, at which time tli.- I.
exist, a part of its territory beinL' n
annexed to Sprinsfield. In Srjt.





ber, 1864, and March, June, and September, 1865.
Samuel A. Gilmore was elected in the fall of 1865,
and served on the bench till his death, which occurred
in May, 1873.

Judge Edward Campbell was appointed to fill the
vacancy occasioned by the death of Gilmore, and ,
presided at the terms of June and September, 1873.
The Hon. Alpheus E. Willson was elected in Octo-
ber, 1873, held his first term at Uniontown in De-
cember of that year, and is still president judge of
the Fourteenth Judicial District, comprising the
counties of Fayette and Greene.

Orphans' Courts were established in Pennsylvania
by an act passed in 1713, which provided and de-
clared "that the justices of the Court of General
Quarter Sessions of the Peace in each county of this
province, or so many of thera as are or shall be from
time to time enabled to hold these courts, shall have
full power and are hereby empowered, in the same
week that they are or shall be by law directed to
hold the same courts, or at such other times as they
shall see occasion, to hold and keep a court of record
in each of the said counties, which shall be styled
' The Orphans' Court.' "

By act of the 13th of April, 1791, for establishing
courts of justice in conformity to the constitution,
provision was made for the holding of Orphans'
Courts "at such stated times as the judges of said
courts in their respective counties shall for each year
ordain and establish."

The first record of the Orphans' Court of Fayette
County is dated Dec. 24, 1783, at which time a terra
of the court was held by Justices Alexander Mo-
Clean, Philip Rogers, Eobert Adams, John Allen,
Eobert Ritchie, and Andrew Rabb. The business
done was the appointment of guardians over the
three minor children of John Moore, deceased, viz. :
George Cott for Pliilip Moore, Thomas Kendall for
Henry Moore, and Michael Moore, Jr., for George

The old constitution of Pennsylvania provided that
Orphans' Courts should be held quarterly in each
city and county of the State. The i)resent constitu-
tion declares th;it "judges of the Courts of Common
Pleas, learned in the law, shall be judges of the
Courts of Oyer and Terminer, Quarter Sessions of
the Peace and General Jail Delivery, and of the
Orphans' Court."

The courts of Fayette County were first held in the
school-hnii^r ill 1 ' iii'iiitiiwu, as provided and directed
in the a.t invli.i- tliu county. In February, 1784,
Ephraiiii l>nii-l:i^s, the first prothonotary of Fa.yette,
who had then recently removed to Uniontown to as-
sune the duties of his oflice, wrote a letter to Gen.
Irvine, in which he described the appearance of the
new countv-seat, and said, " We have a court-house

and school-house in one." How long the school-
house continued to serve the double purpose is not
known, for nothing is found in the records having
reference to the erection of the first court-house.

The act erecting the county declared, " That it
shall and may be lawful to and for Edward Cook,
Robert Adams, Theophilus Phillips, James Dough-
erty, and Thomas Rodgcrs, all of the aforesaid county,
or any three of them, to purchase and take assurance
to them and their heirs of a piece of land situated in
Uniontown in trust, and for the use of the inhabitants
of said county, and thereon to erect and build a court-
house and prison sufficient to accommodate the public
service of said county." The cost of the land and
buildings was restricted by the act to one thousand
pounds current money of the State ; and the commis-
sioners and assessors of the county were authorized
and required to assess and levy taxes to that amount
(or such less amount as the trustees might deem suf-
ficient), "for purchasing the .said land and finishing
the said court-house and prison."

Under the authority so conferred on them, the trus- ^
tees purchased a site for the public buildings from
Henry Beeson, proprietor of Uniontown, who on the
16th day of March, 1784, " for and in consideration
of the love which he bears to the inhabitants of the
county of Fayette, and for the further consideration
of sixpence to him in hand well and truly paid," con-
veyed by deed to the said trustees for the county the
following described lot of ground, situate in the town
of Union, and at that part thereof known in the gen-
eral plan of the town by the name of the Centre Pub-
lic Ground, containing in breadth eastward and west-
ward on the street called Elbow Street ninety-nine
feet, bounded westward by lott No. 36, one hundred
and fifty feet, thence in the same direction forty feet Peters Street ; thence by the school-house lott
north sixty-four degrees and three-quarters, east two
hundred feet to Redstone Creek; thence by the said
creek seventy-seven feet, then by lott No. 20, two
hundred and forty-two feet, to the place of beginning,
containing one hundred and forty-six perches."

The ground then conveyed to the trustees was the
lot on which stand the present public buildings (court-
house, jail, and sheriff's residence) of the county.
On this lot was built the first court-house of the
county, but (as before stated) nothing is known of
the date of its erection, its size or style of construc-
tion. The only reference to this old building is found
in an entry in the commissioners' records, dated Jan.
7, 1796, which shows that on that day the board re-
solved to sell the old court-house ; and it was accord-
ingly advertised to be sold at public auction on Tues-
day, the 26th of that month. The sale took place ac-
cordingly, and the building was purchased by Dennis
Springer for £15 12s. 6il., to be removed from the pub-
lic grounds.

On the same day on which the commissioners re-
solved to sell the old building (Jan. 7, 1796) they




contracted with Dennis Springer " to procure two
stoves for the use of the New Court House, and to
set them up in complete order." This shows that a
new court-house was then in process of construction
and well advanced towards completion. On the 30th
of March, 1796, a bill often dollars was allowed "for
Sconces for the use of Court' House."

June 28, 1796, John Smilie and Ephraim Douglass,
Esq., were appointed by the board of commissioners
to proceed, with Dennis Springer, contractor for the
new court-house building, " to judge the extra work
of said building and determine the value thereof, and
the sum said Springer shall receive over the sum con-
tracted for." On the 14th of December following,
Messrs. Smilie and Douglass reported " that the work
done by Den. Sjjringer more than his agreement is
worth £121 17s. del, equal to $325.03," for which sum
he then obtained an order on the treasurer. He had
previously received an order on the treasurer for
$1037.-50 ; total, $1362.-53.

Ephraim Douglass, Alexander McClean, and Jo-
seph Huston having been selected by the trustees
and Springer, the contractor for the new court-house
"to view the said building and Judge of its Suffi-
ciency," reported, Jan. 16, 1797, to the commissioners
"that the work is sufficiently done according to Con-
tract, as per report filed." On the 25th of April,
1801, Col. Alexander McClean was instructed and
empowered by the commissioners " to level the Court
House yard, and wall the same at the south Ex-
tremity of the Offices, and erect stone steps to ascend
from the street, or rather the public ground upon the
walk or yard, and to gravel the said Court House
yard to the door of the Court House and each of the
office doors, erect stone steps, prepare and set up the
necessary gates on the Avenues, &c., and to be al-
lowed a reasonable compensation therefor." On the
17th of September, 1802, John Miller rendered a bill
"for a Bell for the use of the Court House, with the
necessary Smith and carpenter work, $219.03." Feb.
1, 1812, the commissioners contracted with John
Miller, of Uniontown, "for roofing the Court House
and public building, at $7 per square."

JIarch 27, 1838, " Commissioners, with Carpenter,
engaged in adopting a plan for improvement of Court
House." Whether the contemplated improvement
was carried out or not does not appear from the

On the 4th of February, 1845, the court-house was
destroyed by fire, which broke out while the court
was in session. The circumstances of the occurrence
are narrated in the commissioners' records as follows :

[CE, Fcl.y. 4, 1S4.3.

" Board met.

j Thomas Duncan,
■1 Robert Bleakley,
'[ P. F. Gibbons."
"The Commissioners are in session on account of
the Special Court. The court having met this day at

nine o'clock, was not in session more than an hour
when the court house was discovered to be on fire,
supposed to have caught from one of the stove pipes
or chimneys, and notwithstanding the exertions of a
great number of people, together with the aid of the
two fire companies of the borough of Uniontown with
their engines, the progress of the flames was not ar-
rested until the roof and second story were entirely
destroyed. The offices at the east and west ends of
the Court House were saved from the fire, though the
roof over the Commissioners', Sheriff's and Treas-
urer's Offices was considerably injured by the falling
of the gable end of the Court House. The fire hav-
ing been arrested and the fire companies dispersed,
the Commissioners employed John Mustard to pro-
cure hands and clear off the ashes and rubbish which
had fallen on the 2nd floor, when it was discovered
necessary to take up considerable part of the floor,
on account of fire between the floor and ceiling. Mr.
Patrick McDonald was employed to keep watch from
11 o'clock at night until daylight.
" Adjourned."

Feb. -5, 1845. — "The special court is sitting in
the upper room of John Dawson's Brick Building."
On the 2oth of February "the Commissioners agreed
with the trustees of the Presbyterian Church in Union-
town for the use of said church to hold the courts of
the County in, at the rate of 840 per quarter."

Sept. 22, 1845. — "Commissioners in session to an-
swer to a writ of Mandamus issued by the court against
them on the 13th inst., commanding them to erect a
new court-house where the old one stands, on as eco-
nomical a plan as possible, or shew cause, etc. The
commissioners, with their counsel, T. R. Davidson
and R. P. Flenikin, appeared before the court at the
commencement of the afternoon session, and the case
being brought up by Mr. Flenikin, the Court stated
that they were mistaken in the law, — a mandamus
would not lie against the county commissioners, and
ordered the mandamus and rule discharged, which
was done accordingly."

June 25, 1846. — "Commissioners engaged in pre-
paring the warrants and duplicates for militia fines ;
also examining the specifications for the new Court-
House preparatory to having them printed for gen-
eral circulation."

Aug. 4, 1846. — " Commissioners in session for the

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 30 of 193)