Franklin Ellis.

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

. (page 33 of 193)
Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 33 of 193)
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plication to his professional duties, he was appointed
deputy district attorney of Allegheny County by
James Todd, the attorney-general, and removed
1 to Pittsburgh. In tiiis new sphere he faithfully
and creditably discharged all its duties, and by his
1 learning and honorable deportment advanced still
higher liis professional reputation. He resided in
1 Pittsburgh for several years, but was compelled by
failing health to remove to Uniontown. There he re-
mained until 1862, becoming the leader of the bar,
enjoying the fruits of a lucrative practice, and rising
i to a degree of excellence in his profession which the
ambition of any man might prompt him to attain.
He prepared his cases with great care, and tried them
with a degree of power which few men possess.



"His manner before a jury was not engaging, nor
his voice pleasant, but the strength and directness of
his logic and the cogent earnestness with which he
made his pleas covered all such defects. His strong
common sense and good judgment carried his case, if
it could be won, and Fayette County juries attested
his abilities by not often going against him. His
arguments in the Supreme Court were clear, well di-
gested, and forcibly presented.

" He trusted to decided cases, and was not inclined
to leave the well-worn ways of the law, or distrust
the security of those principles upon which are based
its most sacred rights. He looked upon a reformer as
a trifier with long settled questions, battering down,
without the ability to erect, a portion of the temple
of justice itself.

'•■ In 1862 he returned to Pittsburgh, and again com-
menced to practice, and continued an arduous and
able following of his profession until 1872. His suc-
cess at the bar was rapid, and his business of a cliarac-
ter that required great care and constant labor. He
took rank as an able, reliable, and formidable lawyer,
and found his reward in the confidence bestowed by a
large circle of leading business men in the manage-
ment of their important cases. As a counselor, he
was cautious and safe, and he so thoroughly studied
the facts upon which an opinion was to be given that
he reached his conclusions slowly, but with a degree of
mature thought that made them valuable. Although
pressed with business, he found leisure, however, to in-
dulge a taste he acquired early in life for studying the
history of the first settlement of this country around
us. No man in Western Pennsylvania has more pa-
tiently and accurately collected the names of the
hardy pioneers who came to the western slope of the
Alieghenies, and with rifle and axe penetrated the
dense forests that then lay along the Monongahela
and its tributaries. Every spot memorable in the
French and Indian war was known to him. He col-
lected many valuable manuscripts of men like Albert
Gallatin on subjects of State and national importance,
gathered information from all quarters of historical
value, and intended to publish them, but the work was
never done.

" His contributions in pamphlet form on many sub-
jects of local interest were read with great interest,
and will be useful to the historian who may seek to
place in durable shape what occurred at an early day
in the settlement of Western Pennsylvania.

" In 1872 he retired from practice after a life spent
in exacting labor, to find relief from the cares of pro-
fessional duties in the happiness of a home to which
he was deeply attached. In it he enjoyed the com-
panionship of his friends, to whom he was warmly
attached, and dispensed his hospitality with a genial
nature, which made intercourse with him both pleas-
ant and instructive. Up to the very hour of his death
his mental faculties were unimpaired, and his spirits
full of almost the fervor of his youth. He died at

his home on the Ohio below Pittsburgh, surrounded
by all that was dear to him on earth."

Robert P. Flennikin was a law-student in the ottice
of Andrew Stewart, at Uniontown, and admitted to the
bar in October, 1831. He practiced his profession for
a number of years in Fayette County, of which bar
he became a leading member. He was also an influen-
tial citizen and a prominent politician. He served
three terms in the Pennsylvania Legislature, com-
mencing in 1841. In 1845 he was appointed minister
to Denmark by President Polk, and he was made
Governor of the Territory of Utah by President Bu-
chanan. In 1872 he retired from active pursuits, and
removed to San Francisco, Cal., where his son Robert
was a successful merchant. Another son of his is
J. W. Flennikin, and Mrs. Thomas B. Searight, of
Uniontown, was his only daugliter. He was an uncle
by marriage to the late Col. Samuel W. Black, and
brother-in-law of Judge Thomas Irwin. Mr. Flenni-
kin was born in Greene County, Pa., and died in
San Francisco in October, 1879, aged seventy-five

Alfred Patterson, at one time a school-teacher in
Uniontown, was admitted a member of the Fayette
County bar in October, 1831, and soon secured a large
and lucrative practice. Close, knotty points in law
and intricate matters pertaining to land titles were his
specialties. He was an easy, plausible speaker and
a good and successful lawyer. About 1870 he re-
moved from Uniontown to Pittsburgh, where he de-
voted his time to tTie care of his property, and to the
duties of his position as president of the Bank of Com-
merce. He died in December, 1878, while on a visit
to his daughter in Louisiana.

John L. Dawson was born Feb. 7, 1813, in Union-
town, but removed very early in life to Brownsville,
which was his place of residence during the greater
part of his subsequent life. He received his educa-
tion at Washington College, and soon after his grad-
uation at that institution entered the office of his
uncle, John Dawson, at Uniontown, as a law-student.
He was admitted to the bar of Fayette in September,
1835, and at once commenced practice. He was a
good attorney, but soon entered political life, and be-
came much more prominent in that field than in the
practice of his profession. In 1838 he was appointed
deputy attorney-general of Fayette County, and in
1845 United States District Attorney for Western
Pennsylvania, under President Polk. He was elected
to Congress in 1850, re-elected in 1852, again elected
in 1862, and re-elected in 1864. At the close of the
latter term (1867) he left public life and retired to
the estate known as Friendship Hill (the former resi-
dence of Albert Gallatin), where he passed the re-
mainder of his life, and died Sept. 18, 1870. A more
extended biographical notice of Mr. Dawson will be
given in the history of Brownsville.

Thomas B. Davidson was a son of William David-
son, of Connellsville. He was educated at Kciiycn


College, Ohio, and soon after graduation became a
hnv-student in the office of Robert P. Flennikin, of
L'niontown. He was admitted to the bar in January,
]S38. He located in Cnnnellsville, and continued in
the practice of his profession until his death, though
he was also engaged extensively in other business.
He was one of the prominent members of 'the Fayette
bar, and was regarded as one of the best counselors
in Western Pennsylvania. He was also an active
and energetic politician, but would never accept a
public appointment, nor consent to become a candi-
date for office. The date of his death has not been

Samuel A. Gilmore was born in 180G in Butler
County, Pa., where he was admitted to the bar, and
continued as a practirinii- lawyer until his appoint-
ment as presiilciit ju'Iltc of the Fourteenth Judicial
District, in February, 1848, when he removed to
Uniontown. Under the change of constitution he
was elected to the same office in 1851, and served on
the bench until the December term of 18C1. He was
again elected in October, ISii'i.and continued in office
until his death, May 15, 1873. On that occasion a
meeting of members of the Fayette County bar was
lield, at which the following resolutions were unani-
nKKwly adopted, viz. :

" 1st. That after more than twenty years' service on
the bi.iitli, .liidiie Gilmore lays down his important
trust uu^usjHM'teil that it has on any occasion been
vi(dated, and leaving an excellent reputation for legal
and general learning, for sterling integrity as man |
and judge, for strict impartiality in the discharge of
liis official duties, for patriotism as a citizen, as a
hater of wrong and sympathizer with the weak, and
as a firm believer in and an earnest promoter of the
Christian religion.

"2d. That as a judge it was always his prime
object to ascertain the right of any matter tried be-
fore him, and having learned this, it was an intlexilile
rule of law indeed which could ]jrevi_-nt him I'mm '
seeing that justice and equity was done."

An event which occurred in the year 1835, the
striking of the names of a number of prominent •
members of the Imr ol' Fayette County from the roll
of attorneys, should not l.r (unittcd in tliis connection.
There had been for a long time fn'.|iicnt and ever-
recurring disagreements and misundrr>t:indiii - . Ke-
tween the attorneys in question and ihr Ib.n. I li..i,ias
H. Baird, then president jud-X' <iC the di^lii.t. This
state of affairs finally ciihiiiiiati'd in an open niplui'e,
the first act in which w;is .liidL'- I'.aiid s addns^ng to
the recusant lawyers the following communication:

"I'>klay, Sept. 1'2, ls.14.

" Gextlemex,— You liave, no doubt, long been
aware that the occurrence of a variety of disagree-
able circumstances in the conduct of our business in
court has rendered my situation often exceedingly
painful and perplexing. It is possible I have had my

full share in the causes which have led to this state of
things. I think, however, upon reflection, you will
be satisfied that in a great degree it has been owing
to the irregular manner of the bar in the trial of
causes. It is unnecessary to go into particulars. It
has been the subject of complaint and of conflict, dis-
tressing to me and unpleasant to you. Finding a
remedy hopeless without your aid, I have frequently
brought my mind to the conclusion that perhaps I
ought to withdraw and give you the opportunity of
getting in my room some other gentleman who would
have your confidence and co-operation. This deter-
mination has heretofore been yielded to the advice of
friends, upon whose judgment I have relied.

"Early in the present week I requested an inter-
view with you, that we might talk these matters over,
and perhaps agree to a united effort for reform. You
were prevented from meeting as proposed. In the
mean time the occurrence of a brutal attack upon me
by a ruffian, growing out of a trial in court, has more
and more convinced me of the necessity of coming to
some conclusion that may prevent the repetition of
such outrages. On this subject I wish not to be mis-
understood. The act of a brute or bully can never
drive me from the post of duty or of honor. I thank
God that in the performance of my official functions
I have been preserved from the operation of fear, as
I hope I have been from the influence of favor or
afl!'ection. I never, I repeat, have been deterred by
any apprehension of personal danger, although I
have often been aware of peril. I have known that
there was cause for it. The inadvertent, but as I
think indiscreet, indulgence of side-bar remarks, in-
dicative of dissatisfaction with the decisions of the
court, and perhaps sometimes of contempt, has been
calculated to make a lodgment in the public mind inju-
rious to the authority and respectability of the court,
and particularly of myself as its organ, and has had a
direct tendency to rouse the malignant passions of a
disappointed or defeated party. I have often ob-
served or been informed of these things, and have
thought they might lead to disastrous consequences.
A correct, judicious man, if he thinks his case has
not been correctly decided, will seek redress in the
legitimate mode only, or, if that is not accessible
(which seldom happens), will submit to it, as we all
do to unavoidable misfortunes. A ruffian, however,
if told by his counsel that injustice has been done
him in the administration of the law, may feel dis-
posed to seek vengeance on the judge. In the case re-
ferred to I think the cause and effect can be distinctly
traced. The earnestness and positivene.?s of the coun-
sel on the trial, and e.xpressions thoughtlessly dropped
afterwards, perhaps inflamed an. unprincipled fellow
to make an attack.

" It may be, however, that it would not have occa-
sioned it had he not been encouraged by other per-
sons. I have only my suspicions, and make no
charge against any one. I exculpate the counsel in


that case, and I exculpate the whole bar from the
most distant idea of producing such a catastrophe.
All that I mean to say is that the practice I have
mentioned has a direct tendency to incite to such out-
rages, and that in the particular case (in connection
with other causes) it did lead to the violence.

" The same cause may produce the same effect. I
must be always e.xposed to such consequences if mat-
ter of excitement continues to be furnished to wrong-
headed brutal suitors. If I could have the confi-
dence and support of the bar, and the assurance of a
change in their manner towards each other and to-
wards the court in the public conduct of business,
the office I hold would be rendered dignified, honor-
able, and pleasant, but otherwise it must become alto-
gether intolerable. On my part there is no want of
good feeling, and I take this occiision to declare that
there is not one of you for whom I entertain unkind
sentiments. On the contrary, there is no one whose
interests I would not advance, or whose honour I
would not maintain so far as in my power. As to
myself, I have no right to claim your friendship,
though I should be glad to have it ; but I think, in
the discharge of my official duties, I ought to have
your courtesy and respect, and when I err, forbear-
ance in manner and recourse discreetly to the proper
remedy (which I am always disposed to facilitate),
and not to inflammatory expressions of disapproba-
tion or contempt addressed to the public or the party.

" I have thus disclosed to you frankly my feelings
and views. In reply I wish your sentiments and deter-
mination as to the future in relation to the grievances
I have presented, and propose, therefore, that you
should take a few minutes to confer together, and in-
form me of the conclusion to which you may arrive.
"I am truly yours,

" Thos. H. Baird.
" Messes. Ewixg, Todd, Dawsox, and the other


To this communication the gentlemen addressed
made the following reply :

" U.MO.NTOwx, Pa., Oct. 3, 1S34.

" Dear Sir, — We have delayed replying to your
letter under date of the 12th of September, 1834, ad-
dressed to the members of the bar of Fayette County,
until the present time, to afford an opportunity for con-
sulting together, and also for mature reflection upon
the matters to which you refer. We regret, in com-
mon with your Honour, that we have not been able, in
harmony and with satisf^iction to ourselves and the
people of the county, to transact the business of our
courts. The public confidence seems to be withdrawn
alike from the bar and the court. Perhaps your
Honour's retiring from the bench, as you have inti-
mated a willingness so to do, and giving the people
the power to select another would be the means of

producing a better state of things and a more cordial
co-operation from all sides in the dispatch of the
business of the county. This expression of our views
is made in candour and sincerity, without a wish to
inspire one unpleasant thought or unkind feeling, but
under a sense of duty to the county in wtich we live,
to your Honour and to ourselves.

" Very respectfully yours, etc.,
"JoHx M.Austin, A.Patterson,

" John Dawson, E. P. Flenniken,

" Joshua B. Howell, R. G. Hopwood,

"J. H. Deford, Wm. McDonald,

" J. Williams, W. P. Wells.

"To Thomas H. Baird, Esq., Williamspoet,
Washington Co."

At the next succeeding term of the Court of Com-
mon Pleas, held Jan. 6, 1835, before Judge Baird and
his associates, Charles Porter and Samuel Nixon, the
following action was taken, as is shown by the record,
viz. :

"The Court grant ,i rule upon John M. Austin, John Dawson,
Joshua B. Uowcll, John II. Defovd, Joseph Willinnis, Alfred Pat-
terson, Robert P. Flenniken, Rice G. Hopwood, William Mc-
Donald, and William P. Wells, Esquires, to show cause why they
should not be stricken from the list of Attorneys of this court."

To this rule the respondents made answer as fol-
lows :

" Tlie undersigned, who are required by a rule of
court, entered this day, to show cause why they should
not be stricken from the list of attorneys, present this
their answer to that rule. AVe earnestly but respect-
fully protest against the legal iinwer and authority of
the court to enter aii'l riil'Mnc such a rule for the cause
alleged. The rule apjuars to lie iounded and predi-
cated on the letter of the undersigned, addressed to
Judge Baird, dated Oct. 3, 1834. To enable a full
understanding of the whole matter a letter of Judge
Baird, dated Sept. 12, 1834, is herewith presented. It
is evident that the letter of the undersigned which
contains the offensive nuitter is a reply and response
to the letter of Judge Baird to them addressed. It is
certainly respectful in its terms, and, as is sincerely
believed and positively asserted, contains neither in
words, meaning, nor intention the slightest contempt
or the least disrespect to the court or any of its mem-

" The respondents would be entirely at a loss to
comprehend how it could be possible to give their let-
ter, from its terms, an offensive interpretation were
they not informed from another source that the fol-
lowing paragraph is considered objectionable: 'The
public ciinlidiin-rseenis to Vjc withdrawn alike from the
bar an'l tlie Cmnt.' We by this paragraph expressed
our honest eon vietioH, and intended no contempt to the
Court. It is a response in some measure to that part
of Judge Baird's letter in which he himself says that
the circumstances to which he refers were calculated
to make a lodgment in the public mind injurious to



the authority and respectability of the Court, and par-
ticularly of himself, its organ.

" It will also be perceived from the two letters re-
ferred to that the correspondence did not take place
between the bar and the court; it was between the
respondents and Judge Baird, at his instance and re-
quest. The occurrence asserted as constituting some
undefined offense did not take place in presence of
the Court ; it took place out of Court and in pais.

" Far, very f:ir, therefore, are we from being guilty
of any offense against the Court. As to Judge Baird
personally, the letter distinctly and unequivocally
states tliat (lur views were ' made in candour and sin-
cerity, withdiit a wish to inspire one unpleasant thought
or unkind feeling.'
" John M. Austin, J. H. Defoed,

"John- Daw.sox, Wm. McDonald,

" Joshua B. Howell, J. William.?,

" Wm. B. Wells, R. P. Flexxikix,

'• Alfred Patteesox, Rice G. Hopwood."

The above answer was supplemented by the follow-
ing, dated Jan. 7, 1835, and signed by the same at-
torneys, except McDonald and Hopwood, viz. :

" The undersigned, after reiterating the protest con-
tained in a former answer, make this further reply to
the rule entered yesterday against them. When the
former answer was prepared it was not known that
the publication of the correspondence between the
bar and Judge Baird in the newspapers constituted a
portion of the supposed offense against the court, the
record not presenting that aspect of the case.

" They now reply to this matter, and to cause a
more perfect understanding thereof they present here-
with a letter from Judge Baird to the undersigned,
dated Dec. 15, 1834.' We now ask that the three let-
tors on record may be carefully examined in connec-
tion with our former answer to the rule to show cause.
We ca'-iRiit liut think that the court will then be satis-
fied that the last letter of Judge Baird contains im-
putations and strictures not warranted by anything
said in our communication to him when properly

" In some way the existence of the controversy

1 Tlie letter of Jii(lj:e Bftii-rl, here referred to, concluded as follows :

from the honest

good fidelity

• Til. 11. I'.UUD."

reached the public ear. It immediately assumed a
false shape in connection with an assault committed
upon the judge by a suitor in court. Misapprehen-
sion about the nature of the correspondence was pro-
duced. For want of correct information false asser-
tions were made and false inferences drawn. It
became a public matter, involving seriously public
interests. The correspondence related to public
affairs. The letters by no means being private and
confidential, we considered it our imperative duty, in
ju-stice to ourselves and in justice to the public, to
lay the whole correspondence as it really was before
the whole community. It was accordingly done, and
for the purposes intimated. The court will clearly
perceive that in this act there was no offense com-
mitted against the court, but it was a proceeding ren-
dered every way necessary, as it gave the true state
of the controversy and supplied the place of false
rumors in relation both to Judge Baird and our-

William McDonald made a separate answer to the
court January 7th. On the next day Judge Baird
delivered the opinion of the court (Judge Samuel
Nixon dissenting), the material part of which is here
given :

'■Jan. S, ISiio.

'• The oouit lins given to the pnpers presented by tlic respon-
dents in this case the most ciireful eonsider.ition and the most
favorable construclion their import would at nil admit. It ia
with the deepest regret, wo arc constrained to say, that they
are by no means satisfactory. ATc cannot regard them as re-
moving the offensive and injurious operation of the matter
which has been published to the world in relation to this court,
and which forms the gravamen of the rule. All that wo have
required is that the gentlemen would distinctly place in their
answer a disavowal of any intention to impute to the court, or
its members, anything which would lower them (in their oflieial
character) in the esteem and confidence of the people. This
has been and is still refused. No alternative therefore remains.
We must abandon our judicial honor, respectability, and au-
thority, or endeavor to sustain them in what we conceive to bo
the legitimate mode. ... It is ordered that the names of John
M. Austin, John Dawson, Joshua B. Howell, Wm. P. Wells,
Alfred Patterson, John II. Deford, J. Williams, and R. P.
Flennikcn be struck from the list of attorneys of this court.
■ " In the case of William McDonald the rule is discharged.
In the case of Rice 6. Hopwood the rule is continued.''

The next day (January 9th) Rice G. Hopwood
made a separate answer, and the court discharged the
rule in this case.

Eight members of the bar of Fayette County then
stood suspended from court. These gentlemen pre-
sented their case to the Legislature of the State, and
on the 14th of March, 1835, an act was passed, by the
provisions of which the Supreme Court of Pennsyl-
vania was " authorized and required to take jurisdic-
tion of a certain record and proceedings in the Court
of Common Pleas of the county of Fayette, of the
term of January, 1835, whereby the names of eight
attorneys were, on the 8th day of January, 1835, or-



dcred to be struck from the list of attorneys of the
8;iid court; and during their session commencing at
the city of Philadelphia on Monday, the 16th of
March, 1835, proceed to hear and determine the
questions arising upon the said record and proceed-
ings in any shape which may be approved or pre-
scribed by the court ; and shall cause the decision of
the said Supreme Court to be duly certified to the
Court of Common Pleas in the county of Fayette,
and make all orders and direct all measures which
may be necessary and proper and which shall be
effectual in the premises."'

The rule of the court, answers of respondents, and
letters of Judge Baird were presented to the Supreme

Online LibraryFranklin EllisHistory of Fayette County, Pennsylvania : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men → online text (page 33 of 193)