John W. (John Woolf) Jordan.

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years a member of the Colonial Assembly.
His eldest son Thomas was the father of
"John Watson, Surveyor," the eccentric
genius, widely known in his profession,
whose last official service was in assisting
Mason and Dixon in locating the line be-
tween the provinces of Pennsylvania and

Dr. John Watson, second son of Thomas
and Elinor (Pearson) Watson, received
such medical education as the times
afforded, and succeeded his father as a
practicing physician. He inherited a por-
tion of the Buckingham homestead and
acquired a large tract adjoining. A house
erected by him in 1721, and devised with
a large tract of land to his son Thomas,
was long a local landmark, and was torn
down the present year. Dr. Watson en-
joyed an equal prominence with his father
in public affairs. He married (first) Ann
Beale, and (second) Sarah Brown. His
three children — Joseph, Elizabeth and
Thomas, were by his first wife. Of these
Elizabeth became the wife of John Fell,
of the well-known Bucks county family
of that name, and among her children was
Anne, who became the wife of Joseph
Chapman, and the grandmother of Judge
Henry Chapman, one of Judge Watson's
predecessors on the bench. Thomas, the
youngest son, married Sarah Woolston, and
two of his sons were prominent business
men of Philadelphia.

Joseph Watson, eldest son of Dr. John
and Ann (Beale) Watson, was likewise
educated as a physician, and succeeded to

his father's practice. He was several years
a member of the Colonial Assembly, county
commissioner, 1752-54, and 1763-65 ; and
filled other important positions of trust,
prior to the Revolution. He was one of the
original members of the County Committee
of Safety in 1774-75, but when it became
apparent that actual war would result, being
a Friend, he retired from active associations
with the committee, but the patriot cause
had his real sympathy and support within
the limits of his conscience. He died in
1796. He married AHce Mitchell, in 1745.

John Watson, only son of Joseph and
Alice (Mitchell) Watson, was born August
12, 1746, and died October 23, 1817. He
married Mary Hampton, of Wrightstown,
in 1772, and their son, John Watson, born
August 25, 1774, was the father of Judge
Richard Watson. He was a surveyor and
scrivener, and his notes and draughts of
surveys cover a large part of central Bucks
county. He lived for many years at Holi-
cong, Buckingham township, removing to
Doylestown in 1854, and dying there in
1864. He was a man of scholarly tastes and
attainments, and of unusual intellectual
ability. He was twice married, (first) in
1795, to Euphemia Ingham, daughter of
Jonathan and Anna Ingham, a sister of
Hon. Samuel D. Ingham, the eminent legis-
lator, congressman and cabinet officer ; and
(second) in 1824, Martha Duncan. By the
first marriage he had nine children, and by
the second two — Martha, who became the
wife of George Hart, an eminent Bucks
county attorney; and Richard, of whom

Judge Richard Watson was born in Buck-
ingham township, Bucks county, February
3, 1823. He was educated principally at
the Friends' School at Buckingham, in its
time a famous institution of learning, hav-
ing numbered among its students many who
rose to high rank in official and profes-
sional life, including at least two chief jus-
tices of the Supreme Court. His father's
scholarly tastes and his interest in his



youngest son were, however, a prime factor
in forming the tastes of the young student.
Choosing the legal profession, he began his
preparation therefor at home, and in 1844
entered the office of Charles E. Du Bois,
Esq., at Doylestown, as a student-at-law,
and was admitted to the Bucks county bar
April 29, 1846. He was always a deep,
thorough and careful student, aiming always
toward a profound knowledge of the prin-
ciples and application of the law rather than
to oratory and the tricks of the profession,
by which in his day, much too often, a ver-
dict was obtained. Familiar from his
earliest youth with title deeds and other
legal papers in his father's office, he natur-
ally had a bent towards the practice of law
relating to real estate and the settlement of
estates. He seldom took any interest in
criminal cases, and sought to be rather a
counsellor than an advocate. He was never
an office seeker, and devoted his energies
entirely to the practice of his chosen pro-
fession. As a Republican he accepted the
empty honor of a nomination for district
attorney when the opposing party was so
strongly in the majority that there was no
possibility of election. On the breaking out
of the Civil War, though a consistent mem-
ber of the Society of Friends, he did not,
like his Revolutionary ancestors, permit a
single tenet of his faith to prevent him from
offering his services to his country when her
trying time of need came. In 1862, when
the Emergency Troops were called for, he
enlisted as a private in a company of which
his brother-in-law, George Hart, was cap-
tain, and served the term of his enlistment
at Hagerstown, Maryland. He again en-
listed on the call of 1863, but while in camp
at Harrisburg with his company he was
seriously wounded in the thigh by the sup-
posed accidental discharge of a musket. He
was brought home and was confined to his
bed for eleven weeks by the wound. The
bullet continued to annoy him at times, and
nine )-ears afterwards was removed by a
painful operation.

On January 18, 1873, Richard 'Watson
was appointed Additional Law Judge for
the Seventh Judicial District, comprising
the counties of Bucks and Montgomery, to
succeed Hon. Stokes L. Roberts, who had
resigned. At the general election in Octo-
ber of the same year he was elected to the
position for the full term of ten years, and
the new State Constitution adopted in 1874
making Bucks county a separate judicial
district, he became President Judge thereof.
As a judge he acquired the reputation of
strict uprightness, and of an earnest pains-
taking effort always to see exact justice
done to all. His written opinions were
models of scholarship, and exhaustive in
their conclusions. By invitation of his
colleagues on the bench of the State, he at
different times held court in at least a dozen
of the counties, where his administration of
justice was highly appreciated. He was
universally considered an able judge, and
of his decisions that were reviewed by the
higher tribunals very few indeed were re-
versed, and many are still quoted as prece-
dents. His manner on the bench was always
courteous yet dignified ; merciful and con-
siderate, yet just and firm. Judge Watson
was a candidate for reelection in 1883 as
the unanimous choice of his party, but was
defeated by the Hon. Harman Yerkes by a
strictly party vote. He resumed the prac-
tice of law on his retirement from the bench,
but chose rather to interest himself in such
cases as appealed to his sense of justice.
He was one of the chief promoters of the
Bucks County Trust Company in 1886, and
was chosen its first president, filling that
position with eminent ability until his death.
Judge Watson always took an active inter-
est in all that pertained to the advantage of
his town and county, and his genial, kindly
companionship and association in local
affairs are a pleasant memory to many of
his surviving townsmen. He was a member
of Doylestown Lodge, No. 245, Free and
Accepted Masons, and also an enthusiastic
and earnest Odd Fellow. He united himself



with Aquetong Lodge, No. 193, I. O. O. P.,
of Doylestown, July 8, 1846, and continued
an active member until his death, serving as
its secretary for upward of a decade, as its
representative in the Grand Lodge for near
a quarter of a century, and in 1867 was
elected grand master of the Grand Lodge,
serving his term with especial distinction.
He died suddenly, July 15, 1892.

Judge Richard Watson married, June 28,
1866, Isabella T. McCoy, daughter of Dr.
Gilbert Rodman, and Maria (Thomas) Mc-
Coy, of Doylestown, and a descendant of
Gilbert Rodman. Mrs. Watson and three
children survive, viz: — Miriam, wife of
Henry A. James, of the Bucks county bar;
George, an official of the Bucks County
Trust Company ; and Jane; who resides
with her mother.

MITCHELL, James Tyndale,

I<a\ryer, Jurist, Author.

Probably no profession so richly rewards
its devotees as does the law. Not only in a
pecuniary sense is this true, but in honor,
fame and exalted position. The highest
pinnacle of legal fame in any State is that
of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and
that is exceeded only by a place in the Su-
preme Court of the nation. A lawyer to
reach the chief justiceship of a State must
not only be exceptionally learned in the law,
skillful in its interpretation and application,
of judicial strength, disposition and fair-
ness, but he must be a man of high char-
acter, unquestionable honor, and possess
every manly quality, for he must pass the
ordeal of the ballot box. In contests for so
exalted an office, party ties are loosened and
men decide from conviction of the perfect
fitness of their candidate. Thus came James
Tyndale Mitchell, formerly Chief Justice of
the Supreme Court of the State of Pennsyl-
vania into his high estate. His perfect fit-
ness, his learning, character and experience,
gaining him the highest commendation of

his fellow citizens publicly expressed at the
ballot box.

Judge Mitchell springs from an English
ancestor, Edward Mitchell, who came from
England, settling in South Carolina in the
year 1700. The family later came north-
ward, settling in Virginia in its western part
where Rev. Edward Mitchell, great-grand-
father of Judge Mitchell, was a leader in
the anti-slavery movement.

In 1823, after the failure of the attempt
to abolish slavery, the Mitchells moved to
Belleville, St. Clair county, Illinois. James
Mitchell, grandfather of Judge Mitchell,
was a prominent Whig, a close friend of
Henry Clay, and chief burgess of Belle-
ville. His son, Edward P. Mitchell, mar-
ried Elizabeth Tyndale, and from this mar-
riage sprang James Tyndale Mitchell, who
was from 1903 to 1910 Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court of the State of Pennsylva-

He was born in Belleville, Illinois, No-
vember 9, 1834, and at the age of seven
years was sent to Philadelphia to be edu-
cated under the care of his maternal grand-
mother. His instruction began in a school
taught by Dr. Samuel Jones, brother of
Joel Jones, a one-time mayor of Philadel-
phia. Later he entered Central High School,
whence he was graduated at the head of his
class in 1852. He then entered Harvard
University, whence he was graduated with
honor, class of 1855. This was one of Har-
vard's famous classes, and to win honors
from such men was no easy task. The
class included many whose names are now
enrolled high on the roll of fame : — Rev.
Phillips Brooks, General Francis C. Bar-
low, Professor Alexander Agassiz, Theo-
dore Lyman, Professor James K. Hosmer,
Robert Treat Paine, Franklin B. Sanborn,
and others.

After grarluation he returned to Phila-
delphia and began the study of law under
the preceptorship of George W'. Biddle. and
also attended lectures at the law school of



the University of Pennsylvania. On No-
vember 10, 1857, he was admitted to the
bar of Philadelphia county, began practice
in that city, and so impressed his ability
upon the bar that in 1859 he was made
assistant city solicitor under Charles E.
Lex, serving until 1862. In that year his
term expired and he resumed private prac-
tice. In 1868 he won additional fame as
counsel in the celebrated election cases of
that year. In 1871 he was elected Judge
of the District Court, succeeding George M.
Stroud, and from that time until his retire-
ment in 1910 was continuously upon the
bench. When the present constitution of
the State was adopted, he was transferred
to the Court of Common Pleas No. 2, and
at the election of 1881 he was unanimously
elected judge of that court. In May, 1888,
he had so impressed his individuality and
his fitness upon the people of Pennsylvania
that he was nominated by the Republican
State Convention for Justice of the Su-
preme Court. At the November election he
was elected by a large majority, the city of
Philadelphia registering their appreciation
of an upright judge by giving a majority
of thousand votes greater than they gave the
presidential ticket. He assumed his place
upon the supreme bench, January 7, 1889.
He served his full term of twenty-one years,
the decisions handed down in that time ren-
dering his name famous in the annals of
jurisprudence. In 1902 he received the full
reward of his great merit by succeeding to
the highest judicial office in the State —
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, assum-
ing office in 1903. The cases decided and
the decisions rendered have been numerous
and exceedingly weighty. One of his first
in the Court of Common Pleas was <;iven in
the case of the Philadelphia Library, in
which for the first time a construction was
placed upon the new constitution regarding
the exemption of public institutions from
taxation. His decision won approval from
tie legal fraternity for its soundness. The
Pennsylvania reports teem with his deci-

sions and they form an important part of
the law of the State.

Besides his judicial labor, Judge Mitchell
has added a great deal to the literature of
the law. From 1862 to 1887 he was editor
in chief of "The American Law Register,"
the oldest and most widely circulated law
journal in the United States. He was also
one of the founders of the "Weekly Notes
of Cases" in 1874, and continued chief re-
porter for his own court until 1889. He
also revised and edited many important
legal manuals, and outside of the law con-
tributed nearly two thousand quotations to
the great Oxford Dictionary, these being
nearly all examples from the early Ameri-
can law reports. He was also one of the
commission engaged in printing the statutes-
at-large of Pennsylvania, from the founda-
tion of the colony down to the year 1800.
He is also the author of the standard law
books, "Mitchell on Motions and Rules,"
and the sterling works: "History of the
District Court;" "Fidelity to Court and
Client;" "Plints on Practice in Appeals,"
and "John Marshall," an historical address.

He is a member of several professional
societies; is an overseer of Harvard Uni-
versity, and served for many years (since
1905) as provost of the Law Academy of
Philadelphia and is now in that position ; and
member of the Philosophical Society. His
distinguished ancestry, paternal and mater-
nal, gains his membership in the following
patriotic societies : The Military Order of
the Loyal Legion; the Sons of the Revolu-
tion ; and honorary membership in the
Order of the Cincinnati. Judge Mitchell
has taken deep interest in historical study
and is president of the Council of the His-
torical Society of Pennsylvania. This has
extended to the collection of historical en-
gravings, his being one of the finest col-
lections of engraved portraits in the L^nited
States. Judge Mitchell has never married.
He is a man of most engaging manner, and
possesses those qualities of mind and heart
that have made for him a multitude of loyal



CI, ^6( f^iJIL-^



friends. He is a devotee of club life, and
spends much of his time at the Rittetihouse
and University clubs of Philadelphia. At
the present time Judge Mitchell is prothon-
otary of the Supreme Court of Pennsylva-
nia, having been appointed to that office in

This record of a life well spent in the full
publicity of a public career, reveals Judge
Mitchell as a type of highest citizenship — a
jurist of impeachable character, deep learn-
ing and eminent fairness, his record forms
one of the brightest pages of the legal his-
tory of this commonwealth. His intel-
lectual gifts have been combined with great
legal attainments and his decisions, ever
characterized by profound knowledge, sound
reasoning and an all pervading common

BYERS, Alexander McBurney,

Ironmaster, Man of Affairs.

Pittsburgh, in this Age or Iron, is the seat
of an empire more substantial than that of
Greece or Rome, and Titans in very truth
were the men who laid deep and strong its
mighty foundations. Masterful and impres-
sive figures were these sires of the present-
day autocracies, and none among them, seen
through the gathering mists of the fast-
receding years, looms larger or more com-
manding than does the late Alexander Mc-
Burney Byers, head of the celebrated firm
of A. M. Byers & Company, iron manu-
facturers, and for more than half a century
one of the makers of the history of the Iron

Alexander McBurney Byers was born
September 6, 1827, at Greenfield, Mercer
county. Pennsylvania, and was one of the
ten children of Daniel Cannon and Maria
(McBurney) Byers. The boy received his
education in the public schools of the neigh-
borhood, meanwhile assisting his father in
the labors of the farm. Very early in life
he entered upon his long and memorable
connection with the iron industry by asso-

ciating himself with the Henry Clay Fur-
nace Company, an organization which oper-
ated one of the oldest blast furnaces in
Pennsylvania. When only sixteen years of
age Mr. Byers was intrusted with the super-
intendency of a blast furnace, thus enjoying,
perhaps, greater advantages for gaining a
thorough knowledge of the manufacture of
pig-iron from the raw material than furnace
men of the present day possess. At that
primitive period in the iron industry fur-
nace companies west of the mountains dug
their ores from the surrounding hills, usually
having to strip from fifteen to twenty feet
of earth for a ten or twelve-inch vein of
ore, which would yield only twenty-five to
thirty-five per cent, of iron in a blast fur-
nace. They chopped their own wood, made
their own charcoal for the smelting of the
ore and mined the coal which was subse-
quently used in the furnace. Noteworthy,
indeed, is the fact that the furnace of which
Mr. Byers was the youthful superintendent
was the first west of the mountains to prac-
tically demonstrate the successful use of
raw bituminous coal for the smelting of the
ores in blast furnaces, without first coking
it. Moreover, it is recorded in the annals
of the iron industry that at this same fur-
nace, in 1848 to 1849, the first Lake Supe-
rior iron ores were smelted, under the super-
vision of Alexander McBurney Byers.
Thus early did the future iron magnate be-
gin to gather his laurels.

In 1854 Mr. Byers went to Cleveland,
Ohio, to assume charge of the iron interests
of the firm of Spang & Company, and
three years later came to Pittsburgh as the
representative of that house. In 1858 he
became a partner in the firm of Spang,
Chalfant & Company, manufacturers of
iron in all its branches. In the spring of
1864, when the partnership expired by limi-
tation, Mr. Byers disposed of his interests
to his partners, and the same year founded
the house of Graff, Byers & Company,
erecting a puddle mill, rolling mill and a mill
for the manufacture of wrought iron pipe



on the south bank of the Monongahela river,
being the only firm but one in the United
States to manufacture their own iron for
the production of wrought iron tubes. In
1870 the style of the firm was changed to
Byers, McCullough & Company, and in
1886 became A. M. Byers & Company,
under which title it was incorporated in
September, 1893, with a capital stock of half
a million dollars. As originally established
in 1854, this enterprise was a modest one,
but from the very outset it was successful,
as, indeed, it was destined to be, having for
its leader a man of the type of Mr. Byers.
The firm at once made a place for its wares
in competition with the output of rival con-
cerns, and from time to time increased the
capacity of its mills, the plant now covering
several acres on the line of the Pittsburgh
and Lake Erie Railroad, from Sixth street
to Bingham street. Also the largest puddle
mill in America at Girard, Ohio. The mills
now give employment to twenty-five hun-
dred men, and have an annual capacity of
96,000 tons of wrought iron water, gas,
steam and oil-well pipe.

In 1870 Mr. Byers became the sole owner
and operator of an extensive furnace, pud-
dle and rolling mills at Girard, Ohio. He
was one of the organizers of the Philadel-
phia Company, and was one of its board of
directors and its largest individual stock-
holder until the company was purchased by
Alexander Brown & Sons, of Baltimore.
One of his associates in the establishment
of this company was George Westinghouse,
with whom he was later allied in other and
greater enterprises. Mr. Byers had been a
director in the Westinghouse Air Brake
Company, the Westinghouse Electric Man-
ufacturing Company, and the Union Switch
& Signal Company. He was president of
the Union Bridge Company, and in differ-
ent ways fostered many other manufactures,
the number of which it would be impossible
to enumerate. He did not ally himself with
the National Tube Company at its inception,
but conducted the business of A. M. Byers

& Company. As a business man, it may
without exaggeration be asserted that Mr.
Byers was in many respects a model. The
goal of his ambition was success, but he
would succeed only on the basis of truth
and honor. Duplicity and false represen-
tations he would not palliate, either in his
own service or among his customers or cor-
respondents, and no amount of gain could
lure him from the undeviating line of recti-
tude. The justice and kindliness which
ever marked his dealings with his employes
were beyond all praise and secured for him
their loyal service and hearty cooperation.

Not only was Mr. Byers for many years
prominently identified with the manufac-
turing interests of Pittsburgh, and with the
commercial element in her business life, but
he was also a leader in the realm of finance,
holding the office of president of the Iron
City National Bank. He was a director
in the Merchants' and Manufacturers' In-
surance Company, the American Surety
Company, and many other concerns. As a
citizen with exalted ideas of good govern-
ment and civic virtue he stood in the front '
rank, ever ready to lend his influence and
support to any project which, in his judg-
ment, tended to further the best interests of
Pittsburgh. Widely but unostentatiously
charitable, the full extent of his good deeds
was known only to the beneficiaries. He
affiliated with the Republican party.

In his countenance Mr. Byers plainly de-
picted all the tremendous energy and in-
domitable resolution so strikingly mani-
fested throughout his career. His finely-cut
features and keen, searching eyes indicated
at once the thinker and the man of action,
while the kindliness of his expression and
the geniality of his manner showed that he
combined the qualities of a leader in the
arena of business with those of a philan-
thropist — that he possessed those beautiful
elements of character which win and hold

Mr. Byers married, December 22, 1864,
at Allegheny, Pennsylvania, Martha, daugh-



ter of Cockran and Sarah Fleming, of Pitts-
burgh, and the following children were born
to them: Maude, wife of J. Denniston
Lyon ; Alexander McBurney, deceased ;
Dallas Cannon, also deceased; Eben M.,
president and director A. M. Byers Com-
pany, director Bank of Pittsburgh National
Association, director Bessemer Coke Com-
pany ; and J. Frederick, vice-president and
director A. M. Byers Company, director
Union National Bank, director Hay Walker
Brick Company, vice-president and director
Girard Iron Company, member Board of
Managers Allegheny General Hospital.
J. Frederick Byers married, December 6,
1905, at Ardmore, Pennsylvania, Caroline
Mitchell, daughter of E. B. Morris, of
Philadelphia, and has children : Alexander
McBurney III., and John Frederick, Jr.

Mrs. Byers, a thoughtful, clever woman
of culture and character, was endeared to
all who knew her by the beauty and sweet-
ness of her nature no less than by her per-
sonal charm. Her husband ever found in
her an ideal helpmate and his happiest
hours were passed in the sanctuary of his
home. Mr. Byers was a man of notable
social gifts and an effective conversation-

Online LibraryJohn W. (John Woolf) JordanEncyclopedia of Pennsylvania biography : illustrated (Volume 3) → online text (page 11 of 58)