Lewis Cass. cn Aldrich.

History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers; (Volume 2) online

. (page 43 of 46)
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In April, 1881, he moved to Clearfield and purchased the elegant residence of Judge
Leonard, on Second street, where he now resides. Upon the death of Mr. Leonard, in
July, 18S2, he was appointed, and at the next annual meeting of the board was duly
elected president of the bank, an office he has ever since most satisfactorily filled, the
present healthful condition of this institution being in a measure due to his sagacity and

In business life his dealings have been characterized by honesty, frankness, and entire
fairness, and no person can well charge to the contrary. As a result of hard work Mr.
Forcey has acquired a handsome fortune, fairly earned in the busy fields of life. For
nearly forty years he has been interested in farming and lumbering enterprises, and now
owns nearly five thousand acres of land in Bradford and Graham townships. • 1

In early life he was brought up under the teachings of the Methodist Episcopal
faith, but since their residence at the county seat both he and his wife have united with
the Presbyterian Church.

COUDRIET, LEON M. The portion of Clearfield county that is embraced within
the township of Covington, was settled between the years 1830 and 1840 by French
colonists, who were induced to locate there by the proprietors of a large tract of land
for which they held warrants. Among the first of these colonists was Francis Coudriet
and his family. Both he and his wife were natives of France. They came to America
in the year 183 1. When at Lebanon, Pa., they stopped for a short time, and there the
subject of this sketch, Leon Mitchell Coudriet, :was born, on the loth day of May,
1831. Soon after this event the 'family came [to Bellefonte, Centre county, where
Francis was, for a time, employed working at the furnace. While so engaged he made
one or two trips to this region, and to the " Keating lands " (such being the name by
which the lands in Covington were styled), and subsequently he made a purchase of
fifty acres, receiving as a bonus, twelve acres additional. Soon after this the family
moved to Clearfield town. From this point the father would walk to his tract, which
was entirely covered with timber, and, with his ax alone, cleared the land sufficient for
the erection of a log house, after which he, with his family, moved to the place. 1

Francis Coudriet was an enterprising, thrifty, honest, and progressive nun. By
hard work and good judgment he acquired a comfortable fortune, and by his mtegrity


704 History of Clearfield County. ! ■; .

and moral worth he gained that which is more to be desired, the respect and confidence
of his fellowmen. The stone used in the erection of St. Mary's Church at Frenchville
was contributed by him, and taken from his land. For a period of eighteen years he
was postmaster at Frenchville.

Leon Mitchell Coudriet, the second of eleven children, sons and daughters of
Francis Coudriet, seems to have possessed much of his father's enterprising spirit, and
to have taken up that father's business upon the death of the latter in 1877, although
Leon commenced his business operations several years earlier. ■ Up to the age of
twenty-three years he worked at home with his father on the farm and in the woods,
and having but little chance for an education. In the year 1S53 he married Gonpiere
Guenot, an orphan girl, who had come to this country with relatives. Of this marriage
twelve children have been born, ten of whom are still living. For a period of nearly a
year after marriage Leon lived with his parents, working at such business in which his
father was engaged, and receiving no money compensation for his service. He then
moved to Girard township and began life for himself In 1866 he opened a store on
Buck Run, which he managed successfully until 1866, when he succeeded to the busi-
ness formeriy managed by Captain P. A. Gaulin, at Mulsonburg, and then moved to that
point. Besides this mercantile business Mr. Coudriet has been, and still is engaged in
extensive lumber operations, and in this direction has acquired a vast amount of real
estate and some of the most desirable timber lands in the county. By his several pur-
, chases his land, in acres, reaches an aggregate of nearly ten thousand, and much of it
is underlaid with valuable coal deposits. Upon the division of his father's estate he be-
came the owner of most of it by purchasing the interests of the other heirs. He is the
owner of the flour and grist-mill at Frenchville ; also has a saw-mill at the same place,
and owns in other places, in whole, or in part, several saw-mills, all of which are in
successful operation. More than this he has, at Middletown, Dauphin county, an
extensive sash, blind and door factory, and saw-mill.

From his vast business interests it will be observed that Leon M. Coudriet is a very-
busy man, and finds but little time to devote to public affairs ; nevertheless, there is no
man in the northern part of the county that takes greater interest in the welfare of the
community, or of his people, than he. His sound judgment and business capacity,
together with a reputation he bears for honesty and integrity, places him in an enviable
position before the people, and has gained for him their unbounded confidence and
respect. Political aspirations, he has none, yet in every campaign his influence is felt in
support of the Democracy. To the building and support of St. Mary's Church he
contributed generously of his means. For about eight years he has been the postmaster
at Frenchville post-office. .

MAHAFFEY, JAMES. The subject of this sketch was born in Bell township, this
county, on the 4th day of November, 1S43. His father was Robert Mahafl^ey, one
of the pioneer and enterprising business men of the " upper country." His mother was
Mary (McGee) Mahattey. daughter of Rev. James McGee, also a pioneer of the same
region. The children of Robert and Mary Mahaffey were three in number, of whom
our subject was the second. His father, Robert, was an extensive lumberman, farmer,
and merchant; and, until he reached the age of twenty-one years, James remained at
home, where, by experience, he acquired a thorough knowledge of all branches of bus-
iness in which his father was engaged.

James Mahaffey. — Dr. Robert V. Wilson.


Having attained his majority, James Mahaffey engaged in the lumber business and
farming, in both of which he has been quite successful. On becoming a resident of
Clearfield borough he disposed of his farm, but has carried on lumber dealing to a
greater or less extent ever since.

On the i8th day of March, 1872, Mr. Mahaffey ■ married Samantha Jane, daughter
of James Thompson, of Curwensville. Of this marriage six children have been born,
six of whom are still living.

T tJ



In 1879 he received the nomination in the Democratic County Convention for the
office of sheriff. He was elected by a good majority, and entered upon the duties of
the office in January, 1880, and in the same year moved to Clearfield borough.

In the fall of the year 1884 he purchased land and commenced the erection of the
Hotel Windsor, a. large and finely appointed building. From that until the present time
he has managed the house, which is known to be one of the best in this section of the
country, and he one of the most popular and accommodating of landlords.

WILSON, Dr. ROBERT V. Fn the year 1850 Robert Van Valzah Wilson, then
just admitted to the medical fraternity, came from Spring Mills, Centre county,
and took up his residence at Curwensville, in this county. Soon after he moved to
Clearfield and commenced the practice of medicine and surgery. Although a young
man, just being passed his twenty-first year, and having but litde acquaintance in this
locality, he possessed certain traits of character as a man, and certain qualifications as a
physician, that soon brought to him a wide circle of friends and an extensive and re-
munerative practice. Dr. Wilson had much acuteness of mind and accuracy of judg-
ment. His independence was remarkable and was not infrequendy exercised in the
maintenance of his personal opinion in the councils of his brethren; yet, he was by no
means self willed or obstinate. It generally proved that he was in the right. His
sincerity was equally remarkable, and in speaking he was wont to express what he
thought rather than that which another might be pleased to believe that he thought.
A man of good natured abilities, and quick of apprehension, lie would often arrive at a
diagnosis of disease by a sort of intuition, and was seldom mistaken in his conclusions;
furthermore, he was a man of sterling integrity and worth, of genial and pleasant dispo-

7o6 History of Clearfield County.

sition, kind of heart, generous and forgiving in his nature, true to his friends, and him-
self, and his family, frank and outspoken in his opinions on all topics of general interest.
These qualities placed him high in the esteem and confidence of his fellowmen, and
gained for him the enviable reputation of being a leading physician, not only of the
county, but of the State as well, a reputation that he maintained to the end of his life,
and upon which there fell no blot. He loved his profession, and by his life and con-
nection with it he honored and adorned it.

Robert Van Valzah Wilson was born at Spring Mills, Centre county, in the month
of October, 1828. He studied medicine with Dr. Robert Van Valzah at Millheim,
Centre county, and afterward attended a course of lectures at the Jefferson Medical
College, and graduated threfrom in 1849. ^^e next year he came to this county. In
the year 1S52 he married Carrie Smith, daughter of Josiah W. Smith, esq., a prominent
member of the Clearfield bar. Of this marriage seven children were born. Dr. Wilson
died, after a long illness, on the 13th day of February, in the year 1878.

No better estimate of his worth and attainments can be produced than by the
obituary sketch written soon after his decease, by his near friend, ex-Governor William
Bigler : " Dr. Wilson ranked with the first men in this section of the State as a man of
talent, intelligence and polite accomplishments. In his profession he had attained to
marked eminence, and was held in the highest esteem by the medical profession, not
only in this locality, but in many parts of the State, and especially by such eminent men
as Drs. Gross and Pancost, of Philadelphia. This high appreciation was manifested
mainly by the frequent calls that were made upon him for his opinion and advice in
cases of rare diflSculty in the line of his profession."

" At the time of his death he was a member of the Geological Commission, created
by an act of the Legislature, to perfect the geological survey of the State."

"The opinion he expressed on any question of medicine, science, morals, or politics,
was strictly his own. Treating the views of others with respect, he followed none. He
was a close reader and thinker, and made out his own conclusions ; and, while he was
not wanting in political ambition, he could not restrain his contempt for the low means
too often resorted to by many to gain political preferment. He made no pretension as
a public speaker, and yet in the school, and other addresses which he occasionally
delivered, he showed a pure taste and liberal reading. In short, he was a man of
clear, keen, intellect, and of very handsome attainments in all departments of life. In
his intercourse among men, his friendships were unfaltering, while his aversions were
exceedingly sturdy ; but, on the whole, his heart was full of generosity and kindness."

No less eulogistic, and no less gratifying to his friends and family were the resolutions
adopted by the medical society upon the occasion of the death of Dr. Wilson, he having
been a member of long standing in that society, and one whose counsels were frequently
called for, and freely given.

MURRAY, THOMAS HOLT, was born in Girard township, this county, on the 5th
day of April, 1845. He was the second of nine children born to Alexander and
Isabella (Holt) Murray. The early life of Thomas was passed with his parents on the
farm, where his time was employed in the summer, and cutting and getting out lumber
during the winter, except a short time spent in the schools of the township.

V.'hen about seventeen years of age he entered Dickinson Seminary, at Williamsport,
intending to remain there one year, and lay the foundation for such an education as

Thomas Holt Murray. 707

would not only enable him to transact ordinary business, but with a fixed determination
to enter professional life. From January 8, 1862, until the time of the completion of the
June examinations of that year, he remained at the seminary prosecuting his studies, but
failing health then compelled his return home, where he lay sick the rest of the summer.
The following fall and winter he found employment in teaching at the Union school in
Covington township. In the spring and summer of the year 1863 he was engaged in
getting out and rafting timber, mainly in Karthaus and Goshen townships. That w inter
he taught the Mulsonburg school, Covington township. The early part of the next year
was spent in the woods and on the river, until the month of May, when he commenced
and thereafter taught a four months term of school at Curwensville ; from this place he
frequently walked, after school hours on Friday night, to the home of his parents in
Girard township, twenty miles distant.

His health being restored, Mr. Murray, in September, 1864, returned to Dickinson
Seminary, and resumed his course of study in that institution. During this time, how-
ever, and in the early part of the year 1865, he registered as a student at law with Gen.
Robert Fleming, of Williamsport, devoting his leisure hours to the study of Blackstone
and such other text works as would train his mind for the legal profession, which he had
then fully determmed to enter. Before fully completing his course at the seminary, and
while thus engaged, he went to Blossburgh, Pa., and for a time engaged in the sale of
books. This venture proved quite successful, and enabled him to acquire sufficient
means to complete his course and leave him a moderate surplus upon his return home.
Furtherrriore, during this same period he taught a three months term of school at
Montoursville, in this State. In June, 1867, he was called back to the seminary to
undergo the regular examinations preceding " commencement day." Having been
entirely successful under this trying ordeal, Mr. Murray graduated from Dickinson
Seminary on the 19th day of June, with the highest honors of his class. The following
winter he taught school in Bradford township.

On the 2qth of May, 1868 (having, however, duly registered nearly a year earlier),
Mr. Murray entered the law office of H. Bucher Swoope, of Clearfield, in order that his
course of legal study might be completed; and nearly a year later. May 24, 1869, after
a public examination in open court, he was admitted and sworn as an attorney of the
courts ; and on the last day of June following, he opened an office in Clearfield for the
general practice of the law. Five years later, at the city of Philadelphia, he was ad-
mitted to the Supreme Court of the State.

Digressing briefly from the narrative of the events of his life down to this time, some
thoughts suggest themselves that faithfully and correctly portray the personal character-
istics of Thomas H. Murray, and are fully evidenced by his subsequent life, and, fur-
thermore, furnish an example worthy of emulation. These thoughts are more aptly
expressed by words and phrases than by sentences — first, honest determination; next,
application ; then, perseverance, and lastly, the result, the successful accomplishment
of that which is undertaken. While any of these elements may be sufficient for the
successful transaction of ordinary business, the whole are, in professional life, sine qua non.

For a period of more than five years Mr. Murray practiced without a partner, but in
September, 1874, he formed a copartnership with Cyrus Gordon, a graduate of the
Pennsylvania State University, and also the Law Department of the University of Mich-
igan, at Ann Arbor. From that until the present time their relation as partners has been
maintained, and it is a conceded fact that this firm is am.ong the leaders of the Clear-
field bar.

7o8 History of Clearfield County.

The fact that Mr. Murray has been successful in the profession, goes without say-
ing. In a major part of the leading cases tried at the bar of the county, he is, on one
side or the other, represented. His practice is general ; but if there is any class of cases
for which he has a preference, it is that usually termed " land cases." In the conduct
of a case he is wholly devoted to the interests of his client ; ever on the alert for
opportunities, but never taking an unfair advantage ; courageous, and at times ag-
gressive, but never carrying personal feeling beyond the doors of the court-room ; pos-
sessed of a good understanding of the law, and not given to a misconstruction of doubt-
ful cases ; strong and in favor with a jury, and scorning all that is mean, and narrow,
and low; but it is as an advocate before the court and jury that he is at his best-
Lawyers who, perhaps, are his superiors in all the niceties of legal lore, and in the train-
ing and polish of the schools, are not infrequently amazed to find their firmest logic
and finest rhetoric of no avail, as against his native power and ability to convince. His
strong personality, combined with an intuitive perception of the hidden springs that
impel men's conduct and thoughts, enable him to seize upon and express just the facts
and illustrations which coincide with the half-formed ideas in the minds of the jury, and
lead them in his favor; to this end the whole language and manner of the man are all
powerful. All this is said of him by his fellow-men and associates at the bar, and more,
that throughout the whole scale of human feelings he makes himself felt with a mastery,
which, in its sweep and intensity, at times is nothing less than the inspiration of power.

While Mr. Murray stands pre-eminent in his chosen profession, yet the scope of his
-abilities and attainments is by no means encompassed by his knowledge of law alone ;
his achievements in the field of literature, both as an essayist and as a lecturer, are no
less prominent and no less worthy, and are only abridged by the arduous duties of pro-
fessional life. His first appearance upon the rostrum was made during the year 187 1,
.at the re-union of the Belle-lettres Union Society, of Dickinson Seminary, of which he
was a member. The subject of that dissertation was " Little Things." Since that time
he has prepared other lectures, prominent among which were '• The Heroism of St.
Paul," and " How-to Grow." These have been delivered in several prominent places
throughout the State, and were invariably received with the greatest favor by those com-
petent to judge, and the press as well. In 18S3 he became connected with the
Pennsylvania Lyceum Bureau, and devotes such time to his literary work as can well
be taken from regular duties.

In the political affairs of the county Mr. Murray has been a no less powerful factor
as the advocate of Republican principles and the champion of Republican rights. His
entry into politics dates as far back as the year i86i, at which time his first political
speech was made. In 1869 his power as a leader was acknowledged, and he was placed
at the head of his party organization in the county, which, during the succeeding eight
years was under his management. During this period, by his advice, the party made a
departure from, regular methods, and succeeded, not only in forcing the opposition into
the nomination of proper candidates, but eventually in capturing to the Republicans
•some of the most desirable county offices, and this in the face of a standing majority of
something like two thousand votes. Upon two occasions, by his counsel and advice,
the party made no county nominations, but joined with the conservative and indepen-
dent Democrats, as against the " machine " candidates, and administered to them a
most severe chastisement, and thus was overthrown what was at the time known as the
■" Court-house ring." He has frequently been a delegate to the State conventions of his

Thomas Holt Murray. — William Biglfr. ■ 709

party, and, in 1876, was elected by the State Convention as delegate to the National
Convention at Cincinnati, where he was an active supporter of Blaine for president.

In October, 1880, Mr. Murray was placed in nomination by the Republican district
convention as a candidate for Congress, from the twentieth congressional district of
Pennsylvania, against Ex-Governor Andrew G. Curtin, the candidate of the Democracy.
Although defeated at the polls, he succeeded in reducing the standing majority of the
district by more than one thousand votes.

Notwithstanding the active and earnest work performed by him in the arena of
politics, Mr. Murray never so engaged willingly, but with the greatest reluctance, as all
such participation ran directly counter to his inclination and taste. But the party .lacked
organization and leadership, duty called him there, and there could he be found until of
late the press of professional business has compelled less active work in that field of

In the cause of temperance Mr. Murray has been an active worker. He has never
consented to act as attorney for an applicant for license, but when connected with such
cases has invariably opposed the application. Brought up under the teachings of the
Methodist Church, while at Williamsport, in 1865, he united with that church. On
returning to Clearfield he became an active and influential member there, and is at
this time President of the Board of Trustees of that society. In June, 1884, he was
made one of the board of directors of Dickinson Seminary.

On the 9th of July, 1872, Thomas H. Murray married Miss Jennie Reighard, of
Williamsport, of which marriage four children have been born.

It is at the fireside, as well as in the office, in the unrestricted flow of familiar con-
versation, when unburdened of overcare and overwork, that his most pleasing traits are
exhibited. His devotion to home and family, his genial character, his well-trained
mind, his literary taste, and his wonderful memory combine to make him one of the
most interesting of companions.

BIGLER, HON. WILLIAM, the subject of this sketch, was one of a class of men
so peculiar to America, who, without the aid of fortune or influential friends, have
risen rapidly to distinction and places of trust. He was peculiarly the architect of his
own fortune, being destitute of means, and having no one of experience to council him
in his youth. He showed' himself an apt student in all he undertook, and he had a part
in nearly all the departments of practical life, as this sketch will show, and that with
remarkable success. One of his strongest characteristics was a clear and forecasting
mind, with a sound judgment which was sustained by much energy, zeal and perse-
verance. He may be rated as having been a wise, rather than a brilliant man. In his
intercourse with his fellowmen he was uniformly gracious, showing tlte nicest sense of
' propriety, and whilst on all public questions he maintained his own views with much
' firmness, he always heard with deference and respect the sentiments of others, and for
this reason, perhaps, as much as any other, he was always considered and adjudged,
even by his opponents, in the midst of heated political campaigns, to be a fair minded

But it was in private conversations and discussions that Mr. Bigler showed to most
advantage, by the display of much persuasive power, and a facility in presentin.c tlie
strong points of his case.

He was bom in Shermansburg, Cumberland county. Pa., in December, 1813. His


7IO History of Clearfield County.

parents, Jacob Bigler and Susan Dock, were of German descent, and were educated
like most of that class known as " Pennsylvania Germans " in the German and English

While the subject of this memoir was quite young his parents removed to Mercer
county, in what proved to be a disastrous attempt to build up their fortunes; for the
elder Bigler had been induced to purchase a large tract of wild land, the title to which
was defective, and in a short time he found himself bereft of everything but a small

Online LibraryLewis Cass. cn AldrichHistory of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers; (Volume 2) → online text (page 43 of 46)