Jackson Boggs

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HON. JACKSON BOGGS, who at the time of his death was serving as President Judge of Armstrong county, was born April 7, 1818, in Plum township, Allegheny Co., Pa., near Pittsburgh. He was a son of David Boggs, and grandson of Thomas Boggs, Sr.

The Boggs family is Scotch-Irish. The great-grandfather of Judge Boggs at an early day left Scotland and in 1722 settled in the town of Glassdrummond, Ireland. Thomas Boggs, Sr., left Ireland in 1805, and coming to America settled in western Pennsylvania, near Brighton, in Beaver county, where he died. He married Elizabeth Chambers, and their union was blessed with six sons and two daughters, viz: William, Thomas, Elizabeth, John, Ann, James, David, and Robert.

David Boggs, father of Judge Boggs, was born in Ireland in 1783, and came in 1799 to western Pennsylvania, settling in what is now Plum township, Allegheny county. He was one of the pioneers of that section, where he purchased two tracts of woodland near the site of Murraysville and cleared out fine farms on them. In 1849 he sold his farms and removed to Apollo, Pa., where he died Nov. 3, 1856, in the seventy-fourth year of his age. He was a Jeffersonian Democrat, and served for thirty years as a justice of the peace in Allegheny county. In his early days he united with the Presbyterian church, of which he continued to be a most earnest and useful member. In 1806 he married Mary McKee, daughter of Squire McKee, of Murraysville, and they were permitted to enjoy fifty years of wedded life. They had nine sons and four daughters, of whom we have the following record: Thomas, born in November 1806; Eliza G., born in May 1809, who married David McKee, a farmer of the Tuscarora valley; Fanny M., born in September, 1811, wife of Jacob Freetly, a prominent lawyer of Apollo; John born in July, 1813, who married Ann Boggs, daughter of William Boggs and a native of Ireland; Ann; Janie G., born on October 1815, who married Samuel Beatty, a farmer of Allegheny county; Jackson, mentioned below; Robert, who died in infancy; James, born in September, 1822, who married Margaret A. Bailey, and was a lawyer in Clarion county, Pa.; David C., former register and recorder of Armstrong county; a twin brother of David that died in infancy; and Lavina, born in September 1830, who married Henry Townsend, of South Bend, Armstrong county. Squire McKee, of near Murraysville, was one of the earliest settlers in western Pennsylvania, living there in perilous times, surrounded by savage Indians. For years he always had his rifle near him, and he buried his valuables for safe keeping.

Jackson Boggs was brought up in Plum township, where his father was an old resident, and he continued to own his father�s farm there until his death. In 1839, when twenty-one years old, he came to Kittanning, and engaged in school teaching in East Franklin township. In 1840 he commenced to teach school in Kittanning, and there in 1841, took up the study of law under Darwin Phelps, Esq., later a member of Congress. He also read with Judge Joseph Buffington, then of the Armstrong district, being admitted to the bar in 1843. Soon afterward he formed a professional partnership with the late J.R. Calhoun, then a member of the Legislature, and he continued to be actively engaged in general practice until elected judge, attaining in time a position among the foremost attorneys of western Pennsylvania. Upon the adoption of the new constitution, Armstrong county was made a separate judicial district, having been detached from the jurisdiction of Judge Moreland, who lived in Westmoreland county, and in the contest following the formation of the new district Mr. Boggs became the Democratic candidate for the judgeship. Up to this time he had always taken an active interest in politics, but had never been a candidate for any office. He was elected by a large majority after one of the most hotly contested campaigns ever carried on in the county, and in January, 1875, entered upon the duties of the office. As president judge he endeavored to discharge his responsibilities conscientiously, regardless of consequences, and his success may best be judged by the statement that in more than four years of his administration he had but two decisions reversed by the Supreme court. In fact, it was almost a hobby of his to be so cautious in his decisions as to insure himself against reversal by that court, and he was exceedingly careful, painstaking and industrious in following the workings of every case which came before him, his exertions sometimes seeming almost superhuman. In the administration of criminal cases he was always lenient and merciful, often surprising the accused and convicted victim with an unexpectedly light sentence. His errors, if any, were in this direction-----always on the side of mercy. As may be inferred, he was remarkably kind and tenderhearted, easily moved by appeals of distress, and the miseries of want and affliction deeply affected his sympathetic nature. Thus he gained so strong a hold upon popular feeling that he came to be regarded as the poor man�s friend, a fact which accounted for his frequent successes with juries, with whom his power as an advocate was conceded.

Judge Boggs was compared to both Jackson and Abraham Lincoln. One writer said of him: "The lately elected Democratic Judge Jackson Boggs was on the bench, and every seat in the room outside the lawyer�s railing was filled. Judge Boggs looks like the pictures of old Jackson; a great high forehead, pointy at each side, hair standing straight up lie bristles. He has unmistakably a fine face, or rather a strong face, one well calculated to impress you as that of a self-reliant man, yet unbending when spoken to and as affordable as ever Lincoln was. He was without doubt a man of great intellectual power and who loved good principle."

As a citizen Judge Boggs was esteemed and respected by all who knew him. His death, which occurred April 19, 1879, was regretted by the entire community. A distinguished member of the Armstrong county bar and of the legal profession in western Pennsylvania, his name was highly honored at a meeting of the bar called for the purpose of making arrangements to attend his funeral, Edward S. Golden, who presided, addressing the members of the bar thus: "I have known Judge Boggs long and well. He was my school teacher in early life, and for many years my fellow member of the bar, and of late the presiding judge of the county. No man ever possessed more energy, industry, or courage. He was true to duty in every relation of live. True as a lawyer, as a judge and citizen, and more true and affectionate as a husband and father. What a lesson is found to us in his death! Especially to me it comes with many sad memories. My contemporaries, Calhoon, Cantwell, Donnelly, Finney, Crawford, and many others are all gone and I am alone as their representative with you, many of you my students and professional children; and upon you I must lean, as the sun of my professional life casts its shadows far in the east. Our lessons of this kind are many. May they show us the importance of forgetting animosities and troubles, and of living better and higher lives."

Agreeable to a request from the members of the family it was resolved that the membership of the bar would attend the funeral in a body with suitable badges of mourning. Hon. J.V. Painter, E. S. Golden, J. E. Brown, F. Mechling, H.N. Lee, J. B. Neale, G.C. Orr, and J. A. McCollough were appointed as pall bearers.

Judge Boggs was prominently mentioned as the Democratic candidate for governor at the Pittsburgh convention. A number of the delegates to that convention were, in fact, instructed for him, among them being the delegates of his own and adjoining counties. He did not make an active canvas for the nomination, however, preferring for the time, at least, to attend to the duties of the office he then filled.

The Judge�s taste for agricultural pursuits, acquired in his early life, never left him, and after residing in Kittanning until 1871 he moved onto his farm in East Franklin township, this county, residing there until his death. It was a matter of pride that he could refer to it as the best conditioned and best cultivated farm in the county.

In 1845 Mr. Boggs married Phoebe J. Mosgrove, daughter, of John Mosgrove, Esq., and sister of the Hon. James Mosgrove. Two daughters are living: Anna Jane, married Nov 4, 1867, to Norwood G. Pinney, and Isabel, now Mrs. Withington Reynolds, residing in Kittanning.

Source: Pages 301-324 Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers, & Co. 1914
Transcribed September 1998 by Donna Sheaffer for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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