Orr Buffington


ORR BUFFINGTON, attorney at law, of Kittanning, Armstrong county, senior member of the firm of Buffington and Gilpin, belongs to an old family which dates its coming to Pennsylvania back to provincial days, and three generations have been represented among the most creditable members of the Armstrong county bar. Mr. Buffington was born April 29, 1858, at Kittanning, son of Ephraim and Margaret C. (Orr) Buffington.

The early members of the Buffington family in this country were members of the Society of Friends. They left England several years before Penn�s arrival in America, and in 1677, five years before that event, we find a Richard Buffington listed among the taxables at Upland, Chester Co., Pa. This Richard Buffington was born at Great Marle, upon the Thames, in Buckinghamshire, England, about 1654. He was the father of the first child of English descent born in the Province of Pennsylvania. From Hazard�s Annals, page 468, as well as from the Pennsylvania Gazette, June 28 to July 5, 1739, we learn that "on the 30th of May past" the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Richard Buffington, Sr., to the number of 115 met at his home in Chester county, as also his nine sons and daughters-in-law, and twelve great-grandchildren-in-law. The old man was then said to be aged about eighty-five.

Thomas Buffington, second son of Richard Buffington mentioned above, was born about 1680, and died in December, 1739. He married Ruth Cope, and left among other children a son William, who according to Rupp�s history of Lancaster county, Pa. (page 112), was first married to Lena Ferree. By his second wife, Alice (whose maiden name is unknown), he had a son Jonathan.

Jonathan Buffington, son of William and Alice, was born in 1736, and died Oct. 18, 1801. He owned and operated a flour mill at North Brook, near the site of the battle of Brandywine, and at the time of that battle (September, 1777) the British troops took possession of the mill and compelled the non-combatant Friend to furnish food for them. He married Ann Clayton, who was born in 1739, daughter of Edward and Ann Clayton, and died June 16, 1811.

Ephraim Buffington, third child of Jonathan and Ann (Clayton), was born March 23, 1767, and died Dec. 30, 1832. He kept a hotel at Westchester, Pa., well known in its day as the "White Hall" tavern. Leaving Chester county about 1813 he moved west over the mountains, settling at Pine Creek, on the Allegheny river, about five miles above Pittsburgh. On March 4, 1790, he had married Rebecca Francis, at the old Swedes Church at Wilmington, Del. Among their sons were Joseph and John.

John Buffington, son of Ephraim and Rebecca (Francis), was born about 1799, and died March 31, 1832. He married Hannah Allison.

Ephraim Buffington, son of John and Hannah (Allison) was born Aug. 8, 1821, at Pine Creek, near Pittsburgh. He received an excellent education attending Allegheny College, at Meadville, Pa., and Jefferson College, at Canonsburg, and read law with his uncle, Judge Joseph Buffington. He was admitted to the bar in Armstrong county and practiced the profession for several years, being located in Kittanning. He then retired from professional work to devote his time to land interests which required his undivided attention, having coal and oil property; he was quite extensively engaged in the oil business for some time. During the Civil War he served as a provost marshal and he was afterward connected with the internal revenue service for several years, being deputy collector for Armstrong county. In politics he was a stanch Republican from the organization of the party. He attended the Protestant Episcopal Church.

On Jan. 21, 1845, Mr. Buffington married Margaret C. Orr, daughter of Chambers Orr, of South Bend, Armstrong county, Pa., former sheriff of Armstrong county. Six children were born to this union: Catherine, wife of D. W. Martin; Warren; Hannah; Frances, who graduated from Vassar College and was a successful teacher, one of the most competent in the Kittanning schools, a young woman whose many accomplishments and admirable traits made her untimely death widely mourned in the community; Joseph, who is a judge of the United States Circuit court at Pittsburgh; and Orr. The father of this family died in 1892.

Orr Buffington, son of Ephraim and Margaret C. (Orr), received his preparatory education in private schools in his native town and later attended Trinity College, at Hartord, Conn., from which he was graduated in 1879. He carried on his law studies under the direction of Hon. James B. Neale and his elder brother, Joseph Buffington, and after his admission to the bar of Armstrong county, in the year 1881, entered into partnership with that brother for practice. His brother moved to Pittsburgh in 1892, and since 1903 he has been associated in professional work with Oliver W. Gilpin. His legal career has been one of hard work and continued success and he has maintained the high standing attaching to the Buffington name in legal circles. He has, howerver found time for active participation in the borough government, having given able service as burgess and as member of the school board; his interest in the question of public education has always been strong, and he has done his share in forwarding the cause in his home community.

In 1882 Mr. Buffington married Charlotte M. Hyde (now deceased), daughter of S. T. Hyde, a prominent lawyer of New York City, and they had a family of four children: Morgan, who resides in Pittsburgh; Margaret, wife of Jefferson R. Leason, an attorney of Kittanning; Sydney (deceased); and Kenneth now attending Amherst College.

Judge Joseph Buffington, for many years a judge of the Tenth district of Pennsylvania, one whose life work had an intimate connection with the history of Armstrong county, was born Nov. 27, 1803, at the famous "White Hall" tavern at Westchester, Pa., then conducted by his father, Ephraim Buffington. There he lived until his tenth year, when his father settled at Pine Creek, a few miles from Pittsburgh. At the age of eighteen he entered the Western University at Pittsburgh, then under the charge of Dr. Bruce and the venerable Dr. Joseph Stockton. After finishing his classical studies he went to Butler, Pa., and for some time before he took up the study of law edited a weekly paper called the Butler Repository and also in company with Samuel A. Purviance (later attorney general of the Commonwealth), carried on a small grocery store. He soon entered as a student at law in the office of Gen. William Ayers, a celebrated lawyer of Pennsylvania, under whose training he laid a thorough foundation for his professional work. In July 1826, he was admitted to the bar in Butler county, and to practice in the Supreme court Sept. 10, 1828. He remained at Butler for about one year thereafter, thence removing to Kittanning, Armstrong co., Pa., where he passed the remainder of his life, dying in that borough Feb. 3, 1872. During the early part of his professional career he had to contend with many hardships, but his ability and application brought him to the front, and within a few years, he found himself in possession of a large practice, which afforded him a comfortable income. He was constantly in attendance upon the courts of Clarion, Jefferson, Indiana and Armstrong counties, and was connected with all the important land trails of the region. When the array of legal talent in those days in the section indicated is recalled, it will be seen that to practice successfully in that territory required more than ordinary ability, Mr. Buffington�s fellow practitioners, including such eminent lawyers as Thomas Blair, William F. Johnston (later governor), H. U. Lee, Darwin Phelps, of Armstrong county, Hon. Samuel A. Gilmore, Hon. Charles C. Sullivan, Samuel A. Purviance, Gen. J. N. Purviance, Hon. Thomas White, Daniel stanard, William Banks, of Indiana county, Hon. Henry D. Foster, Edgar A. Cowan, of Westmoreland county, and Thomas Sutton, of Clarion county.

From early manhood Judge Buffington took a strong interest in politics. At the inception of the Antimasonic party, in 1831, he became one of its members, and served as a delegate to the National convention held in Baltimore in 1832, when William Wirt was nominated for the presidency. During this period he was several times nominated for State senator or member of the House, but was defeated, his party being largely in the minority. In 1840 he became a Whig taking an active part in the election of General Harrison and serving as one of the presidential electors on the whig ticket. In the fall of 1843, as the whig candidate in the district composed of Armstrong, Butler, Clearfield and Indiana counties, he was elected a member of Congress, and in 1844, he was again nominated in the same district. During his service in the House he voted with the whigs on all important issues, voting against the admission of Texas on the ground of opposition to the extension of slavery. His friend Hon. W. F. Johnston, having been elected governor, appointed Mr. Buffington in 1849 to the position of president judge of the Eighteenth Judicial district, composed of Clarion, Elk, Jefferson and Venango counties. He served in this incumbency until 1851, when he was defeated in the judicial election by Hon. John C. Knox, the district being largely Democratic. In 1852, at the Whig State convention, he was nominated for a judgeship in the Supreme court, but defeated in the ensuing election by Chief Justice Woodward of Luzerne county. The same year he was appointed by President Fillmore chief justice of the Territory of Utah, then just organized. However he declined this honor. In 1855 he was appointed by Governor Pollock judge of the Tenth district of Pennsylvania, and in the fall of 1856 he was elected to fill that position, to which he had been appointed for a term of ten years. He continued to serve until 1866, when was elected for another term of ten years. In 1871 his failing health admonished him that his judicial labors, too great for any one man to perform, were much too severe for one who had passed the meridian of life, and he retired to private life after forty-six years of public service, principally in connection with the bench and bar. As a lawyer and judge he will long be remembered as revered by the Armstrong county bar. As a citizen he was public-spirited, and gave liberally toward every undertaking calculated to benefit the community. He was for many years an active member of the Episcopal Church.

Judge Buffington married Catherine Mechling, daughter of Hon. Jacob Mechling, of Butler county. Their only child, Mary, died in infancy.

According to Arthur�s Etymological Dictionary of Family Names, Orr is derived from a river and town in Scotland. Or in Welsh and Gaelic signifies a border, a boundary.

Source: Page(s) PAGES 324-332, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed May 1998 by Sue Brosnahan 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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