Edward Sullivain Golden


EDWARD SULLIVAIN GOLDEN, for thirty years one of the eminent practitioners at the bar of Armstrong county, made a name which for years was an honor to the legal profession all over western Pennsylvania. A resident of Kittanning from boyhood, his live interest in the welfare of the borough made him one of its most public-spirited citizens, and though he held no public office except that of school director he was active in the promotion of every good movement.

Mr. Golden was a: native of Indiana, Indiana Co., Pa., born Sept. 22, 1830, son of John and Eleanor (O'Sullivan) Golden, the father an Englishman, the mother of Irish birth. John Golden was a soldier in the war of 1812. He moved with his family to Kittanning about 1840. Although Edward Golden obtained a place of foremost distinction among the most intellectual men of his day it was not because of any advantages of birth or early education. As his parents were in moderate circumstances he had only such schooling as the boroughs of Indiana and Kittanning then afforded, and after leaving school worked industriously to obtain the start his ambitious nature desired, How earnestly he persevered even in his youth may be gathered from the fact that be gained admission to the bar of Armstrong county in 1849, before be reached his majority. His studies were carried on in the office of the late Judge Joseph Buffington, and the promise of his student days was more than fulfilled in the successes of his long career at the Armstrong county bar. The memorial of the Court of Quarter Sessions of Armstrong County, December Sessions, 1890, says: "From the time he tried his first case he took high rank as a lawyer, showed an aptitude for his work and a love for his profession. . . . No member of our bar has ever gained a wider reputation than did Mr. Golden. He was known solely as a lawyer and as a lawyer his success was in the trial of causes. . . . For nearly twenty years he was on one or the other side of almost every case on trial and his services were eagerly sought on all sides not only in our own county but throughout this section of the State." Few lawyers of this bar have given evidence of such natural fitness for the legal profession. His marvelous gifts of memory enabled him to put to actual use the learning he absorbed, so that he had more resources than most lawyers when it came to digging out law applicable to the work in hand. His clear mind and faculty for analyzing cases allowed him to master the facts readily and judge their importance; and his fluency of speech, a command of language effective., sufficient, concise., with no unnecessary verbiage to obscure the ideas he wished to convey, enabled him to present them to the best advantage. At the height of his practice the development of the oil industry in this section brought up many legal questions of entirely different character than had ever been dealt with here previously, and as the fate of much valuable property and the rights of many different people hinged on arguments hitherto untried and depended on decisions which were awaited with eagerness, is precedents, it was natural a lawyer of Mr. Golden's standing was called into an unusual number of important cases. It is a fact that "many of the principles which are now settled and have become a part of the law of the State have become so by reason of his clear reasoning and untiring energy in the preparation of his causes." Thus his work has the permanent value it deserves. Mr. Golden was zealously devoted to his profession. No details were ever so exacting, nothing apparently so trivial, that he found an excuse to neglect anything. He covered every possibility of a case and met emergencies before they arose. To the research and mental labor necessary in preparing his cases for trial was added the actual physical work of writing and rewriting his briefs, and there is no doubt that the mental and physical strain, continued through years of unrelenting application to his profession, contrived to bring about the physical decline which made it necessary for him, to relinquish all his activities for about ten years before his death.

Orr Buffington, a leading attorney of Kittanning, writes of Mr. Golden: "Edward Sullivan Golden was one of the most prominent lawyers of western Pennsylvania. He and Jackson Boggs and John Gilpin were leaders and rivals, and were always found joined or opposed to each other in every important case. Mr. Golden was remarkable for his fertility of resource, alertness of mind, his general knowledge of law, and for his combativeness; no embarrassment in the trial of a case, however distressing, would find him unready to extricate his client from the difficulty. Defeated at one point, he had the skill to turn the attention of the court and the jury to some other feature of the case, and thus snatch victory from defeat. He had the happy faculty of recognizing the vital points of his case and throwing the emphasis where it would do the most good. These three men and others of less prominence of this bar worked not only in the daytime but long into the night. Their practice covered the period of the exploitation of oil in the northern end of the county; litigation was, very extensive in consequence and, many legal principles were read into the law through their labors. Before the days of the stenographer they were obliged to do most of the writing of contracts and briefs - the practice of law at that period was made difficult by the many technicalities since swept away in the preparation and trial of cases. From 1870 until 1890 the legal business of this county was at its height and these three practitioners with others gave this bar an unusual prominence for one of the smaller counties."

Mr. Golden had been admitted to practice in all the courts, his work taking him to Pittsburgh and other large cities of the State. One of the most noted cases in which he appeared was that of Dougherty against the Commonwealth, a famous murder trial of 1871, an account of which, is given in 69 Pennsylvania State Reports, page 286. The case was appealed, taken to the Supreme court, and when the verdict was reversed was again tried in Armstrong county, and the prisoner acquitted. Another famous case was that of Karns et al. vs. Tanner, given in 66 Pennsylvania Reports, page 297, and in 74 Pennsylvania Reports, page 339.

Some time after his admission to the bar Mr. Golden entered into partnership with H. N. Lee, and the firm of Lee and Golden lasted until Mr. Lee's retirement in 1855. His next association was with J. Alexander Fulton, and they practiced, under the name: of, Golden and Fulton until 1862, When Mr. Fulton gave up practice and moved to the State of Delaware. Then he became a partner of Hon. J. B. Neale, as Golden and Neale, Mr. Neale retiring, from the firm in 1871 to make a visit to Europe. At that time W. D. Patton was a student in the office, and after his, admission to the bar began practice with Mr. Golden, as Golden and Patton, this partnership lasting until 1879. It was a severe trial for Mr. Golden when his physical breakdown obliged him to give up all work, his health being enfeebled ten years before his death, which occurred in Kittanning Oct. 4, 1890. But his interest in the law and court matters never waned, and he continued to visit the office of his son Lee after he ceased to attend court, and kept track of proceedings through his friends. Lawyers had great respect for his mastery of legal principles, and his memory of decided cases was so accurate almost to the last that he was of ten consulted as an authority. Though he was not strong enough physically for practice his mind remained clear until his last illness, from nervous prostration. Though all of his work was in the line of his profession, Mr. Golden did not limit his reading and study to legal literature, his well chosen and much used library showing how wide was the range of his interest.

Outside of his practice Mr. Golden was active in church work- and in the matter of public education, and in spite of his busy life he served faithfully as a member of the school board of Kittanning for many years. Its affairs had the benefit of his best thought, and he was influential in obtaining adequate housing and all the necessary facilities which he felt should be extended to the young to give them a proper start in life. With strong sympathies toward all in sorrow or want, he was always ready to extend a helping hand to the deserving, and aided worthy charities by his influence and means. Mr. Golden was a prominent member of the Episcopal Church at Kittanning, and was a regular attendant at its services, and served many years as vestryman. Fraternally he was a thirty-second-degree Mason. For several years he was chairman of the county committee of the Democratic party, was once his party's candidate for county judge, and was at one time mentioned for judge of the Supreme court.

Mr. Golden married Sarah Gates, and to this marriage were born the following children: Horatio Lee; William, who is deceased; Gertrude, wife of George G. Titzell, cashier of the Farmers' National Bank of Kittanning; Charles H.; Edward S.; Edith, deceased, wife of Arthur Jones; Percy G.; Herbert L., deceased; and Walter W. and Harry C., twins. The sons Horatio Lee and Harry C. Golden, both now practicing lawyers in Kittanning, are worthy successors of their distinguished father.

This biography may be fittingly closed with the sympathetic and appreciative tribute of St. Paul's Episcopal Church:

The Rector, wardens and vestry of St. Paul's Church desire to extend to our dear friend and her children their heartfelt sympathy in the trouble that has come to their home in the death of husband and father and our long-time associate, Edward S. Golden, which occurred on Saturday evening, October 4th, 1890.

In so doing they deem it fitting to note some things in the life of their late associate which it will be a pleasure to his family to read and of which they desire to preserve some memorial in the archives of this Parish.

The story of his life has been fittingly told by others in the public prints after his death, and is known to all. The report books of this State for the last forty years are a standing witness to his distinguished position at the bar, to his marked ability, his deep knowledge and to his varied and extensive work in his chosen profession. Without the aid of wealth, influence or early educational advantages, he hewed out for himself a place in the front ranks of his professional associates and maintained his position among men of strong intellect and unquestioned ability. His capacity for doing work was unbounded; he seemed to know no such thing as fatigue, and his industry and close application made him a wonder to those about him. To these he added a naturally quick and bright mind, a marvelously retentive memory, unflinching, boldness and courage in the advocacy of his cause, and with all these his success at the bar was pronounced from the first

Those who came to him with a story of trouble or need he was always ready to assist, and this readiness to aid was so well known that his kindness was often abused.

He was an ardent friend of education and all that concerned our public schools. His own hard struggles in that' line when a young man made him especially ready to extend a helping hand to the ambitious and deserving young men and women who were trying to get an education. There are many living today who can attest the material help he thus extended. His interest in the subject was well evidenced by his long connection with our public schools; for years he was a member of the board and in the busiest days of an engrossing practice he gave to them his time and interest. In their management be was progressive and fully abreast with the spirit of the times. It was largely owing to his influence and to this progressive spirit that years ago the then very advanced step was taken of purchasing the present site for our school and erecting the large building which, was afterwards burned.

In this Parish he was deeply interested and concerned for upwards of forty years. In his younger days he was a teacher in the Sunday school and afterwards for years its superintendent. He encouraged the young to attend by his advice and the force of his example, and for years never failed to be present at its sessions, although doubtless often worn out by the exacting work of his unusually busy life. In the affairs of the Parish he took an active interest, giving freely of his means, his time and his hearty co-operation in all its work and filling for years a position as member of the vestry. In him the rector always found a cheering and sympathizing supporter, and, while others might falter or complain, he was always ready to encourage and sustain. His home was open to them and theirs and to him they could look for cordial and hearty support and co-operation.

His was in every sense of the word a busy life; the amount of work he did was simply enormous. His extensive practice and the responsibility and care carried for years would have broken down most men far earlier than it did him - but his will power and endurance kept him up long after many another would have sunk under the load. Gradually, however, an overtaxed body had to give way, and to him who hardly knew what the words vacation and rest meant, came a long and enforced period of inactivity. Who can tell how sore a trial it must have been for this busy worker to feel be could work no more? At times, almost constantly, he was subject to the severest physical pains; but all these, his suffering, his enforced idleness, he bore in an uncomplaining spirit, never growing restive under it but with a meekness and patience which betokened that the discipline of pain and sorrow was working out its chastening mission. To those who are left and will miss him, to his life companion who will instinctively turn to seek him- in the places that once knew him and know him no more, we extend our earnest sympathy, feeling sure that in their sorrow they will not be left alone, but that He who visits "the fatherless and widow in their affliction" will be to them what He has always been to those who seek Him, "A very present help in time of trouble."

St. Paul's Rectory, 27th October, 1890.

Source: Pages 432-434, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Vaughn Davis 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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