ROBERT JAY KARNS, for many years a prominent and respected citizen of Perry township, Armstrong Co., Pa., was born at Erie, Pa., in April, 1838, son of Robert and Jane (Perry) Karns.

            Robert Karns and his wife were both born near Belfast, Ireland, he in 1814, and she in 1808, and they were married in 1834.  In the same year they sailed for the United States, taking passage on the ship �Eagle,� in which they spent three long months before landing on the American coast.  They settled first near Erie, Pa., where they purchased a farm on which they resided for eight years, and then moved to Allegheny City, this State.  Robert Karns bought property there and went into business as a building contractor, continuing thus until 1851, when he exchanged his city real estate for 170 acres of land in Perry township, Armstrong county, part of which his son, Robert Jay Karns, later owned and occupied.  On this farm Robert Karns resided until the close of his life, his death occurring Dec. 17, 1893, at the age of seventy-nine years; his wife passed away April 13, 1881, when aged seventy-three years.  They were lifelong members of the U. P. Church.  They had three sons:  Alexander P. (now deceased), David B. and Robert Jay.

            Robert Jay Karns was reared at Erie and Allegheny City and enjoyed excellent educational advantages.  From the public schools of Allegheny City and Pittsburgh he entered Glade Run Academy, near Dayton, Pa., in which institution he completed the classical course.  He then turned his attention to educational work and for forty years was a teacher and during the earlier years studied law.  While he never applied to be admitted to the bar, for forty years he did an extensive legal business, for twenty years being a justice of the peace, and enjoys the distinction of having settled up more estates than any other man in Armstrong county.

            On May 2, 1861, Mr. Karns was married to Margaret R. Whitehill, a daughter of Austin and Mary Ann (Orr) Whitehill, and a great-granddaughter of Judge Robert Orr.  Robert Orr equipped a company at his own expense and served as its captain in the Patriot army during the Revolutionary war.  Later he was appointed as the first associate judge of Armstrong county and served in that capacity for thirty-four years.  One of his sons, Gen. Robert Orr, served in the war of 1812 and as a member of Congress from the Armstrong district.

             Mr. and Mrs. Karns had two sons, both living in Venango county, Va. (sic):  John R., who is a telegraph operator with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company; and William H., who is chief division operator, low grade division, of the Allegheny Valley railroad and between Kiskiminetas Junction and Olean, N. Y.  Mrs. Karns died Jan. 21, 1914, aged seventy-four years, three months, after being an invalid for some years, and Mr. Karns has broken up his home in Armstrong county.  In politics he has always been a Republican, and as a man of education and high personal character he has been elected to almost every office in the gift of Perry township.  Formerly both he and his wife were members of the Presbyterian Church of Brady�s Bend, in which he served many years as an elder, but later they joined the Presbyterian Church at East Brady.  Mr. Karns took a deep interest in Sunday school at Hillsville, Armstrong Co., Pa., for twenty years conducting it as superintendent.

Source: Page 878, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed May 2002 by James R. Hindman for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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