John Funk Nulton


JOHN FUNK NULTON, best known as Judge Nulton, was born Oct. 16, 1809, in Bedford county, Pa., and died May 11, 1878. The family has been settled at Kittanning, Armstrong county, for three quarters of a century. He was a son of Michael and Sarah Ann (Funk) Nulton, both of whom were of German ancestry. Nulton appears to be one form of the name Knowlton or Nolton, the Knowltons being a prominent family in eastern Massachusetts, where they have been settled since early Colonial days. Judge Knowlton, of Boston, was of this family, as also Postmaster Knowlton, of Hyde Park, Mass., near Boston, who spoke to Mr. Daniel L. Nulton, son of Judge John F. Nulton, about the matter some years ago, and showed him the Knowlton family history and genealogy, in which Judge Nulton's name was included.

MICHAEL NULTON, a native of Bedford county, Pa., there married Sarah Ann Funk, and they came to Armstrong county among the pioneers, settling on land which later became the John McPherson farm, three or four miles from Kittanning, near the pike east of the town. Mr. Nulton died when about fifty years old. He and his wife had five children who grew to maturity: John Funk; Mary, who married William Matthews, a saddler, of Pittsburgh, and had a family of seven children, town sons and five daughters; Harriet, who married Jacob Stone (he died when twenty-five years old) and had two sons, James and George, both of whom married and had children; Sarah, who married James Johnson, of Beaver, Pa., a cabinetmaker; and George, who married Phoebe Brown (he built the Nulton house, the ruins of which are still standing, in Valley township, Armstrong county).

Mrs. Sarah Ann (Funk) Nulton, the mother of this family, and paternal grand-mother of Mrs. Wright, of Kittanning, was a most remarkable woman. Born in Virginia Sept. 14, 1774, she lived to the age of 107 years, dying Dec. 31, 1881, and had the distinction of attaining a greater age than any other resident of Armstrong county. Mrs. Nulton was of German descent, and German was the language she read and wrote. She was born in the same county and vicinity where George Washington resided, and related that the General often rode by her father's home when she was a little girl, before the family removed to Philadelphia. Thence they soon afterward moved to Bedford county, Pa., when she was a child. (There was a George Funk on the first grand jury in Bedford county, and among the tavernkeepers recommended at the April term, 1771, was a George Funk. Bedford county was taken from Cumberland county by act of Legislature passed March 9, 1771. The George Funk mentioned might have been the father or grandfather of Mrs. Sarah Ann (Funk) Nulton.) Mrs. Nulton grew to womanhood in Bedford county, and there she was married to Michael Nulton, a native of that county.

Mrs. Nulton was a lifelong Lutheran, a member of St. John's Church, at Kittanning, until her death. A woman of calm and well balanced mind, she was always even-tempered and pleasant, never disturbed or excited and greatly deserved the reputation she enjoyed as a possessor of a "lovely disposition." Her nobility of character and Christian solicitude all around her made her universally loved and respected, and she was almost worshipped by her relatives, young and old, all of whom found great pleasure in their visits to "grandmother." She was an excellent needlewoman and housekeeper, and receiving second sight when nearly one hundred years old continued to do her work until almost the end of her days. She left sixty-five beautifully made quilts to be distributed among her descendants: grand children, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren. Her faculties were excellent until the last, and her death was due to an accident. She slept in a rather high bed and had always been rising without assistance. Two weeks before she died the bedclothing slipped over her hand when she was bracing herself by the rail of the bed, getting up, and she fell on her left hip, breaking the hipbone. Though she retained her calmness and did not complain (except for moaning in her sleep) it was that she gradually grew weaker, and she slipped away in her sleep, without a struggle. It is said she was never known to say an ill word about anyone, and it is certain that all who knew her considered it a privilege and an experience to look back upon with gratitude.

John Funk Nulton for some years in his early life resided in Greensburg, Westmoreland Co., Pa., where he learned the trade of _______maker, which, however, he never followed as an occupation. For two years he studied medicine in Greensburg. He was the first of the Nulton family to come to Kittanning visiting the place with Govenor Johnson with whom he was acquainted, and he became one of its prominent citizens, both as a business man and as an official. He was a con_______, and after settling here did considerable _______building accomplished in his day, also engaging in the hotel business, in which he became very successful. For a while he engaged in the bakery business. His first venture as hotelkeeper was in a stone building on a lot on the corner of Water and Jacob streets, now the site of the residence of Miss Amanda Colwell, and there his only daughter, Charlotte H., now the widow of William J. Wright, of Kittanning, was born. Later he moved to Jefferson street, where he long conducted the "Hotel Nulton, " one of the most prosperous of its time. From there he moved to Market street, near the courthouse, where he passed the remainder of his life. For many years he was prominent in official circles, being county treasurer twice, the first time by appointment from the county commissioners (according to the old custom) and afterward elected (as provided by the act of May 27, 1841) for two years. He was associate judge, being elected for two terms of five years each. Politically he was a stanch Democrat, and fraternally he was a Mason, having originally joined at Greensburg. During the period of the Civil war he was a strong supporter of the Union, and showed many kindnesses to the widows and orphans of the soldiers. A man of fine mind and high character, he not only commanded the respect of those who knew him but had their affectionate regard, being a general favorite. In religious connection he was an Episcopalian, and he gave liberal support to the church.

Mr. Nulton was married Oct. 15, 1833, by Rev. William HILTON, Episcopal clergyman at Kittanning, to Margaret Rebecca LEMMON, who was born Nov. 14, 1814, in East Franklin township, Armstrong Co., Pa., daughter of Col. Daniel and Charlotte (HANNEGAN) LEMMON, and died March 4, 1904. She was a life-long member of the Episcopal Church. They became the parents of six children: Barclay; McConnell; Charlotte H., Mrs. William J. WRIGHT; James L., who died when five years old; John F., Jr., who died when two years old; and Daniel L., who lives at Freeport, Armstrong county (he married Laura GALBRAITH), daughter of Rev. William GALBRAITH).

BARCLAY NULTON, late of Kittanning, where he had been engaged in the practice of law from the time of the Civil war until his recent death, was one of the most prominent citizens of that borough for many years. He was born on Jefferson street, Jan. 8, 1835. Mr. Nulton was practically self-educated. When a mere boy he worked in the brickyard during the day, studying evenings and reciting three times a week to Rev. Mr. BARRETT. For some time he was engaged in work on a private road from Kittanning over the hill back of the courthouse to the residence of Alexander CALDWELL, receiving twenty-five cents a day. Until he was a young man he remained with his father. He had always determined to continue his education until he was fitted to enter professional life, but he was undecided for some time whether to enter the field of medicine or law. He finally chose the latter, and became a student in the office of Judge Joseph BUFFINGTON and Robert W. SMITH, of Kittanning. after his admission to the bar, in 1858, he commenced practice in Wirt county, Va. (now W. Va.), where he remained until the breaking out of the Civil war, at that time returning to Kittanning. He raised a company of troops which he tendered to Gov. A. CURTIN, the "war governor" of Pennsylvania, but as there was no money available to transport them the organization was abandoned, and the same fate befell his efforts to raise a company of cavalry also tendered to Governor CURTIN. He then turned all his attention to his law practice, to which he devoted the greater part of his time and energies from that time until his sudden death, May 11, 1912. He kept the old LEMMON estate in Valley township, and his management of the farm work and the shipping of fine horses from Kentucky gave him welcome diversion from the arduous work of his profession. Mr. Nulton never was particularly active in public affairs and never cared for office. He was a Democrat in his political preferences. On Jan. 2, 1864, Mr. Nulton married Sophia REILLY, the ceremony being performed at St. John's Episcopal Church, Camden, N. J., by her brother, Rev. Theophilus Maxwell REILLY. Mrs. Nulton was born in Ireland Dec. 11, 1839, and came to the United States with her father, her aunt and her four brothers, Theophilus Maxwell, William Maxwell, Rev. Edward Maxwell and Marshall M., tow of whom were Episcopal clergymen. The REILLYS had three Episcopalian schools, the Burlington Military College at Burlington, N. J., St. John's Military College at Haddonfield, N. J., and St. Agnes Young Ladies' Academy, also at Haddonfield. The eldest brother, Rev. Theophilus M. REILLY, never married. He was the business manager for these institutions, and became quite wealthy. Rev. Edward Maxwell REILLY, now of Haddonfield, N. J., was the other clergyman of the family.

Mrs. Nulton died May 15, 1873, leaving two children: (1) Edward Maxwell, born in Kittanning, Dec. 1, 1865, attended common school there, and also was a student at St. John's Military College of Haddonfield, N. J. He was engaged as manager of the Sunnyside stock farm, three miles east of Kittanning, for twelve years, until he went to Toledo, Ohio, as assistant superintendent of the Woolson Spice Company. He held that position until July, 1910, when his father requested him to come home to look after his affairs, his health having failed him. After the father's death Edward M. Nulton was appointed administrator of the estate. He had been twice married, and by the first union had four children, namely: Barclay, who is learning the machinist's trade at Toledo, Ohio; Maud, wife of William WAUGHMAN, who is engaged in the mild business and farming in Rayburn township, Armstrong Co., Pa.; Margaret, who died in infancy; and Frank, at home with his father. On May 18, 1910, Mr. Nulton married (second) at Toledo, Ohio, Miss Louise B. PASKERT, Rev. J. C. TOLMORE, of St. Anthony's Presbyterian Church, Windsor, Canada, performing the ceremony. Mrs. Nulton was born at Toledo, May 25, 1884, daughter of George and Katherine (TERBILLE) PASKERT. Mr. and Mrs. Nulton are members of the Episcopal Church at Kittanning. (2) William M., born in Kittanning, June 16, 1869, now lives in Pittsburgh and is engaged in the plumbing business there.

On Oct. 3, 1876, Barclay Nulton married for his second wife Adelaide REED, of Rayburn township, Armstrong county who was born May 31, 1857, in Philadelphia, Pa., daughter of George REED, a master machinist, and was raised in the family of George and Rebecca RADCLIFF, in Doylestown, Bucks Co., Pa. There were no children by this marriage. Mrs. Nulton died April 27, 1893. She was an artist of more than ordinary gifts, and there are many beautiful specimens of her work in the Nulton home.

"To appreciate Barclay Nulton at his true worth one had to know him intimately. It was my privilege so to know him. He was a student of human nature and no man at the bar was a better judge of men than he. In important cases he watched the court proceedings closely, whether engaged in the case or not, and then examined the law carefully for himself. He was a student of the books. Night after night his light was burning at two o'clock. He never complained of being busy, yet was always at work. Few lawyers were better posted in the fundamental principles of the law or looked up the law applying to the case more carefully than did he. He belonged to the old school. He was incapable of dishonesty and despised trickery and unfair dealing. He was a dangerous opponent in a case. He was an original character and had a style of his own.

"He believed in the brotherhood of men and carried his belief into action. His hand was ever open to the poor and needy and he was the helper of the poor in a practical way. He despised jingling theories and professions that died at the threshold of active practicability.

"In literature he was an omnivorous student. He read the best writings on all the questions of the day---even attempted to understand electricity, but frankly admitted his failure and was anxious to find some one who did understand it. He studied the masters in both prose and poetry, but would not stand for anything that was not clean.

"He was a lover of the beautiful in nature, art and literature. He was of an artistic and poetic temperament. Under a seemingly rough exterior were the chords of a character which only intimate friends and associates were permitted to see. He was strongly social and a firm friend. "In religion he accepted the Bible unqualified by either dogma or exegesis. To him it was the word of God and he wanted no distorting or twisting of its declarations or teachings."----W.L. Peart.

Source: Pages 554-547, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Nancy Cain Knepper for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (

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