COURTS AND BAR
FIRST COURT HELD IN FOREST COUNTY, 1857 - PROCEEDINGS FROM 1857 TO 1860 FIRST COURT HELD AT TIONESTA, 1867 - ADMISSIONS TO THE BAR FROM 1857 TO 1889 - FOREST BAR ASSOCIATION - IMPORTANT CIVIL AND CRIMMINAL CASES - DESPERADOES.
THE first court of Forest county was held at the school-house, Marienville, on the third Monday in December, 1857, Judge John S. McCalmont presiding, with Cyrus Blood and Milton Courtright, associate judges. W. P. Jenks, Lorenzo D. Rogers and B. F. Lucas were admitted to the bar, Thomas B. Mays was appointed crier, and William Walton, tipstaff. On December 21 the rules of the Jefferson county court were adopted, and court adjourned until February, 1858. Tavern licenses were granted to William Shields, Rachel Murray and C.M. Robinson, and later to Peter G. Reed. Very few transactions were recorded in 1859, but in May, 1860, commissioners Andrew Cook, Thomas Porter and A. L. Seigworth were enjoined against executing the contract of December 22, 1858, with B. Dobbs and J. M:. Lyle for the erection of county buildings outside the town of Marienville.
The first session of court held at Tionesta was opened February 25, 1867, by Judge James Campbell with W. R. Coon and John G. Brandon, associate judges. A number of the attorneys named in the following list were admitted at this term.
The lawyers admitted to the bar of Forest county, from December, 1857, to May, 1889, are named as follows:
William P. Jenks, L. D. Rogers, B. F. Lucas, Dec., 1857; A. A. McKnight, Feb., 1858; John Conrad, May, 1858; E. A. Brooke, Sept., 1858; Richard Arthurs, C. Heydrick, F. B. Guthrie, J. R. Clark, May, 1859; B. J. Reid, Sept., 1859; W. W. Wise, Dec., 1860; W. W. Barr, Jan., 1861; C. L. Lamberton, Jackson Hodges, May, 1861; A. L. Gordon, James Craig, Sept., 18th; George W. Andrews, Dec., 1861; Isaac G. Gordon, George A. Jenks, Amos Myers, May, 1862; William H. Fetzer, May, 1863; George W. Lathy, David Lansing, Sept., 1863; William L. Corbett, May, 1865; J. H. Patrick, Dec., 1865; Charles Dinsmore, W. E. Lathy, Sept., 1866; J. R. Mechling, Sam. D. Irwin, O. E. Taylor, A. B. McCalmont, William McNair, W. V. Perrine, William G. Grange, H. C. Johns, Isaac Ash, Arch. Blakeley, John Dailey, E. L. Keenan, J. D. McJunkin, Feb., 1867; F. D. Kinnear, J. D. Hancock, A. W. Barry, Darius Titus, Sam. Plumer, J. B. McAllister, S. B. Myers, J. W. Osborn, Hugh O. Graham, William J. Galbraith, R. Brown, May, 1867; S. O. T. Dodd, John L. McCalmont, W. W. Mason, S. P. McCalmont, T. C. Spencer, Joseph Shippen, Roger Sherman, T. S. Zuver, J. K. Hallock, J. A. Neill, C. W. Stone, O. O. Trantum, James M. Bredin, Sept., 1867; J. G. Elliott, J. H. Osmer, H. B. Plummer, Dec., 1867; J. S. Myers, O. W. Gilfinnan, William R. Dickenson, Samuel T. Neil, May, 1868; Miles W. Tate, J. W. White, Sept., 1868; Nelson B. Smiley, G. B. McCalmont, J. W. Lee, David Barclay, May, 1869; John M. Thompson, F. D. Reeves, Julius Byers, Isaac Myer, S. N. Pettis, Laurie J. Blakeley, Sept., 1869; Henry Souther, William D. Brown, G. M. Osgoodby, Dec., 1869; B. S. McAllister, L. D. Wetmore, May, 1870; G. S. Berry, A. B. Kelly (student), July, 1870; James Boggs. G. W. Allen, Daniel D. Fassett, W. P. Mercelliott, Sept., 1870; M. C. Beebe, Feb., 1871; DeWitt C. McCoy, James B. Knox, May, 1871; George F. Chester, July 1871; Theo. S. Wilson, Sept., 1871; E. H. Clark, Dec., 1871; A. S. Moore, Manly Crosby, May, 1872; R. G. Lamberton, George F. Davenport, H. E. Brown, George T. Latimer (student), Dec., 1872; John P. Parks, Feb., 1873; H. A. Miller, Charles H. Noyes, May, 1873; A. B. Richmond, David Sterritt, James H. Bowman, R. Mackwood, Dec., 1873; C. O. Bowman, Harry White, L. S. Morton, May, 1874; William H. James, A. W. Covell, Sept., 1874; J. B. Agnew, J. A. Stranahan, E. L. Davis, Dec., 1874; Charles Corbett, Feb., 1875; S. P. Brigham, Henry McSweeny, May, 1876; S. A. Craig, Thomas A. Morrison, P. M. Clark (student), Dec., 1876; Samuel Grumbine, James Q. Sweeny (student), Sept., 1877; William A. Hindman, James A. Beaver, Feb., 1878; William Schnur, W. W. Wilbur, May, 1878; T. J. Van Giesen, Samuel Miner, Dec., 1878; D. J. Ball, Sept., 1879; S. W. Calvin, Dec., 1879; W. M. Lindsay, Feb., 1880; Joshua Douglass, Mark J. Heywang, May, 1880; J. D. James, M. A. K. Weidner, Joseph Buffington, L. R. Freeman, T. F. Ritchey, Sept., 1880; B. W. Lacy, Oct., 1880; F. P. Ray, May, 1881; George A. Rathbun, June, 1881 ; John B. McKissock, May, 1882; A. S. Davenport, Sept., 1882; A. C. Bowers, Feb., 1883; W. G. Trunkey, H. N. Snyder, May, 1883; George A. Sturgeon, P. M. Clark, Sept., 1883; George W. Higgins, Dec., 1883; R. D. Campbell, May, 1884; H. W. Fisher, June, 1885; C. W. Benedict, M. C. Benedict, Sept., 1885; C. M. Shawkey, Feb., 1888; W. H. Ross, Sept., 1888; W. E. Rice, Dec., 1888; M. F. Elliott, George F. Roberts, F. J. Moffatt, John S. Ferguson, May, 1889.
C. McKay Agnew, son of J. B. Agnew, was admitted to practice in the several courts of Forest county at the February term of 1890, on motion of S. D. Irwin, president of the board of examiners. Mr. Agnew passed a very creditable examination.
In November, 1884, the Forest Bar Association was organized with S D. Irwin, president, and P. M. Clark, secretary. E. L. Davis, J. B. Agnew, M. W. Tate, T. F. Ritchey, Samuel Calvin, T. J. Van Giesen, and the officers named were then the resident attorneys of the county.
Many important civil suits have been begun before the Forest county courts, such as the suits in re title to oil territory, and some heavy criminal cases tried here. Matthew Turner was murdered by William Barnhart, in Howe township, in September, 1871. He was tried at the December term of court, before Judge Wetmore, adjudged insane, and sent to the asylum, to be held there during his insanity, at the expense of Forest county. He entertained a hatred against red-haired men and women, and even after imprisonment tried to kill a red-haired guard. Turner served in the Civil war, under another name ..., J. A. Mexly was shot and killed by Ed. S. Walton, outside Reyner's store, at Marienville, February 9, 1886. He was tried for this crime in May of that year, and sentenced by Judge Brown to $200 fine, the costs of prosecution, and two years and four months solitary confinement in the penitentiary, at labor. M. W. Tate, J. B. Agnew, Richmond and District Attorney Clark represented the State; E. L. Davis and Osmer defending the prisoner . .... Mrs. Jane Gilfinnan and Mrs. Jemima Everhart were murdered in sight of Lickingville, in March, 1886, but fortunately the deed was not perpetrated within the boundaries of this county.
In November, 1884, the curtain dropped on the last scene of the celebrated Ford and Lacy case. The case was completely closed, deeds delivered, papers exchanged by the contending parties, and the money paid. After over five years of war, during which over $50,000 of the $250,000 at stake were spent in litigation, a treaty of peace was consummated. The case has an interesting history, which is dotted with many points peculiar in their nature. The case first came into prominence in the middle of May, 1883, when Judge Brown of Forest county, who had appointed S. V. Davis receiver, made an order, which virtually placed the management of the estate in dispute in the hands of Samuel Lewis, the receiver appointed by the Allegheny county court. On June 8, 1883, Judge Brown reversed that order, and thus brought the two county courts into conflict. The fact that both receivers had full sway over the vast amount of property involved resulted in bringing them in contact with each other and complicating matters very much.
On June 15, 1883, Samuel Lewis filed a petition asking that an attachment be issued against Davis for contempt. The petitioner stated that his appointment had been sustained by the supreme court, but that by some legal proceedings in Forest county, Davis and several defendants had entered into a collusion to keep him from performing his duties as receiver. An answer was filed by the opposing counsel, but on June 22 Judge Stowe ordered the issue of an attachment against Davis. The question then arose whether, since Forest county had endorsed and complied with the Allegheny county court in appointing Davis, the sheriff or his deputies could not have prevented him from serving the attachment. A strategic movement was then planned. The writ was placed in the hands of Detectives Harrison and Snyder, who after lounging about Warren for a couple of weeks, seized Davis at the depot one evening, and rushed him off on a train. Davis' friends got a writ of habeas corpus from Judge Brown, and started in pursuit on a special train. The news had been telegraphed ahead to Kane, and when the two officers arrived there they were attacked by a mob, and their prisoner taken from them. A deputy from Forest county afterward came to Pittsburgh to arrest the officers for the attempted abduction, but only succeeded in arresting Snyder, Harrison escaping by jumping out of the window of the mayor's office. Snyder was soon after released.
A few months before the final settlement, the parties to the suit, seeing that the litigation would be endless, petitioned the common pleas court of Allegheny county to issue an order allowing a settlement by amicable agreement. The order was allowed, the settlement was made, and, as stated, all was completed. The sum paid by the Lacy party, in consideration of the deeds and papers involved was $75,000.
In September, 1889, was begun the trial of Aquilla Mong and his son "Sic" for complicity in the noted Wagner burglary, which occurred in Tionesta township about three years ago. During the fight that ensued, in which the Wagner boys successfully vanquished the burglars, McClary, one of the attacking parties, was killed. Thomas Haggerty and Sheldon Wilson were tried, convicted and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment. These prisoners were brought from the western penitentiary on a writ of habeas corpus to testify against their confederates. The story of the participants of the inception, attempt and failure of this heinous felony was eagerly listened to. So great was the desire to see and hear, that the crowd pressed forward into the bar of the court. According to the evidence of these convicted men, Aquilla Mong, the father, planned the burglary, and the son"Sic" assisted in the actual attempt. It was the latter that held old Mrs. Wagner with a pistol pressed against her head out in the yard during the fracas. The Mongs denied all complicity in the matter; declared they had never seen either Haggerty or Wilson in their lives, and set up the defense of an alibi. The jury, however, brought in a verdict of guilty against both defendants. The father was sentenced to eight years and the son to ten years imprisonment.
George W. Lacy, of the lumber firm of Lacy Brothers, was shot by a boy named Charles W. Hewitt in October, 1889. The wound proved fatal. Hewitt was tried for the murder of Lacy in December, 1889, found guilty and sentenced by Judge Brown to a ten years term in the penitentiary. The State was represented by District Attorney Clark; Agnew and Davis, of Tionesta; Ritchey, of Oil City; John W. Reed, of Clarion, and A. B. Richmond, of Meadville. Messrs. Bible and Osmer defended the prisoner.
A gang of desperadoes came under the rule of Sheriff Sawyer recently, and more recently, still, escaped from that rule; but his energy caused the return of most of the alleged criminals to Tionesta, there to await trial. In Chapter II, and in other parts of this work, references are made to pioneer litigants, pugilists, and others who became familiar with the rules of court in the old counties.
Source: Page(s) 862-867, History of Counties of McKean, Elk and Forest, Pennsylvania.
Chicago, J.H. Beers & Co., 1890.
Transcribed November 2005 by Nathan Zipfel for the Forest County Genealogy Project
Published 2005 by the Forest County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project"
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