JAMES S. MOORHEAD, of Greensburg, is the son of James and Jane Elizabeth (Sharpe) Moorhead, of Indiana, Pennsylvania. His ancestors were among the first settlers of the present county of Indiana, his great-grandfather having been captured by the Indians about 1760, and taken to Quebec, where he was exchanged for French prisoners captured by English soldiers and colonists. His maternal ancestors were related to the Sharps in the Cumberland valley of Pennsylvania.
James S. Moorhead was born November , 1847, and was educated at Elder's Ridge Academy, and at Washington and Jefferson College, from which last institution he was graduated in 1868. He read law with the firm of Steward & Clark, of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Mr. Clark was his cousin and afterward became a justice of the supreme court of Pennsylvania. He was admitted to the bar in Indiana in 1870, and on June 7 of the same year was admitted to the Westmoreland bar and has since been steadily engaged in the practice of the law. Like most thorough lawyers, he has never turned aside from his chosen profession to seek political preferment, unless it be once in 1895 when he was a candidate on the Democratic state ticket for judge of the superior court of Pennsylvania. Even this place was in the line of his profession, and whilst he was defeated, the state going strongly Republican that year, his friends had the consolation of knowing that had he been elected he would have brought to the bench a mind eminently qualified for that high position. He has, however, served as a school director for twelve years, and the high standing of the Greensburg schools is in no small measure due to the interest he manifested in this line of work. He is a lawyer equally strong either before a court or jury, or in giving the counsel essential to the conduct of large businesses enterprises. He has tried a number of homicide cases, but his work has principally been in the more lucrative practice in the civil courts below and the supreme court of Pennsylvania. Particularly has he tried many cases in the new branch of litigation which has come before the courts of the state in the last twenty years growing out of the oil and gas and coal industries.
In the case of the Westmoreland and Cambria Natural Gas Company vs. DeWitt, it al. (130 Pa. State 235), Mr. Moorhead's contention that a lease for the purpose of drilling for oil or gas is in the nature of an easement with respect to the surface for the purpose of entry, examination and drilling operations and that the real subject of possession by the lessee is the oil or gas obtained in the land, was denied by the lower court, but was sustained by the supreme court of Pennsylvania. Of equal or possible of greater importance from a judicial point of view are the cases of Milligan vs. Dick, 107 Pa. State 259; Gumbert's Appeal, 110 Pa. State 496; Cunningham's Estate, 106 Pa. State 536; ruling cases, in all of which Mr. Moorhead was the leading counsel, which may be examined by the student or practicing lawyer to advantage. Many others may be cited, but we deem these sufficient for this brief review. His address in memory of the late Chief Justice Mercur (Pa. State Rep. 116, p. XXV) is an illustration of his style of English.
Whether his language be spoken or written, whether it b in the form of a public address or an argument before a court of a jury, it is always characterized by a finish which is far superior to that of the average lawyer. In every forum he advocates his cause with the honesty of a philosopher, the precision of a scholar, and with a dignity becoming the announcement of a judicial mandate. There are probably members of the bar in our large cities who surpass him in the lines to which they have devoted their special attention, but we doubt whether, in the varied attainments of an all-around practitioner, he has a superior either on the bench or in the bar of Pennsylvania. Mr. Moorhead, aside from his professional work, has found more time than most lawyers to read history, poetry and the higher grade of fiction. It is not infrequent that his addresses are adorned by classic references evoked from the ideal world by the genius of a poet or the novelist. He is yet in the vigor of his manhood and we trust has many years of useful work before him.
Source Pages 48 & 49 History of Westmoreland County, Volume II, Pennsylvania by John N. Boucher. New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1906
Transcribed August 11, 1999 by Marilynn Wienke for the Westmoreland County History Project
Contributed for use by the Westmoreland County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/westmoreland/)
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