Aldrich History Project

Chapter LII

Honorable Joseph Benson McEnally

McENALLY, HON. JOSEPH BENSON, was born in Lycoming county, this State, on the 25th day of January, in the year 1825. Of the children born to Rev. Peter and Margaret (Bloodhart) McEnally, he was the youngest, and the only one that survived the years of childhood. His father was a traveling minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was twice pastor of the church of that denomination in Clearfield; first in 1831, and again during the years 1848-9.

Following that which seems to have been an established precedent among those who, at that time, aspired to professional life, our subject, after having acquired an elementary education, became a teacher, and, as such, taught school at various places, among them Philadelphia, the vicinity of Baltimore, Md., and Curwensville, in this county. He underwent a preparatory course at Carlisle, after which he entered Dickinson College at that place for the regular classical course, and from which he graduated in the month of June, of the year 1845. During his years of study, however, Mr. McEnally had in mind an intention of becoming a member of the legal fraternity, and to this end devoted his leisure time to the examination of such works as would best school his mind for that profession; and still later he registered as a law student in the office of Alexander (afterward President Judge) Jordon, at Sunbury. In the year 1849 he was admitted to the bar of Northumberland county. He entered upon the practice of his profession at Tamaqua, Schuylkill county, where he remained about one year, after which he came to Clearfield and was admitted to practice at the bar of this county. After a short time he was appointed deputy attorney-general of the county, succeeding in the incumbency of that office Clinton Welch, esq., and was in turn succeeded by Joseph S. France, esq. He applied himself diligently to the labors of his profession, and at once assumed, and to this present time has maintained a distinguished position among its ablest members. In the conduct of his legal business he is methodical, cautious, laborious. It is his policy to discountenance, rather than to promote litigation, and in his intercourse with clients, mature deliberation always precedes counsel. Before the jury, he addresses the understanding of his hearers instead of appealing to their passions, and approaches the subject in hand with dignity, self-possession, and in the light of principle and common sense.

Naturally enough, a man possessed of these characteristics, and possessing, moreover, the respect, confidence and esteem of his fellow-men, could not well avoid being drawn somewhat into the arena of politics. Having, in the course of his extensive practice, become familiar with the law bearing on all such cases as might arise within the jurisdiction of the courts of the district, he was, on the 2d day of July, 1868. appointed by Governor John W. Geary to the office of president judge of the Twenty-fifth Judicial District, in place of Judge Linn, resigned. The district then comprised the counties of Clearfield, Centre and Clinton. Although his incumbency of the office was of brief duration, it was, however, characterized by that fairness, candor, earnestness, and entire impartiality, together with a thorough knowledge of law principles, and of the rules of evidence as well, that have ever marked the man. So pleasant, indeed, were the relations that existed between Judge McEnally and the laymen of the legal profession, that, upon the occasion of his retirement from the bench, he was the recipient of a most gratifying testimonial of appreciation and regard from members of the Centre county bar, the largest and strongest of the district. At the earnest solicitation of friends, members of the profession and others, Judge McEnally became the candidate of the Republican party for election to the office that he had held by appointment, against Charles A. Mayer, the Democratic nominee. The latter was elected, there being a majority in the district so great that even the personal and professional popularity of Judge McEnally could not overcome it. After leaving the bench our subject resumed the practice of his profession at Clearfield. In the year 1872 he formed a law partnership with Daniel W. McCurdy, a former student in his office. Upon the occasion of the formation of Clearfield county into a separate judicial district, Judge McEnally was made the candidate of his party for the office of president judge, but being so engrossed with the care and importance of his business, absolutely declined the nomination.

As may be seen from this, Judge McEnally has been no office-seeker, but, on the contrary, a man whose elevated tone rendered him the reverse of all that constitutes that character. However gratifying might have been the confidence of his fellow-citizens, so often expressed in his behalf, the offices he has held, and the nominations he has received, always came entirely unsolicited. Upon all the political issues of his time he entertains clear and well-settled convictions, and is frank and open in the expression of them. His sentiments, too, are emphatically conservative--naturally inclined to adhere to the established order of things, and not easily drawn into the advocacy of any of the isms of the day. The principles he has maintained and advocated are not in accordance with those of the dominant party of the county; nevertheless, a man of his mark could not well avoid being occasionally pressed into the political arena, when personal influence and popularity, it was hoped, might turn the scale of doubtful contest.

In the year 1852 Joseph B. McEnally united in marriage with Amelia, daughter of Abram K. Wright, an old and respected resident of this county. Of this marriage one child, a son, has been born.

In affairs pertaining to religion, Mr. McEnally takes a deep interest in the progress and welfare of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to the maintenance and support of which society he generously contributes of his means.


Source: Pages 696-697, History of Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., Publishers, 1887.
Transcribed August 1999 by Richard L. McKee for the Clearfield County Aldrich Project
Contributed for use by the Clearfield County Genealogy Project (

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