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1780. John Jenkins and Isaac Tripp were the assemblymen at both sessions of 1777; Anderson Dana in the spring, and Asahel Buck in the October session of 1787 John Hurlbut served in the spring sessions of 1779-80 and 1781, and the autumn session of 1780. Jonathan Fitch was a member in the spring sessions of 1780-1 and 1782, and the autumn session of 1782. Obadiah Gore and John Franklin were the members at the spring session of 1781, and the former attended both sessions in 1782.
John Sherman, of Westmoreland, was appointed judge of probate and justice of the peace for Litchfield county, Conn., in 1775.
Up to 1860 this county belonged to a congressional district, which also included Berks, Bucks, Northampton, Northumberland and other counties. The first representative from Luzerne county, David Scott, of Wilkes-Barre, was elected in 1816. He resigned on being appointed president judge. Representatives from the district including Luzerne county have since been chosen as follows:
1818, 1820, George Denison and John Murray; 1820-32, Cox Ellis, George Kreamer, Samuel McKean, Philander Stephens, Lewis Dewart and A. Marr; 1832 (Luzerne and Columbia), 1834, Andrew Beaumont; 1S36, 1838, David Petrekin; 1840, 1842, Benjamin A. Bidlack; 1844, Owen D. Leib; 1846, 1848, Chester Butler; 1850 (Luzerne, Wyoming, Columbia and Montour), 1854, Henry M. Fuller; 1852, Hendrick B. Wright; 1856, John G. Montgomery—died, and was succeeded the next year by Paul Leidy; 1858. 1860, George W. Scranton —died during his second term, and H. B. Wright was chosen at a special election in June, 1861; 1862 (Luzerne and Susquehanna), 1864, Charles Denison; 1868, George W. Woodard; 1872, Lazarus D. Shoemaker; 1876, Winthrop W. Ketcham; 1877, W. H. Stanton; 1878, Hendrick B. Wright; 1880, from Eleventh district. Robert Klotz, and from Twelfth district Joseph A. Scranton; 1882, Eleventh, John B. Storm; Twelfth, Joseph A. Scranton; 1886, Eleventh, Charles B. Buckalew; Twelfth, John Lynch; 1888, Edwin S. Osborn; 1890, George W. Shonk.
Members of the upper house of the legislature have been chosen from the district, including Luzerne county, as follows:
Council: 1787--89, Nathan Denison; 1789 (October 30), 1790, Lord Butler. Senate: 1790 (Luzerne, Northumberland and Huntington), William Montgomery; 1792, William Hepburn; 1794 (Luzerne, Northumberland, Mifflin and Lycoming), George Wilson; 1796 (same district), Samuel Dale; 1798, Samuel McClay; 1800, James Harris; 1801 (Luzerne, Northampton and Wayne), Jonas Hartzell; 1803, Thomas McWhorter; 1805, William Lattimore; 1807, Matthias Gress; 1808 (Luzerne and Northumberland), Nathan Palmer; 1810, James Laird; 1812, William Ross; 1814 (Luzerne, Northumberland, Union, Columbia and Susquehanna), Thomas Murray, Jr.; 1816, Charles Frazer; 1818, Simon Snyder; 1820, Redmond Conyngham; 1824 (Luzerne and Columbia), Robert Moore; 1828-30, Jacob Drumheller; 1832, Uzal Hopkins; 1836 (Luzerne, Monroe, Wayne and Pike), Ebenezer Kingsbury, Jr.; 1839, S. F. Headley; 1841, Luther Kidder; 1844 (Luzerue and Columbia), William S. Ross; 1847, Valentine Best; 1850 (Luzerne, Columbia and Montour), 1853, Charles K. Buckalew; 1856, George P. Steele; 1859 (Luzerne), Winthrop W. Ketcham; 1862, J. B. Stark; 1865. L. D. Shoemaker; 1868, Samuel J. Turner; 1871 (Luzerne, Monroe and Pike), Francis D. Collins, Albert G. Brodhead; 1872, George H. Rowland; 1874. D. H. Stanton, H. B. Payne; 1877, E. C. Wadhams, J. B. Seamans; 1880, Eekley B. Coxe. resigned and again elected in 1881; 1882, W. H. Stanton; 1884, Morgan B. Williams; 1886, M. D. Roche; 1888, William H. Hines.
Members of the lower house of the legislature have been sent from the district, including or consisting of Luzerne county, as follows, the district comprising Luzerne, Bradford and Susquehanna, from 1814 to 1828, inclusive:
John Paul Schott, 1787; Obadiah Gore, 1788-90; Simon Spalding, 1791-2; Ebenezer Bowman, 1793; Benjamin Carpenter, 1794; John Franklin, 1795-6, 1799-1803; Roswell Wells, 1797-8, 1802, 1804-6; Lord Butler, 1801; John Jenkins, 1803; Jonas Ingham, 1804; Nathan Beach, 1805-7; Moses Coolbaugh, 1806; Charles Miner, 1807-8, 1812; Benjamin Dorrance, 1808-10, 1812, 1814, 1819-20, 1830; Thomas Graham, 1809-11; Jonathan Stevens, 1811; Jabez Hyde, Jr., and Joseph Pruner, 1813 (Luzerne and Susquehanna); Putnam Catlin, 1814; Redmond Conyngham, 1815; George Denison, 1815-16, 1827-30; Jonah Brewster, 1816-9; James Reeder, 1817-8; Cornelins Cortright, 1820-1, 1823; Andrew Beaumont, 1821, 1823, 1849; Jabez Hyde, Jr., 1822-3; Jacob Drumheller, Jr.. 1822-4; Philander Stevens, 1824-6; G. M. Hollenback, 1824-5; Samuel Thomas. 1825-6; Garrick Mallery, 1826-9; Almon H. Reed, 1827; Isaac Post, 1828; Albert
G. Brodhead, 1831-3; Nicholas Overfield, 1831; Chester Butler, 1832,1838-9, 1843; Ziba Bennett, 1833-4; B. A. Bidlack, 1834-5; James Nesbitt, Jr., 1835; Henry Stark, 1836-7; William C. Reynolds, 1836-7; John Stnrdevant, 1838; Joseph Griffin, 1839; Andrew Cortright, 1840-1; Hendrick B. Wright, 1840-2; Moses Overfield, 1842; William Merrifield, 1843-5; James S. Campbell, 1844-5; Nathan Jackson, 1846; George Fenstermacher, 1846; Samuel Benedict, 1847; James W. Goff, 1847; Henry M. Fuller, 1848; Thomas Gillespie, 1848; John N. Conynghan, 1849; James W. Rhodes, 1850-1; Silas S. Benedict, 1850-1; Truman Atherton, 1852-3; Abram P. Dunning, 1852-4; Gideon W. Palmer, 1854; Harrison Wright, 1855; Henderson Gaylord, 1855; Steuben Jenkins, 1856-7; Thomas Smith, 1856; Samuel G. Turner, 1857; P. C. Gritman, 1857-8; Lewis Pughe, 1858, 1860; Winthrop W. Ketcham, 1858; John Stone, 1859; Peter Byrne, 1859-60; Dyer L. Chapin. 1859; H. B. Hillman, 1860; William S. Ross, 1861; R. F. Russell, 1861;
H. V. Hall, 1861; S. W. Trimmer, 1862; Jacob Robinson, 1862-3; Peter Walsh, 1862-3; Harry Hakes, 1863-4; Anthony Grady, 1864-5; D. F. Seybert, 1864-5;
D. S. Koon, 1865-6; William Brennan, 1866-7; James McHenry, 1866-7; Samuel F. Bossard, 1867-9; Daniel L. O'Neil, 1868-9; Nathan G. Wrestler, 1868-9; S. W. Keene, 1870-1; George Coray. 1870-1; John F. McMahon, 1870; Richard Williams, 1871-2; Patrick Delacey, 1872-3; Peter Quigley, 1872-3; B. D. Koons, 1872-3;
E. P. Eisner, 1873; Thomas Waddell, 1874; A. L. Cressler, 1874; T. W. Loftus, 1874; M. Crogan, 1874; Charles A. Miner, 1875-80; T. H. B. Lewis, 1875-6; J. J. Shonk, 1875-8; J. C. Fincher, 1875-6; James McAsey, 1875-6; F. W. Gunster, 1875-6; M. F. Synott, 1875-6; C. R. Gorman, T. W. Loftus, 1875-6; John
B. Smith, 1877-80; Charles McCarron, 1877-8; George Judge, 1877-8; James A. Kiersted, 1877-8; D. M. Jones, 1877-8; A. I. Ackerly, 1877-80; S. S. Jones, 1877-8; W. H. Hines, 1879-80; George W. Drum, 1879-80; Dennis O'Lenihan, 1879-80; John E. Barrett, 1879-80; T.D.Lewis, 1879-80; Thomas Mooney, 1879. 1880, first district, Herman C. Fry; second district, Philip H. Seeley; third district, James George; fourth district, George W. Drum; fifth district, Robert Timlin; seventh district, W. B. Hierlihy. 1882, first district, Herman C. Fry; second district, Steuben Jenkins: third district, James George; fourth district, James A. Sweeney; fifth district, Robert M.Timlin; seventh district, James L. McMillan. 1884, first district, Charles D. Foster; second district, M. B. Hughes; third district, Henry
C. Magee; fourth district, James A. Sweeney; fifth district, P. H. Durkin; seventh district, Nicholas C. Northup. 1886, first district, J. Ridgeway Wright; second district, M. B. Hughes; third district, P. F. Caffrey; fourth district, D. M. Evans; fifth district, P. H. Durkin; seventh, William Rutledge. 1890, first district, C. Ben Johnson; second district, Elisha A. Coray; third district, James M. Fritz; fourth district, William R. Jeffrey; fifth district, John T. Flannery.
The following will be found a correct list of all the sheriffs of Luzerne county from its organization up to the present. The year in which each was elected is given:
Lord Butler, 1787; Jesse Fell, 1789; John Franklin, 1792; William Slocum, 1795; Arnold Colt, 1798; Benjamin Dorrance, 1801; James Wheeler, 1804; Jacob Hart, 1807; Jabez Hyde, Jr., 1810; Elijah Shoemaker, 1813; Stephen Van Loon, 1816; Isaac Bowman, 1819; Jonathan Bulkely, 1822; Napthali Hurlburt, 1825; Oliver Helme, 1828; Thomas Karkuff, elected in October, 1831, died in a few hours after he was sworn in, and Benjamin Reynolds was appointed by the governor to the vacancy for one year or until the next election, when James Nesbitt was elected in October, 1832, and served until 1835; Thomas Myers, 1835; Caleb Atherton, 1838; George P. Steele, 1841; James W. Goff, 1844; William Koons, 1847; Gideon A. Palmer, 1850; Abram Drum, 1853; Jasper B. Stark, 1856; Samuel Van Loon, 1859; Samuel Peterbaugh, 1862; Josephs. Van Leer, 1865; James W. Rboads, 1868; Aaron Whitaker, 1871; William P. Kirkendall, 1874; P. J. Kenny, 1877; William O'Malley, 1880; John S. Oberrender, 1882; Hendrick W. Search, 1886; Robert P. Robinson, 1889.
The act for the formation of the county provided, that courts of common pleas and general quartersessious of the peace; the court of quartersessions shall sit three days and no longer, and shall be held at the house of Zebulon Butler in . Wilkesburg until a courthouse shall be built. Section 9 provided: "That Zebulon Butler, Nathaniel Landen, Jonah Rogers, John Philips and Simon Spawlding are appointed trustees" for said county, to take assurance for a piece of land for a courthouse and a county goal, and thereupon erect a courthouse and goal.
First court convened in Luzerne county met in Wilkes-Barre, May 27, 1787, one year after the county was created. The building where the court was held stood where now is Judge Woodward's house. The court had six judges—no president judge, as that office was not provided for until 1791, when Jacob Rush was the first appointee. Nothing in the way of a new building for the presence and temporary abiding place of the blind goddess could be more primitive than this court convening. It was in the deep woods, in the "dark and bloody ground '' of the valley where the shadow of death had lingered so long, where the wild beasts lurked, the wild man has yet the smoking ruins upon the hillside and where was coming the sad and also bloody contention of white man against his fellow man over the soil in which they lived. Wilkes-Barre in those early days, we are told, while having at one time twenty-three cabin homes, had seen all of them destroyed by the foe except three and this foe was the "Pennamite" against the "Yankee." In 1801 in a carefully kept diary there were but six houses in the place and as late as 1808 there were added but four others, but they were cheap wooden ones—two stone and two brick. Of the latter, the Perry house, on the corner of Northampton and Main and the Slocum residence.
There were four attorneys at the first court, and it was many years after before this list was materially increased. The old-time law practice was different from now. Lawyers were "circuit riders" literally until modern times. They went in bands on horseback from county to county over a wide range of country, as the counties were large and the distances long from court to court. In the crowd was the judge, and, while it was hard work and much exposure, they were a rare set of good fellows. A pair of saddle-bags containing their extra clothing and the few law books they had to have—the book of first importance then to a " circuit rider" being Chithfs Pleadings, the Pleadings being of first importance. If Jones owed Smith a note it was vitally important in the vast written pleadings informing the court of the facts in the case to know whether Jones had made a scrawl after his signature that could be called a "seal." If it had a "seal," then the action must be in "debt;" if no "seal," then it must be in "assumpsit." Now, if you remember, the "seal" as a signature came from the "divine," wise king, who could not write his name, and wore a great, vulgar gambler's ring, and made his royal mark by pressing the ring on the paper. In short, the practice of the law was far more a mere stream of technicalities 100 years ago than now. Good sense and conscience, it seems, were secondary considerations, often were not considerations at all, and the lawyer or judge who could dig up the most learned technicalities, enough to drown all recollection of the original case in hand, was accounted the greatest judge or lawyer. To know the most subtle "learned technicalities of the law" was for a long time esteemed the acme of human greatness. If the poor clients and parties to suits had not been the helpless and unfortunate sufferers of this long-drawn-out illusion, this curious estimate of greatness, we might smile at it all. A hundred years ago there was hardly a contested case in courts where there were not climaxes from first to last in the curious mental quirks in its hunt for great lawyers and judges, that are an index to the public men and education of the time, that it is hard for one now to fully realize. The lawyer is a curious product of every civilization, the "licensed" lawyer a perfected curiosity of the ages. By virtue of his "license" he is a quasi official, and by virtue of his mastery of " precedent" and the nimble technicality of each case does he rise in the scale of honor and greatness. It is very edifying to dwell on the science of jurisprudence—the "garnered wisdom of the fathers," and all that—but it is the "case" lawyer that wins the doubtful case in court almost invariably. Law,theology and medicine are the three "learned professions;" they are the sum total in the way of making a living that a "gentleman" could at one time think of following. All of them were schools of precedent. The members of the "learned professions" were never mere vulgar producers, rather,they were "cultured" consumers. In the scale of life they stood between the herd and the throne. Each a cult, a close corporation sometimes, and sometimes the doctors were a band of wrangling, brotherly-hating healers, and the whole world in agreement that all those who could not professionally talk in a kind of pigeon-Latin were but miserable, low-born "quacks." This condition grew threatening, when the happy thought came to "license" doctors as well as lawyers and preachers, and sores were now healed by making it a crime to save life except by sending for a man licensed to kill. There are comical things, dear reader, in high life as well as in the basement. The difficulty in the whole matter is that we grow up with scales over our eyes and go through life not only a little blind but cut bias, and we miss much "fun alive."
The names of the first justices who met in Zebulon Butler's house:
William Hooker Smith, Benjamin Carpenter, James Nesbitt, Timothy Pickering, Obadiah Gore, Nathan Kingsley and Mathias Hollenback. Lord Butler was sheriff, and about all the other county offices, including prothonotary and clerk, were filled by Timothy Pickering. Court crier was Joseph Sprague.
The four attorneys sworn at this court were Ebenezer Bowman, Putnam Catlin, Koswell Welles and William Nichols (the last a non-resident).
The first president Judge was Jacob Rush, who filled the office from 1791 to 1806.
Thomas Cooper succeeded, and from August, 1806, to August, 1811, presided. Seth Chapman from 1811 to July, 1813.
John Bannister Gibson from 1813 to 1817. Judge Gibson has a well-defined place in history as Pennsylvania's great and learned jurist. From president judge of the Luzerne court he went to preside in the State supreme court, and of all the brilliant men of the bar of the commonwealth there have been none greater, if indeed there has been his peer in the century. His slightes 1 Octum on the bench is to-day received in all the courts as unquestioned authority. The wording of his opinions is given verbatim, being as the finished Parian marble, and not capable of being condensed or taken in pieces. The law opinions of Judge Gibson are familiar to the courts of the civilized world.
Thomas Burnside was judge from 1817 to 1818.
David Scott became president judge in 1818, and filled the office over twenty years.
William Jessup in 1838. He was twice commissioned as judge of the court of common pleas, first in 1838 and next in 1848. A part of the time in the change in the districts, this county came within his circuit. By a compromise arrangement between Judges Jessup and Conyngham,and with the consent of the attorneys of Susquehanna and Luzerne districts, matters were so adjusted as to accommodate the two presiding officers, putting Luzerne in Conyngham's district and Susquehanna in Jessup's.
John N. Conyngham, 1839, resigned in 1870, after serving thirty-one years.
The second regular term of the court, September 5, 1787, presided over by Justices Obadiah Gore, Mathias Hollenback, William Hooker Smith, Benjamin Carpenter, James Nesbitt and Nathan Kingsley. For the full particulars of the first court and officers and the four attorneys then admitted, see Vol. III, Families of the Wyoming Valley, by George B. Kulp.
The constitution of 1790 vested the judicial powers of the State in a supreme court, courts of oyer and terminer, and jail delivery; courts of common pleas, orphans' courts, register court and court of quartersessions for each county, justices of the peace, and such other courts as the legislature may provide. Judges of the supreme court and courts of common pleas to hold office during good behavior. The supreme court judges were ex-offlcio justices of oyer and terminer courts in the several counties; the governor to appoint for each county at least three and not more than four judges, residents of the county; the State divided into six judicial circuits, and a president of each circuit to be appointed. The president and any two of the lay judges to be a quorum; to hold courts of common pleas and oyer and terminer, and two of the lay judges could hold a court of quartersessions and orphans' court. At the next session of the legislature the State was divided into five circuits—Luzerne, Berks, Northampton and Northumberland, and composed the third circuit. The president judge was to be a person "skilled in the law."
Act of 1851 provided for the election of judges of the several courts, and regulated certain judicial districts, and constituted the eleventh circuit out of the counties of Luzerne, Wyoming, Montour and Columbia. John N. Conyngham, elected president judge for a term of ten years; he was re-elected in 1861. In the meantime Montour county was annexed to the eighth district.
In 1856 Luzerne county was made a separate district, Judge Conyngham presiding. By act June 27, 1864, Luzerne was authorized to elect an "additional judge," who, like the president judge, should be "learned in the law," to hold his office by the same tenure, have the same powers and jurisdiction, subject to the same duties, and receive the same compensation. The governor to appoint until the regular election. Under this law Hon. Henry M. Hoyt was appointed additional judge, and filled the office until December, 1867; succeeded by Edmund L. Dana, who was commissioned for ten years. Judge Conyngham resigned in 1870, and July 8 of that year Garrick M. Harding was appointed to fill the vacancy. He was elected in the fall of 1870 and commissioned for a term of ten years.
The constitution of 1874 made some changes in the judiciary, among others providing that counties containing over 40,000 inhabitants shall constitute a separate judicial district and elect one judge "learned in the law," and authorize the legislature to provide additional judges as the business of the respective districts may require. President Judge Harding and "additional" Judge Dana were in commission at the time of the adoption of the new constitution, of this Luzerne, the eleventh judicial district; and it was entitled to another additional judge. John Handley was elected to serve ten years from the first Monday in January, 1875. At the general election in 1877 William H. Stanton was elected successor to Judge Dana. At the time of the erection of Lackawanna, out of the territory of Luzerne,