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HISTORICAL SKETCHES
of the Bench and Bar of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania

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Judge Charles G. Donnel

The brilliant career of this judge was cut short early in life by his sudden death. Charles G. Donnel was born in Williamsport Pa., March 14, 1801, the son of Henry Donnel, a former County Commissioner, and Margaret Gobin Donnel, his wife. He was educated at the Northumberland Academy (founded by Dr. Joseph Priestley and Judge Thomas Cooper) of which the principal was then Robert Cooper Grier, later a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (who married Isabella Rose daughter of John Rose, and owner of the Sutton farm). Donnel read law at Sunbury with the famous Ebenezer Greenough, and was admitted to the Northumberland County Bar at the April Sessions, 1822. He was appointed Deputy Attorney General, 1829 and served four years. He was commissioned President Judge of the eighth judicial district (Northumberland, Lycoming and Columbia counties), on January 24, 1843, and took the oath of office four days later. He died March 16, 1844, and is buried at Sunbury.

His contemporaries say he was a tall man, of medium weight. His manner was pleasant and easy and he was a fine speaker, with rare powers of reasoning.

He was Deputy Attorney General at the trial of Comm. v. Abraham W. Hause, for passing counterfeit money, before Judge Lewis. Alexander Jordan defended Hause and fought hard, but after a brilliant closing speech from Donnel, Hause was convicted. Donnel and Jordan were frequently pitted against each other. Jordan appeared to have been the better trial lawyer, but did not possess the brilliancy of Donnel.

Although he was engaged in the trial of many of the leading cases, the Hause case was the last great case in which Donnel was concerned as he was soon thereafter appointed to the bench.

He was twice married, his wives being sisters. His first wife was Elizabeth Drum Hegins, and his second wife was Amelia Drum Hegins. He served as Burgess of Sunbury, in 1834, and again in 1841-2. He was also interested in the Cameron and other colleries. As stated above, his early death cut short the promising career of our first judge born in Lycoming County.

Judge Joseph Biles Anthony

Joseph Biles Anthony was appointed to succeed Judge Donnel by Governor Porter in 1844. Judge Anthony was born in Philadelphia, Pa., June 18, 1795. When he was quite young, his parents moved to New Jersey, where he was later graduated from Princeton University with honors.

He located at Milton, Northumberland County, and for a short time taught at Kirkpatrick’s Academy, and also at the Northumberland Academy. He read law with Samuel Hepburn, of Milton, and was admitted to the Northumberland County bar in 1817. He then went to Ohio for one year, but returned to Pennsylvania and settled permanently in Williamsport. He was admitted to the Lycoming County Bar in 1818. In 1821, he married Catherine Grafius of Williamsport.

He took an active part in Democratic politics, becoming State Senator in 1830, was sent to Congress in 1833, defeating General John Burrows, the anti-Masonic candidate, and was re-elected and served until 1838. During the Porter administration, he was appointed Judge of the Nicholson Court to establish land titles in Northwestern Pennsylvania. In 1844, he was appointed President Judge of the Eighth District, then composed of Northumberland, Lycoming and Columbia Counties, succeeding Judge Donnel.

“He was a handsome, rotund man of medium size, with an uncommonly large head, and a fair, smooth, broad face. He was remarkable for his liveliness, good humor and wit. His humor would crop up in the trial of cases of a grave and serious nature, even when he was trying to deal gravely with his subject. He was fond of illustrating his ideas with anecdotes and laughable incidents, and he did it with a peculiar nod of his head, leer of his eye and a laughable tone of voice, that made all in his presence laugh even when they were inclined to be serious. When he was in a bad humor, however, his arguments were free from it, were short, sharp and to the point. When a witness or attorney deserved a tongue lashing they got it thick and fast, and in language which left them in no doubt. Hence many people would crowd into the courtroom to hear him speak when he was trying a case. As a judge, his opinions were clear, compact and supported by authorities. In a word he was the best Orphans Court lawyer of his time at the Lycoming County bar, as he had been a good teacher.’’

He was probably the only judge of our county who liked to indulge in writing poetry. An example of this occurred during the trial of a case at Danville, at the January Sessions 1846. A man was being tried for shooting a valuable setter named Logan. The trial excited much merriment, and during the course of the argument, the Judge wrote the following stanzas which later appeared in Freeze’s History of Columbia County, and which he quietly dropped on the counsel table for the amusement of the members of the bar:

Poor Logan’s dead no more he’ll howl,
     And rend the air with deafening cries.
No more he’ll set for man the fowl
     In death’s cold lap he lowly lies.

How fondly would he hunt the game,
     How closely would he scent the air,
A setter known full well to fame,
     The huntsman’s friend: his master’s care.

From day to day, from year to year,
     He roamed the wood, he scor’d the field;
From every vicious practice clear
     In faithfulness to none he’d yield.

A watchful, trusty, peaceful friend,
     From quarrel, strife and bickering free,
He never failed his aid to lend;
     But true to huntsman’s call was he.

In canine veins no drop of blood
     Of Logan courses — all his race
Is now extinct — in wicked mood
     Man sent him to his resting place.

Judge Anthony served as Captain of the Williamsport Guards from 1821-25. He sold lottery tickets for the benefit of the Harmon Church at Milton (The German Lutheran and Reformed Church together with the Presbyterian had formed the Harmony Church, from which the Presbyterians had withdrawn primarily because of this lottery), a very common practice in those days.

Before he became a judge, his law office was opposite the Court House. He took an active part in the life of Williamsport, serving as one of the Trustees of the Williamsport Academy, the predecessor of Dickinson Seminary, now Lycoming College; and as Secretary of the Canal Company.

His family consisted of one son (whose name I have not dis covered) and six daughters: Elizabeth R., who married John L. Campbell; Martha B. married Hepburn McClure, a member of this bar; Catherine G. married Henry White; Mary V. married Dr. Charles L. Lyon; Rachel A. married James Montgomery, and Emily married John Moyer.

Judge Anthony died January 10, 1851, and is buried in the Williamsport Cemetery. As if impressed with a sense of the mutability of the affairs of this world, he said just prior to leaving : “It is folly, it is folly, we must leave it all.” After all, this is not so far removed from the words of King Solomon, delivered a few thousand years before: “All is vanity and vexation of spirit.” So ended the career of Judge Anthony.

Judge James Pollock

Judge Pollock occupied the bench for a shorter time than any of his predecessors. He was born in Milton, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, the son of William and Sarah (Wilson) Pollock. He delighted in tracing his ancestry back to the Pollocks of County Londonderry, Ireland. His Scottish ancestors were transplanted to Ireland, later emigrated from Londonderry, Belfast and County Antrim. They arrived at Chester, Pa., about 1732.29

His first teacher was Joseph D. Biles (for whom Joseph Biles Anthony was undoubtedly named), who conducted the earliest school in Milton (1815), known as the Milton Academy. Later he attended a school conducted by Joseph B. Anthony, his predecessor on the bench. In 1822, his mother, Sarah Pollock, was one of the incorporators of the Milton Academy, founded by Rev. George Junkin, D.D., pastor of the Associated Reformed Church (Covenanter) Church of Milton. This academy opened in the old McCleery, now the Dale F. Ranck property, corner of North Front and Walnut Streets, the leading institution from 1822-1844. Rev. Dr. Junkin persuaded Rev. David Kirkpatrick to become its first principal, it was later known as the Kirkpatrick Academy. Here James Pollock was enrolled as well as Andrew G. Curtin, David Taggart, John B. Packer and many others. Pollock was the third judge of Lycoming County who was a graduate of Princeton. He was graduated there in 1831 with highest honors, having entered the junior class from the Kirkpatrick Academy, a fact which attests to the high standing which this academy enjoyed. He then studied law with Joseph B. Anthony and was admitted to the bar, November 5, 1833.

Not long after he was admitted, he entered politics. Two years after his admission, at the age of 26, he was prosecuting attorney, serving for three years. This was probably the longest consecutive period devoted exclusively to his profession. He was not a profound or learned lawyer, nor was he particularly strong as a counsellor, or in the argument of a case before the Court. His principal concern in his professional career seems to have been in the trial of cases before a jury where his broad acquaintance ship with and knowledge of men frequently gave him an advantage over his opponent.

Most of his life was devoted to a political career, and five years after he had served as prosecuting attorney, he was elected to Congress as the Whig candidate, and was twice re-elected. He was a pioneer in advocating the construction of a railroad to the Pacific coast, and belonged to a small group who lent encouragement to Samuel F. B. Morse when the latter proposed utilizing lightning to transmit messages.

His congressional service occurred during the rise of the nativist organization known as the Native-American Party, first known as the American-Republican Party. In the two decades before 1860 due to the great influx of Irish Catholics, this party arose. While its influence on a national level had died out by 1847, on the local level the movement developed into nativist secret societies in 1853 and 1854, from which the Know Nothing or American Party was created. The Know Nothings operated more as a secret society than a political party. The charges they brought against the naturalization abuses and election frauds in the larger cities were only too well founded. Their name arose from the fact that when a member was questioned, he always answered that he knew nothing. So in 1854, they combined with the Whigs and Abolitionists to elect James Pollock, as well as the governors, legislatures or both in four New England states, and in Mary land, Kentucky and California, and nearly won six Southern states.

During his last term Pollock had been in Congress with Abraham Lincoln, a fact which later in life stood him in good stead. The additional fact that there was a local chapter, No. 145, in Muncy, of the Know Nothings perhaps aided in his victory.

Shortly after his last term in Congress, he had been commissioned President Judge of the Eighth District, composed of Northumberland, Lycoming, Columbia and Sullivan counties. He was the last judge to be appointed by the Governor, for on December 1, 1851, his commission expired according to the amendment of 1850, whereby the office of President Judge became an elective office and for a term of ten years.

Pollock had returned to private practice for a short time prior to his election as Governor of Pennsylvania in 1854. In May 1861, his old friend, President Lincoln appointed him Director of the United States Mint at Philadelphia. He was retired in 1866, was reinstated by President Grant in 1869, and in 1873 he was made Superintendent of that institution. The legend, “In God We Trust” stamped on our coinage was originally suggested by Pollock and then adopted by the Secretary of the Treasury.

He served as a Naval Officer at Philadelphia for four years, and Federal Chief Inspector of Elections. He married Sarah Ann Hepburn, November 19, 1837, daughter of his preceptor, Samuel Hepburn. As Governor he favored the establishment of the County Superintendent of Schools plan which we have to this day, and in 1857, had a part in the founding of the Farmers High School, now Pennsylvania State College, (or University as you prefer). In May of that year, he was instrumental in the creation of the First Normal School at Millersville, Pa.

He died at the home of his daughter, Mrs. H. T. Harvey, in Lock Haven, April 18, 1890, and is buried in the Milton cemetery.

Judge Alexander Jordan

By an amendment to the State Constitution in 1850, the office of President Judge was made elective and the term was fixed at 10 years. By an Act of the Legislature of April 15, 1851, the judicial districts were again re-arranged, and the Eighth District was then composed of the following counties: Northumberland, Lycoming, Center and Clinton.

The first judge to be elected by the people was Alexander Jordan, the jailer’s son. He was elected in October 1851, commissioned Nov. 6, and occupied the bench until 1871, not all of the period, however, did he preside over Lycoming County, as will be hereafter explained.

He was born at Jaysburg, May 17, 1798, the son of Samuel and Rosanna (McClester) Jordan. His father was an early settler in Jaysburg, and keeper of the first jail. When the new jail was built, he became a boatman and pilot and followed the river. The family moved to Milton about 1802, where the future jurist was educated. Young as he was, he marched with the Pennsylvania militia, as Deputy Commissary in the War of 1812. Hugh Belles was then Prothonotary of Northumberland County, and Alexander became a deputy under him. He read law and was admitted to the bar, April 19, 1820. He became Prothonotary for the Middle District of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, and ran for Judge and took office November 18, 1851; was reelected and served until 1871. But he only presided over the Lycoming County Courts until February 28, 1868, for on that date, Lycoming County became a separate judicial district. After that date, he did not reside here. He was twice married. He died at Sunbury, October 5, 1878.

PRESIDENT JUDGES OF THE
TWENTY-NINTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT

Judge James Gamble

Meginness credits Peter Herdic, Williamsport business genius, newspaper owner, lumberman and political figure, with having persuaded the Pennsylvania Legislature to set Lycoming County apart as a separate judicial district. He states that in the winter of 1868, Peter Herdic and his friends conceived the idea of having Lycoming County made a separate judicial district, as it fulfilled the requirements of the Constitution as to population. So a bill was introduced, promptly passed, and approved by Governor John W. Geary. This act authorized the Governor to appoint a suitable person as President Judge. He was to hold office until the first Monday of December 1868. It further provided, that in the meantime, a judge should be elected on the second Tuesday of October to serve for ten years. Immediately Governor Geary appointed Benjamin S. Bentley, Sr. to the newly created judgeship. Judge Bentley was a native of Green County, New York, and had practiced law in Montrose, Susquehanna County, Pa., for 27 years before coming to Williamsport to open a law office in 1866. Appointed in February he served until December 1, 1868.

Judge James GambleIn the 1868 fall election, the Republicans nominated him for the full ten year term. The Democrats offered James Gamble, of Jersey Shore, and Gamble won.

Exceedingly popular and well known throughout the county, Gamble had been County Treasurer in 1832; and Assemblyman in 1840-41 and Congressman, 1853-57.

Meginness also states that Judge Bentley had been appointed Judge of Lackawanna County, where he served as Judge from August 1878 until January 1880. He yielded up his office at that time, and resumed his law practice in Williamsport. He died here in March 1882.

And now Peter Herdic again takes the stage. He was Mayor of Williamsport in 1869, enjoyed a state-wide political influence, and in short, was greatly displeased over the election of Judge Gamble. When the Legislature again met, in 1869, he caused to be introduced a “ripper bill” to repeal the former act creating the 29th Judicial District. This bill appended Lycoming County to the Fourth District consisting of Tioga, Potter, McKean, Elk and Clearfield Counties. This act was passed by a submissive Legislature, so great was Herdic’s influence. So suddenly, Judge Gamble found himself legislated out of office, a thing which he and his friends naturally did not like, and so they took prompt steps to challenge this act before the Supreme Court. The Court quite rightly, I think, decided that the Act of March 16, 1869 was “unconstitutional and void and of no effect”, and Judge Gamble retained his seat.

James Gamble was born January 28, 1809, on the farm of his father, James, a short distance east of Jersey Shore. When he was about eighteen, his father died, which prevented his Securing a college education. He was educated at the Jersey Shore Academy under the instruction of Rev. John G. Grier, assisted by Dr. Hugh Montgomery, at which school he learned Latin and Greek thoroughly. Due to his lack of higher education, he concluded to learn a trade, and served three and a half years in the tanning industry. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, his elder brother, John, who had assumed full charge of the family after their father’s death, advised James to return to his books. He finally studied law with Hon. Anson. V. Parsons, of Jersey Shore. He was admitted at the December Term 1833, but did not at once enter upon the practice of his profession.

As already related, he first served as County Treasurer, and then began to practice in 1836. Following this he served in the state legislature and in Congress. Then after his four years in Congress where he became acquainted with General Sam Houston, of Texas, in 1855, he resumed his practice of law. After his election as President Judge in 1868, he resided in Williamsport.

It may be mentioned in passing that it was the piano from his home which was used on the high school lawn, in Jersey Shore, when his wife accompanied the famous Ole Bull in 1852.

It was during Judge Gamble’s administration that the “Saw Dust War” occurred. This so-called war arose out of the struggles of the laboring men to form a union, and was given that name from the slogan “Ten Hours or no Saw Dust.” The Lumbermens Exchange, a sort of N.M.A. of that day, was accused of importing toughs who rioted and caused the trouble, according to contemporary newspaper accounts. Mayor Starkweather, himself a mill owner, got the Sheriff excited and together they called on Governor Geary for troops. J. L. Meredith, a member of the bar, and then City Recorder (an office which no longer exists), held the purported ring leaders under what they alleged was excessive bail, and they appealed to Judge Gamble, who up held Meredith’s decision. This action on the part of the Judge was severely criticized by the newspapers of the day.30

The judicial experience of Judge Gamble embraced every phase and variety of the administration of law and equity. Some seven or eight persons were tried during his term for the crime of murder, and four of them were convicted of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to suffer the extreme penalty. So far as those trials were reviewed by the Supreme Court they were all affirmed. It is little known that prior to his service on the bench in Lycoming County, Judge Gamble had been appointed by Governor Packer, in 1859, as President Judge of Clinton, Center and Clearfield Counties, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of President Judge James Burnside. He remained on the bench for less than one year and was succeeded by Judge Samuel Linn.31

He had then resumed his practice until 1868, when the Democrats nominated him for President Judge of Lycoming County and he was elected for a term of ten years after an animated contest.

Judge Gamble married Miss Elizabeth Breneman, of Columbia, Lancaster County, Pa., and they had four children.

Upon his retirement from the bench, the closing of his term and the beginning of his successor’s term attracted great attention. After court was opened on Monday, January 6, 1879, the Hon. H. C. Parsons addressed the Court and presented him with a letter signed by every member of the bar as a testimonial and invited him to a banquet to be held in his honor. After thanking the bar at considerable length, the commission of Judge Cummin was read, and Judge Gamble said to the new judge, in part:

“I can say to you that you will find it a pleasant position. The duties are somewhat onerous, but you have youth and good physical health, and will be enabled to discharge those duties without their becoming burdensome. You have the ad vantage of having an eminent bar, — one that may be compared with pride and satisfaction to any other Bar within the State of Pennsylvania; and you will find this will enable you to discharge your duties with less labor and difficulty than otherwise would attend your position. . . .”32

Then on January 30, 1879, the leading members of the bar (including H. C. Parsons, W. H. Armstrong, John W. Maynard, Benjamin S. Bentley, George W. Youngman, H. W. Watson, Hon. Samuel Lina, Oliver H. Reighard, B. S. Bentley, Jr., A. J. Dietrick, R. P. Allen, C. K. Geddes, Samuel L. Youngman, W. P. I. Painter, Robert Hawley and C. A. Bowers), severally addressed the Court and paid very interesting tributes to the retiring Judge. John J. Metzger, H. C. McCormick and J. Artley Beeber, who were unable to be present, sent letters regretting their absence and expressing their sentiments, which were read by Judge Cummin.

Hon. O. H. Reighard (son-in-law of Judge Gamble) who was reared in Jersey Shore, Judge Gamble’s former home, indulged in some reminiscences. He related how at a certain Fourth of July picnic, held on the south side of the river, near the ford of Baily’s Island, Judge Gamble had delivered the customary address of the day, some years before the beginning of the late war (Civil War – editor). His address was chiefly a plea for the preservation of the union of the States. He made a powerful plea for the youth present to cherish a devoted love for the Union and the institutions of our fathers, and in almost prophetic words declared that the day might come when it would require the blood and treasure of our land to preserve our government and perpetuate its blessings. No one then thought the struggle would begin so soon. When the day did come, Judge Gamble was one of the most eloquent and efficient advocates of the cause of the Union, and was tireless in his efforts to arouse all classes in the community to assist in its preservation.

One other incident was related by Mr. Reighard, in which Judge Gamble was an actor. This was, he said, the only public debate he ever listened to in this county. A Union meeting, with out regard to political parties, at which the questions of the day were to be freely discussed, was advertised to be held at Salladasburg. Judge Gamble and S. G. Wingard, a former member of our bar, but then a judge in Oregon, were the announced speakers of the day. After the speakers had concluded their addresses, Judge Gamble requested the privilege of presenting his views on the questions of the day. Although it was then long past the usual adjoining time, the audience was anxious to hear further discussion, and so Judge Gamble addressed them. Of course, it was generally known that a debate would occur, and the room was packed. The meeting began at “early candle-light” and continued until after midnight. Not a person left the room, and the audience was unwilling to depart even at that late hour. Five speeches were delivered, and that of Judge Gamble, says Mr. Reighard, was the greatest he ever heard him make. Hon. Robert P. Allen then spoke in part as follows:

“Sir Matthew Hale, in laying down rules for his conduct as a Judge says: ‘That in the administration of justice, I am intrusted for God, the King, and country, and therefore, that it be done uprightly, deliberately, and resolutely.’ I think the rule of that learned judge covers and describes to a marked degree the character of Judge Gamble on the bench. He was certainly an upright judge, which is about the highest praise that can be given to any one in such a position. He was deliberate and careful in his decisions, a patient listener and a conscientious decider of the causes of the people.”

Apparently Judge Gamble was not present in court that day, because Judge Cummin read a letter from him, only a part of which is here quoted:

“The popular ascription of insincerity to lawyers is a great mistake, and a most unjust imputation against their fidelity to the Court. Always to be right would require an infallibility of judgment not vouchsafed to humanity, whilst a cordial submission to the decisions of a like fallible, but duly constituted umpire, evinces and cultivates magnanimity, and that high regard for order and precedent which characterizes the profession.

“The fame and rank of the Judiciary is largely dependent upon the learning and toil of the advocate. A step forward in advance of precedents, is announced as a decision of the Court, yet how often its origin is due to the brain of the advocate, and its propriety made manifest by the logic of his argument. The mission of the faithful and conscientious lawyer is that of a public benefactor, and when the world’s judgment is pronounced by infallible judgment, his benefactions will be made manifest and justly rewarded.

“An experience of nearly half a century warrants me in speaking thus commendatory of a profession so imperfectly understood and so inadequately appreciated by current public sentiment.”

I can only wish we had a like record of the speeches delivered at the banquet given by the bar to Judge Gamble.

Judge Gamble’s last public service was in the capacity of Master of Chancery, with Judge Bentley and Judge Samuel Linn, in distributing the funds collected for the relief of the sufferers of the Milton Fire of 1880. They had been appointed by Judge William M. Rockefeller and performed the delicate and heart rending task assigned them with fidelity.

Judge Gamble died at his home located at 4th and Mulberry Streets, in Williamsport on February 22, 1883, aged 74 years and 22 days, and was buried in Wildwood Cemetery.

Judge Hugh Hart Cummin

When the time came to select judicial candidates in 1878, the Democrats nominated John Jacob Metzger. The Republicans, then the minority party, did not nominate any candidate, but expressed themselves as willing to join with the anti-Metzger element of the Democratic party. After several conferences the plan of running an independent or People’s candidate was adopted. Hugh H. Cummin, although a Democrat, took sides with that element who felt that the question of the selection of a judge should be one entirely devoid of political considerations or bias.

The Greenback party, the popular name of the American Independence National Party, had its first national convention in 1874. it advocated increasing the volume of greenbacks, forbidding bank issues, and required the paying in greenbacks of all government bonds not expressly payable in coin. In 1878, it changed its name to the Greenback Labor Party. (Many of its adherents later joined the Populist Party, which was organized in 1891.) Williamsport was the Pennsylvania headquarters for this party, and it entered a third candidate — George W. Youngman, in the judicial race.

In the election of 1878, Youngman polled 1,187 votes; Metzger, 4,332; and Cummin, 4,637. Thus Cummin won by a plurality of 305 votes. He served from January 6, 1879 to January 6. 1889. The friends of the successful candidate were so elated over their victory that they united in a grand celebration the next evening, at which bonfires blazed, and stirring speeches were made.

Hugh Hart Cummin was born in Liverpool, Perry County, Pa., May 25, 1841, the same county which claims John Bannister Gibson as a native son. He came to Williamsport in 1862, and read law with George W. White, and was admitted August 17, 1864. He was of Scotch-Irish descent, and the only education he received was in the village school of his birthplace, in which he later taught for some time. He supported himself from early boyhood, and in addition to teaching school, before studying law, he also clerked in stores and worked as a common laborer. He was first employed by Dr. Green who was in the revenue service at the time. He saw service in the Civil War, in Independent Cavalry Company under Captain Wonderly. He became a partner of George W. White in the firm of White and Cummin. In June 1869 he married Charlotte, eldest daughter of John White, Esq.

He was very fond of vocal music and was president of the Handel and Haydn Society. He was a member of the famous Christ Church choir, treasurer of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument Association, and a leading spirit in the movement to honor the soldier dead.

The charges of Judge Cummin to the grand juries are noted as models in explaining their duties and responsibilities. In the trial of causes, his charges were so distinct and put in such plain language that no jury ever had to be discharged because they could not agree.

When Judge Cummin was elected to the bench, the civil business of the court was about two years behind schedule. But within two years the business of the court was brought up to date, and ever after during his administration, when the trial list was made up, everything was put down that was ready for trial. In criminal court likewise, two years of his austere and prompt administration of justice had produced most efficacious results. The third year there were 100 less cases than the year before. At the next May term of court, no one was sent to the penitentiary, and none even to jail. Judge Cummin kept an accurate record of all trials and the expense of the trials, and was thus enabled to know where the public money was wasted and how to introduce reforms. For the year 1881, the expenses were reduced over the previous year by $8,000. and for 1880 the reduction was more than $7,000 over the year 1879. Of over 2,000 cases tried before him in a period of three years, about fifty were appealed, of which but a small number were modified or reversed. Notwithstanding the fact that he was then one of the youngest judges in the state, he was held in high esteem by nearly all the other President Judges.

We will refer to one important case, the celebrated Catholic Church case, Stack vs. O’Hara, in which Judge Cummin, on appeal, was affirmed (98 Pa. 213).

On leaving the bench, Judge Cummin retired to private practice and soon was engaged in a flood of business to which he applied himself with his characteristic energy. At the time of the 1889 flood which inundated the populous part of Williamsport, ruining many homes and destroying a large amount of property, Judge Cummin was among those who were active in forming a Committee for the Relief of Flood Sufferers. Disregarding his professional interests, he devoted himself wholly to this work. Every meeting found him present, and he was elected treasurer of the Citizens Relief Committee. Though his services were laborious, he did not shrink from what he considered an imperative duty.

In the meantime, the far greater disaster occurred at Johnstown, and contributions poured in to such an extent that Governor Beaver appointed a State Commission to take charge of the funds and direct their distribution. The Commission consisted of nine eminent men, and Judge Cummin was one of the number selected, and the committee organized by electing him chairman. This necessitated him locating at Johnstown, so he repaired thither to assume the enormous task which had been imposed upon him in the interest of humanity. The confidence reposed in his ability and integrity was great, but the labor involved in discharging his duty was even greater. The strain to which he was there subjected was intensified at Johnstown, and he soon fell ill of diabetes. He repaired to the hotel or sanitorium at Cresson Springs, where the best of medical care was given him. But the insidious disease, however, progressed rapidly, and death claimed him, August 11, 1889. He fell a victim in the cause of suffering humanity and his death was almost as tragic as though he had suffered martyrdom in a more violent form.

When his body was brought to Williamsport, his funeral was held at Trinity Church, and was the largest ever seen in the city. The bar met, according to its usual custom, on August 13th, and adopted appropriate resolutions, and a similar meeting was held by the bar of Center County, where he had frequently held court. A meeting was likewise held by the Reno Post, No. 64, G. A. R. to which he belonged.


29For a detailed account of his ancestry, the reader is referred to an article by Frederic A. Godeharles, Northumberland County Just. Soc. Proc., Vol. VIII p. 5ff.

30For a more complete account of the Saw Dust War, see Now and Then, Vol. X, pp. 277-84 (1953).

31Daily Gazette & Bulletin, Feb. 22, 1883, p. 1; and Historical View of Clinton County, by D. S. Maynard, Lock Haven, 1875.

32A Testimonial to the Hon. James Gamble, etc., published by the Bar of Lycoming County, Williamsport, Pa., 1879, p. 8.

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