History of Bradford County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches
By H. C. Bradsby, 1891
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WILMOT—No man has ever lived in Bradford county, not indeed in northern Pennsylvania, who has achieved so wide a reputation as David Wilmot. He was born in Bethany, Wayne county, Pa., where he spent his boyhood days, and was educated there and at Aurora. At the age of eighteen he commenced the study of law at Wilkes-Barre, where he remained until the time of his admission to the bar, when he removed to Towanda. He soon became a conspicuous character, and early in his career gained a great influence over the people, with whom he was always honest. He had a fine voice, a good presence and an eloquent tongue. Indeed, he quite magnetized his hearers, and could use satire without giving serious offense. Mr. Wilmot was possessed of a remarkable analytical mind, but was not a great lawyer, save before a jury. He relied upon his latent resources at the moment to make up for his lack of thoroughness and aversion to study. However, he was a deep thinker, and with his quickness of comprehension, eloquence and ability to read faces, carried juries, while others, more thoroughly versed in the law, made but little impression. His make-up soon developed him into a politician, and he took the Democratic side of the house opposed to Gen. McKean and his followers. It was not long before he became recognized as a leader, and, in 1844, was elected as a Free Trade Democrat to Congress, and was the only member from Pennsylvania who voted for the repeal of the "tariff of ’42. In common with the Democratic party he favored the annexation of Texas. On the 4th of August, 1846, President Polk sent to the Senate a confidential message, asking an appropriation to negotiate a peace with Mexico. A bill was introduced into the House, appropriating $2,000,000 for the purpose specified. It had now become so apparent that the proposition was intended to strengthen the pro-slavery influence in the general government, that a consultation of a few members of Congress was held, and the matter thoroughly discussed. It was agreed that it was a move not in accordance with the Democratic of Jeffersonian idea as argued in the Constitutional Convention, and shown by the ordinances of 1787. The measure must, therefore, be checked, and the following resolution was drawn up by Mr. Wilmot, and agreed to by the others, and he was selected to offer it as an amendment to the bill: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist in any part of said Territory, except for crime, whereof the party shall first be duly convicted," which has since that time been known in our country’s history as the "Wilmot Proviso." While it is true that this made Judge Wilmot immortal in the political estimation of the hour, now, that the actors are all dead, and sectional passions are stilled, let us hope forever, yet our children, in a respect due our great revolutionary father, should ever keep in mind that this "Proviso" is copied verbatim from Jefferson in Virginia’s cession of the Northwest Territory to the Union of States. The measure, though lost in Congress, created a great agitation throughout the country, and was the wedge which split the Democratic party upon the slavery question. Many of the Democrats in the district made a bold assault upon Mr. Wilmot for this, and tried to prevent his return to Congress. In 1846 he was re-elected on the tariff issue, over Judge White, a High-Tariff Democrat; and again in 1848, mainly on the sentiment of his proviso. While he was elected as a Democrat, he was a "Free Soiler" and supported Mr. Van Buren for the presidency in 1848. In 1850, Mr. Wilmot again secured a renomination to Congress as a Free Soil Democrat, which resulted in a split of the Democratic party in the district on the slavery question. The pro-slavery Democrats having put a candidate in nomination, for the good of the party, upon Mr. Wilmot’s suggestion, both candidates withdrew, and Galusha A. Grow was selected as a compromise and elected. In 1851 he was elected candidate and acted in the capacity from which he had been elected until 1857, when he resigned the office to enter the gubernatorial contest. His competitor, William F. Packer, the Democratic candidate, was elected, but his defeat sounded the death-knell of the Democratic party in this State, and made him more popular than ever before. The speeches which he made throughout the State awakened a deep interest in the principles of the Republican party, and finally made it victorious. However, he had not dreamed of an election, and at a serenade given him at his home, after his nomination said: "I well understand I can not be elected, but the canvass will be the means of establishing a party of which the people will be proud and can rely upon." His statement was verified the next year by a Republican victory in the State.
Mr. Wilmot was one of the fathers of the Republican party, and in fact, the very measures which he had proposed in Congress, in 1846, had no small influence leading to its existence. In Bradford county and indeed, in the "Wilmot District" he made the Republican party. He was a delegate to the National Republican Convention, held in Philadelphia in 1856, and was chairman of the committee on resolutions, and drew up the famous resolution denouncing "slavery and polygamy as twin relics of barbarism." In the convention he was proposed as candidate on the ticket with Mr. Fremont for the Vice-presidency. He could have commanded a unanimous nomination, but was averse to it. In 1860, Mr. Wilmot was also a delegate to the National Republican convention held in Chicago, and was its temporary chairman. He, with the Pennsylvania delegation, was instructed to vote for Gen. Cameron. After one ballot he saw that Seward would be nominated unless Cameron was dropped. Whereupon the Pennsylvania delegation, he at its head, asked leave to retire. After consultation Mr. Wilmot asked that their instructions be taken off, which was agreed to by the delegation. Upon the second ballot nearly their whole vote was cast for Mr. Lincoln, which carried enough others on the third ballot to nominate him. Mr. Lincoln never forgot his kindness, and he always had a great influence with him. After Mr. Wilmot’s defeat, in 1857, he was appointed by Gov. Pollock to the same office which he had resigned, and continued to act in the capacity until 1861, when he was elected to the U. S. Senate to fill the vacancy cause by the resignation of Gen. Cameron, who had be selected as one of Mr. Lincoln’s cabinet. :
"A wide field of honor and usefulness seemed to open before him. He was in the prime of his manhood, in the full vigor of his mental powers, revered everywhere as the champion of freedom, and his friends confidently expected him to win for himself a till loftier name, while advancing the cause of human rights. But at the outset his Senatorial (1861) career, his health began gradually to fail, until it was almost impossible for him to attend to the routine of his duties." Mr. Wilmot was a member of the "Peace Conference" of 1861, and when coming down from one of its meetings said: "There is not use; we can not agree, and I am not sure that a war would be the worst thing that could happen to this country. I fear it is near at hand." At the close of his term as Senator he was appointed by President Lincoln a Judge of the Court of Claims, which office he held until the time of his death.
In politics Mr. Wilmot was wonderfully successful, and up to 1857 knew not what defeat was, even though he sometimes ran counter to the party machinery. Such an influence had he that he virtually ran the politics of the county. After the organization of the Republican party in this county, in 1855, he kept up such a constant agitation of the slavery question that, in 1856, he gave Fremont 4,600 over Buchanan, the county having been heretofore Democratic by several hundred. The "Wilmot District" gave Fremont a majority of ten thousand. Mr. Wilmot was not an Abolitionist, as is sometimes supposed, but on the contrary was opposed to that party. He never claimed a place with Wendell Phillips, Thurlow Weed, William Lloyd Garrison or Horace Greeley, for he fought slavery a long time within the Democratic party, and hoped to maintain his position and influence in that organization while making the battle. He soon found that the timber was too knotty to work, but not to split, and he put in his wedge and began the effort, which was successful. Without a doubt he had more to do with the creation of the Republican party, and the overthrow of the Democratic, than any other man. Mr. Wilmot was a strong, powerful force in starting the combat which finally resulted in the abolition of slavery. In the South his proviso made him despised by the slave-holder as a usurper and, indeed, the very school-children were taught to hate him. The slaves early learned his name, and had an exalted reverence for him. He was a man of strong convictions, and outspoken in the expression of his opinions—a man greatly loved by his friends and unsparingly hated by his enemies. He was a powerful speaker, keen in debate, carrying with him the hearts of his hearers, and producing convictions in others frequently by his own strength. But Mr. Wilmot’s en is dad. Continued ill-health affected his mind, and he finally died of softening of the brain, at his residence at Towanda in 1868. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, and his resting-place is marked by a plain slab on which is inscribed:
Jan. 20, 1814
March 16, 1868
Aged 54 years
Chief Justice Mercur.--This eminent Jurist was the son of Henry Mercur, who was the son of immigrants from Klagenfort, Austria, who came to America in 1780, and settled in Lancaster county, Pa., where Henry Mercur was born, September 20, 1786. He was sent, in 1799, to Vienna to be educated at the university, where he spent eight years, and returned to his native home in 1807. His brothers and sisters were James W., Mahlon C. (now the only survivor), Ulysses, Hiram and Eliza Jane. While at school Henry Mercur witnessed the entry of Napoleon’s army into Vienna. He remained at the parental home, after his return, two years, and in 1809 removed to Towanda to make his permanent home. Here he married Mary Watts, September 10 1810. He died in Towanda, September 10. 1868. His wife, Mary Watts Mercur, died December 14, 1839.
Mrs. Ulysses Mercur was Miss Sarah Simpson Davis, daughter of John and Amy Hart Davis. Her grandparents were John and Amy Simpson Davis. Her father, John Davis, was at one time a member of Congress from his native county of Bucks. The hart family, who were of North of Ireland and Welsh descent, came to this country with William Penn in 1682, and settled in Bucks county. Mrs. Mercur’s brother was Gen. W. W. H. Davis, famous in the late war, and known to the country as eminent in literature and art.
Her great-grandfather, William Davis, came from Great Britain to this country in 1740, and located in Bucks county. Mrs. Uylsses Mercur resides in Towanda in the old family homestead, and with her are her two sons, Fr. John D., and Ulysses.
The history of the Mercur family will remain a permanent and important chapter in that of the grand old Commonwealth. Hon. Ulysses Mercur, LL. D., fourth son of Henry and Mary Watts Mercur, was born in Towanda, August 12, 1818, where was his home during life. A public man the larger part of his active career, filling many high and responsible offices, many of them not only of high responsibility, but attended with continuous and arduous labors, he would always eagerly return to his home and old neighbors for his vacations and rest and recreations. While the conscientious discharge of his public duties were often remarked by his acquaintances as being a labor of love, at which he burned the midnight oil, while the world around him slept, yet when his holiday come he was quickly back to Towanda, in the scenes of his childhood, with the dignity of office laid aside, its cares and toils forgotten, and, amid home and family and friends and neighbors, was building anew those stores of vifal energies so essential to his labors when they would be again taken up. To those who were older and who had known him from early childhood, he must have remained to them much as the youth they so well remembered—quiet, earnest and determined, with much indications of reserve of forces within what might well promise a large future development. His parents were eminently respectable farmers—industrious and frugal, guided in the rearing of their children by that prudent fore-thought that preferred the future welfare of their sons and daughters to that of wealth stored away for their use. A strong characteristic of the father was that indulgence to his children that allowed them to have much to say in shaping their young lives. The children’s wishes were heeded, their judgments consulted, the financial affairs of the family explained, and then an amicable conclusion was sure to follow, and smoothly the little home went on. This, too, in an age where there was much emphatic parental authority in the average home, and where often the severest dogmatism prevailed, especially by the father toward the sons.
After graduating from the Towanda schools, the youth expressed to his parents a wish to at once commence the study of law. This was opposed by his elder brother, M. C. Mercur, on the ground that his education was not sufficient for a learned profession. The force of this objection was recognized by the entire family, and to the great distress of the lad, who saw in it the sudden dissolving of the air castles that had no doubt been his companions by day and by night, and had stimulated his best exertions in the common schools, the household was called together, and the matter freely discussed. The happy arrangement resulted that a small tract of land, which was intended to be given Ulysses as his portion, it was agreed should go to him, then and there, and if he preferred to use it in education himself further and becoming a lawyer it was well and good. This was the solution of this once apparently insuperable difficulty. The little piece of ground was converted into $1200—the "sinews of war" with the Latin conjugation and the Greek verbs, and the final entry upon a professional career stamped with a fame as enduring as these grand old hills on which his eyes opened when life commenced. He had completed his course in the common schools at the age of sixteen, when he entered the store of his elder brother in Towanda as a clerk. Prior to this he had helped to work on the farm during summer, and went to school in the winter. Here he remained until he was nineteen years old, when having converted the small farm, his father gave him, into cash, he entered Jefferson College, Cannonsburg, Pa., in the "prep" department. The regular college course is four years after entering the "freshman class," and as an evidence of his assiduity, as well as aptness, he graduated with high honors at the end of four and a half years after entering the school; taking the highest position in the literary society of which he was a member. And, further, that during the last year and a half he was at college he was systematically reading a course in the law. During his entire school course he had made his little fortune of $1200 pay every expense. After graduating he immediately returned to Towanda and continued the study of the law, and in 1843 he was admitted to the bar in his native town. He graduated in 1842, and then one year was a student in the office of Edward Overton, Esq., and such was the confidence of Mr. Overton in his student that at once he offered him a full partnership in his extensive practice. As favorable as he was this offer from his law preceptor, yet it could have been readily made with any one of the several eminent lawyers that were then members of the Bradford county bar—a bar in which were such men as David Wilmot, Judge Williston, William Elwell and William Watkins. In a remarkably brief period he was the peer of any of them—noted for his conscientious discharge of his duties, and a sturdy honesty; so much so that it was sometimes blunt when impressing upon an excited client that his case was not a good one, and flatly refusing the offered retainer. In a given case, where he had refuse a fee from a wealthy man, and the disappointed client had sought out other counsel and entered upon litigation that bankrupted him and then went to Mr. Mercur and, after stating his case in hand, was amazed to find the attorney ready to engage himself in his behalf. Expressing his surprise, he was told that the whole secret lay in the fact that then he had no case, while now he had a good one; and he fought it through to complete triumph. His first advice lost him a fee, but would have saved the man his fortune; his actual retainer in the case had no fee to accompany it, but it righted a wrong when the poor man could perhaps have found succor nowhere else. His professional life was made up largely of such incidents, but this one mentioned would have fixed in the public mind some idea of that high sense of integrity that actuated him. Consequently, while yet a young man, he was known far and wide for his courageous probity and profound knowledge of the law. And it was not mere idle breath when one who was a competent judge said: "It is no flattery to say that as a young lawyer he was unsurpassed in the State." The next seventeen years, after he had entered upon the practice of the law, so severe was his application that his health broke down, and he was compelled to take a vacation, which lasted through the entire winter of 1860-61. These months of rest and travel wholly restored his health. On the election of Judge David Wilmot to the United States Senate in January, 1861, he resigned the President Judgeship of the 12th Judicial District, and Mr. Mercur was appointed to the vacancy, and at the end of the term was elected to a full term without opposition—the district was then composed of the counties of Bradford and Susquehanna. In 1862 this Congressional district was composed of Bradford, Columbia, Montour, Sullivan and Wyoming counties, and a division in the Republican party resulted in the election of a Democrat. At the next election, 1864, in order to prevent a recurrence of defeat, the leading men of the district, after much entreaty, prevailed upon Judge Mercur to stand for Congress. His Democratic opponent was Col. B. E. Piollet, also of Bradford county. Judge Mercur was elected, and for the next three consecutive terms received his party’s nomination. At the end of his fourth term, 1872, he was nominated by the Republican State Convention for Judge of the Supreme Court. It is told of him that he accepted his fourth term in Congress solely on the grounds that he wished to repeal the tariff on tea and coffee. He promotion of the supreme bench came to him as unsought as had his first or succeeding terms in Congress. He remained upon the bench from the time of his first election to the end of his life; a prominent public life of twenty-six years; from a short vacation, after seventeen years of arduous practice, he went to the bench of the 12th Judicial District, serving out the short term, was elected to a full term and almost immediately transferred to Congress, where he remained eight years, and quit that to go to the eminent position of Supreme Judge of the grand old Commonwealth. A distinguished record, made famous by his brilliant talents; a long and useful life adorned by a sleepless energy, a robust manhood and the courage of honest convictions.
In politics Judge Mercur was originally a Democrat (though the other members of his family were active Whigs), one who gave hearty adherence to the Free Soil wing of that party. In short, it may be said that he was of the Wilmot and Grow political school. He was among the first to offer his powerful aid to free Kansas, and was, therefore, one of the active organizers of the Republican party on the occasion of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise. Hon. David Wilmot always esteemed him as one of his most trusted and esteemed personal friends, but this was largely true of the leading men of the Nation, at least all those who had come in contact with Judge Mercur. When Mr. Wilmot was invited by President Lincoln, in the spring of 1861, to act as a Peace Commissioner, at Washington, before accepting the appointment he visited Judge Mercur, for the purpose of having a full consultation, before entering upon the responsible duties of that office.
Ulysses Mercur and Miss Sarah S. Davis, daughter of the late Gen. John Davis, of Bucks count, were joined in the bonds of matrimony June 12, 1850. Of this happy union were five children, all surviving. The eldest, Rodney A. Mercur, is one of the prominent lawyers of Towanda; Dr. John D. Mercur is of the same place; the only daughter, Mary E., married Col. B. F. Eshleman, of Lancaster; James W. Mercur is an attorney-at-law in Philadelphia; and Ulysses Mercur is now a law student at Towanda. The family worship at the Episcopal Church.
In the midst of the busy cares of life, the final great summons came. Judge Mercur died at Wallingford, Pa., June 6, 1887, in his sixty-ninth year. He was taken sick May 25, with a chill, the first premonition of an attack of pneumonia. On the Friday following he had rallied, and his friends supposed the crisis was passed, and Sunday following brought the greatest hopes. He now recognized his wife, and chatted pleasantly with his wife and his sons, at his bed-side, and even expressed a desire to get up. But on the morning of the 6th,as his physician, Dr. Getchel, was about to depart for Philadelphia, and visited his patient to take formal leave. Judge Mercur half turned in bed and said, cheerily; "Good-bye." These were his last spoken words. At 9 o’clock, his friends noticed a sudden change, and hurriedly sent after the retiring doctor. But the patient had quietly and peacefully passed away. The immediate cause of death was heart-clot, which, in his exhausted condition, could not be overcome. Pennsylvania and the Nation Mourned. The great and good man was gone.
On the afternoon of October 3, following, ex-Chief Justice Agnew announced in the Supreme Court the death of Chief Justice Mercur. There was a notable attendance of the members of the bar when the announcement was made. On rising to address the court Judge Agnew said:
May it please your Honors, I rise to perform a sad and painful duty. You miss from among you a familiar form and the air seems freighted with sorrow
It is my mournful part to announce to you the death of Chief Justice Ulysses Mercur, you honored head and colleague. He has let the "warm precincts of the cheerful day" for the darkness and gloom of the grave.
Though gone from your Bench for many years, and living far away from the scenes of his active life, yet it has seemed to my brethren of the Bar most meet that I should break this melancholy news. I accept the duty, only regretting my inability to perform it well.
The ex-Chief Justice then recounted the circumstances of Judge Mercur’s death at Wallingford, near Philadelphia, June 6, 1887, followed with a brief sketch of his life, and among other things in substance said: His professional like was one of labor and reward founded upon unflinching principle and great integrity. Courage, too, was a distinguishing trait of his character.
He was nominated by the Republican party, and elected to the Supreme Bench o this Commonwealth, in 1872, to succeed Chief Justice Thompson, whose commission then expired.
Here he gave evidence that he was in his proper sphere. At the same time Chief Justice Agnew ascended the bench of the Supreme Court, and willingly testified that he ever found Judge Mercur a diligent and painstaking judge, an agreeable companion and a pleasant colleague; that during their association many important cases came before the court, and in these he marked, with much pleasure, the splendid exhibition of Judge Mercur’s attachment "to principle and to the true exposition of the constitution, both the old and the new."
On the expiration of the term of Chief Justice Sharswood, in 1882, extended by the new constitution to 1883, Justice Mercur, as the oldest member in commission, became the Chief Justice.
"Thus lived and died a useful and honored citizen and an upright and able judge. His life is an example to be studied well, and to be followed by the youth of the profession.
"It is an instance, also, of the high character of our grand republican institutions and the door they hold open to all citizens who, by merit, would win their way to fortune and fame. Here no tyrants’ hand ‘grasps the whole domain,’ or ‘stints the tillage of the smiling plain’ Here no lordling crushes out the souls of prostrate poor, strips their humble cottages of the hard-earned products of their toil, or robs their homes of comfort and of happiness.
"But her, fired by love of learning or prompted by laudable ambition, or yearning for wealth and comfort, or for the elevation of higher tastes. The poorest and the lowliest, unchecked by rank or privilege or by ‘poverty’s unconquerable bar, ’may aspire to slake the thirst for knowledge, seize the objects of his desire, indulge his taste for art, or see the happiness of an attractive and lovely home. Such a home it was the fortune of the late Chief Justice to enjoy for many happy years. Here, too, a noble constitution, enduring for a century, and constantly expanding to meet the growth and wants of a nation, protects all beneath the benign influences of its powers, secures to every citizen his just rights, and smiles on his advancement in knowledge, wealth and distinction."
Immediately after the adjournment of the court, a meeting of the bar was organized, which was presided over by Chief Justice Gordon, and a committee on memorial appointed, of which Hon. John Dalzell was chairman. Among other resolutions reported was the following:
In connection with this office nothing can be said of him that is not to his honor. There is no taint on the purity of his ermine, the hot breath of calumny has never touched him, and no question was ever made of the integrity of his life. His daily walk and conversation were pure and without reproach * * *
With his robes around him, in the enjoyment of all his
faculties, with seeming years of usefulness yet to add to his honor, he
has been stricken down, and now naught remains for us to reverence for
his memory * * * He has earned his rest—rest from the cares and responsibilities
of high place, * * * May he rest in peace
|Paul Dudley Morrow may justly be called one of the eminent sons of Bradford county. He was born in what is now Wilmot township, February 17, 1828; the fourth child of John and Sally Horton Morrow. His parents were intelligent and energetic people—in comfortable surroundings as the circumstances of farmers were in that day—who brought up their family in the fear of the Lord, as it was understood by the Covenanter branch of the Presbyterian Church.|
Judge Morrow often amused his friends by his description of the way in which the Shorter Catechism was instilled into him. When the regular Sabbath recitation proved shorter than the perfect standard demanded, as was not infrequently the case even in Covenanter households, the deficiency was made up on Monday morning by a bodily exercise which was intended to profit much, in which the rod of correction played as important a part as did the rod of Moses in Egypt. And indeed, in one sense, it did profit much, for the man Paul never forgot what the boy Paul so faithfully learned: and Judge Morrow was scarcely more noted for his knowledge of civil law than for his mastery of the Westminster theology. It is obvious that the atmosphere of such a home just have been bracing physically, intellectually and morally. Hard work in the fields alternated with hard study at the district school, and with hard listening to the school-house sermons of Covenanter preachers. The boy grew strong in body, mind and conscience. He wrought, like the farmers’ lads about him; and yet no pent-up Utica confined his powers. He planned for greater things as he turned to hay, or ran the lumber down the Susquehanna. To him that hath pluck shall be given; and in due season he assumed charge of a district school. But "boarding round" was not his highest ideal of living, nor forcing the young idea to shoot by the warming influence of the rod his supreme conception of usefulness. Aspiration beckoned onward, and at the age of eighteen he entered Harford Academy, at Harford, Susquehanna county, where he was prepared for the Freshman class of Hamilton College; from which institution he was graduated in 1852. During his college days he was a hard, ambitious student, appreciating the value of his opportunities, and the necessity of strenuous, self-denying effort in order to succeed. He maintained a high position in his class, and won the respect of his teachers. Hamilton was always dear to his heart, and never had she a more loyal son. The Institution showed her appreciation of his ability and attainments by conferring upon him, in 1879, the decree of LL. D. To the end of like Judge Morrow showed the liveliest interest in educational questions. He sympathized with every boy and girl who was striving to secure an education. He was one of the founders of the Bradford County Teachers’ Association, and was the first secretary of that body. He made frequent addresses before Teachers’ Institutes. He served for years as a trustee of the Susquehanna Collegiate Institute, and three years as a director of the Public School of Towanda. His views were always clear, enlightened and practical. He was a strenuous advocate of a college training, and never ceased to urge the importance of the classical languages.
During his senior year in college he studied law under Prof. Theodore W. Dwight, since so famous as a professor in the Columbia Law School. Immediately upon graduation he entered the office of Ulysses Mercur at Towanda, and in September, 1853, was admitted to the bar of Bradford county. There were giants in the land in those days—David Wilmot, Edward Overton, Ulysses Mercur, William Watkins, William Elwell, John Adams, but the young attorney relying upon his well-trained mind, and vast capacity for hard work, modestly but bravely entered the lists. And he was not disappointed. He secured a fair share of business from the start, and succeeded in establishing so good a reputation that in 1856, he was elected District Attorney. He had the elements in him to meet such an opportunity. His administration of the office was a success and he retired with an excellent reputation for legal knowledge and practical skill. In 1862 he entered into partnership with David Wilmot, then United States Senator, and continued in that relation until Judge Wilmot was appointed Judge of the Court of Claims, at Washington. Afterward he was associated with Henry Peet and with Judge Mercur, until, in 1870, he was appointed Additional Law Judge of the Thirteenth District, composed of the Counties of Susquehanna and Bradford, of which the Hon. F. B. Streeter was President Judge. In the fall of the same year he was elected Additional Law Judge for a term of ten years, but in 1874,under the provisions of the new constitution, he became President Judge of Bradford county, Judge Streeter removing to Susquehanna county. In1880 he was renominated, without opposition, by the Republican convention, endorsed by the Democrats, and elected as his own successor. He did not live through this entire term, but died December 14, 1890, leaving an unexpired portion of eighteen days.
For the last three years of his life Judge Morrow was a sufferer from Bright’s disease, but he bore his sufferings patiently and hopefully, and to the last his characteristic brightness and cheerfulness were conspicuous. His strength of will never yielded until the inevitable summons came, and he died in peace without a visible pang, with a cheerful smile upon his face.
An analysis of Judge Morrow’s character is by no means difficult. He was such a sincere and positive man that one could not mistake his prominent characteristics. His mind was of high order; it was clear, rapid, strong and confident in its operations. He saw into the heart of a question and was confident of his conclusions and judgments. Yet he took no superficial glance; he was not misled by natural quickness, but made a careful study of every subject that challenged his attention. He was, by force of his robust moral nature, conscientious in every opinion, his whole nature went with his intellectual convictions. His sense of justice was acute and powerful; so, also, was his sense of honor. Nothing so stirred his soul to indignation, as what he esteemed a lack of professional honor, or an attempt to prevent justice by trick or fraud. He had a high sense of honor as to all questions; meant to do right as he saw the right, and to dispense justice without fear or favor. No Judge can hope to please everybody. Judge Morrow certainly did not expect to do it, but he believed that in the long run the public will vindicate the man who tries to do right, and he was not mistaken. Time only increases the general respect for his ability, and learning and legal decisions. Every year will brighten his memory. Though dead, he still speaks in the course of justice in Bradford county.
There were other aspects of Judge Morrow's character which were exceedingly attractive and contributed in no small measure to his success. He was a very social and friendly man; his attachments were fervid and lasting. He loved with all his heart, and was always ready to promote the interests of his friends; his quick sense, his spontaneous humor, made him a favorite wherever he went. He was always respectful to age and courteous to women. He had a natural taste for literature, and in his days of health and vigor, studied carefully the great classics of our English tongue. In his family he was a model of love and devotion. In June, 1857, he was married to Harriet King Pitcher, of Warren, and no man was ever more blessed in the marriage relation. He loved to say that no small part of his success in life was due to his wife, and this was no idle compliment. She was his wise and careful counselor in prosperity, and his light and joy in darkness and suffering. Their wedded life of thirty-three years was one sunny scene of confidence and love, and was suddenly broken on that Sabbath morning, to be restored, as we believe, in the higher fellowship and blessedness of the life eternal.
Three children were born to Judge and Mrs. Morrow, all of whom survive him, and are at present living in the City of Duluth: Mrs. Henrietta M. Hale (wife of Judge James T. Hale), John P. and Charles D. Morrow.
Burr Ridgeway.--One of the most interesting characters of early times, was of Quaker descent, and was born in the town of Springfield N. J., April 17, 1780; lived to the advanced age of ninety-six. When he was eleven years old, his father removed to Philadelphia, and was accidentally killed soon thereafter, leaving young Burr at that tender age without a father’s care to shape his future destiny in life’s un-trodden path. In 1803 he cane to Wysox, to take chare of John Hollenback’s store and house of entertainment. In the following year he was appointed postmaster for Wysox, then the only postoffice between Wyalusing and Sheshequin. He purchased what is known as the "Piollet farm." But sold it in 1808, and purchased on Wysox creek, where he in company with one of his brothers, built a saw and grist mill. Not meeting with the success which he had anticipated, and having had ill-luck in making his first shipment, he was compelled to abandon the enterprise, and returned to Philadelphia for a year or two. Having earned a small capital, he again returned to the county, and in the fall of 1812 came to Towanda to clerk for William Means. He at first took up his residence in a log house, owned by Harry Spalding, standing on the gulf where the Episcopal Church now is. Subsequently he built a house on the lot now occupied by Patton’s block, and lived there.
In March, 1813, he was appointed Justice of the Peace by Gov. Simon Snyder, for the district comprising the townships Towanda, Burlington and Wysox; and at the October election in 1813, he was elected County Commissioner on the Democratic Ticket over Col. Joseph Kingsbury, the Federal candidate, the vote being respectively 365 and 257. Thomas Simpson wishing to sell the Bradford Gazette, Mr. Ridgeway purchased it of him, and began its publication with the first issue in 1815. At this time there was not a mail route in the county on the west side of the river, and but one on the east side, the mail being brought once a week each from the north and south. When Mr. Ridgeway began publishing the Gazette, the people were very obliging, and one seemed to vie with another in distributing the papers. Mr. Ridgeway circulated a petition and forwarded it to the Postmaster-General, praying that a mail route be established for the accommodation of the people of the western part of the county. Proposals were issued for two lines, for a term of two years, which were to pass through several of the townships, the mail to be carried on horseback. Mr. Ridgeway became the contractor upon both lines. He continued the publication of the Gazette for over three years, when a difficulty arose between C. F. Welles and Samuel MCKean, which ended in a lawsuit that was very injurious to the paper. As a result he sold the press and material, and moved to Wysox, where he turned his attention to agriculture. He, however, again returned to Towanda, continued as a justice of the peace, and for a short time engaged in the mercantile business. In 1846, he went to Franklin to reside, and there remained until the time of his death, August 19, 1876. Besides the offices enumerated, Mr. Ridgeway filled many other places of honor and trust, and his capacity and integrity were always appreciated by his fellow-citizens. He was prominent in the Masonic Fraternity, and was one of the first members in the county. His life was useful, his name popular, and his memory cherished by many.
E. O’Mara Goodrich.--Among the sons of Bradford county who have risen to influence and reputation must be mentioned the name of W. O’Mara Goodrich.
He was born in Columbia township June 23, 1824, the eldest son of Elisha S. and Achsah Goodrich. When about twelve years of age his parents removed to Towanda. His father was the founder of the Bradford Reporter, and while yet a youth, in 1843, O’Mara became associated with him in its management. In 1846 he became sole proprietor and editor, and continued until death its inspiring and controlling spirit. He was a born printer and editor, and had a fine eye for typographical effect. His paper was always tasteful and attractive; but, in addition to this, he possessed the qualities of an able and successful editor. Endowed with quick perception and sound sense, he mastered every subject that came within his view and review. His temper was cool and controlled. His judgment was remarkable, and his self-control in respect of speech was equally remarkable. He could speak his mind calmly and fully, and stop; hence, his editorials were always intelligent and weighty, and commanded the respect, not only of his party, but of hid political opponents as well.
His entire political course, both personal and editorial, was marked by a high sense of honor. He always treated his opponents with respect, and never had recourse to abuse or misrepresentation. He was always in favor of an open, fair course, in politics, and stood ready to give straightforward and honorable battles for his principles and opinions. Such a course could only have one result; his paper became a recognized power in the county. Men waited to hear what the Reporter had to say about men and measures. And they never had to wait long, or failed to understand what the Reporter’s editors meant.
Mr. Goodrich was originally a Democrat, but drifted into the Free Soil movement in 1848. It was not, however, until 1855 that he parted with the party of his early devotion. In union with such Democrats as David Wilmot and Ulysses Mercur, he publicly protested against the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and in 1855 was a delegate to the convention at Pittsburgh which organized the Republican party. Henceforth he never swerved in his devotion to that party. All his time and talents were given cheerfully for it success, and no man had more to do with making Bradford county a Republican stronghold than he. In 1860 Mr. Goodrich was nominated and elected prothonotary, and at the close of the term was unanimously re-nominated and triumphantly re-elected. In 1868 he was appointed, by President Grant, surveyor of customs for the port of Philadelphia. And was twice re-appointed. Had he lived a month longer he would have held the office for twelve years. This fact sufficiently proves his thorough efficiency and fidelity. As a citizen Mr. Goodrich was held in the highest respect by the people of Towanda. He was public-spirited and generous; ready to advocate every public interest, and to encourage every needy and suffering neighbor. The poor always found in him a friend, and all religious interests and social movements a stanch supporter. His friendships were warm and lasting: the large concourse which followed him to the tomb attested the respect and attachment felt for him by all his townsfolk. On the seventeenth of July, 1845, Mr. Goodrich was united in marriage with Miss Susanna O’Hara, of Binghamton, N. Y., who for thirty-six years earnestly co-operated with him in extending his power and social enjoyment. She still survives, with two daughters, Mrs. Annie b. Santee, of Hazelton, Pa., and Mrs. Angie G. Kattell, of Binghamton, N. Y. Mr. Goodrich died at the house of the latter after a brief illness January 26, 1881.