The Columbian. (Bloomsburg, Pa.) 1866-1910, August 11, 1898, Image 1

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    VOL. 33
"We are now less than six
months from the time of hold
ing the primaries at which a
successor to Judge Ikeler will
be nominated."
"Prior to 1888 the people of
this judicial district did not
know what a contest for Judge
meant. Up to that time the
Judges were selected by the bar
of the district, generally by
selecting a strong lawyer who
lived outside, inviting him to
become a candidate. The De
mocrats always endorsed the
selection made by the bar, and
as a result of that practice, we
were blessed ivith Judges that
were an ornament to the legal
profession, an honor to the
bench and a credit to our Party
that was responsible for their
—Sentinel, Dec. 31, 1897.
"Lewis, Donnel, Anthony, Pollock and
Conyngham, were all able men, and ranked
with the ablest judges in this state, and it
was not necessary to have a self appointed
committee of the bar of the district to go
outside to find them either. In those days
the bar of this district would have resented
the insult, and the people who had to foot
the bills would have repudiated their action.
We must take issue with the "Columbian"
when if says that "neither Conyngham,
Woodward nor Elwell were office seekers."
Conyngham was able to take care of him
self with the politicians at any time. When
Governor Johnston appointed Judge Jessup
to succeed Judge Conyngham, it was this
same ludge Conyngham, who, in order to
defeat his successor, drew the bill to make
the judiciary elective which was passed in
1851, and this Judge Conyngham whom the
"Columbian" says was "one of the best
judges the state ever had," succeeded in
having himself nominated and elected and
forced Jessup off the bench, even though it
was necessary to wipe out by legislative
enactment, our then system of choosing
judges. Among all the men who have
biought dignity and honor to the bench of
this state, Judge Conyngham was the one
man who knew how to get on the bench,
and when on, how to stay there.
Judge Woodward was brought into this
district by influences that was anything but
creditable to the local bar. What these in
fluences were we may state in the future.
When in 1862, Judge Elwell was invited in
the same selfish interests prevailed ; but it
will lie noticed that no effort was made along
that line ten years ago, and only because it
did not suit the convenience or interest of
the prime mover in the schemes of getting
Woodward and Elwell in the district. Now
the same old influence is at work, but that
it has run up against a wall there is no ques
Judge Elwell may or may not have known
the motives of the schemer who succeeded in
getting him on the ticket, and finally on the
bench of this district. But that he was
ambitious for political and judicial prefer
ment, all know. This was no discredit to
him. In 1866, while on the bench, he was
our candidate lor Congress, and actually
canvassed for votes. In 1874, he, as well as
Judge Woodward, was a candidate for Judge
of our Supreme Court, and expected the as
sistance of a supposed friend here at home,
to assist him in his ambition. But Judge
Elwell then learned that the support of the
tricky politician was a weak staff to lean on
in lime of need. Woodward was the nomi
nee, and Judge Elwell and his friends bit
their tongues in their disappointment. In
the face of all these facts, the "Columbian"
says, "neither Conyngham nor Woodward
nor Elwell were office seekers. The office
sought them, tfce." This is history and we |
know that the editor of the "Columbian"
is familiar with some of the facts. To say
that all of these men were not keenly alive
to the main chance, when it come to ad
vancement would be false, and that they all
did not realize their fondest hopes was no
fault of theirs."—"Sentinel," Aug. 5, 1898.
The foregoing extracts from the
Sentinel are reproduced here, first,
to show that only six months ago
that paper strongly endorsed the
custom of making the selection of
a Judge from outside the district;
and secondly to refute some of the
allegations contained in the second
The Sentinel does not seem to
agree with itself. If it was right in
December last, wheu it said that
the bar of the district up to 1888 se
lected strong lawyers from outside,
and "that under this practice we
were blessed with Judges that were
an ornament to the legal profession,
an honor to the bench and a credit
to our party that was responsible
for their election,'' it must be wrong
now when it says that these Judges
were selected by a self-appointed
committee, and that Judge Conyng
ham sneaked himself on the bench
by a bill drawn by himself in the
legislature, and that "Judge Wood
ward was brought into the district
by influences that was anything but
creditable to the local bar," and
that "Judge Elwell was invited
Wfyc Columbian.
here by the same selfish interests."
But it it not true that Judge
Conyngham "drew the bill to make
the Judiciary elective which was
passed in 1851." The Judiciary
were made elective by a constitu
tional amendment which was adopt
ed by a vote of the people in 1850,
and carried by a large majority.
The change was made by the peo
ple of the whole state, and there
fore could not have been made for
the benefit of Judge Conyngham
alone, as the Sentinel would have it
In 1849 the Luzerne Represent
tatives in the House at Harrisburg
were Henry M. Fuller and Thomas
Gillespy ; in 1850, John N. Cony
ngham and Andrew Beaumont, and
in 185 li* James W. Rhoads and S.
S. Benedict.
Judge Conyngham, therefore, was
not a member of the Legislature
when the Joint Resolution of 1849,
proposing an amendment to make
judges elective by the people in
stead of appointable by the Gover
nor, (by and with Senatorial appro
val), was introduced and passed,
nor was he a member when this
Act of 15th April 1851, (P. Laws
651), for dividing this state into
judicial districts was enacted into
A second passage of the Constitu
tional Amendment Resolution at
the session of 1850, was a matter of
course, being supported by public
opinion and not strongly opposed,
while a submission of the amend
ment to a vote of the people, the
fall following, as provided for at
that session, was required by the
constitution and the sworn duty of
all the members.
It will be seen from this state
ment how false are the imputations
upon Judge Conyngham. as made
by the Sentinel writer, "that the
judge drew this bill to make the
judiciary elective," in order to
defeat Judge Jessup ; that such bill
was passed in 1851, "and that this
Judge Conyngham succeeded in hav
ing himself nominated and forced
Judge Jessup off the bench even
though it was necessary to wipe out
by legislative enactment our then
system of choosing judges.''
To all which we answer :—Judge
Conyngham drew no such bill and
no such bill ever existed ; he was
not in the Legislature in 1851 to
draw or pass any bill whatever ;
the bill or act of 1851, referred to,
was not an act to change the man
ner of appointing judges but for
reforming judicial districts and did
not change injuriously to him the
home district of Judge Jessup ; and
lastly, the vacation of Judge
Jessup's commission was not by
virtue of any statute, but of the con
stitutional change decreed by the
people the year before. The act of
1851 made Susquehanna, Bradford
and Sullivan the 13th Judicial Dis
trict but in the fall of that year
Judge Jessup did not choose to be a
candidate for election therein. He
became one of the candidates of his
party for a judgeship in the Su
preme Court, but failed of an elec
It seems like a useless expendi
ture of time to say anything in con
tradiction of the allegation that
"Conyngham, Woodward and El
well were all office seekers." That
it is utterly false is known by every
body who is old enough to remem
ber the men, and honest enough to
admit an established fact. Judge
Conyngham was first appointed in
1839, at the request of his friends,
irrespective of party, and was elect
ed and re-elected.
Judge Woodward was appointed
by Governor Pollock in 185 G. upon
the recommendation of the members of
the bar of the several counties in the
district, and in the fall of the same
year was elected without opposition.
Freeze's History says : "Judge
Woodward was never a candidate
for political office, in the ordinary
sense of that term, but by devotion
to his profession of the law, he
qualified himself for high judicial
positions, and obtained them with
out personal solicitation or effort."
When, in 1861, Judge Woodward
was offered the nomination for
Judge of Berks county, without so
licitation or effort on his part, his
resignation here was objected to by
the bar, and he suggested the name
of William Elwell of Bradford
county, as a fit successor to himself.
This suggestion was at once accept
ed by the bar, and Judge Woodward
wrote to Judge Elwell, asking him
if he would accept an appointment
from the governor, if it was tender
ed. This was the first intimation
Judge Elwell had of the matter.
He had never been in Columbia
county except to pass through in
travel, but once in his life, and that
was when he was a law student
many years before. The next time
he stopped here was in December
1862, when he came to hold court
after his election.
In September 1961, a committee
appointed by the bar of Columbia
county, not a "self constituted
committee," went to Laporte to see
William Elwell who was then en
gaged in court in the trial of causes.
That committee consisted of Robert
F. Clark, a Republicau, Col, J, G-
Freeze, and Wesley Wirt. They
had a paper signed by all the mem
bers of the bar of this county, ask
ing him to consent to be a candidate
forjudge. They sent for him to
come to their room at the hotel, but
he, guessing what their mission
was from the letter received from
Judge Woodward, declined to go,
but sent word that they could come
to his room if they desired to see
him. He had had time to consider
the matter before hand, and hacj
decided to accept the appointment,
if tendered him by the Governor,
and if at the end of a year he did
not like the position, he could de
cline to accept the nomination.
This was early in the war, and the
salary of the Judges was then only
two thousand dollars *a year. His
practice was worth several times
that sum, and he therefore hesitat
ed about accepting, but not know
ing how the war would affect busi
ness, he concluded that a certain
salary, even though small, was
better than uncertain fees, and he
determined to give it a trial. There
fore two days later he wrote the
following letter, the original of
which was found a few years ago
among the papers of Robert F.,
Clark, and handed to th e editor of
this paper.
LAPORTE, Sept. 25, 1861.
Your letter of the 23 inst. desiring
my consent to become the successor
of Hon. W. J. Woodward, President
Judge of this judicial district, in
the event of his resignation, is
The assurance which you give,
that my appointment will be well
received by the people without**dis
tinction of party—the unanimity of
the bar in the district upon the sub
ject, and the fact that the district is
one of the most pleasant and desira
ble in the state all combine to con
trol my decision in favour of ac
cepting the appointment should it
be tendered to me. Whether your
present excellent Judge shall resign
or not, be assured gentlemen, that
the kind expressions of confidence
contained in your letter are to me
very gratiiying. ,
Yours Truly,
To Robert F. Clark Esq.,
and other members of the
bar of Columbia Co.
Judge Woodward resigned, but
the war feeling was so high at that
time that Governor Curtin refused
to appoint a Democrat, and so ap
pointed A. K. Peckham, a Republi
can. In 1862 the Democratic
county convention of every coynty
in the district unauimously nomi
nated William Elwell for Judge.
There was no other candidate, and
110 one else cad been mentioned for
the place. Judge Peckham de
clined to be the Republican candi
date, and Judge Elwell was unani
mously elected.
In 1872, without any solicitation
on his part, he was nominated by
both Democrats and Republicans,
and received every vote cast in the
district but four.
In 1882, the following correspond
ence took place :
Bloomsburg, Pa.
The undersigned members of the
Bar of Columbia County, in view
of the approaching end of your
Second Term, as the President
Judge of the 26th Judicial District,
hereby request that you will con
sent to be a candidate for re-elec
tion to your present office.
May 1882:
John G. Freeze, Samuel Knorr,
E. R. Ikeler, C. B. Brockway, B.
Frank Zarr, Hervey E. Smith, Wru.
Chrisman, Paul E. Wirt, C. C.
Peacock, L. S. Wintersteen, W. L-
Eyerly, A. C. Smith, J. H. Maize,
L. T. Thompson, Robt. S. Howell,
W.J, Buckalew, Guyjacoby, Wm.
H. Snyder, C. R. Buckalew. E. H.
Little, C. W. Miller, Chas. G- Bark
ley, W. H. Rhawn, Win. Bryson,
R. Buckingham, A. L. Fritz, John
C. Yocura, H. V. White, L. E.
Waller, J. B. Robison, Robt. R.
Little, T. J. Vanderslice, C. B. Jack
son, Frank P. Billmeyer, John M.
Clark, F. Stewart, A. K. Oswald.
We, the undersigned members of
the Bar of Montour County, join in
the foregoing request of the mem
bers ofthebarof Columbia County.
Edward H. Baldy, William J.
Baldy, Joshua W. Comly, B. K.
Rhodes, Win. C. Johnston, Frank
C. Angle, Geo. D. Butler, Henry
Vincent, H. M. Hinckley, Jno. C.
Montgomery, L. K. Mowrer, I. X.
Grier, James Scarlet, Edward S.
Judge Elwell accepted in the fol
lowing language :
To the Bar of the 26th Judicial
In complying with your unani
mous request, that I will conseut
to be a candidate for re-election to
the office of President Jndge, I can
not refrain from expressing the
gratification which this token of
confidence and regard has inspired.
If it shall please the people to ratify
your choice, it will be my pleasure
to serve tnem to the best of my
Your Obt. Servant.
Bloomsburg, May 15, 1882.
He was again nominated by both
parties, and elected. He never an
nounced his name as a candidate
for office, and never asked a man to
vote for him iii his life.
Judge Elwell was nominated for
Congress in 1866. The district
consisted of Bradford, Wyoming,
Columbia, Sullivan and Montour.
Ulysses Merctir was the Republican
candidate and had beaten Piollet in
1864 by over a thousand majority.
Letters from every county were
received by Judge Elwell urging
him to accept the nomination, but
he had no congressional aspirations,
and he declined untiLso much pres
sure was brought to bear that he
reluctantly consented. He was
asked to give up an office that would
continue for six years, and probably
all his life, to accept a nomination
in a strong Republican district, for
a two year term, if elected, and he
said that he did not want to relin
quish a position that he liked and
was fitted for, for one that he did
not want, and which would keep
him from home half the time. But
yielding to strong solicitations he
at last consented, and was defeated,
much to his own satisfaction. The
extent of his canvass consisted in
making three speeches in Bradford
county, because the party leaders
demanded it. He did not make a
single speech within his judicial
district, and the allegation that he
"solicited votes" is absolutely false.
Again, it is said that Judge El
well was a candidate for the
Supreme bench, and when he did
not succeed "he and his friends bit
their tongues in their disappoint
ment." This too is false, and the
man who wrote it knows that it is
That he was frequently mention
ed by the papers of the state as a fit
person for that position, is true.
Having indulged somewhat in the
habit of keeping a scrap book, we
could fill this sheet with extracts
from newspapers concerning his
fitness for that office, and letters by
the score can be produced showing
that he was urged to allow his
name to come before the state con
vention whenever there was a Su
preme Judge to be elected. But he
uniformly declined, and his reasons
were that he would be away from
home most of the time, living in
hotels ; that the additional pay
would not compensate for the addi
tional expense and labor, and he
was entirely satisfied with the posi
tion he was holding. In 1872, he
received a paper signed by all the
members of the Wyoming county
bar and others, asking him to be a
candidate. This was accompanied
by a letter from W. E. Little Esq.,
saying :
"A careful review of the field
convinces me that there is a reason
able certainty of your election if
nominated, and a certainty of nomi
nation if you will permit us to use
your name in time." This was de
The Wyoming Democrat of May
8, 1872, says : "The name of
Judge Elwell has been favorably
mentioned by Democratic papers in
d'Terent parts of the state, in con-
Hundreds of Suits for Men and Boys.
Hundreds of pairs of Fine Shoes for Men, Boys, Women
and Children.
Hundreds of Hats are here and must be sold out complete
ly, and at
$5, 6, and 7.50 buys Men's Suits that cost from $2
to $4 more at any other store.
$1.50 and $1.98 Buys Boys Suits worth from 75c.
to SI.OO more.
98c. and $1.98 buys Men's or Women's Fine Shoes,
retailing from 50c. to $1 more at any other store.
50c. buys $1 Percale Shirts, attached collars.
25c. buys 50c. Straw Hats.
Single pants to match up coats and
vests, beautiful kinds at
$1.50 and up.
■ft** ~ ~
nection with the candidacy for
Judge of the Supreme Court."
THE COLUMBIAN of May r, 1872,
then edited by H. L. Diefifenbach,
aniiounced by authority that Judge
Elwell would not consent to be a
candidate for that office.
In 1873, his name was presented
before the Democratic state conven
tion at Wilkes-Barre for the Su
preme bench, against his wishes,
and without his consent, and not
withstanding this his vote was next
to the highest among a number of
In 1874 there were two Judges of
the Supreme Court to be elected,
which made the election of the
Democratic candidate sure. Sena
tor Buckalew went to Judge Elwell
and urged him to accept the nomi
nation. Letters from Philadelphia,
Pittsburg, Wilkes-Barre, and from
nearly every county in the state
were received, urging him to be a
candidate. Mr. Buckalew assured
him that he was his first choice, and
that he would do all in his power
to secure the nomination. After
considering the matter a few days
Judge Elwell told Mr. Buckalew
that he positively declined to go be
fore the convention, and then it was
that Mr. Buckalew turned his at
tention to Judge Woodward, and
the latter was elected. The allega
tion that Mr. Buckalew betrayed
Judge Elwell is utterly without
In 1877 Judge Elwell was nomi
nated for Supreme Judge by the
Union Labor Party at Harrisburg,
without his previous knowledge,
and he promptly declined.
This is the record of a man known
to the people of this county for
thirty-two years, who relinquished
his office voluntarily ten years ago,
and who has been in his grave for
nearly three years, and who now
for the first time during his life or
since, is said to have held the hon
orable position which he filled so
long, because he was an "office
We are charitable enough to be
lieve that the object of the writer of
the Sentinel article was not so much
intended to besmirch the memory
of dead men as it was to help a
living one. While there is no dis
grace connected with office seek
ing when properly and honorably
NO. 32
pursued, the people of this district,
have not yet become accustomed to '
that method offllling the Judgeship.
They believe that for forty years
the office sought the man, and they
know that "as a result of that prac
tice we were blessed with Judges
that were an ornament to the legal
profession, an honor to the bench,
and a credit to our party."
To charge now that Couyngham,
Woodward and Elwell were select
ed by discreditable and selfish in
fluences, by a ' 'schemer," is a gross
insult to the bar which unanimous
ly participated in those selections,
and it is a greater insult to the peo
ple of the district to accuse them of
being hoodwinked and deceived
into supporting without opposition
for so many years, men who were
foisted upon them by a "schemer"
or by a "self constituted" com
We must apologize for having
taken so much space for a matter
that may seem like one of only per
sonal interest to the writer, but it
must be remembered that the re
cords of these distinguished jurists
belong to all the people ot the dis
trict, and not alone to the immedi
ate families, and an attack upon
their memories is an attack upon
the people who placed them in high
position and kept them there so
long, and for this reason we have
now for the first time given the
public some facts that have never
appeared in print before, but every
one of which is capable of proof by
reliable living witnesses, as well as
by the records of that period.
Beside the race meet of the
Bloomsburg Wheelmen to be held
in the afternoon of Saturday August
20tli, there will be a game of base
ball in the forenoon between Ber
wick and a club to be culled from
Bloomsburg's best material. Ber
wick has a great record this season,
winning nearly every game, and a
close and exciting contest is antici
Ent Post No. 250 G. A. R. will
hold its annual camp fire on Friday
and Saturday evenings of next week,
in the Tabernacle on Market Street.
Music for the occasion will be fur
nished by the Bloomsburg Band. A
good time is promised all who attend.