Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: ‘Here Come the Judges’

JenksMatson Insurance is partnering with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look in Jefferson County’s past. Today “Here Come the Judges” is being showcased.

[The portrait above of Judge William Parsons Jenks is one of many of our judges displayed in the Jefferson County Courthouse today.(Photograph by Bill Stein)]


Since 1869 the Jefferson County courtroom has undergone many changes. Clear panes have replaced the original stained glass windows and today’s technology has solved the acoustical problem mentioned by historian Kate Scott. But just like your rooms at home, courtrooms accumulate things. During renovations things are removed, some replaced, others stored. Following the most recent renovation, portraits were taken down, cleaned, conserved, and then some were rehung. Plaques were polished. Today the refurbished courtroom is an exquisite interior. But who are those faces that peer down on judge and jury?

The portraits that now grace the walls are some of the president judges who presided over court here and who were born or later lived in the county, the first portrait being William Parsons Jenks (1821—1902), the first president judge native to Jefferson County. In 1871 Jenks was elected president judge of the 18th Judicial District (Clarion, Jefferson, Forest Counties). McKnight writes that “During his term the discovery of oil in the district, and the shifting of the center of oil production toward it, rendered it for a while one of the busiest and most important districts in the state. The controversy between the producers and the pipeline interests, involving, as it did, railway transportation problems and the system of secret rebates, centered there for a time. His insistence that both sides come out into the open cost him dear personally, but, at a time when both lawyers and business men throughout the country were groping more or less blindly for a solution, it helped point the only way by which justice could be secured.”

Elijah Heath Clark (1839—1909) was born in Brookville, attended school there and then academies in Saltsburg and New Bethlehem. He read law under George W. Ziegler and the Jenks brothers before being admitted to the bar in 1866. Elected president judge of the 18th Judicial District (Clarion and Jefferson Counties) in 1891, he served until 1895. Since then all president judges have been residents of the county. President Judge John W. Reed (1853–1926) was renown in criminal practice and ran an “economical administration.” McKnight writes that he was defeated in 1915 “in the clash of opinion regarding judicial and legislative responsibility in the no-license question.” Supported by the brewers, saloons, and corporations, he lost the election by fewer than 600 votes.

President judges in the 20th century include Charles Corbet, William Thompson Darr, Jesse C. Long, Robert Means Morris, Edwin Snyder, William L. Henry, and the current president judge, John H. Foradora.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.


Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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