Civic Histories - The School Vandalism Trial of 1867.

From "The Daily Record", Kittanning PA, Monday April 8, 1901

"A Noted Case"

On a nice summer evening in the month of May, 1867, the young people of the neighborhood gathered at what is known as the Casady school house in Cowanshannock township, Armstrong county, Pa., where Prof. John W. Morrow was to conduct a singing. Everything went along in good order until the Professor dismissed the audience when John Marshall, Constable of the township, clothed with a warrant issued by John K. Ormond, Justice of the Peace on information made by A. P. Jewart and James Aitkins, School Directors of the above named township, the Constable put Professor Morrow under arrest for holding a singing in school house without the consent of the Board of Directors. Prof. Morrow had a hearing the same night before 'Squire Ormond, who fined him four dollars and costs, which he paid and was discharged. While the hearing was going on some unknown person removed all the furniture, doors, windows, shutters, stove and everything belonging to the house and piled them on the public road near the school house. Then the school board met and concluded that some one must suffer. All except John Neal, who refused to act with the other five, as follow: A. P. Jewart, James Aitkins, James Stewart, William McIntosh, William Schrecongost, went before 'Squire Ormond and made information against twenty-four young men, charging them with malicious mischief in breaking and destroying the furniture and windows of the school house. The warrants were placed in the hands of John Marshall, Constable of Cowanshannock township, and John H. Rupp, Constable of Wayne township, for the following persons: George A. Stewart, Samuel B. Fleming, James W. Earhart, Archibald Earhart, Isaac N. Simpson, R. M. Marshall, W. A. Morrow, Joseph H. Moorhead, George S. Cassady, Frank Ellwood, Martin Moore, James H. Black, Samuel Kinley, John A. Stoops, David Wadding, James Kinley, Azbury M. Lias, David Segar, John M. Hunter, James McCombs, John S. McFarland, J. W. Marshall, H. S. Barnett, Calvin Kirkpatrick. The arrests were made and all gave bond in the sum of five hundred dollars each to appear before William Gallaher, Justice of the Peace in Dayton, on the 10th day of June, for a hearing. When hearing day came more than two hundred people were present, and the hearing was held in the Dayton Union Academy by 'Squire Gallaher. The Commonwealth was represented by Major James Golden, Esq., and the defendants, by Col. David Barclay and John Smullen, Esq'rs. At the hearing a terrible story of destruction was told by the prosecution, but not one word implicating any of the defendants, but the 'Squire appeared to think it too important a case to drop, so he allowed the drag net to hold and decided to hold the defendants in three hundred dollars each, which bond they all readily gave for their appearance at next court. At September Sessions, 1867, the Grand Jury found a true bill against all the defendants. The prosecution, by advice of their attorney, E. S. Golden, Esq., made a proposition to settle if each defendant would pay eight dollars fifty cents. Four of the defendants took advantage of this offer and paid and were discharged, namely, J. W. Marshall, H. S. Barnet, Calvin Kirkpatrick and John S. McFarland. The case was then contined to December term. The remaining twenty defendants went before Prothonotary Colonel Parr, and gave bond in the sum of one hundred dollars each to appear at December court. When December came a delegation of one hundred and fifty people from Wayne and Cowanshannock townships was there for the trial. Judge Joseph Buffington was on the bench. The case was called on Wednesday for trial. The Commonwealth was represented by John W. Rohrer, District Attorney Edward S. Golden and James B. Neale, Esq'rs. The defence was represented by Col. David Barclay and John Smullen, Esq'rs. The jury empanelled were Phillip Turney, James H. Reddick, John A Colwell, J. F. Farster, Peter Hock, W. W. McKee, Wm. Horn, Henry Donnelly, John Montgomery, Thomas Hill, Samuel Scott and Isaac Altman. The trial lasted four days, the jury brought in a verdict Saturday night at 9 o'clock. Court was called to receive the verdict which was "not guilty." The five school directors to pay one-half the costs and the twenty defendants to pay one-half the costs, which I, with all the other defendants think was unjust, but all the defendants took the decision good naturedly knowing that each prosecutor had four dollars to pay for one each defendant had to pay. Of the court officers and attorneys that tried the case only two are living, John W. Rorher Esq., editor of the Democrat and Sentinal and [illeg] Judge James B. Neal. Only two of these school directors are living. James Aitkins, and William Schrecongos [sic], both being eighty years of age. John H. Rupp, one of the constables that made the arrests is living on his farm and is past eighty years of age and has been totally blind for the past fifteen years. John K. Ormond Esq. is living on his farm near Elderton, Pa., being nearly 90 years of age. Dr. John W. Morrow, the singing teacher who was referred to by Mr. Golden throughout the trial as "the singing bird" is a practicing physician at Tionesta, Pa. Of the jury I only know of two, John A. Caldwell, Kittanning, Pa., and Peter Hoch, Pierce, Pa. They are both living Of the twenty-four defendants in this case of thirty-four years ago, as far as I can learn, only one has died. John A. Stoops, of Echo, Pa., died about one year ago. Geo. A Stewart was a resident of Wyoming, when last heard from. Rev. Samuel B. Fleming, D.D., is a prominent Presbyterian minister in the state of Kansas. James W. Earhart, Rural Valley, is a prosperous farmer. Archibald Earhart, Penn Run, Pa., is a prosperous farmer. Isaac N. Simpson, Altoona, Pa., is a merchant. R. M. Marshall, Dayton, Pa., is a farmer and Secretary of Pine Creek Insurance Co., David Wadding, Dayton, Pa., is a farmer. W. A. Morrow, New Kensington, Pa., is an overseer at the Aluminum works at that place. Jos. H. Moorhead, Atwood, Pa., Geo. S. Cassady, Meredith, Pa., are both prosperous farmers. Frank Elwood is in the oil fields of West Virginia. Martin Moore, Barnards, Pa., is a farmer. James H. Black is a well-to-do farmer in the state of Kansas. Samuel Kinley, Rural Valley, is a farmer. James Kinley, Esq., is a resident of East Pittsburg, Pa., lives a retired life. David Segar, Punxsutawney, Pa., is a teamster. John M. Hunter, Esq., Pittsburg, Pa., is a prominent attorney at the Allegheny county Bar. Rev. James McCombs, D.D. has been many years a Presbyterian missionary in India. J. W. Marshall, Smicksburg, Pa., is a stock dealer and keeps hotel. H. S. Barnett, Trenton, New Jersey, is an attendant in an insane hospital at that place. Calvin Kirkpatrick is a well to do farmer in the state of Illinois. John S. McFarland, Allegheny, Pa., is a contractor.

This case raised quite a commotion in the community. The boys did not lack for plenty of friends. The following are some of the substantial citizens who stood by them. David Simpson, Samuel Fleming, Sr., Joseph Hosick, W. W. Marshall, Martin Lias, Henry Earhart, Samuel Cochran, W. R. McGaughey, Samuel Cassady, Sr., Samuel Cassidy, Jr., Lieutenant John Kinley, John Black, John C. Stewart, Harry Gourley, C. J. Stewart, John McFarland, Smith Neal, and many others that I do not recall now.

The writer heard ex-Judge James B. Neale one of the Commonwealth attorneys, say to a friend after the jury had retired to their room and court adjourned, that it would be safe for any one to offer one thousand dollars reward for the person who did the mischief to the school house, for seventy-five or more witnesses had been examined and not one word of evidence had been obtained against any person. One feature of this case the writer could never understand, why the twenty-four young men were picked out from among more than one hundred who attended the singing. It seems they were drawn as jurymen are drawn, for they were probably no better and certainly no worse than those left out, and these many years have proven that all have been and are good citizens. We will all admit that we were a lively crowd and had plenty of fun, but time has shown that none were disposed to do wrong, and it is just as much of a mystery now as it has always been who did the mischief at the school house.

R. M. Marshall
Dayton, Pa., April 8th, 1901.