Biography of Hon. Jeremiah M. Burrell
Indiana County, PA Biographies

HON. JEREMIAH MURRY BURRELL, in honor of whom a township in each of the counties of Indiana, Armstrong and Westmoreland was named, was the third president judge of the courts of Indiana county.

"Jeremiah M. Burrell was born at Murrysville, Westmoreland county, Pa., September 1, 1815. He was the son of Dr. Benjamin Burrell, who came from an eastern county and settled at Murrysville in the practice of his profession, and in 1814 married Sarah Murry, danghter of Jeremiah Murry, Esq., a merchant and large landholder. Jeremiah was the only child of this marriage, and after receiving such elementary education as the village school afforded, entered a classical school taught by a Rev. Mr. Gill, about three miles from his native village, and in which he studied Latin and the mathematics, and prepared for entering college. After a full course of collegiate training at Jefferson College, Cannonsburg, Washington county, Pa., he graduated with honor. His father having died, and young Burrell having decided to enter into the legal profession, his mother removed to Greensburg, where he entered the office of Richard Coulter, afterwards a judge of the Supreme Court of the State, and after the due course of reading was admitted to the bar, and rapidly made progress into a good practice, which became a large one. He possessed splendid powers of oratory, which impressed his audiences in the very beginning of his career. While studying law he had stumped the county as a democratic politician, commanding great admiration, and making countless profitable acquaintanccships, which served him when he entered upon professional practice. He conducted the practice of the law with assiduity, faithfulness, and constantly increasing success for some years.

"Some time about 1839 he bought the Pennsylvania Argus, and became its editor. In the hot political campaign of 1840 he established his name as a writer of high ability, and made a State reputation for the paper. Some of his articles on political topics were copied in other papers all over the Union. Horace Greeley in the Log Cabin, on the side of the opposition, took issue with some of the articles, and gave them still wider circulation by replying to them in the fulminating style which later made him one of the most celebrated political journalists of the age. In the campaign of 1844 he was one of the most efficient speakers and writers in the State in behalf of Colonel Polk, his political friends pitting him against such men as Thomas Williams, who was afterwards selected by Congress to deliver the eulogium upon Abraham Lincoln. He was subsequently elected to the State Assembly. Here he soon distingnished himself, and there was a heated rivalry between him and Thomas Burnside, Jr., a son of Judge Burnside of the Supreme Court, and a son in law of Simon Cameron, then a democrat, for the position of leader of the Democratic party in the House. In this competition Burrell was victorious, and it is admitted by both friends and political opponents that he was the ablest partisan and the most eminent orator in the Pennsylvania Legislature.

"In 1847 he was appointed judge of the Tenth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, and in February, 1852, took his seat as judge of the same court under election (as elsewhere stated in detail), and held the post till 1856, when he was appointed by President Pierce judge of the Territorial District of Kansas, Leaving his family in Greensburg, he went to Kansas and entered upon his professional duties in a time of great excitement over the slavery question. Judge Burrell entertained what was known as Douglass' 'Squatter Sovereignty' policy in regard to that territory, and which involved the proposition of the right of citizens of any State to take with them into the territories south of the Missouri Compromise line, without interferance or opposition by others, whatever was regarded as property in their own State. If this policy was a mistaken one, it must he remembered that it was entertained by many able statesmen of the times, which were those of great political distress in the land, when no man was found wise and prophetic enough to foresee what one of the several conflicting propositions or policies of that day would prove the best or most expedient for the country, or be, all things considered, actually the most just. Judge Burrell's instincts and education inclined him to refined consideration for the rights of all men, and nothing but a supreme reverence for the Constitution of his country could have allured him to lose sight for the moment of the great question of positive and equal justice to and among all races of men.

"Suffering from malarial fever in Kansas, Judge Burrell returned to Greensburg in 1856, and after a sickness of some months' duration, died at his home, surrounded by his family, on the 21st day of October of that year.

"He married Miss Ann Elizabeth Richardson, daughter of William H. and Henrietta D. (Hubley) Richardson, of Greensburg. Of this union were six children, Sarah M., William Richardson, deceased; Henrietta H., Benjamin, Mary R. and Jeremiah M."

Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia
of Indiana and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania
Samuel T. Wiley, Historian & Editor
John M. Greshan & Co.
Philadelphia, 1891

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