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The following publication is a reprint. It is connected with an equity case tried in the Beaver County Court in 1894. It is a brief of arguments filed by Daniel Agnew not as an attorney In the case but as a "friend of the court." Presiding over the case was Judge Ewing who was assigned as the trial judge, since the local judge, Daniel Agnew had disqualified himself for interest. The case arose over the paving of the sidewalk and relocating of Turnpike Street and Commerce Street where they are adjacent to the public squares of the Borough of Beaver. The decision in the case depended upon the ownership of the public squares upon which, due to acts of the adjacent land owners, Turnpike Street and Commerce Street had intruded. Judge Agnew asserted the title to be in the Commonwealth by reason of a "reservation" of title when the town plan was laid out by the Commonwealth. Judge Ewings opinion that the making and filing of the plan resulted In a "dedication" of the squares to the Borough for public use. The State Supreme Court supported Ewings decision. The papers of both sides review the history of the squares and give a lively description of the way they looked at the last decade of the 19th century. When the brief or monograph was first written, Daniel Agnew was among the first citizens of Beaver. He had been born in Trenton, New Jersey, January 5, 1809, the son of James Agnew, M.D. and Sarah Bond Agnew. In 1813 the family left New Jersey, intending to remove to Mississippi, but the perils of such a trip made Mrs. Agnew apprehensive so that the Doctor and his family got no further than Zelienople, Pennsylvania, where the Doctor practiced for four years. In 1817 they moved to Pittsburgh. Here Daniel received an education in a local academy, at Western University (a forerunner of Pitt), graduating in 1825. He began to read law under Henry Baldwin.Esq., later a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, and W.W. Fetterman,Esq., a prominent lawyer of the time. After admission to the Bar he spent an unsuccessful six months in trying to establish a practice in Pittsburgh. He had but one client, a criminal matter, during this time and was so discouraged the he removed to Beaver in August, 1829. Here he distinguished himself In real estate law and came to have a large practice.

The Whig party attracted him and under this party he served as a member of the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention of 1838. In 185 1 he was appointed president judge of the 17th Judicial District (Beaver, Butler, Mercer and Lawrence Counties) to which office he was elected in 1851 and reelected In 1861.

An address defending the Union in the mounting dispute over secession which he gave at New Castle and later in Harrisburg in 1863 brought him statewide notice and In October, 1863, running against a Judge of secessionist leaning, he was elected as Chief Justice of Pennsylvania. He served until 1878 when he returned to his home in Beaver on Turnpike Street to the rear of the then new Court House.

He took few cases during the remainder of his life and spent some of his leisure In preparation of a book on "Settlements and Land Titles of Northwest Pennsylvania" and writing monographs on the history of Fort McIntosh, Fort Pitt, Kuskusky, Early Methodism In Beaver and In preparing, lectures on law.

In 1882, as the opinion of Judge Ewing tells, "a municipal revolution occurred (in Beaver) ---- and a council was elected on the question of municipal Improvements - - - ". The council so elected passed ordinances enacting that sidewalks be laid on Third Street from the eastern to the western boundary ---- and enacted that sidewalks of brick or stone should be laid on the four alleys bounding the central squares." Resistance to this action resulted and the "sidewalks on those alleys were not laid of either a uniform grade or uniform width or to uniform places" and an action in equity to restrain the use of parts of the squares as highways was brought.

The case resulted In giving the Borough of Beaver full authority to use and maintain the squares for public uses.

The decision and Judge Agnews brief are historic documents Important in the Borough's history, but they are also important in telling us of the appearance and use of the Squares during the 1890 decade. As such the Beaver Area Heritage Foundation republishes this document for general public distribution.


Norman S. Faulk


January 1969