Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jacob Summers, the PHL Judge - Sources

There's been a good deal of confusion about a Summers relation in Philadelphia who we might never have known about except for repeated references in histories recorded in Macomb county, Michigan!  Enter Jacob Summers, judge of records in Philadelphia. Here are the sources that seem to pertain to him:

Martin's bench and bar of Philadelphia : together with other lists of persons appointed to administer the laws in the city and county of Philadelphia, and the province and commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Rees Walsh, 1883; by John Hill Martin, page 79, and History of Philadelphia: 1609-1884, Volume II, 1884, by John Thomas Scharf, Thompson Westcott, page 1572.

These two sources say basically the same thing, that the District Court for the City and County of Philadelphia was organized in 1811 and abolished in 1873, and that Jacob Sommer was an Associate Judge who was commissioned on June 3, 1811.  This account says that Sommer was not a lawyer and he died in February 1857 at the age of 69. What's remarkable - for us - is that in the Martin source available on ancestry.com, somebody crossed out the 5 in 1857 and wrote 2, making the result 1827. If Jacob the Judge was 69 and died in 1827, then he as born in 1758, which is exactly the year of birth of Jacob Sommer, son of Johannes Sommer, brother of my ancestor George Summers. Note that we have the will of Jacob Sommer of Moreland, and indeed, he died in February, 1827.

The Colonies and early Republic - Volume 2 - by Eric H. Monkkonen, Page 738

 "...the District Court was created in 1811 with three judges described as a president and two assistant judges.  This was the same number of judges constituting the courts of common pleas in other judicial districts in the state.  The first president judge of the District Court was Joseph Hemphill and the two associate judges or "wing judges" as they were called in that day were Anthony Simmons, a goldsmith, and Jacob Sommer, a farmer, who appears to have devoted little time to his judicial duties."

Courts and Lawyers of Pennsylvania, A History, 1623-1923 (1922) by Frank M. Eastman

 "Jacob Sommer, the other lay judge, was a farmer, and lived in Byberry Twp. He was of Pennsylvania German descent, and discharged the duties of his office with the patient good sense and modesty that characterized his race. Probably owing to his residence in the country, he does not appear from the minute-books to have given as much time to his duties as the other judges, but was nevertheless reappointed in 1817, and continued to sit until the expiration of his commission in 1821. In 1823, he was appointed a judge of the peace for Bristol, Germantown and Roxborough, after which time I have not been able to find any trace of him."

 A History of the townships of Byberry and Moreland in Philadelphia, Pa., from their earliest settlements by the whites to the present time by Joseph C. Martindale, p. 223

"Somerton, the largest village in the township, is situated on the Bustleton and Somerton turnpike road, about three miles from the former place, and thirteen from Philadelphia. It is partly in Moreland and partly in Byberry, and extends a quarter of a mile along the turnpike...." The end of the paragraph has a footnote that says "The village is named in honor of Judge Sommer who dwelt on the property now occupied by Enoch Taylor. It was previously called Smithfield, but assumed its present name at the beginning of the nineteenth century."

We should note that an early church record for my ancestor, George Summers, said he was "of Smithfield" so it would not be a surprise that his brother Johannes also settled there.

 Finally here is another description of Somerton from a history website:

 "The name Smithfield was changed to Somerton sometime between 1862 and 1876. The change was prompted by the control that Judge Sommers exercised over the region in owning substantial property on both sides of Bustleton Avenue where Leo Mall stands today."

So this is more information than we have about all our New Jersey Summers families combined! Given these clues, we should be able to find even more, especially from deeds, so stay tuned.  Meanwhile I have located who I think could be this Jacob Summers in the 1800, 1810, and 1820 census of Moreland township in PHL county. If indeed, those census' do show a snapshot of this Jacob Summers, then he had several other family members.  Who were they, his wife and other children? 

Let me here note that there was a Jacob Sommer and other Sommer relations who lived in Germantown and they were carriage makers.  So far I have not been able to connect that family with ours, but they were in the same general neighborhood!

I am happy to correspond with anybody who'd like to discuss the points related to this post!

1 comment:

  1. The mistaken death date of 1857 published in the first sources mentioned here was probably not just a typo. Judge Jacob had a grandson, also named Jacob Sommer, who died in 1857.