Family Stories

Harman Yerkes Biography


Notice at the end of the biography it says Mr. Yerkes was a member of the Sons of the Revolution and of the Historical Societies of Bucks County and Pennsylvania – he must have had an interest in genealogy, too!

from Book of Biographies – Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Bucks County, Pennsylvania

HARMAN YERKES, of Doylestown, Bucks County, Pa., who has attained the highest distinction as president judge of the Seventh Judicial District of Pennsylvania, has long been a prominent figure in the political and business circles in this district, where he has the unwavering support and confidence of scores of loyal friends.  He is of German and French origin, and was born October 8, 1843, in Warminster, Bucks County, being a son of Stephen and Amy Hart (Montanye) Yerkes.

Paternally, he is descended in the fifth generation from Anthony Yerkes, who was of German birth and came to America prior to the eighteenth century.  He located at Germantown, Pa., where he was one of the early settlers, and in 1803-04, served as burgess of the borough.  He was the progenitor of a son, Harman, who formed a matrimonial alliance with Elizabeth Watts, a daughter of Rev. John Watts, pastor of Upper Dublin Baptist Church of Philadelphia.  This union resulted in the birth of a large family of children, the fifth of whom was Harman, the great-grandfather of our subject.  He was born January 18, 1721, and was married January 22, 1750, to Mary Stroud, of White Marsh, Montgomery County, and a daughter of Edward Stroud.  Their son, Harman, who first saw the light of day. July 25, 1767, was united in wedlock, in 1790, with Margaret Long, a daughter of Captain Andrew Long, of the Continental Army, and they reared a son, Stephen.  Stephen Yerkes, the father of the gentleman whose name appears above, was born May 19, 1809, and was united in marriage with Amy Hart Montanye, January 13, 1831.  She came of distinguished French stock, being a daughter of Rev. Thomas B. Montanye, a grandson of the noted French-Huguenot physician, Count Jean Le La Montaigne, who came to New York City in 1624, and was director-general and member of the council of that province under the Dutch Government.  Mr. and Mrs. Yerkes passed to their final rest when their son, Harman, was still a boy attending school.

Harman Yerkes, the subject of this notice, was educated in the common schools of his native- county, at the Tennant School of Hartsville, and, at East- Hampton, Mass., where he graduated from Williston with the class of 1862.  In that year he also taught school and began the study of law under the direction of Hon. Thomas Ross and his son, the late Judge Henry P. Ross, having for his fellow-students such prominent men as Senator George Ross, Judge Henry Harvey, of Allentown, and Judge Henry W. Scott, of Easton.  He was admitted to the bar in November, 1865, and practiced law with much success until his election to the bench.  He immediately took an active part in political affairs, becoming a member of the Democratic State Committee, and continuing as such for several years. In 1872-73, he was chairman of the judicial committee of conference of the Seventh District, comprising Bucks and Montgomery Counties, and was a delegate to the Judicial Conventions of that district in the years 1869, 1871 and 1872.  In 1872, he was a delegate from the Fifth District to the National Democratic Convention at Baltimore, with Lewis C. Cassidy as a colleague, and was one of the twenty-one members of that body who voted for the nomination of Judge Black against Horace Greeley.  In 1880, he was again a national delegate to Cincinnati and earnestly supported the nomination of General Hancock.  He also acted as chairman of the county committee of Bucks in that year, and as a result of his energetic work in that capacity, General Hancock carried the county by 250 votes, whereas in the previous campaign the Republican party received an overwhelming majority.  He was also a delegate to the Democratic State Conventions, which met at Wilkes-Barre in 1873, at Pittsburg in 1874, at Erie in 1875, where he was chairman of the committee on credentials, at Harrisburg in 1877, at Pittsburg in 1878, and at Harrisburg in 1882.  Judge Yerkes, even in boyhood, had the happy faculty of making friends, and these friendships have been retained throughout his life and have resulted in his election to many prominent offices.  As early as 1868 he was favored with the nomination of district attorney and was elected for a term of three years.  In 1873, he was the popular choice of Bucks and Northampton Counties for the State Senate, and served his constituents in such a manner as to gain the re-election in 1876.  At the expiration of his second term he declined a reelection.  While in the Senate he was caucus nominee for speaker, was chairman of the caucus of the two houses and served upon the judiciary general, constitutional and other important committees.  In 1883, he was unanimously nominated by the Democrats for the office of president judge of the Seventh District, and was elected by a large majority over the sitting judge, Hon. Richard Watson.  He immediately devoted his attention with much vigor to bringing up the business of his district which had fallen in arrear, and discharged his duties with such satisfaction that when the end of his term approached, all members of the bar, irrespective of party, addressed him a letter requesting the use of his name for re-election.  He was unanimously re-nominated by the Democratic Convention, and the Republican Judiciary Convention declined to nominate a candidate against him, declaring this expedient on their part. He was again elected and is now serving his second term.  The Democratic State Convention, which met at Williamsport in 1875, nominated Judge Yerkes as one of the six candidates for judge of the Supreme Court; he received the highest vote in the convention and at the subsequent election ran several thousand votes ahead of the regular ticket.  The vast amount of good accomplished by him in his various official capacities can hardly be reckoned, but it is needless to say that it is greatly appreciated by his legions of supporters and the residents of the district in general, who are ever ready to praise him for his honest and conscientious efforts.  He is the author of the law creating the Norristown Hospital for Insane, and while in the Senate successfully pressed the bill to passage, notwithstanding great obstacles.  He was then selected as one of the first managers of the institution and was very active in its organization.  He is also a director of the Doylestown Cemetery Co.

June 24, 1869, Judge Yerkes was united in hymeneal bonds with Emma Buckman, a daughter of Monroe Buckman, of Doylestown, and a woman greatly admired by a host of friends for her many excellent traits of character.  Religiously, they are consistent members of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Doylestown, of which he is a vestryman and rector’s warden.  Socially, he is a member of the Sons of the Revolution, of the Historical Societies of Bucks County and Pennsylvania, and of the Doylestown Masonic Lodge, of which he is past master.

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