JOSHUA B. AGNEW was born in Clarion county, Penn., May 24, 1840. His father, John Agnew, came of that sturdy Scotch-Irish family of Agnew”s, well known in this State, and was born in Centre (now Blair) county, Penn., in the year 1800. His mother was born in Lancaster county, this State, and was a descendant of the early settlers of that section of the State, who came from Holland. The father of the subject of this sketch was well known to the early settlers of Northwestern Pennsylvania. When a young man he came to Clarion county, and engaged in various business enterprises of that day; was married in Clarion county, but nearly sixty years ago settled in Barnett township, Jefferson county, near the Clarion river, and with John Cook, William Armstrong. John Wynkoop, David Reynolds, Judge Barnett, Oran Butterfield, James Irwin, Sylvester Nolton, Judge Blood, W. R. Coon and others, was one of the early pioneers in the first settlement and development of that part of Forest county, which was then almost an unbroken wilderness. His family consisted of nine sons and three daughters, seven sons and one daughter of whom survive him. J. B. Agnew being the fourth son, and no doubt inheriting the enterprising spirit of his father, at the early age of fourteen years commenced to make his own way in the world, and to provide for himself and render such assistance to his parents as he could. He had commenced to lay the foundation of his education at the old Agnew school-house, erected through the efforts of his father about one mile from his home. There he improved such opportunities as he had up to the time of leaving home at the age of fourteen years, which, with several months of schooling afterward provided for by himself at public school, and his own perseverance and efforts of self education, fitted him to commence the study of law in after years.
After first leaving home as a boy, he for a few months worked in a saw-mill after which, with a friend, he took contracts for taking out square timber, his first contracts being on the waters of Spring creek, Forest county, four miles from any habitation, where he spent his first winter, leaving home in a lumber camp with the men under his employ. After completing his first contract he went to school for a few months; then to work again at various jobs in the lumber business, running on the river, being a pilot on the Clarion when a boy, and following this life, in which he was always successful, until about the year 1858. He then purchased a team and wagon, and for some time was engaged in freighting and delivering goods that were then shipped by water to Waterson”s ferry, the mouth of Redbank, Kittanning, and other points along the Allegheny, and from there wagoned to Clarington, Shippen”s Mills, Coleman Mills, Cooksburg, and to various towns and lumbering establishments along the Clarion. He continued in this business up to the fall of 1860, when he commenced to read law, studying, however, only in the evenings, and at such times as he could spare from his work. In the fall of 1861 he was engaged in putting in timber rafts, staves, etc., for the Pittsburgh market, expecting with a small profit on the amount that he marketed in the spring of 1861, and with the frugal savings of other labor, to be able after his return from marketing to complete his education and law studies, and enter upon the practice of law. But in April 1861, while at Liverpool, on the Ohio, Fort Sumter was fired on, and the war broke out. On hearing this news, he came up to Pittsburgh, arranged with his brother-in-law, J. R. Cook, to take charge and dispose of a small lot of staves, etc., that he still had there, and returned to his home, where, with Capt. V. Phipps, Philip Cook and others, he joined in the recruiting and organization of a company from Forest and Clarion counties, choosing Scotch Hill, Clarion county, as a place of drill and rendezvous. The company was soon organized and ready with about eighty members, but before its organization was complete the first call of the president for 75,000 troops was filled. About that time the Pennsylvania Reserve Corps was organized, when, by arrangement with Capt. Knox (late Colonel and Judge Knox), at Clarion, Penn., the company was mustered into the service as Company E of the Tenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Reserve Corps, with said J. B. Knox as its captain. In this company he served as a private for the first three years in the army, then, having re-enlisted, he was transferred to Company I, of the One Hundred and Ninety-first Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers, and in June, 1864, was, by special order of Gen. George G. Meade, detailed and placed in charge of the ordnance train of the Third Division of the Fifth Army Corps, in which capacity he acted as captain and a staff officer until the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, and the close of the war. He declined a commission as captain for the reason that it would necessitate the resignation of a wounded captain, who was a friend of his, to make the vacancy for him (not wanting his friend to be deprived of his captain”s pay while he was disabled), and was mustered out as a private. His record as a soldier is an exceptionally brilliant one, and, as the record shows, he participated in some twenty-seven battles and engagements, and has received special mention in general orders for bravery in action. He was mustered out of the service in July, 1865, and after his return home, at the first Republican convention thereafter in Forest couuty, in the spring of 1866, was nominated for sheriff of said county, and almost unanimously elected in the following fall. Before his time as sheriff expired he was elected prothonotary, register, recorder and clerk of the several courts of Forest county, and before his first term as such had expired was re-elected. Before his second term as such had expired he was elected a member of the legislature from Forest county, being the first member of the legislature from the county under the constitution of 1873. He served in the legislature of the State in the sessions of 1875 and 1876, was re-elected and served in the sessions of 1877 and 1878, winning a high reputation for probity and ability. During the time that he was occupying the positions of sheriff, prothonotary, etc., of said county, he, under the direction or Hon. George A. Jenks and W. E. Lathy, Esq., had completed his law studies, and immediately upon resigning the office of prothonotary, etc., in December, 1874, was admitted to the practice of law. After the expiration of his last term in the legislature, in 1879, he accepted a position tendered him by his friend, Hon. A. K. Dunkle (then secretary of internal affairs), in the office of the secretary of internal affairs or Pennsylvania, which position he filled for the term or four years.
Having commenced the practice of law in 1874, he continued in the practice as much as his official duties would permit, and was also engaged in various enterprises, having large interests in lands and oil rights that, about the time that his term in the office of the secretary of internal affairs expired, became valuable, and he returned to his home, and from that time to the present has given his entire attention to his law practice and oil business. Mr. Agnew is a prominent oil producer, having had himself at one time a production or almost a thousand barrels of oil per day. As a lawyer he has been successful, and enjoys the confidence and respect of all who know him in that connection, having, aside from being admitted to the county courts, been for the last twelve years practicing before the supreme court of Pennsylvania, and the United States district courts. Much of the development of the resources or Forest county in a business way, and especially as to its development for oil, is due to Mr. Agnew, who is a leading politician, a popular official and a reliable business man, held in high esteem by his friends, generous to a fault, and an uncompromising Republican, who never conceals his political likes and dislikes, but is a faithful personal friend, one who never permits politics or difference of opinion to interfere with his friendships and paramount among his virtues it may be said that he is an honest man.
His father and three brothers, John, Samuel and Leonard – five of the family in all were soldiers during the Civil war. The four brothers, all still living, are members of the G. A. R., and are ardent Republicans. All rendered honorable service to their country, and adhere to the principles for which they fought. J. B. Agnew resides in Tionesta, where he has lived for the last twenty-two years in one of the finest and pleasantest homes in the county seat. In June, 1866, he married Miss Jennie E. McKay, then of Clarington, Forest Co. Penn., a daughter of the late James and Christine (Nolton) McKay, of Tionesta. Mrs. Agnew”s father is of the McKay family of Waterford, Erie Co., Penn. and she is a granddaughter of Co1. James McKay, an officer in the War of 1812. Her mother was the daughter or Sylvester Nolton, before mentioned as one of the early pioneers of Forest county, and who is prominently connected with its early history, having also been a soldier in the War or 1812. Mr. and Mrs. Agnew have three children – one son and two daughters. Their son, Clarence McKay, now twenty-two years of age, was educated at Allegheny College is now an attorney at law in his father”s office, and is a promising and popular young man. The daughters, Misses Christine and Edna, are aged respectively six and three years.
Currently a resident of Burke, Virginia - I'm originally from the City of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I have been a student of the Pennsylvania Reserves since 1997 and thoroughly enjoy telling their story. By trade I'm a former IT Professional but presently working as a Letter Carrier for the United States Postal Service.