On May 4, 1835, a new township was laid out in Clearfield County and named ‘Burnside’ in honor of Hon. Thomas Burnside (1782-1857) then was president judge of the Fourth Judicial District (Clearfield County).
He served in this position from 1826 until 1841 when he was appointed president judge of the Seventh Judicial District.
In 1852 he was commissioned on of the justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania until his death in 1857.
The following story is taken from The Public Spirit newspaper in 1897. “The following story is told of James Rea Sr., and Judge Burnside of Centre county.
The friends of Judge Burnside presented him with a barlow knife for being the homliest man in Centre County. He was to carry it until he found a homlier man than he was.
He carried it for some time when he met his friend James Rea Sr., in Clearfield, he presented the barlow to him, explaining to Mr. Rea how he (the judge) got it.
Mr. Rea was to carry it until he found a homlier man than he was. He kept it about two years when he returned it to the Judge, who had to keep it.”
Gov. Curtin once said: “Judge Burnside was a man of indomitable will, and had that intensity of purpose, which baffled want, poverty and ill-fortune.
“He came to this county when it was comparatively a wilderness, without means or friends, and supplied the want of early educational training by his energy and perseverance.
“His goodness of heart, and open-handed hospitality soon surrounded him with a circle of steadfast personal friends, and his large and liberal views of progress, with his lofty State pride, made him a captain of men and a ruling spirit.”