Philadelphians can take pride in the fact that Orphans' Courts have been held in this City since 1683. They can further take pride in the able and distinguished jurists who have sat as Judges of those Courts. The current Judges of this Division continue a long and illustrious tradition.
King Charles II granted the province of Pennsylvania to William Penn by Royal Charter dated March 4, 1681. William Penn came to Pennsylvania in October of 1682 and called a General Assembly. See Section 1, pages 11-12 of The Pennsylvania Manual, Volume 112 (December, 1995) Sitting at Chester, on December 7, 1682, the first General Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania enacted the 77th Law which provided that the justices of each County Court should sit, "....to inspect and take care of the estates, usage, and employment of Orphans' , which shall be called the Orphans' Court * * * That care may be taken for those, that are not able to take care for themselves." See Opinion by Trimble, P.J., in Harton's Estate (No. 2), 86 P.L.J. 18, at page 21 (1938). "It is probable, that both the name and jurisdiction of this court were borrowed from the Court of Orphans' of the city of London, which had the care and guardianship of children of deceased citizens of London, in their minority, and could compel executors to file inventories, and give security for their estates." See Opinion by Justice Sergeant in the matter of Wimmer's Appeal, 1 Wh. 95, 101 (1835).
The Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County was organized as a separate court of record under the Constitution of 1874, on January 4, 1875, and consisted of three judges. Three more judges were added, one each, in 1887, 1907 and 1927. Judge Allen M. Stearne and Judge Grover C. Ladner rose to become Justices of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Judge Charles Klein was appointed to the Court on December 24, 1934, and, became President Judge on January 14, 1952. Judge Klein served as the last President Judge of the Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County, and, the first Administrative Judge of the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. By constitutional amendment, effective January 1, 1969, the separate Orphans' Court of Philadelphia County was abolished and became the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.