Josiah H. Gordon was born in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania on May 6, 1816, the son of Hanse Gordon and Martha R. Downey. His wife, Kate E. Umbaugh (b.1822), was the daughter of Michael Umbaugh and Jane Herbert of Frederick Md. After their marriage, Josiah and Kate Gordon lived in Cumberland, Maryland. They had nine children, only two of which lived to adulthood - Robert H. ("Bobby") and Helen. Jane Umbaugh, Kate's mother, lived with the Gordon family, and by 1870, a 14-year-old niece, Juliette Umbaugh, was also living with them. She was probably the daughter of Kate Gordon's brother, Herbert Umbaugh and his wife Nellie. Herbert Umbaugh died fighting for the Confederacy in 1862. A second niece, Mary Umbaugh, had joined the family by 1880. Two black slaves formed part of the Gordon household -- Wesley, whom the Gordons owned, and Tilly, who worked for the Gordons but was owned by a neighbor, Mrs. O'Neal. The Gordons paid Mrs. O'Neal $4.00 a month for Tilly's services.
Josiah Gordon read law with Gen. McKaig in Cumberland, Maryland, and was admitted to the bar in 1845. He was elected prosecuting attorney for Allegany County in 1851 and served for four years. In 1859 he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates from Allegany County. His first term in office coincided with the political crisis of 1861, and Gordon, against the will of the majority of his constituents and in the minority in the legislature, voted to secede. Gordon soon found himself an unpopular man in a heated political environment, and he was under great suspicion by Federal authorities of aiding the Confederacy. In a letter published in the Official Records, Gordon was identified as one of the two most dangerous men in the state, and was considered a significant threat to the prospects of keeping Maryland in the Union. Soldiers of the 3rd Pennsylvania Infantry arrested Gordon during a routine roundup on August 30, 1861, and although they found no hard evidence against him, he was held in prison for six days until he relented in his opposition to taking the oath of allegiance. He was released on Sept 5th and returned to Annapolis, traveling on to Frederick where the Governor had decided it was safer for the Delegates to meet, as the Capital was occupied by Union troops.
On September 17th, Gordon was rearrested as 'one of a party of conspirators known to be plotting to pass an act of secession' and again, on principle, he refused to take the oath. He was transported to Fort Lafayette, New York Harbor, and then, in November, to Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, where he was held as a "political prisoner" for six months, although no formal charges were ever made against him. Gordon was unconditionally released on May 7, 1862, and for the next two months stayed with friends in other parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania, not daring to return home to his wife and family in Cumberland, where Union feelings ran strongly against him.
Wesley, the Gordon's slave, was 24 years old when Josiah Gordon was imprisoned, and had to assume a lot of responsibility in Josiah's absence. Kate wrote of Wesley's "helpfulness" and "kindness" to her and the children at a time when some slaves in the area were running off. When the Gordon house was attacked for the second time in 1861, Wesley was stoned.
After the war Josiah Gordon continued to practice law in Cumberland. He was joined by his son Robert H. Gordon, who had attended Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia, from 1870-1871. They formed the law firm of J.H. Gordon & Son. Josiah served as president of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in 1869, and was appointed to take the place of an associate judge in 1883. He died Aug. 14, 1887. His son Robert died in 1910.