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Every small town has or has had its hometown boy who has made good in the big city, or its millionaire, its business tycoon, its renowned professional man, its opera singer, artist or musician, even its star athlete. In short, a citizen of whom it is proud. Beaver was truly a small town a generation or so ago, or a the turn of the century. Its outstanding and nationally known citizen was United States Senator Matthew Stanley Quay.
He was Chairman of the National Republican Committee, and being a politician - and a master minded one, at that - he has been called "The Napoleon of Politics" and "King-Maker." He was popularly known as "Boss Quay." Men who are political leaders are often greatly maligned, justly or unjustly, abused and misrepresented; Quay was no exception.
Matthew Stanley Quay was not a native born Beaverite. His father, Anderson B. Quay, was a Presbyterian preacher. One of his early churches was in Dillsburg, a small town in York County, and it was there that Matthew Stanley was born September 30, 1833. When he was 7 years old his father came to Beaver as the pastor of the Beaver Presbyterian Church.
Quay's earliest known American ancestor, his great-great-grandfather, James Anderson, came as a youth from the Isle of Skye, Scotland, in 1713. He came to Chester County, Pennsylvania, and was canny Scot enough to get a job with the prosperous miller and to marry his daughter. Their oldest son, Patrick, was said to be the first white child born in Schuylkill Township. Patrick was a captain in the French and Indian War and a Major in Anthony Wayne's regiment in the Revolutionary War. Later he was a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature. It is possible that this great-grandfather had a strong hereditary influenceon Matthew Stanley. His great-great-grandfatlier John Quay came from the Isle of Man to Canada. There he married an Indian girl. Their son, John, Jr., came to Pennsylvania. His son Joseph Quay married the daughter of Patrick Anderson, and their son Anderson B. Quay became the father of Matthew Stanley Quay.
Matthew Stanley was educated in the Beaver Academy and was graduated from Jefferson College, now Washington and Jefferson, in 1850, when he was 17 years old. He studied law with a firm of lawyers in Pittsburgh, then went to Mississippi with a classmate. He lived with his classmate's family and taught school. After two years he came back to Beaver and studied law with Colonel Richard Roberts and was admitted to the Bar of Beaver County in 1854. The next year, 1855, he was appointed Prothonotary of' Beaver County by the Governor. In the same year he married Agnes Barclay. In 1856 he was elected to the office of Prothonotary, and re-elected in 1859. He resigned when the Civil War broke out. He was a Lieutenant in the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves. Later he was made Lieutenant Colonel and Assistant Commissary General of Pennsylvania, then Secretary to Governor A. G. Curtin. In August of 1862, he was commissioned Colonel of the 13th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, but resigned after the battle of Antietam because of illness, and was mustered out. His resignation was accepted. The Army of the Potomac had moved south, but when he heard that a battle was imminent, he rose from his sick bed and hastened. to the Rappahannock. He had no military status, but he told General Tyler he'd rather die in battle and be called a fool than to go horne and be called a coward. General Tyler permitted him to volunteer, and at Fredricksburg Quay acted as an aide-de-camp to General Tyler. His active part in the battle was in the assault on Maryes Heights, where he led the charge. For brave and unusual service beyond the call of duty in this battle he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor,
After the battle of Fredricksburg, Quay was appointed State Agent for Pennsylvania at Washington. In this position he had frequent contacts with Abraham Lincoln, and he had some personal contact with every President through Theodore Roosevelt. He was recalled from Washington by the Governor to fill the office of Military Secretary. He was commissioned a Major and acted as Chief of Transportation and Telegrams.
In 1864 he was elected to the State Legislature, and served in 1865, 1866, and 1867. He had also been Secretary of the Republican State Committee, and was later to be chairman of that committee. From this time until his death, he was immersed in politics, holding various offices in the party. He was Chairman of the State Committee several times, and was a member of the Republican National Committee for many years, and a delegate to six Republican National Conventions.
In 1885 Quay was elected State Treasurer. He had other, local interests. From 1868 to 1871 he published the Beaver Radical, which later merged with the Argus as the Argus and Radical, which for many years was the local Republican or-an. At this time, too, he was an organizer and partner in the Beaver Deposit Bank.
In 1887 Quay was first elected United States Senator from Pennsylvania, and he held this position until his death in 1904 except for a break of two years. In 1899 he failed to be elected by the legislature because of a deadlock. He was immediately appointed to that position by Governor Stone, but was rejected by the Senate on constitutional grounds; there was a question of the right of the Governor to appoint while the legislature was in session. The same day that the Senate rejected his appointment Quay was nominated by the Republican State Convention, and he was re-elected in 1901.
This statement in the memorial eulogy by Governor Pennypacker illustrates Quay's power in the Senate: "He arose in the United States Senate and compelled compliance by the National Government with contracts spurned and forgotten by everyone else, which were for the benefit of the Delaware Indians in their reservations to the west of the Mississippi. What manner of man was this who alone had the will to take up the cause of the friendless, the strength to make his efforts successful and who refused to permit two centuries of time to weaken an obligation? "
In the National Convention in 1888 he headed the Pennsylvania delegation and was for John Sherman of Ohio. When he saw that too many delegates were opposed to Sherman, he sent word by letter to the Indiana delegation that he was ready to leave Sherman, and indicated that he had Harrison in mind. He would ask that Pennsylvania receive a cabinet post and asked for a written commitment. With such a paper in hand, he'd promise the entire Pennsylvania delegation for Harrison. Harrison admitted that Pennsylvania would be entitled to a cabinet position, but on Quay's letter he scribbed a blunt "I said 'NO'," Harrison was then in position to tell the public that he had made no commitments or deals of any kind. Harrison was nominated, and the National Committee chose Quay to manage his campaign.
Harrison was a first-rate orator and was talking to huge delegations that came to Indianapolis and was making a tremendous number of speeches all over the country. In the midst of the campaign, Quay said, "If he continues making those wonderful speeches we could safely close National Headquarters"' but he increased the staff and acquired the services of John Wanamaker to raise money for a ('campaign of education'.) Wanamaker got ten men to give $10,000 each. It was afterwards said that he raised $400,000. Wanamaker admitted that the slim was more than $200,000.
Toward the end of the campaign Harrison was challenged by Cleveland to debate the issues in New York and had indicated acceptance. Quay first learned of the scheduled debate on the day it was to take place. He was in Beaver at the time.
No mistake had been made in any speeches or letters up to that time. Quay feared that new issues might be raised and that it was too late in the campaign to meet them fully. Quay wrote out a telegram saying, in effect, that there would be no debate.
George Waldon, the colored barber who went to the Quay house every morning, was given the telegram to take to the Western Union office. George told this story over and over, amazed that a man in Beaver could tell the Presidential candidate not to debate in New York.
Speech-making being Harrison's long suit, it is surprising that Quay overruled his acceptance to debate, but he saw the risk involved. Richard Nixon would have been well-advised if he had received such a telegram from the National Chairman in 1960.
Harrison was elected. In mid-December following the election, Quay went to Indianapolis to congratulate his chief and talk cabinet. He found Harrison still overwhelmed by his victory and disposed "in true Presbyterian fashion" - for he was a pious man and a Presbyterian elder - to believe that Providence had been on the side of the Republicans. Harrison was somewhat pompous. When he met Quay lie grasped his hand and earnestly said, "Providence has given us victory." Quay listened politely, making no comment. Later, Quay confided his personal sentiments to A. K. McClure, the publisher. "Think of the man!" Quay exclaimed. "He ought to know that Providence didn't have a damn thing to do with it!" He afterwards remarked that he supposed Harrison "would never know how close a number of men were compelled to approach the penitentiary gates to make him President," New York was the pivotal State; to win the election it was essential that New York be carried. The reference to "'approaching the penitentiary" was to the door-to-door canvass in New York City, where canvassers posed as compilers of a directory or census takers. In any event, a Pennsylvanian received a cabinet post. John Wanamaker was appointed Postmaster General.
In 1892 Harrison ran for re-election against Grover Cleveland. Harrison asked Quay to manage his campaign. Quay declined, saying, "Let Providence take care of it this time."
In the square at the corner of Third and Insurance Streets there is a State Historical marker that notes that Beaver was the home "of Matthew Stanley Quay who was a U. S. Senator and political leader." He is the only Beaver citizen to whom such a marker has been erected by the State. Only one other citizen of Beaver County has represented Pennsylvania in the U. S. Senate, and that was Abner Lacock, who was in the Senate from .1813 to 1819. So far as is known, no other Beaver citizen has had a county and a town named after him. there is a Quay County in New Mexico, and in Quay County there is a town of Quay large enough to rate a dot on the state map. The best Beaver has done to honor him is to name the North East central square Quay Square.
So far as we know, no other Beaver citizen has been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
In 1896 Quay's name was presented to the Republican National Convention as Pennsylvania's favorite son for the Presidential nomination. In 1900 he refused to permit a move in the convention to nominate him.
Matthew Stanley Quay was a soldier, a statesman, a scholar, and a kind man. All of which warrants us in saying that he was Beaver's outstanding national figure, of whom Beaver can well be proud.
Besides being a soldier, a politician and a senator, what manner of man was Matthew Stanley Quay? Physically, he was short, frail, and unimpressive. His outstanding physical characteristic was a drooping eyelid, which not only identified him but gave him the look of a wise owl. He was never too strong, and had a weak voice, which caused him to shun public speaking. This did not mean that he did not take to the stump in election years. In the campaign of 1900 he toured the state making about twenty speeches. His interests were not confined to the success of the national ticket; he was personally interested in seeing a Republican legislature. At that time the State Legislature elected the two Pennsylvania Senators. Most of his speeches on this tour were short -- more or less introductory and mostly on local interests and the benefits to the locality and to Pennsylvania from Republican tariffs. He made the main speech in Philadelphia. It was in this last major speech that lie announced that he wotild! never be a candidate again, and concluded: "I have many friends to remember: I have no enemies to punish."
Senator Quay was a scholar. He had studied the classics, and all his life he read Horace, Cicero, and other authors in the original Latin. He wrote letters to Governor Pennypacker in Latin, discussed Italian poetry with Theodore Roosevelt.
He had a large personal library and had a standing order with a Philadelphia bookstore for books on folklore. It is related that Quay and Henry Cabot Lodge were the only members of the Senate who subscribed to "Brown's Genesis of the United States." He read in his spare time, and always took books with him when he traveled - even when he went fishing. Besides his extensive library in his Beaver home, he had libraries in his Washington and Florida homes. A Washington reporter wrote that he spent many hours alone in his library, reading.
In 1889 Rudyard Kipling visited in Beaver with old friends, the family of Dr. R. T. Taylor, the President of Beaver College. Although not known in Beaver at the time, he actually came there because he was commissioned by a London editor to write an article on the great political boss. One evening he walked to the residence of Senator Quay, Ile asked the gentleman who was reading on the porch where he could find Senator Quay. He was surprised to find that he was talking to Quay himself. They at once entered into a conversation about the book the Senator was reading. This led to a fullfledged literary discussion. Kipling was taken in to see the Senator's library, and while there translated the Arabic inscription on a sword which Quay owned. They both had a very interesting evening. Afterwards Quay said that if Kipling lived he would be ranked with the great English authors. The next day Kipling reported to his London editor by telegram: "I have been unable to locate the great political boss, but if you desire an article on America's foremost literary critic, I can furnish the copy."
In his autobiography Theodore Roosevelt wrote of Quay: "lie was a very well-read man. I owe to him, for instance, my acquaintance with the Finnish novelist Topelius."
Roosevelt also told the story of a group of Iroquois Indians from Canada that had come to Washington to call on the President. T. R. wrote that whenever Indians came to Washington they always called on Quay. These Indians had fled to Canada 125 years before, and now they wanted to come back to the United States. Quay told them their errand was hopeless. but lie asked the President to extend the Courtesy of an interview. After a very solemn interview, the Indians filed out. Before Quay left, he turned to the President and with hi usual emotionless face said, "Goodbye, Mr. President. This reminds one of the Flight of the Tartar Tribes, doesn't it?" The President answered, "So you're fond of De Quincy, Senator?" To which Quay responded, "Yes -- always liked De Quincy. Goodbye."
Another personal attribute was that Quay was a kind man. His kind deeds were not publicized - many of them became known only after his death.
When John Scott, a Philadelphia lawyer, was in the Canadian woods, an Indian guide asked him if he knew Senator Quay and told him "he is one of our tribe" and that when their little Catholic church had burned they wrote to him for help and he sent them $5,000. The guide added, "He is a good man."
When Quay taught school in Mississippi he was shown great kindness by the family of his classmate, with whom lie lived. The father of the family had been killed in the War Between the States. Years later the family was impoverished and appealed to Quay for assistance. Quay went to President McKinley and told him there was one thing he would like to have. "I want to name the postmaster in the town of Meridian, Mississippi." The politicians in Mississippi had another candidate. McKinley advised Quay that he could not give him the Postmastership at Meridian, "Very well," said Quay in his quiet manner. "But be good enough to remember that Pennsylvania has 32 votes in the convention and Mississippi has 9." The old Confederate soldier's widow was promptly appointed Postmistress of Meridian!
A little Seminole girl in Florida met with an accident which threatened permanent disability. Quay had her admitted to a hospital and paid all expenses for a difficult operation necessary for her rehabilitation.
In 1886 a political opponent in Lackawanna County was thrown from a carriage and fractured his skull. Quay heard that he was without funds, Through an agent Quay sent a noted surgeon from Philadelphia to Scranton by a special train, and Quay met the large expenses of the surgery which probably saved the man's life.
Note that there was no political motive or advantage to him in any of these kind deeds.
Quay was never vindictive in politics or private life, This enabled him to keep an organization intact. It is said that if a fraction in the party, or even individuals, opposed him in an election he made a point of seeing them after the election to patch up their differences. "You didn't go along with us this time, but there's no reason why we can't get together next time."
Quay was a very wealthy man - no one knows the extent of his estate, for he directed in his will that no accounting should be made to the Court. At that time no inventory and appraisement was required and there were no inheritance taxes, but people knew he was "loaded," and politicians are always suspected of political graft.
Charles H. Stone, a Beaver attorney, told me this personal story, which sheds considerable light on the soutce of the Quay fortune. When Mr. Stone was about 18 years old he was clerking in the Beaver Deposit Bank. Quay was a partner in the bank, and when he was in Beaver he was a frequent visitor. One day, as the Senator was leaving the bank he stopped, and turning to Charles, asked, "Young man, have you saved up any money?" Charles replied, "Yes, Sir." "Well, how much have you now?" And Charles told him he had $1,200. Quay said, "That's fine. Now you do exactly what I'll tell you to do. Buy Philadelphia Transit Company stock a-rid don't sell it until I tell you to." Charles invested his $1,200 in the stock. The price oil the stock doubled and tripled and went up and up, with Charles getting excited but following Quay's advice. Then again, when Quay was leaving the bank, he paused and asked Charles, "Young man, do you still have that stock?" "Yes, Sir," said Charles. And as Quay walked on, he said, "Sell it." Charles' S 1,200 grew up to $ 18,000 - it had multiplied by 15.
From that you can imagine that Quay may have reaped a considerable fortune. If he did not have $100,000 he could have readily borrowed that amount or more. Now, of course Quay knew that Philadelphia Transit was going to get the franchise. His political 'lieutenant in Philadelphia was Israel Durham. He would know who would get the franchise and could pass he word to Quay. That was no crime, though nowadays it would be frowned upon as trading on inside information.
When the new State Capitol building was built there came to light colossal scandals. The State had been grossly cheated. For example, a small item - a bootblack stand which might have been purchased for $150 cost the State $1500. The State contracted for expensive glass, but inferior glass was furnished. Many contracts and purchases cost the State about the same inflated rate. Being the political boss of Pennsylvania, gossip pointed a finger at Quay. A Pittsburgh newspaper hinted that "Quay was in on it." Actually, Quay stayed clear of anything connected with the new building. A contractor, client of my father's, told him that Quay told Beaver County contractors to make no bids, have no part in the new Capitol Building. fie learned quite early that thing were not as they should be - that it would be a mess. He kept his hands clean.
On the floor of the Senate lie was accused by Senator Lodge of speculating in the stock of sugar companies when tariff bills that would affect the sugar companies were before the Senate. In reply, Quay made a fifteen-minute speech admitting that he had dealt in sugar stocks until the very day that the final vote was taken on the sugar schedule in the tariff bill. He also stated that he would continue to buy and sell sugar stocks, seeing nothing in such dealing which was incompatible with his position as a Senator. He also stated that his financial interests had not influenced his action in the Senate and that he had given no information to the American Sugar Refining Company. He told the Senatorial investigating committee that he had speculated in sugar stock and that he had a right to do so. "I have incidentally bought and sold sugar stock during the last twenty months and I do not feel that there is anything in my connection with Senate that interferes with my buying or selling the stock when I please, and I propose to do so."
Professor Kehl, of the University of Pittsburgh, who is writing a definitive biography of Quay, has all his papers and letters and even a complete record of his stock transactions. I asked Professor Kehl if he had come across anything that would in any way indicate or suggest that Quay ever received any money illegally or that could be called political graft. He told me, "Actually, no. Nothing that he had not disclosed to the Senate when he made his defense that being a Senator did not deprive. him of his right to buy and sell stock as any other citizen." Kehl modified his statement, saying he had discovered an instance of financial irregularity that was, however, not legally culpable.
Quay favored a reasonable duty for the benefit of sugar refining interests, but he cast the deciding vote against a 44% tariff that would have given the sugar trust many millions in excess of the existing tariff.
Quay was not in good health in the summer of 1903. He took a vacation trip to Maine for his health, but in the spring of 1904 he was seriously ill. He sent word to President Roosevelt that he had something to say to him and would have himself carried to the White House to see him. T. R. sent word back not to think of doing so and that on his way back from church next Sunday he would stop in and call on him. T. R. called. Quay thanked him for coming, and then told him he was about to leave Washington and would never return, as he was sure death was not far off. fie wished to see the President to get his personal promise to look after the interests of the Delaware Indians. The President assured him that he would personally see that no injustice was done them.
Quay was proud that his great-great-grandmother was an Indian. Known as a friend of the Indians, he traveled to Canada to be formally inducted into the Iroquois tribe.
Another visitor of Quay's about this time was Senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana, who was one of the younger members of the Senate, Quay and Beveridge had differed on some matters before the Senate, but Beveridge always respected Quay's ability and spoke very highly of the elder Senator. At this last visit, Quay told Beveridge, "I shall be dead in a few months, and the papers will say: 'Matt Quay, Boss, is Dead.' Had I lived my life differently, they would say: 'Death of Matthew Stanley Quay, Statesman.' Take warning by me, young man." Then, 'as a parting gift, he gave Beveridge a copy of Du Maurier's "Peter lbbetsen" and wrote on the flyleaf "Dream True."
Back in Beaver, George Waldon, the barber, went to Quay's home every morning. On one fine May morning Quay said, "George, who would want to leave such a beautiful place?"
Quay died on May 28th, a Saturday. The funeral was held on the following Tuesday. The Beaver Times reported: "Quiet reigned in the entire Valley." All stores were closed, some all day, others from 2:00 PM to 4:30 PM. Business generally was suspended. All Beaver Valley was draped in mourning."
There was a private service, held at the home in the morning. The only persons present besides the family were Governor Pennypacker, Colonel Sam Moody, Dr. J. H. Wilson, Stephen Stone, and their wives.
The Beaver G. A. R. Post took charge of the services held in the afternoon in the Presbyterian Church, Dr. Ramsey preached the funeral sermon.
A special train brought distinguished men from Washington, Philadelphia, and Harrisburg. The paper reported that "thirty carriages met the train." Another special train from Pittsburgh carried "the general public." It was estimated that 4,000 people passed by the bier. At the services there was standing room only for local citizens.
Quay left two directions concerning his funeral. First, that the pallbearers be his personal friends and that none be selected because of their rank or position. Second, he directed that the following inscription - characteristically, in Latin - be placed on his tomb:
(The above sketch of Matthew Stanley Quay's career is an extension of the remarks of W. Scott Moore at the former residence of Senator Quay on the Historical Walking Tour of the Beaver Heritage Foundation on July 4, 1968.)
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