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08/05/2021 01:50 AM
Pennsylvania State Senate

James Smith Rutan



Session Position District Party
1869 26 Republican
1871 26 Republican
1873 Speaker 26 Republican
1875 26 Republican
1877 26 Republican
1879-1880 26 Republican
1881-1882 26 Republican
1883-1884 26 Republican
1885-1886 26 Republican
1887-1888 26 Republican
1889-1890 26 Republican
 Counties   Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Washington


1838 - 1892

James Smith “Ruti” Rutan was born in Perry Township, Harrison (Carroll) County, Ohio on May 29, 1838, the son of Alexander and Sarah Rutan. Of French-Huguenot extraction, James’ ancestors departed France for New Jersey in 1685 after the Treaty of Nantes, later serving prominently in the Revolution. Grandparents Peter and Elizabeth McIlrath Rutan migrated from New Jersey and settled in Fayette County, Pennsylvania after hostilities. His father subsequently moved to Carroll County, Ohio. After attending Richmond College (Ohio), James returned to Pennsylvania and completed his education at the Beaver Academy. Rutan pursued a brief teaching career as superintendent of the Rochester schools, simultaneously preparing for the law profession. He later clerked for Col. Richard P. Roberts, who sponsored James before the Beaver County bar in January 1861. In September of the same year, “Ruti” volunteered for military service with the Fourteenth Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia; the young attorney commissioned Captain of Company “F.” After a month he mustered-out to fill the rank of First Lieutenant, Company F, 101st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers. He received a discharge after a prolonged illness, suffered the summer of 1862 during the Virginia Peninsula Campaign, serving under George Brinton McClellan. Rutan returned to Beaver, opened a law practice, served six years as district attorney, chaired the 1865 Beaver County Soldier Festival, and married Eliza Cox. He purchased the Beaver Argus in partnership with Matthew Stanley Quay – the journal becoming one of the staunchest Republican organs in the state. The intent to acquire the newspaper facilitated Quay’s quest for a seat in the state House of Representatives, an accomplished objective by October 1865. To the extent that he promoted Quay in the Argus columns, Rutan retains the distinction of launching Matt’s notable legislative career. In 1866 he ascended as chair of the Republican county committee, continuing as a member of its executive council for years.  In 1868, he delivered U.S. Grant’s presidential electoral count to Congress; represented Beaver County in the state Senate in 1870, becoming one of Quay’s “Hessians” in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. From 1870 to 1875, James chaired the Congressional Apportionment Committee and twice served as a member of the Railroads, Finance, and Federal Relations Committees.  He voted the Quay-Republican line on each piece of legislation offered. Beyond the Capitol, he served as president of the Republican State Convention (1872 and 1874), a delegate to the same convention in 1876, and delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1874.  He fulfilled federal posts as U.S. Marshall, Consul to Cardiff, and Consul to Florence  Retiring from federal service in 1887, Senator Rutan moved to Allegheny City. Ruti remained a force in politics; a director of the Beaver National Bank; co-owner of the Beaver Radical; and returned to the state Senate, 1887-1891. During the last years of his life, Quay deserted Rutan, who came to condemn Republican machine politics.  One journalist noted, however: 
“I had never contemplated Rutan in the garb of an angel before. When I come to think of it, Rutan as an angel does not appeal to my imagination. There is something abhorrent to me in a long, lank, bald-headed, slab-sided, poker-playing angel with side whiskers and Galway sluggers.
The skeptic continued, angel wings did not appear as an immediate possibility in any event, since, “While he is able to growl, he is able to live The Honorable James Rutan died in Allegheny City, June 18, 1892. Former Senate Speaker James L. Graham of Allegheny walked among his pallbearers. His cause of death was declared “nervous prostration, consequent to overwork and excitement during the recent campaign. Although once an indispensable aid to Quay, Ruti placed the blame for final political defeat squarely on the master politician and his hinchmen.  Matt’s treachery deeply affected Rutan, who figured as important to Quay’s success as anyone ever had.