George H Cutler
Senator George H. Cutler holds the distinction as the last Speaker of the Senate and the first President pro tempore. Born on October 29, 1809 at Guilford, Essex County, Vermont, George was the son of Nahum and Martha Robbins Cutler, of Windham County, Vermont and Hartford, Connecticut, respectively.
Moving to Cortland, New York, George attended common schools and received a tutored secondary education. He eventually read law with the Honorable Judge Ross of Cortland, married Louisa Stewart of Cayuga County, New York in 1830, and removed to Girard, Erie County in 1835. He taught school at Sterrettania on Elk Creek and prepared to practice law in Pennsylvania under the Honorable John Galbraith. George joined the judge’s firm in 1837 and the Erie bar in 1840. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Cutler accompanied former Senate Speaker John H. Walker, delivering a stirring 1861 “organizational speech” during the first “War Meeting” at Erie County’s Wayne Hall.
An early Democrat, he was unsuccessful in an 1852 attempt for a congressional seat but joined the Republican Party, earning a seat in the State Senate in October 1872. Cutler backed passage of a medical malpractice bill and the three-tier city and borough classification and codes measure. The pro tem supported the “15 Mile Act,” a law providing standardization of railroad freight and passenger rate bases for long or short hauls. On March 11, 1875, Cutler fought further amendment to the “Miner’s Pay Bill,” a legislative attempt to standardize the per-ton rate paid to Pennsylvania coalminers.
Cutler led passage of a bill granting “improvement companies” corporate privileges and protection, firms including simple interstate and intrastate partnerships with expertise in bridge building, pipeline, warehouse, and factory construction. Those benefiting from the bill included oil refiner John D. Rockefeller.
In other areas, Cutler objected to a proposed bill dedicating one-percent of fire insurance company premiums to fund “paid fire departments.” Cutler led defeat of an amendment that authorized “women, owning loans of this Commonwealth or of the city of Philadelphia, or capital stock of any corporation of this Commonwealth, to sell and transfer the same.” Senator Cutler prominently participated in Erie County civic associations and belonged to a number of fraternal organizations. He and his wife had six children. The second oldest, George A. Cutler, became an accomplished attorney in Pennsylvania and Michigan. The Honorable George H. Cutler died in Erie on July 26, 1882.