“Honest John” Strohm was born October 16, 1793 in Little Britain, Fulton Township, Lancaster County, the son of David and Ann Herr Strohm. John was home-schooled by his mother, who encouraged the young man to read the weekly newspaper and his father’s books. Strohm was a school teacher in Bart Township, 1812 to 1815; surveyor; and a farmer, marrying Susannah Herr Barr in 1817. His wife died in 1832; Strohm remarrying in 1857, Anne Witmer. John moved to Providence, Lancaster County, was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as an Antimason, 1831-1833; the state Senate, 1834-1841; and Whig Speaker, 1842. He chaired the Claims Committee in 1836, 1837, 1838, and 1839; Pensions and Gratuities in 1840 and 1841; Roads, Bridges, and Inland Waterways, 1839; and Improvements in 1841. Preceding the Buckshot War, Senator Strohm backed the chartering of the Second U.S. Bank as a state institution, joining Jesse Burden’s “inglorious eight.” He supported Thad Steven’s 1836 personal and property tax repeal, while later representing one of two bolting votes that enabled Democrat Ebeneezer Kingsbury’s passage of the 1840 tax-bill, a measure that helped restore the state’s vanquished tax program, replenishing funds to a nearly insolvent State Treasury. The senator opposed the 1836 public school act; however, he subsequently lent vigorous support for the creation of new revenue programs in support of the fledgling education system. Strohm promoted freshman William Bigler’s 1842 revenue-appropriations-bank bill, a measure that enabled the continuation of state works projects, increased state revenue flow, permitted immediate specie redemption, and allowed the gradual retirement of debt. After Bigler articulated details of the plan before the full body, a prophetic Senator John Strohm regaled the Clearfield timber-man: “Young man, that speech will make you Governor of Pennsylvania, if you behave yourself well hereafter.” He opposed Van Buren’s sub-treasury program and the Ten-Hour Labor Law, supported the 1842 Tariff and its attached federal revenue distribution plan, and backed Congress’s Reapportionment Act (standardizing the criteria for electing members to the U.S. House of Representatives). Antimason Strohm opposed saving the Second U.S. Bank, a stand that countered party policy, however supported the 1838 Constitutional Convention referendum.
The senator voted as a fiscal conservative on improvement appropriations, opposed the inheritance tax, supported a broad-base “professional” tax, and represented a moving force behind passage of the 1841 revamped Canal Bill. John supported the incorporation of the Susquehanna Canal Company, and in 1842, he championed the privatization of all state internal improvement programs. Retiring from state legislative service, Strohm ascended to the U.S. Twenty-ninth and Thirtieth Congresses, 1844-1848. Returning to Washington after re-election in 1846, he boarded with “the Lone Whig from Illinois,” Abraham Lincoln. At the nation’s capital, John was a pro-abolition Whig legislator, who exhibited “strict attention to business and a watchful care of the interests of his constituency.” Strohm retired from Congress in 1849, embarking on a private surveying career and serving as justice of the peace in Providence from 1859 through 1880. He was the 1835-1840 publisher of The Old Guard, an anti-Jackson journal supporting Anti-Masonry and the Whig Party, and received a Whig nomination to chair the canal commission in 1851. The senator was a delegate to the 1848 and 1852 Whig National Conventions and served in the same capacity at the 1869 Pennsylvania Republican State Convention. Retiring to a life dedicated to civic service, he maintained a busy schedule as president of the Big Spring and Beaver Valley Turnpike; enjoyed a 36-year career as secretary and director of the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company; served as treasurer of the Providence Township School Board; and organized the Strasburg Bank, becoming the institution’s director. The Honorable John Strohm passed away in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on September 12, 1884, at age 93.
(Everts and Peck, 1883; Journal of Lancaster County Historical Society, v. 69, 1965.)