Byron Delano Hamlin
The son of Dr. Asa and Asenath Delano Hamlin of Sharon Connecticut and Fairfield, New York, Byron was born on May 7, 1824, moving to Smethport, Pennsylvania in 1833. Hamlin’s American progenitor, James, emigrated from Berkshire, England in 1633, notably among the early Puritan settlers locating at Barnstable, Massachusetts. Byron became a member of the bar and a key figure in the development of McKean County. He married Harriett Holmes of Chenango, New York in 1846.
His efforts to organize the municipal structure in his home county led to the development of the settlements at Ceres, Tuna Valley, Kane, and Big Level. Additionally, he promoted railroad and highway interests in the McKean region, served as the 1844 principal of the Smethport Academy, and an 1881 member of the board of the Bradford Hospital. A prominent industrial and corporate attorney, Byron contributed generously to the passage of the Bradford “law of ejectment,” governing regulations of mineral, oil, and gas rights in conflict with personal and real property rights. He arrived in the Pennsylvania Senate in 1850 for a three-year term, serving when McKean represented the largest senatorial district in the state. The massive area included the counties of Tioga, McKean, Potter, Clearfield, Forest, Cameron, and Elk, a senatorial district larger than the state of Connecticut.
Hamlin and Governor Bigler lost respective bids for re-election in October 1854, as Whigs returned en masse: an indirect consequence of the emergence of the “Know-Nothings” as a potent political force in the Keystone State. Natives threw their considerable but temporary weight behind Governor James Pollock and the Whig Party, as nine factions participated in the fall election. The result produced the 1855 “Know-Nothing Legislature.”
Members of the McKean County bar recall Hamlin as a modest man, whose “open-door” policy distinguished him from many officials who proved less communicative with the public. The senator remained his region’s Democratic Party leader until he passed away in Smethport on September 4, 1907, 83 years old.
John W. Jordon, Genealogical and Personal History of Northern Pennsylvania, vol. 1, (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing, 1913), 183-185; Rufus Barrett Stone, McKean, The Governor’s County (NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Co. Inc. 1926), 82-84; Portrait: Jordan