Charles Henderson Stinson
Stinson: Prominent and Progressive Pennsylvanians of the 19th Century, vol 3.
Senator Charles H. Stinson was the son of the Honorable Robert M. and Elizabeth Porter Stinson, born at Norriton Township, Montgomery County June 28, 1825. A respected Montgomery County agriculturist, his father served as a county justice and an 1836 Anti-Masonic state representative. Charles received an impressive education, attending local schools before entering John McNair’s “select school” in Abbington, in 1840. Stinson ultimately graduated with honors from Dickinson College in 1845, and for two years thereafter, explored the various mountain ranges of Pennsylvania, returning to Norristown as a private tutor. He joined his brother’s (George) law practice in 1847 as an understudy, continuing legal study under Addison May after his brother died in 1848. He joined the Montgomery bar in 1849, established a private practice in Montgomery (1849), and married Emily Freedly of Norristown in 1855. Stinson, an early Whig, aligned with the new Republican Party in 1856. During the Civil War, he enlisted as a private in an emergency company of the Montgomery Volunteers during the Gettysburg campaign. Charles resumed his Montgomery County legal practice in 1865, entering the state Senate in October 1867, serving as Speaker in 1870. Senator Stinson enjoyed a collegial relationship with Senator Wilmer Worthington, emerging as the cornerstone of the Judiciary General Committee.
Stinson’s major legislative accomplishments included framing the 1870 Treasury Reform Act, providing the means to monitor state deposits and expenditures through detailed monthly reports and reporting systems; and the same session’s Mine Safety Act, responding to the September 1869 Avondale, Pennsylvania coalmine disaster – a calamity that claimed 108 lives.
Charles voted for adoption of the U.S. Constitution’s Fifteenth (suffrage) Amendment, however, supported the controversial Liberian Colonization program. In 1868, he was a Grant “stalwart” and prohibitive-tariff Republican. The senator chaired Accounts (1868), Estates and Escheats (1869), and served second chair on Judiciary (1869) under Chairman Harry White. After a brief political career, Charles returned to private practice, refusing appeals for various judgeships and senatorial seats. In 1882, however, Governor Hoyt convinced Charles to accept an appointment as president judge of the Thirty-eighth Judicial District, replacing the late Judge Henry Ross. Among Senator Stinson’s many civic contributions, he served as a trustee for the Pennsylvania Hospital of the Insane. He also reserves the distinction as the first hospital administrator to appoint a woman as the head of a department: the move led to that institution’s further hiring of women to key managerial positions. Stinson organized the First National Bank of Norristown (1864) and co-founded the Norristown Music Hall Association. He worked as a solicitor for the Pennsylvania Railroad and became a key figure in clearing the legal path for construction of the Schuylkill Valley Railroad’s Montgomery County branches. His sister, Dr. Mary H. Stinson, is one of nation’s first matriculated women physicians and a founder of the Stinson Home for Aged Women in Norristown. The Honorable Charles H. Stinson died in Norristown on March 13, 1899.