Portrait: Senate of Pennsylvania
Born at Sunbury, Pennsylvania, January 26, 1837, the Honorable John Gobin was the son of wagon-maker Samuel Gobin and the former Susan Shindel, daughter of Lutheran minister John Peter Shindel. John attended public schools and became a printer, later joining the Sunbury American. He served as the unsuccessful publisher of the Philadelphia Star of Youth, a journal sponsored by the Junior Sons of America. After a less than rewarding attempt at a career in journalism, he returned to Sunbury as a schoolteacher. Gobin later studied law under General John K. Clement and M.L. Shindel, joining the bar in 1859.
On April 19, 1861, Gobin enlisted as 2nd Lt., Company F, 11th Regt., Pennsylvania Volunteers. Promoted to Capt. of Co. C, 47th Regt., Gobin was cited for gallantry in the Florida campaign and the April 1864 battles of Sabine Crossroads and Pleasant Hill. He subsequently received the rank of major, ultimately rose to colonel, and commanded the 47th Pennsylvania under General Sheridan at the October 1864 battles of Cedar Creek, Opequon, and Fisher’s Hill. John served as Provost Judge for the state of South Carolina until January 1866, acting as Judge Advocate General of the Department of the South. Gobin recruited the Lebanon Coleman Guards in 1871; served as Colonel of the Eighth Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard; and attained the rank of Brigadier General of Pennsylvania’s Third Brigade in 1885. John returned to the United States Army on June 19, 1898, as a brigadier general of the volunteer army during the Spanish American War. He resigned his commission to assume duties as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. Governor Pennypacker subsequently reassigned the senator as Major General of the Pennsylvania Division.
Gobin’s dual successes as a barrister and public servant stand equally impressive to his military achievements. After the Civil War, the senator settled in Lebanon, married Anne Howe, the daughter of a U.S. Army Captain from Massachusetts, and quickly emerged as the city’s most prominent attorney. Lebanon elected Gobin to the Senate of Pennsylvania in fall 1884, where he served through 1898. He became president pro tempore of the Senate in 1892 and 1893. After a 15-year run in the upper house, John resigned his seat after the 1898 election to serve William Alexis Stone as lieutenant governor. Senator Gobin represents the first pro tem to serve as the second ranking executive in the Commonwealth.
One of Gobin’s controversial legislative incidents concerned the defense of Matt Quay during the Senate’s 1891 embezzlement investigation against former Philadelphia city and county treasurer John Bardsley. The senator co-sponsored and led passage of the 1891 Baker Ballot Bill, promoted the 1889 Gettysburg National Battlefield legislation, the 1893 Workhouse Law, Sen. Grady’s 1895 Wrongful Injury Bill, and the 1871 federal Force Bill repeal resolution. He opposed the Billingsly Free Pipeline Bill, the 1885 Bullitt Bill, and Senator Cooper’s 1891 voting amendment referendum. He supported an unpopular business and inheritance tax increase in 1887, backed the same session’s six-month public school term bill, and voted for passage of the 1887 Civil Rights Act resolution.
The senator served as Department Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, Grand Master of the Knights Templar of the United States, a member of the Loyal Legion and Sons of the Revolution, and Grand Patriarch of the Odd Fellows. Gobin served as a trustee of the Erie Soldiers and Sailors Home, commissioner of the Soldiers’ Orphans Schools, and head of the Gettysburg Monument Association. Relevant to the latter, John delivered the dedication of the impressive Pennsylvania Monument. In 1880, he acted in the capacity of Grand Captain-General of the Grand Encampment of the United States and Generalissimo of the same group in 1883. The Honorable John Peter Shindel Gobin passed away in Lebanon on May 10, 1910.
Rodearmel, 34.; Twentieth Century Pennsylvania State Government in Picture and Story, 1901-1902, comp. William Rodearmel (Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Co., 1901), xii; Inquirer (Philadelphia), May 2, 1910; Portraits and Biographies of the Members of the Legislature of Pennsylvania and Heads of Departments, session of 1895, comp. William McAtee (Harrisburg: The Roshon Portrait Co., 1895.)