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01/22/2021 01:51 AM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House Speaker Biographies


John S. Rhey

Born: December 22, 1818, Ebensburg, Cambria County, PA.  Died: June 29, 1891, Allegheny City (now Pittsburgh), Allegheny County, PA.  Member of the House: Armstrong, Clarion, and Jefferson Counties, 1850-52; Cambria County, 1887-1890.  Affiliation: Democrat.

John S. Rhey was born on December 22, 1818, and raised in Ebensburg, Cambria County, Pennsylvania.  At the age of 16 he left home to attend Mount St. Mary’s College, Emmitsburg, Maryland, from 1834-1837.  Rhey also attended Jefferson College in 1837 (which became Washington and Jefferson College in 1865).  In 1839 he entered Judge Reed’s Law School in Carlisle (which later became Dickinson School of Law).  Rhey became a practicing attorney, being admitted to the Cambria County Bar in 1841.  In 1842 he was appointed District Attorney of Armstrong County and held that position for 5 years. Rhey moved to Kittanning, the county seat of Armstrong, after receiving the appointment, and resided there until 1853 when he returned to his home county of Cambria.  Rhey married the former Ann McFeely, and they had 4 children: Susan (Stewart), John M., Margaret, and Anna.

Rhey was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to represent Armstrong County for the 1850 session, during which time the legislative districts covering the counties in the western region were reapportioned. He was re-elected for the 1851 and 1852 sessions as a Representative from the new district that included Armstrong, Clarion, and Jefferson Counties. Rhey was elected as the 74th Speaker of the House on January 5, 1852.  During his term as Speaker, Act 132 was enacted which incorporated an academy of music that was to be built in Philadelphia and laid out a stock option plan to raise funds to build the venue.

Following his initial tenure in the House, Rhey returned to practicing law and became the political editor of the Cambria Freeman newspaper, a position he held for 35 years.  He was re-elected to the House to represent his home county of Cambria in 1886, and again in 1888.

John S. Rhey died on June 29, 1891, in Allegheny City, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  He is interred in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Historical Member Biography

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