Benjamin L. Hewit
Born: June 4, 1833, Petersburg, Huntingdon County, PA. Died: March 10, 1894, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, PA. Member of the General Assembly: Blair County, 1871-1872, 1879-1882, 1893-March 10, 1894. Affiliation: Republican.
Benjamin Lightner Hewit was educated in the public schools of Blair County as well as in Tuscarora and Hollidaysburg Academies. In 1851 he entered Princeton College, where he earned a high rank in scholarship. Upon his graduation from the college in 1854, he began to study law under the tutorship of the Honorable S. S. Blair of Hollidaysburg. Hewit was admitted to the Blair County bar in October of 1856, and was elected District Attorney of Blair County in 1857. Hewit married the former Lilly Davis, and together they had 2 sons, Oliver H. and Henry D. After his first wife passed away in 1873, Hewit married the former Mary W. Smith.
Hewit was re-elected District Attorney of Blair County in 1860, and resigned from the position in 1862 to enlist as a private in Company A, Independent Battalion, in 1863. Hewit served as a field paymaster and was honorably discharged in September of 1865 with the rank of major of the Cavalry. After the war, Hewit continued to practice law in Hollidaysburg. In November of 1870, Hewit was elected to represent Blair County in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was elected for a total of 5 terms: 1871, 1872, 1879-1880, 1881-1882 and 1893-1894.
In 1871 Hewit was elected chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means. The following term, in 1872, he served as chairman of the House Committee on the Revision of the Civil Code. He was appointed to the State Fish Commission by Governor John F. Hartranft in 1873. Hewit continued to serve as a Fish Commissioner until 1884. Upon his return to the State House in 1879, he was chosen chairman of the General Judiciary Committee. On January 4, 1881, Hewit was elected the 96th Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
As Speaker during 1881-1882 session, the House created legislation that became Act 49 of 1881, which would make it illegal to add poisonous materials to alcoholic beverages. Also during this session, the House passed legislation which became Act 83 of 1881, which prohibited the distinction of race or color in public schools.
Benjamin L. Hewit passed away while serving as a member of the House, on March 10, 1894. He is interred at Hollidaysburg Presbyterian Cemetery in Hollidaysburg, Blair County, Pennsylvania.
To view this Speaker's House Historical Biography, click here.