Portrait: Senate of Pennsylvania
The son of Jacob and Mary Strickler Newmyer and great-grandson of Eastern Pennsylvania Revolutionary War hero Peter Newmyer, the Honorable John Newmyer was born in Lower Tyrone, Fayette County on December 17, 1847. John, as his father, became a farmer, later receiving an 1867 degree from the Western University of Pennsylvania, subsequently establishing a legal practice in Allegheny County. He married Lucy Frick, Oct. 22, 1868, daughter of Samuel and Harriet Gallatin Frick, the latter a direct line descendant of Albert Gallatin. Embarking on a mining career with his father and brother, John discovered coal on family land near Dawson, Westmoreland County. The three formed Newmyer and Sons, operated the Cora Mines, and specialized in the coke business. John emerged as the “pioneer of the lower Connellsville coke region,” gaining a reputation as an aggressive industrialist, shrewd business executive, and brilliant attorney. His credentials attracted the Cameron-Quay state Republican Committee’s support for a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1873 through 1875. Newmyer stood as an indispensable component of Matt Quay’s formula to neutralize the power of Pittsburgh’s rival Magee-Flinn Republican faction during the last quarter of the nineteenth century.The fall 1875 election propelled John to the state Senate, the Cameron-Quay Stalwart becoming president pro tempore during the 1877-78 sessions, leading the joint caucus in the 1877 election of J. Donald Cameron for U.S. Senate. Upset in an 1879 re-election bid by Democrat Charles Paulsen, he briefly resumed his Senate career after his contemporary’s death in 1880, subsequently losing to fellow Republican William Aull. He returned to the upper house in 1887 for a final four-year stint. Newmyer deliberated on the Judiciary Local Committee and performed as a valuable member of the Judiciary General, Federal Relations, and Retrenchment and Reform Committees. He voted “high tariff” and supported mine safety bills. John also championed anti-Cameron-Quay causes for the standardization of coal tonnage, anti-oil pollution bills, and industrial fraud measures. He backed the first medical malpractice bill in 1876, and in 1887, showed support for the six-month public school measure. Finally losing his seat in 1891 to nemesis William Flinn, Newmyer retired from political office. The senator enjoyed phenomenal success in the Western Pennsylvania business community. His mining operation, the Cora works, originally consisted of 42 coke ovens, increasing to 1,000 in just 12 years. John purchased additional coal-land in Perry and Washington Townships near Connellsville in 1891, forming another huge enterprise in the Washington Coal and Coke Company. Originally a 50-oven operation, he quickly increased capacity by another 1,000 ovens. Exhibiting a shrewd combination of political savoir-faire and a genuine respect for the communities in which he served, he hired exclusively local residents: His “justliness and kindliness to employees forged a lasting relationship.” In addition to coal interests, Senator Newmyer became majority stockowner and operations manager of the Dawson Electric Power and Light Company, acting in the same capacity for the Washington Run Rail Road. He served as director and chair of the boards of the Star Supply Company, the First National Bank of Dawson and Star Junction, and the Industrial Bank of Pittsburgh. By the time of his death, Newmyer owned 60,000 acres of undeveloped coal land in West Virginia. He belonged to the Royal Arcanum of Dawson, the Monongahela Club of Pittsburgh, and served as a Deacon at the Bethel Christian Church in Lower Tyrone.
Writers of the period described John as a power in the industrial world of Western Pennsylvania. Known for his “vitalizing energy, great personality, dark brown mustache, and piercing eyes,” the Honorable John Strickler Newmyer passed away in Pittsburgh on July 14, 1906, age-59.