Historical Markers
James A. Beaver Historical Marker
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James A. Beaver

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
U.S. 22 and 322 just NW of Millerstown

Dedication Date:
April 19, 1948

Behind the Marker

Oil on canvas of James A. Beaver.
James A. Beaver, Governor of Pennsylvania, 1887-1891.
In the decades that followed the end of the Civil War, veterans who had fought on both sides used their military records to win public office. With the exception of Grover Cleveland, every president elected between 1868 and 1896 was a Civil War veteran. Of these, all saw military service except Chester Arthur, who served as Quartermaster General for the State of New York. Pennsylvania's James A. Beaver might also have reached the White House, had he sought that office.

Born in 1837 to a successful merchant in Millerstown, Perry County, Beaver was raised by his mother and step-father, a Presbyterian minister, who made sure that he attended Washington and Jefferson College. He then entered law practice in partnership with Hugh McAllister of Bellefonte, who became his father-in-law. (Both men were active in the creation of markerPenn State University.

Oil on canvas of Robert E. Pattison.
Robert E. Pattison, Governor of Pennsylvania, 1883-1887 and 1891-1895.
Streets in State College bear their names and the football stadium is named after General Beaver. As commander of the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers during the Civil War, Beaver was wounded three times before a fourth injury and the loss of a leg compelled him to retire from service. President Abraham Lincoln then promoted him from colonel to general, a title by which he was known for the rest of his life.

Beaver had no interest in political office, but agreed to run for state legislature in 1865 at the urging of Governormarker Andrew Curtin. Refusing to campaign, however, he lost by 141 votes. For the next two decades, General Beaver campaigned effectively for Republican candidates, and turned down several offers to run for public office. In 1880 he served as chairman of the Pennsylvania delegation to the national Republican presidential convention.

There, Beaver turned down an offer to be James Garfield's vice-presidential running mate. That year, Pennsylvanian generalmarker Winfield Scott Hancock was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, and Republican leaders thought that with Beaver on the ticket they would have a better chance of winning the state's thirty-six electoral votes. In the end, the Republicans nominated Chester Arthur of New York, and Garfield, without Beaver on the ticket, still carried Pennsylvania. Had he run, Beaver would have become president of the United States when Garfield was assassinated in 1881.

In 1882, the Republicans finally persuaded Beaver to run for governor, but a split in the party led to his defeat by Democrat Robert Pattison, the only Democrat to serve as governor between 1861 and 1935. Beaver tried again in 1886, and this time was elected. In a distinguished administration, he sponsored improvements in education and roads, the regulation of the disposal of coal waste, and the conservation of forests and waterways.
Stadium filled with spectators. Inset, top right, head shot of James Beaver
Penn State's Beaver stadium, named in honor of James Beaver, Governor of Pennsylvania,...
He also refused to use the militia to break strikes, unlike his last Republican predecessor markerJohn Hartranft, who had summoned both state and federal troops to crush marker railroad strikes in 1877. Beaver did, however, send the state militia to help victims of the marker Johnstown flood in the Environment story] in 1889. He also continued to take an interest in Presbyterian Church affairs, and in 1888 became the first layman to preside over that denomination's national convention.

Beaver practiced law after his term ended, and also served as president of the Brubaker Coal Company of Cambria County. In 1895, Governor marker Daniel Hastings appointed him to the first state superior court in the nation, an auxiliary tribunal that aided the overworked state Supreme Court. He remained on this court until he died in Bellefonte in 1914.

An honest man in an age of political corruption, Beaver disdained the limelight. In peace as in war, however, he was willing to answer his state's call to duty. He could have attained even greater prominence, but like so many well-educated men who cherished traditional American values, he was unwilling to throw his life into what he perceived, almost certainly correctly, as a futile attempt to stem the rule of the machine politicians.
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