Local History

Matthew Stanley Quay: Senator, War Hero, and Philanthropist.


Matthew Stanley Quay

        The borough of Beaver is well acquainted and established with antique and ornate historic merit all on its own, without the honorable mention of Matthew Stanley Quay. Its enticing collection of historic homes, scenic parks, and colorful business establishments, as well as claiming the first the US army training residence, Fort McIntosh, and also the Heritage Museum, is enough to satisfy even the most novice and masterful historian of our county.  But in spite of these considerable achievements, let the impeccable reputation of this gallant gentleman be known.

        Matthew Stanley Quay was born in Dillsburg,York County, PA, on Sept.30th,1833. His father, Anderson B.Quay, relocated to Beaver in 1839 to administer to pastoral duties for the Beaver Presbyterian Church. His earliest known of kin to arrive in Pennsylvania was his great-great-grandfather, James Anderson, who arrived from Scotland in 1713; he accordingly married and had a son, Patrick; he rose to considerable military prominence; first as a captain in the French and Indian War, then as a major in Mad Anthony’s regiment during the American Revolution. (It would be wise to assume that Mr.Quay was profoundly influenced by his great grandfather’s military achievements that he himself would later attain.)

        Mr.Quay was educated at Beaver Academy and subsequently attended Jefferson College, (now Washington & Jefferson), and graduated in 1850. He studied law for some years, then moved to Mississippi and taught school, and returned to Beaver to practice law with another “well known” gentleman, Richard P. Roberts(Mr.Roberts was commander of the 140th PA Regiment and was killed at Gettysburg; you can read more about him here: http://markgrago.com/243-2/), and was admitted to the Beaver County Bar in 1854. The following year he was appointed Prothonotary of Beaver County and married Agnes Barclay. From 1855 until 1861, Mr.Quay held this prestigious post in Beaver County, but the times were changing.

        With the outbreak of the Civil War, Beaver County supplied many volunteers for the Union Army and even assisted in creating regiments; Mr.Quay was no exception and offered his services instantly; he resigned his post and became a Lieutenant in the 10th PA Reserves. In August,1862, he once again was commissioned Colonel of the 13th PA Regiment and fought heroically at the Battle of Antietam. After this engagement, he took ill and resigned his commission and was bed ridden until he heard that his Army had moved south towards Fredrickburg. Through sheer persistence, he convinced his general to reinstate his status; the general agreed. He met with his unit and took part on the fatal assault on Marye’s Heights,(a fatal Union assault on the Confederate Army during the Battle of Fredricksburg);f or his heroic and superlative performance in battle, Mr.Quay was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

        After a gleaming military career, Mr.Quay was officially appointed a state agent  for Pennsylvania at Washington. Because of this, he had many direct contacts with President Abraham Lincoln and every other President up to Theodore Roosevelt. In 1864, he was elected to the State Legislature and served in this position for the next 3 years; he was also the Chairman of the Republican State  Committee and subsequently became a member of the National Republican Committee; he was an honorary delegate to six Republican National Conventions.

        In spite of all these political obligations, Mr.Quay devoted extensive time to his community and fellow brethren. He was an avid and sharp partner of the Beaver Deposit Bank.

        In 1887, Mr.Quay was elected to the US Senate representing Pennsylvania and held this title until 1904 except for a 2 year space when an ensuing controversy rose in the Senate concerning his eligibility to become re elected. Because of the inadequacy of the 17th amendment(it allowed a popular election of senators but was not officially ratified until years later)the legislature was unable to form a solid consensus of how one should be properly elected to a seat; therefore, he was appointed back to his seat by Governor William Stone to fill the vacancy; albeit, the the US Senate still refused to recognize this act of the governor arguing that he could not implement such a policy while the Senate was in current session. Despite this, a special election was held and Senator Quay was reelected without further hesitation. For the next 20 years Senator Quay was a towering figure in American politics and dominated the political spectrum of Pennsylvania. Because of his broad influence and extensive education, military record, and electrifying ability to persuade others, Senator Quay played a crucial and meticulous role in cultivating Pennsylvania as primary headquarters for zealous candidates for the Presidency. His “diamond-cut” genius for oratory and the eloquent reciprocation of of his constituents entitled him to an honorable nomination for the Presidency in the election of 1896; he declined.


Historical marker of the home of Matthew Stanley Quay, Beaver, PA. (Photo is mine.)

        Senator Quay was a brilliant scholar and tireless educator; he read the ancient Greek and Latin classics. Among his favorites were the Roman writers  Cicero, Horace, Livy, and Virgil; all of these he read in the original Latin. He even sent polished and selective correspondence to Governor Pennypacker in Latin and discussed Italian poetry with Theodore Roosevelt. He possessed an extensive library in his Beaver home and, in spite of his active political and family life, spent many hours a day in deep reading which resumed on a regular basis until the end of his life. He was extremely devoted to the daily concerns of his fellow man and went out of his way to help complete strangers; many of these instances not being made known until after his death; his humbleness and benignity were the constant occupancies of his character. His exquisite taste for the passion of life and the causes of which he zealously engaged in were never short of amiable impressions or graceful fortitude as their result. But in spite of all of these impeccable characteristics, he was known as a Pennsylvanian with his “steel and iron” dialogue; this was candidly the case in the cheerful company of his friends and the politicians who were draped in their own admiration for him.

        In 1889, Senator Quay was complemented by a famous visitor to his home in Beaver. Although a phantom to the citizens of Beaver at the time, this famous individual was instructed by his London publisher to write an article on the famous Senator. When he arrived at the Senator’s home, he made an inquiry to the serene gentleman sitting on the porch if he could make the Senators acquaintance; the gentleman replied that he was the Senator and they commenced  on a most interesting conversation. Senator Quay took the man inside his home and showed him his library, while there, this person translated an Arabic inscription on a sword owned by the Senator. At some point, they engaged upon a deep and enlightening literary conversation to which the Senator replied to one of his aides the following day: ”He shall be one of the most famous English authors to date.” The famous gentleman who visited Senator Quay that evening: Rudyard Kipling. Some days later, Mr.Kipling wired his publisher and informed him of his joyful visit: ”I have been unable to locate the political”boss”, but if you desire an article on America’s foremost literary critic, I can furnish the copy.” In President Roosevelt’s autobiography, he wrote of Senator Quay: “He was a very well read man. I owe to him, for instance, my acquaintance with the Finnish novelist Topelius.”

        Senator Quay was not in good spirits in the summer of 1903 and he travelled to Maine in an attempt to restore his poor health, but in the early bloom of Spring of 1904, he was seriously ill. He sent a telegram to President Roosevelt informing him that he wanted to discuss a personal matter with him and would have himself transported to Washington when it was convenient for him; the President retorted back that he would not permit such an arduous task and would graciously take it upon himself to call him; the President did call. Senator Quay thanked him for this and attempted to assure him that death was not far off; subsequently, he requested that the President look after the affairs of the Delaware Indians and the President obliged this requisition. Senator Quay took immense pride in the fact that his Great-Great Grandmother was an Indian, and, throughout his life, made remarkable and maintained exceedingly shining relations with the Native Americans; he was even adopted into the Iroquois Tribe as a reward for his undying passion to the preservation and integrity of Native American culture.

         Matthew Stanley Quay died on May 28th,1904. A private service was held in his home and 3 days later a public service was held in the  Beaver Presbyterian Church.The Beaver Times reported: “Quiet reigned in the entire valley. All Beaver Valley was draped in mourning.” Senator Quay left two directions pertaining to his funeral; 1:That his pallbearers only be his close friends. 2:He requested that this inscription be placed on his headstone, not surprisingly, in Latin:

                                                 “Imploro Pacem”























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