Lieutenant Governor John Latta

Submitted by James M. Latta, Branch 3

The following biography of my grandfather, Lieutenant Governor John Latta, Branch 3, was originally published in 1918 in Old and New Westmoreland, Capt. Fenwick Y. Hedley, editor, by the American Historical Society, New York, Volume III, pages 4-5. It is interesting to note that Robert H. Latta corresponded extensively with my grandfather in his effort to establish branch assignments and possible linkages. Corrections are noted in [ ].

"John Latta, Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania, was of Scotch-Irish descent, and came to Greensburg from Unity township, where he was born March 5, 1836. He was the son of Moses and Eliza [Graham] Latta, and the grandson of John Latta, who, with his brother Moses, had settled in Mount Pleasant township, on the land upon which Mammoth Coke Works are now built. John Latta, the elder, was married to a Miss Storey, of Princeton, New Jersey, and by her had four children, among them being Moses Latta, the father of the Governor John Latta. Moses Latta was born in 1790, in Mount Pleasant township, but in early life removed to Unity township, where he was engaged in farming. During the War of 1812 he enlisted in a company commanded by Captain Reynolds, but before his company reached the field of action a treaty of peace was signed and the troops returned to their homes. He was married to Eliza Graham, who was a daughter of Robert Graham, a native of Greensburg, where was engaged in dealing in horses. Their children were: Mary Jane, married to George R. Hughes of Unity township, both of whom are deceased; and John of this sketch. Moses Latta died in February, 1848, when he was fifty-eight years old.

John Latta grew up on this father's farm, and attended the Sewickley and Elder's Ridge academies, the latter being then it its palmiest days. He spent five years in these academies and thus laid a good foundation for that day for his professional career. In 1857 he began the study of law in the Yale College of Law School and was graduated from the law department of that well-known institution in 1859. In November of the same year he was admitted to the Westmoreland bar and began his life's work. He was elected to the State Senate in 1863, when but twenty-seven years old, and acquitted himself in a manner that reflected great credit upon himself and all his friends. In 1871 and 1872 he was elected to the Legislature, the sessions at that time being held each year. This gave him a wide acquaintance through the State, so that in 1874 he was nominated by the Democratic convention, which met in Pittsburgh, for the office of Lieutenant-Governor of that State. At the election in November he led the State ticket and received a majority of over four thousand votes, and this in the strongly Republican State of Pennsylvania.

Governor Latta was, moreover, the first Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania, for the office had been created by the State Constitution which went into effect that year. In the new position to which he was called, he had therefore no precedents to guide him; yet it is the universal testimony that both as a presiding officer of the Senate, and in other duties of his office, he was eminently fair, courteous and successful. When his term as Lieutenant-Governor expired he returned to Greensburg and resumed the practice of the law, which mainly engaged his attention from that time until the day of his death. As a lawyer he usually took the side of the poor and tried many cases, particularly in his early days, wherein the fees were at best very scanty. He was always called upon by the Democratic party to make political addresses. He was always eloquent and interesting, and was perhaps as potent as any member of his party in the county.

On September 12, 1865, Governor Latta married [first] Emma A. Hope, daughter of C.C. Hope, of Uniontown. Four children were born to them: 1) Cuthbert H., born September 7, 1866; 2) Mary Maud, born March 17, 1868, married to W. B. Ryan, who has been engaged successfully in the railroad business in Mexico most of his life, but who is now with the American Expeditionary Forces in France, being sent there by the Government to aid in the transportation facilities for the needs of the allied armies; 3) Isabel G., born February 7, 1875.

Mrs. Latta died 1876, and in December, 1877 [25th], Governor Latta married [second] Rose McClellan, daughter of E. B. McClellan. Their children were: 4) Rose, born December 21, 1879; married [first] James T. Brunot, who died in 1902, she married [second] M. A. Turner, of Hammond, Indiana, she died in 1913; 5) Marie Josephine, born July 23, 1881, married to Richard H. Jamison, of Greensburg; 6) John, born May 15, 1883, died in 1891; 7) Thomas Pollard, born January 15, 1885, now general superintendent at the mines of the Jamison Coal and Coke Company that are in Westmoreland County; 8) Sarah Marguerite, born October 18, 1886.

Governor Latta was undoubtedly one of the most universally admired and best known men in Westmoreland County. He gave much of his time gratuitously to the conduct of public affairs of his home town. He had, moreover, the good fortune to seem not to grow old as most men do. He continued to take an interest in all the current events of the day, in all youthful sports, and in all movements which tended to advance the social side of life, so that, with advancing years, he became more and more companionable to the young people in his community. There is no doubt among those who knew him best, but that his most notable characteristics were his kindness of heart and his unbending integrity. He was, furthermore, at all times, a man of polished manners and of retiring disposition, who might well be called a cultured gentleman of the old school. After a brief illness, he died February 15, 1913, and his remains repose in the St. Clair Cemetery at Greensburg.

God Bless All That Comes Your Way"