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John Frederick Hartranft is Born

Today in Masonic History John Frederick Hartranft is born in 1830.

John Frederick Hartranft was an American politician.

Hartranft was born on December 16th, 1830 Fagleysville, a village in New Hanover Township, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The family moved to Norristown when he was young and he attended local schools there. He attended Marshall College before moving to Union College in Schenectady, New York graduating in 1853 with a degree in civil engineering. He then worked briefly for two railroads before returning to Norristown to assist his father in his real estate business.

In 1860, Hartranft passed the bar after reading law with a local firm. He also entered the Pennsylvania militia and was given the rank of colonel. When the American Civil War started Hartranft and his men were sent into action. They were only set to serve for one year though and at the start of the Battle of Bull run, gun fire was already being exchanged, his units time was up and all of his men returned to Pennsylvania. Hartranft was humiliated by the behavior of his men and stayed to fight in the battle. He eventually earned a medal of honor for his efforts in the battle.

Hartranft raised a three year regiment and with them he was assigned to various duties and fought in a variety of battles during the remainder of the Civil War. At the end of the war Hartranft was assigned as the Commander of Old Capitol Prison. There he was in charge of conspirators who assassinated Lincoln. It was noted he was very kind to Mary Surratt. On July 7th, 1865, after they had been convicted, Hartranft led Surratt and three others to gallows, gave them their last rites before they were hung.

His duties complete, Hartranft returned to Pennsylvania and switched his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican. In 1867 he was appointed Auditor General for Pennsylvania serving until 1873.

In 1872, Hartranft was elected to the first of two terms as the Governor of Pennsylvania. During his term he was a strong advocate of education, municipal reform, regulation of banking, improved industry and commerce, and the reorganization of the National Guard. Hartranft also supported suffrage for African Americans and championed the rights of the workingman.

During his second term unemployment and economic depression was widespread due to the industrial boom of the 1870's. Because of this he was forced to deal with the Molly Maguires, a secret society active in Ireland and parts of the United States. The Molly Maguires were largely made up of Irish-American coal workers and were a labor union of sorts. The Molly Maguires turned violent and Hartranft was forced to send out the National Guard and then the Regular Army to try to suppress the riots going on across the state. Later the District Attorney of Allegheny County tried to force Hartranft to appear in front of a grand jury to ease concerns about Hartranft's decisions to use military force against a civilian population. Hartranft refused to show up and a court backed him up. He did not have to answer any questions.

After leaving office Hartranft was appointed as the head of the Pennsylvania National Guard which he had helped improve as Governor.

Hartranft passed away on October 17th, 1889.

Hartranft was a member of Charity Lodge No.190 in Norristown, Pennsylvania.

This article provided by Brother Eric C. Steele.