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Fundamental Documents of Ohio








The record of Ohio's forty-third governor, John M. Pattison, is that of a man eminently successful in business and capable of winning his way in politics by sheer force of character. Governor Pattison was born near Owensville, Clermont County, Ohio, on June 13, 1847, the son of Mary Duckwall and William Pattison, a country merchant. As a youth, John worked in his father's store and on neighboring farms.

In 1864, before he was seventeen years old, he joined the 153d Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Upon his return home from the war, he entered Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware. To support himself while attending the university, he taught school in winter and worked in the harvest fields in summer. Though he spent not more than twenty months on the campus, he graduated with his class in 1869.

After graduation, Pattison took charge of an agency for the Union Central Life Insurance Company in Bloomington, Illinois. Tiring of the insurance business, he returned to Cincinnati to study law in the office of Alfred Yaple. He was admitted to the bar in 1872. He became the attorney for the Cincinnati and Marietta Railroad, but resigned when he was elected to the state legislature from Hamilton County in 1873. He declined renomination because he wished to devote his time to his profession. Pattison became a member of the firm of Yaple, Moos, and Pattison and practiced law with that firm for ten years. During three of those ten years he edited a law magazine. From 1874 to 1876 he was attorney for the Committee of Safety, a nonpartisan organization in Cincinnati for the promotion of civic welfare.

On December 10, 1879, Pattison was married to Aletheia Williams, the daughter of William G. Williams, professor of Greek at Ohio Wesleyan University. They became the parents of two daughters and one son-Aletheia, Ernestine, and John. After the death of his wife, Pattison married her sister, Anna Williams.

In 1881 Pattison was elected vice president and manager of the Union Central Life Insurance Company. Under his management the company enjoyed a remarkable expansion. He became its president in 1891.

Pattison reentered politics in 1890, when, against his wishes, he was nominated to fill a vacancy in the state senate for the Clermont- Brown counties district. The redistribution of the congressional districts was about to be made, and since that would determine the political com- plexion of Ohio's representation in congress, the campaign attracted national attention. Pattison won the election with the largest vote on record in Clermont County for a state office. In 1891 he was elected to congress, where he helped to secure one of the first appropriations for the rural free delivery of mail. Pattison was renominated but defeated, because his district had been made so strongly Republican by the recent Republican gerrymander that it was impossible for a Democrat to be elected. At the expiration of his term in 1893, he returned to the Union Central Life Insurance Company in Cincinnati.

By 1905 fourteen years of Republican rule had created a desire among the people for a change. Governor Myron T. Herrick had antagonized the Anti-Saloon League and other interests, and there was a charge of graft in the statehouse. The Republican state convention placed the party squarely against the temperance movement and against all disloyalty to Governor Herrick. In the convention William Howard Taft spoke out against bossism, and voters remembered that George B. Cox, notorious Republican boss of Hamilton County, had helped to elect Governor Herrick.

Encouraged by Republican blunders, the Ohio Democrats were full of hope when they met in convention in June 1905. Pattison was firmly supported by the Democrats in the rural communities, while he was strongly opposed by the urban Democrats. He opposed a contest over the chairmanship of the convention, but that body ignored the chairman chosen by the committee and made Michael Daugherty perman- ent chairman. Daugherty's scathing attack upon Mark Hanna and his bitter arraignment of the Republican party constituted what the Demo- crats considered a great political philippic. The most important planks of the platform were a denunciation of boss rule and a plea for municipal ownership of public utilities. Pattison gained the nomination, and with this irreproachable candidate, the Democrats entered the campaign undaunted by the large plurality of the Republican party in the national election of 1904.

Pattison was a strict observer of the Sabbath and an ardent temper- ance man. He had advocated the Sunday closing law and had made a speech in congress opposing the opening of the World's Fair in Chicago on the Sabbath Day. Pattison was not an uncompromising partisan; he was a man of high intelligence and outstanding executive ability; his character was unimpeachable. He was elected governor with a plurality of more than 43,000 votes, though the Democratic candidates for all the other state offices were soundly defeated. Pattison's victory was clearly a personal achievement.

On January 8, 1906, he read his inaugural address in a firm clear voice, but he looked frail and worn. The strain of the campaign had sapped his strength. He returned to his office for a little while and left it never to return.

Governor Pattison lived through only one session of the general assembly. In April he left the executive mansion for Christ Hospital in Cincinnati. He was later removed to his home in Milford, Clermont County, and died there on June 18.

The most notable legislation passed during his short administration concerned liquor, county salaries and funds, and railroads. The saloon tax was raised from 350 to 1,000 dollars, and a law was passed which authorized local option on the sale of liquor in residential districts. Idle county funds were put to work as loans, the accrued interest to be paid into county treasuries; salaries were provided for county officials; and fees were abolished. A two-cent railroad fare was established, and the office of commissioner of railroads and telegraphs was superseded by a railroad commission of three members. The regulation of railroads was a live issue in congress and in many state legislatures at that time. Oxford, Ohio


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