The Resident Mansion of The First Mayor of Johnstown
The Mayor’s History
HON. W. HORACE ROSE R, the first mayor of Johnstown. It would be difficult to find a better example of a self-made man than the subject of this sketch, and it would be still more difficult to name one who has been more closely identified with the public affairs of his native town.
William Horace Rose, son of Allen and Elizabeth (Freame) Rose, was born
November 17, 1838, in a log house which stood at the southeast corner of Vine
and Market streets, in the borough of Johnstown. As a boy he attended the
schools of the town until his thirteenth year, when he lost both of his parents by death. They both expired at the same hour, August 3, 1851, and thereafter, with the exception of five months at Elders Ridge academy, in Indiana county, he never again entered a school-room as a student.
Being thus doubly orphaned, he showed his mettle by beginning at once to
earn his own way in the world. He first went to work in the tannery of Mr. J. P. McConaughy, which occupied the site of the present Cambria Library building. He was next employed cutting screws in the machine shop of S. H. Smith, on the present site of the Gautier mills. Later he learned the trade of moulding with the firm of Pringle, Rose & Edson. He was employed for a time as moulder in the foundry of the Cambria Iron company, but an attack of bronchitis compelled him to abandon this trade. We next find him learning carpentry with his brother, Wesley J. He subsequently worked at this trade for Joseph Kuntz, Emanuel Shaffer and Pringle, Rose & Co. In 1857 he went to Davenport, Iowa, and worked at his trade for one season. He then returned to Johnstown, and on February 1, 1858, entered the office of John P. Linton as a law student. He made rapid progress, and March 6, 1860, was admitted to the bar of Cambria county.
Being a carpenter, he built himself an office on the lot now occupied by
the city offices, and began the practice of law on his own account. With the
exception of the years spent in the service of his country, on the field of
battle, he continued the practice of law at this office until the "Great Flood" of 1889. Having taken a great interest in state military affairs, he was appointed by the governor judge advocate of the Third brigade of State Uniformed militia, with the rank of major. This brigade was commanded by another distinguished citizen of Johnstown -- Hon. James Potts.
In April, 1861, the local militia company to which Mr. Rose was attached as lieutenant offered its services to the government to aid in suppressing the rebellion. Preparations were made to have the command start for Camp Curtin, near Harrisburg, on Tuesday, April 30, 1861. Just at this point in the young soldier's record a bit of romance creeps in. On Monday, April 29, the day before the company was to leave, he was united in marriage to Miss Maggie A. Ramsey, at the Presbyterian parsonage, by the Rev. B. L. Agnew. The next morning orders were received to disband the company, as their services were not morning orders were received to disband the company, as their services were not Ramsey, at the Presbyterian parsonage, by the Rev. B. L. Agnew. The next morning orders were received to disband the company, as their services were not
before the company was to leave, he was united in marriage to Miss Maggie A.
Ramsey, at the Presbyterian parsonage, by the Rev. B. L. Agnew. The next
morning orders were received to disband the company, as their services were not soldier's record a bit of romance creeps in. On Monday, April 29, the day before the company was to leave, he was united in marriage to Miss Maggie A. Ramsey, at the Presbyterian parsonage, by the Rev. B. L. Agnew. The next
morning orders were received to disband the company, as their services were not needed. A few weeks later the government had quite a different idea as to the number of men required to put down the rebellion. It is probable, however, that our gallant lieutenant had no serious fault to find with the governor's order at that time.
Three months later he enlisted as a private in company I, Fifty-fourth
regiment Pennsylvania volunteers. His promotions were rapid; he was soon
elected second lieutenant of his company, and January 31, 1862, became adjutant of his regiment, and in November, 1862, he became assistant adjutant general of General Campbell's brigade. In January 1864, he was appointed post-adjutant at Cumberland, Maryland. Rejoining his regiment in May, 1864, he accompanied it in "Hunter's raid" in the Shenandoah Valley, and received a severe wound at the battle of Piedmont, June 5, 1864. Of his conduct in this battle General Campbell's official report says: "The only commissioned officer wounded was Adjutant W. H. Rose, who received a painful wound in the thigh while gallantly cheering on his men in front of the rebel position held by Major General Jones." He fell into the hands of the rebels, but was soon released and sent home to recover from his wound. He rejoined his regiment at Harper's Ferry. General Campbell's (Third) brigade was attached toGeneral Cook's division,and went with it in another campaign in the Shenandoah Valley, under the command of Generals Sheridan and Cook. Adjutant Rose participated in the battle about Halltown and First Cedar Creek, during this campaign. After his campaign his brigade returned to Harper's Ferry, and there he was mustered out, the term of service for which he had enlisted having expired.
He returned to Johnstown, and resumed the active practice of his
profession. Being a close student and careful practitioner, he soon established a large and paying practice, and became one of the recognized leaders of the bar.
In 1869 he was elected burgess of the borough of Johnstown on the
Democratic ticket (although the town was strongly republican), and filled the
office for one year. He was induced to become a candidate by the following
petition, bearing date February 16, 1869:"The undersigned would respectfully, but earnestly, solicit you to permit us to place you before our citizens as an independent candidate for burgess at the ensuing election.
"The varied and important interests of our borough require an honest and
efficient management of its affairs, and we believe that a large majority of our fellow-citizens are convinced that the time has come when, throwing aside party feelings, they should unite in the election of a suitable person to the
honorable and important office of burgess. We trust you will comply with our
request, and oblige, yours, etc." Signed by the leading citizens of the town, regardless of party.
Mr. Ryckman was his opponent in the election which followed. Mr. Rose was
elected. Of the outcome of this contest the Tribune of February 26, 1869, says:
"We believe it to be a fact that Mr. Rose received more republican votes than his competitor, while nearly one-half Mr. Ryckman's support came from
democrats. It was not a party contest."
Mr. Rose regards this as one of his special triumphs. In 1870 he was
elected to the State legislature, defeating Captain H. D. Woodruff. This was the celebrated "Removal" campaign. Mr. Rose ran as a democrat on national issues. Mr. Woodruff ran as an "Independent," having for his issue "The removal of the county seat from Ebensburg to Johnstown."
While in the legislature he became a recognized authority on construction, and was frequently consulted as to the correct wording of acts. He gave such close attention to his duties that he knew the contents of every General Act passed during the session, and comprehended its effect upon the law as it then stood.
Mr. Rose was elected district attorney of Cambria county in 1873, and at
the expiration of his term of three years wished to retire from the office; but, at the earnest request of the judge and members of the bar, he was induced to become a candidate for re-election in 1876. His candidacy was warmly supported by the law-abiding citizens on account of his able and fearless prosecution of participants in the famous "railroad riots" of 1876. He was re-elected by a majority of 1498 votes.
While district attorney he revolutionized the manner of conducting
business, his administration being characterized by promptness, efficiency and integrity.
At the close of his second term as district attorney he declined further
nomination for office, and resumed the general practice of law; but,
notwithstanding his extensive practice, he still found time to aid his party by wise counsel and active service on the stump.
Mr. Rose was severely injured in the Johnstown flood of May 31, 1889, and for some time his recovery was in doubt. Before his complete recovery from his injuries he became an active supporter of the movement to unite Johnstown and the surrounding boroughs into the "City of Johnstown." This movement having been successful, a new city government was to be organized and administrated. It was apparent to all that a master mind was required to create and direct the government of the new city. A man was required who possessed executive ability, legal knowledge, wide experience in public affairs, and known integrity; and, as if by common consent, the citizens of the new city turned to Hon. W. Horace Rose as the man for the emergency. He was elected first mayor of the city of Johnstown by a large majority, and on the first Monday of April, 1890, entered upon the duties of his office.
He was confronted by a newly-created city, without a municipal code for its government; a city of wrecked buildings, torn streets and ruined bridges. And none but those intimately associated with him in the work can appreciate the magnitude of the task he set himself to perform. The mayor, himself, prepared and drafted all ordinances of the municipal code. He was tireless in planning for the widening of rivers, rebuilding bridges, grading and paving streets, and restoring public places, and was ever active in urging and directing the work.
When Mayor Rose retired from office at the expiration of his term, in
April, 1893, he left an orderly city in good physical and sanitary condition,
and all departments of the city government running smoothly. Since retiring from office Mr. Rose has continued the practice of law. In 1895, he was the choice of the Cambria county Democracy for Superior Judge, and his claims were warmly, but unsuccessfully, urged in the State convention at Williamsport. In June, 1893, he was appointed by the governor of the Commonwealth a member of the commission to select a site and erect buildings for an institution for the feeble-minded children of Western Pennsylvania.
As showing the active part Mr. Rose takes in the business and social
affairs of the town, we mention his connection with the following organizations and institutions: He has served as clerk of the town council; has been the solicitor of the Johnstown school board, city and borough, for twenty years; he is solicitor of the Johnson company; a director of the First National bank; the Johnstown Savings bank, and the Johnstown Water company; he is a member of Johnstown Lodge, No. 538 F. and A. M. and of Portage Chapter, No. 195; Oriental Commandery, and was First Eminent Commander of that body.
Mr. Rose's family consists of Horace R., an attorney of Johnstown, whose sketch appears on another page; May, who died in infancy; June, wife of Samuel J. McClune, of Lorain, Ohio; Winter, who is a machinist by trade, and now with The Johnson company, at Lorain, Ohio; Forest and Percy, now students at Hamilton college, Clinton, New York.