My cousin John R. Byrne in 1890

John R. Byrne is my 1st cousin, 4x removed. He was born in 1858 in Pennsylvania and died on 2 Oct 1932 in Everson, Fayette, Pennsylvania. This fascinating biography of the politician, newspaperman and entrepreneur  appeared in an 1890 printing of the “Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.”

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Hon. John R. Byrne. Celtic blood flowed in the veins of many prominent citizens of the United States who have been conspicuous alike on the battle-field and in the forum, and to-day many of that blood and race throughout Pennsylvania hold and have held important public offices of trust and honor. One of the latter class is John R. Byrne, ex-member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He is the son of John L. and Mary (Lowry) Byrne and was born at Barnettstown, Carbon township, Huntingdon county, Pa., April 23, 1858.

John L. Byrne (father) was born in county Meath, Ireland, reared in the city of Dublin and as a participant in the Irish Rebellion of 1847 and ’48 found is necessary to immigrate in the latter year to Pennsylvania, where he located at Hollidaysburg. He was a brakes-man and railroad conductor for several years; a contractor on the Broad Top railroad and engaged in hotel keeping at Barnettstown and Everson, Pa. At the latter named place he died January 16, 1883 aged fifty-four years. He was a delegate to the first General Assembly meeting of the Knights of Labor ever held in America, which convened in 1887 at Reading, Pa., and was treasurer of the Miners’ and Laborers’ Benevolent Association during its palmiest days. When the attempted Fenian invasion of Canada from the United States occurred it found an ardent advocate in Mr. Byrne, who was an active member of the Fenian Brotherhood. He raised a company to join the Fenian army of invasion but it was never called into service, as the Fenian forces were dispersed without much fighting.

John R. Byrne attended the common schools of Huntingdon county, Pa., till thirteen years of age. He then entered a coal mine as a trapper boy for which he received thirty-seven and one-half cents per day ; he was soon transferred to driving and shortly afterwards engaged in digging, and remained in the latter employment until he attained his majority. In 1873 he moved with his father to Everson, Fayette county. In 1878, he migrated to Leadville, Colorado, where he remained one year and returned east as far as Pittsburgh, where he was married. In 1880 he returned to Everson, Fayette county, Pa., and resumed mining in which he continued until the great labor strike of 1881. He was made president of the organization that controlled and conducted the above strike and during its progress established the Miner’s Record, which he conducted for eighteen months and then changed the name to that of Scottdale Independent. In 1885 W.N. Porter became a partner with him in the newspaper business and in 1886 they disposed of the Independent to Hiram B. Strickler, who sold it in 1887 to a joint stock company which employed Mr. Byrne as editor. After eight months editorial service he returned on account of his eyesight becoming affected. On July 17, 1889, he became editor of the Tribune Press, of Scottdale, which he continues to edit as a republican editor. It is a four-page folio of thirty-two columns and is principally devoted to local news and labor interests. In December, 1887, he formed a partnership with his brother, Arthur P. Byrne, in the boot and shoe business at Scottdale under the form name of John R. Byrne & Co. They have built up a large trade and carry a full and well-assorted collection of boots and shoes. In 1886, he was elected from Fayette county to a seat in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He had a majority of 696 votes in a county that was strongly democratic prior to 1886, and was the first republican elected to the Legislature from that county since 1874. He served in the session of 1887-8 and was a member of five important committees. In 1888 he was a candidate for re-election but was defeated in the Republican party and opposition from coke operators.

On July 3, 1880, he was united in marriage to Joanna Lynch, daughter of John Lynch, of Everson. To this union have been born three children: Henry W., Arthur L. and Florence E.

He is a member of Scottdale Conclave, No. 172, Independent Order of Heptasophs. In religion he is a Roman Catholic and a republican in politics. Mr. Byrne has ever labored in the interests of his political party and given largely of his time for the advancement of its aims. He resides just across the Westmoreland county line, at Everson, in Fayette county, Pa., but carries on his business in Scottdale.; has been identified with the interests of that borough for nearly ten years. He has for many years been one of the labor leaders of southern Pennsylvania and a recognized authority on labor subjects with many workingmen.

Source:
Wiley, Samuel T., Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, (Westmoreland, Pennsylvania, Dunlap and Clarke, 1890), 232; digital images, Google Books (http://books.Google.com : accessed 30 Jul 2016).

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