Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.
Portrait of Governor Daniel Hartman Hastings, painted between 1895 and 1899 while he served as the commonwealth’s chief executive, by Pennsylvania artist George W. Storm. The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Portrait of Governor Daniel Hartman Hastings, painted between 1895 and 1899 while he served as the commonwealth’s chief executive, by Pennsylvania artist George W. Storm.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania

Despite the fact that he unsuccessfully attempted — not once, but three times — to enlist in the Union Army in the early days of the American Civil War, the underage Daniel Hartman Hastings (1849–1903) eventually did find several causes for which to fight. And his courage and persistence brought him many accolades and honors, including the title “Hero of the Johnstown Flood.”

Hastings, who grew to be a commanding six feet three, was born near Salona in Lamar Township, Clinton County, on February 26, 1849, the youngest of nine children. His parents William and Sarah Fullerton Hastings were immigrants from Ireland and Scotland, respectively. The family engaged in farming.

After the Civil War broke out in April 1861, three of Hastings’s older brothers joined the Union Army. Hastings also wanted to enlist but his father would not consent to him going off to war at the age of twelve. Hastings refused to give up his dream and ran away to the Clinton County seat of Lock Haven to enlist. His father followed him and brought him home. Not much later Hastings made another attempt to enlist, traveling to Williamsport, Lycoming County, before his father caught up with him. The young Hastings made a third attempt at the age of thirteen when he succeeded in reaching Carlisle and enrolling. His passionate desire to fight for the North again went unfulfilled, however, after his father arrived in the Cumberland County seat and insisted he return home immediately. “It was my fortune or misfortune to have been born a little on this side of the line, which prevented me from bearing arms in my country’s defense,” Hastings recollected in a speech he gave in 1883. “But I remember, as if it were yesterday, the burst of the thunder cloud of rebellion, the storm of shot and shell—the shower of blood.”

Hastings became a schoolteacher at the age of fourteen in Wayne Township, and in 1867 at the age of eighteen became principal of Centre County’s Bellefonte Academy, a private preparatory school with a national reputation, and later superintendent of Bellefonte High School. For a time he was also editor of the Bellefonte Republican, a weekly newspaper. He studied law and was admitted to the Centre County Bar on April 29, 1875. He joined the Bellefonte law practice of Bush, Yocum, and Hastings, which later became Hastings and Reeder. In October 1877, Hastings married Jane Armstrong Rankin of Bellefonte, with whom he had two daughters. Less than a decade later, in 1888, he began amassing a considerable fortune in the bituminous coal mining industry of Cambria County.

His rise in the National Guard of Pennsylvania, of which he served as an officer for nearly fourteen years, was meteoric. On August 1, 1877, Hastings was sworn in as paymaster with the rank of captain of the guard’s Fifth Regiment. Less than a year later, on March 22, 1878, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was appointed assistant adjutant general of the Second Brigade, commanded by General James Addams Beaver (1837–1914), in June 1878 and reappointed in November 1883. On March 28, 1884, he was promoted to colonel of the Fifth Regiment which he commanded until January 1887.

In 1886, Hastings nominated Beaver as a Republican candidate for governor of Pennsylvania. Beaver won both the nomination and the general election. On January 18, 1887, the day he took office, Governor Beaver appointed Hastings as Adjutant General of Pennsylvania for a four-year term. The two men knew each other from their days living in Bellefonte, their involvement in coal mining, and their service in the National Guard. Beaver and Hastings were president and secretary/manager, respectively, of the Blubaker Coal Company of Hastings, Cambria County, in the 1890s.

Hastings became a hero and national figure in the aftermath of the catastrophic Johnstown Flood of 1889, which claimed more than twenty-two hundred lives. As leader of the National Guard of Pennsylvania and head of the Flood Relief Committee, he and his troops assisted with the distribution of food, clothing, shoes, lumber, stoves, blankets, and relief supplies after the flood decimated the Cambria County community on May 31. They were responsible for guarding property and assisting with providing temporary housing. The enormous disaster prompted the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the Pennsylvania Railroad Companies to grant Hastings permission to issue free transportation passes to and from Johnstown. In Hastings’s own words, as the swirling flood water “rushed on to Johnstown it bore on its awful front men, women, children, horses, houses, bridges, logs, trees, railroad cars, locomotives and debris of every nature, gathered in its flight.

“Poor Johnstown! The monster faltered not in its course until the resistance it encountered found an outlet over to the left. Its main pathway carried all before it, like the charge of an Army, its left wing spread over Johnstown. . . .”

Individuals from throughout the country inundated Hastings with telegrams and letters pleading for information about the welfare of relatives and friends in and around Johnstown. President Benjamin Harrison also dispatched an inquiry. Hastings received messages informing him of money and relief items being sent to aid the victims in Johnstown.

“We need fully 3000 more men to clean the debris at the stone bridge,” Hastings advised Governor Beaver in the week after the tragedy. “We are floating down the stream all wood and rescuing bodies but burning all dead animals. The stench is apparent but the best judgement is that there is no danger of an epidemic. We are erecting another camp on the hill above the town for occupation of all sufferers. . . . The local police is about exhausted. The legislature ought to be called together at once as an earnest of more relief.”

Adjutant General Hastings wasted little time in again writing to the governor. “I advise you to call a special session of the legislature,” he urged. “Two millions ought to be appropriated to relieve the region. One million of contributions will hardly clean up Johnstown Borough. . . . If you think differently on special session please come here arriving Monday and spend a couple days with us. General [John A.] Wiley suggests that the 14th Regt. is being worked pretty hard and asks for another regiment. We could use them. The business of keeping out the sightseer and bummers from a large scope of territory keeps the 14th busy all the time. The best of order is being maintained.”

State Adjutant General of Pennsylvania Daniel Hartman Hastings (seated, far left) and Governor James Addams Beaver (seated, far right) attended a National Guard of Pennsylvania encampment at Lake Conemaugh about 1888, shortly before the South Fork Dam burst, releasing the lake’s twenty million tons of water that decimated Johnstown on May 31, 1889. Pennsylvania State Archives / MG-461

State Adjutant General of Pennsylvania Daniel Hartman Hastings (seated, far left) and Governor James Addams Beaver (seated, far right) attended a National Guard of Pennsylvania encampment at Lake Conemaugh about 1888, shortly before the South Fork Dam burst, releasing the lake’s twenty million tons of water that decimated Johnstown on May 31, 1889.
Pennsylvania State Archives / MG-461

Hastings’s work in rescue, recovery, relief, and reconstruction was praised so widely that the Grand Army of the Republic made him an honorary member, after which he became known as the “Hero of the Johnstown Flood.” He was being mentioned as a potential gubernatorial candidate in correspondence from well-wishers as early as mid-July 1889 because of his Herculean efforts at Johnstown. Encouraged by his recently earned fame as adjutant general, he campaigned for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor in 1890. He failed to win the nomination by eleven votes. The influential Republican Party political machine controlled by Matthew S. Quay (1833–1904) endorsed candidate state Senator George W. Delamater (1849–1907), of Meadville, Crawford County. Delamater lost the general election to Robert E. Pattison (1850–1904), who won his second non-consecutive term as governor.

During the gubernatorial election year of 1894, H.T. Douglas, an engineer responsible for removing the debris following the flood, wrote, “I was in constant communication with General Hastings, whose untiring efforts to relieve the sufferings of the people of that Valley, and whose honesty of purpose and fidelity to duty, excited my highest admiration.

“Such scenes as were witnessed there, I trust the people of Pennsylvania may never be called upon again to endure. Should they come, however, they would be most fortunate to secure the services of a friend so able, zealous and untiring as General Hastings.”

The year before tragedy struck Johnstown, Hastings made the nominating speech for presidential candidate John Sherman (1823–1900) of Ohio, nicknamed the “Ohio Icicle,” at the National Republican Convention in Chicago, Illinois. Sherman lost his nomination bid to Benjamin Harrison. In Hastings’s obituary published on January 10, 1903, the New York Times contended that with this speech “he at once sprang into celebrity as a political orator.” Hastings’s speech was colored with references to the Civil War. “Pennsylvania has never faltered in her devotion to republican principles, and will not falter now,” he proclaimed. “Her metropolis was the cradle of American Liberty, and the Republican Party’s birth and baptism were both on Pennsylvania’s soil. With her the fundamental and elementary principles of republicanism have always been held sacred as the Charter of her liberties and the memory of her dead soldiers. Of this her majorities are proof — majorities unequalled in the sisterhood of states — cast for Lincoln, for Grant, for Hayes, for Garfield and for her beloved son James G. Blaine.

“. . . The free men, waiting for the welcome day when there will be no longer a solid south; the true soldiers of both sides who bravely and loyally accepted the results of war; they who are waiting for the dawn of that new day when the right of suffrage dare not be denied to any man, white or black; when honest elections shall triumph over intimidation. . . .

“That grand army of men who followed Grant and Sherman and Sheridan, the widows and orphans of their comrades, and thousands who believe a soldiers honorable discharge is no disqualification in civil life, and thousands more who love their country and those who serve it will welcome him as their choice. They who deserve well of their country, who believe the English Language so copious that an hundred pension vetoes might be written without insulting patriotism and loyalty, will rally to his standard. He was the soldier’s friend in war and he has been their constant friend in peace. He stood by the side of Lincoln and the army from the first days of Sumter, until another Sherman marched from Atlanta to the sea, and peace came on golden wings.

“. . . What thought secession and slavery are gone forever? They were washed away in Union blood. What thought questions of reconstruction, of national credit and public faith have been resolved in favor of the right? They are the stars in the party’s crown. What thought increasing pensions make grateful hearts and smooth the pathways of the nations brave defenders? Every dollar of it bears the stamp of Republican approval. . . . I nominate the patriot, the statesman, a honest man—John Sherman.”

Addressing the importance of the National Guard in 1890, Hastings wrote, “The last war demonstrated that an army cannot be gathered from the walks of peace, placed in the field, and expected to accomplish the work of trained soldiers without the additional quality of experience. They may have all the elements of the successful soldier, but that training is indispensable, has been proved on many battlefields. The National Guard organizations of the several States may be looked upon as a response to the demand for trained men, ready to take the field at a moment’s notice, and prepared to form the second line of battle, the Regular forces constituting the first. . . . It is with sentiments of pride I boast of the fact that nowhere in the Union has any National Guard organization received the same measure of care, attention and substantial support as in our own Pennsylvania.”

Hastings delivered a Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day) address at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, on May 30, 1892, in which he remembered Civil War veterans. “Twenty seven years have passed since the bugle of peace sounded the recall, and the armies of Grant and Lee marched back to their homes and to peaceful citizenship. . . . Yet the time is not so far distant that in memory we may not still hear the notes of preparation for the struggle; the intense public excitement; ten States with a population of ten millions in open rebellion; twenty Senators thrice as many Congressmen, withdrawing from the National Council to follow the lead of a new President, a new attempt at government and a new flag. Ten States despising the authority of a Nation; its laws defied and annulled; business paralyzed; treason everywhere; preparations for the conflict; the republic imperiled; anarchy and insurrection rampant; and the respectable flag of our fathers trailing in the dust. In the North consternation, fear — and then patriotic resolve; meetings of the people in every city, village and cross-road; the crash of music, the glare of uniforms, the orator’s appeal, the tender farewells. Then the fathers and husbands, sons and lovers marched away to fields of glory and of blood. Whether they be living or dead to-day, they left to history a record, and to patriotism an example, unequalled in any land or any time. Gathered here to-day like the survivors of a family about the hearth-stone in the homestead of their fathers, are the survivors of these times, to recall the missing ones; to greet the comrades living and to mourn the comrades dead; to tell again the story of death, devotion and patriotism on fields where veteran against veteran, battery against battery, the charge of the war-horse whose neck is clothed in thunder, they plucked victory from defeat or laid down their lives upon their country’s altar.

“. . . To-day we are stronger, nobler, grander than ever . . . The gray uniform had faded into Union Blue. The old and tattered stars and bars, dyed in the blood of patriots, shows thirteen stripes and 44 stars. The battle fields have outgrown the scars of war. The song of peace and the music of industry and prosperity brighten and glorify the American heart and home.

“. . . Holding them in fond remembrance, let us not forget the widows and orphans either of the Union or of the dead Confederacy. They whom the South sent to do battle were worthy foemen. Wrong, eternally wrong and without justification, but brave, earnest, indomitable, let no unhallowed voice be raised in cold disparaging comparison of valor or love. To-day the Union and Confederate veterans with their loved ones united to spread leaves of healing upon the future. They were first to bury animosity and hate deep out of sight. Let them be buried forever.”

Hastings married Jane Armstrong Rankin, daughter of James H. Rankin, a prominent member of the Centre County Bar. The couple, was photographed circa 1900, not long after the governor left office. Pennsylvania State Archives / MG-145

Hastings married Jane Armstrong Rankin, daughter of James H. Rankin, a prominent member of the Centre County Bar. The couple, was photographed circa 1900, not long after the governor left office.
Pennsylvania State Archives / MG-145

Two years later Hastings won the Republican Party nomination and the governor’s office in 1894, defeating Democrat William M. Singerly (1832–1898), a successful Philadelphia businessman, by an unprecedented margin of more than 24,000 votes. This was a remarkable landslide for Hastings. In office when fire leveled the State Capitol on February 2, 1897, Hastings made the initial decisions to rebuild, to hold a competition to select the architect who would design it, and to determine its location. He served as president of the Capitol Building Commission and participated in the laying of the new edifice’s cornerstone on August 10, 1898.

As governor, Hastings apparently found time to enjoy sports, both as participant and spectator. His personal papers held by the Pennsylvania State Archives in Manuscript Group 145, Daniel H. Hastings Papers, 1877–1931, include several golf score cards dating to 1897, a Philadelphia Ball Club schedule, and a Merion Cricket Club membership bill dated 1896. He was also a college football fan.

Hastings wholeheartedly supported the soldiers’ orphans’ school system, and expansion of the Pennsylvania Soldiers Orphans Industrial School (renamed the Scotland School for Veterans’ Children in 1895) in Scotland, Franklin County, four miles north of Chambersburg. Speaking at the school in May 1898, he assured the students, “Every man and woman or citizen of this state will look upon you girls and boys as if they were your own parents, to see that you grow up to be good intelligent men and women so that you can take your place in the world and work out a good livelihood. You are not paupers. No, no, boys and girls, you are the boys and girls of all others in the State.” He also appealed to the state legislature to “increase the hospital facilities” of the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home in Erie.

At the Republican National Convention at St. Louis, Missouri, in June 1896, Governor Hastings nominated Matthew Quay for president, once more attracting attention for his oratorical abilities. His support of Quay was tenuous at best, however, as a few years later, after leaving the governor’s office, he battled the Quay machine ticket in Centre County.

During his administration, Hastings helped dedicate, and accepted on behalf of the Commonwealth, numerous monuments and statues to Pennsylvania’s Civil War officers, regiments, and enlisted men on many battlefields, including Winfield Scott Hancock (1824–1886) at Gettysburg and the Philadelphia Brigade (also known as the Second Brigade, Second Division, Second Corps) at Antietam, Maryland. Governor Hastings delivered eloquent speeches at these events, including one on June 5, 1896, while accepting the Hancock statue on behalf of the Commonwealth.

Hastings characterized Hancock as “one of Pennsylvania’s noblest sons,” and recalled his valor during Confederate General James Longstreet’s assault, known widely as Pickett’s Charge, on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. “The gloom that rested over Gettysburg began to dispel; the grandest army that ever fought for freedom was marching to that battle line; then these hills and valleys trembled with the shock of the cannon, and the enemy sent their best and bravest men across yonder field in the final charge. The hope of the future was never less hopeful than at that moment. But it was always so in the history of Hancock; he was always the soldier to lead the forlorn hope and turn the tide of battle. History will never record a grander sight than he presented when . . .he rode from the right out upon the field in front of his men and along down the line of battle, whilst the missiles of the enemy were filling the air about him, bowing to his expectant men as politely and as gallantly as upon review day. Their answering shouts gave assurance that when the charge should reach the Bloody Angle [the area that includes the high water mark of the Confederacy] it would record rebellion’s highest notch.”

In early April 1898, President William McKinley asked Governor Hastings to provide troops for the pending conflict with Spain and by mid-month, his office was besieged by letters and telegrams requesting commissions in Pennsylvania’s military forces thought likely to be sent to fight the Spanish if war commenced. He received letters from cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, seeking appointments as officers, active military personnel seeking commissions, and, most touchingly, veterans of the Civil War once again volunteering their service to state and nation.

Hastings called out the entire National Guard of Pennsylvania on April 26, 1898, the day after the United States declared war against Spain and ordered guardsmen to report to Mount Gretna, Lebanon County. Camp Hastings, named in the governor’s honor, was established at Mount Gretna as the point of mobilization and initial training for the Keystone State’s troops who went on to serve in the Spanish-American War. Governor Hastings was successful in persuading more than 70 percent of the guardsmen to enlist in federal service for the emergency.

His speech to the City Grays of Harrisburg on the morning of April 28, 1898, was truly inspiring. “This is a time for the exercise of the highest and noblest qualities of American patriotism,” he said. “The issue is formed; diplomacy has ended; the appeal is now to be made to the arbtrament of war and the issue which you and your comrades must determine in the conflict upon whose threshold we now stand is whether humanity and justice shall hold sway or whether the cruelest forms of inhumanity and barbarism shall continue in the Island of Cuba; whether a nation, totally lacking in the essential elements which guarantee the sacred rights of life, liberty and property shall be permitted to continue the monstrous work of murder and rapine at our very threshold, and almost under the shadow of our flag; and whether the lives of two hundred and thirty-six American sailors of the Battleship Maine, hurled into eternity without a moment’s warning in time of peace in a Spanish harbor, shall remain unavenged.

“After peace came to Appomattox, and during the intervening years, the great heart of the American people has been for making peace. . . . The authorities at Washington have exhausted the noblest efforts of diplomacy in the interest of peace. The issue is now upon us and nothing is left but to defend the integrity of the nation and honor of our flag.

“The President has called upon the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to perform her share in the work that is before us. Pennsylvania has never faltered in all the struggles of the past and will not falter now.

“The call from Washington gives the National Guard of our state the first opportunity to enlist and the Secretary of War has directed that our splendid organization shall be mobilized at Mount Gretna and that its members shall have the first opportunity to volunteer.

“To those of you, and other organizations of the Guard. Who shall be admitted to the Volunteer Army and go forth to defend the nation, this vast assemblage and the people of the Commonwealth give you their plaudits. Into your hands, they entrust the honor of the state and nation.”

Hastings convinced the War Department in Washington, D.C., to allow the National Guard of Pennsylvania’s troops to remain intact and they were assigned to the Tenth Regiment, United States Volunteers, by May 1898. He sent a telegram to U.S. Secretary of War Russell Alexander Alger (1836–1907) on May 13. “Ten thousand eight hundred men, as brave and loyal as ever followed a flag or defended a country, marched past the Governor in review this afternoon,” he wired. “No grander sight has been witnessed since the historic days of ‘61 and ‘65. Pennsylvania has responded to the call fully and promptly, has given to the Nation’s soldiery a division of troops composed of the best of her citizenship.” The president’s second call for troops was also filled by Hastings, who personally led the guard when it marched to Harrisburg. After typhoid fever broke out in the National Guard’s camps, Hastings quickly arranged to have the sick cared for in various Pennsylvania hospitals.

During his administration, the Commonwealth’s Superior Court was established (to which Hastings appointed former Governor Beaver as a justice), the state Department of Agriculture was created, labor reforms were instituted, including those related to child labor, and a bill eliminating state income taxes and replacing them with additional taxes on corporations was signed into law.

After his term as governor ended, Hastings returned to Bellefonte and his business interests. He practiced law and served as president of the Sterling Coal Company,a director of the Blubaker Coal Company, and a partner in the banking firm of Jackson, Hastings, and Company. He was active in a number of organizations, including Pennsylvania’s Grand Army of the Republic, and served on its Committee on Invitations and Courtesies for the thirty-third National Encampment and Reunion held in Philadelphia in early September 1899. In addition to Hastings, former, present, and future governors of Pennsylvania who served on the committee included Beaver, Pattison, William A. Stone (1846–1920), and Samuel W. Pennypacker (1843–1916).

Four years later, Hastings died at the age of fifty-three on January 9, 1903, from pleuropneumonia, most likely an inflammation of the pleura and lungs or pneumonia aggravated by pleurisy, and was laid to rest in Bellefonte’s Union Cemetery.


For Further Reading

Donehoo, George P. Pennsylvania: A History. Volume 3. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1926.

Greene, LeRoy. Shelter for His Excellency. Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1951.

Hastings, Daniel H. The American Soldier — An Address by Gen. Daniel H. Hastings. Philadelphia: The Pennsylvania Club, 1890.

Klein, Philip S. and Ari Hoogenboom. A History of Pennsylvania. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1980.

McCain, George Nox. Through the Great Campaign with Hastings and His Spellbinders. Philadelphia: Historical Publishing Company, 1895.

McCullough, David. The Johnstown Flood. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.

Saylor, Richard C. Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 2010.

Swetnam, George. The Governors of Pennsylvania, 1790–1900. Greensburg, Pa.: McDonald/Sward Publishing Company, 1990.


For this article, the author utilized Manuscript Group 145, Daniel H. Hastings Papers, 1877–1931, in the collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.


Richard C. Saylor is a reference archivist for the Pennsylvania State Archives, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC). He joined PHMC in 1991 and has served as assistant curator of military, political, and industrial history at The State Museum of Pennsylvania, assistant registrar for the agency, and head of the Appraisal and Acquisitions Section of the State Archives. The author is chair of the Interpretive Committee of the Pennsylvania Civil War Trails Program and serves as project archivist for the State Archives’ Civil War Muster Out Rolls Project. He is the author of the national award-winning</em >Soldiers to Governors: Pennsylvania’s Civil War Veterans Who Became State Leaders, published by PHMC in 2010. He received his B.A. in history from Elizabethtown College and his M.A. in American studies from Penn State University.