Member Biography

William Freame Johnston 

Sessions Office Position District Party
1848     Speaker 20 Whig


11/29/1808 - 10/25/1872

Governor William Freame Johnston (Whig20) Armstrong, Cambria, Clearfield, Indiana Counties 1848

Early Life:

Governor William Freame Johnston, born November 29, 1808, Greensburg, Westmoreland County Pennsylvania; son of Alexander and Elizabeth Freame Johnston; studied law under Major John Alexander; admitted, Kittanning, Westmoreland County, bars, 1829; appointed, district attorney, Westmoreland County, 1829; married, Mary Monteith, 1832, children, James Montieth Johnston, Alexander Johnston, Nannie Montieth Johnston, Elizabeth Freame Johnston McCandless, Thomas Johnston, Richard Henry Johnston;  elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1836-1838; elected, Whig, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1841; elected, Whig, Pennsylvania State Senate, 1848; appointed, Whig, Pennsylvania Governor, 1848; elected, Pennsylvania Governor, 1848-1851, unsuccessful reelection, 1851; engaged, iron making, salt manufacturing, oil refining; president, Allegheny Railroad; died, October 25, 1872 (aged 63), Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania; interment, Allegheny Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Politics:

Elected, Democrat, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1836-1838; known for Introducing banking bill, to help ease tensions during the 1837 bank panic.

Elected, Whig, Pennsylvania State House of Representatives, 1841.

Elected, Whig, Pennsylvania State Senate, 20th district, Armstrong, Cambria, Clearfield, Indiana Counties, 1848; elected, interim Speaker of the Senate, April 1848, Governor Francis Rawn Shunk, suffering from declining health, resigned, July 9, 1848; became first Whig governor, made official, July 26, 1848.

Appointed, Whig, 11th Pennsylvania Governor, 1848; reelected, first Whig Governor Pennsylvania special election, October 1848, defeating Democratic candidate, Morris Longstreth, 297 votes; he helped bring financial stability to the state. Edited and printed documentation of Pennsylvania's early history in what continued as the Pennsylvania Archives. Lost re-election, Democrat William Bigler, 1851.

Nominated, Vice President, American Party, withdraw in favor of William L. Dayton, Republican nominee, 1856. 

Pennsylvania House of Representatives Biography:

Official Website - PA House Archives Official Website (


Johnston Commons, Penn State University, State College, named for the former governor.


Cox, Harold. "Senate Members "J""Wilkes University Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University.

Biographical and Historical Cyclopedia of Indiana and Armstrong Counties, Pennsylvania (BHI), editor Samuel T. Wiley (Philadelphia: John M. Gresham & Company, 1891), page 359. 

W.F. Johnston, Philadelphia, to Simon Cameron, August 30, 1856, Roll 2, Simon Cameron Papers, PSA.

William Freame Johnston (1808-1872) - Find a Grave Memorial