Member Biography

William McKinney Piatt 


From highlighted Xerox copy, replacing an original photo, removed from Susquehanna County Historical Society files.

Sessions Office Position District Party
1853         Democrat
1855     Speaker   Democrat


1814 - 1889

The Honorable William McKinney Piatt was the son of William and Mary Brady Piatt, Washington Township, Lycoming County.  Born in 1814, William descended from the colorful Pennsylvania colonial frontier family of Jacob Renee Piatt, originally of New Brunswick, New Jersey, and later Cumberland County.  The first members of the family settled at different locations in Pennsylvania, circa 1740, William’s direct-line ancestor, John, noted among a number of Garden State pioneers who settled Jersey Shore in what became Lycoming County.  His mother, the former Mary Brady, was the daughter of John and Jane McCall Brady, members of another eminent Pennsylvania colonial family. Perhaps encouraged by his first cousin, Lycoming Jackson-Democrat Judge William Piatt, William M. developed an interest in a legal career, leaving for Towanda, Bradford County, where he pursued formal training. From Towanda, Senator Piatt moved south to Tunkhannock, Wyoming County in 1835, opening a law office. After ten years of developing a successful legal practice, he married Rebecca Heston McClintock of Williamsport (1845), moving briefly to Susquehanna County five years later.
In 1853, the district tapped William for a three-year term in the Pennsylvania Senate, the attorney becoming the Speaker of the upper house in May 1855.  Piatt returned to the position in 1856, serving until the close of the legislative year. On the floor, William received note as a critic of those who advocated the repeal of the tonnage tax and as a supporter of the compulsory county public school program. He won the hearts of millions of Keystoners in 1856, by arranging the repeal of the Know Nothing session’s “Jug Law,” and lined up defeat for the American Party’s “21-year,” immigrant voting-residency requirement amendment. Among his contributions, Piatt advocated the state constitution’s local debt ceiling amendment. Although a devoted Democrat, Piatt remained a Cameron supporter and cordial correspondent long after Simon’s split with Buchanan and the Democratic Party. He moved his family back to Tunkhannock after service in Harrisburg, returned to private practice, and emerged as a productive participant in community affairs. In the 1880s, Piatt contributed significantly to the Wyoming County Geological and Historical Society, serving as its correspondent. He was a devout Presbyterian and a liberal contributor to the church. The Honorable William Piatt passed away at Tunkhannock on June 20, 1889, 75 years-old.