Senator Quay has interesting history

By Ryn Gargulinski: Quay County Sun

Even those who live in Quay County may not be aware the term “Quayism” exists.

No, it does not mean full of motels, grassland and ranchers and snaked by Route 66.

Quayism is synonymous with “shrewd or even ruthless,” according to the Web site bookrags.com, and it was a term thrown around in politics’ gilded age in the 1880s thanks to the U.S. senator for whom the term — and Quay County — was named.

Matthew Stanley Quay’s massive accomplishments are outlined on a Congress Web site and the bookrags.com site provides even more information.

Born in 1833 to a Presbyterian minister in Pennsylvania, Quay eventually climbed his way to the political top as a Republican boss — but not without some controversy, the site said.

After graduating from Jefferson College in 1850 and mastering several languages, he was admitted to the bar then began his political career as first officer of Pennsylvania’s Beaver County court in 1863, the site said.

Two years later, after his work on a gubernatorial election and earning a Congressional Medal of Honor in the Civil War, he was elected to Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives in 1865.

The Web site reported in another two years, Quay got out of politics to edit and publish the Beaver Radical since he was opposed to the politics of the state’s Republican boss Simon Cameron.

However, by 1872, the site said, Quay was back in the political swing, working closely with a boss with whom he once disagreed.

“The Cameron-Quay machine was as ruthless as the more famous Tweed organization of New York,” the site said.

Quay then worked as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Treasurer, where he recruited local organizations in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to be part of the state machine, according to the bookrags site.

To delve even further into politics, the site said Quay worked on the successful 1888 presidential campaign of Benjamin Harrison but later broke with him.

Quay served two terms in the Senate and was reappointed by the governor for a third — only to have the Senate refuse to seat him based on his reputation, the site said.

The site said he was re-elected to the Senate, however, in 1901.

Quay, who likely never set foot in what is now Quay County, championed for minority rights, defended Indian tribes, opposed Chinese exclusion and knew when it was best to say nothing, the site said, adding he knew “how to keep silent in 15 languages.”

The site also said he was supreme in Pennsylvania, thanks to his massive knowledge of the state, control of patronage and party loyalty.

“His brand of politics, under attack when he died in 1904,” the site continued, “helped nationalize American politics during years of rapid industrial and social change.”

Although history’s archives may note his accomplishments, even those who carry on his name, like Texas’ Kathy Quay, don’t have a full picture of who he was.

“Unfortunately, I know very little about him,” said the woman who married into the Quay fray through Quay’s great-nephew Samuel Douglas Quay III.

Kathy Quay did know, however, that no members of the Quay family after the Senator’s time were interested in politics and none ran for elected office.

“My husband could have been a great politician, as he certainly had the gift of gab,” Kathy Quay said, adding he worked for Texaco for awhile and then went on to a career in the Chamber of Commerce where he won many awards.

“Unfortunately, his life ended too soon, as he had such promise,” she said of her husband who died at age 36 of a heart attack.

She said other descendants of Sen. Quay include Mabel Quay, a Waco, Texas, teacher who never married; and a doctor who was also in the service.

The newest addition to the Quay fray is Samuel Douglas Quay IV. He is Kathy Quay’s grandson, who was born on Nov. 24, 2004, to her son Samuel Douglas Quay III and his wife, Staci, who live in San Antonio.