Galusha A. Grow

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Galusha A. Grow
Oil portrait from 1891 by William A. Greaves.
24th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
July 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863
President Abraham Lincoln
Preceded by William Pennington
Succeeded by Schuyler Colfax
Member of U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's At-large, 12th & 14th districts
In office
March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1853 (12th)
March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1863 (14th)
February 26, 1894 – March 3, 1903 (AL)
Preceded by David Wilmot
Thomas M. Bibighaus
William Lilly (AL)
Alexander McDowell (AL)
Succeeded by Hendrick B. Wright
William H. Miller
29th: George Shiras III
30th: John Dalzell
Personal details
Born Aaron Galusha Grow
August 31, 1822
Ashford, Connecticut
Died March 31, 1907 (aged 84)
near Scranton, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Amherst College
Profession Law
Signature Galusha A. Grow's signature
Grow, photographed between 1865 and 1880.

Galusha Aaron Grow (August 31, 1822 – March 31, 1907) was a prominent American politician, lawyer, writer and businessman, and was a Pennsylvania representative and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1861 to 1863. He was defeated for reelection in 1862. He remained the last sitting House Speaker to be defeated until Tom Foley of Washington lost his seat in 1994.[1]

Early years

Grow was born Aaron Galusha Grow in Ashford, Connecticut. His given names were the suggestions of an aunt living in Vermont, who was visiting Grow's mother when he was christened: "Aaron" was the aunt's husband's name (his full name was Aaron Nichols (1764-1807)), and "Galusha" was the surname of a governor of Vermont she admired.[2] His family called him Galusha when he was growing up, and before Grow was a teenager, he had started writing his name with his given names reversed.[2] He was educated at Franklin Academy in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and later at Amherst College. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in November 1847 and then began his law practice.[3]

U.S. House

Grow ran as a Democrat in the 1850 elections and served as a member of that party during the 32nd and 33rd Congresses and part of the 34th Congress. He switched parties in the wake of President Pierce's signing of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.[2]

He ran as a Republican for the 1856 elections and remained a member of that party for the rest of his political career.

During the 35th United States Congress, on February 5, 1858, he was physically attacked by Democrat Laurence M. Keitt in the House chambers, leading to a brawl between northerners and southerners. Keitt, offended by Grow's having stepped over to his side of the House chamber, dismissively demanded that Grow sit down, calling him a "black Republican puppy". Grow responded by telling Keitt that "No negro-driver shall crack his whip over me." Keitt became enraged and went for Grow's throat, shouting that he would "choke [him] for that". A large brawl involving approximately fifty representatives erupted on the House floor, ending only when a missed punch from Rep. Cadwallader Washburn of Wisconsin upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale of Mississippi. The embarrassed Barksdale accidentally replaced the wig backwards, causing both sides to erupt in spontaneous laughter.[4][5]

He was re-elected during the 1858 elections, and, before the end of the 36th Congress, South Carolina had voted to secede from the Union.

After Grow was again re-elected, the recently elected President Abraham Lincoln called the 37th Congress into session on July 4; in a chamber down by almost 60 from the 237 present in the previous session, Grow was nominated by Thaddeus Stevens to be the Speaker of the House, winning the job with little fanfare over the only other nominee, Francis Preston Blair, Jr..

Although events of the Civil War dominated and the First Battle of Bull Run occurred only two weeks after the 37th Congress was called into session, under Grow's speakership, several other major acts of Congress were passed and signed into law, particularly the Morrill Land-Grant College Act (passed House June 17, 1862), the Pacific Railway Act authorizing land grants to encourage the construction of the transcontinental railroad, and the Homestead Act, which in over a century resulted in the establishment of 1.6 million homesteads.

Grow, a supporter of the Radical Republicans, was defeated in his re-election bid in 1862, becoming the second sitting House Speaker in a row to lose his seat.

After his Speakership

Grow was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1864 and 1868.

He moved to Houston, Texas in 1871, and that year became president of what became known as the International - Great Northern Railroad, a position he held until 1875. He then returned to Pennsylvania and the practice of law from 1875 to 1894.

Grow returned to the United States Congress as a member at-large from Pennsylvania from 1894 to 1903; was the chairman of the committee on education in the 56th Congress.

Grow resided in Glenwood, Pennsylvania from 1903 until his death at age 84. A biography of Galusha Grow, Galusha A. Grow: Father of the Homestead Law, was written by James T. Du Bois and Gertrude S. Mathews and published by Houghton Mifflin in 1917.[2]

A monument to Grow was erected in 1915 at the Susquehanna County Courthouse Complex in Montrose, Pennsylvania.[6]


  1. "Thomas Foley, House Speaker, Dies at 84". New York Times. October 18, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Galusha A. Grow: Father of the Homestead Law from Google Books
  3. Galusha A. Grow at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
  4. Allan L. Damon (December 1975). "Filibuster". American Heritage Magazine. 27 (1).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Congressional Globe. 35th Cong., 1st sess. 8 Feb. 1858. 603.
  6. "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Note: This includes David L. Taylor (February 1996). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Susquehanna County Courthouse Complex" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-12-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
David Wilmot
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district

March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1853
Succeeded by
Hendrick B. Wright
Preceded by
Thomas M. Bibighaus
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's 14th congressional district

March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1863
Succeeded by
William H. Miller
Preceded by
William Lilly
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania's at-large congressional district

February 26, 1894 - March 3, 1903
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
William Pennington
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
July 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863
Succeeded by
Schuyler Colfax