Galusha A. Grow
24th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
In office
July 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863
Preceded byWilliam Pennington
Succeeded bySchuyler Colfax
Leader of the
House Republican Conference
In office
July 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863
Preceded byWilliam Pennington
Succeeded bySchuyler Colfax
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Pennsylvania
In office
March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1863
Preceded byDavid Wilmot
Succeeded byWilliam Henry Miller
Constituency12th district (1851–53)
14th district (1853–63)
In office
February 26, 1894 – March 3, 1903
Preceded byWilliam Lilly
Succeeded byJohn M. Morin (1913)
Constituencyat-large district
Personal details
Aaron Galusha Grow

August 31, 1823
Ashford, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedMarch 31, 1907 (aged 83)
near Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (1850–57)
Republican (1857–1907)
Alma materAmherst College

Galusha Aaron Grow (August 31, 1823 – March 31, 1907) was an American politician, lawyer, writer and businessman, who served as 24th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1861 to 1863. Elected as a Democrat in the 1850 congressional elections, he switched to the newly organized Republican Party in the mid-1850s when the Democratic Party tried to force the extension of slavery into western territories.

Elected speaker for the 37th Congress, Grow presided over the House during the initial years of the American Civil War. During his tenure Congress passed the landmark Homestead Act of 1862, which he supported. Grow was defeated for reelection in 1862. For over a century he remained the last incumbent House speaker to be defeated, until Speaker Tom Foley lost his seat in 1994.[1]

After leaving office he continued to speak out on political issues, but did not serve in elective office. Then, 31 years after leaving office, Grow won an 1894 special election to succeed William Lilly. It remains one of the longest known interregnums between terms of service for a House member. Over the course of his career, Grow represented the people of three Pennsylvania congressional districts: the 12th district (1851–1853), 14th district (1853–1863), and Pennsylvania's at-large congressional district (1894–1903).

Early life and education

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]

Political career

Galusha Grow, c. 1859
Lawrence O' Bryan Branch.

Early elections

Grow ran as a Democrat in the 1850 election and served as a member of that party during the 32nd and 33rd congresses, and into 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 in the 1856 election and remained a member of that party for the rest of his political career.

Congressional brawl of 1858

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 upended the hairpiece of Rep. William Barksdale. The embarrassed Barksdale accidentally replaced the wig backwards, causing both sides to erupt in spontaneous laughter.[4][5][6]

Later that year Grow was re-elected to a fifth term. When the next Congress convened in December 1859, he was one of 90 congressmen to receive votes during the two-month-long 44-ballot speaker election,[7] dropping out following the first ballot.[8] On December 29, 1859, North Carolina Congressman Lawrence O'Bryan Branch challenged Galusha Grow to a duel after the two exchanged insults on the House Floor. Both men and their seconds were arrested by District of Columbia police before the duel could take place.[9]

1861 speaker election

The deepening rift between slave states and free states overshadowed Grow's 1861 re-election victory, as a national crisis erupted in December 1860 when South Carolina became the first of several Southern states to adopt an Ordinance of Secession. Four months later, on April 12, 1861, Confederate forces fired upon Fort Sumter, igniting the Civil War. In response, President Abraham Lincoln called the 37th Congress into session on July 4. When the House convened that day, Grow was nominated to be Speaker of the House; also nominated was Francis Preston Blair Jr. Grow was elected on the first ballot, but only after Blair withdrew following the roll call vote, at which time 28 votes shifted to Grow.[10]

1861 election for speaker – 159 votes cast, 80 votes necessary to win election:[11][12]
 Galusha A. Grow (R–Pennsylvania) 99
 Francis Preston Blair Jr. (R–Missouri) 12
 John J. Crittenden (U–Kentucky) 12
 John S. Phelps (D–Missouri) 7
 Clement Vallandingham (D–Ohio) 7
 Erastus Corning (D–New York) 7
 Samuel S. Cox (D–Ohio) 6
 Others 9

Although events of the war dominated and the First Battle of Bull Run occurred only two weeks after the 37th Congress was called into session, under Grow's leadership, several 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.

Loss of congressional seat and interim

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.

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.

Return to Congress

Galusha Grow, 1891

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.

Death and legacy

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.[13]

See also


  1. ^ "Thomas Foley, House Speaker, Dies at 84". New York Times. October 18, 2013. Retrieved March 21, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Galusha A. Grow: Father of the Homestead Law from Google Books
  3. ^ United States Congress. "Galusha A. Grow (id: G000507)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
  4. ^ Allan L. Damon (December 1975). "Filibuster". American Heritage Magazine. 27 (1). Archived from the original on September 29, 2007.
  5. ^ Cong. Globe, 35th Cong., 1st Sess. 603 (1858) Archived August 3, 2017, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Nilsson, Jeff (December 4, 2010). "Beatings, Brawls, and Lawmaking: Mayhem in Congress". The Saturday Evening Post. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  7. ^ Ostermeier, Eric (October 30, 2015). "House Speaker Elections by the Numbers". Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Libraries. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  8. ^ "US House Speaker (1859–60)". Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  9. ^ "The Near Duel Between Representatives Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania and Lawrence Branch of North Carolina". US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  10. ^ "The Independence Day Election of Pennsylvania Representative Galusha A. Grow as Speaker of the House". Historical Highlights. Washington, D.C.: Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  11. ^ Cong. Globe, 37th Cong., 1st Sess. 4 (1861)
  12. ^ "US House Speaker (1861)". Our Campaigns. Retrieved April 13, 2019.
  13. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System. Note: This includes David L. Taylor (February 1996). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Susquehanna County Courthouse Complex" (PDF). Retrieved December 30, 2012.[permanent dead link]
U.S. House of Representatives Preceded byDavid Wilmot Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district March 4, 1851 – March 3, 1853 Succeeded byHendrick B. Wright Preceded byThomas M. Bibighaus Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's 14th congressional district March 4, 1853 – March 3, 1863 Succeeded byWilliam H. Miller Preceded byWilliam Lilly Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Pennsylvania's at-large congressional district February 26, 1894 – March 3, 1903 Succeeded byVacant Political offices Preceded byWilliam Pennington Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives July 4, 1861 – March 4, 1863 Succeeded bySchuyler Colfax