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Brough, John

Born: 1811-09-17 Marietta, Ohio

Died: 1865-08-29 Cleveland, Ohio

John Brough was a journalist, railroad executive, and twenty-sixth governor of Ohio. Orphaned at age eleven, Brough received refuge at the home of a local newspaper editor and subsequently became a printer's apprentice. In 1830, he briefly attended Ohio University, and in 1831, he started a Democratic newspaper in Marietta, the Western Republican. In 1832, Brough married Achsa Pruden, with whom he had two children before her death in 1838. In 1833, he bought and briefly operated the Lancaster Ohio Eagle. A zealous Jacksonian Democrat, Brough wrote scathing editorials attacking the opponents of President Andrew Jackson and the nascent Democratic Party. In 1837, he won election to the Ohio House of Representatives, where he opposed civil rights for African Americans, criticized abolitionism, endorsed Ohio's Black Laws, and sponsored fugitive slave legislation. Appointed chairman of the House committee on banks and currency, Brough labored to reform the state currency and regulate banking activity. Brough's success in reforming the bank system convinced Ohio voters to elect him state auditor, a position he held from 1839 to 1846. Despite opposition from Whigs and some Democrats, Brough succeeded in resolving the state's financial difficulties by increasing tax revenue, closing tax loopholes, and improving the state's credit rating. Brough used the Cincinnati Enquirer, a newspaper he acquired with his brother Charles in 1841, to defend his economic policies against attacks from his political enemies. In 1843, Brough married Caroline Nelson, with whom he had four children. In 1845, the Whigs gained control of the Ohio state government, and from 1845 to 1848, Brough devoted himself to editing and publishing the Cincinnati Enquirer. In 1848, Brough commenced a career in railroad management. From 1848 to 1863, he was president of the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad, then the Bellefontaine line, and finally the Indianapolis, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland Railroad. In the 1850s, Brough championed the Mississippi and Atlantic Railroad, a project to build a railroad from Terre Haute, Indiana to St. Louis, Missouri which drew the opposition of Abraham Lincoln and other prominent Illinoisans. In 1860, Brough was living in Cleveland, Ohio and owned real property valued at $8,000 and had a personal estate of $15,000. Upon commencement of the Civil War, Brough supported the Union war effort, aiding the Lincoln administration by allowing the transportation of troops on his railroad line. In 1863, the Unionist Party nominated Brough to run for governor over incumbent Governor David Tod. Running against Clement L. Vallandigham in the general election, Brough won by 100,000 votes, the largest margin of victory in a state election to that time. Taking office in January 1864, Brough navigated many of the problems facing his predecessors. He convinced the Ohio General Assembly to enact tax relief for needy families of soldiers, and he recruited 36,000 soldiers for duty in and around Washington, DC so front-line soldiers could be free to engage the Confederate Army on the battlefield. Brough also oversaw conscription in Ohio. Conflicts with the wartime bureaucracy, opposition over his promotion policies, and failing health prompted Brough to not seek reelection in 1865. He died four months before completing his term; the cause of death was gangrene of the foot and hand.

Frederick J. Blue, "Brough, John," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University, 1999), 3:636-37; Richard H. Abbott, Ohio's Civil War Governors (Columbus: Ohio State University, 1962), 38-47; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 2, Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, OH, 248; Gravestone, Woodland Cemetery, Cleveland, OH.