Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Along the Way: Aaron Grosh, A Founding Father of the Grange

Grave of Reverend Aaron Grosh (center)
His wife Sarah's grave is to the left
A phone call from Charlene, a good friend and National Grange Youth Director, sent me on a journey to locate the final resting place of one of the seven founders of the National Grange.

"We're trying to find the graves of the founders of the Grange and we want to know what condition their graves are in. Interested?" Of course I was interested and a couple days later I was standing in the Marietta Cemetery preparing to seek out the resting place of Reverend Aaron Grosh.

Looking around the cemetery I instantly regretted bragging to Charlene that "I'll have his grave found in fifteen minutes or less." The town of Marietta doesn't look that big on the map but the cemetery proved to be a little bigger than I imagined.

“Fifteen minutes or less?” Adam asked as he too took in the cemetery. “Where do you plan on starting this search? There has to be a couple thousand stones to search through.”

Glancing around the cemetery, I immediately cut out a portion of it, seeing it appeared to be newer graves, but it still left a lot of ground to cover. “Over there looks like a good place to start,” I mumbled as I randomly picked out a portion of the cemetery.

We started our search in the area I pointed out and in less than ten minutes, Adam called out that he had found it. I hurried over to take a look. He had discovered the resting place of Reverend Aaron Grosh and his wife, Sarah.

Reverend Aaron Grosh, along with Oliver Hudson Kelley and five other men and one lady, formed the agricultural organization The Order of the Patrons of Husbandry (also known as the Grange) in 1867. Of the founders, less is known about the early life of Reverend Grosh than any of the others.

Aaron Bort Grosh (some places have it listed as Burt, but it is Bort) was born May 22, 1803 in Marietta and was a pastor of the Universalist faith. It is known he worked on a farm in his younger years and was a teacher for a while before becoming a minister. In the early 1830s he moved to Utica, New York, where he ministered for eighteen years. During this time he became the editor of a number of journals, including The Universalist Register from 1838 to 1865. He would also serve in Philadelphia and Reading before retiring due to health issues.

After Gross left the ministry, he took a clerk job at the Department of Agriculture thanks to his association with Simon Cameron. While working in this position, he found a friend in William Saunders, who knew Oliver Hudson Kelley and his plans for a national farmer's organization. With Grosh's knowledge of degree work, he was tasked with writing many of the songs for the degrees and developing the rituals that is still a part of the organization. Grosh would serve as the first chaplain of the organization.

Grosh also wrote the Odd Fellows’ manual and much of the ritual that they use to this day. Grosh died May 27, 1884 and was buried in Marietta, his hometown.

An interesting note: shortly after I had originally posted this article years ago, I was contacted by a number of Grosh’s descendants. I was surprised that most of them did not realize that he was a factor in the creation of the Grange, but they knew him more for his work in the Odd Fellows.

Grave of Reverend Grosh
Plaque placed by National Grange
 The old stone was weathered and shows its age but it was still legible for the most part. At the base of the stone was a marker placed there by the Grange during its one hundred year celebration.

Next to him is buried his wife, Sarah, whose stone is in as excellent condition as that of Aaron's. Sarah is Aaron’s second wife. His first wife, Hannah, bore him six children before she died in 1849. As far as I can determine, Aaron and Sarah had no children together.

I took the time to clean the dead grass off his stone before snapping a couple pictures of his grave. After paying my respects, I decided it was time to leave this old cemetery in peace.

Finding his grave isn't too hard. there is only one road that leads in and out of the cemetery. Enter into the cemetery from West Fairview Avenue. There is one mausoleum in the Marietta Cemetery – stop and park in front of it and look to the right. There are two pine trees in the cemetery and he is buried under the farthest pine tree.

Another interesting piece of history involves the sons of Aaron and Sarah. Ethan Allen (who went by E. Allen) and Hosea went westward in 1849 in search of their fortune during the California Gold Rush. As part of their exploration for gold in Nevada, they discovered the “worthless rock” many prospectors were throwing away was silver. There seems to be some debate whether the vein of silver they were working was a part of the rich vein that would be referred to as the Comstock Lode. The vein they were working was roughly a quarter of a mile away from the main vein, so it is possible it may have been a part of the same vein of silver.

Sadly neither would ever see the importance of their discovery.

Hosea would die in September of 1857 from blood poisoning after striking his foot with the pickaxe he was using. E. Allen would follow his brother in December of the same year when he got caught in a snow storm/ His legs suffered severe frostbite and died from infection when he refused to have his legs amputated.

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