Along the Way: Reverend Aaron Grosh

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Grave of Rev. Aaron Grosh, one of the founders of the Grange

The journey to Marietta began with a phone call.

“We’re trying to find the graves of the founders of the Grange,” Charlene spoke. “We’re also curious to know what condition their graves are in. Interested?”

A couple days later, I found myself driving through the gates of the Marietta Cemetery in southern Pennsylvania. Getting out of the vehicle, I glanced around the cemetery and 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 walked around the vehicle to join me. “Where do you plan on starting this search? There has to be a couple thousand stones here. So where do you think we should start?”

I glanced around the cemetery and instantly cut out a portion of it, seeing it appeared to be modern tombstones, but it still left a lot of ground for us to cover. “Over there looks like a good place to start,” I mumbled as I randomly selected a nearby portion of the cemetery to begin our search.

My selection proved to be correct and in less then ten minutes, Adam called out that he had found it. I hurried over to take a look at the graves he stood at. These were the graves we sought – the final resting places 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 – which is spelled Burt in some places, but it is Bort after his grandmother’s maiden name – 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 Grosh moved to Utica, New York, where he ministered for eighteen years. While in Utica he became the editor of a number of journals, including The Universalist Register from 1838 to 1865. Grosh 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 (a Pennsylvania representative in the U.S. Senate). While working in this position, Grosh befriended 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 are still part of the organization. Grosh would serve as the first chaplain of the National Grange.

Grosh also wrote the Odd Fellows Improved Manual and much of their ritual that is still used today. Grosh died May 27, 1884 and was buried in his hometown of Marietta. 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.

The old stone is weathered and shows its age but it is still legible. At the base of the stone is a marker placed there by the Grange during the organization’s one-hundredth anniversary celebration. Next to him is buried his wife, Sarah, whose stone is in excellent condition. Sarah was 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.

We took the time to clean the dead grass off their stones before leaving the cemetery in peace.

Note: 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 pick-ax 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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