Reproduction of an engraved copper portrait of Governor John Brough. He was elected in 1864 during the Civil War and pledged to continue military support for the Union cause. Brough died in 1865 and did not complete his two year term.
John Brough (pronounced "bruff") served as Ohio governor from 1864 to 1865.
Brough was born on September 17, 1811, in Marietta, Ohio. His father was originally from England, and his mother was born in Pennsylvania. His parents died when he was eleven years old. At the age of twelve, Brough became an apprentice at the local newspaper, the Marietta Gazette. Having gained some experience, he was able to obtain a position with the Athens Mirror in 1825. While in Athens, he attended Ohio University, although he did not graduate.
Brough was successful as a journalist. At the age of twenty, he purchased the Washington County Republican. The newspaper's office was located in Marietta, and it was associated with the Democratic Party. In 1833, Brough sold the Washington County Republican to go into business with his brother, Charles Henry Brough. Together, they purchased the Lancaster Eagle, another Democratic newspaper. It was through his role as editor of the Eagle that Brough became active in politics for the first time. The Lancaster Eagle was very influential not only locally but across the state as well. He served as the clerk of the Ohio Senate from 1835 to 1837, and then in 1838, he successfully ran as a representative from Fairfield and Hocking Counties. As a member of the Democratic Party, Brough criticized Whigs for their economic policies. At this time Ohio, as well as the rest of America was recovering from the Panic of 1837. While in the state legislature, Brough served as the chairman of the house committee on banks and currency.
Brough earned a positive reputation for his work with the state's financial issues and was elected state auditor in 1839. He held that position until 1845. During that time, he reorganized Ohio's financial system. Although the state debt continued to increase in his time as state auditor, Brough successfully battled inflation and placed the state on a stronger financial footing. Whigs dominated state politics in the 1844 election, and the following year, Brough did not win reelection.
John Brough had married Achsa Pruden while he was living and working in Lancaster. Upon her death, he was left with the care of their two children. Brough had married Caroline Nelson, a resident of Columbus, in 1843. Five children were born to this marriage.
Rather than running for another political office at this point, Brough chose instead to concentrate on his business interests. He and his brother had once again created a partnership in 1844, purchasing the Cincinnati Advertiser. Under their direction, the newspaper, renamed the Cincinnati Enquirer, became one of the most influential Democratic newspapers in the West prior to the American Civil War. For a time, Brough also served as president of the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. Prior to the Civil War, Brough moved from Cincinnati to Cleveland.
Brough had been identified for his entire adult life with the Democratic Party. When the Civil War began, he chose to support the Union. He became associated with the Union Party, which was a coalition of Republicans and Democrats who opposed the secession of the South. Brough was persuaded to run for governor in 1863. The gubernatorial election of 1863 was highly contested. Brough ran against Copperhead Clement L. Vallandigham, who was openly critical of the war. Vallandigham was forced to run his campaign from Canada after being banished for his statements against the war. In the end, Brough dominated the election, winning by more than 100,000 votes. He ran a campaign appealing to voters' patriotism. He won not only by the largest margin of any governor in Ohio's history up to that point but also by the largest margin of any governor of any state before the Civil War.
Brough was Ohio's twenty-sixth governor. During his administration, he supported a tax that provided financial support for soldiers' families and improved conditions in military hospitals. In addition to recruiting Ohio troops for the war effort, he also offered the Ohio militia for federal service. In spite of the fact that he was not a Republican, Brough supported Abraham Lincoln's reelection campaign in 1864.
Brough's health deteriorated during his term as governor and he had decided not to seek reelection. Brough did not live long enough to complete his term. He sprained his ankle in a fall and the ankle injury became gangrenous. Brough died in Cleveland on August 29, 1865, approximately four months before he was supposed to leave office. The lieutenant governor, Charles Anderson, completed his term.
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