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Governor Martin Grove Brumbaugh

Term: January 19, 1915 - January 21, 1919
Affiliation: Republican
Born: April 14, 1862
Died: March 14, 1930

Martin Grove Brumbaugh was Pennsylvania's World War I governor. Ironically, Brumbaugh came from a strict pacifist heritage that was similar to the beliefs of Quakers and Mennonites. He was born April 14, 1862, in rural Huntingdon County, over looking the Raystown branch of the Juniata River, and raised in the Woodcock Valley. Since the 1970s, the early Brumbaugh homestead lies under the lake created by Raystown Dam. Brumbaugh was the son of George Boyer Brumbaugh, a farmer and owner of a country store, whose immigrant ancestor, Martin Brumbaugh, arrived in Pennsylvania in 1754; and Martha Peightal, like George, of Dunker heritage (today the Church of the Brethren). In 1884, the future governor married Anna Konigmacher, of Ephrata. He and Anna were the parents of Edwin and Mabel.

When he ran for governor, Brumbaugh was characterized in the press as a farm boy, a description that Brumbaugh did not discourage because it added to public perception of him as a man of the people. With his "plain people" religious background that taught isolation from the world, a shunning of civic duty, and only limited education, Brumbaugh would seem to be an unlikely candidate for office. However, Brumbaugh had impressive educational achievements. After completing his early education in Markelesburg, Brumbaugh earned a bachelor of English at the at the Brethren Normal School in Huntingdon (today Juniata College) in 1881; a mechanical engineering degree in 1883; a bachelor of science in 1885; a master of science in 1887; and doctor of philosophy in 1895. He attended Harvard University in 1891, but because of frequent lecture and lay ministry obligations in Pennsylvania, he decided in 1892 to complete another master of arts degree (1893) and doctorate in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1894. In 1894, the university appointed Brumbaugh as the first professor of pedagogy in the Department of Philosophy where he introduced formal courses to update elementary and secondary school teachers, a position he held until 1900. By 1895, he earned yet another doctorate there in philosophy. He was held in such high educational esteem that he received honorary doctor of laws at Mount Morris College in Illinois (1901), Franklin and Marshall College (1902), Gettysburg College (1910), Pennsylvania College (1911); the University of Pittsburgh (1916); Susquehanna University (1917); University of Maine (1917); and a doctor of letters at Lafayette College (1915).

As a youth, he worked for his father on the family farm and Brumbaugh general store, cutting lumber in a summer timber camp, teaching Sunday school, and teaching normal school. Brumbaugh was superintendent of schools for Huntingdon County, 1884–1890; state conductor of teachers' institutes, Louisiana, 1886–1891; twice president of Juniata College, 1895–1906 and 1924–1930; and superintendent of public schools of Philadelphia from 1906 to January 1915, when he resigned to assume the duties of governor of Pennsylvania. In 1900, through the direct persuasion of President William McKinley, Brumbaugh was appointed first commissioner of education in Puerto Rico, following the Spanish-American War, and within two years introduced a modern American school system on the island. In 1902, Brumbaugh resigned his position in the Caribbean. He returned to Pennsylvania and continued as professor of pedagogy at the University of Pennsylvania, 1902–1906, and accepted lecture engagements as far away as Zurich, Switzerland. He was persuaded to retain his title as president of Juniata College, but only until the college could find a replacement. He was a member of the National Educational Association, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania German Society, and Dauphin County Historical Society. He was the author of numerous works, including the first Ph.D. dissertation in America on poet and Anglican priest John Donne (1572–1631); a history of the Brethren; Juniata Bible Lectures; Brumbaugh Standard Readers (five volumes); Stories of Pennsylvania and Liberty Bell Leaflets (with J. S. Walton); The Making of a Teacher; and Life and Works of Christopher Dock.

When it was time to select a new governor in 1914, Brumbaugh was described in the press as a "Hercules of the Educational World." His previous achievements and his success in modernizing Philadelphia's public schools as that city's superintendent had by then made Brumbaugh one of the most prominent men in Pennsylvania. Political leaders in Philadelphia convinced the powerful political boss Boies Penrose (1860–1921) to promote the candidacy of Brumbaugh for governor. While Penrose had initially disliked Brumbaugh because Brumbaugh had succeeded in keeping the Philadelphia schools free from political domination, Penrose pragmatically saw Brumbaugh's upright reputation as helpful to his own senatorial reelection campaign. In 1913, the state's first direct primary law was passed to place a choice of party candidates before the voters. Despite no political experience and no solid campaign organization, Brumbaugh carried every county in Pennsylvania and 80 percent of the Republican primary vote. In the fall election, Brumbaugh defeated Democrat Vance McCormick, 588,705 votes to 453,380 votes.

Brumbaugh's victory was tempered by personal tragedy. On June 24, 1914, a little over a month after the primary win, Anna Brumbaugh died after a long illness. On January 29, 1916, the governor remarried Flora Belle Parks of Philadelphia, who had been the family's nanny since 1894.

Brumbaugh proved to be a very conservative governor. He announced, "We have gone too far on the theory that legislation is the cure of our social, economic, and political ills." True to his philosophy, Brumbaugh vetoed more than four hundred bills during his term. However, the governor did act promptly on some legislation. In 1915, despite claims from the manufacturing sector that Pennsylvania would not remain competitve, the General Assembly passed a bill limiting children under age sixteen to a forty-eight-hour work week. Brumbaugh personally insisted on a provision in the bill requiring those children to continue their education while working. More than forty other education bills were passed amending the Pennsylvania School Code of 1911.

Also passed in Brumbaugh's first year as governor was workman's compensation legislation that improved protection of workers, including minors, injured on the job and created the Workman's Compensation Bureau. A State Commission of Agriculture was created to benefit farmers and take advantage of a 1914 law passed by Congress to provide county agent extension work through land-grant colleges. Expenditures for roads were doubled and work continued to improve conservation and the purchase of lands to add to state forests.

Brumbaugh's conservative and pacifist background was apparent in his support of alcohol prohibition, opposition to capital punishment, and an initial call for neutrality in regard to the war in Europe, although he strongly favored women's suffrage. A rift also widened between the governor and the dominant Penrose political wing, especially after Brumbaugh gathered enough political strength to be nominated for president to run against Democrat Woodrow Wilson in 1916, a nomination the governor declined. By the time the United States entered World War I, Brumbaugh had become an effective war governor and was firmly in favor of military assistance for the nation's allies. Seeing the conflict as a "holy war," Brumbaugh ordered all executive branch employees to take a loyalty oath or face dismissal. Using an American Revolution model, a Committee of Public Safety was formed, later renamed the Pennsylvania Council of National Defense. Divided into various departments and organized down to the county level, the council carried on activities such as Red Cross work, Liberty Loans, promoting the draft, relief aid, and generally fusing a patriotic endeavor with a unifying purpose and sense of public duty among citizens. Because Pennsylvania's National Guard was to be called to federal service and there were only about two hundred State Police in uniform at the time, there was concern over disorder during wartime. The General Assembly approved Brumbaugh's request to train and station about four thousand militia around Pennsylvania. Fortunately, there was no mob violence or acts of sabotage during the war, but the uniformed men proved helpful during the influenza epidemic of 1918–1919. Brumbaugh promoted recognition of veterans and wartime volunteers. Pennsylvania's sacrifices during the war were great. More than 11,000 of the Commonweath's soldiers were killed in action or died of disease during World War I, with 26,000 wounded. By contrast, 54,000 Pennsylvanians died during the flu pandemic, with a worldwide mortality of thirty million from the disease.

Although he faced many emergencies and heavy responsibilities while in office, Brumbaugh was a man of unwavering patriotism, great organizational ability, and was able to demonstrate independence in the face of fierce rivalry within his own political party. Following his term in office, Brumbaugh spent much of his time writing, appearing on lecture tours, and campaigning on behalf of candidates. He returned in 1924 to once again serve as president of Juniata College until his death on March 14, 1930, at Pinehurst, North Carolina, where he was vacationing upon the advice of his physician. Martin G. Brumbaugh is buried in Valley View Cemetery, McConellstown, in Huntingdon County.