12 April 2014

Meet Governor Andrew Curtin

Andrew Gregg Curtin was the Governor of Pennsylvania during our nation's Civil War.  The son of Scots-Irish immigrant iron founder Roland Curtin (1764–1830) and his second wife, Jean Gregg (1791–1854), he was born 22 April 1815 in Bellefonte in Centre County. He was the grandson of Pennsylvania politician and president pro tem of the U.S. Senate, Andrew Gregg.

Before becoming Governor, he served as schools superintendent. During that time, he started the state system of teacher training in "normal" schools - like Lock Haven State Normal School, now Lock Haven State University.

As a war-time governor, he did sponsor taxes to finance the war but managed to keep the state's debt low. More military units for the war were organized in Harrisburg than in any other recruiting point in the North. He organized "The Loyal War Governors' Conference" to foster support among fellow governors. It was this unified group of governors who suggested General George B. McClellan, commander of Union forces, be replaced. A two-term governor, he was known as "The Soldier's Friend."  After the war, Curtin led the repeal of the State Tonnage Tax. That repeal paved the way for the Pennsylvania Railroad to become the nation's largest transport system.

After his service as Governor, he was Minister to Russia until 1872. From 1872 - 1873, he served as a delegate to the 1872-1873 state Constitutional Convention.

He passed on 7 October 1894 and is buried in the Union Cemetery in Bellefonte. According to Find A Grave, four identical statues commemorate him: one in Bellefonte, one on the Pennsylvania State Monument at Gettysburg, one in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building, and one at the site of Camp Curtin, which was a military training camp during the Civil War.

Tomorrow - Sunday, 13 April, David Klinepeter will portray the Governor. The event is hosted by the Historical Society of Dauphin County and the John Harris-Simon Cameron Mansion in Harrisburg.

PHOTO: Find A Grave

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