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Featured Biography
of Poweshiek County




Josiah Bushnell Grinnell was one of several founders of Grinnell, the largest city in Poweshiek County, Iowa. He lived from December 22, 1821 until his death in March 31, 1891. He served as a US Congressmen from Iowa’s 4th congressional district. He was also an ordained Congregational minister.

Grinnell was born in New Haven, Vermont, in 1821. He graduated from Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City in 1847. Grinnell was a pastor in both Washington D.C. and New York City before venturing to Iowa. Grinnell was also instrumental in expanding railways through Iowa and instrumental in the move of Grinnell College (known as Iowa College) from Davenport, Iowa to its current location in Grinnell, Iowa.

In Iowa, Grinnell was elected to the Iowa Senate, where he served from 1856 to 1860. At the same time, he studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1858, and set up his legal practice in Grinnell. He was a delegate to the 1860 Republican National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln for President.

Grinnell was also a 'conductor' on the Underground Railroad and was associated with John Brown. He provided shelter to John Brown in 1859 after Brown's anti-slavery raids in Kansas and Missouri.

In 1862, after the 1860 census increased the number of U.S. House seats in Iowa from two to six, Grinnell ran for the newly created seat representing Iowa's 4th congressional district. The Fourth District was then a diamond-shaped configuration of twelve counties that included Newton and Iowa City, and ran from the Missouri border to the southern edge of Waterloo. After winning the Republican nomination and the general election in 1862, he served in the 38th Congress. In 1864 he won re-election, serving in the 39th Congress.

On June 14, 1866, he was assaulted by fellow congressman Lovell Rousseau for insulting him and his home state of Kentucky during a House debate. Grinnell lost the Republican nomination for a third term, losing by thirteen votes to Judge William Loughridge in June 1866.

After his service in Congress, Grinnell resumed the practice of law. He was also interested in the building of railroads, becoming a director of the Rock Island Railroad, and receiver of the Iowa Central Railroad (later the St. Louis & St. Paul Railroad). He also served as president of the Iowa State Horticultural Society and of the First National Bank in Grinnell. He died of throat disease, complicated by asthma, at his home in Grinnell on March 31, 1891. He was interred in Hazelwood Cemetery.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Josiah_Bushnell_Grinnell


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