The University of Iowa LibrariesThe Biographical Dictionary of Iowa: Jacket Art - Agriculture - Cresco, Iowa by Richard Haines ca 1934 -  Photo by Scott Christopher courtesy of Gregg Narber

THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Gue, Benjamin F.
(December 25, 1828–June 4, 1904)

–schoolteacher, abolitionist, Republican, activist for Iowa Agricultural College, newspaper editor, organization founder, and historian—was born in New Baltimore Township, Greene County, New York, the eldest son and second-eldest child of farmer John Gue and Catherine Gurney-Gue, descendants of a French Huguenot and an English family that included Joseph John Gurney, leader of the Society of Friends, commonly known as the Quakers. The death of John Gue in 1838 left Catherine and the children struggling to manage the family farm. Despite the commitment to running the family farm, Benjamin Gue acquired a public education at the academies of Canandaigua and West Bloomfield. Following the sale of the family farm in 1851, Gue taught school until departing for Iowa in early March 1852. Upon his arrival, Gue entered a claim for a "quarter section of crop land plus a wood lot forty" on Rock Creek in Scott County. He quickly became a prominent member of the local community and served a term as justice of the peace. By the mid 1850s the Gue family was reunited, as Benjamin's mother and siblings emigrated to Iowa.

    Not content to be a prosperous landholder, Gue became involved in the social and political issues of the day. As an ardent Free-Soiler, Gue paid special attention to the antislavery movement of the period. On February 22, 1856, Gue arrived in Iowa City as a delegate from Scott County to organize the Iowa Republican Party. In recognition of his leadership, Gue served two terms in the Iowa House and another in the Iowa Senate between 1858 and 1864. Combining his political position with his social attitude toward agriculture, Gue became a proponent of chartering and funding for Iowa Agricultural College.

    In 1865 Gue retired from legislative service but did not end his political activism. Upon moving to Fort Dodge in 1865, Gue purchased the local newspaper and renamed it the Iowa North West. Along with participating in regional boosterism, Gue used his position as editor and owner of the newspaper to promote the Republican Party platform, including advocating women's rights, public education, and temperance. Gue resigned as editor of the Iowa North West in the fall of 1865 after his nomination by the Republican State Convention to serve a term as lieutenant governor. In 1866 he gained election as president of Iowa Agricultural College's board of trustees, where he successfully navigated a proposition to allow the admission of women as students, despite strong opposition. As a member of the board, Gue visited agricultural colleges across the nation to better define the college curriculum, and he was instrumental in selecting President Adonijah Welch and other initial faculty.

    In 1872 Gue moved to Des Moines to become editor of the Iowa Homestead, a farm journal, but immediately resigned to accept an eight-year appointment by President Grant as a pension agent for the Iowa-Nebraska district. In 1881, after retiring from that position, he again assumed the editorship of the Iowa Homestead.

    After his retirement from government service, Gue remained active as a public speaker for the Republican Party as well as founding the Pioneer Lawmakers' Association and the Iowa Unitarian Association. He also authored several works focusing on the history of Iowa and its central figures during the 19th century.
Sources include Benjamin Gue, Biographies and Portraits of the Progressive Men of Iowa, 2 vols. (1899); Benjamin Gue, History of Iowa (1903); Benjamin Gue, "Origin and Early History of Iowa State College" [ca. 1891], copy at Iowa State University Library, Ames; and Earle D. Ross, ed., Diary of Benjamin F. Gue in Rural New York and Pioneer Iowa: 1847–1856 (1962).
Contributor: Rick L. Woten

Cite as: Woten, Rick L. "Gue, Benjamin F." The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2017