Plumly, Benjamin Rush (1816–1887)

By: Laurie E. Jasinski

Type: Biography

Published: April 24, 2014

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Benjamin Rush Plumly (also spelled Plumley), writer and state legislator, was born in Newton, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on May 15, 1816 (some sources give the date of March 10). He was the son of John Plumly, a Quaker, and Rebecca (McCullough) Plumly. His father died he was a small child, and Benjamin, whose mother left to live with other kinfolk, was apparently adopted by a Quaker family. He attended an area school and worked in a local country store. Plumly showed early literary promise when some of his poetry was published in a Pennsylvania newspaper. He married Rebecca Wilson in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, on March 21, 1839. They had three children.

Plumly was an abolitionist, and some of his writings, including later correspondence to President Abraham Lincoln, indicate that he was very concerned with providing adequate education to African Americans. He may have also had ties with the Underground Railroad. In 1850 he was elected to the House of the Pennsylvania State Legislature. Around 1860 he worked at the United States customs house in Philadelphia. He was also establishing his reputation as a poetry and prose writer, and his works were published in such nationally-known magazines as Atlantic Monthly and Knickerbocker. After the start of the Civil War, Plumly joined the United States Army in 1861 under the command of John C. Fremont. In 1863 he was made special agent of the U. S. treasury in New Orleans. Subsequently, he served on the staff of General Fremont and then on the staff of Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks. While in New Orleans, he was also appointed by President Lincoln to be chairman of the city board of education.

Plumly moved to Galveston in 1866, where he became a leading citizen in business and civic activities. He built the first trolley line in Galveston (reportedly the first street railway line in a city in Texas) and was the president of the railway line company. He also served on the city council. Plumly married Agnes M. Garland in Galveston on December 26, 1869. They had two children.

He was elected as a Republican to represent District 12, comprised of Galveston, Brazoria, and Matagorda counties, in the House of the Twelfth Texas Legislature and began his term on February 8, 1870. Plumly served on a number of committees including chairing the Commerce and Manufactures Committee and Internal Improvements Committee. His term ended on January 14, 1873. He was elected again to the House of the Seventeenth Texas Legislature and served from January 11, 1881, to January 9, 1883. He was also elected to the House of the Twentieth Texas Legislature and commenced as representative of District 64 (Brazoria and Galveston counties) on January 11, 1887. He again chaired the Commerce and Manufactures Committee and also served on five other committees: Committee to Examine Comptroller’s and Treasurer’s Office, Educational Affairs, Public Building and Grounds, Public Health and Vital Statistics, and Towns and City Corporations.

Benjamin Rush Plumly died while in office on December 9, 1887. He was buried in the Episcopal Yard-Crossman Cemetery in Galveston.

S. Austin Allibone, A Critical Dictionary of English Literature and British and American Authors, Vol. II (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1870, 1897). Benjamin Rush PLUMLY, Senior,” Byrne Family: Byrne and Asimov Family Research (, accessed April 23, 2014. Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). Legislative Reference Library of Texas: Benjamin Rush Plumley (, accessed April 24, 2014.


  • Twelfth Legislature (1870-1871)
  • House
  • Seventeenth Legislature (1881-1882)
  • Twentieth Legislature (1887-1888)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Laurie E. Jasinski, “Plumly, Benjamin Rush,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 18, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 24, 2014