History of
Ashtabula Co., Ohio

SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.

Former Residents



Many celebrated men of past and present years spent more or less of their lives, and especially their boyhood hears, in Old Ashtabula County.  Limitation as to space prevents more than a passing review of those who have gone forth from this county and found fame and fortune. 
     First and most noted, perhaps, were Jefferson's two old "War Horses", Benjamin F. Wade and Joshua R. Giddings, whose unflinching stand for the abolishment of slavery made them the most loved and most hated men of their time.  Wade's son, Gen. James F., who died in recent years, spent his entire adult life in the United States Army service, and his son, James, is following in his footsteps.
     Benjamin F. Wade and Joshua R. Giddings, although not natives of Ashtabula County, spent nearly the whole of their lives in this commonwealth and were closely associated with each other.  From a little law office in the village of Jefferson went these two men to the seats of government of the state and nation, and there stuck so unalterably to their ideas of right and wrong that they eventually came to be known as among the great men of this blessed country.  Their influence in one particular direction spread over the county, the state and the nation, sowing seed that grew and thrived until these United States were freed of one of the great curses of humanity.
     Wade and Giddings grew up under similar surroundings in the days when Ashtabula County was practically all rural.  Their acquirement of education was under almost identical conditions, and in the year 1831, both then being in Jefferson, they cast their lots together and opened a lawyers' office in that town, in which they continued practice until they were called to serve the people in a more general way to Andover in the year 1821 and located on a farm.  One of his helpers was his son, Benjamin, more frequently called Frank, a strapping youngster who had made the most of his opportunities to acquire knowledge and who had just reached his majority.  During the first two summers in this county he aided his father in clearing land, and in the winters taught school.  He entered the law office of Elisha Whittlesey, in Canfield, and in 127 and was admitted to the bar, at Jefferson, in which town he put out his shingle and soon made a name for himself.  He was elected county prosecutor in 1835, and in 1837 was elected to the State Senate.  At the expiration of his term he was re-nominated, but his pronounced attitude on the slavery question, which he had made known at every opportunity, had the influence of defeating him.  However, in 1841, he was again elected, but resigned.  He was re-elected in 1842 and accepted.  In 1847 the State Legislature elected Mr. Wade presiding judge for the Third Judicial District, embracing Ashtabula, Trumbull, Summit, Portage and Mahoning Counties.  On March 15, 1851, he was elected to the United States Senate.  Then followed a life of great activity and the occurrence of important events.  During his first term in the Ohio State Senate, the Kentucky commissioners came before that body to secure the passage of a more stringent fugitive slave law.  Wade was one of but five men in the Senate who opposed the measure, and in voicing his opposition and detestation he made a speech that still stands on record as one of the most emphatic and eloquent ever heard on that floor.  In his first term in the Ohio State Senate, the Kentucky commissioners came before that body to secure the passage of a more stringent fugitive slave law.  Wade was one of but five men in the Senate who opposed the measure, and in invoicing his  opposition and detestation he made a speech that still stands on record as one of the most emphatic and eloquent ever heard on that floor.  In his subsequent service in that body, Senator Wade never lost an opportunity to express his feelings, and when he went to Washington, it was well known what ground he would stand on.
     In the national Senate Mr. Wade soon came into prominence and to be regarded as a leader in Congress.  He was one of the three leading opponents to a bill that sought to perpetuate slavery by prohibiting its abolition.  Wade was unreservedly opposed to any manner of compromise on the slavery question and favored the confiscation of slave property.  At a called session of Congress, after it became apparent that there must be war before differences between the North and the Couth could be settled, Senator Wade was appointed chairman of the committee named for the purpose of directing the conduct of the imminent struggle.
     When President Lincoln was assassinated, Mr. Wade was president of the Senate and therefore became acting Vice-President of the United States.  In 1871 he was appointed on the commission sent  to Santo Domingo on investigation and to make recommendations on a proposition for the United States to acquire that island.  Later he was sent to investigate and report on the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad.  In 1861, when the call for troops was made Senator Wade addressed a mass meeting in Jefferson to urge men to the service for humanity, and then put his own name at the top of the volunteer list.  A company was soon organized at the county seat, but they were never called.
     In 1869 Mr. Wade retired from the United States Senate, and thereafter remained a highly respected citizen of Jefferson.  In 1875 he took an active part in the Hayes canvass, and in 1876 was delegate from the Seventeenth Congressional District to the national Republican convention and helped nominate Mr. Hayes for the presidency.  He was also one of the presidential electors for the state at large, and cast the vote of Ohio for HayesMr. Wade died at his home in Jefferson on March 2, 1878.
     Joshua R. Giddings, when a lad of 11 years, came to Wayne with his parents, in a "prairie schooner", from the East in 1806.  He assisted his parents in the making of their new home in the wilderness, and grew and waxed strong on the farm.  He early became an expert in woodcraft and shared all the vicissitudes of the pioneer life.  He joined Colonel Hayes' regiment and did valiant service in the War of 1812.
     Young Giddings had a tireless hunger for knowledge and aspirations to some day become a lawyer.  He improved every possible opportunity to learn and at the age of 19 taught school, and later confided to a friend that he learned as much as his pupils did during that term.  At the age of 23 he began the study of law in the office of Elisha Whittlesey, in Canfield, and in 1821 he was admitted to the bar.  He opened a barrister's office in Jefferson, where he soon took a conspicuous part in legal affairs and earned for himself wide publicity as an able lawyer.
     In 1826 Mr. Giddings was elected a state representative, and at once became prominent therein, but the following year he declined a re-election.  Upon the resignation of Elisha Whittlesey, in 1839, Mr. Giddings was elected to fill the vacancy in the Twenty-fifth Congress, and he sat in the House until the end of the thirty-fifth session.  Very early in his career in the House of Representatives, Mr. Giddings made known that he was unalterably an enemy to the practice of slavery, and he improved every opportunity to use his influence against that evil.  Throughout his tenure of office, Mr. Giddings was one of the most conspicuous figures among the great lawmakers.  Because of his attitude on the subject of slavery, he was very unpopular with a great many of the congressmen who did not view matters in his light, and on one occasion, during a stormy session in consideration of certain slave laws, the abolitionist from Ohio was censured by a majority vote of the body, and he resigned and went to his home in Jefferson.  At the next election he was re-elected and sent back to Washington, and subsequently he undoubtedly received more personal abuse than was ever accorded any other man by members of the United States Legislature, but he stuck to his colors, never flinched in the performance of what he considered his duty to himself and humanity, and in the end had the measureless satisfaction of seeing himself and his policies vindicated by the decision brought about through the cruel war that had to be fought before the question could be settled.
     After his retirement from Congress, Mr. Giddings devoted himself to  the writing of a book entitled "History of the Rebellion, Its Authors and Causes", which was published in 1864.  He had spent twenty-one consecutive years as representative of is district in the national Congress, which was most remarkable career in many ways.
     In 1861 President Lincoln proffered the position of consul-general to Canada to Mr. Giddings, which was accepted and the position ably filled until his death, which occurred in Montreal, on May 27, 1864, from heart failure.
     George E. Tower was a mechanic in Ashtabula when he passed the examination for engineer in the navy.  He rose to the office of chief engineer of the Navy.
     Carl Calkins, James Reed III and Frank Watrous, all Ashtabula boys, attained prominence in naval circles.  Calkins was a commander of warships, Reed is a captain, and Watrous paymaster.
     GRANVILLE W. MOONEY, of Austinburg, at the age of 39, was a known as the "Giant" speaker of the House of Representatives in this state.  He stands 6 feet 3 inches in height and weighs around 250 pounds.  He was later engaged in prominent positions in Washington and New York.
     PETER H. WATSON, one of the early prominent residents of Ashtabula, was assistant secretary of war, under Secretary STANTON, and his home in Ashtabula, which was later for years the Hotel James, and is now the SMITH Home for Aged Women, was the scene of many momentous conferences during the Civil War.  He was also president of the Erie Railway.
     GEN. A. J. SAMPSON, of Austinburg, was envoy extraordinary to Ecuador, Peru, for the United States government.  Upon his return home he wore a hat worth four times its weight in gold - a straw that cost $125.
     MAJ. GEN. ADNAH R. CHAFEE, the "Hero of El Caney", commander-in-chief of the American army, commander of the United States Army in China at the taking of Pekin, commander of the American forces in the Philippines and governor-general of the Philippines, was a native of Orwell.
     DR. ARTHUR C. McGIFFERT, author, preacher and prominent educator in the East, was a son of the Rev. J. N. McGiffert and spent his boyhood in Ashtabula.
     The famous infidel ROBERT G. INGERSOLL's father was the first regular minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Ashtabula, in which city "Bobby" spent a portion of his schooldays.
     DR. WALTER EDWIN PECK, son of the C. E. PECK, of Ashtabula, who carries degrees from Oxford University, has become quite noted in the world of literature.
     WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS, called the "Dean of American Literature", started life in an Ashtabula newspaper office.  His father lived in Jefferson.
     ALBION W. TOURGEE, a noted author of his day, was raised in Kingsville.
     J. W. HOWELLS, of Jefferson, and was a United States consul abroad.
     RALPH DRISCOLL, of Ashtabula, is United States vice-consul in England.
     CONGRESSMAN PAUL HOWLAND, prominent Cleveland lawyer, was also a Jefferson boy.
     The VanSWERINGEN BROTHERS, of Cleveland, who have recently become powerful factors in railroad circles, were from a Geneva Township farm.
     MORRISON I. SWIFT, philosopher, economist and some years ago notorious as the "Leader of the Army of Unemployed", was a son of an Ashtabula druggist and worked in his father's store when a boy.
     CLARENCE S. DARROW, the famous Chicago criminal lawyer, was city solicitor of Ashtabula in 1885.
     Among other young men who started from Ashtabula County are:  CHESTER H. ALDRICH, former Governor of Nebraska; former GOVERNOR JESSE F. McDONALD, of Colorado; former CONGRESSMAN S. A. NORTHWAY, former CONGRESSMAN OSSE M. HALL, of Minnesota; ROBERT H. FINCH, former mayor of Toledo;  VIRGIL P. KLINE, for some years attorney for the Standard Oil Company; EDWIN COWLES, pioneer editor of the Cleveland Leader; ERIE C. HOPWOOD, the present editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer; W. C. HOWELLS, Columbus and political correspondent for that paper; ANDREW C. TOMBES, one of the leading comedians of the American stage of today.
     Ashtabula County was the home of three of the greatest penmen of all time.  PLATT R. SPENCER, the man who conceived the Spencerian system of penmanship, came into the county when five years of age and spent a long and useful life here.  Mr. SPENCER spent his last years in Geneva.
     VICTOR M. RICE, a pupil and associate of Mr. SPENCER, later went East and became superintendent of public instruction in the State of New York.
     H. W. SHAYLOR, a native of Ashtabula, was one of the most expert penmen of his day.  He gained prominence through execution of an artistic, free-hand design for a family record, drawn on a card 18 by 21 inches, which he made to sell at $2.50.  He had it copyrighted, and, in 1871, he sold his right for $5,000 cash.  For a great many years MR. SHAYLOR, was supervisor of penmanship in the public schools of Portland, Maine, where he is now a retired resident.
     ALBERT GASKELL, of Richmond Township, was another noted scribe.  He furnished the copy and instruction in penmanship used in Gately's Universal Educator, and was the author of Gaskell's Compendium of Writing, a work that was once prominent in educational circles.  He was drowned in a small stream near his home.
     Ashtabula County celebrities were not confined to the sterner sex, for several women come in for a share in the honors.
     The first one to became widely known was MISS BETSY COWLES, of Austinburg, whose activities in the cause of freedom and anti-slavery made her famous.  She was also renowned as an educator.
     MRS. HANNAH B. SPERRY, whose husband was editor of an Ashtabula paper, was at one time president of the Woman's National Press Association.  She was the fist organist that played in the township of Dorset, her girlhood home.  Her last years were spent in Washington, D. C., where she died in 1823.
     ELIZABETH STILES, daughter of 'CORKER' BROWN, of Ashtabula, was living in the West at the time of the Civil War.  She saw her husband murdered by the notorious guerilla band captained by one QUANTRELL, and soon afterward offered her services to the Federal army, which she served most effectively as a spy, so long as her services were needed.
     EDITH M. THOMAS, of Geneva, became noted as a poetess.
     ROSETTA L. GILCHRIST, an Ashtabula physician, even as a child developed ability as a writer and in mature years was author of several books, one of which, in particular, "Apples of Sodom", created a great sensation.
     JUDGE FLORENCE ALLEN, of the Supreme Court of Ohio, is a grand daughter of the late PROFESSOR TUCKERMAN, a noted educator of this county.  She is a noted peace advocate, was a prominent attorney in Cleveland and made a rapid rise from a position in the office of the prosecuting attorney to a circuit judgeship and on up to her present position.
     MISS CLARA WARD, whose childhood was spent in Conneaut, probably gained the widest notoriety of any of the county's celebrities.  When a young  woman she was taken abroad by her mother.  She married the PRINCE DE CHIMAY, of Italy, and later created a world-wide sensation by eloping with a Gipsy violinist named RIGO.

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