Ashtabula Co., Ohio
SOURCE: History of Ashtabula County, Ohio
Large, Moina W.
Topeka :: Historical Pub. Co.,, 1924, 1132 pgs.
BENJAMIN F. WADE - JOSHUA R. GIDDINGS - GEORGE E. POWER -
THEODORE E. BURTON - GRANVILLE W. MOONEY - PETER H. WATSON - GEO. A. J. SAMPSON
- MAJ. GEN. ADNA R. CHAFFEE - DR. ARTHUR C. McGIFFERT - ROBERT G. INGERSOLL -
VAN SWERINGEN BROTHERS - JUDGE FLORENCE ALLEN - AND OTHERS
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
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 Hayes. Mr. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.