Part III


A four-volume set of Ohio history books was published in 1937 under the editorial direction of Simeon D. Fess. One of these volumes, the supplementary one, is similar to the biographical volumes that dealt with Virginia and Iowa. But another, by buying a set of the books, could get his biography listed here! A selective process had pared down the list of all possible names in Ohio history to about 300. These, then, are the recognized leaders of the state, in the past and in the present. This material is similar to that in the Dictionary of American Biography, but it is less complete regarding ancestors.

Who were these selected leading personages in Ohio? How was the frontier, in this pivotal state, receiving newcomers? Were lowly persons allowed to rise to the top? Did Ohio rear its own leaders in the wilderness or on the back roads -- or were they cradled and nurtured in a more favorable atmosphere?

One must bear in mind that if even many of these leaders had humble origins there was not opportunity for all or even many other persons of like backgrounds. (The front-page headlines of history can carry only a certain number of names, and no more.)

Again, as they are written up in the volume, the researcher took every tenth name and made a digest of the social class factors in the biography. Sometimes he made a statement of evaluation. Sometimes not.

The Three Hundred

David Zeisberger (p. 7): born 1721; left in Saxony "to finish his education" when his parents came to Georgia; immigrated at about age 17; at 20 he journeyed on foot to Penn.; missionary among Indians.

Family: followers of John Huss.
children: none.

Evaluation: Data inadequate. Boy was given an education. "He showed extraordinary facility in learning languages . . . . "

Charles Willing Byrd (p. 23): born ca. 1760; "educated for the law"; appointed by John Adams as secretary of Northwest United States district judge in Ohio."

Family: father: third William Byrd of the famous Virginia family of "Westover"; colonel; land speculator, "dissipated must of his estate."
wife: sister of wife of Nathaniel Massie, very prominent in early Ohio affairs.

Peter Hitchcock (p. 44): born 1781; graduated from Yale College; admitted to Conn. bar, 1803; state legislator in Ohio, speaker of the state senate; 28 years justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. "Peter Hitchcock was the first teacher of an academy started . . . in 1806."

Evaluation: No background given except that subject graduated from Yale and started his career in Ohio as a teacher in an academy -- which signified certain interests, attitudes, and backgrounds.

Edward Dominic Fenwick (p. 58): born 1768; was sent to Belgium to attend college; Dominican Order; first bishop of Cincinnati; founder of school which became St. Francis Xavier College.

Family: " . . . a wealthy family of planters" in Maryland.

Evaluation: Pioneer churchman had had a Kinderstube.

James Gillspie Birney (p. 74): born 1792; educated at home, Transylvania College, Priestly Seminary, Princeton; studied law in the office of father of G. M. Dallas (later Vice-President); planter; slave holder; leader in politics; abolitionist in Cincinnati, editor, candidate for President of the Liberty Party in 1840.

Family: "On both sides he represented families of wealth and social prominence in Kentucky; they were slaveholders in practice . . . " Subject was given "several household slaves" as a wedding gift."
wife: daughter of a United States district judge.

Evaluation: One must believe subject came from a "good family."

Otway Curry (p. 88): born 1804); common school education, learned carpentry, worked; became farmer; state representative; editor and publisher; studied law, practiced and edited in small town. One of his poems was in McGuffey's.

Family: father: colonel in the Revolution.

Evaluation: Poetic and versatile son had, at least, a military father.

Leonard Case (p. 102): born 1786; learned alphabet from an itinerant school master; pioneer labor on father's 200 acre farm; crippled himself; mastered reading and writing; court clerk; title searcher; cashier of first bank in Cleveland; founded "city beautiful"; made fortune in real estate.

Family: father: "acquired" 200 acres of frontier land; soldier in Rev.
son: graduated from Yale, lawyer, philanthropist.

Evaluation: Subject's father must have been a hard-working pioneer; subject's son "got off to a good start."

David Harpster (p. 111): born 1810; common school education; "purchaser of land in Pitt township. Through hard work he acquired 700 acres; stock raiser, Ohio's "wool king"; founded a village and a bank.

Evaluation: no other data available.

William Dennison (p. 151): born 1815; graduated with honors from Miami Univ.; studied law under "one of Ohio's distinguished lawyers"; attorney; president of a small railway and of a bank; state senate; governor; permanent chairman of Republican convention of 1864; postmaster general; etc.

Family: "His father was founder of the Dennison House, one of the pioneer hotels of Cincinnati."

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