In The Current Issue:
This edition of the Northeast Ohio Journal of History features two articles focusing on nineteenth-century Ohio.
Andrew Preston’s “Finding the French Connection: Elizabeth Duncan and the Naming of Massillon, Ohio” challenges the conventional wisdom concerning how Massillon received its name, presenting a plausible alternative that centers on the life and experience of the town founder’s wife through the lens of scholarship on republican womanhood.
“Farmers, Woodland, Conservation Consciousness: The Lower Cuyahoga River Watershed, Ohio, 1865-1885” by John Henris is a case study of the shift in woodland management by Ohio farmers in the late 1800s. These changes defy practices expected from the mostly New-England-derived farming communities due to changes in technology and economics.
With this issue we are also introducing a new, more streamlined website. We hope this will make future editions easier to produce, and will be working to make all back issues readily available in the new format. As always, if you have questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact the editor at kkern @ uakron. edu.
By: Andrew Preston
On September 1, 1715, Jean-Baptiste Massillon delivered a heart-stopping eulogy for the late king of France, Louis XIV. He began with a simple declaration: “God alone is great my brethren.” Legend has it that as these words echoed through the basilica of Saint Denis, Massillon’s audience jumped to their feet in disbelief. The sheer audacity of a preacher who would diminish the king’s majesty at his own funeral compelled their unanimous rise. Or so the story goes. Such a man had risen from mediocre beginnings in France’s Provence region to become a preacher of wide renown at the turn of the eighteenth century. Two years after his famous funeral oration, Massillon was made the Bishop of Clermont. He was esteemed for his style, which was both eloquent and rational, and his delivery, which stirred the soul and “spoke to the heart.” Not one to pull his punches, Massillon’s sermons mainly dealt with issues of personal morality and social responsibility. Yet the preacher’s rhetorical genius and humble manner often enabled him to convey his piquant messages in ways that moved his listeners deeply without offending them.
It is a curious matter of fact that on another continent about a century after his death Massillon’s name would come to signify a burgeoning canal town in Northeast Ohio. Continue reading
By: John Henris
In the fall of 1878 John Kemery appropriated a portable steam sawmill to cut wood on the western uplands of the Cuyahoga Valley midway between the growing manufacturing cities of Akron and Cleveland, Ohio. Kemery was not a lumberman but a farmer by occupation who formed a corporation with the Bombgardner brothers, John and Israel, for the cutting of timber. Though farmers traditionally cut woodlots for supplemental income, the work of these three Richfield Township men struck a discordant tone. By 1879 the farm woodlots of large sections of the Cuyahoga Valley were disappearing as the pasturelands of the factory dairy system expanded in equal measure. The woodland they cut on this day was not theirs but consisted of fifty-five acres belonging to a Richfield Township dairy farmer named E.D. Hancock. The contract for the cutting of Hart’s woodlot originated with a third party, Ellis and Mack. Even the agricultural seasons were turned upside down, for farmers usually worked their woodlands during the winter months following fall harvests in September and October. John Kemery, it appeared, appropriated new technologies for the reduction of local woodlands in ways that increasingly distanced him from more traditional perceptions of land stewardship, sustainability, and the natural cadences of rural labor.
The experience of John Kemery similarly speaks to discordant themes in the narratives of both the history of conservation and the history of the Western Reserve. Recent environmental histories such as Robert McCullough’s The Landscape of Community and Richard Judd’s Common Lands, Common People place farmers and their rural communities at the forefront of the emergent conservation movement within nineteenth-century New England. Similarly, Robert Wheeler in “The Literature of the Western Reserve” has pointed out that a new generation of scholarship has revealed the complex cultural, political, and economic differences hidden beneath the cultural ties between New Connecticut and New England. Still, for many writers, the pastoral middle ground of the nineteenth-century Western Reserve validates an environmental and cultural homogeneity with New England. The meandering valley of the lower Cuyahoga, for example, was a mosaic of dairy farms, village commons, and patchwork woodlots by which the region might just as easily have been mistaken for the upper reaches of the Connecticut River. This study examines the confluence between agriculture, technology, and timber speculation in the Cuyahoga Valley and elucidates why farmers within the Western Reserve largely abandoned an ethic of woodland stewardship even as the state of Ohio was influential in the forestry movement and as their New England brethren were at the forefront of woodland conservation during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Continue reading
In The Current Issue:
Although deceptively quite disparate in nature, this issue’s articles share the common theme of social and economic development in the early statehood period. From libraries in small Western Reserve settlements to the intrusion of the canal system into Columbiana County, both articles describe phenomena exemplifying the changes that came to Northeast Ohio as it moved from a frontier outpost to an area integrated into the larger national culture and economy.
Stuart Stiffler’s piece on social libraries examines the cultural dimensions of early Ohio settlement through the lens of the founding and expansion of small libraries throughout the Western Reserve in the early- to mid-1800s. Reflective not only of the attitudes and goals of the people who founded them, these libraries also trace changes in the population, culture, and society of the area as the century wore on.
Charles Mastran’s contribution is an archaeological field study of Lock 24 of the Sandy and Beaver Canal of the mid-1800s. Framed as a descriptive site report of a nearly-forgotten architectural artifact of Ohio’s canal era, this research also contextualizes it in the economic and technological milieus of the period. By explaining standard historical archaeological terminology and abundantly illustrating his research with maps and photographs, Mastran endeavors to make the often-technical nature of a scientific archaeological report more accessible to the lay reader.
These pieces continue the Northeast Ohio Journal of History’s tradition of bringing high-quality research in the history of this area to a broader audience.
Kevin F. Kern
By: Stuart A. Stiffler
The founding and evolution of numerous stock and subscription libraries on the Nineteenth Century Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio, draws attention to the contributing role of these earnest enterprises in the transplantation of New England culture onto the Ohio frontier. At a minimum the collections, supplying representative instructional and general literature, supported social mobility and provided educational opportunity and diversion to isolated farms and towns. At least since de Tocqueville’s observations in the 1830s, it has been perceived that when, in the absence of governmental initiatives, a pressing public need should surface, there often followed a compensatory version of American voluntarism. Yet as transitional institutions the social libraries, unlike the common schools and churches, have attracted limited notice in scholarship on the Western Reserve and deserve to be more clearly situated in the Reserve’s nascent cultural life. Continue reading
Politician Extraordinaire: The Tempestuous Life and Times of Martin L. Davey. By Frank P. Vazzano. (Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2008. xiv, 322 pp. Cloth, $45.00, ISBN 978-0-87338-920-4.)
Nearly all Ohioans are at least somewhat familiar with the Davey Tree Expert Company and its ubiquitous green trucks. But few are aware that Martin L. Davey, the son of the company’s founder, served in a number of political offices, most notably the Ohio governorship from 1935 to 1939. Seeking to rectify this gap in the collective knowledge, historian Frank P. Vazzano, who calls Davey “the most interesting man I’ve never met,” has produced a masterfully-written biography of the state’s fifty-third governor. He draws upon a voluminous collection of primary sources, including contemporary news accounts, Davey Company records, and government documents from the local, state, and national levels to paint a colorful portrait of a controversial man. Unfortunately, as well-written and thoroughly-researched as this book is, readers may disagree that Martin L. Davey was in any way extraordinary. On the contrary, what emerges from the pages is a stereotypical portrait of a cynical politician: an ambitious job-seeker climbing the political ladder – vain, hypocritical, self-aggrandizing, and not above employing “mean” campaign tactics, to use the author’s term. Continue reading
By: Charles Mastran
To the degree in which it can be determined at the present time, no formal archaeological field study has been conducted on any architectural remains still in extant within the domain of northeastern Ohio’s Sandy and Beaver Canal Company Line corridor, notably within Columbiana County. In summer, 2005, this contingency prompted archaeologists from Youngstown State University, accompanied by volunteers, to execute a first time field assessment and architectural description upon two free standing, quadratic ashlar stone lineaments known locally as Lock 24. The lock, presently under private ownership, and heavily cannibalized, is situated within the limits of Elkton, Ohio, a small locality residing in what was the twenty-seven mile long Eastern Division of the Sandy and Beaver Line, an affiliate of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The examination led to a plethora of Nineteenth Century architectural detail surrounding the remains of Lock 24, a generic reminder of the Ohio canal era. Indeed, through the agency of three specialized contractors, Lock 24, comprised of composite materials, was created as a fully-operational guard lock while under the jurisdiction of head engineer, William Minor Roberts in 1846. For clarity in presentation, a photographic figure and map display will best describe Lock 24, and thus contribute to the further understanding of an otherwise broad and well-known period in Ohio history and that history’s place within a local community. Continue reading
Appalachian Ohio and the Civil War, 1862-1863. By Susan G. Hall. (Jefferson, NC and London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2000. vi, 258 pp. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-7864-3738-2.)
In Appalachian Ohio and the Civil War, 1862-1863, Susan G. Hall provides a narrative history of a select group of Ohioans. Hall’s goal is to show how the Civil War affected the “small society” in Harrison County and the surrounding five eastern Appalachian counties during the one year period from the summer of 1862 to the following summer of 1863. For Hall, this represents a time of “crucial battles and political events which shaped the Civil War and the nation subsequently, and altered societies in many ways.” (p. 1)
This of course could be said for many different time periods during the four years of national conflict. But Hall claims that the recruiting of soldiers in 1862 led to a bitter division between Appalachian Ohio citizens who supported the Union’s actions and the growing presence of anti-war Democrats. She asserts that studying this specific period can illuminate the shift in soldier motivations and the rise of Copperhead support in Ohio, both of which contributed to why 1862-1863 was such a pivotal year affecting the home front and the men away at war. Continue reading
By: Clarence E. Wunderlin, Jr.
In the spring of 1938, Ohio Republicans were well aware of the erosion of support among the African-American population for the “Party of Lincoln.” Between 1932 and 1936, black voters had transferred their allegiance en masse to the Democratic Party. Although most African Americans had remained with Hoover and the Grand Old Party (GOP) in 1932, a massive electoral “realignment” began with the 1934 mid-term congressional races. The 2.4 million blacks who had migrated to northern cities were no longer willing to accept their lot as second-class citizens. New Deal programs politicized black voters across the nation; numerous measures that augmented black incomes, increased literacy rates and education levels, and engaged citizens in community activities also mobilized African Americans for the Democratic Party. While black political organizing became commonplace in the cities of the industrial North and Midwest, urban blacks in the Upper South likewise registered and voted in increasingly large numbers. For the first time in 1934, a majority of black Americans voted for Democratic candidates. Continue reading
In The Current Issue:
After conquering some technical difficulties, we are happy to be back online with a new issue featuring Clarence Wunderlin’s study of Robert A. Taft’s Firestone Memorial Oration during the 1938 Ohio Senate campaign. Its examination of the speech and its context not only sheds light on the Republican Party’s difficulties in courting the African-American vote at the time, but also has some relevance to their similar struggles in the present.
In addition to this issue’s book review, we also encourage the reader to explore the other features of our site. For those who missed earlier issues, please visit our “Past Issues” page, which contains the entire contents of previous volumes. We have expanded our “Research Links” feature, adding not only more primary sources but also more links to local historical agencies. We strongly encourage the reader to suggest or send new links for this page. The same is true for items in “Current History,” which is a clearinghouse for information on events of a historical nature in Northeast Ohio. Because we update this section constantly, please feel free to send announcements for it at any time.
We would also like to remind our readers that printer-friendly versions accompany each article and review. These PDF files are not only easier on the eyes when printed, but also contain basic issue data and page numbers for convenience in citation.
As always, please address any inquiries about this project (or about any other aspect of the journal) to the editor at kkern @ uakron. edu. We welcome all comments and suggestions.