In This Issue: Fall 2013

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.

Kevin Kern

Continue reading In This Issue: Fall 2013

Finding the French Connection: Elizabeth Duncan and the Naming of Massillon, Ohio

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.”[1. I am grateful to the Massillon Public Library and Stark County Library Genealogy Department for their superb assistance and willingness to suffer my questions and requests. The Massillon Museum and its supporters funded and guided the research that I conducted for this essay, which is an adaptation of a work for a book scheduled to be published in June 2013 by the museum. I owe them a particular debt of gratitude. Elizabeth Mancke at the University of Akron and Thomas Blantz at the University of Notre Dame gave me thoughtful and gracious feedback. So too did Jacci Welling, Jay Case, Greg Miller, and Scott Waalkes at Malone University. For the quotation, see “Literary Intelligence of Europe,” Star (London, England) Issue 187 (6 December 1788).] 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.[2. I am indebted to Katina Hazimihalis and her biography on Jean-Baptiste Massillon (soon to be published by the Massillon Museum) for the information presented in the preceding paragraph. Few substantial biographies of Massillon exist in English. For a short yet serviceable encyclopedia entry on his life and work, see “Massillon, Jean Baptiste,” New Catholic Encyclopedia 2nd ed., ed. Bernard L. Marthaler, et al. (Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale, 2003), 9:313-314.]

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.[3. The founders of this town were the first (though not the only) Americans to choose “Massillon” as their town name. A few decades later, settlers in Iowa allegedly copied this name from their Ohio counterparts.] Continue reading Finding the French Connection: Elizabeth Duncan and the Naming of Massillon, Ohio

Farmers, Woodland, Conservation Consciousness: The Lower Cuyahoga River Watershed, Ohio, 1865-1885

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.[1. The Summit County Beacon (Akron), 30 October 1878.]

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.[2. For woodland and conservation consciousness during the nineteenth-century change see, Robert McCullough, The Landscape of Community: A History of Communal Forests in New England, (Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1995); Richard Judd, Common Lands, Common People: The Origins of Conservation in Northern New England, (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997). For forests and the Holland Land Purchase of Western New York see, Charles Brooks, “Overrun With Bushes: Frontier Land Development and the Forest History of the Holland Purchase, 1800-1850,” Forest & Conservation History 39 (January 1995): 17-18, 21-22; Charles Brooks, Frontier Settlement and Market Revolution: The Holland Land Purchase (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 14 -17, 50-53; For woodland in nineteenth-century Ohio see, Michael Williams, Americans and Their Forests: A Historical Geography, (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 361-368. For the historiography of the Connecticut Western Reserve see, Robert Wheeler, “The Literature of the Western Reserve,” Ohio History 100 (Summer – Autumn 1991): 101 – 128.] Continue reading Farmers, Woodland, Conservation Consciousness: The Lower Cuyahoga River Watershed, Ohio, 1865-1885