Excerpt from my aunt’s (Doris Stroup Randall) letter. I (Janet Earnest) had
written to ask her about the schoolhouse on Stroup Road at Ron Stanfield’s request. The words in parentheses are mine and not quotes from Aunt Doris.
“Yes, your Mom (Bessie Stroup Webster) taught me there as did Clara Shetler (Mom’s first cousin). That was in my last two years there. (Doris was born in December 1904.) I went there for 7 years and then they built the new school up at the Center and did away with the District Schools. So, if I can figure right, they did away with the little schools in 1917, as that is when I must have started down at the new school in the fall of 1917 and was in the 8th grade. I still have the picture of our 8th grade class, and Aunt Jane Myers was my teacher. Isabelle Baylor Eberly, Frank Whittlesey and so many you knew are in it. Then when I was a Freshman and Sophomore, your mother was one of my teachers. We only had three for the whole High School.
Now, about Chester and Charles (Stroup – my uncles). Both their birthdays were in October two years apart. So Mother (Hattie Myers Stroup) couldn’t get Chester to go to school unless Charles went. Every morning he crawled under the bed and Mother couldn’t get him out. So mother’s brother Alva was the teacher there, so he told Mother to just send Charles and he would teach him too. So they both started to school when Charles was 3 and Chester 5 (This would have been in 1902.) but in October they would be 4 and 6. So that is the way it happened that they both went all through school together, as Charles learned easy and they graduated from the three year high school in Atwater then went on for their 4th year in Alliance. Rode the street car back and forth. So that is how Charles graduated from Mount Union when he was 20 years old. I don’t know when the little brick school was built, but it would have been in 1800 something, as your Mother started there as she was born in 1895.
As to the other question, I think it was me that Papa carried on his back to school for when I was in the first grade we moved down to the brick house (1910) with Grandma and Grandpa Stroup at Thanksgiving time. I had whooping cough so bad, and Mother was so worried about me as I coughed and coughed . . and was missing so much school and that was so much farther for me to walk they were afraid that I wouldn’t pass, so when it was too snowy and bad Papa carried me on his back all the way up there to the school. I remember who my teacher was. I expect Glen remembers her — Ruby Royer. . . . . But she passed me and I went into the second grade. It was funny having all 8 grades together. . . . . . . Grandma and Grandpa Stroup moved to Atwater at the beginning of summer in the house where Harry Whittlesey lived in later years.”
The Mattoon Family
Paper read by H. D. Smalley at the family reunion
in Atwater, Ohio on Saturday, August 14,1880.
The history of the early pioneers of this country can never be fully written. Not because their lives were not fraught with incidents and deeds worthy of the historian’s pen; not because their works and their public acts were insignificant and did not tell upon succeeding generations; but more perhaps from the fact that they lived and moved in comparatively narrow circles, and the plain, honest, simple lives they lived have been overshadowed by other lives of a later day- by lieves of greater men in the line of what the world calls greatness. I do not wish to be understood as affirming that these men were unambitious. By no means: but their ambition was not that of the politician or the military hero.
There was an enemy for them to meet – a foe to subdue- in the character of a mighty and wide spreading forest that surrounded them on all sides. To accomplish this there lay before them years of ceaseless toil, hard, earnest, protracted labor. Year after year, little by little, step by step, the impenetrable wilderness yielded to their ceaseless assaults, until the wigwams of the savage Indian, and the lair of the wild beasts and the giants of the mighty forests have all given place to these cultivated farms, these comfortable homes, these pleasing landscapes, and these beautiful fields. They were ambitious to give to their children better and greater advantages than they had had. For this they toiled; toward this they were ever looking with fond anticipations; and so we have entered into and enjoy the fruits of their labors. “Hands that the rod of empire night have swayed,” wielded the ax; men that under other circumstances might have guided the ship of state, drove the team afield and guided the plow.
These men and women were of iron will and iron nerve. Mostly from New England, the sons and daughters of those puritans feared no danger, turned aside from no obstacle, yielded to no discouragement, were dismayed at no difficulty. Picture to yourselves for a moment the homes and surroundings of these pioneers among the hills and rocks of New England. They were children of farmers and mechanics, of small means and limited resources. Their barren, sterile hills barely yielded them the necessities of life. Too often they were almost wholly deprived of all but the merest rudiments of education so far as books were concerned; and what prospect was there of anything better for their children’s children after them? No; this condition of things must not continue.
And so they turned their faces toward the setting sun. Here, perhaps, is a young men just betrothed to the one he holds most dear, but his chances for getting along in life are all against him; so, on foot, perhaps, or on horseback, he starts for the far west, hundreds of miles away, to select a place that he can make his home. He arrives In the early spring, purchases a small tract of land, clears a little patch and plants a small field of corn; puts up, as soon as possible a little log cabin and makes all the preparation possible during the summer and autumn for the comfortable reception of the girl he left behind him. Ere the snow flies he is on his way back to old Connecticut.
The winter is passed in preparing for an early springtime journey. When that auspicious time arrives his young wife and all his worldly possessions are put into a covered wagon, drawn by one or two yoke of oxen and he and his wife bid farewell to father and mother, to younger brothers and sisters, to old acquaintances and associates, and commence their long and tedious journey for their western home. The dangers they encounter, the privations they are called upon to endure, their toils and struggles, their trails and disappointments, their hopes and fears, the joy that come to them when children are born unto them, and the sorrow that comes when death claims them for his own; it seems to me that none but the really heroic could have passed through it all.
I think I said truly that the stories of their lives could never be fully written. In imagination we may picture to ourselves what it was to be a pioneer, but at the best, the picture must be but a faint representation of the stern reality. The debt of gratitude we owe these sturdy pioneers, we can never repay. All honor to those noble men and women, who, through trial and danger, have secured to us such a rich legacy, such inestimable privileges as we at this day enjoy! That heroic race have nearly all passed away. There is one to be met occasionally here and there, a solitary individual still left, clinging in dead winter to the bough like a leaf that the frost and the fall have forgotten. I feel like doing reverence to these old, gray-headed men and women. I seldom meet with one but there comes to my mind the poem of Oliver Wendell Holmes that I used to take such delight in reading when I was a boy. Although it may be familiar to you all, I think it is not inappropriate to repeat it here, and with your permission, I will do so.
All that part of Ohio lying north of the forty-first parallel of latitude, and west of Pennsylvania, and east of the counties of Sandusky and Seneca, is called the Western Reserve. Many of you, perhaps the majority of you are familiar with the history of this portion of our state. You are aware that it once belonged to the state of Connecticut, and that she sold it to an organization known as the Connecticut Land Company, composed of fifty-one members. This company had the land surveyed into strips of five miles in width, commencing at the Pennsylvania line and running north and south. It was then surveyed into townships by running lines east and west five miles apart. These parcels of land, five miles square, were then sold in all the principal markets of the New England States and New York, the purchaser receiving a certificate from the company entitling him to five miles square of land, but its location was to be determined by lot- a rather hazardous venture as it proved to be in some instances.
The holders of these certificates then proceeded to see these lands in smaller parcels- they exchanged them for small farms or village property- in fact all kinds of property, in many cases allowing for the same much beyond its real value. But by this means, the lands went into the hands of New England people, who came here to occupy them. These townships, which when sold were only known by their number, and the number of the range in which they were situated, came subsequently to be named after the purchaser’s name, or from some peculiarity in the location, etc. Thus this township was named after its original owner, Mr. Caleb Atwater. Mr. Atwater, with some others came to this place and commenced the first settlement in 1799. He returned to Connecticut in the fall of the year. His lands were subsequently sold through the medium of agents appointed for that purpose.
In the year 1806, there came to this township in one company, the families of Abel I. Hall, Caleb Mattoon and his son-in-law, Asabel Blakesley-. the three families comprising eighteen persons. The long journey was made, as nearly all such journeys were then, with ox team, and must necessarily have been wearisome to man and beast.
The Mattoon family, on its arrival in Atwater, consisted of Caleb Mattoon and his wife Sarah Elizabeth, four girls and two boys, viz.: Phebe, Sarah or Sally, Elsie, Minerva, Caleb and Ives. The eldest of the children, Betsy, for some reason which no one can determine, was left behind in Connecticut, and Hannah, the second child, had been married to Asabel Blakesley for several years, and was already the mother of three children.
Mr. Mattoon purchased a farm and built a cabin thereon, about where James Mattoon’s house now stands. The farm, like the farms of all newcomers, was then a portion of the original forest, which must be felled and cleared away to make room for the grass and grain needed for his family’s sustenance and for his cattle. How well he accomplished the task that lay before his is easily told by the farm itself.
At the time of his arrival in Atwater, Mr. Mattoon was about fifty-two years of age, a period of life at which a man’s natural powers and vigor are rather on the decline. Such a man is “past his prime” we say, or, “He has run his best days”. But those who remember Mr. Mattoon well, declared that he showed no signs of failing strength. Mr. Brush tells as that he was tall, and straight as an arrow, wiry and muscular as an athlete. When moving, he stood erect as a pine, and moved a swath as wide and smooth as the best of mowers. Another of your old citizens, Mr. John Whittlesey, tells me that he remembers Mr. Mattoon as being remarkably methodical and systematic in all his work. His plowing for his spring crops must be begun at just about such a time, if the ground was in proper condition to plow. Exactly one hour was given at noon for his ‘nooning’- a term you farmers all understand. When the hour was up, he was up and off to his work, with all who were in his employ. “He could go”, says Mr. Whittlesey, “into a ‘fallow’ as we used to call it, and roll up more log heaps in a given time, with less noise, than any man I ever knew.” He was a very quiet, unassuming man- a man who minded his own business, kept almost constantly at home, was a hard worker, an honest economical, industrious, unpretentious farmer. When not at work, and when the weight of years compelled him to give place to younger bands, he would sit for hour after hour, engaged in whittling, the universal trait of the glorious Yankee nation. Mr. Mattoon lived to the ripe old age of 85 years, dying March 12, 1840.
Mrs. Mattoon was the opposite of her husband in many respects- was fond of company, was a frequent caller upon her neighbors and acquaintances. She was a remarkably benevolent person, and had great sympathy for the poor and needy. Did a strange family move into town, she was almost the first person to call upon them, and if they were in need of anything, she was sure to supply their wants. In case of sickness, especially in a poor man’s family, the afflicted had a sympathetic friend and active helper in the person of Grandmother Mattoon. Mrs. Mulock says that one’s after life is made all the happier from having known what it was to be very poor when young. Perhaps this may account in some degree for the friendly, sympathetic social characteristics so very manifest among the early settlers In a new country. As they grow rich and independent of each other, so do they shut up their bowels of compassion, and live more in themselves. Mrs. Mattoon out-lived her husband by twelve and one half years, dying August 16, 1852, aged 90 years.
There were eight children in this family, six girls, and two boys, viz: Betsy, Hannah, Sarah, Phebe, Caleb, Ives, Elsie and Minerva. As I have already stated, when the family came to Ohio, Betsy remained in Connecticut. She was betrothed in marriage to Jeremiah Jones, a young man living in Wallingford Connecticut. Deacon Atwater was acquainted with the two families, and being interested in the young people, he introduced Mr. Jones to Betsy Mattoon, and the acquaintance at length culminated in marriage.
In 1806, Jeremiah Jones In company with Mr. Atwater, came to Ohio, making the journey on horseback. He purchased of Mr. Atwater the farm on which he afterwards lived and died, put up a cabin, and in the fall returned to Connecticut. In the spring of 1807, he and Betsy Mattoon were married, and at once made preparations for removal to Ohio.
Like hundreds of others, all their personal effects were put into a covered wagon, and with an ox team, the young couple made the long and tedious journey to the far west. Six weeks they were on the road. They carried their own provisions, Mrs. Jones doing her own cooking and were thus quite independent. Among the articles in his wagon was a half barrel of pork which Mr. Jones objected to taking, as his load was heavy and the wagon crowded_ But his mother insisted on his taking it along. To satisfy her, he consented to do so, resolving in his own mind that he would sell it when he reached New York, and thus lighten his load. But his mother told him that he would find no such pork as that in the western wilderness, and that if he did not take it to Ohio, he would have to go without her blessing, and so one half barrel of pork was duly brought to Atwater, and from that day to the day of his death, Jeremiah Jones’ pork barrel was never empty.
For many years, Mr. Jones acted as agent for Mr. Atwater in the sale of land. On the organization of the township, he was elected township clerk, which office he held for eleven consecutive years. During his life he held the office of Justice of the Peace for twenty-two years, and it speaks volumes in honor of his judgement to say that during this long period of his magistracy, only one case was carried from his court to that of Common Pleas.
Fifty-four years of wedded life had this couple, Mr. Jones preceding his wife to the ‘land of the dead’ by almost seventeen years, death coming to him November 17, 1871. It is remarkable that Mrs. Jones, the oldest of Mr. Mattoon’s children outlived all her brothers and sisters, reaching the advanced age of ninety-six years, seven months, the last sixteen years of her life being a helpless invalid, dying July 27, 1878.
Mrs. Jones was the mother of eight children, five boys and three girls, whose names in the order of their births ere: Eliza, Hamon, Oscar and Orville (twins), Sarah, Jeremiah, Bezaleel and. Susan- four of whom Eliza Butler, Harmon, Jeremiah., and Susan, are still living.
The descendants of some of these eight children number as follows. of Eliza Butler, there were six children- four living; grandchildren, 12. Total 18.
of Harmon Jones, two children- one living; grandchildren, 2.
of Oscar Jones, two children- one living; grandchildren, 2. Both
dead. Total 4.
of Bezaleel Jones, seven children- three ]hiving grandchildren, 1,
dead. Total 8.
The total for the Jones family was Mr. and Mrs. Jeremiah Jones, 2; children, 8; grandchildren and great-grandchildren, 35; grand total, 45 of whom 28 are now living.
Hannah Mattoon was married to -Aeabel Blakesley, in 1800, at the age of sixteen. In 1806, when the family came to Ohio, she was the mother of three children, Orian Blakesley being the youngest, one year old. To other children were born to them after they came here, Asabel, the youngest, being born some four months after his father’s death, chic occurred April 17, 1821. Mr. Blakesley being then forty-two years old. Hannah, the widow, subsequently married William Chittenden, by whom she had two children. Aunt Hannah, therefore, was the mother of nine children whose names were Betsy, Lydia, Orrin, Lucinda, Mariah, Caroline, Asabel, Orian and Henrietta.
Betsy married John Burns, and by him had ten children, namely: Clarissa Craig, Mary Bow, Eliza Fenton, Joshua Burns, Nancy Stannard, Charles Burns, William Burns, Lydia Chapman, Maria and Julia- the two latter were never married. Five of these children are still living, Mary Bow, Joshua, and Charles Burns, Nancy Stannard, and Lydia Chapman. Aunt Hannah’s grandchildren number thirty-two, and the great-grandchildren, fifty-six. There are then of this family: Hannah, Asabel and William, 3; their children, 9; grandchildren, 32 ; great-grandchildren,56; great-great-grandchildren, 7; total 107.
Sarah Mattoon, or Aunt Sally, as she was familiarly known, married Josiah Mix, a native of Wallingford., Connecticut. Mr. Mix came to Ohio in the spring of 1805, in company with Deacon Atwater, the journey was made on horseback. Previous to this, sometime in 1803 or 1801, Mr. Mix in company with some others went to St. Augustine, Florida., the object of the expedition being to found a colony there. Failing in this, they returned and Mr. Mix set his face westward. In the spring of 1806, he started for the West, and made the journey on foot and alone. Besides his pack, he brought with him from Connecticut an axe made by one Strong. Of course, no axe in the West could compete with one from the land of steady habits, and so that axe had to come.
His farm he purchased. of Major Mansfield, and paid for it almost wholly in spinning wheels, Mr. Mix being a wheelwright by trade. People came to him from all the surrounding towns, some coming as far as thirty miles on foot and carrying a wheel home an their shoulders. Mr. Mix and Aunt Sally were married in January 1807. They were the first couple married in the township. They lived together over fifty-three years. Aunt Sally dying March 22, 1860. Mr. Mix lived. until February 4, 1867. They were the parents of three children only- Nathan, John and Ozias- all of whom are now living. Their grandchildren number eight, all living. Of the great-grandchildren, there are living, 5; four dead. The generation of Mixes then: Mr. and. Mrs. Mix, 2; their children, 3; Grandchildren, 8; great-grandchildren, 12; total 25. Now living, 18.
Phebe Mattoon, next after Aunt Sally Mix, was married. to Jared Scranton on April. 23, 1808, the bride being twenty years of age and the bridegroom twenty-two. Lewis Day, Esq., of Deerfield, performed the solemn ceremony.. The creek wast of the center was on a rampage that day, the waters being so high that that the squire was obliged to tarry a day until they had so far subsided as to allow him to recress. His- tory had not handed down to us whether or not they had a high old time at Grandfather Mattoon’s during that interesting period, but I do not believe they all sat with folded hands and demure faces, sending out a dove now and then to see if the waters were abated. If Squire Day did not give Mrs. Day a good, account of his protracted absence, than domestic affairs were conducted on different and lees scientific principles from what they are in our degenerate days.
For her housekeeping outfit, Aunt Phebe went to New Lisbon on horseback, bringing home with her, crockery, teakettle and bake kettle, and. other paraphernalia of the kitchen, while Uncle Jared, during her absence, constructed a table out of basswood. puncheon.
Mr. Scranton was born in Durham, Connecticut and came to Ohio in 1806. After marriage, previous to purchasing a home, they lived three years in Poland. In 1812, he was drafted Into the army-, but sent a substitute instead. Mr. Scranton died April 13, 1850, aged 64; and Mrs. Scranton, September 24, 1859, aged 71.
They had six children, five girls and one boy. These were: Minerva Permilia, Ralph, Deborah (who died at one year), and Deborah (now Mrs. Houck), and Emiline, three of whom only are living; Deborah Houck, Emiline Goodman, and. Permilia Ely. The grandchildren of Aunt Phebe number twenty-two, and the great-grandchildren, fifty. The family therefore stands. Mr. and. Mrs. Scranton, 2; their children, 6; grandchildren, 22, great-grandchildren, 50; total, 88; of whom 69 are living.
Caleb Mattoon the next in the list of grandfather Mattoon’s children, married Betsy Hall, a daughter of Asa hall, one of the first pioneers of the township, and who came to Atwater in June 1799. The fruits of this marriage were five boys and two girls, namely; Spencer, Darius, Vincey, Armenus, Sidney, Arminda, and Lucinda. Besides the mother, there have died in the family; Darius. Armenus and Lucinda. Mrs. Mattoon died September 29, 1837. Her husband subsequently married Mrs. Sarah Bray (the mother of several children by a former marriage), to whom was born by this woman one son, Mr. Edwin Mattoon. Caleb Mattoon died December 23, 1853, at the age of 71. The number of this branch of the original stock stands thus; Mr. and. the two Mrs. Mattoons, 3; their children, 8; grandchildren, 18; Great- grandchildren, 4; total 33; number now living, 25.
Ives Mattoon married Abba Cleverly, daughter of John Cleverly,Sr., who, with his family, cam to Atwater in 1818. Mr. Mattoon and his wife both lived and died on the old. homestead, he died April 27, 1854, aged 59; she died March 3, 1865, aged. 63. Two children only were born to them, Melissa and James. Melissa married Ralph Bartholmew, by whom she had one child. James is the father at six children, five or them living. The generations of this family are Ives and Abba Mettoon, 2; their children, 2; grandchildren 7; total 11. Of these there are now living, 8.
Elsie Mattoon married Chester Loomis. Mr. Loomis was born in Southwick, Massachusetts. They had two children, Clorinda and Jane. Clarinda married Solomon Hartzell and is the mother of six children, five of whom are now living. Jane married. William Wordu (Sp. ?, perhaps Worden), They had one child, not living; two grandchildren, one living. This family consists then of Mr. and Mrs. Loomis, 2; their children, 2; grandchildren, 7, great-grandchildren, 2; total 13; now living, 9.
Minerva, the youngest child of the family, married John Cleverly,
Jr., who at the age of eighteen, came to this township in the spring of 1818. Mr. Cleverly came on foot from Ripley, Chautauqua County, New York, carrying a knapsack on his back. That summer he cleared two acres of ground, put up a cabin for the reception of his father’s family, who arrived. in the following October. To John Cleverly and his wife Minerva, there were born four children, three girls and one boy. Their names being, in order of their birth: Sophronia, Julia, Seth, and Sarah Elizabeth all . living except Julia, who died. in Texas in November 1879. Sophronia and Seth are childless. Julia was the mother of three children all of whom died some years previous to the mother’s death. Elizabeth, the youngest, married James H. green, and is the mother of eight children which is a slight indication of what the Mattoon stock is capable of when crossed with English blood. Summming up this branch of the family, we have: John and Minerva Cleverly, 2; their children,4; grandchildren, 11; total 17. Nov living, 12.
A summary of the Mattoon family and their descendants is as follows:
Of the original Matton family now living 10 —
Betsy’s (Jones) “ “ 45 28
Hannah’s (Blattesley) “ “ 107 —
Sally’s(Mix) “ “ 25 18
Phebe’s (Scranton) “ “ 80 69
Caleb’s “ “ 33 25
Ives’ “ “ 11 8
Elsie’s (Loomis) “ “ 13 8
Minerva’s (Cleverly) “ “ 17 12
Total 341 l64
“Where did Cain get his wife?” This question used to be a poser to acme people, but I think the generations of the Mattoon family help to a solution of the difficult question; for if Adam’s family increased as has the Mattoons, Cain would have had no trouble in finding a woman to his taste among his own relatives, and that relationship not very near either.
It is not a little remarkable that all the children of Caleb and Sarah, except two, married in Atwater, and all settled here after marriage, and all lived and died and were buried here, except one. Elsie Mattoon, for the few years preceding her death, lived with her daughter and son-in-law, Mr. and. Mrs. Worden in that township. Betsy Jones, the eldest of this family of children, outlived all the members of her father’s family. From the day of arrival in Atwater to the day of her death, a. period of seventy-one years, she resided upon the farm where she and her husband located in 1807. The youngest of the Mattoon children, Minerva, married the eldest of John Cleverly, Sr’s. children. He, as did Mrs. Jones, outlived all the members of his father’s family, and is now in the eighty-first year of his age, and is present with us today.
Although in this family there has been none distinguished for great wealth, great intellectual attainments, or noted for political influence and power, so far as I can learn, none have become known as men or women whose fair names have been tarnished by evil. They have pursued “the even tenor of their ways” like honest men and women, as they are, leaving to their children the heritage of a good name, which is to be chosen rather than great riches. May none of the descendants of Caleb and Sarah Mattoon do aught to bring dishonor upon the good name of those noble pioneers.
ORVILLE NELSON HARTSHORN – BORN 1823
HE WAS BORN IN 1823 IN A LOG CABIN NEAR NELSON’S LEDGES IN PORTAGE COUNTY. HE ATTENDED SCHOOL IN DEERFIELD, OHIO. ORVILLE WAS THE ELDEST OF SIX CHILDREN IN THE FAMILY AND WAS OBLIGED AT AN EARLY AGE TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR OPERATING THE FARM BECAUSE OF THE ILLNESS OF HIS FATHER.
PRIOR TO THE MID 1850’S ORVILLE FOR THREE WINTER TERMS WENT TO THE LINNAEAN ACADEMY AT ATWATER WHICH WAS LOCATED ON THE VILLAGE GREEN, A WIDE PIECE OF PUBLIC LAND LAID OUT BY CAPT. CALEB ATWATER AT WHAT WE REFER TO AS ATWATER CENTER. THIS SPACE OF LAND WAS 65 FEET WIDE AND EXTENDED FROM THE CENTER SOUTH TO THE CEMETERY. ORVILLE’S TIME SPENT AS A STUDENT AT THE
LINNIAN ACADEMY IN ATWATER PROMPTED HIM IN LATER YEARS TO VIEW ATWATER AS A FINE COMMUNITY IN WHICH TO ESTABLISH A COLLEGE.
HOWEVER OBJECTIONS DOOMED ATWATER AS A COLLEGE TOWN. A GROUP OF WOMEN IN THE ATWATER COMMUNITY OBJECTED TO HIS PROPOSAL ALONG WITH THE MEN WHO DIDN’T WANT TO SELL THEIR LAND SO HARTSHORN COULD BUILD A COLLEGE. HIS VISON TO FOUND A COLLEGE IN ATWATER NEVER MATERIALIZED. HE MOVED HIS PROPOSAL A FEW MILES SOUTH INTO THE ALLIANCE AREA. HE CHOSE THAT SECTION OF THE ALLIANCE COMMUNITY KNOWN AS MOUNT UNION FOR HIS COLLEGE, AND THAT’S HOW MOUNT UNION COLLEGE, ONE OF OHIO’S
MOST DISTINCTIVE PRIVATE COLLEGES CAME INTO BEING IN 1846 WITH HARTSHORN AS IT’S FIRST PRESIDENT. HAD THERE NOT BEEN OBJECTIONS, ATWATER TODAY PROBABLY WOULD HAVE BEEN THE LOACATION OF A MAJOR PRIVATE COLLEGE.
PATHWAYS: ‘Hermit Poet of Atwater’ was doctor, farmer, too
By Roger J. Di Paolo
Record-Courier Editor January 25, 2009
Dr. Henry H. Spiers was a physician with the soul of a poet.
He practiced medicine in Edinburg and Ravenna for 25 years, became a nationally known authority on tuberculosis and traveled the country selling a medical book he had written on its treatment.
After seven years on the road, he returned home to Portage County, financially secure, ready and able to do what he most enjoyed: Writing poetry on the farm where he was born.
And that’s what he was doing in 1917, when the Ravenna Republican interviewed the doctor some called “The Hermit Poet of Atwater.”
“I plow a field or write a poem as the spirit moves me,” said Dr. Spiers, who pursued his avocation in a one-room dwelling on his property on the Atwater-Deerfield border near the intersection of present-day U.S. 224 and Alliance Road. “My wants are simple and nothing is lacking in the schedule of my daily affairs.”
Born Sept. 4, 1849, in Atwater, Dr. Spiers was the youngest of five sons born to a couple who had settled in Portage County nine years earlier after emigrating from England. The family homestead was located on a 60-acre farm, and there he worked until he was 18 years old.
After teaching school briefly, he enrolled at Mount Union College in Alliance ” making the 12-mile trip from Atwater to the college on foot to save money ” then left Ohio for the Minneapolis area, where he “read medicine” with a doctor. He later attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, then went to Cincinnati, where he graduated from the Ohio Medical College in 1877.
He returned to Portage County to practice medicine, opening his first office in Edinburg, where he remained for 14 years, then moving to Ravenna for 11 years. He then went to Oberlin, where he practiced medicine while writing his treatise on tuberculosis.
He took to the road to sell the book, visiting nearly every state over a seven-year period. Seven editions of his work were printed, leaving him financially well off. After spending time in California, he returned home to Atwater to pursue the life of a poet, philosopher and sometime-farmer.
“The Hermit Poet” gathered his thoughts in his modest dwelling, a glorified shed surrounded by gardens and nature ” in the words of the Republican, “amid fields quiet save for the songs of birds and the low lullabies of nocturnal choirs” where there was “no apparent measurement of time save that of the changing seasons.”
Dr. Spiers wrote prose or poetry, preferring “the music and the measure” of verse, and told the Republican that he was quite content with the life he had chosen. Nearing 70, in addition to writing, he also continued to maintain the family farm, which included a leased coal slope at the rear of the property.
“I count it fortune’s favor to me that when I was tired of the world and the grind of its ruthless struggle, the old farm stood ready to receive me,” he said. “I can imagine no pleasanter situation than the freedom of this outdoor democracy of nature.”
Based on the samples that accompanied the Republican article, Dr. Spiers’ poetry appeared to be light-hearted verse dealing with nature and humanity. Some of his work was published, but there was no indication whether it appeared in book form.
The writer who interviewed Dr. Spiers ” the article had no byline ” didn’t hesitate to wax poetic in describing “The Hermit Poet” and his surroundings, which provided “a restful solitude … to spend the evening of a busy and eventful career.”
The physician-turned-poet was “happy, cheerful and contented,” according to the Republican, and hoped to spend the rest of his life surrounded by nature, painting pictures with words.