Historical Collections of Ohio pgs 822-828
Historical Collections of Ohio: Pages 822-828
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~ pg. 822 ~


As mentioned, no one so stimulated the intellectual life of Cincinnati as Dr. DRAKE.  A great factor was his SOCIAL and LITERARY REUNIONS.  And what a galaxy of characters he brought together under his roof!  Mr. MANSFIED, in his “Personal Memories,” has described them, and also “THE COLLEGE OF TEACHERS,” from which we quote in an abridged form:

In1883 my friend and relative, Dr. Daniel DRAKE, instituted a social and literary reunion at his house, which possessed all the charms of information, wit, and kindness.  They were really formed for his daughters, then just growing into womanhood.  They were small enough to meet in his parlor and conversational, thus avoiding the rigidity of a mere literary party.  We met at halt-past seven, when the Doctor called attention by ringing a little bell, which brought them to the topic of the evening, which might be one appointed beforehand and sometimes then selected.  Some evenings essays were read; on others nothing.  Occasionally a piece of poetry or a story came in to relieve the conversation.  These, however, were interludes rather than parts of the general plan, whose main object was the discussion of interesting questions belonging to society, literature, and religion.

The subjects discussed were always of a suggestive and problematical kind; so that the ideas were fresh, the debates animated, and the utterance of opinion frank and spontaneous.  There, in that little circle of ladies, I have heard many of the questions which have since occupied the public mind, talked over with an ability and fulness of information which is seldom possessed by larger and more authoritative bodies.  These were per-sons of such minds whose influence spreads over a whole country.  They were of such character and talent as seldom meet in one place, and who, going out into the world, have signalized their names in the annals of letters, science, and benevolence.

Dr. DANIEL DRAKE was himself the head of the circle and a man of great genius, whose suggestive mind furnished topics for others, and was ever ready to revive a flagging conversation.  He studied medicine with Dr. GOFORTH, the pioneer physician of Cincinnati, and for thirty years a leader in medi-cal science and education.

Gen EDWARD KING, another member, was, in spirit, manners, and education, a su-perior man.  He was a son of the eminent statesman and senator from Massachusetts, Rufus KING, and father of Rufus KING, to-day eminent lawyer of Cincinnati, and author of “Ohio,’’ in the American Commonwealth series of State Histories.  Gen. KING   married Sarah, a daughter of Gov. WORTHINGTON, at Chillicothe, practised law, became speaker of the Ohio legislature and, in 1831, removed to Cincinnati.  He was both witty and enter-taining.  He died in 1836.  His wife, later known as Mrs. SARAH PETER (having eight years later married Mr. PETER, the British Consul at Philadelphia), was a most instructive member of the circle.  Mr. PETER died in 1853, and then again, until her decease, Cincinnati was her home.

Her life has recently been published by Robert Clarke & Co., and illustrates the truth of the statement made by Mr. MANSFIED, viz., that “The activity, energy, and benevolence of her mind accomplished in the next forty years probably more of real work for the benefit of society than any one person, and that work has made her widely known at home and abroad.”  Not any Ohio-born woman has probably done so much.

She was one of the founders of the Cincinnati Orphan Asylum, which has cared for thousands of orphan children the last fifty years.  She was also active in church and Sunday-school work, in improving church music and relieving the poor.  In Philadel-phia she was prominent in founding “The Rosina Home for Magdalens,’’ which still continues its noble work.  She devoted a room in her house to a school of design for


women, and engaged a teacher to conduct it.  From this germ sprang the Philadelphia School of Design, which now has over 200 pupils, and an institution of great utility.  She also founded an institution there for the protection of poor sewing women.

Her accounts of her several journeys to Europe and the Holy Land are among the best books of travel.  When in Europe, Mrs. PETER urged the art-loving people of Cincin-nati to secure good copies of painting and sculpture.  In this and other regards she made a broad mark upon its art-history.

“It was in 1852, while visiting Jerusalem that Mrs. PETER found herself tending toward the Roman Catholic Church, and she was soon in full communion with it.  She was one of the most active and powerful members it has ever had in America.  Her devotion to the sisterhoods and the hospitals was untiring and most generous.  She was one of the good angels of the sick and wounded soldiers dur-ing the civil war.  Her passion for charity was so great that she lived herself a simple convent life.  She went to the battle-field of Shiloh with a relief-boat, and her ministrations continued until the war ended.

This good woman, of so many noble achievements and of such commanding in-fluence, passed to her rest February 6, 1877.”

Another member of our circle was Judge James HALL, then editor of the Western Monthly Magazine, whose name is known both in Europe and America.  He also, in the long time that elapsed before his death, accomplished much and good work as a writer, citizen and man of business.  The Western Monthly Magazine, which he then
edited, was an excellent periodical, to which many of the literary young men of Cincinnati contributed.  Judge HALL left the magazine to become cashier and president, of the Commercial Bank, a much more profitable business.  In the meanwhile he published several stories, novels, and essays on the West, which made him widely known, and deserves the success they receive, by their very pleasant style and pictures of Western life.

Professor Calvin E. STOWE, then a compara-tively young man, was also present, and con-tributed his share to the conversation; he is the best Biblical scholar I ever knew.  His first wife, a New England lady, quite hand-some and interesting, also attended the reunions.  His present wife, then Miss Harriet BEECHER, was just beginning to be known for her literary abilities.  Two or three years after this time, I published in the Cincinnati Chronicle what I believe was her first printed story.  I had heard her read at Miss PIERCE’S school, in Litchfield, Conn., her first public composition.  It surprised every one so much that it was attributed to her father, but in fact was only the first exhibition of her remarkable talents.  In the reunion I speak of she was not distinguished for conversation, but when she did speak, showed something of the peculiar strength and humor of her mind.

Her first little story, published in the Chronicle immediately attracted attention, and her writings have always been popular.  Notwithstanding, the world-wide renown of
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin” her real genius and characteristics were as much exhibited in her short stories as in her larger books.  Her Sister, Miss Catharine BEECHER, was a far more easy and fluent conversationalist.  In-deed, few people had more talent to entertain a company, or keep the ball of conversation going than Miss BEECHER, and she was as willing as able for the task.

Conspicuous in our circle, and manners, both in person and manners, was Mrs. Caroline Lee HENTZ, whom none saw without admiring.  She was what the world called charming; and though since better known as an authoress was person-ally quite remarkable.

I have thus mentioned, out of a sit all circle gathered in a parlor, names which I’ve have been renowned both in Europe and America, and whose public reputation has contributed to the fame of our country.  I have dwelt more particularly on these meeting to illustrate what I think I’ve seen in other eases, and to which people in general seldom give due weight.  I mean the influence of social sym-pathy in forming and developing individual

About the year 1833 was founded what was called “The College of Teachers,’’ which continued ten years, and was an institution of great utility and wide influence.  Its object was both professional and popular; to unite and improve teachers, and, at the same time, to commend the cause of education to the public mind,


At that time public education was just be-ginning, and almost all in the Ohio educa-tional system was created and developed after that period.  To do this was the object in view, and, accordingly, a large array of distinguished persons took part in these pro-ceedings.  I doubt whether in any one asso-ciation to promote the cause of education there was ever in an equal space of time con-centrated in this country a larger measure of talent, information, and zeal.

Among those who either spoke or wrote for it were Albert PICKETT, the president, and for half a century an able teacher; Dr. Daniel DRAKE, the Hon. Thos. Smith GRIMKE, the Rev. Joshua L. WILSON, Alexander KINMONT, and James H. PERKINS, Professor STOWE, Dr. BEECHER, Dr. Alexander CAMPBELL, Bishop PURCELL.  President Mc GUFFEY, Dr. AYDELOTTE, H. D. MANSFIELD, Mrs. Lydia SIGOURNEY, and Mrs. Caroline Lee HENTZ.

The BEECHERS lived in Cincinnati (Walnut hills), from 1832 to 1852, twenty years, and were so closely connected with the anti-slavery and educational history of this region as to require a further notice than that given by Dr. MANSFIELD, Dr. Lyman BEECHER, the head of this remarkable family, was born in New Haven, Conn., in 1775, the son of a blacksmith and the direct descendant of the Widow BEECHER, who followed the profession of midwife to the first settlers there about 1638.  Lyman was educated at Yale, but as we heard in our youth could not “speak his piece” on graduating day from the inability of his father to supply him with a suit of new clothes in which to appear.  He studied theology under the famous Timothy DWIGHT, and was settled as an Orthodox Congregation minister successively over churches at East Hampton, Long Island; Litchfield, Conn.; and Hanover Street Church, Boston.  To fight evil in whatever form he saw it and help on the good was the love of his life.  Old men who remember him in his prime pronounce him the most eloquent, powerful preacher they ever heard, surpassing in his greatest flights of oratory his highly gifted son Henry WARD.

In 1814, in New England, the vice of in-temperance had become so demoralizing, even the clergy at their meetings often indulging in gross excesses, that Dr. BEECHER arose in his might and wrote his wonderfully eloquent six sermons against it, which were translated into


many languages and had a large scale even after the lapse of fifty years.  The rapid and extensive defection of the Congregation Churches under the lead of Dr. CHANNING was the occasion of his being called to Boston to uphold the doctrines of Puritanism; which he did with such great power as to soon be regarded as “unequalled among living divines for dialectic keenness eloquence of appeal, sparkling wit, vigor of thought and concentrated power of expression.  His personal magnetism was intense and his will unconquerable.”

MANSFIELD in his Personal Memories writes that Dr. BEECHER spells of eloquence seem to come on by fits.  One hot day in summer and in the afternoon, says he I was in church and he was going on in a sensible but rather prose half sermon way, when all at once he began to recollect, that we had just heard of the death of Lord Byron.  He was an admirer of Byron’s poetry, as all who admire genius.  He raised his spectacles and began with an account of Byron, his genius, wonderful gifts, and then went on to his want of virtue and want of true religion and finally described a lost soul and the spirit of Byron going off and wandering in the blackness of darkness forever!  It struck me as with an electric shock.

The Lane Theological Seminary having been established at Walnut Hills and the growing importance of the great West having filled the thought of the religious public at the East, a large sum of money was pledged to its support, on the condition of Dr. BEECHER accepting the presidency, which he did in 1832.  Then to eke out his salary for ten years he officiated as pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, in Cincinnati.  One of his first acts here was to startle the Eastern orthodoxy by a tract upon the Roman Catholic supremacy at the West.

Soon after, in consequence of a tract issued by the abolition convention, at Philadelphia, the evils of slavery were discussed by the students.  Many of them were from the South; an effort was made to stop the dis-cussions and the meetings.  Slave-holders went over from Kentucky and incited mob violence in Cincinnati, and at one time it seemed as though the rabble might destroy the seminary, and the houses of the pro-fessors.  In the absence of Dr. BEECHER, a little after, the board of trustees were frightened into obeying the demands of the mob by forbidding all discussion of slavery; whereupon the students withdrew en masse.  A few returned, while the seceders laid the foundations of Oberlin College.’’

Dr. BEECHER in person was short, and sub-stantially built, his complexion was florid and he had such a genial, fatherly expression and withal was so very odd one could not but smile on meeting him.  He was proverbially absent-minded, cared nothing for the little conventionalities of life; as likely as anything else when out taking tea with a parishioner to thrust his tea-spoon into the general pre-serve dish and eat direct therefrom; evidently unconscious of his breach of manners.  Like many nor so great, he never could remem-ber where he put his hat.  Topics of vital welfare to humanity seemed to fill his mind to the exclusion of thought himself, or to what people thought of him, or where he had last put his hat.  In 1846 we made his acquaintance and walking with him on Fourth street one day he described the situation at the time of the mobbing of the Philanthropist The seminary was some three miles distant and over a road most of the way up-hill, ankle-deep in clayey, sticky mud, through which the mob to get there must of necessity flounder, even without being filled as they would undoubtedly have been with Old Bourbon.  The mud was really what probably saved the theologian.  “I told the boys,’’ said he, “that they had the right of self-defense, that they could arm themselves and if the mob came they could shoot,’’ and then looking in my face and whispering with an air that was irresistibly comical, he added, ‘‘but I told them not to kill ‘em, aim low, hit ‘em  in the legs! hit ‘em in the legs!

Those who knew the road to Walnut hills in those days will remember it was largely a mere shelf cut out of the mud of the side hills whereupon omnibuses and single vehicles were often upset.  The old divine coming down one night after dark was crowded off by some careless teamsters, and went rolling down the precipice perhaps some thirty feet, and so badly hurt he could not preach for three weeks.  The stupid teamsters, attracted by his cries for help, came to the verge and peering down in the darkness hollowed, “How can we get there?” “ Easy enough,” he answered,   “come down as I did!’’

On one occasion a young minister was lamenting the dreadful increasing wickedness of mankind.  “I don’t know anything about that, young man” Replied he in his whispering tones.  “I’ve not had anything to do with running the world the last twenty-five years.  God Almighty now has it in charge.”

This good man was wont, after preaching a powerful sermon, to relax his mind from his highly wrought state of nervous excitement, sometimes by going down into his cel-lar and shoveling sand from one spot to an-other; sometimes by taking his “fiddle,” playing “Auld Lang Sync,’’ and dancing a double shuffle in his parlor.  His very eccentricities only the more endeared him to the public.  He was great every way.  On a platform of a hundred divines, his was the intellect that all felt was their master.  No American, except Benjamin Franklin, has given utterance to so many pungent, wise sentences as Lyman BEECHER.  In time power of concentrated expression he has been rarely equaled, and in his more sublime solemn outbursts he was hike a thunderbolt.

Lyman BEECHER was married thrice and had thirteen children; his seven grown sons all became Congregational clergymen, and his four daughters mostly gained literary and philanthropic distinction.  Henry WARD, his most distinguished son, was educated at Lane


Seminary; and it was on Walnut hills that his daughter, Harriet BEECHER STOWE, met the originals of the persons that figure in her novel of  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” and got filled up for that famous work, which was pub-lished on her return East.

Her maiden sister Catharine’s entire life was marred by a tragic event.  She was betrothed to Prof. FISHER, of Yale College, who lost his life in 1822, by the wreck of the packet ship Albion off the coast of Ireland, at the age of twenty-seven years.  He was a young man of extraordinary genius, thought to be akin to that of Sir Isaac Newton, and his loss was regarded as national.  In the Yale Library to-day is an exquisite bust of him in marble.  The face is very beautiful and refined.  Evidence of his masterly power was shown by the opening article (an ab-struse paper on the science of music) in the first volume of Stillman’s Journal of Science, issued in 1818.

In conversation Miss BEECHER was humor-ous, incisive and self-opinionated, but kindly.  While at the head of a female seminary she became a convert to the Graham system of diet, and practised it upon herself and pupils, whereupon some of them invited her to par-take of a good generous dinner at a restaur-ant.  It operated to a charm, converted her, and she came to the conclusion that a rich, juicy, tender, well-cooked beefsteak, with its accompaniments was no object for contempt with a hungry soul.

An anecdote of her we heard in our youth was that, on being introduced at a social gathering in Hartford to the poet Percival, she went at him in an exciting adulatory strain upon his poetry, which had then just appeared and was eliciting general admiration.  Percival, who was then a very young man, and the most, shrinking of mortals, was completely overwhelmed; he could not an-swer a word, but as soon as possible escaped from her, and then, in his low, whispering tones, inquired of a bystander, “Is not that the young lady who was engaged to Prof. FISHER?’’  “  Yes.’’  “Ah!’ rejoined he, “it is well he died.’’  No American family has so much influ-enced American thought as the BEECHERS, and none, through its genius and eccentrici-ties, has been so interesting; and it did Ohio good that she had possession of them for twenty years.  It used to be a common ex-pression forty years ago that the United States possessed two great things, viz., the American flag and the BEECHERS.

The reputed President of the Underground Railroad, LEVI COFFIN, philanthropist, was born October 28, 1798, near New Garden, North Carolina, and of Quaker parentage.  His ancestors were from Nantucket, and he was a farmer and teacher.  His sympathies were enlisted in favor of the slaves, and when a lad of but fifteen he began to aid in their escape.  In 1826 he settled in Wayne county, Indiana, kept a country store, cured pork and manufactured linseed oil.


Meanwhile his interest in the slaves continued, and he was active in the Under-ground Railroad, by which thousands of escaping slaves were aided by him on their way to Canada, including Eliza HARRIS, the heroine of  ‘‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”  In 1847 he removed to Cincinnati and opened and continued for years a store where only were sold goods produced by free labor, at the same time con-tinuing his efforts for the escape of slaves, in the war period he aided in the establishment of the Freedmen’s Bureau visited England and held meetings in the various cities and collected funds for the Freeman’s Commission.  On the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment he formally resigned his office of President of the Underground Railroad, which he had held for more than thirty years.  He died in 1877.  His “Reminiscences,” published by Robert Clarke & Co., is a highly interesting volume, from which the following narratives are de-rived in an abridged form.


Eliza HARRIS, of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’’ the slave woman who crossed the Ohio river on the drifting ice, with her child in her arms, was sheltered for several days and aided to escape by Levi COFFIN, he then re-siding at Newport, Ind.

Harriet BEECHER STOWE’S graphic descrip-tion of this woman’s experiences is almost identical with the real facts in the case.

The originals of Simeon and Rachael Halliday, the Quaker couple alluded to in her remarkable work, were Levi and Catharine COFFIN.

Eliza HARRIS’S master lived a few miles back from the Ohio river, below Ripley Ohio.  Her treatment from master and mistress was kind; but they having met with financial reverses, it was decided to sell Eliza, and she, learning of this and the probable separation of herself and child, determined to escape.  That night, with her child in her arms, she started on foot for the Ohio river.  She reached the river near daybreak and instead of finding it frozen over, it was filled with large blocks of floating ice.  Thinking it impossible to cross, she ventured to seek shelter in a house near by, where she was kindly received.

She hoped to find some way of crossing the next night, but during the day the ice became more broken and dangerous, making the river seemingly impassable.  Evening came on when her pursuers were seen approaching the house.  Made desperate through fear, she seized her infant in her arms, darted out the back door and ran toward the river, followed by her pursuers.

Fearing death less than separation from her babe, she clasped it to her bosom and sprang on the first cake of ice, and from that to another, and then to another, and so on.  Sometimes the ice would sink beneath her then she would slide her child on to the next cake, and pull herself on with her hands.  Wet to the waist, her hands benumbed with cold, she approached the Ohio shore nearly exhausted.  A man, who had been standing on the bank watching her in amazement, as-sisted her to the shore.  After recovering her strength, she was directed to a house on a hill in the outskirts of Ripley, which is that shown on page 336   of the “Ohio Historical Collection, this edition.  Here she was cared for, and after being provided with food and dry clothing, was forwarded from station to station on the Underground Railroad until she reached the home of Levi COFFIN.  Here she remained several days until she and her child, with other fugitives, were forwarded via the Greenville branch of the Under-ground Railroad to Sandusky, and from thence to Chatham, Canada West, where she finally settled, and where years after Mr. COFFIN met her.


One of the most remarkable of the cases that occurred under the Fugitive Slave law and one which aroused deep sympathy and widespread interest during part of January, 1856, was that of Margaret GARNER, the slave mother who killed her child rather than see it taken back to slavery.

She was one of a party of seventeen who, though closely pursued, had escaped to Cincinnati.  The party had separated at this point for greater safety, and Margaret with her four children and husband Robert, to-gether with Robert’s parents, Simon and Mary, had sought shelter at a house below Mill creek, the home of a free colored man named Kite, who had formerly been a slave in their neighborhood.

Kite did not consider his house a safe place for the fugitives and had gone to con-sult Levi COFFIN as to measures for their removal  along the Underground Railroad and was returning, when he found the house sur-rounded by the masters of the slaves, with officers and a posse of men.

The doors and windows were barred, but a window as soon battered down, and, although the slaves made a brave resistance, several shots being fired and slaves and offi-cers wounded, the fugitives were soon over-come and dragged from the house.  At this moment Margaret, seeing that escape was hopeless, seized a butcher-knife that lay on a table and with one stroke cut the throat of her little daughter, whom she probably loved best.  She then attempted to kill herself


and the other children, but was overpowered.  The whole party was then arrested and lodged in jail.

The trial lasted two weeks, during which time the court-room was crowded.  Colonel CHAMBERS, of Cincinnati, and Messrs. WALL & TIMMEN of Covington appeared claimants; Messrs. JOLIFFE & GETCHELL for the slaves.  The counsel for the defence proved that Margaret had been brought to Cincinnati by her owners, a number of years before, and, according to the law which liberated slaves who were brought into free States with the consent of their masters, she had been free from that time, and her children all of whom had been born since, were likewise free.  The Commissioner, however, decided that a voluntary return from a free to a slave State reattached the conditions of slavery.

A futile attempt was made to try Margaret for murder and the others as accessories, and State warrants were issued.  Lawyer JOLLIFFE pressed the motion to have them served, for said he, “The fugitives have all assured me that, they will go singing to the ga1lows rather than be returned to slavery.’’

They were finally indicted for murder, but owing to the provisions of the law of 1850 they could not be tried on that charge while in their owner’s custody.

Margaret was a bright-eyed, intelligent-looking mulatto, about twenty-two years of age.  She had a high forehead, arched eye-brows, but, the thick lips and broad nose of the African.  On the left side of her face were two sears.  When asked what caused them she said,   “White man struck me.”  That was all, but it betrays a story of cruelty and degradation and perhaps gives the key-note of her, resolve rather to die than go back to slavery.

During the trial her bearing was one of extreme sadness and despondency.  ‘‘The case seemed to stir every heart that was alive to the emotions of humanity.  The interest manifested by all classes was not so much for the legal principles involved as for the mute instincts that mould every human heart—the undying love of freedom that is planted in every breast—the resolve to die rather than to submit to a life of degradation and bond-age.”

After the trial the slaves were returned to Kentucky.

It was reported that Margaret while being transported down the Ohio river had jumped off the boat with her babe in her arms, that the deck hands rescued her, but the child was drowned.  Her subsequent fate is wrapped in obscurity.

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