Tag Archives: canals

A little Quaker love story, Part 4 (Final Installment)

The last point of interest in regards to the whole Samuel Forrer/Sarah Howard marriage situation was to explore the all the instances of name-dropping that Samuel felt was warranted in his letter to Horton Howard, Feb. 13, 1826, in which he announced, “Hey, I we got married anyway even though you told us not to, but all these other people seem to think it was a fine idea.”

The people whose approval Samuel mentioned were: M. T. Williams, Joseph Gest, and Joseph Evans. He mentioned in the letter: Rev. William Burke, Oliver Martin, and Joseph Ridgeway.

Let’s address the names in the letter one by one, shall we?

I’m going to skip M. T. Williams for now. I find his connection the most interesting, so I want to save him for last.

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First, there’s Joseph Gest. He is listed in Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati city directory as a merchant and city surveyor. There is some interesting (but uncited) information about Gest on the Cincinnati Views web site, stating that he was the city engineer from 1819-1844.

More importantly, he was a fellow Quaker. I found his family listed in Hinshaw’s Encyclopedia of Quaker Genealogy, Volume 5 (p. 907), in the Cincinnati Monthly Meeting, and to be sure it was the same family, I checked some later census records. Furthermore, there is a letter in the very collection I’m working with that is addressed to “Joseph Gest, mercht., for Sarah Howard,” at Cincinnati; the letter is from Horton Howard, from Waynesville, to his daughter, dated 11th month [Nov.] 23, 1825.

Another letter from Horton to his daughter Sarah, dated 11th of 12th month (Dec.) 1825 is also addressed to her by way of Joseph Gest. In this letter, Horton also writes: “Tell Joseph Gest I should be pleased to receive a line from him as I consider him one of thy guardians or parents in my absence…”

Gest lived on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. (I noticed that most of these individuals lived between Race and Walnut, and Fourth and Fifth. I’m not too familiar with Cincinnati real estate history, but if I had to guess, I’d bet that used to be a pretty ritzy residential area.)

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Joseph Evans was a bit more difficult for me to investigate. The 1825 directory lists him as a merchant who lived on Fourth between Vine and Race. There are several entries for men named Joseph Evans (being not such a unique name as “Joseph Gest”) in Hinshaw’s Quaker records, though there was a Quaker man named Joseph Evans in Cincinnati at the time. I expect that may have been the same one, but I can’t be sure.

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Basically, the same goes for Oliver Martin as Joseph Evans. There is an Oliver Martin who was a Quaker and living in Cincinnati in the right time frame, but I can’t be positive they are the same person. The only Oliver Martin in the 1825 directory was a merchant who lived on W. Market, between Elm and Plum, so a little further away than the others; his store was at the corner of Main and Second. Then again, the Oliver Martin from Samuel’s letter was the owner of “a genteel country tavern two miles from Cincinnati on the Hamilton road,” so may not have lived within the city limits at all and thus might not have been the same Oliver Martin from the directory.

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Whoever this Oliver Martin was, he was “a friend of Joseph Ridgeway’s son,” according to Samuel. There is no Joseph Ridgeway listed in the 1825 Cincinnati directory. There are several “Joseph Ridgeway”s and “Joseph Ridgway”s listed in the Hinshaw Quaker records.

From what I have been able to surmise, Joseph Ridgway Jr. was an Ohio politician who seems to have had something to do with the Ohio canal system – which Samuel Forrer was also affiliated, so that explains how Samuel would have known him. For instance, see the Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio, Volume 26 [year 1827], Issue 1, pg. 251. The Journal mentions that Ridgway was under the supervision of principal canal engineer David Bates, who happened to be Samuel Forrer’s supervisor as well.

And clearly, Horton Howard knew Ridgway as well, as he writes in another part of the Dec. 11, 1825, letter to Sarah from Columbus: “I make my home [at] J. Ridgway’s, who wishes to be remembered to thee…”

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Before I get to M. T. Williams, I want to say just a word or two about Rev. William Burke. I suppose Samuel includes his name simply as a matter of information, since he was the minister who married them. According to Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati city directory, Burke was a Methodist minister, and the fact that they were married by a minister is the official reason that Sarah gets into trouble with the Monthly Meeting folks. Burke lived on Vine Street between Fourth and Fifth, according to the directory. (I include this only as a matter of interest, since Samuel’s letter states that he and Sarah were married at the minister’s home.)

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And finally, without further adieu, who was M. T. Williams? We already know that he was the man at whose home Samuel first met Sarah. But Samuel seems to almost harp on him. I met Sarah at M. T. Williams’ house. M. T. Williams is my good friend. M. T. Williams threw us a wedding reception. Why all the fuss?

Well, as it happened, M. T. Williams was kind of a big deal. I had little trouble figuring out how Samuel Forrer knew him.

Micajah Terrell Williams was Cincinnati’s representative to the Ohio House of Representatives in the mid-1820s and was even Speaker of the Ohio House in 1824-25. He was one of the principal promoters of building a canal system in Ohio and when the project was finally undertaken, he was very involved with it and was appointed one of the seven Canal Commissioners in 1825. Later that year, the Canal Commissioners hired for the canal project a principal engineer and two resident engineers. One of the resident engineers was Samuel Forrer.

But how did M. T. Williams know the Howard family? After all, Sarah was staying at his home, apparently—which, by the way, was on Fifth Street between Walnut and Vine, in 1825.

I found useful clues in the following sources:

As it turned out, Micajah Williams was of Quaker descent. His family came from North Carolina—which perked my ears at first, since Horton Howard was originally from North Carolina. However, a check of Hinshaw’s Quaker Encyclopedia again showed that their families lived nowhere near each other (as in, opposite ends of the state).

But I did find that Micajah T. Williams was married in the Plainfield Monthly Meeting to Hannah Jones in 1818. Plainfield struck a chord—the Howards had belonged to that meeting at one time—during the same time frame, in fact (1815-1820). Coincidentally—well, if you consider the alphabet a coincidence—the Howard records and the Jones marriage were listed on the exact same page in Hinshaw: Volume 4, page 338. That could possibly explain how they knew each other; they had ties to the same Quaker congregation.

However it came about, clearly Horton Howard and M. T. Williams knew each other somehow, because I’m sure Horton wouldn’t let his daughter board with just anyone. And why was she staying with him anyway?

Horton’s Dec. 11, 1825, letter to Sarah, sheds even more light on these relationships. Horton writes: “Micajah is here and in good health, says he rec’d a letter from Hannah telling that you were well and that thou wast pleased with the School all of which is very satisfactory…” Evidently, Sarah was attending a school in Cincinnati and she needed a place to live while there. (I wonder what school it was? Ah, another mystery!)

Horton writes later on in the same letter: “I am doing all I can to aid the Canal Commissioners and the Commissioner of the Canal fund or rather to procure the enlargement of their powers, with I think a good prospect of success…” So it looks like Horton had some affiliation with the canal project himself. I wonder what it was? Still more mysteries.

Have I said before that the study of history is a sort of never-ending journey? One thing just leads to another and another…

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Let’s recap, shall we? Samuel Forrer met Sarah Howard about 1825 while she was staying in Cincinnati with Micajah T. Williams and family, apparently while attending school. Samuel wrote to Sarah’s father, Horton Howard, asking for his blessing, although not expecting to receive it since the Howards were Quakers and Samuel was not. Horton Howard apparently did disapprove of the match, although we don’t seem to have the letter detailing his exact response. However, Samuel and Sarah wed anyway on February 8, 1826, in Cincinnati. Samuel then wrote to his new father-in-law, telling him what they had done, but noting the approval of several of their mutual influential friends (most if not all of whom appear to have been Quaker), in hopes that Horton would eventually look favorably on the union. It appears that Horton eventually came around, since there are several later letters from Horton to Samuel and Sarah, addressing “my dear children” and signed “your affectionate father.”

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Well, I hope you have enjoyed reading about my little exploration and investigation surrounding the marriage of Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard.

I’m sure this won’t be the last you hear from me on the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection. I think I’m only about 1/3 of the way through it so far. However, I do hope not to need 5 parts the next time I want to mention it!

The material discussed here is from the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), which can be found at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. For more information on the collection, contact the library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.