Tag Archives: forrer family

Revisiting old friends in the Archives

I got to revisit some “old friends” in the Archives at work today. These were old friends from the Dayton Metro Library, but they found me at my new job as an archivist at Wright State.

They weren’t living people or current friends; not really friends at all, if I’m being honest. But in a way, they felt like friends at the time, so I consider them that, still.

I’m talking about (long-dead) people whose papers I arranged & described. People who never knew me; who might not have even liked me (or I them) if we’d known each other in real life; but whom I hold in a special regard since I handled, (to some extent) read, and lovingly organized some of their most personal thoughts, little pieces of themselves committed preserved paper, and thereby history.

The first of the day today was David W. Schaeffer (whom you can learn more about in this biographical sketch I wrote about him in July 2012). A researcher, and relative of his, came to visit us today in the Archives from the Los Angeles area. She had found my blog post about him (the one linked above) last year, and we emailed back and forth a bit. I’m not sure how much help I could be, since basically all that I knew, I had poured into the biographical sketch already. But she wanted to meet me and see what we might have at the Wright State Archives that could help her during her research trip to Ohio. We talked about a few things, and I think she told me more about David than what I told her—for instance, that his middle name was Winters. The Schaeffers and Winters families were both early settlers of Germantown, so there seems to have been some connection there. After she left WSU, I believe she was on her way to Germantown. I’m not sure if that was the plan before she stopped in to see me, but I told her she really needed to check it out before she left the area (tomorrow being her last day in Ohio, she said). If nothing else, it would be a nice drive to Germantown at this time of year… (She had already visited the Dayton Metro Library and looked at David’s papers there.)

The second “old friend” that I ran into today at work was Horton Howard (read my biographical sketch of him from Aug 2012 on this blog), an early Quaker settler of Ohio—and sometimes doctor—whose daughter Sarah was married to Dayton canal engineer Samuel Forrer; all of these people (and many others) have papers in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection at Dayton Metro Library, which I processed in 2011-2012.

Anyway. I ran into Horton while hunting around one of our storage locations for some Sanborn Maps. I did eventually find the map books, and nearby was part of our collection of rare medical books. A large book with the name “Howard” stamped on the spine caught my eye:

Howard's rare medical books at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

Howard’s rare medical books at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

And I thought, Oh that can’t be the same guy; that has to be a really common name, and I’m sure any number of “Howard”s have written medical books. Then I saw the book right next to it—about botanic medicine—and, recognizing it was a subject that Horton had in fact studied and written about, I pulled it off the shelf to look.

Sure enough, the title page said Horton Howard:

Horton Howard's Botanic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

Horton Howard’s Botanic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

So I checked the other one. Yep, Horton Howard:

Horton Howard's Domestic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

Horton Howard’s Domestic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

The publication dates through me for just a minute, knowing as I did that Horton died during the 1833 cholera epidemic in Columbus (as did his wife, a daughter, a son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren). But it turned out these were just reprints. One of them (I forget which one, sorry!) was like the seventh printing since 1832.

Now, I wasn’t QUITE as giddy about these finds as I might have been, since I had found the full text of the botanic medicine book online already and gleaned what I wanted to from it—-mostly from the fantastic preface that gives tons of info [block-quotes in the blog post] about Horton’s early life and medical knowledge (most of which was self-taught). But it was still pretty darn cool to see real life, 3-D copies of the works, complete with old school leather covers (which were in much better condition than I would have expected for 150+ year old books), hold them in my hands, and, I don’t know…..just remember good old Horton.

Just as an aside… I could visit Horton Howard and his family in one collection at the Wright State Archives anytime, but I already knew about that so it wasn’t a surprise: There are a few letters from Horton, his daughters Sarah and Mary, and a few other related people, in the Dustin/Dana Papers (MS-207). I have so far refused myself the indulgence of sitting down with them and just reading them all (even though there are only 10- just goes to show how busy I am)…but maybe one of these days! I’ve read so many pieces of that family’s story; it’s like found treasure when I stumble across pieces I didn’t even know where “missing” and are now found…

So, that’s my story for today. Hope you enjoyed it. Just goes to show, you never know when history will find you.

Bio Sketch: Luther B. Bruen (1822-1864), Dayton lawyer & Civil War casualty, & Augusta (Forrer) Bruen (1833-1907) & family

Augusta Forrer was born April 5, 1833, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel Forrer (1793-1874) and Sarah Howard (1807-1887).[1]

On December 8, 1853, in Dayton, Augusta married Luther Barnett Bruen, one of the proprietors of the Cincinnati Gazette and later Dayton lawyer. Luther was born September 14, 1822, in Dayton, Ohio, the son of Luther Bruen and Susan Barnett.[2]

Augusta (Forrer) Bruen, undated

Augusta (Forrer) Bruen, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 33, Folder 9)

.

Luther B. Bruen, undated (Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File, photo #1766)

Luther B. Bruen, undated (Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File, photo #1766)

Shortly after the Civil War broke out, Luther enlisted with the regular army, accepting a commission as a Major with the 12th United States Infantry. He was first stationed at Fort Hamilton, near the harbor in New York City, where he was in charge of recruiting for his regiment.[3]

In January 1864, Luther was sent to the battle front with the Army of the Potomac. On May 13, 1864, he was wounded during the Battle of the Wilderness near Laurel Hill, Virginia, receiving a shell fragment in his knee. He was transferred to Douglas Hospital in Washington, DC, where after 10 days, his leg was amputated above the knee. He survived about three weeks longer and then died at the hospital on June 21, 1864, with his wife by his side; he was 41 years old. He was buried June 28, 1864, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[4]

[For more on Luther’s Civil War service, see “A Tale of Two Howards,” especially Part 9, here on my blog.]

Augusta and her children stayed with her parents for much of the time that Luther was in the army, and they stayed for many years after Luther died. Augusta eventually moved to Bristol, Connecticut, where her son Frank lived.[5]

Shortly after Augusta’s death, a family friend wrote to the family: “Augusta said to me once – that she hoped her husband would wait for her but that she sometimes feared he would progress so far ahead of her that she should never reach him.”[6]

Augusta (Forre) Bruen, late in life

Augusta (Forrer) Bruen, late in life (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 33, Folder 9)

After 43 years as a widow, Augusta (Forrer) Bruen died October 18, 1907, at her home in Bristol, Connecticut, after several months’ illness; she was 74 years old. She was buried on October 21, 1907, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[7]

Bruen family plot, Woodland Cemetery, Section 102

Bruen family plot, Woodland Cemetery, Section 102 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

Luther B. Bruen and Augusta (Forrer) Bruen had four children:

  1. Sarah Howard Bruen (1854-1951);
  2. Frank Bruen (1857-1945);
  3. Robert L. Bruen (1859-1932); and
  4. Mary Howard Bruen (1863-1936).

Sarah Howard Bruen, usually called “Sella,” was born on September 1, 1854, in Dayton, Ohio. On May 29, 1878, in Dayton, she married Frederic Willets Wright, Sr. (1851-1915) of Springboro, Ohio. They later lived in Long Island and Baltimore. They had five children: Sarah Bruen Wright (1879-?), who married Singleton Burdette Mitchill (1881-1938); Kathleen Wright (1882-1966); Alice Wright (1883-1971); Mary Willets Wright (1888-1962), who married Nicholas Bosley Merryman, II (1886-1939); and Frederic Willets Wright, Jr. (1890-?), who married Mary Ogden Harvey (1901-?). Sella (Bruen) Wright died April 23, 1951, probably near Baltimore, Maryland.[8]

Frank Bruen was born February 23, 1857, in Dayton, Ohio. He graduated from Cornell University in 1878 with a civil engineering degree, and he was a cost engineer in Bristol, Connecticut. He never married. Frank Bruen died on October 18, 1945, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery, in Dayton.[9]

Robert L. Bruen was born April 8, 1859, in Dayton, Ohio. He was a special insurance adjuster. On October 15, 1885, in Larimore, North Dakota, he married Amelia Russell Sawhill (1868-1938). They had two children: Kathleen M. Bruen (1887-1894) and Robert Luther Bruen (1889-1894). Robert L. Bruen died December 11, 1932, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery, in Dayton.[10]

Mary Howard Bruen was born June 26, 1863, in Dayton, Ohio. Her father did not even meet her until she was over six months old, and he died a few months after that. As a young woman, Mary often accompanied her cousin Howard Forrer Peirce as vocalist while he played the piano. She never married. Mary Bruen died March 11, 1926, at Bristol, Connecticut, and was buried in Woodland Cemetery, in Dayton.[11]

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 129. See also FPW, Series I: Samuel Forrer Family.

[2] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129, 132; 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry Library Edition.

[3] U.S. Civil War Soldiers and Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Luther Bruen to Samuel Forrer, 27 Aug. 1862, FPW, 33:10; Sarah Forrer to her daughters Mary Forrer and Augusta Bruen, [several letters in 1862], FPW, 4:5; “Major Luther B. Bruen: Death of a Gallant Officer” (obituary), Dayton Journal, 23 June 1864, reprinted in Bruen, Christian Forrer, 132-133.

[4] “Major Luther B. Bruen: Death of a Gallant Officer” (obituary); U.S. Civil War Soldiers and Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Luther is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.

[5] 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry Library Edition; 1880 U.S. Federal Census, Ancestry Library Edition; [Various letters], FPW.

[6] Laura Vail Morgan to Sarah H. Peirce, 7 Nov. 1907, FPW, 17:10.

[7] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129-130; “Sister of Mrs. J. H. Peirce Dies in Bristol” (obituary), Dayton Herald, 19 Oct. 1907, reprinted in Bruen, Christian Forrer, 130; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Augusta is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348, near her parents.

[8] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 133-137; Sherwood Episcopal Church Cemetery (Cockeysville, MD) interment records, Find A Grave, accessed 28 Feb. 2012, http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gsr&GScid=1963094.

[9] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org.

[10] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136;

[11] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136; Sarah Forrer’s diary, [Dec. 1863] and 14 Feb. 1864, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4; Various letters from Howard F. Peirce to his family, FPW, 24:7, 25:3, 25:6; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org.

Bio Sketch: Mary (Forrer) Peirce (1838-1929), artist in Dayton, Ohio

Mary Forrer was born August 24, 1838, in Dayton, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel Forrer (1793-1874) and Sarah Howard (1807-1887).[1]

As a child, Mary showed an interest in and aptitude for drawing, a talent she had at least partially inherited from her mother. Her mother was probably her first drawing teacher. She also received some tutoring in botany and the drawing of plants from John W. Van Cleve. From girlhood onwards, her artwork often featured nature, flowers, still life, and landscapes.[2]

Mary Forrer, undated

Mary Forrer, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

As a young woman, Mary studied at Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton, where she had a most talented art teacher, Clara Soule (later Medlar), daughter of a well-known portrait painter, Charles Soule. Clara, also an accomplished portrait painter, taught Mary much about painting.[3]

In July 1862, Mary traveled to New York City again, to Fort Hamilton. Her brother-in-law Luther Bruen, husband of her sister Augusta, was stationed there with the 12th U.S. Infantry. While in New York City, she attended the Cooper Institute (now called Cooper Union), where she studied, for the most part, landscape painting and water color techniques.[4] Mary continued her studies at the Cooper Institute until at least November 1862, before returning to Dayton sometime prior to 1864.[5]

Mary Forrer, 1863

Mary Forrer, 1863 (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

By 1864, Mary had begun teaching at the Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton.[6] She taught at the school for a few years, and then afterwards, she taught private lessons in drawing and painting in her home for a few more years.[7]

From June 1874 through August 1875, Mary studied in Europe, visiting many of the famous European art galleries and receiving instruction from teachers in several different cities. She studied at least two months in the British Isles, mainly in London. She spent two months in Geneva, Switzerland. She studied for four months in Germany, primarily in Munich. There, she studied with a man who had been artist for the German Emperor, and this experience has been credited as most helpful to her career. She spent another four months in Italy, studying at Naples, Florence, Rome, and Venice. She also visited at least briefly the cities of Paris, Oxford, and Berlin.[8]

After Mary returned from Europe, she returned to teaching at Cooper Academy (as it was then called). She primarily taught drawing, but she also sometimes taught wax-flower making and other art subjects. Her work as a teacher required her to cover many types of art, rather than focusing on her own favorite subjects and mediums. She remained as a teacher at the school until about 1882.[9]

On October 5, 1882, Mary married Jeremiah H. Peirce (1818-1889), the widower of her sister Elizabeth, apparently despite her mother Sarah’s objections. At the time of their marriage, Mary was 44, and Jeremiah was 64; they had no children.[10]

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, undated

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

After her marriage, Mary was able to return her attention to painting primarily flowers and landscapes. She no longer worked at Cooper Academy, although she still taught students at her home occasionally. Her new home, her husband’s Five Oaks estate nestled in Peirce’s woods with a pond and trees and flowers all around, provided many beautiful subjects for Mary’s artwork.[11]

Over the course of her life, Mary exhibited her artwork many times and won several awards, including many at the Ohio State Fair in the 1860s and Cincinnati exhibitions in the 1860s and 1870s. She exhibited less after her marriage but continued creating artwork until about a year before her death.[12]

A few of Mary’s watercolor paintings are included in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.[13]

'Eglon, West Virginia, July 1901' watercolor painting by Mary (Forrer) Peirce

‘Eglon, West Virginia, July 1901’ watercolor painting by Mary (Forrer) Peirce (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 11)

The Dayton Art Institute has also preserved some of her artwork.[14]

Mary, along with her nieces Sarah and Elizabeth Peirce, were among the founding members of the First Unitarian Church of Dayton, founded in 1910 and located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Five Oaks Avenue. During the 1913 Flood, when the church was unable to use its temporary meeting place on West Fourth Street, the Peirce family offered the use of their home at Five Oaks. The family also donated to the church a stained glass window dedicated to the memory of Howard Forrer Peirce.[15]

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, late in life

Mary (Forrer) Peirce, late in life (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 13, Folder 20)

Mary (Forrer) Peirce died September 2, 1929, at her home Five Oaks in Dayton, Ohio; she was 91 years old.[16] She was buried on September 5, 1929, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio, near her parents.[17]

Tombstone of Mary (Forrer) Peirce in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102

Tombstone of Mary (Forrer) Peirce in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 136; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. See also FPW, Series I: Samuel Forrer Family.

[2] “Mary Forrer Peirce: An Artist Who is Yet Busy with Brush and Palette Though Near Her 80th Year,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, in Mary Forrer Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 13:18, and also quoted in Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 137; “High Interest in Art Affairs Began Long Ago,” Dayton Journal, 13 Feb. 1927, in Mary (Forrer) Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 13:18; Mary Sayre Haverstock, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, & Brian L. Meggitt, eds., Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000), 301.

[3] “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18.

[4] Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 28 July 1862, FPW, 11:7; Harvey W. Crew, History of Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1889), 565; Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 301; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 140; “Cooper Union: History,” Cooper Union web site, accessed 10 Jan. 2012, http://cooper.edu/about/history.

All of the published sources consulted (see above paragraph) state that Mary attended the Cooper Institute in 1860 and returned to Dayton in 1861. However, according to her correspondence (see Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 1860-1861, FPW, 11:6), she was not in New York at that time but wrote to her mother from various cities in Ohio. In the July 28, 1862, letter, Mary writes to her mother about arriving in New York and inquiring about her lessons at “the Institute.”

[5] Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 15 Nov. 1862, FPW, 11:7; Howard Forrer to Elizabeth Peirce, 29 Sept. 1861, FPW, 6:8. Howard sent an advertisement for Cooper Union to his sister to give to their mother and states that he “will visit the Institute and find out what we can about it” while he is in New York.

There is no correspondence between Mary and Sarah for the year 1863, which may indicate that she had already returned to Dayton. The collection does include letters from 1864 (see FPW, 11:8), but they are not written from New York. Furthermore, Mary is listed in the 1864-65 Dayton city directory as a teacher at Cooper Female Seminary in Dayton.

[6] Dayton City Directory, 1864; Crew, History of Dayton, 565.

Note: The Cooper Female Seminary was known by several different names over the years, including: Cooper Female Seminary, Cooper Seminary, Cooper Academy for Young Ladies, Cooper Female Academy, and simply Cooper Academy. All of these terms refer to the same school, which was located on the southwest corner of First and Wilkinson (source: Dayton City Directories).

[7] Crew, History of Dayton, 565.

[8] Mary Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 1874-1875 (several letters), FPW, 11:10-12; “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18; Crew, History of Dayton, 565.

[9] Dayton City Directories, 1877-1879; Crew, History of Dayton, 565-566; “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18; Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 301.

[10] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136, 138-140; Sarah Forrer to Jeremiah H. Peirce, 2 Sept. 1877, FPW, 4:9; Jeremiah H. Peirce to Sarah Forrer, undated, FPW, 4:9. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 1: Jeremiah Hunt Peirce.

[11] “Mary Forrer Peirce,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, FPW, 13:18; Crew, History of Dayton, 566; Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 301-302.

[12] Haverstock, Vance, & Meggitt, Artists in Ohio, 302; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 140; Mary (Forrer) Peirce: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 13:18.

[13] Mary (Forrer) Peirce: Watercolor Paintings, FPW, 13:11.

[14] Dayton Art Institute Bulletin 35, no. 1 (Sept. 1976): 31.

[15] Finding Aid, First Unitarian Church of Dayton Church Records (MS-230), Wright State University Special Collections & Archives (Dayton, Ohio), accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/collection_guides/guide_files/ms230.pdf; Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church web site, accessed 18 Jan. 2012, http://www.mvuuf.org.

[16] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136.

[17] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Mary is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.

Bio Sketch: Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce (1827-1874), wife of J. H. Peirce

Elizabeth Hannah Forrer, sometimes called “Lib,” was born February 28, 1827, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the daughter of Samuel Forrer (1793-1874) and Sarah Howard (1807-1887).[1] The only child of Samuel and Sarah known to have two given names, Elizabeth Hannah Forrer seems to have been named after her two grandmothers, Elizabeth (Neidig) Forrer and Hannah (Hastings) Howard.[2]

On June 9, 1846, in Dayton, Elizabeth Hannah Forrer married Jeremiah Hunt Peirce (1818-1889), son of Joseph Peirce and Henrietta Eliza Elliot.[3]

For several years, the J. H. Peirce family resided on Ludlow Street between First and Water (Monument). In the mid-1850s, the family moved to their new home in Harrison Township, Five Oaks. [For more on Five Oaks, see this 12/11/2011 blog post.] Elizabeth lived there until her death.[4]

Jeremiah and Elizabeth had eight children, all of whom were born in Dayton, Ohio:

  1. Samuel Forrer Peirce was born Apr. 24, 1847, and died Jan. 27, 1855.[5]
  2. Henrietta Elliot Peirce was born Nov. 21, 1848, and died Apr. 21, 1919; she married H. Eugene Parrott.[6]
  3. Edward Davies Peirce was born Sept. 19, 1850, and died June 14, 1868.[7]
  4. Sarah Howard Peirce was born Apr. 28, 1853, and died Apr. 9, 1930.[8]
  5. Mary Forrer Peirce, usually called “Mellie,” was born Jan. 1, 1855, and died July 23, 1892.[9]
  6. Elizabeth Forrer Peirce, often called “Bess,” was born Sept. 5, 1857, and died Nov. 19, 1930.[10]
  7. John Elliot Peirce, usually called “Elliot,” was born Apr. 17, 1861, and died June 6, 1940.[11]
  8. Howard Forrer Peirce was born May 4, 1865, and died Apr. 19, 1899.[12]
Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce (maybe)

The woman crouching behind Howard Forrer Peirce in this undated (ca. 1868-1870) photo is believed to be his mother Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce. (Dayton Metro Library, Local History Collection, Oversize Photo # 1924)

Elizabeth was “intellectual and highly cultivated,” with great “strength of character.”[13] She, like her husband, was a member of the Montgomery County Horticultural Society, and she was “more successful than most in the cultivation of flowers.” She kept the parlor at Five Oaks decorated with plants and flowers, even in winter.[14]

On the evening of January 14, 1874, the family attended a concert, and upon returning from it, Elizabeth was quite cheerful and appeared to be in good health. The following morning, she awoke with “intense and agonizing” head pain, like “the brain on fire.” She spent much of the day on January 15 in torturous anguish, until she eventually lost consciousness. Shortly after 1 a.m. on January 16, 1874, Elizabeth died at home at Five Oaks in Dayton, Ohio; she was 46 years old.[15] She was buried on January 19, 1874, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[16]

Peirce family plot in Woodland Cemetery, Section 77

Peirce family plot in Woodland Cemetery, Section 77 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Hannah Howard to Horton Howard, 25 Feb. 1827 and 4 Mar. 1827, FPW, 34:21; Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 106; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. See also FPW, Series I: Samuel Forrer Family.

Although Frank Bruen states that Elizabeth was born in Dayton, Ohio, other evidence suggests that Elizabeth was born in Cincinnati. The Woodland Interment Database indicates Elizabeth’s place of birth as Cincinnati. An even more reliable source in the form of a letter from Sarah’s mother to her father indicates Cincinnati as the birthplace as well: Hannah Howard wrote in a letter commenced at Cincinnati on 25 Feb. 1827 and continued on 4 Mar. 1827, describing that Sarah was “taken poorly” and a few days later was delivered of “a fine daughter” (FPW 34:21).

[2] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12.

[3] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 105-106; John F. Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton and Vicinity, 1796-1840 (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1896), 116. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 1: Jeremiah Hunt Peirce; FPW, Series III, Subseries 3: Joseph Peirce Family; and FPW, Series III, Subseries 4: Elliot Family.

[4] Dayton City Directories; Lisa P. Rickey, “Five Oaks,” Glancing Backwards (blog), 22 Dec. 2011, https://lisarickey.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/five-oaks/.

[5] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 106; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 116.

[6] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 106-122; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 116. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 10: Henrietta Elliot (Peirce) Parrott & Family.

[7] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 4: Edward Davies Peirce.

[8] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 122-123. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 5: Sarah Howard Peirce.

[9] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 123. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 6: Mary “Mellie” Forrer Peirce.

[10] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 123-124. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 7: Elizabeth “Bess” Forrer Peirce.

[11] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 124-126; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 9: John Elliot Peirce, Sr., & Family.

[12] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 126-129. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 8: Howard Forrer Peirce.

[13] “Mrs. Elizabeth [H.] Peirce,” undated, Dayton Daily Journal, in Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce: Obituaries, FPW, 11:3.

[14] “Proceedings of the Montgomery County Horticultural Society, Saturday, February 7th, 1874,” undated, Dayton Daily Journal, in Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce: Obituaries, FPW, 11:3.

[15] J. H. Peirce to Dr. Thomas, 20 Jan. 1874, FPW, 8:12; “Death of Mrs. J. H. Peirce,” Dayton Daily Journal, undated, in Elizabeth H. (Forrer) Peirce: Obituaries, FPW, 11:3.

[16] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Elizabeth is buried in Section 77, Lot 24.

Bio Sketch: Howard Forrer (1841-1864), 63rd O.V.I. Civil War

Howard Forrer was born on November 11, 1841, in Dayton, Ohio, the youngest child (and only son, by the time of his birth) of Samuel Forrer (1793-1874) and Sarah Howard (1807-1887).[1]

Howard Forrer, undated

Howard Forrer, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 6, Folder 16)

Howard graduated in 1858 from Central High School in Dayton.[2] He was “an excellent scholar, and was always at the head of his classes, beloved by his teachers, and respected and honored by his classmates.”[3]

Although his career plan was to become a civil engineer (like his father), Howard accepted a position as an assistant teacher at the Second District School, which was located on Perry Street between First and Second, a couple of blocks from the Forrer family’s home at the southeast corner of First and Ludlow. Howard held this position from about 1860 until he joined the army in 1862.[4]

Howard Forrer, undated

Howard Forrer, undated (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 6, Folder 16)

Apparently beginning in the late spring of 1862, Howard began participating in recruitment efforts for the 112th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, in which he enlisted. In August, he was commissioned as a First Lieutenant in the 112th and went with the “Squirrel Hunters” to Kentucky during Kirby Smith’s invasion.[5]

In November 1862, the 112th regiment, which had not been filled, was consolidated with the 63rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment. At that time, Howard was appointed Adjutant of the 63rd Ohio and served in that capacity thenceforth until July 1864.[6]

Howard Forrer in his Civil War uniform

Howard Forrer in his Civil War uniform

In May of 1864, the 63rd Ohio was assigned to Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign. During the Battle of Atlanta, fought at Decatur, Georgia, on July 22, 1864, Howard was fatally shot in the neck and died almost instantly; he was 22 years old. [Howard died 148 years ago today.] Due to the ongoing battle, his body was not able to be recovered immediately. When his regiment returned the following day to retrieve his body, they found that he had already been buried by the locals near the spot where he had fallen, about 150-175 yards southwest of the county courthouse on the property of Benjamin F. Swanton.[7]

After receiving the horrific news of the death of his only son, Samuel Forrer began efforts to retrieve Howard’s body from Georgia. Due to the ongoing war and the condition of the roads in Georgia, this was not possible for more than a year after Howard’s death. In September 1865, Samuel finally received special permission from Major General George H. Thomas to disinter Howard’s body and have it brought to Dayton, provided this was done after October 15, and that the body be shipped in a metallic coffin.[8]

[For more on Howard’s Civil War service, see “A Tale of Two Howards” here on my blog.]

The remains of Howard Forrer finally returned to Dayton on November 13, 1865. He was buried on November 14, 1865, in Woodland Cemetery, in Dayton, Ohio.[9]

Howard Forrer's grave in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102

Howard Forrer’s grave in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 140. See also FPW, Series I: Samuel Forrer Family.

[2] Brief History of the Alumni of Central High School, Dayton, Ohio (Dayton, OH: Alumni Association of Central High School, 1887), vol. 1, 16.

[3] “Death of Adjutant Howard Forrer,” Dayton Daily Journal, 2 Aug. 1864, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[4] “Death of Adjutant Howard Forrer,” FPW, 6:15; Dayton City Directories, 1860-1863.

[5] “Death of Adjutant Howard Forrer,” FPW, 6:15; Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer to her daughters Mary FORRER (later Peirce) and Augusta (FORRER) Bruen, at Fort Hamilton, New York, 1862 (several letters), FPW, 4:5; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition.

[6] “Death of Adjutant Howard Forrer,” FPW, 6:15; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; “112th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry,” Ohio Civil War Central, accessed 19 Sept. 2011, http://ohiocivilwarcentral.com/entry.php?rec=580.

[7] “63rd Ohio Infantry,” Wikipedia, accessed 19 Sept. 2011, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/63rd_Ohio_Infantry; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 38, Part 3 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 516-517; “Death of Adjutant Howard Forrer,” 1864, FPW, 6:15; Maps showing the location of the burial place of Howard Forrer, Howard Forrer: Documents concerning Army Career and Death, FPW, 6:12.

[8] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, Howard Forrer: Documents concerning Army Career and Death, FPW, 6:12; J. G. Parkhurst to Samuel Forrer, 25 Sept. 1865, Howard Forrer: Documents concerning Army Career and Death, FPW, 6:12.

[9] “The Lamented Howard Forrer,” Dayton Daily Journal, 14 Nov. 1865; Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Howard is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.

Bio Sketch: Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer (1807-1887), wife of Samuel Forrer

Sarah Hastings Howard was born December 27, 1807, in Belmont County, Ohio, the eldest child of Horton Howard (1770-1833) and his third wife Hannah Hastings (1774-1833).[1] Sarah was born near the Quaker community of Concord (present-day Colerain, in Belmont County), of which her father was one of the founding members when it was established in 1800. Sarah appears to have been named after her maternal grandmother, Sarah Hastings.[2]

Sarah’s earliest formal education took place in a log cabin schoolhouse with a teacher whom her father had brought across the Ohio River from Wheeling to Concord.[3]

Sarah lived with her parents and family in Belmont County until 1820, when the Howards moved to Delaware, Ohio, when her father was appointed an agent at the federal land office there.[4]

Sarah H. Howard as a young woman

Sarah H. Howard as a young woman (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 6, Folder 6)

In the fall of 1825, Sarah’s father sent her to Cincinnati to attend school.[5] In addition to her other studies, her father particularly wished Sarah to learn “the art of painting or shading maps,” a useful skill to have in the family, since as a federal land agent, Horton was involved with surveying and mapmaking.[6]

Sarah was certainly artistic, being skilled in drawing and painting; that much is evident.[7] However, she may have been denied the opportunity to explore her talents for purely artistic or leisurely interests. One source claims:

This talented pioneer woman…was never permitted to indulge her talent for painting when she was at home because she was the daughter of a Quaker family, where sketching, drawing and painting were all regarded as frivolous and worldly; vain things to be shunned and despised.[8]

In addition to her artistic abilities, Sarah also had been “gifted with rare refinement, intelligence, and beauty of person and character.”[9] Apparently, she was even known as “the Quaker Beauty.”[10]

While studying in Cincinnati, Sarah spent time at the homes of family friends, including Micajah T. Williams, a canal commissioner and member of the Society of Friends who apparently knew Sarah’s father. Through their mutual acquaintance with Williams, Sarah met her future husband, canal engineer Samuel Forrer (1793-1874).[11]

After an apparently brief courtship, Samuel and Sarah were married on the evening of February 8, 1826, at the home of Rev. William Burke in Cincinnati. Evidently, the two entered into this marriage without the consent of Sarah’s parents, who were members of the Society of Friends, which strongly disapproves of members marrying non-Quakers. (Sarah was formally reprimanded at her monthly meeting on May 3, 1827, for “marrying contrary to discipline,” perhaps because Sarah and Samuel were married by a minister, bypassing the usual Quaker marriage rites.) Sarah’s parents seem to have accepted the marriage eventually, however, as ordinary family correspondence and contact continued afterwards.[12]

[For more on Sarah and Samuel’s courtship/marriage, check out the series “A Little Quaker Love Story” here on my blog.]

Samuel and Sarah had six children:

  1. Elizabeth Hannah Forrer was born Feb. 28, 1827, and died Jan. 16, 1874; she married Jeremiah H. Peirce.[13]
  2. Edward was born Aug. 30, 1830, and died Dec. 28, 1838.[14]
  3. Augusta was born Apr. 5, 1833, and died Oct. 18, 1907; she married Luther B. Bruen.[15]
  4. Ann was born June 28, 1835, and died Jan. 11, 1837.[16]
  5. Mary was born Aug. 24, 1838, and died Sept. 2, 1929; she also married Jeremiah H. Peirce.[17]
  6. Howard was born Nov. 11, 1841, and died July 22, 1864.[18]

As was common for women of that time, Sarah had “no particular occupation” outside the home.[19] Instead she “devoted herself to domestic life, the training of her children, and the tasteful adornment of her house and grounds.”[20]

The Forrer family resided at the southeast corner of First and Ludlow Streets in Dayton until 1864, when they moved into a newly built home on a parcel of land adjacent to the property of their son-in-law Jeremiah H. Peirce in Harrison Township just west of present-day Forest Avenue.[21]

Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer later in life

Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer later in life (Dayton Metro Library, FPW, Box 6, Folder 7)

Sarah was a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers). As a child, she and her family were members of the Concord Monthly Meeting (1807-1815) and Plainfield Monthly Meeting (1815-1820), both in Belmont County, Ohio. When the family moved to central Ohio, they transferred to the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting (1820). In May 1827, Sarah was formally reprimanded for marrying contrary to discipline, but she apparently admitted misbehavior and remained in good standing. In March 1835, Sarah transferred from the Alum Creek Monthly Meeting to the Springboro Monthly Meeting.[22] It is unclear whether Sarah continued to follow the religion, and there appear to be no Quaker membership records for any of her children.[23] However, her death was noted in the Friends’ Intelligencer and Journal, and in her will she requested that her funeral be conducted in the way of the Friends.[24]

Sarah (Howard) Forrer died December 11, 1887, in Dayton, Ohio, at the age of 79.[25] She was buried next to her husband Samuel on December 12, 1887, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[26]

Tombstone of Sarah (Howard) Forrer and Samuel Forrer, Woodland Cemetery, Section 102

Tombstone of Sarah (Howard) Forrer and Samuel Forrer, Woodland Cemetery, Section 102 (Photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] See also FPW, Series III, Subseries 2: Howard Family.

[2] Forrer Genealogical Data, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 7:12, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Howard Genealogical Information, FPW, 36:20; William W. Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, vol. 4 (Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers, 1946), 150; John A. Caldwell, History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio (Evansville, IN: Unigraphic, 1976), 186.

[3] Frances Isabel Parrott, “Sons and Mothers” (short story), FPW, 32:4, 3.

[4] Horton Howard to Thomas Rotch, 16 Dec. 1819 and 28 Apr. 1820, Thomas and Charity Rotch Papers, Massillon Public Library, Massillon, Ohio, accessed 29 Dec. 2011, http://www.massillonmemory.org; “Horton Howard,” Quakerpedia, last modified 29 Aug. 2007, http://www.quakerpedia.org/index.php?title=Horton_Howard; Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, vol. 4, 338, 1166.

[5] Research in the early Cincinnati City Directories indicates that Sarah likely attended either Locke’s Cincinnati Female Academy or Pickett’s Cincinnati Female College.

[6] Horton Howard to Sarah Howard, 23 Nov. 1825, FPW, 34:13.

[7] Examples of her artwork can be found in FPW 6:2.

[8] “Mary Forrer Peirce: An Artist Who is Yet Busy with Brush and Palette Though Near Her 80th Year,” Dayton Daily News, 24 Dec. 1916, quoted in Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 137.

[9] Death notice of Sarah Forrer, Friends’ Intelligencer and Journal, 21 Jan. 1888, p. 41, in Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer: Obituaries, FPW 6:5.

[10] “Old Journal Cites Civil War Occurrences in City,” in Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer: Newspaper Clippings, FPW, 6:6; Frances Isabel Parrott, “Sons and Mothers” (short story), FPW, 32:4, 1-2.

[11] Samuel Forrer to Horton Howard, undated [circa 1825/1826] and 13 Feb. 1826, FPW, 1:12; Horton Howard to Sarah Howard, 23 Nov. 1825 and 11 Dec. 1825, FPW, 34:13. See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 1: Samuel Forrer.

[12] For more information, see: Samuel Forrer to his father-in-law Horton Howard, 1826 (FPW 1:12), and Horton Howard to his son-in-law Samuel FORRER and his daughter Sarah H. (HOWARD) Forrer, 1823-1833 (FPW 34:13); Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, 4:1166.

[13] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 105. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 2: Elizabeth Hannah (Forrer) Peirce, and in general, Series II: Jeremiah H. Peirce Family.

[14] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129. See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 4: Other Forrer Family Members.

[15] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129. See also FPW, Series III, Subseries 1: Bruen Family.

[16] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136.

[17] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Mary (FORRER) Peirce: Will and Estate Documents, FPW, 13:19; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 3: Mary (Forrer) Peirce.

[18] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 140. See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 3: Howard Forrer.

[19] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12.

[20] Death notice of Sarah Forrer, Friends’ Intelligencer and Journal, 21 Jan. 1888, p. 41; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 105.

[21] Dayton City Directories, 1850-1889; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 94a, 96a.

A sketch of the Forrers’ home at First and Ludlow can be seen in Bruen (p. 96a); the site is now a parking lot adjacent to the Christ Episcopal Church. A photograph of the Forrers’ 1864 home can be seen in Bruen (p. 94a); this house was located just west of present-day Forest Avenue, a little north of Grand Avenue, near where the Grandview Medical Center now stands.

[22] Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, vol. 4, 150, 338, 1159, 1166; Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, vol. 5, 969.

[23] William W. Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy, 7 vols. (Ann Arbor, MI: Edwards Brothers, 1936-1975).

[24] Death notice of Sarah Forrer, Friends’ Intelligencer and Journal, 21 Jan. 1888, p. 41; Will of Sarah Forrer, FPW, 6:4.

[25] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 105.

[26] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Sarah is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.

Bio Sketch: Samuel Forrer (1793-1874), Miami-Erie Canal engineer

Samuel Forrer was born January 6, 1793, on his father’s farm in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania (near Harrisburg), the eldest surviving son of J. Christian Forrer (1765-1828) and Elizabeth Neidig (1770-1853).[1]

Samuel Forrer (1793-1874)

Samuel Forrer (1793-1874) (Dayton Metro Library, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, 3:10)

When Samuel was three years old, his father sold the farm in Pennsylvania and moved the family to a 700-acre farm in Luray, Page County, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. This farm had a flour mill, tannery, and blacksmith shop, and using his father’s many various tools, Samuel demonstrated a natural inclination towards and aptitude for mechanical pursuits and mill-work from a young age. As a young man, Samuel aspired to become a millwright but could not convince his parents to allow him to become an apprentice. In addition to working on his father’s farm, Samuel received a typical country school education. One of Samuel’s last teachers, Mr. Moderitt, had knowledge of plane trigonometry and basic surveying, which he shared with interested students, including 16-year-old Samuel.[2]

In 1814, at the age of 21, Samuel visited Ohio for the first time but returned to his father’s home in Virginia soon afterward.[3]

In 1817, Samuel returned to Ohio to stay, traveling down river from Pittsburgh on a skiff, and settling first at Cincinnati. It had initially been his intention to apply for a position with the surveyor of public lands, but finding on his first day in town that there were many applicants for those positions, he abandoned the idea and on the second day found employment as a journeyman carpenter, boarding at the home of his employer.[4]

In the evenings, Samuel studied mathematics through a night school in the city. The county surveyor, who was a frequent visitor to the house, had noticed these efforts and inquired of Samuel’s employer about his habits and character.[5] Apparently receiving positive answers to his inquiries, he offered Samuel a position as deputy surveyor of Hamilton County, pending the completion of a satisfactory survey. Samuel gladly accepted the offer, completed the survey, and was confirmed in the position.[6]

In 1818 and 1819, Samuel was also deputy surveyor, under principal surveyor Robert C. Anderson, of the Virginia Military District of Ohio, surveying the areas north of Greenville.[7]

In 1820, William Steele hired Samuel to examine the summit between the Scioto and Sandusky rivers, to determine whether Lake Erie and the Ohio River might be connected by means of a canal. This was Samuel’s first canal-related civil engineering job.[8]

The results of Steele’s survey were forwarded to the Ohio General Assembly, which had requested information pertaining to potential canals in Ohio. In January 1822, the Assembly authorized formation of a Board of Canal Commissioners, which had authority to employ surveyors who would examine several potential routes for a canal connecting the Ohio River and Lake Erie.[9]

There were few civil engineers in Ohio in those days. The Canal Commissioners appointed nationally prominent civil engineer James Geddes, who had been instrumental in the construction of the Erie Canal in New York, as Chief Engineer, with Isaac Jerome as Assistant Engineer.[10]

Samuel had been working outside Ohio for about a year when the Ohio canal surveying project got underway. However, Ohio governor Ethan A. Brown encouraged Samuel to return and to seek any engineering position he could get on the Ohio canal project. As there was no other opening, Samuel accepted a position as a junior rodman. However, Samuel soon advanced, first to senior rodman, then to Assistant Engineer following the resignation of Jerome. These exploratory surveys continued from 1822 through 1824.[11]

In January 1825, the Canal Commission recommended construction. Although it had been hoped that a single route connecting Cincinnati to the Scioto River and finally Lake Erie would prove practical, this was not found to be the case. Taking into account politics and economics, as well as engineering, two routes were proposed: the Ohio-Erie Canal would connect the Ohio River at Portsmouth to Lake Erie, and the Miami Canal would connect Cincinnati to Dayton (and eventually Lake Erie, when it would become known as the Miami-Erie Canal). In February 1825, the Ohio General Assembly authorized the construction of canals along both routes.[12]

With construction on the two canals about to begin, the Canal Commission appointed Micajah Williams and Alfred Kelley as Acting Commissioners; David S. Bates (also known as Judge Bates) as Principal Engineer; and Samuel Forrer and William Price as Resident Engineers (Forrer on the Miami Canal; Price on the Ohio-Erie Canal). (Bates and Price, like Geddes, had also worked on the Erie Canal project.) On July 4, 1825, work began on the Ohio-Erie Canal; construction on the Miami Canal began a few weeks later on July 21, 1825.[13]

Shortly after canal construction began, Samuel met the young woman who would soon become his wife: Sarah Howard (1807-1887).[14] Samuel and Sarah seem to have met through mutual friends while she was attending school in Cincinnati.[15] After an apparently brief courtship, Samuel and Sarah were married on the evening of February 8, 1826, at the home of Rev. William Burke in Cincinnati. Evidently, the two entered into this marriage without the consent of Sarah’s parents, who were members of the Society of Friends, which strongly disapproves of members marrying non-Quakers; they seem to have accepted it eventually, however.[16]

[For more on Samuel and Sarah’s courtship/marriage, check out the series “A Little Quaker Love Story” here on my blog.]

Samuel’s career required frequent travel, as illustrated by the many letters he wrote over the years to his wife and children back in Dayton.[17] The Forrer family resided at the southeast corner of First and Ludlow Streets in Dayton until late summer 1863, when, due to some financial hardships, they sold their home downtown and moved into their son-in-law Luther Bruen’s house, while they built a new home on a parcel of land adjacent to the property of their son-in-law Jeremiah H. Peirce in Harrison Township just west of present-day Forest Avenue. They moved into their new house in 1864.[18]

Samuel and Sarah had six children:

  1. Elizabeth Hannah Forrer was born Feb. 28, 1827, and died Jan. 16, 1874; she married Jeremiah H. Peirce.[19]
  2. Edward was born Aug. 30, 1830, and died Dec. 28, 1838.[20]
  3. Augusta was born Apr. 5, 1833, and died Oct. 18, 1907; she married Luther B. Bruen.[21]
  4. Ann was born June 28, 1835, and died Jan. 11, 1837.[22]
  5. Mary was born Aug. 24, 1838, and died Sept. 2, 1929; she also married Jeremiah H. Peirce.[23]
  6. Howard was born Nov. 11, 1841, and died July 22, 1864.[24]

Samuel served as Resident Engineer on the Miami Canal from 1825 to 1831. In that capacity, he had many general supervisory responsibilities, including making estimates and reporting to the Acting Commissioner on the quantity of work completed by the contractors.[25] Furthermore, during his tenure as Resident Engineer, he “located the whole of the Miami and Erie canal and its branches, and a great portion of the Ohio canal.”[26]

The Miami Canal was opened in Dayton on January 25, 1829. On that day, the second canal boat to arrive in Dayton from Cincinnati was called The Forrer. This clearly illustrates how important was Forrer’s role in the creation of the Miami Canal. The Forrer was second only to the Gov. Brown, which had arrived earlier that same day; the Gov. Brown was named after Ethan A. Brown, Ohio governor from 181-1822 and often called “Father of the Ohio Canals.”[27]

Miami-Erie Canal looking north from Third Street, Dayton, Ohio (1900)

Miami-Erie Canal looking north from Third Street, Dayton, Ohio (1900) (Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File, photo # 2411)

In 1832 or 1833, Samuel was appointed to the Board of Canal Commissioners and served in that position for three years. During that time, Samuel served as Acting Commissioner and managed the activities of the Miami Extension.[28]

In 1836, the Board of Canal Commissioners was eliminated and replaced by a Board of Public Works. At that time, Samuel was appointed Principal Engineer of the Miami Canal, “to re-examine and resurvey the [Miami] Extension.”[29]

In 1838, the Board of Public Works was disbanded and the Board of Canal Commissioners reinstated. Samuel was again appointed to the Canal Board.[30]

In 1839, Samuel agreed to the position of Engineer and general superintendent of the turnpikes, including the Dayton and Lebanon Turnpike, Dayton and Springfield Turnpike, and the Great Miami Turnpike.[31]

Political changes came in 1839, and the Canal Board was once again replaced by a Board of Public Works. As the Board was then filled with Democrats, Samuel, a Whig, no longer wished to participate in it, wanting nothing to do with a political circus. For the next few years, he focused on consulting work. Samuel consulted on many public works projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including advising on the proposed Richmond and Brookville Canal in Indiana. His expertise was so well-respected in the profession that his advice was often the final word in deciding a controversy.[32]

In 1844 and 1845, Samuel participated in a special commission appointed for planning the construction of a new Montgomery County Courthouse. This “new” courthouse, the excellent example of Greek Revival style architecture now known as the Old Courthouse, was completed in 1850.[33]

Montgomery County Court House in Dayton, 1864

Montgomery County Court House in Dayton, 1864 (Dayton Metro Library, Lutzenberger Photograph Collection, photo # 0085)

By 1845, the Whigs were back in power again, and Samuel consented to return to the Board of Public Works.[34] Around that same time, the former members of the Board of Public Works and Board of Canal Commissioners (including Samuel) were investigated for possible financial misdeeds. Though fault was indeed found with some of them, “there could be no better testimony to Forrer’s character than the fact that the investigation showed the State owed him $40.92.”[35]

In 1846, Samuel traveled east in hopes of being hired as a contractor on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. However, in the end, the canal company did not have the finances to continue the project.[36]

In 1847, Samuel was appointed as engineer and surveyor for the recently-incorporated Central Ohio Railroad, which ran from Wheeling to Zanesville. Samuel was engaged in this work, among his other duties, until at least 1849.[37] Samuel’s role primarily consisted of surveying for the location of the railroad, a duty at which he “greatly excelled” and which was “more suited to his tastes and talents than the details of construction.”[38]

From 1850 to 1855, Samuel was primarily engaged in contracting jobs out of state. From 1850 to 1853, Samuel worked on a canal contract in Indiana. Then, from 1853 to 1855, he worked on a railroad contract in Missouri, with his family staying behind in Dayton.[39]

In 1855, the Board of Public Works began using the Contract System for Repairs. Samuel’s company—Forrer, Burt, & Company (Samuel Forrer, with John S. G. Burt and John Howard)—successfully bid for the contract on Section 7, which included much of the Miami-Erie Canal. However, state politics brought all the contracts under scrutiny in 1856 and 1857. The contract for Section 7 was taken away from Forrer, Burt, & Co., on account of the fact that they had not provided the lowest bid. Samuel wrote and circulated a pamphlet that challenged the quality of the work proposed by the other lower bids. Unfortunately, the repudiation stood.[40]

In 1860, Samuel was appointed Resident Engineer of the Northern Division of the Miami-Erie Canal. In 1861, the Public Works were leased out to private contractors, and Samuel was given the contract for the entire Miami-Erie Canal, with his responsibilities primarily consisting of maintenance and repairs. He remained in this position until the early 1870s.[41]

Samuel retired on February 15, 1873, after having been stricken with paralysis.[42]

Samuel Forrer “holds the distinction of having had the longest association of any individual with the Ohio Canal System. For over fifty years, from the very beginning of Ohio’s canals, he was variously engaged as rodman, surveyor, engineer, contractor, and Commissioner.”[43] It is also of interest to note that Forrer Boulevard in Oakwood was named after Samuel Forrer.[44]

Samuel Forrer died on March 25, 1874, at his home in Dayton, Ohio, apparently from old age; he was 81 years old.[45] He was buried on March 27, 1874, in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio.[46]

Tombstone of Samuel Forrer in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102

Tombstone of Samuel Forrer in Woodland Cemetery, Section 102 (photo by the author, 29 Oct. 2011)

*****

This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in April 2012 for the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original PDF finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library, the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry, or the WorldCat record.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.


[1] Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 87, 92; Samuel Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 3:8, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio); Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12. See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 4: Other Forrer Family Members.

[2] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 96; Frank W. Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” in Ohio’s Canals: History, Description, Biography ([Oberlin, OH]: s. n., 1973), 67.

[3] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8.

[4] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8.

[5] Samuel mentions in his “Notes for an Autobiography” that both his employer (a man named “Benjamin” but whose last name is not given) and the county surveyor are both members of the Society of Friends. The county surveyor is probably Joseph Gest, who was county and city surveyor for many years in those early days and who was a member of the Society of Friends.

[6] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 96; John F. Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton and Vicinity, 1796-1840 (Dayton, OH: United Brethren Publishing House, 1896), 187; Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 67.

[7] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 96-97; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 187; Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 67.

[8] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97; Charles Whittlesey, “Pioneer Engineers of Ohio,” in Historical Collections of Ohio, edited by Henry Howe, vol. 1 (Norwalk, OH: Laning Printing Co., 1896), 121; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 187-188; Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 67.

[9] Whittlesey, “Pioneer Engineers of Ohio,” 119-120; C. C. Huntington and Cloys P. McClelland, History of the Ohio Canals, Their Construction, Cost, Use and Partial Abandonment (Columbus, OH: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1905), 12-16; Jack Gieck, A Photo Album of Ohio’s Canal Era, 1825-1913 (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1988), 4; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97.

The Canal Commissioners appointed in January 1822 were: Alfred Kelley, Benjamin Tappan, Thomas Worthington, Isaac Minor, Jeremiah Morrow, Ebenezer Buckingham, Jr., and Ohio Governor Ethan A. Brown (Huntington & McClelland, 14). In February 1825, the following men were appointed to the Board of Canal Commissioners: Kelley, Worthington, Tappan, Minor, Micajah T. Williams, John Johnston, and Nathaniel Beasley (Huntington & McClelland, 16).

[10] Whittlesey, “Pioneer Engineers of Ohio,” 119-120; Huntington & McClelland, History of the Ohio Canals, 12-15; Gieck, A Photo Album of Ohio’s Canal Era, 4; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97.

[11] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97.

[12] Forrer, “Notes for an Autobiography,” FPW, 3:8; Huntington & McClelland, History of the Ohio Canals, 16-20, 34-37; Gieck, A Photo Album of Ohio’s Canal Era, 5.

The portion of the canal from Cincinnati to Dayton was known as the Miami Canal. An extension known as the Miami Extension Canal, from Dayton to the junction of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers, was begun in 1833. The Miami Extension was eventually connected to the Wabash and Erie Canal (completed in 1842), which connected the Miami canals to Lake Erie. This completed canal route from Cincinnati to Lake Erie became known as the Miami-Erie Canal in 1849 (Huntington & McClelland, 36-37).

[13] Huntington & McClelland, History of the Ohio Canals, 20-21, 27; Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 68, 73; Gieck, A Photo Album of Ohio’s Canal Era, 4-5.

[14] See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 2: Sarah Hastings (Howard) Forrer.

[15] The two met through canal commissioner Micajah T. Williams, a member of the Society of Friends and a friend of Sarah’s father Horton Howard; Samuel knew Williams by his association with the canal.

[16] For more information, see: Samuel Forrer to his father-in-law Horton Howard, 1826, FPW, 1:12; and Horton Howard to his son-in-law Samuel Forrer and his daughter Sarah H. (Howard) Forrer, 1823-1833, FPW, 34:13.

[17] See various letters from Samuel Forrer to his wife and children, FPW, 1:1-11.

[18] Dayton City Directories, 1850-1889; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 94a, 96a; Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

A sketch of the Forrers’ home at First and Ludlow can be seen in Bruen (p. 96a); the site is now a parking lot adjacent to the Christ Episcopal Church. A photograph of the Forrers’ 1864 home can be seen in Bruen (p. 94a); this house was located just west of present-day Forest Avenue, a little north of Grand Avenue, near where the Grandview Medical Center now stands.

[19] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 105. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 2: Elizabeth Hannah (Forrer) Peirce, and in general, Series II: Jeremiah H. Peirce Family.

[20] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129. See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 4: Other Forrer Family Members.

[21] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 129. See also FPW, Series III, Subseries 1: Bruen Family.

[22] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136.

[23] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Mary (FORRER) Peirce: Will and Estate Documents, FPW, 13:19; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 136. See also FPW, Series II, Subseries 3: Mary (Forrer) Peirce.

[24] Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 140. See also FPW, Series I, Subseries 3: Howard Forrer.

[25] Huntington & McClelland, History of the Ohio Canals, 27; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 188; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97;

[26] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97.

[27] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 92; John S. Still, “Ethan A. Brown,” Ohio Historical Society’s Ohio Fundamental Documents web site, last modified 26 July 2005, accessed 20 Dec. 2011: http://www.ohiohistory.org/onlinedoc/ohgovernment/governors/browne.html.

[28] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 72 [he says 1833]; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 97 [he says 1832]; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 188 [he says 1832]. Trevorrow states that Samuel was appointed to the Board of Canal Commissioners in 1833; Edgar says 1832.

[29] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 72.

[30] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 73.

[31] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 93.

[32] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 73-75; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 98; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 188.

[33] Augustus W. Drury, History of the City of Dayton and Montgomery County, Ohio, (Chicago: Clarke Publishing Co., 1909), vol. 1, 161-162; Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 76.

[34] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 75.

The members of the Board of Public Works in 1845 were Samuel Forrer, Oran Follett, and Jacob Blickensderfer, Jr.; the Board had been reduced to 3 members in 1842 (Trevorrow, 75).

[35] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 75.

[36] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 76.

[37] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 78-82; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 98; Edgar, Pioneer Life in Dayton, 188.

[38] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 98.

[39] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 83-84.

[40] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 84-85; Samuel Forrer: “Canal Contracts, Section No. 7, Mr. Forrer’s Statement,” FPW, 3:4.

[41] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 85-86.

[42] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 86; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 96.

[43] Trevorrow, “Ohio Canal Men: Samuel Forrer,” 67.

[44] Charles F. Sullivan, “The Streets of Dayton and Why So Named,” 21 June 1946, in Sullivan’s Papers (Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1995?), 602; Bruen, Christian Forrer, 107.

[45] Bruen, Christian Forrer, 92, 94, 96; Forrer Genealogical Data, FPW, 7:12.

[46] Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 20 Dec. 2011, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org. Samuel is buried in Section 102, Lot 1348.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 13 – Howard Forrer (Part E) – Final Installment

“Who will survive is known only to Him who ruleth all things well.”[1]

*****

I began this “tale” with the story of Howard Affleck, a bright and promising young man from Bridgeport, Ohio, who, exactly one hundred and fifty years ago today (May 15, 1862), died from wounds he received at the Battle of Shiloh (Parts 1, 2, and 3). He was the first of the “Two Howards.”

We have traced the stories of Howard’s relatives in Dayton—William Howard (Part 5), Luther Bruen (Part 9), Howard Forrer (Parts 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11)—and his younger brother Edward Affleck (Part 12). Two—William and Edward—survived the war, living to old age. Three died as a result of the war: Howard Affleck died of his wounds after returning to his parents’ home (Part 3) and was subsequently buried in his hometown. Luther Bruen, also wounded in battle, died in a hospital at Washington, D.C., and his body was shipped home promptly for burial (Part 9).

But Howard Forrer…was killed instantly, July 22, 1864, on the battlefield atDecatur,Georgia. His regiment, which was retreating at the time, was unable to retrieve his body immediately, and by the next day, the townsfolk had already buried him.

Because of the ongoing war, even his family was unable to go and retrieve his remains. His mother later wrote in her diary: “We were obliged to leave him a year in Georgia…”[2]

Time marched on. The war continued. The Forrers’ new house in HarrisonTownship(near their daughter and son-in-law Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Peirce at Five Oaks) was almost complete.[3]

Howard Forrer’s remains would not come home toDaytonuntil November 1865, nearly 16 months after his death.

In the meantime, the Forrer family commemorated Howard by having his portrait painted from a photograph, at cost of about $125 (about $1,700 in today’s money). Several letters from Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary in September 1864 dwell upon which photograph should be used, the precise shade of blue of Howard’s army coat, and the color of his hair and eyes.[4]

Based on Sarah’s descriptions and her mention of retrieving the photo negative from Cridland’s photography studio[5], I believe this may the photograph from which the portrait was painted:

Howard Forrer

Howard Forrer

In these letters about the portrait, Sarah frequently refers to her son as “dear Howie,” rather than “Howard,” which was what she nearly always called him in all of her writings prior to his death (all that I have seen and read, anyway).[6] Having read so many of Sarah’s letters, I noticed the change immediately. I’m no psychologist, but I couldn’t help forming a theory about the change in how she referred to her son:

I suppose a nearly 23-year-old army officer might have insisted that his mother treat him like a man and refrain from calling him by a childhood nickname. Sarah had often written of putting on a brave face for her son, playing the patriotic mother and pretending to be fine when truly she wasn’t. I imagine she still saw him as a child, as many mothers see their children even after the children are adults. When he died, he could no longer defend his adulthood; so in Sarah’s mind, he reverted ever more back to being her baby, her beloved little boy, “dear Howie,” whom she would never see again.

The Forrers of course continued to seek information about how they could retrieve their son’s body.

Samuel Forrer apparently wrote to A. C. Fenner, the Acting Assistant Adjutant General of Howard Forrer’s brigade, asking for his assistance with the matter. It seems that the state of the roads and railroads near Atlanta—not to mention Sherman’s March to the Sea and general “total war” on the South—greatly contributed to do with the inability to retrieve poor Howard’s remains.

A. C. Fenner wrote to Samuel Forrer on January 11, 1865:

…The R. R. was also broken up so that trains could not pass to Atlanta… Nov 15 the Army started on the recent campaign so that no opportunity has been afforded me of visiting Decatur Ga. Or getting any information from there since I was in Dayton. The troops who occupied it last[,] the 23d Corps[,] are as you have observed in Tenn. The R. R. south of [Chatt.?] Is all destroyed South of Kingston.

Of course all prospects of visiting the place is now out of the question until the Road is rebuilt which will not be probably till after the war.

I am extremely sorry it never was in my power to render such services in this case as know would greatly gratify you. My personal relations alone with Howard prompted me if it had been possible to have done all you had desired but the stern circumstances of war interfered…[7]

The Civil War finally ended with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Although certainly relieved that the war was over, many on both sides still mourned what the war had cost. Among them were the sisters Mary Affleck and Sarah Forrer, both of whom had lost sons—the “two Howards” of this tale’s title: Howard Affleck and Howard Forrer—in the war. Mary’s letter to her sister Sarah on June 18, 1865, and the accompany poem, “The Hour of Northern Victory” by Fanny Kemble, illustrate the what a bittersweet victory it was:

…it almost seems as though the ‘Old bright days had all come back again.’ Will they ever come again? Not to thee, or to me, yet we may do much to brighten the pathway of the dear ones that are still left to us, and thus in some measure, relieve the ‘blackness of darkness’ that overshadows our own…

Has thee ever read “The Hour of Northern Victory” by Fanny Kemble? I think it one of the grandest things I ever read, and will bear reading again, so I have copied it for thee…[8]

The poem was as follows:

“The Hour of Northern Victory”[9]
By Fanny Kemble

Roll not a drum, sound not a clarion-note
Of haughty triumph to the silent sky;
Hush’d be the shout of joy in ev’ry throat,
And veil’d the flash of pride in ev’ry eye.

Not with the Te Deums loud and high Hosannas,
Greet we the awful victory we have won,
But with our arms revers’d and lower’d banners
We stand—our work is done! 

Thy work is done, God, terrible and just,
Who lay’dst upon our hearts and hands this task,
And kneeling, with our foreheads in the dust,
We venture Peace to ask. 

Bleeding and writhing underneath our sword,
Prostrate our brethren lie, Thy fallen foe,
Struck down by Thee through us, avenging Lord,—
By Thy dread hand laid low. 

For our own guilt have we been doomed to smite
These our own kindred Thy great laws defying,
These, our own flesh and blood, who now unite
In one thing only with us—bravely dying. 

Dying how bravely, yet how bitterly!
Not for the better side, but for the worse,
Blindly and madly striving against Thee
For the bad cause where thou hast set Thy curse. 

At whose defeat we may not raise our voice,
Save in the deep thanksgiving of our prayers,
‘Lord! We have fought the fight!’ But to rejoice
Is ours no more than theirs. 

Call back Thy dreadful ministers of wrath
Who have led on our hosts to this great day;
Let our feet halt now in the avenger’s path,
And bid our weapons stay. 

Upon our land, Freedom’s inheritance,
Turn Thou once more the splendor of Thy face,
Where nations serving Thee to light advance,
Give us again our place. 

Not our bewildering past prosperity,
Not all thy former ill-requited grace,
But this one boon—Oh! Grant us still to be
The home of Hope to the whole human race. 

Mary’s letter continued:

I have been looking over on the island [Wheeling Island], which is almost covered with tents of returning soldiers who are waiting to be discharged. A long train of army wagons passed through town a week or two ago, and another this morning. I feel thankful that so many of the poor fellows are permitted to return to their homes in peace but my heart aches to think of the thousands that never will return and of the one who was more to me than the whole army.[10]

By the time Mary Affleck wrote that letter, her son Howard had been dead for three years (Part 3). Her son Edward had been spent many months in a POW camp but had finally returned to her (Part 12).

In the summer of 1865, the anniversary of Howard Forrer’s death came and went, and the Forrers still had not been able to retrieve his remains, despite the war finally being over.

On September 25, 1865, over 14 months after Howard had been killed, Maj. Genl. Thomas granted the necessary permissions to Samuel Forrer:

Permission to disinter Howard Forrer's body, 1865

Permission to disinter Howard Forrer’s body, 1865

Permission is hereby granted to Mr. Saml. Forrer to disinter the body of Lieut. Howard Forrer now buried at Decatur Georgia & to remove the same by Express or otherwise to Dayton Ohio, provided the disinterring is made at once after Oct. 15, 1865, & the body is shipped in a metallic coffin.[11]

Samuel Forrer inquired immediately about the cost of train fares and metallic coffins, apparently writing to Genl. Gates Phillips Thruston, a Daytonian stationed at Nashville, on October 1. Thruston wrote back on October 13, stating that the fare from Daytonto Atlantawould be about $30 (about $425 today), and sending a price list for coffins.[12]

While Samuel Forrer was making his arrangements to finally retrieve his son from Atlanta, the U.S. Treasury Department forwarded the balance of Howard’s back pay to his father: $797.89. The pay was for the time period of December 31, 1863, through Howard’s death on July 22, 1864.[13] Apparently, he had not received any pay for several months, which was not uncommon.

Final pay of Howard Forrer, 1865

Final pay of Howard Forrer, 1865

That $797 in back pay amounted to about $11,000 in today’s dollars.[14] However, it most certainly did not amount to much of anything to the Forrers, compared with the loss of their only son Howard.

Samuel Forrer and his brother-in-law John Howard finally made the journey in November 1865 to bring Howard Forrer home toDaytonat long last. It was a bittersweet relief. The son they remembered was of course not the son they brought home. Sarah wrote of it a few years later:

…And then dear Husband and our dear, kind Brother John went and brought him home… There was nothing left but dry bones and some parts of his clothing, one piece showing his name written in indelible ink by me. They took a case with them and put the dear remains in and packed it with sweet pine boughs that it might carry safely. And so he came who left in health, radiant, enthusiastic… Oh, so lovely!![15]

The Dayton Journal published a notice on November 14, 1865, announcing that Howard Forrer’s remains had finally come home, as well as the funeral arrranagements:

The Lamented Howard Forrer, Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865

The Lamented Howard Forrer, Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865

The remains of the lamented Howard Forrer arrived here yesterday, in charge of the venerable bereaved father, Samuel Forrer, and John Howard, Esq. Lieut. Forrer was killed during a charge upon our lines near Decatur, Ga., on the 22d of July, 1864. He was truly an estimable and talented young man, and a gallant soldier. We cannot too highly honor the memory of the noble young men who offered up their lives for their country. The funeral of Lieut. Forrer will take place at the family residence, near Tate’s Mills, northwest of the city, at 2 o’clock to-day, and his remains will be interred at ‘Woodland.’[16]

On November 14, 1865, Howard Forrer was finally laid to rest inWoodlandCemeteryin his home town ofDayton,Ohio.

Howard Forrer's grave, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

Howard Forrer’s grave, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

The tombstone inscription reads:

Howard, son of Saml. & S. H. Forrer. Adjt. 63rd Regt. O.V.I. Fell in Battle at Decatur Ga. July 22, 1864, in his 23rd year.

Young, lovely, brave, and true. He died a pure offering to duty and patriotism.

*****

I think that a story like this one—not my retelling of it (I’m not that vain), but the original story itself—brings history to life, into focus, into appreciation and understanding. It’s not just names, places, and dates. It’s full of people (just like us!) and their choices, actions, emotions, triumphs, and tragedies.

This story began to unfold for me last summer, when I first started arranging and describing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood manuscript collection (frequently cited in the “Tale of Two Howards” series and available to researchers at the Dayton Metro Library). After months or reading and researching this family, I had this story writing itself in my head, as I went along. And I just had to share it.

I have tried my best to write this “Tale” as both a good history and a good story, and I hope I have managed to do so.


[1] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 6:12, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton.

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 2 Sept. 1864, FPW, 4:6. A photo of the Forrers’ completed home can be found in Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 96a.

[4] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 31 Aug.-27 Sept. 1864 [several letters], FPW, 4:6; Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[5] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 12 Sept. 1864, FPW, 4:6.

[6] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 31 Aug.-27 Sept. 1864 [several letters], FPW, 4:6.

[7] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[8] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.

[9] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3; Fanny Kemble, “The Hour of Northern Victory,” in The Spectator: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature, Theology, and Art (London: John Campbell), vol. 38 (1865), 6 May 1865, 497. The date of the original publication was May 6; the date of the poem was April 25.

[10] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.

[11] Maj. Gen. Thomas to Samuel Forrer, 25 Sept. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[12] Gates P. Thruston to Samuel Forrer, 13 Oct. 1865, FPW, 6:12; Will T. Hale, A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913), accessed 15 May 2012, http://files.usgwarchives.net/tn/davidson/bios/thruston307nbs.txt; Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[13]U.S. Treasury Department to Samuel Forrer, Certificate # 192284, 23 Oct. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[14] Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[15] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[16] “The Lamented Howard Forrer,” Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865, pg. 2.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 11 – Howard Forrer (Part D)

His grave is made ‘neath southern sod;
His feet no more will roam,
His soul stands at the bar of God;
But oh he’s missed at home.[1]

-Lizzie Morton, 1864

I have not written, I could not write…until now. We never saw dear Howard again!… The dear, dear son was killed instantly at Decatur, Georgia. I am almost destroyed by this great loss…[2]

-Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867

How many hearts shall this war prepare for heaven by transferring all they loved to the far-off but beautiful land where the good dwell![3]

-Quincy [war correspondent], 10 Aug. 1864

 *****

The Forrers first learned of the death of their beloved son Howard via the Cincinnati Gazette’s July 29, 1864, issue (see Part 10), which reported that the Adjutant of the 63rd O.V.I. had been killed in the Battle of Atlanta in Decatur, Georgia, on July 22. At first they held out hope that the news report might be mistaken, but alas, it was not.

Battle of Atlanta and death of Gen. James B. McPherson

Battle of Atlanta and death of Gen. James B. McPherson

Within a few days, Samuel Forrer received a letter from Benjamin St. James Fry, chaplain of the 63rd O.V.I., giving a detailed account of Howard Forrer’s death. Although the original letter was not included with the manuscripts in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, it was reprinted in the Dayton Journal on August 2, 1864:

We were attacked atDecatur, on Friday, the 22d, after dinner, by [Joseph] Wheeler’s whole force, at the same time that an attack was made on the left of our whole army, and were compelled to withdraw temporarily from the town. The attack was furious, and we lost many in prisoners, as well as by wounding.

Howard was engaged with Colonel [Charles E.] Brown and Major Pfoutz [sic] [John W. Fouts] in making a charge on our right. They had driven back the rebels, checking them, and were returning to their position, which was a good one, when Howard was killed instantly by a wound in the neck, for the rebels were coming forward in great force again. We could not get off his body, but when we returned on Saturday morning the citizens had buried him on the spot where he fell…[4]

The chaplain’s explanation of events refers to the attack of Confederate Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry upon the Union’s 2nd brigade, 4th division, 16th Army Corps, commanded by then-Col. John W. Sprague (he was promoted to brigadier general a week later for his actions in the battle). Wheeler’s men were attempting to capture a wagon train of supplies. Although the Union troops were pushed back, the wagon train was preserved.[5]

Maj. John W. Fouts (of the 63rd O.V.I.) wrote the following in his official reports of the battle:

July 22, took part with the brigade in the engagement at Decatur, Ga. Two companies of this regiment by a charge upon a superior force of the enemy saved from capture a section of the Board of Trade Battery and a large wagon train of the Fifteenth Army Corps. The enemy attacked on all sides with a very superior force, and, after two hours’ hard fighting, we were finally driven out of the town with the loss of 1 commissioned officer (Adjt. Howard Forrer) killed, 4 wounded, and 1 wounded and taken prisoner…[6]

In a more detailed report on the July 22 battle at Decatur, Fouts wrote:

…The enemy advanced in greatly superior force and it became necessary for the battery to retire. While retiring the battery became entangled in a heap of old iron and was in danger of being captured. In order to save the battery[,] Company G, which had formed on the left of [the] battery, and Company H fixed bayonets and made a determined charge on the advancing line of the enemy, causing it to fall back to the railroad and giving the battery time to get off, and giving a large wagon train of the Fifteenth Army Corps time to leave the field, which, but for this charge, would have fallen into the hands of the enemy. These companies, under command of Lieut. Col. Charles E. Brown, then fell back in good order to court square. Adjt. Howard Forrer was killed during this movement. The other companies of this regiment coming in at this time were rallied and formed on south side of court square with part of the Twenty-fifth Wisconsin Infantry, and held the ground until completely flanked on right and left, when we were ordered to fall back to ridge north of the town. In rallying the regiment at this point Lieut. Col. Charles E. Brown was severely wounded and carried from the field. The enemy continuing the attack with a much superior force in front and on both flanks obliged us to fall back to the cover of the woods, and we took position with the balance of the brigade…[7]

A war correspondent called “Quincy” submitted not only some gory details regarding Howard’s death, but also a touching, “beautiful tribute” to the young man, in a way that could only have been written by a fellow soldier who had known him well. (Personally, I suspect A. C. Fenner, Acting Assistant Adjutant General of the brigade, whom Howard had mentioned on more than one occasion in his diary. I have seen Fenner’s name on reports, as well as at least one letter to Samuel Forrer. However, “Quincy” might just as easily have been someone else in the 63rd O.V.I.; I have no real proof it was Fenner…just a guess.)

Whoever he was, Quincy’s “Beautiful Tribute” read thus in the Western Christian Advocate, Aug. 10, 1864:

Our commanding officer lies near me as I write with an amputated limb, maimed for life, and yet we are happy that his life is spared to us, and hope and pray for his restoration to health again. The Adjutant of our regiment [Howard Forrer], stripped by rebel hands, lies buried on the spot where he fell in instant death, his brain shattered by an unhappy bullet. There are but few men in the army whose death could affect me as his has done.

Howard Forrer, 1841-1864

Howard Forrer, 1841-1864

Young, intelligent, carefully trained in virtue by parents of Quaker profession, not a stain had come upon the fair promise of his youth, and the future was a brilliant prospect, inviting him to advance and obtain the reward of honorable, energetic action. He was so brave that no one questioned his courage, yet so far from the recklessness of youth that you perceived at once it was moral, not physical, bravery that animated him. His character bore so plainly the graceful and tender teachings of female influence that you would suspect he was an only son, the youngest of the family, the idol of a devoted mother, and the pride of sisters. I dare not look toward the quiet home in the most beautiful town in Ohio, where he lived. But a few weeks ago in one of those fierce contests of the Army of the Potomac that initiated the campaign, a son-in-law [Luther Bruen, see Part 9], whose character, I have been told, was singularly fair and graceful, was wounded, and died in the hospital at Washington City. Now a second stroke, and a nearer one, flashes out of the war clouds, and I stop my ears to shut out the cry and groans of stricken hearts. At such times there is no refuge for one but in God. The mysteries of His providence lose all their terror and perplexity in the tenderness of His grace and love. How many hearts shall this war prepare for heaven by transferring all they loved to the far-off but beautiful land where the good dwell![8]

To Sarah Forrer and her family, I’m sure that all the touching tributes in the world could not hold a candle to the devastating reality that Howard Forrer would never come home to Dayton alive.

But even though Howard had died, he still could not yet return home. Remember what the chaplain wrote:

…We could not get off his body, but when we returned [the following] morning the citizens had buried him on the spot where he fell…[9]

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location in Decatur, Georgia

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location in Decatur, Georgia

Howard was buried on the property of Benjamin F. Swanton, near the spot where he had been killed. (This property is southwest of the county’s old courthouse—now a home to the DeKalb County History Center—and the town square.) At the time, the Swanton house was being used as Headquarters for Union Gen. James B. McPherson’s Army of the Tennessee (which, incidentally, is probably the only reason the house—which still exists and is the oldest building in Decatur—did not meet the same fiery fate that many other area buildings did).[10]

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location

Map of Howard Forrer's original burial location

As if to add insult to injury, as if the Forrer family had not already suffered enough for one year—with the loss of son-in-law Luther Bruen in June and now the loss of son Howard in July—they could not even bring Howard’s body home for a proper burial, because the war was still raging.

His mother recalled: “We were obliged to leave him a year in Georgia…”[11]


[1] Lizzie Morton, “Lines Suggested by the Death of Ajt. Forrer – July 22, 1864,” Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 6:12, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton. (Miss Morton allegedly witnessed the death of Howard Forrer, although it seemed later that she had him confused with one of the other soldiers who died nearby. Nevertheless, these lines ring true.)

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Quincy [war correspondent], “Beautiful Tribute,” 10 Aug. 1864, Western Christian Advocate, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[4] Benjamin St. James Fry to Samuel Forrer, [circa 22 July-1 Aug.] 1864, published in the Dayton Journal, 2 Aug. 1864, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[5] “Battle of Atlanta,” Wikipedia, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Atlanta; “Wheeler’s Cav. at Decatur,” Historical Marker Database, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.hmdb.org/Marker.asp?Marker=8887; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), Series I, Vol. 38, Part I-Reports, 74; The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 38, Part II-Reports, 854.

[6] J. W. Fouts, official report, 5 Sept. 1864, in The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 38, Part III-Reports, 519.

[7] J. W. Fouts, official report, 26 July 1864, in The War of the Rebellion, Series I, Vol. 38, Part III-Reports, 517.

[8] Quincy [war correspondent], “Beautiful Tribute,” 10 Aug. 1864, Western Christian Advocate, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[9] Benjamin St. James Fry to Samuel Forrer, [circa 22 July-1 Aug.] 1864, published in the Dayton Journal, 2 Aug. 1864, in Howard Forrer: Obituaries, FPW, 6:15.

[10] “Swanton House,” Historical Marker Database, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=9364; “Benjamin Swanton House,” in “Preservation,” DeKalb County History Center website, accessed 17 Apr. 2012, http://www.dekalbhistory.org/dekalb_history_center_preservation_historic-complex.htm.

[11] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 10 – Howard Forrer (Part C)

Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them… It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…[1]

-Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, 24-25 July 1864

When Howard Forrer left his family to return to his position as adjutant of the 63rd O.V.I. on February 13, 1864, it was the last time his mother ever saw him alive.[2]

Howard headed to Camp Chase in Columbus to meet up with his regiment, and from there, they headed for Decatur, Alabama, on February 18, where the staff of the 63rd was stationed until the end of April.[3]

Howard kept a diary during his last campaign. It contains mostly notes on troop movements, weather conditions, and anecdotes about interactions with the locals. Unfortunately, it contains virtually nothing of his personal thoughts or feelings about the war (or anything else). Here is a sample, from his first few entries:

Left Camp Chase, Columbus, Little Miami RR (weather very cold) at 12 N Feb 18th 1864, arrived at Cincinnati at 8 PM. Quartered men in 6th St Barracks. I stayed at the Gibson House. Left Cinti 12:45 PM 19th on C&M RR very poor accommodations on cars, weather cold. Arrived at Jeffersonville, Indiana, opposite Louisville 5:45 A.M. 20. Crossed on ferry boat to Louisville at 7:15 AM. River full of floating ice, weather much warmer. Saw Kate McCook and the General at breakfast table at Louisville at Galt House. Left Louisville on L&N RR at 2:50 PM. Saturday 20th arrived at Nashville 3:50 AM 21st— Quartered in [seminary?] barracks Capt. E. C. Ellis 93rd Ohio of Dayton commanding—visited Dr. McDermot at the field hospital near Nashville—went to theatre Monday and Tuesday nights.[4]

Howard Forrer's Civil War diary, first page, Feb. 1864

Howard Forrer's Civil War diary, first page, Feb. 1864

His description of the trek to Decatur, Alabama, continues:

Left Nashville on cars at 8 A.M. Wednesday 24th Feb. Traveled finely until we reached a point five miles north of Linville station, which is 1-1/2 miles from Linville [Lynnville, TN]—where the cylinders of the engine had the head burst out. This occurred about 2 P.M.—The train was taken to Linville at three trips—arrived at Linville station at about 5 P.M. and [illegible] for the night—I slept at the house of one Lt. Col Gordon formerly of the C.S.A. wounded at Donaldson [Donelson] now peacable at home. The regiment started on the march about 5:30 A.M. 25th. I stopped at Linville to get breakfast. The woman at whose house I took breakfast informed me that Col. Dan McCook burned the best houses in the town because his regiment had been fired upon from it.

The Col. Q.M. & I got into a spring wagon & rode to Pulaski [TN] ahead of the Regt arrived at N. Regt arrived at 1.30 P.M. Camped 2 miles south of town. Left this camp at 5:30 A.M. 26th and arrived at the old camp of the Regt at Prospect [TN] (the Col. & I riding ahead of the Regt 3 or 4 miles) about 11 AM. Left Prospect 7 A.M. 27th arrived at Athens [AL] 1.30 P.M. Camped about a mile south of the town. Left camp at 6.30 A.M. 28thCloudy– The Col and I left the regiment about 2 hours after we started and rode ahead to the camp of the 43d Ohio at a place called Decatur Junction [AL], where the Decatur branch R.R. comes in. It had commenced to rain in the meantime. We selected a camping ground & conducted the regiment to it—camped in a corn field because it was the only place where water was convenient. Monday, the 29th and the 1st and 2d of March were spent making out returns, and brining up the papers of the regt… Decatur [AL] is on rather high ground and seems to be quite a pretty place…[5]

At the end of April, Howard’s regiment received orders that they would be joining Generals William T. Sherman and James B. McPherson on what would later be known as the Atlanta Campaign. Howard wrote of the news in his diary on April 24 and 25:

24d… We received an order this morning issued to the army of the Mississippi by Gen’l Sherman directing the troops to be prepared to move in light marching order. This order is very strict and is only preliminary… 25’ Received McPherson’s order preparatory to a move—it is a little less stringent than Sherman’s.[6]

On May 1, 1864, Howard’s regiment (and several others) left Decatur, Alabama, and began marching towards Georgia.[7]

The final entries in Howard’s diary, dating from late May, follow:

17’ Laid in camp all day until 6.30 P.M. (illegible) moved by moonlight (foggy: but light) over the mills & camped the 2 brigades at 12 o’clock P.M. in a pasture field—Country much better than any we have passed through since we left Chattanooga—travelled 9 miles.& are 2 miles from Kingston. 18. Left Camp at 9.15 this a.m. Moved about 10 miles & stopped an hour or two giving me time to get over a slight chill & fever—then moved forward about a mile to where we are now (at 5.20 PM). We have been waiting for the 15d Corps to take the road ahead of us—They have been moving since yesterday on a road to the West of us. Hooker’s The other corps have been in sight moving parallel with us on the East side of the valley—We are said to be advancing in five columns—Our corps is on the direct road to Adairsville—started again at 10 PM & move about 8 miles in camp at 4 o’clock a.m. 19’ very hard & tiresome march—19d moved at 10 a.m. for Kingston 8 miles camped within one mile of it at 4 P.M. having moved 7 miles. [illegible] yesterday a little skirmishing this a.m.—(beautiful spring). J. C. Davis took Rome yesterday & two trains of cars & report says 2500 prisoners. 20d Laid in Camp—received orders to be ready to move on 23d with 20 days rations.[8]

Howard Forrer final diary entries, May 1864

Howard Forrer final diary entries, May 1864

The manner in which Howard dated his diary entries—usually omitting the month—made it a little difficult to follow, especially when trying to skim for a particular date. At first glance, I had thought the final entry on the 20th was from a few days before his death, but when checking his timeline against the official Record of Events for the 63rd O.V.I.—see Hewett, pp. 277+—as well as looking up when Rome, Georgia, was captured—it was clear that the activities he described took place in May.

It’s not clear why Howard decided to stop writing in his diary. Perhaps he suddenly found himself too busy. (Hewett’s Record of Events refers to a lot of “marching” and “skirmishing” after the 63rd joined Sherman in May.) Or perhaps he simply tired of keeping a diary; he does not seem to have kept one at any time previously—or, if he did, it seems that neither the diary (nor any reference to it) have survived.

Whatever kept him from continuing his diary may have also kept him from writing home to his mother, who wrote on June 20:

We have had nothing from Howard and I almost fear to hear, I wrote to him yesterday but did not close it, and wait till I see how it terminates, or…when time, to him, is no more, I have written as cheerfully to him, as possible, and hope I shall not depress and unnerve him worse when he needs all the energy possible, Dear dear child! If we can only have him with us again![9]

As you have probably noticed in previous installments of this story, Sarah Forrer worried about her son quite a bit while he was away—not that anyone could blame her. She had also worried about her son-in-law, Luther Bruen. And, as discussed in Part 9, Luther was seriously wounded in May 1864 and by June 20 lay dying in a Washington, DC, hospital; he actually died the next day (June 21). This certainly must have breathed new life into all of Sarah’s fears for the safety of her son Howard, whom she had not heard from and was still out there, somewhere. 

I already knew the fate of Howard Forrer when I read the following letter from Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, dated July 24-25, 1864, and it absolutely gave me goose bumps:

Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them… It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…[10]

A Union victory had indeed been won in Atlanta (really, Decatur), Georgia, a few days earlier. The July 29 issue of the Cincinnati Gazette carried an account of the battle, as well as a partial list of casualties.

Cincinnati Gazette, July 29, 1864, courtesy of Cincinnati Public Library

Cincinnati Gazette, July 29, 1864, courtesy of Cincinnati Public Library

The blow they’d all been dreading came when the Forrer family read that article in the Gazette, which included the following:

Cincinnati Gazette, July 29, 1864

Lieut.-Col. Brown, 63d Ohio, was wounded. The Adjutant of the regiment and Capt. Thorn were killed.[11]

Even though the adjutant’s name was not given, the Forrers knew that there was only one adjutant of the 63rd Ohio—and it was their own precious Howard.

This was how the Forrers first learned the fate of their only son: they read it in the newspaper. (Not being a Civil War scholar, I have to wonder: Was that common? To learn of the death of your son or husband from the newspaper report, rather than an official dispatch sent to directly to you? How awful!)

And yet, the article didn’t explicitly say “Howard Forrer.” What if a mistake had been made? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time (or the last) that a newspaper published inaccurate information, even in the casualty lists.

These two scraps of correspondence from Samuel to his wife on the day the family first saw the report in the Gazette illustrate the frantic urgency and desperate hope they felt on that day:

Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, after July 29, 1864

My dear wife, Bro. John has already telegraphed to the Editor of the Cin. Gazette to learn the name of the Adjt. No answer yet. Will wait here for answer and telegraph to Col. Sprague and others. Robt. Steele called on me and voluntarily said most sympathetically that he did not believe the statement. Odlin doubts its truth. Every body says if true we must have heard it before this time. Hope for the best. Wm. Howard says [“Ero”?] is Chamberlain of the 81st and classmate of theirs—believes he is mistaken. I will be out at 2 o’clock. S.F. Bro. John has some hopes as I have that it may be untrue for the same reason as others.[12]

“Bro. John” was John Howard, Sarah’s brother, a prominent Dayton lawyer and former mayor. And even if the family didn’t already have enough clout to warrant the attention of the Gazette editors in regards to their inquiry, let’s not forget that Samuel’s son-in-law Luther Bruen, who died a few weeks earlier (see Part 9), had previously been one of the proprietors of the Gazette. So I’d like to think the newspaper would be willing to show a little extra respect and consideration to his family.

“Col. Sprague” refers to John W. Sprague, who had commanded the 63rd O.V.I. since 1862 (when Howard joined it). By July 1864, he was in command of the entire brigade—2nd brigade, 4th Division, 16th Army Corps—in which the 63rd included. (Sprague was actually promoted to brigadier general and awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions in the Battle of Atlanta.) And, according to an earlier letter, Samuel apparently knew Sprague from somewhere before the war, so it’s not surprising that he felt comfortable contacting him directly.[13]

“Odlin” must refer to James Hunter Odlin. I recognized the name from earlier letters referring to “Hunter Odlin” as another officer (Major) who served with Howard in the 63rd O.V.I. At first I was confused: Wouldn’t he be in Atlanta, too? How did Samuel ask Odlin about this? But according to the Official Roster, Odlin had resigned from the regiment in 1863, so I suppose he was probably back in Dayton in 1864.[14]

Robert Steele was a prominent Dayton educator who, as far as I know, had no particular ties to the war. William Howard was Samuel’s nephew who had served in 1862-1863 (see Part 5). “Ero” probably refers to the pen name of the war correspondent. There was a William H. Chamberlin who was a captain in the 81st Ohio, which was also in the 16th Army Corps at Atlanta.[15]

A few hours later, Samuel wrote a follow-up message:

Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, after July 29, 1864

No answer from Cincinnati yet. Genl. McCook told Charles Anderson that He did not believe the statement in the Gazette in regard to Howard’s death. Charley says that he does not believe it. But I confess that I have but little hope although [not] entirely without hope. 2 o’clock. S.F. Will come out as soon as things are in train.[16]

Charles Anderson was lieutenant governor of Ohio. It’s not really clear which General McCook he’s talking about—there were several of the “Fighting McCooks”—although I suspect he meant Alexander D.[17] Notice, Howard actually mentioned a few McCooks in his diary entries above, too.

The Forrers obviously had ties to many prominent individuals and others whom they thought might have the correct intelligence on their son. Then again, even if they didn’t know some of these people (but they did), I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a father going to great lengths—including calling upon perfect strangers, if he thought it would help—in order to learn the fate of his child.

Not surprisingly, many people were in shock, disbelief, and perhaps denial about the fate of Howard Forrer. “It can’t be true,” they said; they wanted to believe.

But within a few days, that devastating news report was confirmed, and Sarah Forrer’s worst fear since the war began had come true. Her only son Howard was dead, killed in the Battle of Atlanta.

Special thanks to reference librarian Elizabeth C. of the Cincinnati Public Library for locating the relevant article from the Cincinnati Daily Gazette, July 29, 1864, page 3. I had no title or citation, only the information from Samuel’s two notes, telling me that he had obviously read his son’s death in the newspaper – and Samuel mentioned the “Cin. Gazette” – and an approximate date range of about 2 weeks. I am sincerely grateful for Elizabeth’s help in finding the article in question, with the limited clues I was able to give her.


[1] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 24-25 July 1864, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 35:3, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 14 Feb. 1864 and 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Howard Forrer’s diary, 18 Feb.-2 Mar. 1864, FPW, 6:13; Janet B. Hewett, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II – Records of Events, vol. 65 (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997), 277.

[4] Howard Forrer’s diary, 18-23 Feb. 1864, FPW, 6:13.

[5] Howard Forrer’s diary, 24 Feb.-2 Mar. 1864, FPW, 6:13.

[6] Howard Forrer’s diary, 24-25 Apr. 1864, FPW, 6:13.

[7] Hewett, 277.

[8] Howard Forrer’s diary, 17-20 May 1864, FPW, 6:13

[9] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 20 June 1864, FPW, 4:2.

[10] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 24-25 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.

[11] “The Army Before Atlanta: The Battle of the 22d,” Cincinnati Gazette, 29 July 1864.

[12] Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, [after 29 July] 1864, FPW, 1:8.

[13] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. V (Akron: Werner Co., 1887), 383; “John W. Sprague,” Wikipedia, accessed 10 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._Sprague; Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 9 Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[14] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. V (Akron: Werner Co., 1887), 383; Samuel Forrer to Mary Forrer, 9 Nov. 1862, FPW, 1:10.

[15] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. VI (Akron: Werner Co., 1887), 478, 469; The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 38, Part I-Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 107.

[16] Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, [after 29 July] 1864, FPW, 1:8.

[17] “Charles Anderson (governor),” Wikipedia, accessed 11 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Anderson_%28governor%29; “Alexander McDowell McCook,” Wikipedia, accessed 11 Apr. 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_McDowell_McCook.