Tag Archives: samuel forrer

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.

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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.

Five Oaks

Before it was a neighborhood…or even a park…it was a house. Five Oaks was the name that Jeremiah H. Peirce, a local lard oil manufacturer and later lumber dealer, gave to his 1854 home, apparently naming the estate after “five stately oak trees” situated on the four-acre property (Dayton History; Burroughs; FONIA).

I thought I would share some photos and information about the Five Oaks estate, as a nice, light entry for around the holidays.

This annotated map shows the location of the J. H. Peirce and boundaries estate in 1875. A lot of these old maps don’t show street names, so I’ve added the (current) street names to help you get your bearings in the map:

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

(You can view a high resolution version of the original Harrison Township map on Dayton Remembers, Dayton Metro Library’s digital images collection.)

Charles Sullivan, well-known in the Montgomery County Historical Society (now Dayton History) many decades ago, reminisced about the area in the late 19th century, mentioning two homes in particular that were off the west side of Forest Avenue (or, Tate’s Mill Road, in early accounts):

Opposite Shaw ave. a lane ran up to the home of Samuel Forrer, a two story brick, still standing. He was a well known civil engineer… He had six children and the descendants are still [1943] in the locality.

Opposite Neal ave. was the lane running up the hill to “Five Oaks” the residence of J. H. Peirce, a son-in-law of Samuel Forrer. He had 8 children and was in the lumber industry at the corner of Wayne and State now a railroad yard.

Here is a current Google Map showing the area now known as Five Oaks. The little green splotch of Five Oaks Park (northwest corner of 5 Oaks Avenue and Squirrel Road) is where the Five Oaks estate was originally. Samuel Forrer’s home was located on part of the Grandview Medical Center property.

And now for the really good stuff: pictures!

Since many of us probably have gingerbread on the brain right now, I thought it might be fun to share a different kind of “gingerbread house” — gingerbread in the sense of Victorian architectural embellishments. The Five Oaks house had some really neat “gingerbread” around its eaves, as you will see.

This photo, probably from the late 1860s or early 1870s — I suspect those two little boys are Jeremiah’s two youngest children, J. Elliot and Howard; the woman, probably his wife Elizabeth (who died in 1874) — shows what the Five Oaks mansion looked like in its early days:

Five Oaks, before the tower was built

Five Oaks, before the tower was built (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

About 1890, an addition, including a tower, was built on the north end of the house:

Peirce Homestead [Five Oaks]

Peirce Homestead (Lutzenberger Collection)

Here’s a wonderful cyanotypephotograph, showing roughly the same view but from a little further back, so you can see the trees:

Five Oaks cyanotype

Five Oaks (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

After the tower was added, people sometimes referred to the Peirce house as “The Castle on the Hill” (Dayton History).

In a 1980 article about the Five Oaks neighborhood, long-time resident George Loney had this to say about the Peirce homestead (quoted from Burroughs):

There was still a lot of open land around here when I was a kid, and I sure remember that old Peirce castle. It really was a castle. The stones had been imported from Europe, there was a turret and what looked like a dungeon underneath. It was all hidden in the woods and surrounded by three ponds. Mr. Peirce used to hang a rope with a noose on it in the woods to scare us off. I guess we did get on his nerves–all the kids in the neighborhood used to sneak around there. Of course, the castle’s gone now…

The “Mr. Peirce” of this anecdote must refer to J. Elliot Peirce, the only “Mr. Peirce” that Loney could have known in his childhood. J. H. Peirce died in 1889; J. Elliot was his son. Members of the Peirce family lived at Five Oaks until the 1930s: J. H.’s second wife Mary lived there until 1929 along with two of J. H.’s unmarried daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, both of whom died in 1930. I don’t think J. Elliot actually lived at Five Oaks with his family — Mary, Sarah, and Elizabeth lived there — but according to city directories, he did live very nearby  for a while, at 551 N. Old Orchard Ave., according to a 1919-20 directory; that same directory lists the others at “nec [northeast corner] Five Oaks and Old Orchard Ave.”

In 1946, the four-acre was purchased by the city for a park, and the house was razed (Burroughs; Dayton History). Five Oaks Park now occupies the land.

For more information on Five Oaks or the Peirce family, come see us at the Dayton Metro Library, Local History Room (basement of Main); or feel free to leave a comment on this blog. If photos are what you’re after, check out our Flickr set about the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.

This post was written in advance on Dec. 17, 2011.

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Bibliography

Burroughs, Virginia. “Diversity helps keep Five Oaks neighborhood vital.” Dayton Daily News, 8 Aug. 1980, p. Z6-15. Available in Dayton Local History Room, Clippings File #3908 (Neighborhoods–Five Oaks).

Dayton City Directories. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

Dayton History. “Five Oaks.” Accessed 15 Dec. 2011.  http://www.daytonhistory.org/archives/who_fiveoaks.htm.

Everts, L. H. Combination Atlas Map of Montgomery County, Ohio. Philadelphia : Hunter Press, 1875. Dayton Remembers: Preserving the History of the Miami Valley. Accessed 17 Dec. 2011 through Dayton Remembers: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/; or, find in a library.

Five Oaks Neighborhood Improvement Association (FONIA). “Five Oaks History.” Accessed 3 Dec. 2011. http://www.fiveoaksdayton.com/credits.html.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. Many photos from the collection can be seen at the DML Flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmlhistory/.

Lutzenberger, William. “The Peirce Homestead.” Photo #0541. Lutzenberger Collection (MS-024), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. Photo available online: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/lutzenberge/id/630.

Sullivan, Charles F. “The Covington Pike” (15 Sept. 1943). In Sullivan’s Papers, 425-437. Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1995?. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, call no. 977.173 S949S. Transcription accessed, 15 Dec. 2011, at: http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/covington_pike.html.

A little Quaker love story, Revisited (Part 6)

I intend this to be the true final installment in my story of how Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard met in 1825 and married in 1826 without her parents’ consent, but you just never can tell. I keep finding things!

In my last entry, I attempted to riddle out the school Sarah was attending in Cincinnati when she met Samuel. I had to concluded that it was probably one or the other of two schools, but unfortunately I couldn’t make a clear decision between them. No matter…

I included a transcription of an interesting letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, discussing her schooling, from 23 Nov. 1825. It seems that sometime between Nov. 23 and Dec. 11, when he wrote his daughter another, very differently toned letter, Horton had probably caught wind of Sarah’s blooming relationship with Samuel. The Dec. 11, 1825, letter gives general news, mentions little about school, and offers the following parental admonishments:

Mother says…[for me to tell Sarah] ‘to keep to meetings, to be careful of the company she keeps and not throw herself away.’ This is the earnest solicitude of thy tenderly affectionate parents. It is the Counsel of the giver of every good and perfect gift. If thou art attentive thereto the blessings of everlasting preservation will be afforded and no good thing will be withheld from thee. We are anxiously expecting a letter from thee. Micajah [Williams] is here and in good health, says he rec’d a letter from [his wife] Hannah telling that you were well and that thou wast pleased with the School, all of which is very satisfactory… I intreat [sic] thee my dear Child, write frequently, and freely withhold nothing from us which would be interesting to us or interesting or desirable or useful or relieving to thy self…

Given that Micajah Williams knew Samuel, Sarah, and Sarah’s father (see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011) — and that Horton mentions Micajah has paid him a visit — it makes me wonder if he (Williams) was the one to tip off Sarah’s parents. In any event, it does sound like they heard about it.

To me, Horton’s letter sounds like the 1825 equivalent of: Watch out for boys [or in this case, men]. Don’t forget about church [especially since your new beau is not of our same religion]. You like your new school; remember how we sent you to school to get an education, not to meet boys [er, men]. And, of course, the classic: Is there something you want to tell us? [We already know, so spill it.]

I don’t know exactly whether Sarah ‘fessed up herself. I can only really go by the correspondence that I actually have.

I know that at some point Samuel asked for Horton’s permission to marry Sarah (see Part 1, Aug. 9, 2011) — which, although what I have is an undated draft, could not have been written very long after Horton’s Dec. 11th letter, because Samuel and Sarah did get married on Feb. 13, 1826 — apparently “without the consent of her much loved parents” (according to Samuel’s Feb. 13, 1826, letter to his new father-in-law Horton, informing him of his and Sarah’s marriage; see Part 3, Aug. 11, 2011).

At the time that I wrote Part 3, I had not yet finished processing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection of manuscripts (from which all of these letters originated), so I did not know exactly how Sarah’s father reacted but speculated about how he seemed to have taken the news (see Part 3B, Aug. 13, 2011).

Since then, however, I came across a letter from Horton to Sarah and Samuel, dated 21 Feb. 1826, that I had not yet found when I wrote Parts 1-4. This letter, addressed to “My dear children” includes the following [brackets mine]:

I have just time to acknowledge the receipt of Samuel’s letter of the 13th instant  [the one informing Horton of the marriage] and say we shall always be glad to hear of your welfare and to see you as often as we can and wish you to come and see us whenever you can conveniently but considering the distance [between Columbus and Cincinnati] and Samuel’s engagements [as canal engineer, which involved frequent travel] we do not wish to press you to come sooner nor oftener than you reasonably can. I think it probable that in a month or six weeks I shall come to Cincinnati and possibly may bring some one or more of my family to see you, but do not expect it with too much certainty, as we may be disappointed. I wish you to let us hear from [you] as often as one at least in two weeks or at most every month. Give my love to Micajah [Williams] and Joseph Gest and their wives and all inquiring friends, not forgetting Judge Bates and the whole Corps of Engineers. I should be glad to hear how the engraver is getting on with respect to my map, how you are progressing with the Canal, when you expect to let out more to contractors, how much, &c…

Is it just me, or does that come across a little cold? We’d love to see you, IF we have time, and if all our schedules are not too busy. We might come in six weeks, but don’t get your hopes up. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Then again, he also obviously (as we can tell from the document) did not gush with excitement and congratulations either.

I suppose it probably was a shock. He sent his 18-year-old daughter away to college, apparently only just in September (or so it sounded from the Nov. 23 letter; see Part 5, Dec. 13, 2011), and in a matter of just a few short months (literally could not have been more than 5 months!), she has gotten married, and to a much older man her father disapproves of, no less, and won’t be coming back home! Really, when you put it that way, it sounds like Horton took the news pretty well!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tangent of history. I know I’ve enjoyed piecing it together (or at least trying to!). And what fun is a sleuthing out a story if you don’t share it?

Note: This post was written in advance, on Dec. 17, 2011.

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Bibliography

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402.

For more information on Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.

A little Quaker love story, Revisited (Part 5)

I’m on the trail of Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard again. As I was first delving into their story, I wondered what Sarah was even doing in Cincinnati (where she met Samuel in 1825), when her family lived near Columbus.

I discovered that Sarah was apparently attending school there [see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011]. , and the two seem to have met through a mutual friend, Micajah T. Williams. Forrer, a canal engineer for the Miami and Erie Canal (the construction of which had begun in that year), knew Williams by his association with the canal (Williams was one of the canal commissioners for the Miami and Erie canal). Sarah apparently spent some time with the M. T. Williams family (possibly even stayed with them while she was in Cincinnati), because Williams knew her father (both were Quakers who at one time attended the same monthly meeting, unclear whether there was another connection). She may have also been staying with Joseph Gest, by whose care her father’s 1825 letters were sent.

Both Williams and Gest lived near one another. According to Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, Williams lived on Fifth between Walnut and Vine; Gest lived on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. [See a Google Map of that area.]

Based on the apparently frequent involvement of these men in Sarah’s life during that time period, I supposed that her school was probably nearby (and as I said, that perhaps she might have been boarding with one family or the other).

As this is really a matter of intellectual curiosity only, I decided I must be content to come up with an “educated guess” about where Sarah was attending school, since I could not find any reference to the school by name in either of Horton’s two letters to his daughter from the Fall of 1825, which seems to have been when Sarah enrolled there (wherever “there” was).

A letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, from November 23, 1825 (from the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection), gives much insight into what Sarah was meant to be studying, if not where:

…Thou may remember that our friend Joseph Gest mentioned a probability of there being an opportunity of thy attending a course of Lectures on Chymistry [sic] and I should think well of thy doing so if it will not break in too much on thy other studies, which I think perhaps it would not. I wish thee to be particular in endeavouring to learn the art of painting or shading maps in as neat a manner as thou canst without spending too much time and learn what thou canst conveniently about making or mixing such colours as are not to be bought in Boxes as we shall probably want to paint or shade a considerable number of maps neatly if we can find [sale?] for them.

The calculation we were making that 30 dollars would answer to leave with thee at present included the cost of thy Cloak but as I bought and paid for the cloth to make it, and left thee thirty dollars, besides though wilt not be so short by ten dollars as we calculated and want thee to get what thou needs and not be too sparing of money but continued to be and appear respectable. If thou needs any advice with regard to Books or other things thou art not furnished with or with respect to learning or hearing Lectures or any other subject Joseph Gest or Micajah [Williams] or other friends will advise thee. Joseph will aid or befriend thee very Cheerfully and so no doubt will other friends. Thou may by inquiry perhaps understand nearly how long it would require to learn the French Language or the Lattin [sic] or both, if it should be desirable and advisable. Possibly we might spare thee longer than we had contemplated but as this is uncertain I wish thee to acquire what useful knowledge thou canst in three months or till spring. I now think of thy staying 6 months or until some time in the 5th month if I can but this is uncertain. I intend however that some of us shall write [over?] in two weeks and expect thee to write twice a month or oftener if necessary or thou thinks proper. And if thou should be sick don’t by any means suffer of want of a Phisitian [sic] but have one sent for and I will cheerfully pay the cost when I come.

And I hope my dear Daughter that thou wilt let nothing but sickness prevent thy regular attendance of meetings on first and week days with friends and walk worthy of the profession we make in the world. Neither shun nor be ashamed of the Cross. Often be retired in Spiritual devotion waiting upon, and asking counsel of thy Heavenly Father, so shalt thou ‘Secure to thy self that blessing which maketh truly rich and where unto no sorrow is added.’…

This letter was written 186 years ago, but still I can see familiar sentiments as today’s parent writing to a child away at school: here are my thoughts on your curriculum; try not to over-extend yourself with your course load; I’ve sent you some clothes money; if you get sick, please do see a doctor, and I’ll pay for it.

At first, I thought it curious that Horton was so insistent that Sarah acquire the skills of painting or shading, for maps. Then I remembered that Horton was a surveyor for the federal land office in central Ohio at that time. He probably drew a lot of maps. And he probably figured it would be handy if one of his children became adept at shading them in for him. (Little did he know that his daughter would soon be falling in love with a canal engineer and would never be moving back into her father’s home.)

Armed with the clues from the above letter (the other 1825 letter does not give any clues about education but hints at her parents’ knowledge of her “extracurricular” activities – more on that later) and an idea of the geographic neighborhood where Sarah seemed to spend most of her time, I set out to find out if there was a school she might have attended in that area.

In 1825, Sarah was 18 years old, so I figured I was probably looking for some kind of “college” level school. Also, given the time period, I guessed that she was probably attending some sort of “female” school.

In her article “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Jane Sherzer wrote (pp. 1-2):

The term, ‘higher education for women,’ in those early years…was higher in the sense of giving young women an education much beyond the common branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It differed from the colleges for men mainly in the substitution of French for Greek, and in the addition of music and art to the curriculum. The first institutions for the higher education of women were necessarily private, for, although the states had established colleges and universities for their boys, they had ignored the education of the girls and excluded them from all their schools.

Therefore, I searched the Cincinnati city directories for girls’ academies. In Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, only one girls’ school was listed: the Cincinnati Female Academy of Dr. John Locke. According to Ford & Ford, the academy had been established in 1823 and “was a school of high class and became very popular” (p. 174). As of 1826, the school was located on Walnut Street between Third and Fourth (so, nearby Sarah’s primary neighborhood), but I was not able to find any specific reference to where it was located from 1823-1826 (although I would imagine probably in the same area).

I thought Locke’s school must be a shoe-in for my “educated guess” until I read through Sherzer’s article, which mentions at least two other schools that allowed females during that time period.

One was the Cincinnati Lancaster Seminary, though I have ruled it out because it seems to have been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. I can’t imagine Horton Howard sending his daughter to a Presbyterian school when they were Quaker — so Quaker in fact that he could not officially condone her marriage to a non-Quaker [see Part 2, Aug. 10, 2011].

The other was Pickett’s Boarding School (or Cincinnati Female College), which, although Sherzer says the school started in 1823 and was “especially popular” (p. 10), is not listed in the 1825 directory, though it does show up in Robinson & Fairbank’s 1829 Cincinnati Directory. No address is given for the school, though the Pickett brothers’ address is Sycamore, between Fourth and Fifth — so again, right around the same area.

I hoped perhaps the curriculum might help rule out one or the other — Locke’s or Picketts’ schools — but unfortunately, none of the curricular lists are explicit enough. Both of course had the typical female curriculum involving art, but it sounds like Sarah had options such as chemistry or Latin. In the sources I found, only Locke’s school explicitly mentions the availability of chemistry (Sherzer, p. 9); and only Picketts’ specifically mentions having Latin (Sherzer, p. 10; Ford & Ford, p. 174). In Locke’s school’s advertisement from 1825, a list of instructors and their disciplines is given, but that list includes neither chemistry nor Latin; of course, for that matter, it does not explicitly mention any sort of paper-based art form either, which seems odd.

And so, after all of that, I suppose I’ve still not quite solved the mystery of which school Sarah attended. However, I did sate my curiosity, by tracking down a couple of reasonably plausible possibilities: Locke’s “Cincinnati Female Academy” or the Picketts’ “Cincinnati Female College.”

In the end, what matters to Sarah’s story is not so much which school she attended or even necessarily why she was there (is it just me or does it sound like Dad wanted her trained up so she could help him with his map-making?) or even why she was in Cincinnati as opposed to somewhere else (what, didn’t they have any decent girls’ schools in Columbus?)… Those things (and consequently this entire post) are mainly just “matter of interest” details.

What matters is the fact that she was there…in that place…at that time…and that’s where she met Samuel Forrer, whom she married without her parents’ consent a few months later, and who would be her husband for 48 years.

We have, in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, one other letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah during that time frame — Dec. 11, 1825 — and its tone is much different. It would seem that Sarah’s parents had probably caught wind of her developing feelings towards Forrer by that point. I’ll share more of that later.

*****

Bibliography

Ford, Henry A., and Kate B. Ford. History of Cincinnati, Ohio. Cleveland: Williams & Co., 1881. Available online at Archive.org; or, find in a library.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402.

Hall, Harvey. The Cincinnati Directory for 1825. Cincinnati: Samuel J. Browne, 1825. Available online from Cincinnati Public Library; or, find in a library.

Robinson & Fairbank. The Cincinnati Directory for the Year 1829. [Cincinnati?]: Whetstone & Buxton, 1829. Available online from Cincinnati Public Library; or, find in a library.

Sherzer, Jane. “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 25 (1916): 1-22. Available online from the Ohio Historical Society.

For more information on Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

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

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

*****

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

*****

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

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

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

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

I found useful clues in the following sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A little Quaker love story, Part 3B

A lot can happen in 14 years. For instance, in the 14 years between 1793 and 1807, the following happened: the Treaty of Greenville (1795) opened Ohio up for more settlement; the city of Dayton, Ohio, was founded (1796); George Washington died (1799); the Library of Congress was founded (1800); Ohio became a state (1803); Thomas Jefferson made the Louisiana Purchase (1803), doubling the size of the United States’ territory; and Lewis and Clark set out on their famous adventure (1804).

Why did I choose the arbitrary-sounding dates of 1793 and 1807? Because those are the years in which Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard were born, respectively. He was 14 years older than her, and at the time of their marriage, he was 33, and she was 18. And actually: they were married in February, and Sarah had only just turned 18 the previous December.

I know I promised previously that Part 4 would be the final installment, and so as to keep that promise, I am cleverly deeming this “Part 3B,” and still reserving “Part 4” for a discussion of the men mentioned in Samuel’s second letter, as intended.

I noticed the age disparity sometime after writing Part 3 and decided that it really deserved a discussion.

I wonder how a father might view the situation, if a 33-year-old man wanted to marry his 18-year-old daughter. Today a dad might object purely on creepiness factor. (The would-be groom was probably already starting to think about shaving the year his prospective bride had been born.) However, that is looking at it with twenty-first century eyes and cultural norms.

But would it have been considered odd in the 1820s? I’m not going to answer, because I don’t know. I couldn’t find any good statistics on the matter from the time period at hand, although the CDC has an interesting document – “Marriages: Trends and Characteristics” – but it only covers 1867-1967. This document states at one point: “Men marry later in life than women” (p. 13), which seems like an almost obvious “duh,” but I suppose bears actually stating explicitly if you are going to bother writing up an analysis of statistics on the subject.

J. William Frost writes in The Quaker Family in Colonial America (1973) that “the average age for Quaker women [to be married] was 22.8 and for men 26.5; the median age for women was 20.5 and for men 24” (p. 151). He states this in contrast to “the popular stereotype of colonial women marrying in their teens, bearing a dozen children, and then dying young” (p. 151). But again, as I said in Part 2 when I mentioned Frost before, you can only extrapolate so much from Frost to the Forrer/Howard situation, since he was writing about the colonial era, of which 1826 is not a part. Furthermore, though Sarah was a Quaker, Samuel was not.

Another angle to consider is the possibility that an early 19th century father – or perhaps any father, for that matter – might actually be pleased that an older gentleman with an already well-established, steady career was interested in marrying his daughter. By the time Samuel Forrer met Sarah, he already had several apparently successful years of civil engineering experience under his belt, enough so that he was chosen as one of the three top engineers on the new Ohio canals project in 1825. So by the time he was asking for her hand in marriage, he had a good state-paid job on a project that would keep him employed for the next few years at least until the canals were finished. (And, although they did not know it at the time, Forrer was involved with the canals for much of the rest of his life, into the early 1870s.)

I’m not sure I will ever know how Horton Howard felt about the fact that his daughter’s suitor was 14 years her senior, all non-Quaker-ness aside. (Again, I really wish I could read whatever letter Horton wrote back to Samuel. And perhaps someday I will. Maybe it’s out there somewhere.)

But part of the reason that I bring all of this up is point out something about primary sources (e.g., letters, diaries, oral history interviews). Primary sources constitute first-hand information. Is that better than second-hand information? (Remember the telephone game in kindergarten?) Sure, it probably is. But is it always 100% accurate? Not necessarily. You have to remember to watch out for fallacies in the information from, well, just being human. There can be errors of memory (reconstructing things over time), perception (“I thought I saw…”), or estimation (fish tales, anyone? and some people, like me, are just genuinely bad at estimating sizes).

You could be reading a primary source and the author gives a reason that he or she thinks something might be true; their perception of “why” something happened or why someone else did something. But how do you know they are correct? There are a lot of factors that go into the degree to which you can trust their assessment but the bottom line is: you don’t, really.

When I wrote Part 2, I focused on whether or not Horton Howard would disapprove of Samuel Forrer marrying his daughter Sarah simply on the basis of Samuel’s not being a Quaker. Why did I do that? Well, it does seem to be the most obvious reason for Horton’s disapproval. But I didn’t know much of anything about Quakers before I got into this, so how did I even know that might be an issue?

Oh yeah, because Samuel said so:

I am aware sir that the rules of the Society of Friends imperiously requires parents to guard against the intrusions of strangers; and that, consequently I must not expect that you will give consent to our union…

But what I do not have, as I have said all along, is the letter that Horton wrote back, stating not only his answer but (hopefully) his reasoning. And that would be the most trustworthy source for Horton’s reason: a letter written by him, stating, “I disapprove, and here’s why.” Do I imagine that the objection was probably for the exact reason that Samuel expected? Sure, it probably was. But could it have been for a different reason—like the age difference. Which, come to think of it, did Horton even know Samuel’s exact age? They seem to have had at least a few mutual friends—which I will get to in Part 4—so I suppose it is logical to assume that someone could have given him at least an approximation of the man’s age if he had asked for it.

Back to the idea of factors weighing into whether or not you trust the writer’s assessment. Let’s not forget Samuel’s beloved Sarah. We might assume that Samuel knew Sarah well, and one would think that Sarah probably knew her father well. Perhaps Samuel assumed that Horton would disapprove on religious grounds because Sarah has told him so.

Can’t you just imagine them? Samuel’s just floated the idea of marriage, and at first Sarah’s all giddy, but then she gets somber and informs him, “My father will never consent to it, since you’re not a Quaker, but we have to at least ask him.” Now I have this image of her perched over his shoulder as he scribbled down that draft. Perhaps her suggestions even resulted in some of the strikethroughs? See, now I’m drifting into the realm of total, unfounded, imaginative speculation.

I get lost in it, I really do. I can imagine how long it has taken you readers to sift through the details of these last several posts. And hopefully they do not come off as completely scatter-brained. But even as long as they may take to read, I’ve spent quite a lot more time reading and researching and stewing on the matter myself, and then I had to try to unwind the web of thoughts into some kind of halfway-intelligent narrative.

As promise, the next will be Part 4, the final installment, in which we explore the men named in Samuel’s second letter, the letter that says, “Oh, by the way, we got married last week even after disapproved of it, but all these people think it was a good idea” with a silent “so you should, too.”

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