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Monday, May 25, 2015

Jacob Funk - A Terrifying Experience at Sea, Part 2

Read Part 1 here.

When the sailors announced the rope ready, nearly a hundred hands grasped it and fifty human beings made their way towards that haven of safely.  In the meantime, the sea had become angrier and the waves were rolling higher.  When the rope was freighted to its utmost capacity, Captain Williams gave orders that no more should attempt to go ashore until those on the rope had been rescued.

Close up of a section of the Currier and Ives lithograph depicting the rescue in 1873
 Before the first one gained the rock, a wave approached nearly fifty feet high.  It struck the rope and its precious freight.  All these on the improvised bridge of safety perished.  Many of them were washed hundreds of yards out into the ocean, and their cries were heart rending in the extreme.  Their cries sounded the death knell to a large portion of those left and they became desperate.  
They had witnessed the sailor's successful battle with the waves, and those who could swim, divested themselves of what few clothes they had on and plunged into the sea.  Only a few of them reached shore and those who did were so exhausted when they reached the beach, they were washed back into the sea and drowned.

On the afternoon of April 1st, Mr. Funk reached the rock by means of the rope, the waters having grown calmer.  His clothing was frozen to him. When he reached the rock, he fell in a faint, but soon recovered.  There was six inches of snow on the ground and he had to keep continually in motion to prevent freezing.  Soon after, some fishing boats were hailed and they took the unfortunates off the rock and landed them on terra firma.

 When the shipwrecked people were safe on land, they were a sorry looking crowd, indeed.  Many of them had on nothing but a shirt, others were clothed in drawers and shirt, some had only a pair of pants to protect them from the cold, and many of them were nude, having thrown off their garments to enable them to swim should they be forced to.

Of the 900 passengers that boarded the ship at Liverpool, only 326 were put on the bleak, bare fishing coast.  573 perished.  The only habitation in sight was a small shanty in which a few fishermen managed to exist.

Funk could not speak a word of English, and there were many of his countrymen to keep him company.  The Germans held a consultation and resolved to stay together.  One man in the party whose name Mr. Funk did not learn, could speak English.  They immediately set out for the fishing shanty, but when the German party arrived, they found it full to overflowing by others of the survivors more fortunate than themselves.  Their interpreter was informed that there was another shanty some distance down the coast and thither they repaired walking in six inches of snow barefooted about two miles.  On the way three died and many were frozen badly.

On arriving at the shanty, they found a fire, and those fortunate enough to have clothing dried it.  The larder of the habitation did not furnish much for supper, but by dividing it up, each received enough to keep away starvation.
The next day a steamer took them to Halifax, where they were provided with food and clothing.  Mr. Funk says all the inhabitants of the town were on the street to see them.

April 4th, the shipwrecked people got a steamer, and soon landed at Portland, Maine.  From Portland, they went to Boston.  There a collection was taken up for them, or rather, they were placed on exhibition, the price of admission being 50 cents.  The proceeds were turned over to the unfortunates.
From Boston, they went to Fall River and took a boat for New York, arriving there April 6.  As soon as Mr. Funk arrived in New York, he succumbed to his privations and exposure and lay for six weeks in a hospital on Ward's Island with inflammatory rheumatism.

Ward's Island - located between Queens and Manhattan
 When he recovered, he earned enough money to take him West and he subsequently became a resident of this county.  He is unmarried.  He attributes his miraculous escape from death to his strong constitution, as he was very rugged in his younger days.

Mr. Funk has never met but one of the survivors of the ill-fated Atlantic since he parted from his companions in New York.  This was the mate, Brady, who bravely carried the line to the rock.  Mr. Funk met him at the White Star Line exhibit at the World's Fair.  Strange to say, Mr. Funk was the only one of the passengers who survived the wreck whom the seaman had met.  The meeting was a pathetic one and Mr. Funk says the gallant seaman cried like a child.

As he related this last evening, a suspicion of a tear glistened in his eye.  Brady was at the Exposition in the interest of the White Star Line.  He is old, infirm, and the company has pensioned him for his gallant service April 1st, 1873."

Cornelius Brady, Hero of the Atlantic shipwreck, 1873
As for Jacob Funk, he appeared in the 1880 census, Richland Township, Defiance County, working as a farm laborer for Michael and Mary Hohenberger.  He was 27 and still single, and he named his birthplace as Baden.

By the 1900 census, he was still not married and by this time was boarding with the Henry and Elizabeth Ort family, working as a day laborer.

I could not locate him in the 1910 census, but he appeared again in 1920 in Defiance City, living at 742 Jackson Street with his wife, Margaret.  He was 66, and she was 72. 

Death records showed that he died on February 6, 1924, but I am not sure where he and his wife were buried. 

For some further reading on the wreck of the Atlantic and a look at the memorial site in Nova Scotia, go HERE.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Jacob Funk - A Terrifying Experience at Sea, Part 1

In recognition of Memorial Day, we present a two part story of the wreck of the ship, Atlantic, in 1873, where over five hundred people died.  One of our Defiance County residents was a witness to it all and shared his tale with the newspaper about twenty years after the ship went down. 
From the Defiance Democrat - December 6, 1894


Jacob Funk Tells a Horrible Story of a Ship Wreck.
Lashed to a Mast Fifteen Hours in Frozen Garments.

The Fatal Day in 1873, when the White Star Liner, 'Atlantic," was Dashed to Pieces on the Rocks.

Jacob Funk, who resides in South Richland township, this county, has had an experience in his life which for hardship and privation is hardly without a parallel in the annals of history.
Mr. Funk was a caller at this office last evening, and told the thrilling story of how 573 persons met death on the ill fated White Star Line steamer Atlantic the night of March 31st and April 1st, 1873.  
He is now nearly 40 years old, but distinctly remembers the incidents that time can never efface from his memory.

March 20, 1873, he took passage on the Atlantic at Liverpool for America.  At that time he was about 20 years old and left his birth place, Germany, to link his fate and fortune with the people of the United States.  His father's estate had recently been settled, and young Funk, when he had exchanged his German money for American gold, had $500 with which to begin life.
With this in his possession, the future looked bright and it was with a light heart indeed that he bade farewell to the old world to seek prosperity across the water.

The Atlantic was a new, staunch steamer, and had not made many trips across the ocean.  She was commanded by Captain Williams, a veteran in the service of the White Star Line Company, a seaman to be trusted with a new boat and the keeping of her hundreds of passengers.
The human freight of the big ocean liner consisted of 900 souls.  There were 370 Germans in the steerage.  The voyage was an uneventful one.  The weather was all that could be desired, and the ship made rapid progress and the crew and passengers were happy.

The evening of March 31st, there was a dance on board and the hours were beguiled away in the mazes of the dance while shouts and merry laughter rang out over the water.  While the revelry was at its height, one of the mates looked at the compass and saw the ship was out of its course.  The ship was in command of the first mate, the captain being below.  The mate who made the discovery immediately informed his superior officer that the boat was not being held to the course and chart, being too far north.
The officer in command ordered his subordinate below and somewhat angrily informed him he knew his business and would not be dictated to.  Mr. Funk says he has since heard that the officer in command had been imbibing too much of the ship's grog and was not competent to have command of the ship.

About midnight, Mr. Funk was rudely awakened by being unceremoniously pitched out of his berth.  When he struck the floor of the ship, he immediately divined something unusual had happened, and it had.  Soon he heard the screams of the frightened and thoroughly terrorized passengers.  Jacob was clad only in his drawers and undershirt, but he hastily climbed on the deck.
The ship had been steered out of her course and had struck a rock and was being dashed to pieces. The crew immediately tried to man the pumps, but before they could get them to work, they discovered it was useless to attempt it, as the vessel was doomed.  In less than five minutes, the stern of the vessel began to sink.  The waves were running high and the sounds of the breakers beating against the rocks could be distinctly heard.

A lithograph by Currier and Ives showing passengers hanging  onto rigging to get to a rock 40 yards away.
 The crew made an effort to lower the lifeboats when the vessel careened on its side and one of the boats was submerged.  The other one was loosened from its davits and when a portion of the crew attempted to launch it, a wave swept the deck and the sailors and the boat, the only haven of safety remaining, was swept into the seething, hissing waves, and were lost to view.

Mr. Funk hastily grabbed a piece of rope and following the example of others, took to the rigging of the ship.  He secured a position on a cross head and firmly lashed himself to the spar.  Nearly all of the women and children stayed on deck a few moments and were then washed off by the waves. Funk says the scene at this time was horrible and haunted him for many years.  
On every conceivable portion of the ship above water were to be seen men clinging for safety.  All of them were in their night clothing.  It was bitter cold and rain and sleet was falling, which froze as soon as it touched their clothing.  The portion of the deck that was not under water was constantly being swept by the waves and the benumbed creatures were in momentary peril of being swept into the sea.  The mast he had sought refuge on, owing to the careening of the vessel, was but a few feet above the water and occasionally the salt spray would saturate his clothing.

The boat struck the rock about a half mile from shore, fifty miles from Halifax.  Halfway to the shore, a large rock reared its summit above the water.  Captain Williams tried to comfort his companions by cheering words, but all felt they must perish, soon.  One of the sailors suggested that if a line could be got to the rock, they might yet be rescued.  It would be necessary for someone to swim to that rock.  The captain called for volunteers.  No one responded.

Finally a mate named Brady, a hardy, robust fellow, announced his willingness to make the attempt, which meant almost certain death.  He fastened a light line around his body, bid his companions good-bye and plunged into the sea.  Those on the ship witnessed his battle with the waves with interest.  Their lives depended upon his success or failure.
After being in the water nearly a half hour, in the fast approaching daylight, they could dimly discern him scrambling to the summit of the rock.  A cheer arose from the ship.  They saw him no more for several minutes, and hope again died in their breasts.  Had he succeeded only to perish when his efforts were crowned with success?

Presently, there came a shout and a tug at the rope. Instantly a stronger line was fastened to the slender cords upon which hinged hundreds of lives.  This rope was hauled to the rock.  Then one sailor grasped the rope and hand over hand proceeded to the rock.  Two more then followed, and in the same manner, twelve sailors gained the rock.  
The captain sternly commanded all to remain quiet until he gave them permission.  He said it was not his purpose to save the remaining members of the crew first, but he wished experienced men to handle the rope at the shore end, as he doubted whether it could be safely fastened.

To be continued...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Defiance County Pioneers - Margaret Wilcox

Mrs. Margaret Wilcox Passes Away
Eloquent Words Uttered in Her Praise

Margaret Fee was born in Gallia county, Ohio, November 11, 1823.  She was one of 12 children.
In 1830, the family moved to a farm bordering the St. Joe river, northeast of Edgerton, afterward known as Denmark.  

The father took sick and died while on the way to the new home and the widow was left with this large family to battle with the trials of pioneer life in the wilderness of a wild,new country.

On March 23, 1842, Margaret was united in marriage to Alfred W. Wilcox with whom she shared the joys and sorrows of life until the year 1893 when it pleased the Lord to remove her husband by death.
Their union was blessed with 10 children, three sons and seven daughters.  

On Tuesday evening, September 28, 1909, when this mother had reached the ripe age of 85 years, 10 months and 17 days, she peacefully fell asleep.  Of her 10 children, only 5 survive her: Mrs. Celeste Amaden, John Wilcox, Mrs. Lucina Lehman, Mrs. Ida Cleveland, and Mrs. Emma Crary.

The parents and all the brothers and sisters of Mrs. Wilcox had preceded her in death.  She, herself, lived, however, to see the fourth generation of descendants.  But her one great-great granchild died about two years ago.  The other descendants that survive are 14 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren.  

Mrs. Wilcox was a resident of Milford township for more than 67 years, and was respected and loved by all who knew her.  She was a faithful wife, a devoted mother, a true friend, and kind neighbor, and she will be greatly missed among her neighbors and friends. 

The funeral was held at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Crary, Thursday forenoon, October 1, conducted by Rev. D. F. Helms, of Hicksville...  Four very appropriate selections were sung by a selected quartet.   Mrs. M. M. Farnsworth of Hicksville, and Dr. Hathaway of Edgerton, paid touching tributes to Mrs. Wilcox and Miss Hathaway read by request a very fitting poem.  The body was laid to rest in Forest Home cemetery."

 In an unusual circumstance, the funeral sermons given by both Mrs. Farnsworth and Dr. Hathaway were included with the obituary, making it quite a lengthy piece.  Included here are parts of both sermons, just because they give more information about Margaret Wilcox, and give us a better understanding of her life.

From Mrs. Farnsworth, a friend and neighbor of 48 years:
"She took up the cares and responsibilities of life at a very tender age.  All along the way she was called to mourn for loved ones, a father, brother and sisters, children and husband, and as they went away, she could but think of the immortality of the future.

She came to northwestern Ohio before the Indians left it.  She knew and endured for the younger generations all the hardships of pioneer life.  With the conveniences and luxuries of the present (1909), we can hardly imagine her life in the forest.  She was familiar with the sight of bears, wolves and panthers.  The Indians with tomahawk and scalping knife often came to her mother's home.  She one night slept on a brush heap within a circle of burning brush heaps which kept the howling wolves at bay.

In her childhood, schools were unknown in this section.  Her young girlhood was spent in graduating herself in general housework, sewing, spinning, knitting.  In her teens she married Mr. William Wilcox who had bought a farm in Milford township and erected a cabin for his bride.  There she came to bless and beautify his home, and there as the days and years went by, with hard toil...

She was anxious for settlers to come in, knowing all these things enhanced the value of property and the interest of her children...  She once said to me, 'Mrs. Farnsworth, I don't think we are greedy money makers, but William and I want to save enough so our children can have a good start for comfortable homes.  We don't want them to work as hard as we have done.'"

And from Dr. Hathaway:
"...I became acquainted with the deceased in 1865, about forty-four years ago, and have been her physician ever since.  She has told me of her early pioneer life.
Emigrating to this country at seven years of age, about 1830, when this country was a dense forest...  When she would be out a little late traveling on horseback, from one settlement to another, keeping music and time while the broken reflection of the moon would glimmer between the tree tops, showing her the trail.

Her father died on his way back from entering land for their future home.  The family was thrown upon their own resources, and her life was a hard one until she married her husband, William Wilcox, in 1843.  He was a giant among giants, a physical force, mind and body.  He was one of the best friends I ever had.  Want and penury never looked her in the face after her marriage.  She did her part; he did his.  They earned and saved and became wealthy.  She has had, since I knew her, all the modern conveniences, and enjoyed them..."  
 Source: Obituaries: Pioneers of Northwest Ohio, Volume 1.  Carma Rowe Estate (Johnson Memorial Library).  No date.  p. 207.
 Copies available at Defiance Public Library and Hicksville and Sherwood branch libraries.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Gypsies in Adams Township - 1894

From the Defiance Democrat - November 1, 1894
In the social column...

A. Pessefal has a fine brick cellar completed.

The Coressel Bros., J. P., Al and Jake, allowed their fine black mustaches to succumb to one of the whithering frosts of last week.

John Walk and sister, Mrs. Sophia McNamara of The Bend were guests of Mrs. Henry Co, Henry Coressel Sunday last.

Several natives of the Transylvanian Alps passed through here last Sunday accompanied by a number of bears.  They were very dirty and begging was their profession.
The nomadic "gypsies" were usually from Romania or surrounding areas and were greeted with skepticism by the locals.

The appearance of the Catholic cemetery on the Ridge was improved by the construction of a new fence and a general cleaning up of the grounds.  The work was done last Monday.  The members of the congregation turning out en masse.

On October 20th, Ferd Mikus (Mekus) was up before Squire Sheets to answer to a charge of assault and battery preferred by John Moser.  It seems that on sundry occasions Moser had assumed pugnacious attitudes toward the defendant and even plainly intimated that he 'lied' about certain things, whereupon Ferd, consulting his manhood, literally 'mopped the earth' with said Moser.  Hence his appearance before justice.  Ferd pleaded guilty to the charge and paid a fine of five dollars and costs, amounting to ten dollars in all.

Next Tuesday is election.  It is expected that every voter in Adams township will be out as the question of 'relief' for P. J. Schwartzel, treasurer who was caught in the wreck of the defunct Savings bank, is to be voted upon."

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Eisenhower and the Defiance College - The Back Story

Almost anyone familiar with Defiance, Ohio, knows the story of President Eisenhower's visit to the city in October, 1953, thanks to Kevin McCann.  McCann was a former speechwriter and biographer for Eisenhower and eventually, McCann became president of the Defiance College. The plan was for President Eisenhower to visit the college, speak for 15 minutes and then lay the cornerstone for the college's new library.
Obviously, when a President of the United States makes his way to Defiance, it was historic. Preparations had to be made. A parade route was established from the downtown area out to the college, extra law enforcement was brought in, dignitaries were invited, and school was dismissed for the day so thousands of school children could view the president.

Ohio Memory Project - Defiance Library.  Ike greeting the crowds in downtown Defiance.

 Drew Pearson, a noted columnist of the day, published a column nationwide on October 20, 1953, after the event, that told some of the behind the scenes facts behind Eisenhower's visit.

There was a special reason why President Eisenhower stopped at the Defiance college in Defiance, Ohio, en route to the Mexican border.  That reason had to do with 200 special cigars in glass containers prepared by the American Tobacco company and labeled, 'Defiance welcomes the Eisenhowers, September 1953.'

Actually Ike got there in October, so the cigars weren't quite up to date, nevertheless he got there.

And the story behind all this is that Kevin McCann, president of the Defiance college - Dr. McCann insists upon the 'the' - had obtained a promise from the president last summer that he would stop off at Defiance, Ohio enroute home from Denver.  Dr. McCann is Ike's original biographer and wrote the book syndicated in many newspapers last year which helped to prepare for his nomination.

And having obtained the promise that Ike would stop over, McCann proceeded to get ready for him.

He spent $150 on a new cornerstone, raised a lot of money to extend the runways of the Defiance airport so Ike's big plane could land, and had the special cigars made for 200 guests.  Furthermore, the city of Defiance turned out with gala decorations - when suddenly McCann got a wire from the president, reading:

'Sorry, we won't be able to stop at Defiance on way home, Kevin.  We have to stop in Chicago to pick up the kids.'

He referred to the fact that he had to pick up his grandchildren who were visiting in-laws at Fort Sheridan, Illinois.

McCann got a bad razzing from the folks at Defiance, and for a time, he didn't feel much like living there.  However, he went to Washington, made a personal appeal to the President, and Ike finally decided to stop at Defiance in October, not September."

L to R: Mayor Rost, President Eisenhower, Gov. Frank Lausch, Sen. John Bricker, and DC President McCann -at the train
 (Photo - courtesy of the Defiance College Pilgrim Library Archives)

Whew...job well done, President McCann, and it couldn't have been easy.  I'm looking for a photo of one of those special cigar cases and I haven't been able to find one.  The Defiance College no longer has the Eisenhower room and the items there have been dispersed.  Wonder if any cigar cases still exist?  


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Kathryn Singer - A Tragic Accident

From the Marckel Scrapbook



Little Girl Meets Death in Trough.   

Drowned in But One Foot of Water 
– Sad Bereavement to Mr. and Mrs. George Singer.

One of the saddest misfortunes that has occurred in the vicinity of Defiance for many years took place at the home of George Singer, the Dairyman, in Noble township Friday evening at about 6:00 o’clock in which little Kathryn, the eighteen months old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Singer met death by drowning in the big watering trough in the barnyard.

The little girl had accompanied an older sister and her father to the barn.  She had intended hunting for eggs as was her custom each evening. Although her father kept watch of her as he always did when she visited the barn, she became lost from him in some way.  Returning to the house, he happened to look into the watering trough and there was his child.  She was immediately removed and every measure taken to restore life.  

 Physicians were called from Defiance but were unable to revive the spark of life.  The little girl had drowned in a foot of water.  The child could not have been in the water over fifteen minutes.

The funeral occurred Monday morning at 9:00 o’clock from St. Mary’s Catholic church, Rev. Collins officiating.  Burial was in Riverside.”

I believe this to be the correct tombstone, located in Riverside Cemetery.  On this Mother's Day, we remember the tragedy of so many who lose a child too soon.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Have You Visited the Old Apple Tree?

One of the first mentions of the large, apple tree that once stood on the north side of the Maumee across from the library in Defiance appeared in the Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812 by Benson J. Lossing, 1869, Chapter XVI.
He wrote of his visit to Fort Defiance about sixty-five years after Fort Defiance was abandoned as a military site.

"I visited the ruins of Fort Defiance on a warm, sunny day late in September, 1860.  I came up the Maumee Valley by railway from Toledo on the previous evening, and arrived at the Defiance station at midnight.  The village of Defiance lying mostly on the Maumee, upon the beautiful plain at the confluence of that river and Au Glaize, was shrouded in a chilling fog.  Warned of the danger of the night air in that valley at that season of the year, I felt as if fever and ague were inhaled at every inspiration while walking a long distance to the hotel.  There was all darkness.  A slumbering attendant was finally aroused, and I was directed by the feeble light of a small candle to a most cheerless bedroom at one o'clock in the morning.

After an early breakfast I went out to find the historical localities of the place, and was fortunate enough to be introduced to Mr. E. H. Leland and Doctor John Paul, who kindly accompanied me to them.  We first visited the interesting remains of Fort (Defiance) on the point of land where the two ruins meet.  We found the form of the glacis and ditch very distinctly marked, the remains of the former rising six or eight feet above the bottom of the latter.  The shape of the fort was perfectly delineated by those mounds and the ditch.  Some large honey locust trees were growing among the ruins.  These have appeared since the fort was abandoned in 1795.  One of them, with a triple stem, standing in the southeastern angle of the fort, measured fifteen feet in circumference.  These ruins are likely to be preserved.  The banks were covered with a fine sward, and they were within an inclosure containing about two acres of land, which the heirs of the late Curtis Holgate presented to the town.

Pictorial Field Book of the War of 1812, Benson Lossing, 1869
 We visited the site of Fort Winchester, a little above Defiance, on the bank of the Au Glaize, and found the remains of many of the pickets protruding from the ground.  Across a ravine,just above the fort, was the garrison burying ground.  We returned to the village, crossed the long bridge which spans the Maumee, and from the heights of Fail's Grove, on the eastern side of the river, obtained a comprehensive view of the two streams at their confluence, the site of the fort and the village of Defiance.  The sketch there made is here given...

On our return to the village we visited on the way, near the margin of the Maumee, an aged and gigantic apple-tree, coeval (equally old), no doubt , with the one near Fort Wayne.  We found it carefully guarded, as a sort of 'lion' of the place, by a high board fence, the ground around it, within the inclosure, thickly covered with burr bearing weeds. It was upon the Southworth estate, and access to it might be had only through a small house near.  That tree was a living monument of the French occupation of the spot, as a trading station, long before any other Europeans had penetrated that remote wilderness.  It measured about fifteen feet in circumference eighteen inches from the ground.  The figure standing by it affords a fair criterion for judging of its size, by comparison with the body of a stout man.  We returned to Defiance in time for dinner, and left with the early train for Fort Wayne."
Sketch of the apple tree in Lossing's book, mentioned above

Hicksville News
Thursday, October 28, 1886
Page 1

"-- Here is a little more history of the old apple-tree, blown down in the storm, two weeks ago:
The old apple-tree, on the north bank of the Maumee, at Defiance, was remarkable for its age.  When the first white settlers cleared the forest along the river, they found a row of apple-trees, which, according to the Indian tradition, were planted by missionaries, prior to the 18th century.

The one just destroyed was the last to succumb to the ravages of time and storm.  It was a large tree, and beneath its spreading branches, Occonoxee, the last Indian chief of that locality, was born.  He died over forty years ago, at the ripe age of 83.

The Indians almost held the fruit trees in veneration, and visitors to old Fort Defiance, have always had pointed out to them, the veteran tree, just across the river, standing like a ghostly picket upon the lines between past and present.

At one time, this tree measured 7 feet in diameter and 26 feet in circumference, and was known as the largest apple-tree in the United States, if not in the world.  Nobody knew the age, but Occonoxee, a chief of the Pottawatonies, who was 80 years old at the time, told one of our citizens, 50 years ago, that he was born under that tree.  From this it can be seen that the tree must have had an age of at least 150 years.

When the sun was at its zenith, its shadow was 50 feet wide, and it had been known to bear as high as 200 bushels of apples in one crop.  Due reverence for such a fallen monarch would call for its being made up into momentoes such as canes, etc."

Today the location of the old apple tree is marked by a stone monument on top of a large tree stump which indicates the size of the tree.  Although the statistics differ, depending on the source, we can all agree it is a great historical reminder of the roots of early Defiance.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Defiance County Pioneers - Hal Miller

Photo on www.findagrave submitted by Bill Metz
November 28, 1912


Hal H. Miller, Marshall and Fire Chief

Stricken with Heart Failure While in the Discharge of His Duties at the Jail

Horace H. Miller, city marshal and chief of the local fire department for a number of years, died suddenly at four o'clock Wednesday afternoon, November 20, of heart failure, while in the discharge of his duties at the jail.

During the afternoon,he had been called to quiet a disturbance at the home of William Wallace.  It was necessary to arrest and confine Wallace to assure the peace and safety of members of his family.  This was only accomplished with much difficulty, in which Mr. Miller was forced to exert himself, as Wallace showed fight, flashed a gun and threatened to take his (Miller's) life.

However, after Wallace had been safely incarcerated, Mr. Miller secured Walter Smith to assist him in making repairs at the jail.  The stove pipe needed fixing and a window light replacing.  On the way to the jail, Miller complained of a severe pain in his chest.  Arrived there, he told Smith to take the measurement of the window while he built a fire.  After laying the kindling in the stove,he took a bucket and went after coal.  He had just returned and reached the door of the jail when the fatal stroke fell.

Smith heard the clatter of the coal bucket, but supposed Miller had slipped off the step and fell.  He went to the door and spoke.  Seeing Mr. Miller laying on the ground, motionless, he bent over him and attempted to raise him up.  Receiving no replies to his inquiries, and thinking that something serious had happened,he hastened and secured the assistance of Clyde Maxwell and W. N. Bates.  While one went after Dr. W. H. Cook, the other two did all they could for the stricken man.  Upon the arrival of the physician, he was removed to his home on Cornelia Street.

The stroke, seemingly, had proved instant and fatal, and its victim never regained consciousness and expired a moment after its visitation.  Whether or not the excitement of the arrest and incarceration of Wallace was instrumental in bringing on the attack is mere conjecture.  The word that Mr. Miller, a faithful friend of all, a good citizen, and an exemplary officer had died suddenly soon spread and the people of the town (Hicksville) were cast into sadness and gloom.

Mr. Miller was a man in every sense of the word.  He met and conquered reverses that would have discouraged a less stronger spirit.  His temptations were many and sore, yet he overcame them and the past several years of his life have been lived as only the good and true, noble and big hearted people can live.

The remains lay in state at the late home until Sunday.  The funeral was held at the Presbyterian church at 2 o'clock Sunday afternoon and was in charge of the local fire department.  The cortege was accompanied to the church by a large body of people, headed by the Hart Concert Band, a large delegation from the Defiance fire department and county officials, and the entire membership of the local department in uniform.  The services were conducted by Rev. J. N. King, pastor of the deceased, assisted by Reverands P. O.Rhodes, D. F. Harris, and D.G. Hall.  Congressman Ansberry was in attendance at the funeral and spoke feelingly of the close bond of friendship that had existed between himself and the deceased for a number of years.  Mayor E. C. Bear paid a touching tribute to Mr. Miller's record as an official of the town and also of the fire department."

Included in the obituary were the words of Dr. J. W. Lilly who spoke to the funeral crowd as a representative of the fire department.  He noted that Hal Miller was a charter member of the first fire company in Hicksville in 1874 and also a charter member of the Union Hose, Hook and Ladder Company organized in 1890.  He first served as an assistant chief and in 1894 was elected Chief of the Department and re-elected again in 1911. He had 38 years of public service and was loved by the "boys."

"H. H. Miller (Horace H.), son of Abraham and Eliza Miller, was born in Fredericksburg, Wayne county, Ohio, September 12, 1851.  In 1855 he came with his parents to Hicksville, Ohio, where he resided until his death on November 20, 1912, at the age of 61 years, 2 months and 8 days.  He was one of a family of twelve children, six boys and six girls, nine of whom are still living, his father, mother, two brothers and two sisters preceding him to the life beyond.
On October 12, 1871, he was united in marriage to Cynthia Steele, to which union were born eight children, six boys and two girls.  He has left to mourn his loss, three brothers and four sisters, his wife, five sons and two daughters and ten grandchildren, together with a host of relatives and friends.

The remains were accompanied to Forest Home by a large body of people from near and far, and the last sad rites were performed and the soul of a beloved citizen was committed to its Master."

Forest Home Cemetery, Hicksville, Ohio - www.findagrave
 Source: Obituaries: Pioneers of Northwest Ohio, Volume 1.  Carma Rowe Estate (Johnson Memorial Library).  No date.  p. 207.
 Copies available at Defiance Public Library and Hicksville and Sherwood branch libraries.