Miami County, Ohio Genealogical Researchers -- Sponsored by the Computerized Heritage Association


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    Miami county has not been prolific in journalists, and those who have made the mark were not trained printers who graduated from the position of ink-boy to the presiding genius of the editorial sanctum. One of the most prominent editors of Miami county who has joined the "silent majority" was John W. Defrees, who died while editor and proprietor of the Miami Union. He was born November 4, 1809, in Rockbridge county, Virginia, and was the son of John and Mary Defrees. When a lad of five years he came with his parents to Piqua, Ohio, in December, 1814. His father settled two and one-half miles south of Piqua on a farm, which was at that time covered with heavy forest. John W. remained with his father until twenty-five years of age, engaging in all the hard work incident to clearing and cultivating a farm at that early day. In October, 1836, he moved to Goshen, Indiana, where he was a clerk in a store managed by John L. Meredith, and owned by William Barbee, of Troy. He returned to Piqua in 1837, and soon afterward was employed as a clerk in the store of William Scott, a prominent merchant of that day. He left the store in April, 1841, and in the fall of the same year commenced the publication of the Piqua Register, which he published until January, 1857, when he sold his paper. He was nominated and elected county auditor, and at the expiration of his first term, so well had he served the people, that he was re- elected and served a second term. He then again engaged in journalism, and on the 1st of January, 1865, commenced the publication of the Miami Union, remaining its editor and proprietor until his death. After he had established the Miami Union with a good subscription list and a well-furnished office and a good library, he lost all by a disastrous fire. He was an old man then. Many a man of his age would have folded his arms in despair, and yielded to adverse circumstances, but John W. Defrees, ruined and almost penniless, with the weight of more than three score years upon him, bravely began anew the battle of life, cheered and assisted by his devoted wife and children. Out of the ashes of that fire, which had consumed the savings of a life time, he built up the Union, and before God called him home the bright sunlight of prosperity enabled him to lift the last encumbrance off his paper.

    The Miami Union in his hands was the leading newspaper of Miami county, and wielded a wide influence. Its editor was an uncompromising Republican, and, the writer may add, a bitter partisan, but his character for honesty was so well established that his editorials were read with confidence by his party and sometimes with bitter condemnation by the Democrats, and had a marked influence upon the politics of Miami county. He was not a brilliant writer, but he was honest in his statements. He was careful in selecting the matter for his paper, and no dirty scandal or sensational occurrence found a place in the columns of the Miami Union under his management. He gave the news in a clear, concise manner, but woe to the political or personal enemy that attacked either the Republican party or the editor of the Union in personal abuse. His editorials would then bristle and burn with the adjectives of denunciation and the language of vituperation until his adversary would be glad to let the old man alone. Another characteristic of John W. Defrees was his intense hatred of a dishonest officeholder. No consideration of party success or personal interest could restrain his indignant denunciation of the rascal without regard to family, standing or party relations.

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