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

Home Page | Miami County Page | Resources | Mailing List

Copied from Harbaugh's 1909 History


Miami County Ohio

Chapter 20


Smallness of the Voting Population in Early Days
First Elective Officers - Political Parties
Methods of Electioneering - Local Issues The Adams-Jackson Campaign
Coming of General Harrison in 1837 and 1840
The Campaigns of 1856 and 1860 - The Campaign of 1864
Later Presidential Campaigns - Congressional Battles
Humorous Incidents - Present Day Politics

The politics of the county date back almost to its establishment. For some years the voting population was very small. Elections were not held in all the townships as they are constituted today. About the first elective officers of the county were justices of the peace, or squires, as they were commonly termed. These officers were selected from among the most intelligent citizens; they often settled neighborhood disputes out of court and were generally known as the peacemakers of their respective localities. They held "Court" in the largest room of their houses, and the yard was taken up with the vehicles of those who came to hear the trials. There was very little "log rolling" at the first elections; the early settlers met irrespective of party and put the best men in the field, then went to the various polls, swapped horses, voted and went home.

When it came to state and national elections it was somewhat different. Excitement then, as a rule, rose to a high pitch. Miami County could generally be depended upon to give a Whig majority and she rarely failed to meet the expectations of the adherents of this party. With the appearance of the newspaper in the county the candidate began to announce himself and in his manifesto he generally gave his views on the questions of the day. In a copy of the Piqua Gazette of September 26, 1829, Isaac Hendershot announces that he is a candidate for the State Senate in the senatorial district composed of Montgomery and Miami counties. It was at the time when an extension of the Miami Canal from Dayton to Maumee Bay was being agitated. This scheme had many opponents, but Mr. Hendershot comes out flat-footed in favor of the measure. He grows quite eloquent in his appeals for the nomination, for in conclusion he says; "I presume it is a fact very generally known to all who have had any tolerable acquaintance with the intermediate country between Dayton and the Lake that there is to be found no fairer or more progressive region in the whole empire of the west, that the climate, though somewhat varied in its character, is nevertheless to be regarded as extremely healthful. These, with many other inducements, cannot fail to have their due influence on the minds of industrious and enterprising adventurers. Already is there a strong and mighty current of emigration teeming, to these delightful but uncultivated lands, buoyant no doubt, in the hopes that the day is not far distant when commerce will fling her canvas to the winds and afford such facilities to the transportation of their produce as will generously reward their labor and toils.

In this year the following citizens of the county were candidates for office: For representative, William Barbee and Henry Barrington; sheriff, T.W. Furnas and T.W. Mansfield; treasurer, William Brown and Azel Skinner; commissioners, Robert Morrison, John Casson, Michael Williams, Col. George Mitchell; assessor, Moses G. Mitchell, Zachariah Riley, Benjamin Brandon and Richard Armstrong; coroner, David W. Wallace, and Joseph Harlan. This shows that even at that remote date there was a lively scramble for office in this county, and succeeding years have demonstrated that the old time "Scramble" has been "catching."

At the October election of 1828 Miami County cast 1,318 votes. Of these Trimble, who was a candidate for governor, received 753. The editor of the Troy Reporter in that year voices his disappointment and prates loudly about "political chicanery." He says in his tirade:

"The continual negligence of the Republican party has subjected us to a partial defeat, and the great election (the Presidential one) is just at hand, The dearest interests of our beloved country are at stake an our mistaken neighbors are following a set of more deluded and more, guilty leaders, in the road to ruin. Surely they will stop before they reach the end of their race, But alas! alas! Many of our hearty Republicans are following Andrew Jackson and think him the greatest patriot in the country. Their efforts are zealous and persevering beyond a parallel. One from New York in the form of a preacher of the Gospel, and another from Cincinnati in the more undisguised form of a Political party, have traversed this district with an untiring assiduity worthy of the best cause. If they succeed through our apathy we shall deserve to share with them the evils that threaten us."

In another paragraph the editor of the Reporter exclaims:

"Shall we place such a man as Andrew Jackson in the Presidential chair? I appeal to you, my fellow citizens, a poor man far from the loaves and fishes of office. General Jackson is a slaveholder of Tennessee, and is thoroughly imbued with all the corrupt and tyrannical habits of a Southern nabob and, as such, is selected by these petty tyrants of the South to sustain their interests. Mr. Adams and his adherents will as certainly support our country and our country's friends. You may, by possibility, obtain a victory, but it will be a victory over yourselves as well as your opponents; you will have to bear a full share of the evil bring upon your country. Hurl, then, if you will, a firebrand into the magazine of our political fortress. You are in equal danger of perishing by the explosion. And whatever may be the result I promise to bear my portion of the calamity with due meekness and submission."

What effect the foregoing appeal had upon its readers I do not know. Probably Editor Fairfield had reason to think that his words would not fall upon stony ground and flattered himself that he had caused " Old Hickory" at least a few sleepless nights.

The Presidential campaign of 1828 was the first of the many exciting ones waged in the county. Partisanship became very bitter. One faction held up Jackson as the embodiment of goodness, while the other cried him down as a monster of evil, a slave holder, an aristocrat and demagogue. His victory at New Orleans went as nothing with the supporters of Adams. On the other hand, the Jacksonians threw all manner of mud at Adams, whom they berated as a "Lord of Massachusetts," the son of his father (which certainly was no disgrace), and they boldly proclaimed that if Adams were placed in the White House the whole country would proceed at once to the bow wows with a rapidity that could not be checked short of the abyss of ruin. There were Jackson and Adams meetings every where, every schoolhouse resounded with praise and defamation, and before this memorable campaign closed there were not a few bloody noses and blackened optics.

The "vox populi" was not for a moment still. It was pretty hard to convince the people of the county that Jackson was not a hero, despite the speeches of the Adams faction. The glamour of New Orleans had not faded. Everybody turned out to the political meetings and the whole country was turned topsy turvy by the excitement of the huskings. When the election was over and Adams was found to be defeated the Jacksonians of the county poked all manner of fun at their opponents, and Editor Fairfield of the Reporter put on sackcloth and ashes and incidentally primed his editorial musket for the next campaign. There was a great turning out of officials when "Old Hickory" assumed the reins of government, for his motto was "To the victor belong the spoils," and the Adams men retired from the public crib, an event, however, which did not have much bearing upon our own county.

General William Henry Harrison was a great favorite among the Whigs of the county. His name was sufficient to rouse the most intense enthusiasm. In fact he was the idol of the party which in after years was to lose itself in the new Republican party. General Harrison visited this county twice. He first came to Troy July 4th, l837. The Whig county ticket of the previous year was as follows: Auditor, Jacob Knoop; commissioner, Samuel Pierce; coroner, N.W. Tullis; assessor, John Webb. General, Harrison came up from Dayton to take part in the Fourth of July celebration which had been planned at Troy. A great crowd turned out to greet him, the people flocking into town from every part of the county and the enthusiasm was unbounded. On this occasion Hon. R.S. Hart delivered an appropriate oration and D.H. Morris read the Declaration of Independence. A number of Revolutionary soldiers were yet living in the county and their presence at the celebration added greatly to the pleasures of the day. There was a banquet in the General's honor and many patriotic toasts were responded to by prominent citizens.

In the fall of 1840 General Harrison again passed through the county and was accorded another enthusiastic welcome. As before, he journeyed northward from Dayton. The carriage in which he traveled was furnished by a Mr. Hunter of Piqua. When it was known that this distinguished citizen was to pass through the county a committee of Whigs was sent to Dayton to invite him to stop at Troy and accept the hospitalities of its citizens. The letter of invitation prepared on this occasion follows:

To General William Henry Harrison:

Sir: The Whigs of Miami County, learning you are to journey through their county town, have deputed the undersigned committee to anticipate your arrival and press your acceptance of the hospitalities of its citizens.

The Committee on this occasion are proud to say in behalf of their Whig brethren of Miami County that they are no worshipers of men, they bow not the Jack nor bend the knee to human individuality, but freely surrender their hearts to great, good and glorious actions, therefore we pray you to regard this as a tribute of deferential respect for your character as a faithful public servant, a distinguished military leader, a frank politician and an honest man.

But this homage contemplates a still higher object, as connected with the integrity of our political institutions. Through you, sit, as a type of all their bright hopes for this country, the Whigs of Miami County confidently expect to realize one of the greatest moral revolutions embraced in the history of man, a revolution that is to restore to our abused people their legitimate sovereignty, their rights and prosperity, which are now despoiled and trodden under foot by a dishonest, imperious and reckless faction.
TH.M BOSSON, Committee.

The county did not see another great campaign till that of 1860, which, as all know, resulted in the election of Lincoln and the inauguration of the Civil War. The Fremont campaign of 1856 was a spirited affair, but it was as nothing compared to the one which followed it. The threats of the South that Lincoln's election would bring about disunion were either laughed at by the Republicans of this county or treated with contempt. The political club came into vogue with the campaign of 1860-the Wide Awakes, the Rail Splitters, and kindred organizations. These were formed by men of all ages, but largely by the young men, many of whom were soon to lay down their lives in battle. There were barbecues, torchlight processions, turpentine balls, and what not. There was an ox-roast at Troy, but the weather turned cold and the undone carcass was distributed among a great crowd of enthusiastic Republicans. Miami County at this time had drifted away from whatever Democratic moorings she had had and was for Lincoln. The old Whig families had become Republican and the nearness of war had caused many Democrats to desert Douglas; men who afterward became famous in both civil and military life stumped the county and excitement ran high. Uniformed clubs marched day and night. It was the day of the brass band and the night of the turpentine ball and the skyrocket. When a farmer went to a Lincoln meeting at Troy or Piqua he took the whole family along and did not refuse to array himself in all the Republican paraphernalia in sight. It was also the day-birth of the political song and singing clubs rendered the air melodious. Following is a stanza of one of the campaign songs that were heard throughout the length and breadth of the country in this never-to-be-forgotten campaign:

"Then hurrah for Honest Abe, the old Kentucky babe,
We're going to make him president this fall,
He'll swing the country back on its old accustomed track
Just as easy as he used to swing his maul."

The Lincoln campaign was at white heat throughout the country from its inception. The split in the Democratic Party gave the members of that organization in Miami but little hope of electing Douglas, and not a few of them voted for Breckindridge and Lane and some pronounced Union men for Bell and Everett. The election of Lincoln was celebrated by bonfires and other manifestations of joy and this memorable campaign was over.

The most exciting political battle ever waged in the county took place in 1864. This is known as the Brough-Vallandigham Campaign and for bitterness it exceeded anything ever witnessed among our people. It was the prelude to the Lincoln McClellan election, as at that time Ohio was an October state and the eyes of the Nation were centered upon her. At this period the war was at its height. Sherman was investing Atlanta and Grant was thundering at the gates of Petersburg. Vallandigham had made, himself odious by his vituperative speeches against the war policy of the Government. He had been arrested and sent through the rebel lines and found refuge in Canada. The Democrats had selected him for their Gubernatorial candidate, while the Republicans had nominated John Brough, a war Democrat, who was in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war.

The campaign as carried on in the battle summer of 1864 was the most spectacular one ever saw in the county. It was the day of the butternut breast-pin and the display of one of these emblems was pretty sure to provoke a fight. The two great parties within the county faced one another like confronting armies on the field of battle. Meetings were held day and night. The highways were almost always thronged with political processions, gaily decorated wagons drawn by four, six and eight horses and loaded to the guards with men and women; girls dressed to represent Columbia and the various states of the Union rode in these wagons and filled the air with political songs. Among these songs was one the chorus of which ran as follows:

"Long live, long live, long live Brough
Long live, long live, long live Brough,
Long live Brough, long live Brough,
Long live Johnny Brough!"

Hundreds of young girls, grandmothers now, rent the air with this famous song and were cheered to the echo. Personal encounters were numerous everywhere, and in some instances the participants were seriously injured. One man was killed just across the borders of the county. A great many soldiers who were home on furlough at the time added to the intensity of the campaign and some rabid Vallandigham men were forced by them to take the oath of allegiance to the general government. At one time a mob was narrowly averted in Troy. On the 13th of August, Brough addressed a great crowd on the old Troy fair grounds. He was accompanied by the renowned and eloquent Samuel Galloway and this meeting was the crowning feature of the campaign.

In order to give the reader an idea of the state of the times in the county during the Brough-Vallandigham episode I transcribe a paragraph from an article by the late Captain Williams, since one of the main actors in the scene was Frank McKinney, of Piqua, who represented Miami County in Congress.

"When McKinney and C.L. Vallandigham were advertised to address a Democratic meeting at Sidney, Shelby County excitement was at fever heat. Thousands of her citizens gathered in Sidney to hear the speaking. By a singular coincidence a regiment of soldiers were in the town awaiting transportation to their homes in Michigan. They had encamped on the street leading from the depot to the hotel. Perhaps some of the Republican leaders who were desirous of preventing the meeting took advantage of the bitter feeling among the soldiers against Mr. Vallandigham to create a disturbance. When the carriage containing Mr. Vallandigham and Mr. McKinney passed by the soldiers they commenced yelling and shooting their guns over the top of the carriage and frightened the horses, causing them to run down a bank and almost upset the vehicle. However, the carriage reached the hotel. Mr. Vallandigham entered the hotel and the doors were closed. Mr. McKinney remained on the sidewalk and soon a squad of soldiers in their uniforms, and carrying guns, came to the hotel door and recognizing Mr. McKinney as the gentleman in the carriage with Vallandigham, demanded the surrender of Vallandigham and attempted to enter the hotel. Mr. McKinney placed himself between the soldiers and the hotel and refused to allow them to enter. A riot was imminent.

"More than two thousand Democrats, each armed with a revolver, surrounded the hotel waiting for the soldiers to make an attack. Mr. McKinney's cool, determined manner and his firmness caused the soldiers to hesitate, and prevented what would have been a scene of bloodshed and a terrible riot. A message was sent to the mayor of Sidney, S.B. Walker, and he and the leading Republicans were informed by Mr. McKinney that if blood was shed and property destroyed they would be held responsible. The mayor was wise and cool-headed and persuaded the soldiers to return to camp. This was done and the meeting was held."

Frank McKinney, though a bitter partisan, was a loyal man, yet he did not yield one jot or tittle of his political convictions to the storm of partisanship that then prevailed. At the October election of this memorable year Miami County gave a tremendous majority for Brough, who carried the state by a majority of 101,000. The Republicans elected within the county that year were: Jonathan H. Randall, representative Moses G. Mitchell, treasurer; Samuel Davis, probate judge; Cornelius T. Baer, Sheriff; James T. Janvier, prosecuting attorney; A.G. Conover, surveyor; Jonathan C. Coate, commissioner; John D. DeWeese, infirmary director; J.C. Horton, coroner. All these men have passed away.

The Grant and Colfax (1868) and the Grant and Wilson (1872) and the Hayes and Tilden (1876) campaigns witnessed the last days of torchlight politics in the county. The Hayes and Tilden campaign was attended with more or less excitement, owing to the long uncertainty that followed it, but the Lincoln and Vallandigham episodes were the high water marks of political excitement among our people.

There has been some noted Congressional battles in the county, notably those of 1886 and, 1890, when Captain Williams led the Republicans in the former year and W.P. Orr in the latter. A good many exciting county conventions have been held. The old court room, now the I.O.O.F. Hall in Troy, witnessed a number of these. It was seldom that Troy and Piqua could agree on a ticket in the early days. It seemed to be regarded as the religious duty of one town to blight the political ambition of the other. For a long time Piqua came down to Troy with her candidates and went home shorn. In not a few instances the partisans adjourned to the outside of the Convention hall and indulged in more than vocal arguments. It was the day of the mass and the delegate conventions. The outside townships were labored with industriously and more than once the mere fraction of a vote secured a political triumph.

A good many humorous incidents punctuated the past campaigns and conventions. Some years ago a certain candidate for state senator addressed a Republican meeting in one of the smaller towns of the county. In the midst of his eloquent argument he asserted that the Civil War had cost the Government "the enormous sum of two hundred thousand dollars." "Aren't you a little low, Mr. G---?" interrupted one of the listeners.

Don't you mean two billion?" The speaker turned to his interrupter and with a look of withering scorn exclaimed, "No, sir, I won't lower it one dollar! I said two hundred thousand and I stick to it." Another local stumper in defining a particularly obnoxious epithet, said that he quoted correctly from Daniel Webster's Dictionary and when reminded that the renowned Massachusetts senator was not the author of that noted book, he said that "Noah was Daniel's brother, anyhow, so it was written in the Webster family."

The older political lights of the county have passed away. The Roes, the two Mckinneys, the Johnstons, the Pearsons, the Albaughs, the Sloans, the Cables, the Ullerys, the Pickerings, the Clarks, the Millers, - all these have" wrapped the drapery of their couch about them and lain down to pleasant dreams." A newer generation of politicians has arisen where the "elder Romans" fought the exciting battles of partisanship.

While Miami County is strongly Republican, members of the opposite party have frequently been elected to local offices. In some instances Republicans have been elected by meager majorities. S.N. Todd was elected treasurer by a majority of two votes, and S.B. Segner commissioner by the narrow margin of eight. Dr. G. Volney Dorsey and F.B. McNeal and William Cruikshanks, residents of the county, have filled state offices and Robert Furnas, also a Miami County man, became Governor of Nebraska.

The mutations of county politics old and new, have been varied and interesting. The introduction of the Australian ballot, an innovation of late years, has done away with the free-hand system of voting. During the Civil War tickets were sometimes printed on colored paper, a plan intended to keep track of the slippery wielder of the franchise, but after the war this detective system fell into disuse. It was too inquisitorial for the masses. There are, but two great parties in the county today. Greenbackism had its flurry a few years ago, but died with that hobby. The Prohibitionists have ceased to put out a county ticket, though now and then the Labor Party nominate a few candidates. The great Greenback leader of the county a few years ago was the late George W. Hafer.

A number of national leaders have addressed political meetings within the county, among them William McKinley, Thomas B. Reed, Rutherford B. Hayes and James S. Sherman. William Jennings Bryan has spoken in the county during his presidential canvass. All these men have been accorded large audiences and a respectful hearing. The citizens of Miami keep abreast of politics and, though they are frequently engaged in warm political battles, they never lose sight of one thing, - the good of their country.

End of chapter 20
1909 History of Miami County Ohio

Copyright © 1998 by Computerized Heritage Association.
All Rights Reserved.