Story in the Hills: Reaching Stanton is a Mission | News, Sports, Jobs

As a public historian, my goal in a nutshell is to relate the present to the past. And one of the first steps in making that connection is finding common ground between the ages. For me personally, there is something fascinating about walking the same streets, visiting the same places and talking about the same things as those who have come before us. This way, the past doesn’t seem so far away.

One figure that is difficult to connect with in local history is Edwin Stanton, originally from Steubenville. He is one of those characters who stand out more than life. As President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War during the Civil War, his influence on national events is considerable, to put it mildly. Many books and articles have been written about him, his influences and his achievements. And it was Stanton who spoke the words after President Lincoln’s assassination that “Now it belongs to the ages.”

Rebuilding the Steubenville that Stanton knew is a tall order. Aside from the streets that remain the same, almost everything Stanton knew about town is different. Considering that Stanton was born in 1814 and spent most of his youth in Steubenville before moving to Pittsburgh in 1847, things are quite different. If Stanton came back today and roamed the streets of his hometown, he would find the courthouse changed, the town building gone, and his childhood home and birthplace demolished. However, walking down Market Street, he would come face to face with a house he knew personally.

Today, this building is located at 644 Market Street and is now the Urban Savings and Opportunities Center, part of the Urban Mission and previously the City Rescue Mission. Much has changed since Stanton last saw the building. Most notably, the large front porch, Queen Anne style turret, and additions to the rear of the building would be new to him as they were added at some point after 1897.

Built circa 1827, the core of the building is one of the oldest known structures in downtown Steubenville. It was built by Daniel Lewis Collier, a native of Connecticut, born in 1796. He immigrated to Steubenville around 1816, supposedly floating on a raft on the Ohio River. His brother James followed soon after in 1820. The two Collier brothers became successful lawyers. James continued to run for Governor of Ohio for the Whig party but lost.

Daniel, although not as politically active as his brother, remained in Steubenville where he worked successfully in his law firm. The Stanton family knew Collier well. In 1827, when Stanton was only 13, his father died, leaving his mother widowed with four children to raise. Daniel Collier became Stanton’s guardian and executor of his father’s estate. Stanton relied on Collier for advice and, in all practical matters, regarded Collier as a father figure. The letters that have survived after all these years between Stanton and Collier are formal but also familiar. In the book “Stanton”, written by Walter Stahr, it is recorded that it was young Edwin who asked Collier if it was possible to get a loan for him to attend Kenyon College in 1831.

His stay in Kenyon was short-lived, for in August 1832 Stanton wrote to Collier and asked if he had more money to continue his studies, to which Collier replied that he had to work for money in instead of spending on education. According to Stahr, it took a while for Collier to convince Stanton that going back to college and keeping his debts was a bad idea. So Stanton worked for another Steubenville businessman, James Turnbull, in Columbus. Fast forward a few years after Stanton was called to the Jefferson County Bar in December 1835, and it was Collier who allowed Stanton to litigate some cases on his behalf. Stahr recounts in his book that a question arose about Stanton’s qualifications to litigate a case in court. Collier, addressing the hall said, “Although Stanton was not quite 21, he was” as qualified to practice law as Collier himself or any lawyer in this bar “… and Stanton stepped in again without waiting for the judge to rule. on the request. “

After a successful career at Steubenville, Stanton moved on to bigger and brighter things, but he was still in contact with Collier for the rest of their lives. The two died within months of each other in 1869. Stanton was appointed by President Ulysses Grant and confirmed by the Senate as a Supreme Court justice on December 20, but died four days later on Christmas Eve 1869 Collier remained in Steubenville until about 1857, when he moved to Philadelphia. It must have been around this time that Collier sold his Market Street residence, where he had lived for over 30 years and raised nine children, to Dr Thomas Johnson.

Johnson arrived in Steubenville around 1840 and played an important role in the community. He and his family lived in the Big House during the Civil War and are its oldest private residents. One of their children, Catherine, married Robert Sherrard in 1881, the subject of a previous article in History in the Hills. Johnson died in 1879 and his wife remained in the house until his death in 1900.

It is after the departure of the Johnson family that the history of the house becomes a little murky. There were a few locals between 1900 and 1915. A family called Banfield lived there and advertised a washerwoman during their occupation. Probably around 1909, Mr. and Mrs. ET Weir, founders of Weirton Steel and later National Steel, moved in. I would like to believe that the first discussions and decisions regarding the future of the Ohio industrial valley were made there. Between 1910 and 1915 the WH Lowe family were in residence and it was they who sold the place to DF Coe Funeral Home in 1915. Ira McClave bought the business in 1928 and it was renamed McClave Funeral Home. They left the building in 1939. Some time after, the Cole Brothers Funeral Home took over the building and existed there for many years until it became the City Rescue Mission and eventually became part of the Urban Mission.

Looking past the collectibles and merchandise in the store today, it’s easy to imagine young Edwin Stanton meeting Daniel Collier in the Cavernous Halls to discuss his bright future.

And we can connect with Stanton the Younger, not the imposing man alongside Lincoln during the Civil War, and that makes all the difference.

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