I am one of those people who would much rather prefer an old house to a new one. The first house I ever bought was a brand-new construction and I remember trying to do everything I could, while it was built and afterwards, to give it some semblance of old house charm. Not easy to do in a modern, cookie cutter development.
Every house since then has been an older home, sometimes in need of a lot of TLC and sometimes not, that had a story and a life long before I became its caretaker. My current home in the city of New Philadelphia, Ohio is no different. While house hunting before the move to Ohio, the first house I looked at was an older, brick home that had apparently been through some modest upgrades in the past but retained much of its original feel and character. It also looked like the one, of all the houses, that would require the most work in the long run.
During the summer search more houses came and went, and I kept coming back to the first brick house. The list of negatives was long while the list of positives was considerably shorter but included it being registered and plaqued as a Tuscarawas County Historical Home. The large sugar maple trees in the front yard needed to be either greatly trimmed or cut down entirely, the yard was overgrown, the paint on the woodwork was flaking and needed to be redone, and on and on the list went.
Of course, you know how this story ends and as the fall arrived, I was the proud owner of one of the county’s historic homes with the door knocker that said “Cunningham” on it for some reason. The next few blog posts will examine the lives of people who also called my house their home.
The original portion of the house was constructed on two city lots sometime in the early 1850’s by then landowner Samuel Crossland and, at the time (1852) was valued at $850 by the county auditor. The property was sold in 1855 and went through several owners until it was purchased in 1875 by Abraham W. Patrick. Abraham W. Patrick was a prominent attorney at the time he purchased the home and his life was memorialized by the Ohio Law Bulletin after his death in 1909.
“Abraham W. Patrick was born at New Philadelphia, Ohio, August 2, A. D. 1829, and having lived eighty years, one month and twenty-four days in his native city, died September 26, A. D., 1909. He came of distinguished ancestry. His father, James Patrick, emigrated to this country from the city of Belfast, Ireland, and founded at New Philadelphia, Ohio, the second newspaper in the eastern part of the state. He subsequently became an associate justice of the court of common pleas. His mother, who died in Mr. Patrick’s early infancy, was Catherine Van Etton Westfall of New York Dutch ancestry. As a boy, Mr. Patrick received a considerable newspaper education, working in his father’s printing office, and traveling over the country delivering his father’s newspapers after the manner of that time. He was also for a considerable time under the tuition of the learned George W. McIlvaine, later a justice of the Supreme Court of Ohio, but at that time a teacher in New Philadelphia, Ohio. He also attended for a time the university at New Athens, Ohio.
By these aids, and his natural disposition to absorb education from all his environments, he became a self-made man, of far wider attainments than many who had more extended scholastic advantages.
By his death, the bar of Ohio has lost one of its brightest ornaments; Tuscarawas county, its most distinguished citizen; the civic forces, that make for whatever is righteous and good in our midst, have lost an integral part; and the community has lost a friend.
We behold him, a young man, reading law with a prominent firm of Mt. Vernon, Ohio, admitted to the bar, and opening his law office in his native city. Public confidence and recognition came his way, and he was elected prosecuting attorney of his county for two consecutive terms. In 1867, he was elected probate judge, but declined a renomination.
Later he was elected to the Ohio Senate, where he served with distinction. These political recognitions came to him in his earlier life, and the learning, ability, and integrity which he brought to the discharge of duties of these offices, won him such popular confidence, that the door seemed to open wider for further political usefulness.
However, he himself, at this juncture closed his eyes to an alluring political career, and determined to devote his middle years to the earnest ardent practice of his profession, which he did with such success, that he required financially more than a competence, while yet in the vigor of manhood, and professionally a reputation that is an inspiration to the rising generation. He became a thoroughly sound lawyer, in the principles of the law, an orator of classic ability, and an especially strong advocate to a jury. And here we say, with pleasurable emphasis, that the best ideals of professional honor and integrity were never violated by Judge Patrick in his long career at the bar. Retiring from the activities of the bar some years ago, for the purposes of self-improvement and rest, he was again thought upon, for his political availability, by those who believed, that his name on the ticket would be a tower of strength. In 1899 at the Zanesville state convention, he was fairly seized upon, and, against his wish, placed upon the democratic ticket for lieutenant governor, and his phenomenal run, of about 35,000 votes ahead of his ticket, was an astonishing epoch in the political annals of Ohio, and it has often been thought, that the wisdom of the wise would have been more fully vindicated, if “Uncle Abe” had been placed at the head of the ticket, instead of in the second place. In the year 1900, he was one of the delegates at large to the Democratic National Convention at Kansas City, and there, was further honored, by the unanimous endorsement of the Ohio delegation, as its choice for vice-president. Subsequently he was strongly importuned to become a candidate for governor of Ohio. Thus did political Dame Fortune continue for some time to beckon and smile, but Mr. Patrick turned her away. At his age he did not really want to be governor, and he knew it. To a man with his bright absorbing watchful mind, it was a great thing to have lived in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the opening of the twentieth. For though the world was advancing by leaps and bounds, he was interested in everything, posted on everything, and nothing escaped him of scientific, intellectual or social development. In short, he was young all the time. Socially, and as a conversationalist he had few equals. Whoever saw a casual party of men or women, that did not put on a happy expectant look, whenever “Uncle Abe” walked into their midst? Especially the young men, for he was a boy with them to the very last, and he was their friend, and they were his friends.”
Abraham Patrick died of a heart attack in the early morning hours of a late September day in 1909 shortly after being read to by his daughter. His funeral services were held in the home, my home, and he was taken a few blocks down the street to the East Fair Street cemetery where his Masonic Brothers laid him to rest. While Abraham W. Patrick may be the most prominent person to have been a part of my home’s life, he is certainly not the only interesting one.
My next blog post will examine the life of another inhabitant of my home, the incredibly modern woman Florence Marsh.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2020.
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