A good friend of mine lived in one of the apartments in this New Philadelphia building for a couple of years and often asked me about the house’s history. I figured it was about time I gave her an answer!
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The Yeagley family arrived in Ohio in the 1830s when John Yeagley (c. 1809-1884) and his wife Sarah Ramsey (1820-aft. 1880) settled in Knox Township, Jefferson County, Ohio. John and Sarah were also accompanied to Jefferson County by John’s two brothers. The Yeagley’s settled in the small town of New Somerset where John worked as a successful carpenter. John and Sarah started a large family of eight children with the birth of their first child in 1839. Their first five children were all sons and, among them, was a son born in 1843 named James Wesley Yeagley (1843-1917).
James attended the local school and, according to later accounts, was such an apt pupil that he could have begun teaching school by the time he was twelve or thirteen. Eventually James did become a school teacher, teaching at five different schools over a ten year period, and was named the Superintendent of the Irondale Public Schools. Teaching was his profession, but in his off hours he studied law and ultimately went to formally study with an attorney in Steubenville, Ohio. James passed the bar in 1873 and decided to relocate to the growing town of Dennison, Ohio where he settled in 1874 and began his law practice. Two years later he married Martha Robertson (1847-1925), the daughter of a prominent Jefferson County family.
The couple continued to live in Dennison during the 1870s as they started their own family and James became active in local politics, eventually being elected Mayor of Dennison. James’ frequent trips to New Philadelphia for business brought him into contact with many of the county’s other prominent attorneys and, shortly after the birth of his third child, decided to relocate to the county seat after being appointed a Probate Judge. By the time of the move, James already had a reputation as a vociferous reader and conversationalist, while also having one of the finest personal libraries in the county. James and Margaret, in May 1885, purchased the home of Henry E. Worcester on Lot 310 on West Fair Street and moved in shortly after.
An image of the home that appeared in the 1908 Combined Atlas of Tuscarawas County, shows that it was another fine example of the Italianate style of architecture that was very common in the New Philadelphia at the time. The home boasted of many of the common details found in the style, including tall, narrow hooded windows, hipped roof with corbels and decorative moldings under the eaves, and an L-shaped decorative front porch that covered the main entrance as well as a side entrance. It was also well known that, among the rooms in the house, was one that was dedicated to James’ fine library. Many of those details have long since been lost, but the underlying shape and form of the home remains.
The Yeagley’s raised their four children in the home on West Fair as James continued to practice law and study and write about the early history of Tuscarawas County. Among his writings, he wrote the introductory chapter for the First Centennial History and Atlas of Tuscarawas County, Ohio published in 1908 and the well known poem “Heckewelder’s Ride”. The chapter covered prehistoric, Native American settlement, and the establishment of the Moravian Missions in the county. James’ library, by the time of his death, was considered the largest private library in the county.
After visiting the doctor in the spring of 1917, it was discovered that James had a tumor and that it was in a location that made surgical removal impossible. After four more months, James was forced to retire from actively practicing law. He lived only two more months after that, dying in September 1917. Following his death, the house on Fair Street was sold and Margaret and the daughters moved to Cleveland where one of the daughters worked as a Librarian. Margaret died eight years later. James and Margaret are buried in East Avenue Cemetery in New Philadelphia.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.