Toledo in 1860 was a rapidly growing city. It had been incorporated on January 7, 1837 with the merger of the towns of Port Lawrence and Vistula, located along the Maumee River near what is now Downtown Toledo. The city grew slowly at first. In the 1850 census Toledo's population was recorded at less than 4,000. Over the next ten years, however, that number more than tripled. By the 1860 census, the population had soared to 13,768, and that trend would continue. By the end of the Civil War, more than 20,000 people would call Toledo home.
Toledo in 1842, from a drawing
(For more information about the pictures of Toledo, click on the links.)
This increase in growth was due in large part to Toledo's location. That along with improvements in industry and technology was creating a transportation hub. In the mid-nineteenth century Toledo was the northern terminus of the Miami and Erie Canal. The city was also the junction of numerous railroad lines. These lines were connecting Toledo to other midwestern cities and the rest of the country. And in 1860, as it is today, Toledo was a major port on the western end of Lake Erie. Growth and expansion could also seen in construction that was going on all around town. If orange barrels had existed in 1860, I am sure you would have seen them on the streets of Toledo! On August 27, 1860, the editor of the Toledo Daily Blade wrote about the building boom that was underway.
Painting of Toledo, 1852 by William H. Machen
Drawing of Toledo in 1866
From the East Side of the Maumee River
"The block being erected by Peter Lenk, Esq., opposite the U.S. Express Office, begins to make a show upon the street. The Walls will be completed soon.
The mammoth building erected for Deveau, Farmer & Co., Wholesale Grocers, is rapidly approaching completion, and will be stocked with goods this fall.
A block of five brick dwelling houses is being erected on Superior St., adjoining the residence of Gen. Hunt.
Many other buildings and improvements are progressing on Summit St., and in all parts of the city, which give to the stranger the idea--not by any means incorrect--of the growing importance of Toledo. If the city keeps pace with its growing business for a few years to come, it will hardly be recognizable to those who may have seen it a year or two ago."
Increases in population, however, can also bring an increase in crime. The Ohio State Journal, a Columbus newspaper, commented on the latest group of inmates brought from Northwest Ohio to the state penitentiary. The editorial was reprinted in the Blade:
"STILL THEY COME.-- The sheriff from Lucas Co. brought six convicts to the penitentiary yesterday swelling the number to 966 This is the largest number ever confined in that institution at one time, and if they increase in the same ratio for the next six months, as they have for the past four weeks, it will be a hard matter to manage them with the present fixtures and accommodations of the prison. Crime in the State of Ohio must be fearfully on the increase, and calls loudly on the philanthropic and the moralist to devise some means, -- some reform which will stay its progress."
It appears that the more things change, the more they really do stay the same!
Like the rest of the country, the people of Toledo were following the deteriorating political situation and the presidential race that was dividing an already trouble nation. News of home and abroad was brought to Toledoans via two local newspapers -- the Daily Herald & Times, representing the Democratic Party's interests, and the Daily Blade, its Republican counterpart. As each editor had his own point of view to promote, the information contained in these papers was often biased and one-sided and the editorials could fly fast and furious. There was no such thing as political correctness in the mid-nineteenth century!
In addition to the Presidential race, Toledoans were following a local political race. Two well-known citizens were running for the same seat in the House of Representatives. The challenger was James Blair Steedman, a Douglas Democrat and current editor of the Herald & Times. Steedman had a colorful background. Born in Pennsylvania and orphaned at an early age, he had been instilled with a strong Democratic philosophy while learning the newspaper trade. He mined for gold in California (a genuine "49er"), went to Texas during that state's fight for independence, and had been a canal digger and contractor as well. He was the editor of the first Democratic newspaper in northwestern Ohio, the Defiance North Western. He was no stranger to politics and had previously been to Washington City in the capacity of Congressional Printer.
James Blair Steedman
His opponent was the fiery Republican incumbent, James M. Ashley. Long-time residents of Toledo will perhaps recognize the name of Ashley as his grandson, Thomas "Lud" Ashley, served as a Congressman from the area for many years. The campaign between Ashley and Steedman included various forms of name-calling, accusations of deliberate misrepresentation, and an assortment of charges of political chicanery. In addition to Steedman, two other men feature prominently in my story, Sheriff Henry Dennison Kingsbury and Prosecuting Attorney George Peabody Este.
Congressman James M. Ashley
Henry Dennison Kingsbury was born in Otis, Massachusetts on July 29, 1818. When he was barely a year old his parents had left New England for the Connecticut Western Reserve of Ohio, where Henry grew up on the family farm in the village of Brunswick in Medina County. Kingsbury came to Toledo around 1838, having worked a number of jobs from railroad construction to clerk. Kingsbury was originally a member of the Whig party. He later joined the Republican Party following its formation and the breakup of the Whigs. Kingsbury played an active role in Toledo's civix affairs. During the 1840's he served two years as city marshal, and another as city treasurer. Kingsbury had twice been elected sheriff of Lucas County, and in 1860 was serving his second two-year term. As a Republican he naturally supported the Lincoln candidacy, and was a member of one of the numerous Wide Awake clubs that sprang up throughout the northern cities. Kingsbury helped organize a mounted company of Wide Awakes, calling themselves the Lincoln Rangers. He was also a businessman, and with his uncle ran a hotel establishment, the Kingsbury House, on Summit Street during the 1850's. Henry, or Hank as he was often called by his friends, was also a Lieutenant in the Toledo Guards, the local company in the Ohio State Militia.
Henry Dennison Kingsbury
George Peabody Este was born in Nashua, New Hampshire in 1830 and had been educated in law at Dartmouth College. During the California Gold Rush, he too had caught gold fever and had "gone west" in search of his fortune. Nothing coming from that, he decided instead to resume his law studies. Leaving California he moved to Illinois and hung up his shingle in Galena, a place more familiar to some as the one-time residence of Ulysses S. Grant. There Este practiced law for a few years. He came to Toledo in 1856 and became a partner with prominent Toledo lawyer and future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Morrison Remick Waite. Politically Este was considered to be a "Radical Republican." Shortly after arriving in Toledo, Este ran for and was elected the city's prosecuting attorney in 1859. He was serving in that capacity when the war broke out. Este "commanded" the Toledo Wide Awakes, and was no doubt well acquainted with Hank Kingsbury through their public offices, as well as their activities with the Wide Awakes.
George Peabody Este
The lives and careers of these three men -- Steedman, Este and Kingsbury -- would continue to connected. When civil war finally came, all three of them would be members of and evenutally command the same regiment, the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.
The summer of 1860 was alive with political activity locally as well as nationally. Hardly a week would go by that there wasn't some kind of meeting, rally or procession taking place. In July, Toledo Republicans built a convention hall suitable for their needs. Standing on Summit Street, it was named the Wigwam after the hall in which the Republican National Convention had been held. The local party faithful declared their building, described as "a large and beautifyl brick hall" with an "elegant exterior" to be "the finest Wigwam in the country." The Toledo Wide Awakes regularly met for drill and other "imortant business" that included attending meetings and rallies in neighboring towns. Republican party VIP's such as John Sherman (brother of future Civi War general William Tecumseh Sherman) and James M. Ashley were often invited speakers at these gatherings. The rallies traditionally ended with touchlight parades through the streets of Toledo, and it was not unusual for so-called accidental meetings with the opposition party to occur.
Wide Awake advertisement that appeared in the Toledo Blade
One such incident took place on the evening of Saturday, October 6--the weekend before Election Day. Following the speeches at the Wigwam, the regional Wide Awake organizations lined up for a parade and demonstration. They were led by Kingsbury's Lincoln Rangers. Following the Rangers were the Union Silver Band, a local brass band that played at parades, socials and rallies and had just recently added the word "silver" to their name with the purchase of new instruments. Behind the band the other Wide Awake companies formed up: the Toledo Wide Awakes, the Maumee Wide Awakes, the Waterville Wide Awakes, the Monroe and Ash Wide Awakes, the Gilead and Tontogany Wide Awakes, and the Perrysburgh Wide Awakes. Their route took them throughout the streets of Toledo, past businesses and residences alike. Along the route, buildings were brightly decorated.
"...A beautiful effect was made by a general illumination of the residences of the gentlemen residing between Elm and Bush Sts...Mr. Waite's residence was lighted up and in the grounds colored lanterns were hung, so as to make a beautiful display...At Mr. King's, transparencies with mottoes, 'River and Harbor Improvements,' 'The Homestead Law,' 'Lincoln & Hamlin' and 'Wide Awakes' were conspicuously displayed. -- The citizens of the lower town did themselves great credit by the brilliant display made on this occasion."
As the procession made its way through town, fireworks were set off, adding to the festive atmosphere. During the height of the march, an encounter with the Douglas Democrats took place. The Blade duly covered the event, though not very objectively.
"On Cherry St., the Republican procession met that of the Douglas party, and the contrast in the two processions was so marked that its result cannot but be favorable to the Republican cause. Out the street marched in regular order, quiet, well drilled, and decently the long and brilliant lines of the Wide Awake column; and back, toward Summit, came a rabble, rag-tag-and-bobtail, noisy, profane, and full of the elementary spirit of Democracy. The Republicans marched straight on their own way, minding their own business, while the irregular, noisy, rout of "Douglas Indescribables" did exactly the reverse as far as they dared to. The Republican demonstration had been advertised regularly for some time, and the Douglas men, at the eleventh hour, sent out the circulars and called out the motley crowd which perambulated our streets on Saturday night. They thought perhaps that they were doing a smart trick, but the result was as any prudent manager would have foreseen. No stronger influence in favor of the Republicans could have been exerted by any demonstration than that made by the Douglas Procession of Saturday evening. The contrast was too strong. In one party, even he that ran could read Law, Order, and intelligent exercise of the duties of the citizen, and in the other, everything which could tend to demoralize the nation. The conglomeration of evil spirits, and the exhibition of them on the same evening, and on the same streets with anything pretending to decency, could not fail of an effect, and we are glad to hear that it has had an effect precisely the opposite of that which the Douglas leaders intended."
In the end, the editor of the Blade could not resist one final jab at the Democrats, and wrote, There was really no point or ground of comparison between the Wide Awake procession and the rabble of the Douglasites. The festivities came to an end around midnight.
During the early morning hours, no doubt taking advantage of the folks resting from the evening before, an event much to the chagrin of the local law enforcement officers. It seems that during the pre-dawn hours, there was a jailbreak.
"ESCAPADE.--On Sunday morning about 5 o'clock six prisoners escaped from the county jail in this city--three of them charged with Penitentiary offenses. The jail has recently been undergoing repairs, being divided into three parts--one for county prisoners, one for females, and the other for the chain gang. On Saturday, a lot of rubbish, accumulated during the work of repairing the jail, was cleaned out and burned in the yard. The alterations in the jail had necessarily rendered it more unsafe during their progress, as the prisoners had to be allowed the liberty of the interior of the whole jail. It seems that they took advantage of the last night of this liberty--for the locks to the different departments were to be fixed on Monday--and broke through a place in the ceiling, enlarging a stove hole, and got into the upper part of the jail, and from thence descended to the yard by tying sheets together."
Although at least three of the escapees were recaptured the next day, it's doubtful that Sheriff Kingsbury was very happy with this turn of events.
Election day came, and over the next couple of days the results began coming in. It became apparent that the presidency was going to Abraham Lincoln. To celebrate this victory, the Toledo Wide Awakes planned an appropriate celebration, or "Jollification" as it was termed. An invitation appeared in the local newspaper: "The Toledo Wide-Awakes will have a grand jollification meeting over the recent elections in Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania on Friday evening, Oct. 12th. The Republicans of Lucas county and vicinity are invited to attend." A torchlight parade, even grander than the last, was organized. "All Republicans having houses or stores upon the line of march are requested to illuminate," was the request from Wide Awake Commander Este.
The victory parage was a huge success. "Toledo was literally ablaze with enthusiasm," wrote the Daily Blade. The description of the event filled two columns in the newspaper, of which the following is only a small portion.
"An idea of the extent of the demonstration can be gained from the fact that on Summit St. alone, there were 112 places of business brilliantly illuminated for the occasion...This, on onlly one street, shows that the city was literally lighted as with the coming morn!...
"The entire block at the junctin of Summit and St. Clair was lighted up very prettily, and with the beautiful colored lights at the residence of S. A. Raymond, Esq., opposite, and the buildings at the corner of Summit and Cherry Sts., made a fine display at this point...
"The Kingsbury House and others in that square and beyond [had] a never ending variety of lights [that] greeted the thousands that thronged the streets...
"In other parts of town equal, if not greater spirit was displayed in the devices and attractions of the occasion. Chains of colored lanterns were swung across the streets at several points -- lighted balloons and stars and lanterns were seen at various points on the route of the procession...
"The Mounted Rangers turned out by hundreds, and, barring accidents from untrained horses, made a fine display...
"At various points on the route they were saluted with firewords, and responded in magnificent style...Completing the line of march, the procession, and all the people who could get in, crowded the Wigwam where short but stirring speeches were made...
"The Jollification was kept up until near midnight, and was, on the whole, the finest display of the kind ever made in this part of the country."
The editor concluded prematurely, "The country is safe. Hurrah for Lincoln!"
Most of us are familiar with the general turn events following the election. The Southern States, displeased with the election results, seceded and formed the Confederate States of America. The inauguration in March of 1861 of Abraham Lincoln as the 16th President of the United States was followed almost immediately by the Fort Sumter crisis. Toledoans, like many others across the country, had their eyes on Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. They were waiting to see what the new Administration was going to do about the demands that Fort Sumter, under the command of Major Robert Anderson, be turned over to the fledgling Confederate government. From the Toledo Daily Herald & Times comes the following editorial:
"The disposition to be made of Fort Sumter continues to be a most vexatious question for the Administration to decide...The withdrawal of Anderson, is not the only difficulty the Administration has to encounter, in the abandonment of the fort. The manner of getting Anderson out of Sumter is as difficult to solve as the question of surrender itself...It is to be hoped that the question will be settled at once, either one way of the other, and the country relieved from suspense. Let us have peace or war," wrote an exasperated editor. "In God's name, let us have deliverance. Let the Administration exhibit its 'back-bone' either by negotiating or conquering a peace. It is time Old Abe should put his 'foot down firmly' and say Anderson must be withdrawn of re-inforced. The Rail Splitter must either 'fish or cut bait' -- back down or fight. The people are throroughly disgusted with the silly stuff with which Republican papers abound, about Cabinet councils relating to Fort Sumter, the opinions of 'General Scott and other eminent military men,' and the opinion of this repubican luminary and the chagrin of that irrepressible, of great influence. The people want action -- certainty -- settlement -- want to know what is coming, the uncertainty has ceased to be 'glorious' and masterly inactivity has become insufferable. 'The policy of the Administration' has been talked about until people hate the word policy. The Administration must do something soon, or be unanimously voted a wretched fizzle."
The crisis came to a head at 4:30 am, April 12, 1861, when a mortar battery at Fort Johnson fired on Fort Sumter. The next day Major Anderson was compelled to surrender the fort to the Confederate representatives. "The news announcing the surrender of Fort Sumter was received by the people with profound astonishment. It was unlooked for. The representations relative to the fort -- its strength -- the power of its armament -- had prepared the minds of the people for a different result," wrote the Herald & Times.
Artist's rendition of the bombardment of Fort Sumter
Toledoans responded to the news of the attack and surrender with what was described as, "An excitement bordering on delirium." The Herald & Times wrote:
"Yesterday [April 15th] the streets were filled with excited and indignant crowds who were eager to aid in avenging the outrage committed upon our flag at Charleston. The enthusiasm of the people is unbounded. There will be no lack of soldiers. If we were only as well off for arms as we are for men to use them, an army would be raised in ten days that would overwhelm the rebels."
On April 15th, a massive Union Meeting whose crowd was filled with 'immense enthusiasm" was held at the depot in Toledo. The main speaker was James Steedman, who also happened to be a major general in the Ohio State Militia. His speech
"...at nearly every period was cheered to the echo...Three cheers were given for the flag, and three cheers for Major Anderson...An attempt was made to carry an adjournment but the assembled thousands would have none of it. -- Mr. Steedman was again called forward and after proceeding to say that he expected orders from Columbus hourly to give every patriot heart a chance to register their names for the conflict, to follow where he stood ready to lead them (tremendous cheering) he would bid them good night which was greeted heartily."
President Lincoln's response, to what was seen as open rebellion against the government, was to issue his proclamation calling for 75,000 volunteers to put down the uprising. The State of Ohio's quota was to raise thirteen regiments of infantry, but the patriotic enthusiasm sweeping the state ensured that many more than that number would volunteer. Democrat James Steedman, and Republicans George Este and Henry Kingsbury set aside their political differences and started the work of organizing a regiment from Northwestern Ohio.
Go to Part 2