My Genealogy Hound

Below is a family biography included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890.  These biographies are valuable for genealogy research in discovering missing ancestors or filling in the details of a family tree. Family biographies often include far more information than can be found in a census record or obituary.  Details will vary with each biography but will often include the date and place of birth, parent names including mothers' maiden name, name of wife including maiden name, her parents' names, name of children (including spouses if married), former places of residence, occupation details, military service, church and social organization affiliations, and more.  There are often ancestry details included that cannot be found in any other type of genealogical record.

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W. A. PAXSON, of Jamestown, the son of John and Louisa Paxson, was born in Beaver Creek Township, Greene County, Ohio, July 6, 1850. His grandfather was Aaron Paxson, who was one of the pioneers of Greene County, having emigrated to this county as early as 1804, from Fayette County, Pa, He was the son of Amos and Cynthia (Beal) Paxson. He was a grandson of James and Sarah Paxson, of Philadelphia, Pa., where she was for years a Quaker preacher of considerable notoriety.

The subject of this sketch was the oldest of five children, all of whom are living at this date, death having never entered the threshold of his father’s family. His earlier years were spent on the farm of his father, engaged in the health inspiring pursuits of that vocation. He attended the common schools each year during their sessions, and was an apt scholar, and by the time he reached the age of fourteen years, he had mastered their curriculum, and, although at that time residing four miles away, he attended the school at Jamestown, Ohio, for a time, where he could advance in knowledge, walking the distance morning and evening, and never missed a day. He afterward attended the college for two years at the Ohio Wesleyan University at Delaware, Ohio. He taught school at what was known as “Larkin’s schoolhouse” for one year, during which time, in addition to the duties of teaching, he read law under the tuition and supervision of the late Hon. J. A. Sexton, of Xenia, Ohio. After his school was closed in the spring, he returned to his father’s farm, and assisted in the work of planting and tending the crops, and read law at the same time. He attended the Cincinnati Law College for one year, was graduated with a high standing, receiving the degree of L. L. D., and was admitted to the bar of Ohio, in the spring of 1874. While in Cincinnati, he was associated with the law firm of Donham & Foraker, but his health partially failing, his physician advised him to locate in some other locality, and he located at Washington C. H., in 1874, and became associated with the late Col. S. F. Kerr, in the practice of his profession, with flattering prospects of success. During the year 1876 he was married to Miss R. C. Rankin, of Fayette County, Ohio, with whom he has lived a joyous, happy life ever since.

W. A. Paxson, early in life evinced some degree of literary ability as well as poetic talent; since his boyhood he has corresponded for the county papers, and his sketches were always appreciated by both press and patrons, but he has never sought for emolument in this line, although his ability and great versatility, if used in this channel would most undoubtedly enable him to attain an enviable position. Some of his poetical contributions are of a high order, and will bear a favorable comparison with those of such poets as Will Carleton and James W. Riley. Some of his contributions have been largely copied by the press, and frequently with favorable comment. His descriptive faculties are of a high order, smooth, natural, and show that he is a keen observer of men and things.

His poems entitled the “Rented Farm,” and “The Merchant Farmer,” which originally appeared in the Pittsburg Stockman, have been frequently copied and republished by request, and are masterpieces in their class of literature. By permission of the author we here insert the former, as it will undoubtedly not be unappreciated by our patrons in general, and may secure from oblivion a gem:

The Rented Farm.
[From the Stockman.]

‘Tis said that “Those who till the ground
Have always most contentment found.”
In other words, the self-same thought.
That “Those who have with nature wrought
Should never play the rustic clown
Who sold his farm and moved to town.”
But if old maxims can’t prevail
Be pleased to hear our o’ertrue tale:
Old Farmer Hobson years ago
Acquired the name of “Honest Joe.”
He and his wife, Melissa Jane,
Lived in the house by “Maple Lane”
So long that all the neighbors said
That “until he and she were dead
They both would stay upon the farm.”
There they were both secure from harm —
No noisy brawls to pierce their ears —
No riots dire to raise their fears;
There for almost three score of years
They lived in peace, so far as known,
Until their boys and girls were “grown
And married off.” And then, alone,
Like two old doves, mated for life,
Lived Farmer Hobson and his wife.
Their children all had “settled down,”
Some in the country, some in town.
And spite the little jealous cricks
That will spring up between young chicks
They were all “doing well enough.”
Said Honest Joe, “not half so tough
A time they have got to get along
As Jane and I when we were young.”
And every year at least one day,
Sometime in winter, sometimes May,
In mem’ry of the natal day,
Of father or of mother dear,
Who both were born the self-same year,
Theyd get together, one and all,
Both young and old, and great and small.
And the old house would fairly ring,
As they would laugh and talk and sing;
And swift the hours would speed away
Upon this anniversary day.
Then to their homes again theyd hie.
Like birds that to their nestlings fly,
And, with sad eyes, poor Joe and Jane
Would say, “Good-bye! Come soon again!’
And at the gate — the old yard gate —
Theyd stand and look, and sob, and wait
Until the last was’ out of sight,
Then turn and “do their chores for night.”
And with soft hearts alone again
Were left old farmer Joe and Jane,
Both growing old, and child-like, too,
As old folks are most apt to do —
For to us all the years go past,
And whirl us through the world so fast,
Old age comes creeping on apace
Ere manhood learns its sphere to grace,
And almost ere we are aware
Our heads are silvered o’er with care.
And thus the years went swiftly by,
As to the happy years do fly,
Until a year or so ago
A city friend said: “Uncle Joe,
Why don’t you come to town to live?
There is no use for you to strive
As you two do. Take my advice
And move to town; ‘twill be so nice.
Rent out your farm for money rent;
‘Twill make you more, not lose a cent,
And so much easier you can live,
And have so much more time to give
To visiting, and such as that,”
And thus concluded this chit-chat.
When Farmer Hobson that same day
Went slowly plodding on his way,
He mused upon this “brand new” theme,
And prodded up his sluggish team,
And looked around, as if ashamed,
And wondered if his team were lamed
By such brisk driving. Then again,
He slowly plodded down the lane,
As if he feared to meet dear Jane.
His chores soon done, the horses fed,
The wagon put beneath the shed,
The harness hung upon the pin,
The “mill-feed” placed within the bin,
The cattle tied within their stall,
The calves supplied, had ceased to bawl,
The pigs from squealing had desisted,
And Uncle Joe had just assisted
Aunt Jane to milk the two fat cows,
And walked beside her to the house
With well-filled pail upon his arm,
And glanced about him o’er the farm.
The evening meal was then prepared,
Their thankfulness in words declared
By Uncle Joe. The meal in silence masticated,
When Aunt Jane, somewhat agitated,
Said, “What’s the matter? Hain’t you well?
What’s happened that you hate to tell?
I’ve noticed you for’n hour or so —
You act so queer — what is it, Joe?”
Said Honest Joe, as he wiped the dew
That from his brain had oozed through,
“I don’t know whether to or not —
I haven’t given it ‘second thought’ —
But then I guess I might as well
The whole from the beginning tell,
And so, to make it short, that Mr. Brown
Asked me to-day to move to town,
To rent the farm and get the cash,
And go to town and ‘cut a dash.’”
“Yes, and everything ‘go to smash,’”
Said Jane. “It’s no wonder, Joe,
That you behaved so curious — no!
If that’s what’s worrying your mind,
Rest easy, then; we’re not the kind
Of folks to lead a city life —
You and your plain old country wife.
We’ve lived here happy and contented
And this farm never shall be rented
As long as I’m alive. You’ve heard my say —
I’ll live here till my dyin’ day.
I helped to pay for this here farm,
And I would rather lose my arm
Than see it go to stranger’s hands.
No, Joe, we’re fixtures on these lands;
As they say, in them law instruments,
We’re ‘tenants and hereditaments’ —
Belong to the farm as much as the fences,
And surely you must have lost your senses
To think for a minute that I would go
To town to live — no, never, Joe.”
Joe sat and never “opened his head,”
But listened to every word she said;
For he had learned this lesson in life —
To never contradict his wife.
But let her go and have her say,
And in the end he’d have his way.
Thus matters rested for several days,
They each pursued their several ways,
And neither referred to the matter again,
Till at last the subject was broached by Jane.
Says she: “Well, Joe, what would you say
If I was to tell you that I to-day
Had concluded to go to town awhile,
To just please you. We can give it a trial.
I’m getting old, as well as you,
And there wouldn’t be half so much to do.
We could live so nice, just you and I,
And if you like it, I will try
To do my best to be contented —
But I hate to see the old farm rented.”
But, to be brief, they moved to town,
In a house quite near to Mr. Brown,
The farm was rented out for cash,
To a farmer who was bold and rash.
And, first, he didn’t like the way
The fences run, and so away
He moved the rails that years ago
Had been placed there by Uncle Joe;
He plowed up all the “little lots”
Which had been seeded down in plots
Of choicest grass to suit the taste
Of their old owner; and to waste
Went all the work of many years
Which almost brought his eyes to tears.
The orchard, filled with choicest fruits,
Became a pasture for the brutes,
Which gnawed and browsed, and barked the trees,
And many more such things as these
Occurred, to show that the old farm
Was in the way of direful harm.
The windows, broke, were stuffed with rags,
The gate upon the hinges sags;
The “palings” off, and in the yard
The pigs and cattle standing guard
Around the door, and ‘neath the bowers
Of Uncle’s grapes and Auntie’s flowers,
Her Hollyhocks and beds of roses
Were marked by little “porkers” noses,
Her pinks and peonies, daisies, too,
Made fragrant cuds for cows to chew,
While “horning” at the evergreens,
And rubbing down the myrtle screens,
The Honeysuckle’s fragrant boughs
Had gone to deck these selfsame cows.
The garden gate was on the ground,
While in the garden might be found
A drove of pigs, whose lusty snouts
Were turning up the currant sprouts;
While others, as if in rage,
Were “rooting out” the thyme and sage
Which Old Aunt Jane, with tender care,
Long years ago had planted there.
Old farmer Joe came down the lane
To “see the things,” and good Aunt Jane
Concluded that she would come along
“To get some air” and hear the song
Of those old birds which every spring
Came around the old farm-house to sing.
And, as they slowly neared the house.
And spied the yard well-filled with cows.
The gates all standing open wide,
They both with sorrow almost cried —
For when they saw the work of years,
The objects of their hopes and fears,
All gone to ruin, naught but tears
Could drown their grief. “S too bad! ‘S too bad!”
Said Uncle Joe. “It makes me sad
To think that what we so much prized
Should be destroyed as if despised.”
They rapped at the old “parlor” door,
Where they had never rapped before,
But where the guests of many years
Had come to mingle joys and tears
With them, here through this door
They ne’er as strangers passed before;
But now as guests in their own home
Must they at this time only come,
And here again they did behold
What they had prized far more than gold
Had been abused and marred — destroyed.
Those snowy walls with filth were cloyed;
The “spare room” into kitchen turned;
A maiden in the “parlor” churned;
The walls were pasted over with scraps,
And nails on which hung hats and caps;
The “mantel piece” with “marbled stripes,”
Was filled with old tobacco pipes;
The wood work, spotless when they left,
Was now of paint almost bereft;
And all about was so much changed,
No wonder that they felt estranged.
They looked about, but so dumbfounded,
By the destruction which surrounded
Them on right and left, that they
Declared “they hadn’t time to stay,
But must go back to town again”
Both Uncle Joe and dear Aunt Jane.
It was “too much.” They both “broke down”
Before they reached their home in town;
But not one word did either say,
Except Aunt Jane, who (by the way)
Remarked, as they came down the lane:
“Well, Joe, you can’t blame this on Jane.”

— W. A. Paxson, Jamestown, O.

Mr. Paxson has not confined himself in his literary efforts to the leadings of the muse alone, but has written some very forcible articles upon various themes, such as politics, religious subjects, and agricultural topics, having at one time secured the first prize in a contest for the best article upon the subject of “Tile drainage of farm lands,” and the second prize in a similar contest upon the subject of “System in farming,” conducted by two of the leading agricultural papers in the United States, both of which were hotly contested. Although Mr. Paxson was reared a Methodist, and still holds a nominal membership with that denomination, he is extremely liberal in his religious belief, not by any means subscribing to the strict orthodox tenets of that sect. He has always been a great reader, and an original thinker, and has not confined his investigations to one narrow channel, but has launched out upon the broad sea of thought and investigation, having more faith in the nineteenth century, than in the dark days of the superstitious and ignorant past. He has always been liberal in his support of religious and charitable purposes, and not obtrusive of any peculiar doctrine or belief that he may have, saying “that what he may believe or not believe, is the result of his own investigation, and the effect of evidence upon his own mind, and if the evidence convinces him, or fails to convince him, that is the result of his organization, and he does not care to impose it upon others unsolicited, as it might seem insufficient to base the same conclusions upon, and would then do neither them nor himself any good.” “They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them,” each one for himself.

Mr. Paxson has one of the very best selected private libraries in the community, which shows upon examination that it was not selected for the binding on the volumes, but for the intrinsic merits of their contents, and its pages show that they have been perused by one who does not subscribe to all he reads, but has the courage of his convictions, and is not afraid to express upon the margin either his approval or rejection of the context. Mr. Paxton has lain aside, if he ever did have, any political ambition. Although a stanch Republican ever since he has been a voter, so far as National and State affairs are concerned, because he believes as he says “that there is more good mixed with less evil in that party, than either, of the others, and because it advocates more practical methods of dealing with affairs as they are,” yet he does not hesitate to condemn that in the party of his choice which he does not approve. He is outspoken in his convictions, too much so to lead the popular rabble in a race for the spoils of office, therefore, he says he prefers to retain his liberty to speak his sentiments, to being trammeled, and thereby become elevated to political preferment.” He is social in his habits, and belongs to the Masonic and Odd Fellows fraternities, in all of which he has held high official position, botli with credit to himself and the orders.

In addition to his professional duties, Mr. Paxson also conducts two farms, one in Greene and one in Fayette County, of which he is the owner, and he there exhibits the result of his scientific research and knowledge, in the various departments of that line. He has adopted several very important systems thereon, that show study, and that have proven very productive. He has his own system of rotation of crops, also his own system of drainage, both of which, having been in use now for several years, have demonstrated their advantages over the ordinary routine of that community, and are being adopted by the more advanced farmers, who observe them, and as they say, with marked success. He keeps up with the times in the various appliances and implements; believes in the most humane treatment of his live stock, and will not winter more stock than he has both shelter and provision for. His specialty in the way of live stock, is, in finishing off for the best prices, fancy beef cattle, and Cheshire swine, being the only pure breeder of that class of swine in this locality. He is not a difficult man to do business with, as he keeps his servants, if they are at all worthy, a long time, the superintendent on one of his farms, having been with him now for over thirteen years, he is not grasping or miserly in his habits, as all he says he desires is a competence, and to live well, and educate his family. He is somewhat of a traveler, having visited more than two-thirds of the States of the United States and Canada. He takes his family with him, when seeking pleasure, and upon the whole, he enjoys life fully as well as it seems possible for one in his condition in life to do so. We subjoin in his own language what he terms his creed:

“I want not gains begot by pelf.
But what I honest earn myself.
I crave not piles and hoards of wealth,
But I do wish for strength and health,
My family good and true and pure,
Endowed with virtues that endure.
No honest debts unliquidated
No reputation overrated,
Uncursed amidst the harpy tribe,
Untainted by the guilty bribe.
A faith in God, who doeth right
Unmoved by wrong, though backed by might,
No orphans’ cry to wound my ear,
My conscience and my honor clear.
Thus may I calmly meet my end,
Thus, to the grave in peace descend,
And when I’m gone, I’d have it said
“We’re sorry that our neighbor’s dead.”
It will comfort me in dying, to feel that it is true,
That the world is someway better for my having
traveled through.”

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This family biography is one of the many biographies included in Portrait and Biographical Album of Greene and Clark Counties, Ohio published by Chapman Bros., in 1890. 

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