Alexander Smalley sees deadly fire and illness


As winter turns to Spring in 1872 in Alexander Smalley’s north central Ohio farming community, he is politically conscious, reminding us that the Civil War was recent history, and the United States was still a fairly young country. Smalley was an interested and patriotic young man.

On May 1 he writes, “Today at Cincy will begin a series of proceedings that will in all probability be very detrimental to the interest of the Grant-ites. Cincy too far for us to travel or I would most decidedly be there.” Two days later, on a Friday, he writes, “Horace Greeley nominated.”

In the coming days, Dr. Yocum is sent for, as his sister Jen is ailing, and concern is evident. “Doc tried to reassure. Says she has the intermittent fever.”

By May 15, “We began planting corn, about six acres accomplished. It was a good and productive day. Tom Dove and Joe covered. Allison Smith and Sammy Rob dropped,” describing the dropping of seed corn.

On May 23, “Hayesville had a big fire tonight. Don’t know what it is. Jen some better today.” The village of Hayesville would only have been about three miles to the southwest of the Smalley farm, and a big fire would have been quite evident.

The next day, bringing local history into focus, he writes of something only alluded to by my great-grandfather, and I had never been fully aware of the year, nor the full extent of this enormous fire until reading Smalley’s diary. “Father, Jen and I went up to view the ruins — Swartz and Harvey and S.K.Black and Joe Lucas are burnt out. ‘Tis a hard stroke on Hayesville. The main business part of the town is gone. Every bit of it. It is a sickening sight to behold.”

On May 28, “After dinner Joe and I went out to right the fence around the road. We packed the sewing machine for traveling,” to sister Lydia.

The next morning, “Father and I lit out for Mansfield at early breakfast time. Arrived there about 9 a.m. Was all through the new Court House and big machine foundry. A fellow reported that they have eight cases of smallpox.”

A profitable trip on June 1 is noted, “Jen and I went to Ashland this morning with a lot of butter. Got 21 cents per pound. Happy to have it.”


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.