The specific and distinctive office of biographer is not to give voice to a man's modest estimate of himself and his accomplishments, but rather to leave the perpetual record establishing his character by the consensus of opinion on the part of his fellowmen. That Mr. Hartley occupies a notable position among the able lawyers of Ohio is shown by the many times his professional associates have honored him with official preferment in their fraternal organizations; and that the public accords him prominence is demonstrated by the liberal clientage which he now enjoys. It is therefore fitting that he be numbered among the leaders of the bar of Greene county where for twenty-one years he has practiced continuously.
Mr. Hartley was born in Guernsey county, Ohio, on the 9th of August, 1853, his parents being William P. and Eleanor E. (Johnson) Hartley, the former a native of New Jersey and the latter of Ohio. It is believed that the Hartley family is of English lineage but for many generations representatives of the name have resided in America, the original ancestor having come to the new world with William Penn. The Hartleys are still found in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. They were worthy people, identified with the Society of Friends, and their Iives were in consistent harmony with the teachings of that sect, William P. Hartley came to Guernsey county. Ohio, in 1837, and is now residing within a mile of Quaker City. Throughout his active business career he has followed farming and now he is living in practical retirement at the age of eighty-one years, while his wife has reached the age of seventy-one years. They became the parents of three children, of whom two are yet living—Mansel J. and Anice H.. the latter the wife of S. F. McBurney of Quaker City, Ohio.
In the public schools of Quaker City, Mr. Hartley of this review obtained his early education and afterward engaged in teaching for four years in the district schools during the winter months, while in the summer season he worked upon the home farm. Not content, however, with the educational privilegs previously accorded him he resolved to pursue a more advanced course and when twenty years of age he entered the freshman class of Bethany College of West Virginia, where he completed a classical course and was graduated in 1877 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. He was then chosen superintendent of the schools of Quaker City, where he remained for a year, and in 1878 was elected superintendent of instruction in the Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home in Xenia, serving in that capacity until 1880. While engaged in teaching he took up the study of law under the direction of Charles Darlington of Xenia, and in April, 1881, he was admitted to the bar, where he has practiced continuously since. He entered into partnership with B. Nesbitt, a relation that was maintained from 1886 until 1892, when on account of his age. Mr. Nesbitt practically retired and died shortly afterward. With the exception of that period of six years Mr. Hartley has always been alone in practice and the success that he has achieved is the merited recognition of his ability. He is well informed concerning the various departments of jurisprudence. The people do not trust their legal business in unskilled hands where they risk losing that for which they are in litigation, and when one secures a large clientage it is an indication that the people have faith in his ability. Although Mr. Hartley has made the practice of law his chief vocation he has also been identified with several corporations and important business enterprises. He is a director of the People's Building and Savings Company of Xenia; is a director of the Xenia, Cedarville, Jamestown & \Mlmington Traction Company and its attorney; and is also attorney for the Springfield & Xenia Traction Company.
On the 11th of September, 1884, Mr. Hartley was united in marriage to Miss Laura H. Coffman, of Dayton, Ohio, and theirs is one of the hospitable homes of the city. Their circle of friends is very extensive and is continually growing as the years pass by. Mr. Hartley has been called to many positions of public trust and since 1881 has served continuously as school examiner of the city of Xenia. In 1879 he received from the state board of examiners a life certificate for Ohio. For two years, from 1889 until 1891, he was trustee of the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Orphan Home, having been appointed to that position by Governor Campbell. In 1892 he was nominated for a presidential elector on the Democratic ticket but there was a Republican landslide in Ohio that year. He was United States commissioner of the circuit court for the southern district of Ohio and in every position which he has been called upon to fill he has proved his loyalty to his country and his fidelity to the trust reposed in him. A very prominent member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, he has been a member of its grand lodge since 1888: is now one of its trustees and is an ex-officio trustee of the Odd Fellows' Home at Springfield. He also belongs to Xenia Lodge, No. 49, F. & A. M., and for four years was worshipful master. His wife belongs to the Baptist church and to its support he contributes liberally. In the line of his profession he is connected with the State Bar Association of Ohio. He has made a close study of law. never losing sight of any detail having bearing upon his case, and at the same time he gives to the more prominent points due importance. His knowledge of the law is exact, his preparation of the cases painstaking and his power before the judge and jury is acknowledged by all. He is a gentleman of very modest manner, yet of pleasing personality and his uniform courtesy and genuine worth have made him a great favorite in social as well as professional circles.
From History of Greene County, Ohio, by George F. Robinson (S. J. Clarke Publishing Co, 1902)
When in the spring of 1917 the people of Xenia began to take kindly to the notion of a commission form of government for that city and a committee of fifteen was elected to draft a tentative charter for submission to the people as a basis for the administration of the city's affairs under such a form of government, the name of Mansel J. Hartley appeared as one of the members of that committee. Mr. Hartley gave his earnest attention to the duties thus entailed and did much of the actual work performed by the committee in the preparation of the charter which was later adopted by the city and upon which Xenia's present commission form of government is based. Prior to taking up his residence in Xenia in 1878, in which year he arrived there to enter upon the duties of superintendent of instruction in the Ohio State Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home, Mr. Hartley had been engaged in teaching school and during that period gave much of his leisure to the study of law with the view eventually to adopting the legal profession as his life work. In 1881 he was admitted to the bar and has ever since been actively engaged in the practice of his profession at Xenia.
During the period 1903-06 he served as a member of the board of public service; 1907-08, director of public safety, and one year as a member of the city's sinking-fund commission. In 1881 he was elected school examiner for the city of Xenia and for more than twenty years served in that capacity. For two years, 1889-91, he was a member of the board of trustees of the Ohio State Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home, under appointment by Governor Campbell; in 1892 was the nominee of the Democratic party for Presidential elector from this district and was for some years United States commissioner of the circuit court for the southern district of Ohio. Mr. Hartley is a member of the Ohio State Bar Association and has served that body on various occasions in an official capacity, and is likewise a member of the American Bar Association, for the past three or four years an Ohio officer of the latter organization. He is a member of the board of directors of the Law Library Association of Xenia. Not only does he practice as a trial lawyer, but in a fiduciary capacity he has handled numerous large estates, trusteeships, guardianships and the like. Mr. Hartley is the vice-president and a member of the board of directors of the Peoples Building and Savings Company of Xenia; a member of the board of directors of the Shawnee Refrigerating; Company, a director of the Willon Engineering and Contracting Company of Xenia; a former director of the Xenia, Cedarville, Jamestown & Wilmington Traction Company and attorney for the same, and likewise attorney for the Dayton, Springfield & Xenia Southern railroad company. Mr. Hartley is a Democrat. Fraternally, he is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a member of the grand lodge of that order since 1888 and a former trustee of the same and ex-officio trustee of the Odd Fellows Home at Springfield. He also is a Scottish Rite Mason, past worshipful master of Xenia Lodge No. 49, Free and Accepted Masons, and affiliated with the consistory, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of the valley of Dayton. He still retains his old college affilition with the Greek-letter fraternity with which he was connected in college days.
Mansel J. Hartley was born on a farm at the edge of Quaker City, in Guernsey county, Ohio, August 9, 1853, a son of William P. and Eleanor E. (Johnson) Hartley, the former a native of the state of New Jersey and the latter, of Ohio, whose last days were spent at Quaker City. The Hartleys are of old Colonial stock and Quakers ever, the first of the name to settle in this country having been a member of William Penn's colony, and the Hartleys are still numerously represented in Pennsylvania and in New Jersey, as well as in Ohio. William P. Hartley was but a boy when his parents settled in the Quaker City neighborhood in Ohio in 1837 and there he grew to manhood, married and established his home, becoming a substantial farmer. He and his wife were the parents of three children, two of whom are still living, the subject of this biographical sketch having a sister, Anice H., wife of S. F. McBurney, of Quaker City.
Reared on the home farm, Mansel J. Hartley received his early schooling in the schools of Quaker City and when little more than a boy began teaching school, spending his winters thus for four years. He then entered Bethany College (West Virginia) and upon completing the course there was graduated from that institution in 1877 with the degree of Bachelor of Arts, a classmate of the late Justice Joseph R. Lamar of the United States supreme court. Upon his return home from college, Mr. Hartley was elected superintendent of the schools of Quaker City and in the next year, 1878, was appointed superintendent of instruction for the Ohio State Soldiers and Sailors Orphans Home at Xenia, since which time he has been a resident of Xenia. In 1879 Mr. Hartley received from the state board of examiners a life certificate to teach school in Ohio. During his period of teaching Mr. Hartley had been giving such attention as he could to the study of law and not long after his arrival in Xenia he placed himself under the preceptorship of Charles Darlington and upon the completion of his term of service as superintendent of instruction at the Home in 1880 gave himself unreservedly to his law studies and was admitted to practice in April, 1881. Upon his admission to the bar Mr. Hartley engaged in practice in Xenia and some time later formed a partnership with Benoni Nesbit, a mutually agreeable arrangement which continued from 1886 to the time of Mr. Nesbit's retirement from the practice in 1892. With the exception of that period of six years Mr. Hartley has always been alone in practice. On September 11, 1884, Mansel J. Hartley was united in marriage to Laura H. Coffman of Dayton. Mrs. Hartley is a member of the Baptist church and Mr. Hartley is a supporter of the same.
From History of Greene County Ohio, Its People, Industries and Institutions, vol. 2. M.A.Broadstone, editor. B.F.Bowen & Co., Indianapolis. 1918