Ohio Biographies

Robert Mehaffy

ROBERT MEHAFFY, was born in Tyrone County, Ireland, Aug. 23, 1833. He came to Allen County in 1850. His parents are James and Martha Mehaffy. He has one brother, John. His wife is a daughter of Joseph H. and Eda Richardson, who came from Smythe County, Virginia. She was born in Greene County, Ohio, on the 8th of January, 1834. She has two brothers and three sisters. Mr. M. has been justice of the peace in Jackson Township, and was for six years and two months clerk of the courts.


1875 Historical Atlas of Allen County, Ohio by H H Hardesty & Co. Publishers, Chicago.



Hon. Robert Mehaffey, who has been identified with the financial interest and public affairs of Allen County for many years, and has been a leader in educational and temperance work, was born August 23, 1833, in County Tyrone, Ireland, and is a son of James and Martha (Clark) Mehaffey, who spent their entire lives in Ireland, where James Mehaffey was a farmer. The parental family consisted of five sons and one daughter. Two of the sons James and Robert, came to the United States.

Robert Mehaffey was reared on his father's farm until he was 13 years of age. Then the death of the mother broke up the family to some extent, and Robert left home and went up to London with a friend. In 1849 he took the step which, in great measure, settled his future career. Taking passage at Liverpool on the sailing vessel, "Albert Gallatin," he was landed at Philadelphia in December of that year. He had an uncle who was a farmer at Beaver Dam, Allen County, Ohio, and after many experiences by land and water and pauses at Wheeling, Cincinnati, and other points, he reached Lima, in February, 1850, and joined his uncle shortly afterward. he worked for his uncle and another farmer until April, 1852, when he located in the village of LaFayette, which has since continued to be his home.

Accepting a position in a store with an idea of only remaining long enough to earn sufficient capital to take him still further West, Mr. Mehaffey remained with that employer for seven years; but at one time during this period he actually started for California, going as far as Council Bluffs, Iowa; he turned back on account of the threatening activity of the Indians at that time. He bought a tract of 28 acres of land, but after farming for a short time decided to enter into the mercantile business for himself, as the town offered at that time an excellent field. He therefore purchased a stock of general merchandise to the value of $520, and started in, doing all the work incident to the new venture, and for the 11 succeeding years he sold goods over his own counters, giving full weight and running over, and making a friend of every customer.

For a number of years Mr. Mehaffey had taken an active interest in politics before he accepted any office. His first elective office was that of county clerk; he was elected in 1869 on the Democratic ticket and was reelected three years later, being in office six years in all. He then became prominent also in financial affairs, as president of the First National Bank, of Lima. Later he sold his interests and was succeeded by Dr. S. A. Baxter. His next enterprise was handling cattle, and this proved very lucrative and he continued in this business for number of years. Mr. Mehaffey gave great assistance in the organizing of the Merchants' National Bank of Lima, of which he was elected president, a position he continued to fill until the bonds were all called in the corporation went out of business.  Mr. Mehaffey took charge of the concern and ran it as a private bank for the accommodation of merchants, and continued until he was called to take so prominent a part in State politics that he found it expedent to dispose of many of his private business interests.

With very little effort on his part, Mr. Mehaffey was nominated and was subsequently elected to the State Senate from the 32nd District, which included Allen, Van Wert, Auglaize, Mercer, Paulding, Defiance and Williams counties, and in this honorable position he served through two terms. As a member of the Legislature, Mr. Mehaffey met the expectations of his constituents and fellow- citizens and retired from public life with their increased confidence and added respect.

When Mr. Mehaffey returned to his home from the arena of politics, it was with the expressed intention of giving the remainder of his life to the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, finding on his extensive estate enough to occupy his time and fulfill his ambition. However, this was not accepted by his fellow-citizens, and when the capitalists of this section of the State found a field open for the establishing of another financial institution at Lima, they called upon Mr. Mehaffey to accept the presidency of the Metropolitan Bank, a position of honor, trust and responsibility which he still fills.

During his service in the Senate he was appointed one of the trustees of the institution for the feeble-minded youth of the State and has served for the past 19 years. His first appointment was made by Governor Foraker and he has been continued in the office by every succeeding Governor and during the most of the time has been president of the board, although its composition is Republican and he has been a life-long Democrat.

Mr. Mehaffey was married on August 19, 1856, to Mary Elinor Richardson, who was born in 1834 in Green County, Ohio and is a daughter of Joseph H. and Edith (Whitworth) (Smith) Richardson, natives of Wythe County, Virginia. They were married there and came to Greene County, Ohio, and in 1836 to Allen County, and settling near Lima on land which is now within the corporate limits of the city, but at that time was covered with timber, excepting a little space which had been cleared, only sufficient for a small garden plot. Mrs. Mehaffey remembers the old log house and that blankets were hung over the openings to exclude cold; and she also recalls the long nights when bright fires were kept burning outside the cabin to protect the imates from the wolves who howled in the near-by forest. Where this took place the prosperous citizens of Lima now hurry through busy streets and carry on traffic and pursue their social and busy life interests.

Mrs. Mehaffey had more educational advantages than were afforded many of the children of her time and locality. Her father was a scholarly man, had collegiate training in Virginia, and taught the first public school in German township. When four years old, she was carried on his back to the little log schoolhouse and there laid the foundation for the perfected education and culture of later years. She was one of six children and the family has been identified with the educational interests of this section since her infancy until 1904, when a sister resigned from her long connection with the public schools of Lima. The magnificent new school edifice, completed at Lima in the fall of 1904 and bearing the name of the Richardson School, was so named in honor of her father, Joseph Hicks Richardson, and a handsome picture of this well-known educator adorns its walls. One of the pleasant avenues of the city was named Charles street, in honor of Mrs. Mehaffey's brother, Charles.

Mr. and Mrs. Mehaffey have had four children, viz: William R., a graduate of Kenyon College, Ohio, who is now editor of the Lima Times-Democrat; George E., assistant cashier of the Metropolitan Bank, of Lima, who was educated at the University of Tennessee; Alice, who died in infancy; and Eda Alice (Hill), a resident of Lafayette, who is a graduate of the Cincinnati Wesleyan College. Mrs. Mehaffey has long been interested in missionary work in connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church. Since December, 1873, she has been identified also with that noble organization, the W. C. T. U., and it was mainly through her efforts that the saloon element was overcome in LaFayette. She is a member of the State executive board and for a number of years has been county superintendent of the press-work carried on under the auspices of W. C. T. U.  Mrs. Mehaffey is a lady of literary tastes and accomplishments and has written more or less continuously for publication since she was 14 years old. For the past 10 years she has devoted her pen exclusively to the interests of temperance and in her work has the support and approbation of her husband.

In addition to other honors shown him, Mr. Mehaffey was commissioned lieutenant-colonel of militia, during the Civil War, by Governor David Tod. He is a Royal Arch Mason, having been a member of the fraternity since he was 21 years of age. He belongs to the Protestant Episcopal Church.


From History of Allen County, Ohio and Representative Citizens, Part 2, Edited & Compiled by Charles C. Miller, Ph. D.; Richmond & Arnold, Publishers, Chicago, 1906