Joseph HERRON was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, October 1st, 1808. His ancestors were Scotch, whose homes were in the southern highlands of Scotland among the lower Grampian and the Cheviot-Hills.
Several families formed a friendly band for mutual aid and protection, adopted plumes of the White Heron for a crest, and hence became known as "The HERONs". The name is traceable back as far as 1206. During the three centuries of warfare, when the English considered the Scots as vassals who presumed to rebel, and the Scots in their turn regarded the English as usurpers who aimed to enslave them, the border homes of the HERONS were between two fires. They were brave in the defense of Scotland and earned a Coat of Arms whose crest was a heron's head ducally crowned. In "The Hunting of the Cheviot", a ballad older than that of "Chevy Chase", and of which the latter seems to be a modern version, mention is made of the name, and a reference is made to it in "Marmion". Sir Walter Scott was proud of being a son of the Border. The perusal of ballad literature, especially of "Percy Reliques" and the hearing at his Grandfather's farm tales of the border wars, to which he was always an eager listener, had an important influence in shaping his literary tastes and character, the predominant feature of which was a reverence for the past. Here is found inspiration for his Minstrelsy of the Border, the Lay of the Last Minstrel and many other writings both in verse and prose. One of the objects of his life was, we are told, to be numbered among the landed gentry of the old border country from which his family had sprung. The HERONs were among the founders of the Scotch Presbyterian Church. They hated Romanism and rebelled against the liturgy of the Episcopalians, and with every agitation or imposition upon the church by the crown they advocated greater civil and religious liberty, became "Seceders" and "Covenanters" in behalf "of the true religion and the liberties and laws of the Kingdom". They were admirers of the Protestant Prince of Orange, and the followers of sturdy John Knox the reformer. Immense tracts of land had been depopulated in Ireland by war and famine in consequence of which James the First introduced especially into the Ulster province, many Scotch and English Protestant settlers, whose example of industry and prosperity, it was hoped, would raise the rest in the social scale. The lands were let to three classes, - those who received 2,000 acres were to build a castle, - 1,800 acres a stone house, and 1,000 acres a good dwelling to their own taste. Hume says that "James in nine years made greater advances toward the civilization of Ireland than had been made in the 440 years since its conquest was first attempted". Among these protestant colonists from Scotland were some of the HERON family. In the reign of the unfortunate Charles the First they were in sympathy with Cromwell and the Puritan party and in consequence became involved in civil war with the Catholics and Old Irish, who, jealous of the prosperity of the newcomers, seemed to long for an opportunity to avenge themselves of the insult and injury which they fancied the presence of these strangers inflicted. Under the plea of loyalty to the King, the leadership of O'Neill, the encouragement of Cardinal Richelieu and the Pope, "who looked longingly upon the Peter-pence and the absolute authority of the green isle", an insurrection was raised which was not subdued until Cromwell himself appeared upon the scene. Several of the HERON family had already emigrated to America from both Scotch and Irish branches, between whom communication had always been kept up, but immediately after the close of the Revolutionary War a large party of liberty-loving friends and relatives determined to seek homes in the new Republic. Among these was John HERON, who with others, crossed over to the north of Ireland whence they were to embark. While waiting for the organization of the company he married Rebecca Clarke, of English descent but of Irish birth and here their eldest son was born. It was, (I think) in 1790 that they reached Philadelphia, and went immediately to lands in Pennsylvania, previously purchased with reference to farming or to coal and iron. John Heron's portion fell in Lancaster County, and here seven other children were born, the youngest of whom was Joseph, the subject of our sketch. To quick natural intelligence these children added the advantages of such schools as their neighborhood afforded and were all fond of books. The eldest brother enlisted in the Army and served through the war of 1812. In the meantime relatives who had preceded this Company to America had inserted another R in the name, making it HERRON, in order to avoid the spelling, and pronunciation of Hern and Hearne, as was often the case and undoubtedly those who spell the name with the double r are direct descendants of these first comers to the United States. John HERON and his family accepted the amendment.
Glowing accounts of the new Northwest Territory had for years been traveling eastward, and in 1816 John HERRON determined to remove thither. With his family he crossed the mountains in the great Conestoga wagons of that time, and took raft at Pittsburgh for Cincinnati. In accordance with previous arrangement with former neighbors he found his way to Clermont County, and purchased a farm near the Ohio River, where he passed the remainder of his life.
When New Richmond became the county-seat, the sons established a weekly county paper, called it the "Luminary" and placed at its head the motto - "Enlightened minds and virtuous manners lead to the gates of glory". They also published a monthly magazine - "The Columbian Historian" - one of the earliest of its kind. Joseph, having gone as far in his studies as his teachers could lead him, was prevailed upon to take charge of a county school in the "Franklin neighborhood". Here the youthful teacher succeeded in inspiring his boys and girls with a love for learning, taught them to declaim and organized a debating society in which not only the farmer’s sons but the farmers themselves came to listen and to discuss the questions of the day, and "Franklin School House" became the center of an intelligent community which has remained such to an unusual degree. On Saturdays Mr. HERRON set type in his brother’s office for the magazine, committing to memory every article he arranged. In 1829 he, with an older brother, went to Cincinnati and engaged in the grocery business. This was, however, but temporary, and he soon secured a position in the public schools. His first appointment was to the Third District. He attended the meetings of the College of Teachers and availed himself of every opportunity to enlarge his knowledge. He made the acquaintance of Dr. Daniel Drake and other gentlemen eminent in the early educational history of the city, who recognized in him the earnest student and enthusiastic teacher. In 1836 he was invited to take charge of the Preparatory Department in the first Cincinnati College of which Dr. William H. McGuffey was president, and the late Gen. O. M. Mitchell was professor of mathematics. These became the true and life-long friends of the young professor, and the exchanges of hospitality were delightful and frequent. In 1845 the College Building at the corner of Walnut and Fourth streets was destroyed by fire. The trustees determined not to rebuild immediately and the Faculty separated. President McGuffey was called to the University of Virginia, Professor Telford resumed the practice of law, Professor Harding organized a Seminary for Young Ladies and Professor HERRON opened a school for boys. This was the beginning of Herron’s Seminary in which young men were prepared for business or for college, of which he was the successful head until his death in 1863. The school occupied the lecture room of the Wesley Chapel at first, but in 1848 Mr. HERRON purchased property on Seventh Street between Walnut and Vine streets which had been used as the Wesleyan Female College. The rooms accommodated 200 pupils and were always filled. Many of the prominent citizens and business men of today were students here and are the better fitted for Life’s work and for usefulness because of the earnest christian instruction received, both by precept and example, from their friend and teacher. Joseph Herron was a gentleman of the highest type, of rare charity and courtesy of manner. He took a warm personal interest in each of his pupils, and followed them with affection through their varied careers in life. It afforded him the greatest pleasure to meet them and to know that they were doing well their part in the work of the world. Though broad in his views, Mr. HERRON was sincerely attached to the Methodist Episcopal Church in which he was a Trustee, Steward, Class Leader, Sabbath School Superintendent and Bible Class Teacher. He was for ten years the Superintendent of the Bethel Mission Sabbath School, which he helped to organize for the benefit of the people living down about the river landing on Front Street east of Broadway. This school grew into a congregation and a church was built farther east on Front Street, and the present Union Bethel was organized. He was happy in this mission work, and considered it among the best works of his life. His Sabbaths were always full of these labors of love, but he said that change of work was rest enough, and that he "must be about his Master’s business". He was a director of the Bible Society for twenty years, Secretary of the Relief Union, a Tract Distributor, Overseer of the Poor, member of the School Board, one of the Astronomical Society which founded the Cincinnati Observatory, one of the founders of the Cincinnati Wesleyan College and a charter Trustee. In acknowledgement of the 38 years of service to the cause of Christian Education the Ohio Wesleyan University conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts. Mr. HERRON died March 26, 1863 at the comparatively early age of 54 years, a martyr to his desire to benefit others. "He rests from his labors and his works do follow him" in the usefulness of those who have been blessed with his counsel and his care.
Up to this time no private school in Cincinnati had compared with this one in numbers or in length of service, but upon Mr. HERRON’s death and the closing of the school, others were built up from his material and new ones opened, which deserve the good name they have made.
He was twice married, in 1828 to Elizabeth Rogers, who died in 1837, and in 1839 to Cordelia Weeks, who survived till March 1893. Ten children were born to him, five of whom died in infancy, the eldest Rev. James H. is a minister in the Methodist Church. The second son, Thomas G. is a physician, the third, William C., an iron merchant. The elder daughter, Mrs. Lucy HERRON Parker is the widow of Mason D. Parker, a prominent educator in Cincinnati before the late war, in which he offered up his life for freedom and the Union of his country. She has been teaching ever since his death, and is at present connected with Mt. Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C.. The younger daughter, Delia, is doing work as a Home Missionary in the South. The beneficent influence of such a life and labor as that of Joseph HERRON cannot be recorded in words, but "When the books are opened" and the accounts therein proclaimed, if beside any name is written "Well done" it will be by that of Joseph HERRON, the christian gentleman, the friend of the poor, the faithful guide and instructor of youth.
Submitted by E B Herron