Ohio Biographies

Mordecai Bartley

I have not before written of Mordecai Bartley directly, but incidentally only in making some observations touching his distinguished son, Thomas W. Bartley, and also in connection with Thomas H. Ford and William McLaughlin and their military service in Mexico, when Mordecai Bartley was Governor of Ohio and commander-in-chief of the militia of Ohio. I have not written at length of Governor Bartley as a lawyer, for it could hardly be said that he had distinction in the profession nor at any time a large practice. He was in his day a merchant, and in his day a farmer, and as he advanced in age he was to a moderate extent engaged in the practice of the profession of the law. He was born in Pennsylvania, moved at an early day to Ohio. His wife, the mother of the Judge, was a Wells, of the Panhandle country of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the patronymic of her father was given her son Thomas, Thomas Wells Bartley. Mordecai Bartley was a dignified man in appearance, mild mannered in both action and word, a gentleman of the old school and all his life in Ohio possessed, and deservedly so, the confidence, the respect and the love of his fellow-men, and all this in a marked degree. In his family grew two sons, on the Judge and the other David Bartley, who studied medicine and practiced the healing art in Muskingum County, Ohio, but along in 1847 or 1848 removed westward, to Texas. His daughters were three in number. The eldest married Sylvanus B. Day, uncle of S.B. Day and also uncle of Matthias Day of our generation and time. The second married Geo. B. Arnold, whose sister became the wife of Baldwin Bentley and the mother of Mrs. General Brinkerhoff and General Robert H. Bentley. The youngest daughter became the wife of Edward Thomson, a young physician of Wayne County, but who entered the ministry and became Bishop Thomson of the Methodist Episcopal church, and whose learning, culture and wonderful abilities and acquirements are part of the heritage of the sons of Ohio, for Edward Thomson was principal of the Norwalk Seminary, editor of the Ladies' Repository, president of the Ohio Wesleyan University, editor of the New York Advocate, and then promoted to the Bishopric of that church, whose ministers have girded the earth. He died in 1870 at Wheeling, West Virginia, having gone thither to hold the West Virginia Conference. I mention at some length the children of Governor Mordecai Bartley, for in my childhood I knew them all, and in my boyhood I was a pupil of Doctor Thomson, and an intimate in his family -- intimate as a boy whose mother was the special friend of his wife's mother and for that reason this distinguished citizen of Ohio was my father's friend. Mordecai Bartley was an even-tempered man, but of rugged integrity, not brilliant but a patient worker for his fellow men and a devout lover of his country and its institutions. Possibly in the early years he was in advance of his immediate fellow citizens in general information, and so was looked to as a helpful man and as one who ought to be given official position and place. So in the 14th., 15th. and 16th. General Assemblies of Ohio, he was a State Senator representing Licking, Knox and Richland Counties in 1816, 1817 and 1818, he was elected to the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States and served in the 18th., 19th., 20th. and 21st. Congresses. Eight years, from 1823 to 1831, and his service was in the years when giants represented Ohio at Washington. Let us look and name some of them: Joseph Vance, Duncan McArthur, Samuel F. Vinton, John C. Wright, Elisha Whittelsey, Humphrey H. Leavett, Philemon Beecher, John Sloan. These and others like them from Ohio were the colleagues of Mordecai Bartley in the Congress of the United States. And from 1844 to 1846 he was by the people chosen for the exalted official position of Governor of Ohio. That service as Governor closed his public career; but not his interest in public questions or in matters that concerned the prosperity of the state or the good of the community in which he dwelt. He was in no sense an orator and hardly could be considered as advocate, but in him were elements of power. He was an honest man, of good presence, fairly average ability, larger acquirements than men generally in his day, and he attained and retained the confidence and regard of all who knew him down to his latest day on earth. Years ago the stately old man passed away. His eyes had become dim, his ears dulled, his body somewhat bent, while the silver threads had wholly displaced the brown-black hair, which in my boyhood covered his benevolent head. The tones of his voice trembled as he spoke or prayed, for he was a devout man and his place in the sanctuary was never vacant even in the last of life. Of his descendants I think only one is now a resident of Richland, Julia, his grand-daughter, wife of S.E. Jenner, Esq. What estimate may we make of this man who for so many years was the most pronounced figure in the early history of the old country? If I could sum it up in a few words, and I can, and the words may be, must be if they be true words, an honest man, serving his day and generations faithfully, ably and well. Yonder in the cemetery he lies, but his life was pure, and his memory is cherished in all the homes of the sons and daughters of the pioneers of Ohio.


From Richland Shield & Banner: 12 January 1895, Vol. LXXVII, No. 35