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Asa Smith Bushnell
(Asa S. Bushnell Portrait)
(Ellen (Ludlow) Bushnell Portrait)
THE comment has often truthfully been made that deserved appreciation of really great men is too frequently withheld until death awakens society, or a State, to a sense of its loss. This is less true of Asa Smith Bushnell than of most distinguished personages. There was never a period in his notable career when his mental equipment was not recognized by friend and foe alike as of a superior order. None ever failed to credit him with high moral purpose, true nobility of character, sterling sense of justice, able and comprehensive statesmanship, and firm adherence to the loftiest of political, social, and business ideals. This unanimous concession to his worth and greatness wholly disarmed the temporary determination due to partisan exigency, and entirely shamed those few of his pretended political friends who could not debauch his integrity nor swerve his independence. Nor did he disappoint any intelligent opinion of his exceptional qualities of heat and heart by retirement form public life, but, on the contrary, continued to add to acquired esteem by a constant display of ability and usefulness. At his death, his place was as easily that of the first citizen of his State, as when he enjoyed the distinction due to the chief executive. This Universal estimate of his exalted character became more pronounced after his sudden departure. The restraints of politics were removed. Sentiment assumed free and open expression. He was deliberately reweighed in all his attributes of character, in all his accomplishments, in all his relations to public and civic affairs, and what has been the common verdict was only rendered the more emphatic. Honors, no matter how profuse, were all too insufficient for the distinguished head. Mourning, however sincere and general, was but a feeble expression of the deep-seated sense of the bereavement. It was Asa Smith Bushnell who had been gathered to his fathers. Through critical, yet most kind analysis, through sympathetic eulogium, and through touching dirge, was assigned his deservedly exalted niche in the hall of fame, there to stand as an encouragement to the noble endeavor and as an inspiration to aspiring youths.
Asa Smith Bushnell, two times Governor of the State of Ohio, was of the eighth generation of his family in the United States. The Bushnell name has ever been an honorable one, the members of the family having been upright men and women, much devoted to morality, religion and education; lovers of liberty, loyal to their county, ever ready to sacrifice personal ease and comforts for principle and the good of their fellow men, and ever taking in intelligent interest in the welfare of their respective communities. The identity of Governor Bushnell's real ancestor among the first comers to this country is not absolutely certain. One writer takes the following position: William Bushnell, son of John, with five or six brothers, was an early emigrant from England. Remaining but a short time in massachusetts, he, with his brothers Francis and Richard, directed their course to Guilford, Connecticut, attracted thither probably by their acquaintance with and relation to some of the settlers in that neighborhood, one of whom was Francis Bushnell, "Ye Elder," who might have been their uncle. These brothers occupied prominent places in their respective communities. William was appointed lieutenant of the train band, was elected deputy to the General Assembly, and held other offices of trust. He died in 1664. Among his descendants who have attained distinction may be named the late Dr. Horace Bushnell, of Hartford. Francis, the second of the brothers, was the second deacon of the church and a man of prominence. He built the first gristmill in the town, receiving a valuable perquisite of land on the condition that he would run the mill for the accommodation of the inhabitants. He died in 1681. Richard, the third son, was the direct ancestor of Governor Bushnell.
According to the records of the "Old Northwest" Genealogical Society, the line of descent is as follows: Francis Bushnell, "Ye Elder," and his wife, Rebekah (Holmes) Bushnell, of Horsted in Surrey, sailed from London in 1639. During the voyage the passengers formulated the plantation covenant and Francis Bushnell was among the signers. The company reached New Haven in July, purchased the land from the Indians, and established a plantation which remained independent until 1643, when it was admitted to the New Haven colony and name Guildforde. Frances Bushnell died in 1646 and his will was the first probated in Guildforde.
One of the sons of Francis Bushnell was (II.) Richard, who removed from Guildford to Saybrook in 1647, after the burying of Saybrook fort, when his services as carpenter were in demand. On October 11, 1648, he married Mary, the daughter of Matthew and Elizabeth Marvin, of Hartford, who came from England in 1635. He died at Saybrook in 1658, leaving the widow and four small children. The two sons, Joseph and Richard, were removed to the Norwich settlement, where they are reckoned among the original or first class of planters. Richard was for a half century prominent in public life, having been town clerk for thirty years, a member of the General Assembly for thirty-eight sessions, constable, schoolmaster, captain of the train band, town agent, just of the peace and speaker of the House. The other brother (III.) Joseph, who was born in May, 1651, married, on November 28, 1673, Mary, daughter of Thomas Leffingwell, one of the proprietors and first settlers of Norwich. Joseph died on December 23, 1746, and his wife on March 31, 1745. Joseph Bushnell complained against himself to Richard Bushnell, justice of the peace, for that he had killed a buck, contrary to law. He was sentenced to pay a fine of ten shillings, one-half to the county treasurer and one-half to the complainant. One is puzzled to know whether to admire Joseph more for his conscientiousness or his shrewdness, as by self accusation in the abatement of the fine and the value of the buck, he must have made a little money.
(IV.) Nathan Bushnell, the seventh child and fourth son of Joseph, was born at Norwich, February 22, 1686, and died October 7, 1770. He married, first, December 2, 1713, Anne Cary, and second, December 12, 1715, Mehitable Allen. Of the eight children by the second marriage (V.) Joseph, born July 20, 1716, was the eldest. He was twice married, first to his cousin, Abigail Bushnell, and second, on August 25, 1745, to Elizabeth French. He died June 5, 1796, at Norwich.
His fourth son was (VI.) Jason Bushnell, who was born at Norwich, Connecticut, September 12, 1763, and died near Cincinnati, Ohio, in September, 1847. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, having enlisted from the town of Norwich in Captain Miel's company of General Waterbury's brigade, which subsequently joined Washington and served until the close of the war. In 1785, he married Hannah Kirkland, and, after her death, Sarah Smith. In 1811, with his wife Sarah and four of their ten children, he removed to Rome, New York, where he farmed for many years. In 1845, he and his wife removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, where his death occurred.
(VII.) Daniel Bushnell, the fifth son of Jason, and father of Governor Bushnell, was born in Lisbon, Connecticut, on February 17, 1800, and died in October, 1884, in Ohio. He was eleven years old when the family removed to Rome, New York, but the following year he walked the entire distance back to Connecticut, where he lived for some years with his sister while securing his education. Returning to Rome, engaged in teaching school, in which manner he was occupied for thirty years during the winters, caring for his farm during the summers. Among his pupils was his own son, Asa Smith Bushnell, who has testified to the ability and success of his father as a teacher and disciplinarian. On March 9, 1825, Daniel Bushnell married Harriet Smith, of whom Governor Bushnell, her son, said: "Whatever of success my father attained in his various employments of farmer, teacher and public officer, was due in large part to the great energy, untiring effort and cheerful co-operation of my mother. Her house was a model and her heart was in his work. Her life was a benediction, her presence always an inspiration." In 1845, the family removed to Cincinnati, where Daniel Bushnell resided for eleven years, being engaged in teaching and was also justice of the peace and assessor. He was a strong opponent of slavery and from 1845 to 1856 was an active agent and "conductor" of the underground railroad. In 1856, he removed to Oberlin, Ohio, where also he served as assessor and justice of the peace, being re-elected continuously to the latter office until, on account of advancing years, he declined to serve longer. There also he was active in the interests of fugitive slaves.
To Daniel and Harriet Bushnell were born the following children: Hannah Vera, born January 10, 1828, became the wife of William H. Hayford; Eliza Ann, born April 8, 1830, became the wife of William H. Morgan; Asa Smith is the immediate subject of this sketch; Albert Mason, born March 3, 1839, died May 8, 1887, at Indianapolis, Indiana; Lemira lee, born March 17, 1846, died February 17, 1847; Harriet Amelia, born December 14, 1848, died October 27, 1850.
(VIII.) Asa Smith Bushnell was born at Rome, New York, on the sixteenth of September, 1834, and was named after his mother's brother. As was intimated above, his early education was gained under the direction and instruction of his father at Rome. He was but eleven years old when the family removed to Ohio, and he remained at home but one year after that. At the age of twelve years he started out for himself. For a limited period he attended the public schools of Cincinnati, and at the age of seventeen years, in 1851, he went to springfield, seeking employment. For three years he was employed as clerk in a dry-goods store, his evening hours being devoted to the study of bookkeeping, thus early evidencing those qualities of industry and laudable ambition which were the keynotes to his later success. In 1854, he became bookkeeper for the firm of Leffel, Cook & Blakeney, at Springfield, remaining in their employ until 1857, gaining valuable experience and acquiring an insight into business methods. In the spring of 1857 he became a bookkeeper and traveling salesman for Warder, Brokaw & Childs, manufacturers of mowers and reapers. He remained in this position but a few moths, when he formed a partnership with his father-in-law, Dr. John Ludlow, in the drug business, and, with the exception of the period of his service in the army during the Civil War, he continued in this business for ten years. In 1867, he was admitted as a partner in the firm of his old employers, the firm name being changed to Warder, Mitchell & Company. He was thereafter, up to the time of his death, identified with this company, first as active manager of the enterprise, and later, when the business was incorporated as the Warder, Bushnell & Glessner Company, he became its president, continuing in that capacity until his death. This became one of the most extensive enterprises of its kind in the world and much of its success was directly attributable to the business ability and energies of Mr. Bushnell. He also took a live interest in other business enterprises in Springfield, being for many years President of the First National Bank of that city and of the Springfield Gas Company, being also a director in other local business enterprises. In all these enterprises he displayed keen, practical and effective business judgment and from them, particularly the mower and reaper works, he amassed a comfortable fortune.
During the war of the rebellion Asa S. Bushnell was not found wanting in his evidence of loyalty to the government. He was a leading spirit in the raising of Company E, On Hundred and Fifty-second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, of which he was commissioned captain and which was mustered in on May 10, 1864. The command served mainly in the Shenandoah Valley and, being assigned principally to guard and picket duty, it was not engaged in many important battles. Captain Bushnell was mustered out with his company and regiment on September 2, 1864.
Politically, Mr. Bushnell was a life-long Republican and early in his career he took an active interest in political matters, keeping a close touch with the thought of the day. His ability and capability were recognized and in 1885 he became chairman of the Republican State Executive Committee, and in that year the party not only elected Joseph Foraker Governor by a handsome plurality, but secured a Republican majority in the General Assembly, thus securing the re-election of John Sherman to the United States Senate. The following year he was appointed quartermaster-general of the State and served four years in that capacity.
In 1887, Mr. Bushnell was nominated by acclamation for lieutenant-governor on the ticket with Governor Foraker, but for business reasons he declined to accept the nomination. In 1889 there was a general demand that he should head the State ticket of his party, but he positively refused to allow his name to be used, probably through his friendship for Governor Foraker, who was a candidate for re-nomination. In 1891, he was again urged to become a gubernatorial candidate, but declined and support William McKinley who became the nominee by acclamation. In 1892, and again in 1896, he was one of the delegates to the Republican national convention. In several different years he was urged to stand for Congress, but refused.
In may, 1895, Mr. Bushnell was nominated for governor by the Republicans, though he had not been a candidate and his name had not been formally presented to the convention. He was elected by a plurality of ninety-two thousand, six hundred and twenty-two, the largest plurality that had ever up to that time been received by an Ohio governor with the single exception of John Brough, the war governor, who received practically the entire vote cast. In November, 1897, he was reelected for a second term as governor, receiving a plurality of twenty-eight thousand, the greatest ever given in Ohio in a year following a presidential election. He retired from the office in January, 1900, and there after devoted the remainder of his life to his business affairs.
Governor Bushnell's administration was not a spectacular one, but was in many respects noteworthy, being, all in all, one of the most successful in the history of the State. He brought to the discharge of the duties of his office, not only ripe experience and a thorough knowledge of business affairs, but a conscientious desire and intention that, so far as was possible, sound business principles and methods should be applied to the administration of State affairs. He was not hampered by a desire for other or higher official positions, and so, with the directness and candor so characteristic of him, he dealt with the problems before him in a way that secured effectual results. He found that in that portion of the State's affairs for which his life training had eminently qualified him there was room and opportunity for the exercise of his energies, and so through was his examination and study of conditions and so practical and efficient his recommendations to the legislature, that in its final results his administration is considered one of the strongest in the history of the State. The State's financial situation, particularly its revenues, the various State institutions, the expense budget of the State and other phases of public affairs, all received his careful and intelligent consideration and were handled, in co-operation with the Legislature, in a manner that saved the State many thousands of dollars, resulting in improved conditions, many improvements and to the eminent credit of the administration.
At the time of the Spanish-American War the Governor's promptness and energy resulted in getting the Ohio troops mobilized speedily and in placing them in the field before the troops of any other State. In the broad sense of the term, the administration of Governor Bushnell was a business success. In him the politician was subordinated to the business man and he was constantly vigilant that the best interests of the entire people might be conserved and the public welfare guaranteed.
Religiously, Governor Bushnell was affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church, being a member and office of Christ Episcopal Church at Springfield. He had been reared a Congregationalist, in accordance with the creed of the Bushnell family from early Connecticut days, but changed his religious connection at the time of his marriage, Mrs. Bushnell being an Episcopalian in religious faith.
Fraternally, Governor Bushnell was a member of the Free and Accepted Masons, in which he had taken all the degrees of both York and Scottish Rites, and in the last named branch he had received the thirty-third degree, a coveted honor. He was a member of the Society of the Colonial Wars and a member and one of the founders of the Ohio Society of the Sons of the Revolution. He was also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion. He was an interested member of the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society and of the "Old Northwest" Genealogical Society.
On September 17, 1857, Asa S. Bushnell married Miss Ellen Ludlow, the daughter of Dr. John Ludlow of Springfield, Ohio, whose sketch appears elsewhere in this work. To this union were born the following children: Fanny Ludlow, who was born August 22, 1858, was married on December 9, 1880, to John F. McGrew, of Springfield, and they have two children, Ellen Bushnell and Fanny Judkins; Harriet Elmina, born August 27, 1860, was married on November 22, 1887, to Henry D. Dimond, of Springfield, and their children are, Asa Bushnell, Douglas Marquand and Henrietta; Alice, born November 20, 1862, died September 2, 1864; John Ludlow, burn February 15, 1872, married, October 14, 1896, Jesse M. Harwood, and they have four children, Asa Smith, Edward Harwood, John Ludlow, Jr., who died in 1906, and Suzanne.
This review of Governor Bushnell cannot be more appropriately closed than by quoting the following words of one who had known him well for years.:
"During the four years he was in office he looked after the affairs of the people of the State of Ohio with untiring energy and devotion to their best interests. In the administration of its duties he was successful because he brought to their discharge the same qualities which had always characterized his management of large business affairs. It is safe to say that the judgment of history will confirm the opinion of his contemporaries that, among all the distinguished men who have filled that office, Ohio never had a better governor than Asa S. Bushnell. The news of his death came to the people of Springfield as a personal bereavement, for Governor Bushnell was known and lived by all his fellow townsmen of every rank and condition. On the day of his funeral all business was suspended and the entire city was in mourning.
"His kindness of heart and open-handed generosity were indicated as well by large gifts for public purposes, as by the smaller daily gifts and charities to the poor and the needy ever flowing from his hand. Not only wa his life full of kindly deeds, but his friendly nature shone out always in his courteous, genial manner to every one with whom he came in contact. In whatever company or circle he went he made life brighter and pleasanter. In the best sense of the word Asa S. Bushnell 'bore the grand old name of gentleman.'"
Governor Bushnell's last public appearance was in Columbus at the inaugural of Governor Herrick, his second successor in the gubernatorial office, in January, 1904. On the afternoon of that day he was stricken with apoplexy and died after an illness of three days, on January 15, 1904.
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