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Oliver Granger Kent
THE final causes which shape the fortunes of individual
men and the destinies of States are often the same.
They are usually remote and obscure; their influence
wholly unexpected until declared by results. When they inspire men to the exercise of courage, self-denial, enterprise, industry, and call into play the higher moral elements; lead men to risk all conviction, faith—such causes lead to the planting of great States, great nations, great peoples. That country is the, greatest which produces the greatest and most manly men, and the intrinsic safety depends not so much upon methods and measures as upon that true manhood from whose deep sources all that is precious and permanent in life must at last proceed. Such a result may not be consciously contemplated by the individuals instrumental in the production of a city or State; pursuing each his personal good by exalted means, they work out this as a logical result; they have wrought on the lines of the greatest good. When the life of one such individual ends, we look back over the pathway he had trod and note its usefulness—its points worthy of emulation and perpetuation. What the late Oliver Granger Kent, long a leader of industrial affairs and esteemed philanthropist of Cleveland, did for his fellowmen and the country in general might, in a manner, be told in words, but in its far-reaching influences cannot be measured. He was in touch with the people, and from a sincere and deep-felt interest in their welfare, labored for all that would prove of general benefit until the busy and useful life was ended.
Mr. Kent was born in Bainbridge, Geauga County, Ohio, and in this State he was content to spend his long life of over four score years, thus he witnessed the wonderful development in all lines of the great Buckeye commonwealth, from the days of the wilderness to its present position, near the top of the Union of States, and, only a cursory glance at his career will show that he was an active and influential participant in this growth. He was the scion of one of the sterling pioneer families of Ohio, having been a son of Gamaiel Huntington Kent and Eliza (Granger) Kent. The father was born in Suffield, Hartford County, Connecticut. The mother was also a native of New England, where they grew to maturity, attended the old-time schools, and from there emmigrated in early life to what was then the western frontier—Ohio. Here they located, became comfortably established through their industry and economy, and spent the rest of their lives at Bainbridge, the mother reaching the advanced age of ninety Years. The elder Kent devoted his active life to general agricultural pursuits, and his son, Oliver G., grew up on the old homestead in Geauga County, where he worked when a boy, during the crop seasons, Mending the common schools there in the winter time. However, he was practically a self-educated and a self-made man, having been, all his life, a close student of books and men, eagerly gathering and assimilating information on a great variety of topics from many sources. He remained on the
home farm until he was twenty-one years of age, then went to Mantua, Ohio, where he worked for his uncle, Henry Root. He was next to the eldest in a family of eight children, and, feeling that it was his duty to depend upon himself, his parents having so many younger children to raise, he was thus glad of an oppor -tunity to begin early his life work. After leaving the employ of his uncle, he went to work in the general store of C. R. Harmon, at Aurora, Ohio, as clerk. Being alert, courteous, and reliable, and at the same time anxious to learn all he could of store management, he proved to be a most capable employee, remaining with Mr. Harmon seven years, when his employer assisted him in starting a store of his own at Chester, Ohio. Here he was very successful as a general merchant until the year 1867, when, seeking a wider field for the exercise of his business talents, he removed to Cleveland and established the large wholesale grocery firm of Weideman, Kent, and Company, one of the most extensive firms of its kind in the Middle West, of which concern our subject was the principal motive force, building up a very extensive and lucrative business, in which he continued until declining health forced him to retire from active business in 1884, some twenty-seven years before his death. However, he continued his association with the Citizens' Savings and Trust Company, of which he was one of the organizers and directors. This institution was his pet business project and he took great pride in its substantial growth, doing much to make it one of Cleveland's most popular and substantial business institutions.
During the latter part of his life, Mr. Kent was known as a leader in the Gentlemen's Driving Club, having cultivated driving as a means of health and recreation. He was by nature a great lover of horses, and an excellent judge of them. He became owner of some of the finest and most noted drivers in America, including such thoroughbreds as "Incense," "Percy," and "John Nolan." Though noted as a horse fancier, Mr. Kent was better known as a philanthropist, although all his gifts were made in a quiet way, never for show or to win the admiring plaudits of men, giving from a sense of duty and from a benevolent nature and a kind heart. He was especially fond of contributing to churches. In early life he was a Disciple, but later affiliated with the Presbyterians. He was a life-long friend of President James A. Garfield, who was at one time a minister of the Disciple denomination, and it was this great man who performed the service at Mr. Kent's wedding. To the Disciple Church in Washington, D. C., which Mr. Garfield attended when he was President, Mr. Kent was a liberal contributor, also giving to many other churches throughout the country. He also took a great interest in Hiram College, donating to it substantial sums from time to time. He was a man of great patriotism, always ready to give freely of his means and time to movements calculated to be of general benefit to his city and State. He was a staunch Republican; however, he never cared for public office, although well qualified for same, and often importuned by his friends to accept some high gift from the people in this line; but, being a great home man, he would not consent to anything that took him much from his own fireside, which was his real world, the sphere in which he found the greatest pleasures. He was a member of the Union and Roadside clubs, and, during his long residence in the Forest City, was very popular in all circles in which he moved.
Mr. Kent was married to Lucy Baldwin in 1858, at Aurora, Ohio. She was a daughter of Alanson and Ruth (Wallace) Baldwin, a prominent family of that city, where Mrs. Kent grew up and was educated. She was a lady of many estimable characteristics and greatly beloved by all who knew her. She was called to her eternal rest on October 16, 1872.
Four children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Kent, namely, Oliver Charles, of Cleveland, married Anna Fitzgerald, which union has been without issue; Kate, who died in infancy; Gertrude married Christopher E. Grover, of Cleveland, and they have one child, Ruth Kent Grover; Grace, youngest of our subject's children, died in infancy.
Oliver G. Kent was called to his reward from the picturesque family residence in Cleveland on October 10, 1911, in his eighty-third year, thus ending a well-rounded, commendable, and eminently successful career, fraught with much good to his family, his city, and to the world.
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