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Elias Riggs Monfort
IT WILL always be a mark of distinction to have served the Union during the great war between the States.
The old soldier will receive attention no matter where he goes if he will but make himself known; and when
he passes away, as so many of them are now doing, friends will pay him suitable eulogy for the sacrifices he made a half century ago on the sanguinary fields of battle in the Southland or in the no less dreaded prison, fever camp, or hospital; and ever afterward his descendants will revere his memory and take pride in recounting his services for his country in its hour of peril. One of the eligible citizens for special mention in the present volume, is Elias Riggs Monfort, a gallant veteran of the magnificent "grand army" that saved the nation in the sixties, a lawyer who has long stood in the front rank of the Indiana and Ohio bars, an editor of rare force and versatility, and a public official whose record, especially while postmaster of the city of Cincinnati, is most commendable. But not for these things alone is he popular with a wide acquaintance, but also because he has led an honorable, helpful, and unselfish life, being a plain, unassuming gentleman who has sought to do his duty in all the relations of life as he has seen and understood the right.
Mr. Monfort was born March 2, 1842, at Greensburg, Indiana. He is a son of Joseph Glass Monfort, D.D., LL.D., who was born near Hamilton, Ohio, in 1810, and died in December, 1906, in Cincinnati, after an illustrious career as a minister in the Presbyterian Church and as an editor, he having been elected editor of "The Herald and Presbyter," the official organ of his denomination, and he discharged the duties of this position with credit and ability for many years, or until about 1875, and he continued contributing learned and well-written articles to this paper the rest of his life. He was a pulpit orator of unusual ability, and was long rated as one of the strong men of his Church in Ohio. His wife, who was known in her maidenhood as Hannah Conger Riggs, was a sister of Dr. Elias Riggs who was a missionary in Turkey for a period of seventy years. The subject of this sketch is a descendant of Welsh, English, Scotch, Dutch, and Irish ancestors. In speaking of him, the Cyclopedia of Ohio says, in part, "He represents in person and character the happy commingling of the blood of an honest and God-fearing ancestry, and inherits from them the noblest and most progressive type of American manhood."
Dr. Joseph G. Monfort finally located on his farm near Greensburg, Indiana, and there his son, Elias R. Monfort, lived until he was thirteen years of age, and he attended the rural schools in that vicinity. His parents then removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, where our subject continued his education in the public schools, also attended a private school in Glendale, then entered Hanover College, in Indiana, where he remained two years; then his school days were interrupted by the Civil War, but after his career in the army, he returned to Hanover, going about on
crutches, as he had been severely wounded on the battlefield, but he applied himself diligently, and was graduated from that institution in 1865. Then, having decided upon a legal career, he entered the Cincinnati Law School, from which he was graduated in due course of time, was admitted to the bar, and at once began practice at Greensburg, Indiana, forming a partnership with John S. Scobey, who was an uncle of Judson Harmon, a former Governor of Ohio. This partnership lasted one year; then a similar alliance was formed with Barton W. Wilson, which also continued one year; then Mr. Monfort practiced alone until he retired from the legal profession, after a very successful practice of eight years, on account of failing health. He became prosecuting attorney of the Fourth Judicial Circuit District of Indiana, which position he held two years, then became district attorney of the Twenty-second District of Indiana for two years, filling the offices in a highly acceptable manner. Coming back to Cincinnati to make his home, he later entered the service of "The Herald and Presbyter," of which he rose to the position of editor, in 1875, and continued as such until 1896, or during a period of over twenty years. He proved to be one of the ablest and most popular editors of a religious publication in the Middle West, making his paper a power for good, vastly increased its circulation and influence, and made it an excellent financial proposition. His able, learned, timely, and interesting articles were widely read and admired.
In 1896, the commissioners of Hamilton County, Ohio, elected Mr. Monfort clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of that county,
and he served one term in this capacity. He was selected, in 1899, by President McKinley, to fill the responsible position of postmaster of the city of Cincinnati, and he proved to be such an able, loyal, faithful, just, and popular postmaster that he held this position for a period of sixteen years, giving eminent satisfaction to the people and the department. He could have, no doubt, continued in this capacity as long as he desired, but resigned January 1, 1915. He used modern, sane, and conservative business methods in conducting the affairs of the office, and succeeded in getting the highest-class mail service ever known in the history. He believed that the postal service should be kept out of politics, for the good of the public, and the Government was well pleased with his career, regretting to give him up.
He was elected a life member of the National Association of the Postmasters of the First Class. His judgment was frequently sought by the heads of the department on matters pertaining to the postal service. He has been for forty years a life member of the Ohio State Historical Society.
Mr. Monfort became one-half owner of "The Herald-Presbyter"; and he was president of the Mamolyth Paint Company until 1914. His industry, sound judgment, and foresight were responsible for the great success attained by this company, the products of which found a very ready market over a wide territory owing to their superiority. At one time he was a director and trustee of fourteen different organizations, in all of which he
made his influence felt in no uncertain manner. He is recognized by all who know him as a man of great executive ability. He is a man of judicial temperament, kind, indulgent, charitable, friendly, and companionable, making and retaining hosts of friends without effort. His long and honorable record as a public official is without blemish and one of which his family and friends may well be justly proud. He has been loyal in his support of the Republican party since reaching his majority. Fraternally, he is a thirty-second degree Mason, a Knight Templar, and one would judge from his exemplary habits and his splendid reputation as a man and citizen that he had tried to live up to the high precepts of this time-honored order. He is a man of the deepest religious sentiments, and has always tried to live by the Golden Rule. He has remained a student and is a man of profound education and rare intellectual attainments.
Mr. Monfort was married September 6, 1867, to Emma A. Taylor, a lady of refinement and charming personality. She was
a daughter of Eli and Hannah (Marsh) Taylor. The mother was
a school girl in Newark, New Jersey, when General LaFayette visited America. She was so winsome and beautiful that when the old general saw her upon his trip to Newark, he kissed her. Our subject's wife was unfortunately incapacitated for a period of twenty-five years, but she possessed a strong mentality and presided with rare tact and grace over her home, and she was of great assistance to her husband, who was ever a man of large affairs. His great success has been due in no small measure to her encouragement, advice, and sympathy. She possessed a remarkable memory, always knew where the particular paper or document was he wanted, among the great number always in his possession, and she was known as a model housekeeper. She was called to her eternal rest October 24, 1914. Both her ancestors and those of our subject fought in the Revolutionary War, and their daughters are members of the organization known as the Daughters of the Revolution. To the union of Mr. and Mrs. Monfort, a son and two daughters were born, namely: Joseph T. married Anna Sanders, and they have two children, Elias R., and Joseph S.; Hannah Louise married A. B. Burtis, they reside on their beautiful farm near Geneva, New York; their union has been without issue; Margaret M. is the wife of L. B. Simrall, they reside in Cincinnati; they have no children. Mr. Monfort gave his children every advantage in an educational and social way, and they are all well situated in life and popular with a wide circle of friends.
Rev. Francis C. Monfort, D.D., the present editor of "The Herald-Presbyter," is a brother of our subject. Their sister, Margaret C., was the wife of Henry B. Moorehead, who was a son of former Governor Moorehead, of Kentucky.
Mr. Monfort has always taken an abiding interest in educational affairs, and encouraged good schools through the columns of the great religious journal with which he was long connected. He was a member of the Board of Education of Cincinnati. Recognizing his ripe scholarship and prominent standing in legal circles, Highland University conferred on him the degree of doctor of laws, in 1885. He has ever been known as a public-spirited citizen, active in promoting good government, and has always been an advocate of clean politics.
Notwithstanding the highly commendable record of Mr. Monfort as an attorney, editor, public servant, and successful business man, his record as a soldier and Grand Army man is perhaps the most notable. The fact that he was elected commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, October 1, 1915, during the national reunion of that body in Washington City, is sufficient evidence of his high standing and widespread popularity. One seldom attains such honors without merit. That he is well fitted for the duties of the same and is in every way deserving of the confidence and esteem reposed in him by his gallant comrades, all will gladly acquiesce who know him even only slightly. Perhaps no better testimonial as to the character and comradery of this distinguished citizen of the Buckeye State, can be given than the indorsement of his candidacy by the executive committee of the Department of Ohio, which was issued prior to the gatherng at Washington, D. C. It follows:
"In presenting to the comrades of the Grand Army 6f the Republic, Past Commander Comrade Elias R. Monfort as Ohio's candidate for commander-in-chief, we do so with personal pride in his record as a soldier, a member of our order, a business man, and a citizen of the Republic. We believe this record should commend him to favorable consideration to every member of the Grand Army of the Republic."
"He enlisted as a private in Company A, Sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on June 18, 1861. He was promoted to second lieutenant October 5, 1861, and transferred to Company F, Seventy-fifth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He was commissioned first lieutenant of this company and regiment May 15, 1862, and captain of- the same January 12, 1863. He participated in twenty engagements, among which were the following: Phillipi, Laurel Hill, Carrick's Ford, Monterey, Shaw's Ridge, McDowell, Franklin, Strausburg, Cross Keys, Cedar Mountain, Freeman's Ford, Waterloo Bridge, Sulphur Springs, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. In the last battle he was dangerously wounded, July 2, 1863, which made it necessary for him to submit to repeated surgical operations, the last in June, 1911. His colonel, Robert Riley, wrote to his mother, `He is one of the few officers always at his post of duty.' He was discharged on account of his wounds in January, 1864."
"After recovering strength and vigor, he achieved success in professional and business life. He served as postmaster of Cincinnati for sixteen years, under four Presidents, and resigned in January, 1915. He refused to be a candidate for national commander three times under pressure of prominent comrades in Ohio and other States, on account of obligation to public service."
"His long career is without a blemish. He stands for honesty, square dealing, and purity in national, political, religious, and social life, and he informs us that he does not want any comrade to violate a pledge, but if his candidate should not show sufficient strength for election, to urgently invite his support."
"Comrade Monfort's record in private as well as public life has won for him the admiration and confidence of all who know him, and to-day no man stands higher than he does in public esteem. In the Grand Army he has shown himself to be a sincere friend of all comrades, an unflinching advocate of all their rights, eloquent and forcible when pleading for them. He has been faithful and active in Grand Army work, commander of Jones Post, No. 401, in 1890, department commander of Ohio in 1900, commander of the Loyal Legion in 1906. He has attended nearly all the Ohio State encampments and twenty-eight times a representative in the National Encampment."
"At our recent State encampment at Mansfield, Ohio, with nearly seven hundred representatives present, he was unanimously indorsed for commander-in-chief with great enthusiasm, and this was done without solicitation on his part."
"The department commander was authorized to appoint a large committee to give force and effect to the resolutions presented by Gen. J. Warren Keifer, and adopted, indorsing Comrade Monfort, a copy of which is herewith inclosed."
"Hoping you may see your way clear to give Comrade Monfort, Ohio's candidate for commander-in-chief, your hearty and cordial support."
At the meeting at Mansfield, June 23, of the Ohio Department of the Grand Army of the Republic, the following resolutions, presented by Gen. J. Warren Keifer, were unanimously adopted:
"Whereas, At the National Encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic, to be held at Washington, the capitol of the nation, beginning on Monday, September 27 next, there will be chosen a commander-in-chief, and"
" Whereas, The Department of Ohio has among its many dis- tinguished members a comrade whose bravery, courage, and valor have been proved on numerous fields of fierce and bloody battles for national existence and national unity, and in which he was an active and most conspicuous participant, among which were many of the greatest of the war, in all of which he proved himself one of the bravest and most gallant soldiers that ever carried a musket or unsheathed a sword in defense of our country and its flag, and"
"Whereas, He possesses in an eminent degree all of the qualifications so absolutely indispensable for the successful administration, and would, therefore, be a most worthy successor to the many eminent and distinguished comrades who shed so much luster and glory on the Grand Army of the Republic, and"
"Whereas, His untiring labors for, and his uncompromising devotion to, our association and to the exalted principles for which it stands, entitle him to the confidence, respect, love, and esteem
of every comrade on the membership roll of the Grand Army of the Republic: therefore be it"
"Resolved, That our highly esteemed and respected comrade, Past Department Commander Capt. E. R. Monfort, has fairly won the laurels his Ohio comrades seek to place upon his brow; and be it further
"Resolved, That this encampment enthusiastically indorse the candidacy of Comrade E. R. Monfort and nominate him for the distinguished, high, and exalted position of Commander-inchief of the Grand Army of the Republic; and be it also
"Resolved, That the representatives of this department to the National Encampment to be held at Washington, D. C., beginning September 27, next, be and they hereby are instructed to work and vote for Comrade Monfort for the position of commander-in-chief, and to use all honorable means to secure his triumphant election; and be it further"
"Resolved, That this department pledge its gratitude to each and all representatives of our sister departments throughout the United States who will give their support to Ohio's candidate at the coming National Encampment."
Captain Monfort's fidelity, courage, and duty in time of danger, were recognized by all who served under him. His coolness and dauntless fortitude in battle were marked as the conflict grew hotter and the danger increased, according to his comrades. Maj. G. B. Fox wrote of him -
"After Gettysburg, Captain Monfort's bearing was admirable, the hotter the fire the braver and cooler the man, conscious of the danger that surrounded him, his sense of duty so strong that every service was performed regardless of personal peril"
Col. Ben Morgan, of the same regiment, reported as follows.
"As an officer and a soldier, he was all that I could wish, being intelligent, faithful, and brave, one in whom I could place at all times implicit confidence in carrying out and obeying orders. On the battlefield, amidst carnage and death, he was ever active and zealous in the discharge of his duties, fully realizing the glorious cause in which he was enlisted, and which called forth man's noblest ambitions and energies."
Of his soldierly qualities, the gallant Colonel Riley, who fell at Chancellorsville, writing from Stafford Court House, Virginia, January 3, 1863, said:
"He is one of the very few officers of the regiment who can be said aways to have been at their posts. I regard the company to which he is attached as one of the best drilled and disciplined companies of the regiment. No company, I believe, has been better held together throughout our hard marches, hard fighting, and harder fare, than Company B."
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