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James A. Saxton
THE life and history of him whose name heads this biographical memoir is closely identified with the history of Canton and Stark County, Ohio, his life-long home. He began his remarkable career in that locality in the pioneer epoch and throughout the subsequent years he was closely allied with its interests and upbuilding. His life was one of progressive citizen, and none more than he deserved a fitting recognition among those whose enterprise and ability achieved results that awakened the admiration of those who knew them. The cause of humanity never had a truer friend than Mr. Saxton, who long since passed to the higher life. In all the relations of life--family, church, society, and business--he displayed that consistent Christian spirit, that natural worth, that endeared him alike to all classes. His integrity and fidelity were manifested in every relation of life, and in dealing with others his word was his bond; deceit never entered into any transactions he had with his fellow-men. His plain, rugged honesty, his open-hearted manner, undisguised and unaffected, is to his descendants a sweet and lasting memory. The example of such a life is always an inspiration to others, and his influence was long felt in the affairs of stark County, whose interests he always had at heart and which he did so much to promote during his active life here.
James A. Saxton was born in Canton, Stark County, Ohio, on May 1, 1816, and he was the son of John and Margaret (Laird) Saxton, whose home, a substantial brick house, stood on South Market Street, on a part of the present site of the McKinley Hotel. He was reared under the parental roof and secured his education in the schools of his native village, for such it was at that date. He early formed habits of self-reliance and industry, as is evidenced by the fact that at the age of only eighteen years he embarked in business on his own account, opening a hardware store where now stands the courthouse. Devoting himself assiduously to that enterprise, he succeeded, by his energy and good business methods, in realizing gratifying financial returns, so that, some years later, he was enabled to found the Stark County Bank, of which he became president. This institution, under his wise direction and efficient management, became one of the most successful and influential financial institutions in that section of the State. Of Mr. Saxton at that time, it has been said that "he devoted much attention to the study of monetary questions, and became familiar with every phase of finance, theoretical and practical, and continued at the head of this bank for a number of years, during which his reputation as a sound, conservative, and eminently honorable business man added greatly to the standing of the institution in the financial circles of the State." Eventually, Mr. Saxton severed his connection with the Stark County Bank, and went to New York City, where he became identified with a number of important enterprises, in addition to which he settled up the estate of his old friend and former partner, Conrad Schweitzer, formerly of Canton but who for a number of years had conducted a wholesale hardware business in New York. Upon completing this important labor, Mr. Saxton returned to Canton, and, having acquired a competency, he retired from active business pursuits, spending his closing years quietly among his old friends and amid the scenes of his busy life, his death occurring on the fourteenth day of March, 1887.
James A. Saxton was twice married, first on August 31, 1846, to Kate Dewalt, of Canton, who was born on August 18, 1827, the daughter of George and Catherine (Harter) Dewalt. To this union were born the following children: Ida, born June 8, 1847, was married, on January 25, 1871, to William McKinley, afterwards President of the United States; Mary B., born December 15, 1848, was married, on August 20, 1873 to Marshall C. Barber, of Canton; George D., born October 21, 1850, died on October 7, 1898. Mrs. Kate Saxton died on March 14, 1873, and sometime afterwards mr. Saxton married Mrs Hettie Medill, whose former husband was a brother of the late Joseph Medill, of Chicago, on of the leading journalists of this country.
Politically, Mr. Saxton was formerly aligned with the old Whig party, but later identified himself with th Republican party, in the success of which he was deeply interested. Though zealous in maintaining his political views and in promoting the success of his party, he was not ambitious for public office or distinction of any nature, though he was at one time induced to serve as a member of the city council, which he dignified by his membership and where he endeavored, as he did in all things, to faithfully serve his fellow citizens. It was characteristic of him that when he saw an opportunity to be of service to the community he was not backward in proffering his support and assistance, though content to remain in the ranks and let others enjoy the honor and satisfaction of leadership. Nor was he erratic or spasmodic in these things, for he could always be counted upon in his support of all enterprises or movements appealing to the public spirit. He possessed to a notable degree that rare quality of being able to forget self in his desire to benefit others, and was indifferent to any thought of self preferment. This very quality served to gain for him a respect and appreciation that would not have been his, probably, had he shown a less altruistic spirit. Although his life was a busy one, his every-day affairs making heavy demands upon his time, he never shrank from his duties as a citizen and his obligations to his neighbors and friends. Always calm and dignified, never demonstrative, his life was nevertheless, a persistent plea, more by precept and example than by spoken or written word, for the purity and grandeur of right principles and the beauty and elevation of wholesome character. To him home life was a sacred trust, friendship was inviolable and nothing could swerve him from the path of rectitude and honor. He was a temperate, well-controlled man--the idol of his family. He was of a genial, social nature, full, at times, of a quaint, homely, simple humor, that had about it the freshness of childhood; he loved his children, and young folks in general, and many a young man was helped and encouraged by him in starting out in life. He was a very agreeable companion, manifesting a desire to please those with whom he came in daily contact, and he left to his friends as his choicest legacy, the remembrance of a character without a stain.
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