Famous People of Licking County


Fassett Family Gold Rush Letters

In 1852 Noah Chittenden Fassett, his sister Ann Fassett Germain, her husband Parker Germain and their three children aged 6 to 2 left Johnstown, Ohio, for California to participate in the Gold Rush. Between 1852 and 1862 they (and another sibling, Harris Harding Fassett who joined them in 1854) wrote 103 letters to their parents and other siblings who remained in Ohio. The letters were kept by the parents and descendants in Ohio and were transcribed in the 1970s. The letters have now been scanned, edited and their texts have been placed on the internet. You can see them by going to http://physics.clarku.edu/~rkohin/subjects.htm


Elias Hughes and John Ratliff, First Settlers of Licking County

Elias Hughes and John Ratliff, along with their families, totaling 21 persons, arrived in what is now Licking County in 1798. Thus, they became the first known settlers in the county. They had traveled from Virginia to the mouth of the Licking River (now in Zanesville) in 1797, stayed there about one year, and then moved further up the river to the flat area known as the Bowling Green in Madison Township, about four miles east of Newark.

Elias Hughes was born around 1755 by the south branch of the Potomac River in what is now West Virginia. He became known as an Indian fighter after his own father, brother and fiancée were killed by them. He served in the Revolutionary War under General Lewis at the Battle of Point Pleasant. He married Jane Sleeth in 1780 or 1781, and they had twelve children before 1797. Between the Battle of Point Pleasant and the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, he was a scout and spy around the Ohio River settlements. In 1796 he served as hunter for the party that surveyed the U.S. Military District under General Rufus Putman. This is when he saw the land in what became Licking County and decided to move his family here.

Hughes became captain of the local militia in 1802, and held that post for several years. He moved his family to Newton Township in 1809, where he most likely became the first resident within the present village limits of Chatham. At 60 years old, he was lieutenant of a company from Newark that defended Fort Meigs in the War of 1812, along with three of his sons.

Elias' wife died and was buried in Johnstown in 1827, after which he moved to Utica to live with his son, Jonathan. Around 1835, at about 80 years old, and being blind in one eye, he decided to walk from Utica to somewhere in Muskingum County to visit his daughter, and to arrive before sunset the same day. He succeeded, but not without losing sight in his second eye before he got there.

Elias Hughes died on December 22, 1844 and was buried in the Utica Cemetery with military honors.

Little is known of John Ratliff. He was a nephew of Hughes and was married with four children when he arrived in Licking County. Although he was a good hunter to provide for his family, he was not known as an Indian fighter as Hughes was. He was more inclined to peaceable pursuits. One of his children was John, Jr., who became a good hunter in his own right and eventually moved to Illinois. John senior's first wife died in 1802, becoming the first white settler to die in Licking County. Ratliff remarried to a daughter of Mr. Stateler, and moved to the south side of the Licking River at the mouth of Brushy Fork Creek, between what was later Claylick and Toboso. He died there around 1811. Neither John nor his two wives are noted on any of the cemetery indexes for Licking County.

[Sources: History of Licking County, Ohio; Its Past and Present, by N. N. Hill, Jr., 1881, pages 212-215, 504-505; "Dates, Places and Events in the Life of Captain Elias Hughes: First Permanent Settler, Licking County, Ohio," by Robert Tharp, in The Licking Lantern (newsletter of the Licking County Genealogical Society), Vol. XVI, No. 1, March 1991, pages73-77.]


Jerrie Mock, First Woman To Fly Solo around the World

Jerrie Mock and her plane, Spirit of Columbus, Most people think of Amelia Earhart as the first woman to fly around the world in 1937, although she didn't make it all the way. Our own Jerrie Mock of Newark, Ohio, did succeed, however. Sponsored by The Columbus Dispatch, she flew her Cessna 180 into the record books between March 19 and April 17, 1964 as the first woman to fly solo around the world. Her plane was called the "Spirit of Columbus," but Jerrie called it "Charlie." She managed the trip despite radio malfunctions, desert sandstorms, an electrical fire, and iced wings. She also encountered male prejudice in other countries where she landed. They thought she should not be doing that, and could not make it. Little did they know that Jerrie had decided to do this when she was four years old. Her landing at Port Columbus was met by 5,000 people, including her family and Governor Rhodes.

Jerrie now lives in Florida, and her plane hangs proudly in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. You may read Jerrie's own account in her book Three-Eight Charlie, available at the Main Library.

[Sources: Newark Advocate, Nov. 4, 1991; The Columbus Dispatch, April 17, 1994; More Columbus Unforgetables, ed. by Robert D. Thomas, 1986.]


Joseph Rider, Inventor

Picture of a display of Joseph Rider's riflesAn 1890 article in the Newark Advocate quotes a piece from the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying that the wealthiest man in Newark at the time was Joseph Rider. His worth was estimated at $500,000 with large land holdings in Ohio, New York and Indiana. What Rider is best known for, however, are his inventions. He held over 100 patents in various fields, mostly in firearms.

Rider was born in Pennsylvania in 1817. He left home at 16 and moved to Wooster, Ohio, where he became a shoe-maker. During this time, he invented an adjustable shoe and boot pattern, which was still in use at his death. He moved to Newark in 1853 with his wife and five children, where he co-owned a jewelry store. This business was well-known enough to attract a contract to build a town clock for Ithaca, New York.

Rider soon began patenting improvements to firearms, and in 1858, he invented the double-action percussion revolver. For this, he was paid 12 brace of revolvers and 400 acres of Ohio land by Remington. This formed the basis of Rider's future land deals. He continued working with Remington for about 25 years. His improvements led to the Remington Rolling Block Rifle, which was called the "best single shot rifle ever produced and the most famous of any Remington firearm." It was manufactured for about 70 years.

Joseph Rider is buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Newark, with his wife and family. He continued working on inventions until about one month before his death in 1901. One of his diagrams is in the cornerstone of the Licking County Courthouse.

[Sources: The Newark Weekly Advocate, Jan. 2, 1890; Ohio Gunsmiths & Allied Tradesmen, by Donald A. Hutslar; 19th Century Licking County Ohio Gunsmiths, by Paul L. Zeiher (in our Ohio Reference Vertical File)]


LaMarcus Adna Thompson, Inventor

King's Island announced a new attraction in spring of 2005 called the Italian Job. It uses roller coaster technology to simulate the finale of the movie by the same name. Your "Mini-Cooper" on rails takes you through the chase scene with sound effects and scenery all around.

Few people know that one of the inventors whose work led up to this kind of ride was from Licking County. LaMarcus Adna Thompson was born March 8, 1848 in Jersey. He built mechanical toys as a boy. By age 17, he built a large barn for his father. He moved to Indiana in 1875, where he invented the seamless stocking. In 1885, he received a U.S. patent for a gravity switchback railway. The year before, he opened a 600-foot roller coaster at Coney Island in New York City. This was so popular that he recouped his $1600 investment in only three weeks at a nickel a ride! Within four years, he built about 50 more rides in the U.S. and Europe.

Thompson is known as the father of the American roller coaster today, although there were various other designs in use in Europe before his. Within three years of the Coney Island ride, competition spurred him to the idea of the scenic railroad. In 1887 he opened a ride on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. It rolled through elaborate artificial scenery with dark areas and lights that were triggered by the approaching cars. Sound familiar?

Thompson gained over 30 patents relating to coasters between 1884 to 1887. After his retirement, he patented an automatic car-coupler, which he sold to George Pullman, railroad car manufacturer. He died at Long Island on his birthday in 1919.

[Sources: National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Vol. XIX (edition and page unknown); www.todayinsci.com/12/12_22.htm; http://gchen.netfirms.com/atp/minds/thompson.htm; http://search.eb.com/coasters/i_thomp.html; www.pki.com/News/detail.cfm?item_id=101; www.ultimaterollercoaster.com/coasters/history/start/history_early_us.sh...


Joseph C. Wehrle, Industrialist

Historic picture of Newark Ohio showing the Wherle Works and canalJoseph C. Wehrle is most remembered in Licking County for his interest in the Wehrle Stove Company, which was at one time the largest industry in the county. He was born in Germany on March 3, 1836 and came to the United States with his family at the age of thirteen. They settled in Newark, where his father, Martin, was a blacksmith. Joseph was the eldest of ten children, although only four lived into adulthood. He first learned the molding trade, and then opened a grocery store on Fifth Street in 1859.

In 1861, he enlisted in the Civil War and became a Second Lieutenant in the 76th Ohio Infantry, Company E. He organized his own regiment in Newark and was commissioned a Captain. He fought at Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, Atlanta and many other sites. He was discharged on October 28, 1864 when his term ran out, and was given the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

After returning to Newark, Wehrle partnered with T. J. Davis in a wholesale grocery business, then a wholesale liquor business, then another grocery store with John McCarthy. McCarthy had married Wehrle's sister, Catherine. Joseph married Philomena Morath in 1865 and had eleven children, but only five lived to be adults. Of these, Joseph became a Catholic priest, and Mary became Sister Eulalia of the Dominican Order of St. Mary's of the Springs. William eventually became President of his father's foundry in 1909. August T. Wehrle helped greatly to develop the business aspects of the foundry, and later became President of the Wehrle Realty Co. He was honored by two different Popes for his contributions to Catholic missions, and he has a library named after him at Pontifical College Josephinum. Cecelia married the well-known Dr. Willard C. Rank of Newark.

In 1883, Joseph joined John Moser in the manufacturer of stoves in a company called Moser & Wehrle Foundry, located on Buena Vista Street. Joseph died on March 31, 1890, owning three-fourths of the company. His widow, Philomena, purchased the other quarter. After the estate was settled, their son, William W. Wehrle owned half of the business, while the estate retained the other half. It was not called the Newark Stove Company until 1939.

Joseph owned a great deal of property around Licking County, including several city blocks in Newark. The Wehrle Foundation donated a 557 acre farm near Hebron to the Columbus Catholic Diocese in 1955, which was then used for the PIME Seminary complex.

[Sources: Memorial Record of Licking County, Ohio, Record Publishing Co., 1894, pp. 257-8; "The Remarkable Wehrle's" by Nina Kohser, Licking County Historical Society Quarterly, Summer 1991, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 2 and Spring 1992, Vol. 2, No. 1, pp. 4-5; "Death Takes Augustine Wehrle -- Retired Newark Industrialist," in the Newark Advocate, Sept. 8, 1955, pp. 1-2]


Judge William B. Woods

William B. Woods was born in Newark, Ohio in 1824. He attended Western Reserve University, then Yale, and became a lawyer in 1847. He was Speaker of the House for Ohio in 1858. He served in the Civil War from 1861 to 1866, attaining the rank of Major General. He fought in several major battles and marched with General Sherman. In 1869, President Grant appointed him as a Federal Judge in Georgia. President Hayes appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1880, where he served six years. He died in 1887 and is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Newark.

Judge Woods was a close friend of Joseph Wehrle, founder of the Wehrle Stove Company in Newark. Judge Woods' portrait hangs in the Licking County Courthouse, and the Woodside School was named after him.

[Sources: The Historical Times (newsletter of the Granville Historical Society), Spring, 1997; Newark Advocate, Nov. 10, 1999; and Tom Baynes, researcher.]