John Hutchins' Memories

John Hutchins may be Vienna’s first historian. Born in the Township on July 25, 1812, to Samuel Hutchins and Freelove Flower Hutchins, both of whom had migrated from Connecticut to settle in Vienna. (Theirs was the first marriage in the new settlement.) John spent his childhood on his parents’ farm and in the Township’s schools. He attended Western Reserve College (then in Hudson), and began to study law in 1835 in the Warren office of David Tod (later Governor of Ohio). Hutchins was admitted to the bar in New Lisbon in 1838. During his studies he married Rhoda M. Andrews (born 1817), on October 27, 1836.

From 1839 to 1844, he served as clerk of the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, resigning to enter into private legal practice in the firm Tod, Hoffman & Hutchins. His political career began with election to the Ohio state legislature in 1849, and he served as a member of the state’s constitutional convention in 1851.

At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Hutchins was in legal practice with Jacob D. Cox (who also became Ohio’s governor and later Secretary of the Interior under President Ulysses S. Grant.) Hutchins was elected twice (in 1858 and in 1860) to the United States House of Representatives. He thus represented Vienna as the Civil War began.

Hutchins had been an early abolitionist as early as 1833, the same year that the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded in Boston. He had been mobbed in Trumbull County for his outspoken position against slavery. In 1841, he rose at an anti-slavery meeting at Western Reserve College to condemn what he considered the College’s proslavery stance, to be at first hissed and then applauded for his convictions. He endorsed the right of African Americans to fight in the Civil War, and he fought to eradicate slavery in the District of Columbia.

He also promoted the postal reform, arguing for a reduced rate on letters and uniformity of rates no matter the distance. These pioneering ideas would be adopted later in the century.  (You may read his speech and plan here.) He lost his re-election campaign in 1862.

Hutchins returned to Warren at the end of his term in 1863 but in 1868 he moved to Cleveland, where he formed a legal partnership with J. E. and G. L. Ingersoll. By 1880 his son, John C. Hutchins, had joined him in a general law practice. His colleagues in the profession remembered him as “greatly esteemed … for the integrity and ability with which he discharged the duties devolving upon him.”

The great man was an active member of the Early Settlers’ Association of Cuyahoga County, founded in 1880. In that organization’s published volumes are found several of Hutchins’s reminiscences of his younger days in Vienna. He was the Association’s vice-president when he died in November, 1891.

Here are Hutchins' memories of the time his parents' barn burned and was rebuilt by neighbors.  This incident, occurring on August 7, 1822, was noted in the journal New England Farmer (September 21, 1822). 

“What Earlier Pioneers Did: Remarks by Hon. John Hutchins.” Annals of the Early Settlers Association of Cuyahoga County, Volume I (Cleveland: Mount & Carroll, 1880), pp. 34-35.

Mr. President:--

Short speeches are only in order now.—I will give a brief illustration of the character and habits of the early settlers which occurred under my own observation. In August, 1822, my father’s barn in Vienna, Trumbull County, was struck by lightning, and the barn and its contents were consumed. I was a small boy then, but I remember well the sad countenances of my father and mother, as all their hay, oats, and grain, which their hard summer’s work had stored in that barn, was being burnt up. They had reason to be sad, for they had a family of eight children to care for, and a large stock of cattle, horses and sheep to feed. The pluck of the pioneers carried them through and over misfortunes, which a majority of the present generation would stagger under. With hard work and economy my father and mother set about mitigating the evils resulting from their great loss. They had the active sympathy of their neighbors and acquaintances, more valuable than mere words, and the citizens of four townships, Vienna, Brookfield, Fowler and Hartford concluded to aid in putting up for us a new barn and to do it in double quick time, to wit in one day, and they did it, and had the barn completed and a load of hay in it, before sundown of the day on which it was commenced. The timber for that barn was growing in the woods at 12 o’clock of the night previous to commencement of the work of building it. The matrons and maidens of those four townships with their cheerful and friendly faces were on hand early that morning with stacks of provisions to feed the men during the hard work of that day. To me it was a grand pic-nic, and in my boyish freak I thought it would be a good thing to have father’s barn burnt every year, if it would result in having such a good time.

The load of hay which was put into that barn before sundown, was drawn in on an old fashioned ox-cart, then in general use among farmers. This cart was used for farm-work and carried loads to meeting and to mill. Clean bundles of straw were the spring seats of that day. We have carts now-a-days, but they are lighter and more stylishly built, than the ox-cart. I have seen as valuable loads drawn on those old ox-carts, as the dog-carts of the city now carry. If a man’s barn is burnt now-a-days, the first inquiry among his neighbors is, was it insured—if not, they were sorry and pass him by on the other side. The kindly feelings of the early settlers would not permit this—and the incident I have given, illustrates the pluck, energy and friendly feeling of the early settlers.
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