19th-Century North Baltimore Resident George Chase Commemorated at Living History Day

George D. Chase & family

This circa 1892 photograph shows George D. Chase, his wife Mary Caskey Chase, and their son Clyde, the youngest of their five children. During the Civil War, George Chase served with the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. When he returned home, George used his army pay to purchase the land upon which Denver was built.

On August 24, 2014, the Wood County Historical Society presented its 11th Annual Living History Day at Oak Grove Cemetery in Bowling Green, Ohio. Among the eight 19th- and 20th-century Wood County residents commemorated was George David Chase (1842-1926). At this year’s commemoration, George was portrayed by his great-great grandson, Jim Myers of Medina, Ohio. The following is the script of Jim Myers’s presentation which was written by Tom Boltz, a great grandson of George Chase. Photos have been added to illustrate the text.

Jim Meyers as George Chase

Jim Meyers as George Chase

I am George David Chase of North Baltimore, Ohio. During my lifetime, I was a Union Army soldier, farmer, founder of the hamlet of Denver Ohio, and a businessman. I was also a husband, father, and one of the town’s leading citizens in the 1890s.

My life began in 1842 in Hancock County as the second of the ten children of Justus and Mary Jones Chase. My father was a farmer and large landowner in Hancock County. The work was hard, but my father prospered and provided well for his family.

I spent my early years working on my father’s home farm. While I received no formal education beyond that given in the local one room school, I did acquire a lifelong love of reading. My parents also gave me a strong religious upbringing. This motivated me to read the Bible twenty-three times over the course of my life.

By 1861, the slavery issue and other regional differences were ripping apart the country. My father and I were early supporters of Abraham Lincoln and when the President called for volunteers to join the Union Army to suppress the Confederacy, I was among the first volunteers to enlist in the 21st Ohio Infantry Regiment. In Nov 1862, while on campaign in Tennessee, I became seriously ill. Not expecting me to live, the army doctors gave me a medical discharge and sent me home to die.

However, I proved them wrong as I recovered my health under my mother’s care. In January 1864, I re-enlisted in the 21st Ohio Infantry. The regiment served under General Sherman and took part in the campaign to capture Atlanta. On Sept 1, 1864, I was wounded in the head by a spent cannon ball fragment during the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. After a short hospitalization near Atlanta, I recovered enough to return to duty; however, I lost some hearing in my left ear for the remainder of my life.

Log cabin

George Chase’s log cabin was likely similar to this Henry Township structure which was located within 1/4 mile of the Chase homestead.

After my recovery, I continued in General Sherman’s March to the Sea and fought under him until the war ended. Throughout my life, I was proud of my military service in helping keep our country united. I was discharged in July 1865 and returned home to Hancock County, Ohio.

21st Ohio battle flag

The 21st Ohio’s regimental battle flag is preserved at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus, Ohio. George Chase was proud of his service in this unit.

I helped my father on his farm, but I eventually decided to take up farming on my own. During the war, I had sent most of my army pay home and I decided to use these savings to purchase Black Swamp forest land in Henry Township, Wood County. In 1866, I constructed a log cabin on land located near the northwest corner of what is now Liberty Hi Road and State Route 18. After a lot of hard work, I was able to clear enough timber to plant some crops.

It was about this time that I met my future wife, Mary Caskey, at a local barn dance. I considered her the most beautiful girl in the neighborhood. My parents were a bit unhappy when I told them that I was going to wed Mary as they had wanted me to marry my father’s best friend’s daughter. But they finally accepted my decision and Mary and I were married in 1867. Mary and I were to have five children-John, Thomas, Edith, Martha, and Clyde.

The early 1870s were a prosperous time for me. I started both a saw mill and a stave mill on my land to exploit the area’s timber resources. In 1873 the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad built its mainline to Chicago and I sold part of my land to them for their track bed. This raised my hopes for making money in land sales so I had my land surveyed for building lots. I sold a few for homes and two commercial buildings. I also donated land for a one room school for the area’s children to attend. Soon there was a small community which I called Denver.

However, to my disappointment the B&O decided to locate their Henry Township depot at Peter’s Crossroads one mile to the east. This stimulated the growth of what became North Baltimore and my community of Denver stagnated until it finally disappeared in the late 1920s.

But all was not lost as the Northwest Ohio Oil Boom arrived in the late 1880s. Luckily, I had several extremely productive wells on my land which made for a comfortable life for my family and me.

Being a realist, I decided that if I could not beat North Baltimore, I would join them so I moved to that town in 1890 and rented out my farms. We lived in a new house I had constructed on West Walnut Street.

Mary and I both became active members of the community. I took great pride in making a contribution to the welfare of the town and its citizens. I was elected to the town council and later accepted an appointment as tax assessor. I considered that job a civic duty, but the position didn’t make me very popular. I also served on the Board of Directors of the First National Bank. My wife Mary was active in the Women’s Relief Corps, church groups, and community social activities.

Over the years, I had maintained connections with my army comrades and attended 21st Ohio Infantry regimental reunions. Along with other Union Army veterans, I helped found the Grand Army of the Republic post in North Baltimore and marched in the annual Memorial Day parade.

 

We did have our share of grief when my daughter Edith died at age 22 and both my son Tom’s wife and their son took ill and died in the 1890s. I lost my wife Mary when she became ill and died in April 1918.

Eventually my daughter Martha and her husband and step-daughter came to live in my home, and they looked after me in my final years. My life was also brightened by the birth of many grandchildren over the years. I remained in good health in my seventies and eighties, and nearly every day I would walk two miles to inspect my farms and visit my son Tom and his new wife and daughter. I also enjoyed travelling and frequently went to Michigan to visit my sons John and Clyde and their families.

George Chase

George Chase was quite elderly when he posed for this circa 1925 photograph in front of his West Walnut Street home. The Chase home is still standing in 2014.

Chase family grave

This is the George D. Chase family grave site in Maplewood Cemetery. Mae and Clyde Chase were the Chases’ daughter-in-law and grandson.

On May 11th, 1928, I died at my home in North Baltimore after a short illness. I was buried alongside my wife Mary in North Baltimore’s Maplewood Cemetery.

In August 2014, my descendents are scattered across the entire United States. My home still stands in North Baltimore after almost 125 years. While I didn’t get the B&O depot, the Henry Township site of Denver and much of what was my land is now covered by the CSX Intermodal Railyard.

Comments are closed