Old letter key to interesting co-incidence

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is another article on Findlay area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.




Coincidences have a strange and intriguing way of developing. They always prove highly interesting.

The last month or so (in 1964) brought to light an unusually interesting case in which two Findlay neighbors discovered that their forbears knew each other back in the 1850s and had business dealings together here, although the one only visited Findlay for a very brief time.

Through some of his kin, (the late) Allen P. Dudley came into possession recently of a volume of letters which his grandfather on his father’s side had written describing some of his early experiences. The grandfather was Harvard Dudley.

Much to Mr. Dudley’s surprise, one of the letters was dated Findlay, O., having been written back home by the grandfather who was here seeking timber for use in ship construction. The letter was dated Oct. 12. 1856. Hancock County was frequently visited in the early days by seekers after ship timber, the records reveal, and Mr. Dudley came here for that purpose, too.

Mr. Dudley, the grandfather, was a farmer living near Henrietta, O., in Lorain County. He also spent some time traveling about the countryside locating ship timber. He not only bought the timber, but had to make arrangements for its cutting and shipment out of the county as part of his business.

The letter goes into considerable detail as to his experiences here, and in the course of his discussion he remarked that he had seen a “Mr. Parker” about his timber-seeking mission. “Mr. Parker” was the late Jonathan Parker, who was one of the very early settlers here, who had arrived in 1831 to make his home in the new northwestern Ohio county. He started a sawmill and became interested in the lumber business. The Parker Lumber company bears his name.

Mr. Parker became one of the leading citizens of the new community. He served as commander of the Hancock County troops which volunteered in the 1830s to go to Toledo to defend Ohio’s claims in connection with the celebrated Michigan-Ohio boundary dispute. He always liked to recall that he first arrived in Findlay by canoe. On his way here, high waters east of town made the roads impassable and he and a companion arranged to get a boat to finish the trip.

The coincidence comes about through the fact that a great-grandson of Mr. Parker is Allen Dudley’s neighbor on South Main Street. He is W. Seely Smith, who is president and manager of the Parker Lumber Co. Mr. Dudley is administrative assistant at the Findlay Publishing Co. They reside across the street from each other at the intersection of South Main Street and Greenlawn Avenue.

Mr. Smith was as surprised as Mr. Dudley over the fact that their ancestors had been acquainted with each other and that there is a record of their business dealings.

The letters which Mr. Dudley now has, have been typewritten and re-preserved in a substantial form. They had been kept in a farm home in eastern Ohio for a long time and only recently were prepared for distribution to members of the family wanting them. The letters describe early conditions in Ohio and Wisconsin in an interesting manner.

In the letter telling of his visit to Findlay, Mr. Dudley tells of coming to Findlay via the Findlay-Carey railroad which had only been opened for travel a few years earlier than the 1856 date of his communication.

He was successful in his hunt for ship timber, he tells his wife in the letter.

The Findlay which he saw was only a very small town at the time. Its population was but a little over 1,000 in the 1850s.

In addition to the Oct. 12 letter, there is another dated Oct. 23. Mr. Dudley had left the city after writing the first letter and then returned some days later and wrote the second letter.

In next week’s historical column there will be quoted considerable of the Dudley communications, which gives an interesting picture of early Findlay.



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