Biography of James S. Halsey
Springfield, Clark County, OH Biographies





JAMES SMITH HALSEY, deceased, was born near Lebanon, Warren Co., Ohio, Dec. 7, 1804, and was the son of Ichabod Benton Halsey, a native of New Jersey. The family is of English origin, and it is believed that all of the name now living in this country are descendants of two brothers of that name, who landed at Long Island some time near the beginning of the eighteenth century, and the branch of the family to which the subject of this sketch belonged settled near Wheatsheaf Tavern, midway between Rahway and Elizabethtown, N. J., where they lived for a number of generations. Maj. Daniel Halsey, the grandfather of James S., received from the Government a large tract of land near Lebanon, Warren Co., Ohio, in consideration of services performed as an officer in the Revolution, which land he presented to his son, Ichabod B., on the condition that he would settle upon and improve it, which he did, becoming one of the earliest settlers of Warren County. He was remarkable for intelligence, energy and great probity of character, and was one of the Commissioners who located the county seats of Green, Montgomery and Champaign Counties. Mr. Halsey became one of the wealthiest and most prosperous citizens of his county, but late in life, through the treachery of a party for whom he had indorsed, the results of a lifetime of industry, was swept away at one stroke. The mother of James Smith Halsey was the daughter of James Smith, a Methodist minister, who came from Virginia to Warren Co., Ohio, about 1790, where he had previously been in company with two or three friends on a tour of observation, about 1785, his object being to secure for himself and family a home in a land uncursed by slavery. He finally settled on a farm not far from Ceasar's Creek, in Warren County, and it was there that his daughter, Sarah Watkins Smith, was married to Ichabod Benton Halsey, Dec. 25, 1802. At the time of his father's financial distress, James Smith Halsey was about 18 years of age, had received a fair common school education, and had become fairly proficient in Latin, with a general fund of information acquired from books for which he had a great fondness. About this time he came to Springfield and secured employment in the office of Saul Heckle, Sr., who was then Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Clark County. The distance of forty miles from Lebanon to Springfield was performed on foot, it being before the time of railroads, and the payment of stage fare would have been too great a strain on his scanty resources. During this period he worked for $6 per month and board, sending to his father at the end of the year the sum of $72. The first official position he held in Clark County was Justice of the Peace, was subsequently elected County Auditor, then appointed Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas, and on the adoption of the new constitution, in 1852, was elected Probate Judge. He was married Nov. 13, 1832, to Catharine T. Henkle, daughter of Saul Henkle who, with his wife, whose maiden name was Van Meter, were Virginians. They had four children who grew to maturity, viz.: Martha A., who died in Springfield; Irving, now an attorney residing in Cincinnati; Ellen Sterrity, deceased, and Sarah L., the wife of Louis W. Bosart, of Springfield. Mrs. Halsey died in 1862, at Lagonda, of softening of the brain; she was a woman of unusual energy, of excellent mental gifts, and thoughtfully devoted to her husband and children; during the greater part of her life she, as well as her husband, was a member of the Baptist Church. After the expiration of his term as Probate Judge, Mr. Halsey removed from Springfield to a place near Lagoiada, where he resided until 1865, and after a brief residence on a place about two miles east of Springfield, on the National road, he removed with his son in law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Bosart, to Jasper Co., Ill., where he lived until the summer of 1875, when he, with his daughter Martha, went to Memphis, Tenn., where his son Irving then lived, with whom he resided until his death, which occurred on the night before the seventy third anniversary of his birthday, in December, 1877. His remains were brought to Springfield and interred in the family lot in Green Mount Cemetery. For several years preceding his death, he was afflicted with symptoms of softening of the brain, and of this disease he finally died. Judge Halsey was of a modest, retiring nature, preferring the seclusion of private life to the confiicts attending a public career, and although a somewhat zealous partisan, he was never prominently concerned in politics; and with the exception of an editorial connection with the Western Pioneer, he probably took no active part in political matters. His talents were those of the student and lover of nature rather than of the man of action, but few men collected and retained more information than he during the period of his mental activity, and before the powers of his mind had been partially paralyzed by disease, and even afterward the singular retention of his memory often surprised his friends. Probably the characteristics by which Judge Halsey was most prominently known were his unswerving integrity and love of truth. In every transaction of his life, his word was his bond; even in jest he never deviated from the right line of truth, and whatever "Smith" Halsey said was known to be the exact truth, and as he never lied himself he had little toleration for falsehood in others. He had an innate scorn of meanness, mendacity and sham, which was as natural to him as it was to breathe the vital air. His charity was large, and while giving unostentatiously, he gave munificently; indeed in everything he did there was an entire absence of ostentation, and next to dishonesty and fraud, it was probably the object of his profoundest contempt. His religion partook, as it always must, of the character of the man; like him, it was unobtrusive and unostentatious, and what Burns calls the "preaching cant," was never heard on his lips, and instead of talking religion, he tried to act it. Like all strong natures, although sincere in his religion, he had his religious doubts which caused him many melancholy hours, yet in the spirit of "Lord, I would believe, help thou my unbelief," he struggled faithfully to the end. His character was somewhat marked by the austerity of the Puritan; life to him was no holiday affair, but a time of work and not of pleasure, and it can be said to his credit that he did his work well. He was also somewhat puritanical in his habitual expression of emotion, but that he felt strongly and deeply, is certain; men like him always do; but he did not "carry his heart on his sleeve for daws to peck at," and the many friends whom he has left behind in Clark County demonstrate that he was held in the highest esteem throughout this county, of which he was so long an honored and trusted citizen. Judge Halsey had two brothers and three sisters who lived to maturity: J. B. Halsey, who died in Plymouth, Ind., in January, 1879, and Daniel W. Halsey, who died in Hamilton, Ohio, about 1860, were both citizens of Springfield for many years; Mary E. was married to Gen. Charles Anthony, and died in the summer of 1879; Martha, who married Dr. Isaac Jennings, is now living in Koscuisko Co., Ind., and Cynthia A., who was married to James K. Hurin, is now residing at Wyoming, Hamilton Co., Ohio.

From:
History of Clark County, Ohio
W. H. Beers & Co.
Chicago 1881


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