Biography of James Purdy
North Central Ohio Biographies





James Purdy, deceased, was one of the most prominent citizens of Richland County and an outstanding figure in the early business life of Mansfield. He was born at Hopewell, York County, Pa., July 24, 1793, and died in Mansfield in 1886, at the age of 93 years.

James Purdy received an excellent education but owing to his father's financial reverses he was obliged to begin his business career at the bottom. In 1811 his father had sold his milling business and purchased a farm near Canandaigua, N. Y., where James remained until he was 21 years old. After completing a college course he studied law for three years at Canandaigua, and during that time was also a teacher in the Canandaigua Academy. On Sept. 5, 1822, he went to Corydon, Ind., where the Supreme Court of the State and the United States District Courts were in session, and he was admitted to practice in both. On May 29, 1823, Mr. Purdy came to Mansfield, where he purchased the Mansfield Gazette from J. C. Gilkison. After the purchase was completed he discovered that the type was worn out and rode horseback to Cincinnati, where he purchased type on credit, and returned with it in saddle bags to Mansfield. In 1831 he sold the paper to T. W. Bartley, a young attorney, who later became a judge of the Supreme Court of Ohio and governor of the state.

In 1823 a new circuit of Court of Common Pleas was established, composed of Richland, Huron, Sandusky, Seneca, Marion, and Crawford counties, holding three terms annually, and Mr. Purdy made all these courts on horseback. He spent much time in Columbus during the years 1834-35, where he procured the necessary legislation to make improvements in this section of the state in the way of building railroads and canals. In 1838, with B. Jones, of Wooster, be obtained a charter from the state of Ohio with a joint charter from Pennsylvania, and the railroad became known as the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. In 1835 he went to Columbus with Judge Patterson and obtained a charter for a railroad, and a company was organized, of which Mr. Purdy served as president.

In 1855 Mr. Purdy invested in land in Iowa and was one of the founders of the city of Clinton. In that year he became a stockholder in the Chicago, Iowa, and Nebraska Railroad, and was chosen to locate and construct the road, which he did. It later became known as the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, of which he was vice president. In 1855 he also purchased seven large buildings in Chicago, the title of which he retained at the time of his death.

In 1845 Mr. Purdy had taken an active part in obtaining a charter for the State Bank of Ohio, and became a member of its board of control, and assisted in the management of its multifarious departments, which consisted of 40 branches. He was also one of the organizers of the Farmers Bank of Mansfield, and became its president and attorney. At the termination of the charter in 1865 the stockholders transferred their stock to the Farmers National Bank of Mansfield, of which Mr. Purdy served as president until his death. He was also connected with numerous other banking institutions in Ohio, and in 1850 was one of the organizers of a banking house at Sacramento, Calif.

Mr. Purdy was a soldier during three wars. He served throughout the War of 1812 on the Niagara frontier, and by special authority from the Governor of Ohio, he enlisted Ohio's quota for the Mexican War. During the Civil War he succeeded in raising 100 men in 48 hours for the service. His son, James, enlisted at the age of 16 and was promoted to a first lieutenant and served throughout the war.

In 1836 Mr. Purdy had purchased lands on the south shore of the Maumee River, opposite the Grand Rapids, and an Island in the river, thereby becoming the proprietor of three fourths of the Maumee and its water power. Here he erected a flour mill and sawmill, both of which were in operation at the time of his death in 1886. He had also acquired large tracts of farm land in Henry County, Ohio, with his fellow townsman and statesman, John Sherman.

In 1839 Mr. Purdy married Miss Mary B. Hodge, of Buffalo, N. Y., the daughter of William Hodge. Their children were: Mary, the widow of William H. Weldon, lives at Mansfield; Jeannette, the widow of Major Joseph A. Hedges, lives at Mansfield; Helen P., the widow of Henry M. Weaver, lives at Mansfield; Adelaide, deceased, was the wife of Frank P. Lahm, who lives in Paris, France; Katherine, married Dr. Frank Bain, both deceased; James, Jr., married Emma Kennedy, both deceased; Hamilton, and Sarah, both deceased.

Mr. Purdy was a member of the Presbyterian Church, and throughout his life was a generous donor to Wooster University. Politically, he was a Whig in early life and later a Republican.

From:
History of North Central Ohio
Embracing Richland, Ashland, Wayne,
Medina, Lorin, Huron and Knox Counties
BY: William A. Duff
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1931


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