Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Thomas W. Harvey

This biography is taken from History of Geauga and Lake counties; Williams Brothers, 1878.

Transcribed and submitted by Becky Falin, 1996.

Among the learned professions, that of the teacher has but recently found for itself a place. But a few years ago, and the church and the law and medicine occupied the only recognized highways leading to scholastic fame. Through them, and through them alone, was it possible for the young aspirant, thirsting for knowledge and its ultimate rewards, to realize the bright dream of his ambition.

But "the world moves," and conditions change. To-day there are other workers in iron besides the smith at his forge, and other workers of wood than the carpenter, with his saw and plane. The field of mechanical labor has widened, and whereas at one time it lay open only to a few rude workers, it now admits a multitude of handicraftsmen furnished with new tools and new methods provided by the inventive spirit of times, and the result is, the world has been the gainer. The productions of mechanical labor are now of almost endless variety, meeting every requirement which utility can make; the products are better fashioned and greatly cheapened, until now the humblest person may enjoy comforts and luxuries which a few centuries ago were undreamed of by kingly power.

What is true of the department of mechanical labor is also true of other fields of human activity, and especially true of the profession of teaching. From obscurity it has rapidly risen to prominence. Whereas a few years since, the workers were few and unskillful, now they are many, and form an organized body of devoted laborers, everywhere recognized as belonging to a profession which honors them, and which many of them honor. In this important department of human activity are now employed much of the best brain and broadest culture of our land. How fitting that in the teacher we should find the highest order of talent; that he should be a man of thought and learning, eminent for scholarly attainments, and of unimpeachable character! for enlightenment and integrity both look to him more than to any other for encouragement, for life, and for future growth.

We of to-day should feel grateful that we live at a time when the educator has become an acknowledged force in this country. The soldier and statesman, the lawyer and jurist, the priest and bishop, with men skilled in physic, have been always, but the press and the public school are of to-day and the future. Each department has an important work to perform, but to the successful educator more than to any one of the others must society look for the realization of its best and brightest hopes.

Among the foremost educators of our State the subject of our sketch is justly ranked. For more than a third of a century he has been an industrious and constant laborer in his chosen profession. He is an New Englander by birth, and was born in New London, New Hampshire, on the 18th day of November, 1821. His early boyhood was lived in the old Granite State; but when he was about twelve years of age his father, Moses E Harvey, removed to Ohio with his family, and purchasing a farm in the northeast corner of Concord township, settled thereon. Here young Thomas lived for the next four years, with pretty much the same experiences, no doubt, as were common to other farmer-lads of that day. But the sullen routine of farm-work was no congenial to his tastes. He could and did perform the endless variety of farm duties after a fashion, such as wood-chopping and brush- gathering, fence-building, corn-hoeing and husking, grass-mowing, and hay-hauling, potato-digging, cow-driving, milking and churning, and pig-feeding, but his heart was not in the work. In his breast there was a burning desire for knowledge that called loudly for a change regarding the life-labor which he must perform. And the change came.

In 1836, when fifteen years of age, he came to Painesville, and entered the printing office of Horace Steele, then the publisher of the Republican. Here he remained about six years, including the two years of his apprenticeship. His yearning for knowledge and his desire for a good education now increased. There was something about the very atmosphere of the printing- office that stimulated this thirst. Three or four months of attendance at the district school had been all each year of his boyhood and early manhood had afforded him. His leisure hours were now improved with rigid economy. He devoted them to reading and study. At first he was his own instructor, but as he began to make some progress, and by practicing economy to save a little out of his earnings, was soon able to employ a tutor, which he did for about two years. He attended the Western Reserve Teachers' Seminary, at Kirtland, during part of the years 1842, 1843 and 1844, at that time a most excellent school, and in a flourishing condition. At this place he made rapid progress as a scholar, and soon after leaving this school he established the Geauga High School, an academical institution, at Chardon, Ohio. After occupying this position for three years, some time in 1848 he removed to Republic, Seneca county, and became principal of an academy, in which he labored for three years. As his reputation as a well-qualified and successful instructor became more general, his services were sought in wider fields of labor, and in 1851 he became superintendent of schools at Massillon. Up to about this time public schools in Ohio existed only in name; there was scarcely no attempt made to classify or grade the scholars according to advancement in studies. The "High School" was almost unheard of, and State supervision slight. The teachers were often illy qualified, and scantily paid. The profession had no standing; few ambitious men were content to remain in its ranks, but used it as a means of support while obtaining an education, and at the first opportunity leaving it for something more promising as a profession. Not so with Professor Harvey; others might desert their calling, others might serve it as a stepping-stone to other professions, but with him teaching was an enthusiasm, a labor of love, to which he would willingly devote his lifetime. He remained at Massillon fourteen years, when he was, in 1865, called to occupy a similar position at Painesville, in which capacity he served until 1871. At this time his name was brought before the Republicans of Ohio as a candidate for State commissioner of common schools. Although the names of other eminent educators were likewise presented to the convention, Professor Harvey was nominated and afterwards elected, and held the office for the regular term of three years.

In this capacity he rendered the State good service, doing much to strengthen the public school system, making many improvements, and adding thereby to his already wide reputation as a manager and able worker in the cause of education. In 1877, Professor Harvey again became superintendent of Painesville schools, which position he at present occupies. His abilities as an educator were so well known that he has been tendered the charge of the schools at Cleveland, as also those at Columbus, but declining serving in both instances, being at the time engaged in work that claimed his time and attention, and entirely congenial to his tastes. Mr. Harvey's contributions to education literature have been considerable and valuable. His long experience in the class-room made him thoroughly familiar with text-books, and, realizing their many imperfections, and their lack of adaptation to the pupil's wants, it became a cherished purpose to do something towards improving them. But the duties of his profession were exacting and absorbed his time, leaving him little opportunity to carry out his plans. However, while engaged in the discharge of the most arduous school-room duties, he was still able to employ a few moments of each day in the work of preparing a series of text-books, which at last were published, and immediately came into favor with leading school-men. Among the titles of his books are "Practical Grammar," "Elementary Grammar," "First Lessons in Language," and a series of readers and spellers. He also assisted in the preparation of the Eclectic series of geographies. All these books are now published by Van Antwerp, Bragg & Co., Cincinnati. Mr. Harvey has contributed at intervals for many years to the leading educational periodicals of the day.

During all the years of professional life Professor Harvey has been frequently called upon to lecture in various localities, and in this way filled in intervals he could spare from his literary labors. In 1845 he attended at Chardon the second teachers' institute held in the State. In this field he has been a worker from the beginning, and as a lecturer and instructor has a reputation far beyond State limits. Professor Harvey has been a tireless and systematic student all of his life, and has been very successful in imparting knowledge to others. He is a man of large and varied information; careful, painstaking, and thorough in everything he undertakes. He is modest and unassuming in his disposition, sensitive to praise, plain in his habits of living, and in his method of speaking direct and forcible. In manners he is affable and genial to an unusual degree. He is still in the prime and vigor of manhood. With regular habits of life, pleasant family and social relations, a kindly disposition, a mind well trained by observation and study, and stored with the riches of books, advancing years will sit lightly and pleasantly upon him, and may be looked forward to as bringing him more and more of the ripe fruit of the golden autumn of a well-spent life.

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