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Dr. Jesse Harvey


Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 27 March 2005


The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Massie Township by Hon. Thomas M. Wales
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)


The following sketch of the life of this philanthropist and scholar was prepared by his grandson, Jesse H. Blair:

Dr. Jesse Harvey was born on the 26th of November, 1801, in Orange County, North Carolina. His parents were Caleb and Sarah Harvey. When he was six years old his parents settled at Todd's Fork, then an entirely new country. Good schools, at that time, were few, and he had little time for attending such as there were. Being the eldest child, much of his time was taken in helping his father, who could ill afford to spare his services. He did not attend any school after the age of thirteen years, but books were his constant companions in his leisure hours. His thirst for knowledge and natural inclinations led him to the study of medicine. Although his first efforts in this direction were met by the opposition of a religious prejudice, the fear that the study of science tended to infidelity being then prevalent. Yet he saw an opening for great good in this profession, and between working hours studied from such books as he could buyer borrow. At the age of 22 years he became a student of Dr. Uriah Farquer, of Wilmington, O. A distance of six miles made it very inconvenient for him to have such intercourse with his preceptor as was desirable, so he was in the habit of going once a week to be questioned on what he had read. He entered the Medical College of Ohio, and attended the session of 1826-7, and, obtaining a license to practice, settled in Harveysburg in 1830, and soon became busy in his profession. Besides the study of medicine he had done a great deal of general reading. He was well posted on law, and was often consulted by his friends and neighbors on legal points. He also kept abreast of scientific knowledge. His studious habits led him to be interested in the cause of education. In order to give his own children and young folks in general advantages for study, he in 1887-8 established the Harveysburg High School. He erected a commodious house, and was at considerable expense to furnish com-


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petent teachers and suitable apparatus, going to the East to secure the best astronomical and chemical instruments. He delivered lectures twice a week, to the public, on history, languages and the natural sciences. He sustained the school for eight or nine years, notwithstanding high prices, the panic, and the fanatical sentiments of many of his patrons. He always had a desire to teach the Indians, and spent considerable time with the Shawnee Nation at Wapakonetta. About a year after the school closed, in 1847, he was appointed by the Society of Friends as Superintendent of the Friends' school and farm among the Shawnee Indians in the Kansas Territory. Arriving there with his family in July of the same year, he worked faithfully for about seven months, when his already weak constitution gave away, and, after an illness of three months, he died on the afternoon of the 12th of May, 1848. A hard student, a practical Christian, and a man who believed that, while humble himself, there were many who needed his assistance.

In a history of Harveysburg High School, written by Dr. Harvey himself, he says: "The Principal had for some years believed that a permanent school establishment should be instituted in every town and village throughout the land, and had much wished to have one somewhere near so that he might have an opportunity of associating with good teachers and thus, perhaps, improve himself, and particularly his children." He gave much attention to different methods of establishing and conducting schools, and concluded to make it a personal effort. "After a pretty severe struggle" he had erected and furnished, in 1837-8, a commodious building. The school opened with about eighty scholars, Wilmington, Lebanon, Waynesville, Dayton, Cincinnati and vicinities sending their share. The Doctor delivered public lectures twice a week on astronomy, geology and other natural sciences. He employed two competent teachers, "not doubting but that he would be sustained by every friend of education." The great expenses of this beginning, especially as Dr. Harvey wanted the most improved school furniture and apparatus, and the panic and hard times soon following, involved him in debt. In two years he found himself so out of pocket that he was unable to proceed. He then determined to reorganize the school, and a company of sixteen members, including himself, procured an act of incorporation. In this character the school proceeded several years, reducing expenses as much as possible. Still losses were sustained, and finally, after eight or nine years existence, arrangements were made with the teachers to receive as recompense such amounts as were paid in by the pupils. Together with the causes before mentioned, political feelings among the patrons caused the enterprise to fail, the patrons being divided regarding abolition, and, making the school their battle-ground of course weakened it. To illustrate the strength of such partisan feeling, and its rapid growth, the following incident may well serve:

In 1840, during the Harrison Presidential campaign, Aaron Vestal and some other parties, were returning from a political rally at Waynesville in a wagon, the bed of which was canoe-shaped, and in accord with the campaign song, "A Nice Log Cabin and a Bar'1 of Hard Cider," had a miniature representative of each of these articles, one on each end. This wagon stopped at the crossing of the main streets of Harveysburg. After listening to a speech from Isaiah Morris, then candidate for Congress, the crowd called, " Harvey!" "Harvey!" Not being a political speaker, Dr. Harvey asked Mr. Morris to say a few words favoring the abolition of slavery and the elevation of the colored race. Soon as the crowd gathered the drift of the speaker's words, they cried "Down!" and would not listen to anything regarding the freedom of the negro. Four years afterward the same people were so far changed in their views that, because Dr. Harvey in his school provided (and maintained at his own expense, even after the company was formed) a separate department for the colored children, they termed him a "pro-slavery" man, and demanded that such a distinction should not be made, and that the two classes of pupils should be taught in the same room. The feeling was so strong

that the Doctor finally acceded and then found that some of the loudest complainants withdrew their children to prevent such intimate association.
In relating the above there is no desire to revive prejudices. It simply shows how, impelled by political passion, we are apt to drive one good thing until it overruns another.

However, aside from financial failure, the school succeeded, and Dr. Harvey had his desire realized to a great extent. He found help in his studies, indulged his inclinations to help others, and many remain to-day to testify to the good done during the short, time the school existed. In the neighborhoods from which came students, and scattered throughout the States, are good, substantial citizens who remember with pleasure and gratitude the lessons and associations of the school.

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This page created 27 March 2005 and last updated 26 November, 2012
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