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AN ECCENTRIC CHARACTER


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Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 12 December 2004

Sources:
The History of Warren County Ohio
Part IV Township Histories
Turtle Creek Township
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)
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Among the most eccentric characters of the early history of Lebanon was William M. Wiles, merchant, hotel-keeper and local politician, who died in 1837, aged about fifty years. His strange and ofttimes unintelligible advertisements frequently attracted the attention of readers of the Lebanon newspapers two generations ago. The following incidents are related by A. H. Dunlevy:

"During the warm canvass of 1832, Gen. Eaton, Secretary of War under Gen. Jackson, called at Wiles' Hotel on his way to Cincinnati and the South, and remained overnight. Anxious to know how Ohio was going to vote, Gen.

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Eaton asked Wiles how the friends of Jackson and Clay stood in this part of the State, and expressed the hope that he was in favor of Old Hickory. Wiles, who was too polite to his guests to raise any dispute, did not give any definite answer, but replied: 'Gen. Eaton, our watchword is ever The Sword of the Lord and Gideon,' and, when pressed still further, he added, with vehemence: 'As soon as we hear the sound of a gong in the mulberry tops, we will arise, and, with the cry, 'To your tents, oh, Israel! will gather the hosts from Dan to Beersheba, and then will be seen such a slaughter of the Amalekites as has never been witnessed since the days of Joshua.'

"About this time, Thomas Corwin, then a Member of Congress, and acquainted with Gen. Eaton, called on him, and Wiles left the room. Soon Gen. Eaton gave Corwin an account of Wiles' strange conduct, and said to him: ' Your landlord is certainly crazy.' ' No,' said Corwin, ' he was only too polite to tell you, so distinguished a guest of his, that he was the supporter of Clay against Jackson. That is all.' Eaton laughed heartily at the explanation, and did not again press Wiles for his opinions about the approaching election.

"When Gov. Morrow was first elected Governor of Ohio, in the fall of 1822, a number of the citizens of Lebanon determined to visit him immediately, announce to him the fact of his election, and give him a proper ovation on the occasion. To that end, some dozen of our most respected citizens speedily prepared to go together as a company of cavalry, on horseback, to the Governor's residence, some ten miles from town. Among these was William M. Wiles, an eccentric man, but a man of ready talent at an off-hand speech. Wiles was anxious to make the address, and took the night previous to the visit to prepare it. Early next morning, the cavalcade set off, and, reaching Gov. Morrow's residence, they found he was at his mill, a mile distant. Thither they went, determined that Wiles should not miss the chance of making his prepared speech. But when they reached the mill, they found the Governor elect in the forebay of his mill, up to his middle in water, engaged in getting a piece of timber out of the water-gate, which prevented the gate from shutting off the water from the wheel. This, however, was soon effected, and up came the Governor, all wet, without coat or hat; and in that condition the cavalcade announced to him his election. Thanking them for their interest in his success, he urged them to go back to his residence and take dinner with him. But Wiles, disgusted at finding the Governor in this condition, persuaded the party from going to dinner, and started home, declaring that he could not make his speech to a man who looked so much like a drowned rat When he saw that, he said, all his eloquent speech vanished from his mind and left it a naked blank. This speech would have been a curiosity, but no one could ever induce Wiles to show it"


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This page created 12 December 2004 and last updated 15 May, 2005
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