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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

William Venable Left Legacy Of Writings, Teachings

Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Writer, humorist, lecturer, poet, teacher, all these vocations describe an early resident of Warren County, Professor William Henry Venable.
William was born on April 29, 1836, in a small log house about three miles southwest of Waynesville, near the Little Miami River.
William Sr., his father, was a Quaker and was also an Abolitionist. His vocations included that of a surveyor, a teacher and a farmer.
His father's first childhood interest was that of a seaman, not being at all interested in school, however, subsequently winding up as a dedicated scholar.
As a youngster of four, young William remembered an incident when his father, an old fashioned Whig, took the lad to a mass meeting in a grove near Lebanon and introduced him to General William Henry Harrison, for whom he was named.
The General gently patted him on the head, and long after that day the lad wore a Tippecanoe medal with a portrait of Harrison on one side and a log cabin on the other. This occasion caused his friends to call him "Tip," a nickname he wore in disgust.
Another memory of young William's was when as a boy he traveled with his father over the vast gravel-lined pike between Cincinnati and Columbus, now U.S. 42. They made a stop below Lebanon at a tavern bearing the name Indian Queen. The tavern was "advertised by the dusky features and the bright feathers of the royal savage on the swinging sign-board in front."
Near Mason they visited the Lowe tavern and about two miles further they stopped at the Bates tavern, a very famous hostelry. This tavern was famed for two things, its quality as a hotel and for the landlord's skill in profanity.
A fine table, clean beds, an outstanding stable where the horses were fed, and a clean wagon yard encircled by a high fence and strong gates were the outstanding features of the hotel.
Their next stop was at a tavern in Pisgah and then on to Sharon (Sharonville) for a stop. The latter tavern was displayed by a White Horse and high on its signboard swung the picture of a prancing white steed.
The Mills House at Reading was the next stop, and further on down the road was the Four-Mile House. The last stop before he entered the Queen City was Saint George with the knight and his war steed, the dragon and spear, all carefully portrayed on the signboard.
Things both picturesque and beautiful accompanied Professor Venable's love of Nature at an early age. He had an inbred capacity of extraordinary observation, which was a source of unceasing pleasure.
He was at the age of seven quite small in stature but his body was active and his mind alert. He delighted in escapades along Newman's Run and the "Big Woods," both near Waynesville. He loved hunting squirrels, fishing, gathering wild flowers and may-berries. Tracking rabbits and sliding over the old swimming hole in wintertime were also fond memories from his youth.
His father was a lover of books that young William soon inherited. The latter's first attractions were those of "Robbins Journal," "Lewis and Clark's Journal," and "Bruce's Travels."
Young William began teaching school, mainly because he needed the money to continue his education. His first employment began in November 1854, in a little schoolhouse at Sugar Grove near Waynesville, his pay, sixty cents a day.
For years he was a student and teacher in Alfred Holbrook's Normal Academy at Lebanon. At Holbrook's death, Professor Venable wrote "Alfred Holbrook: His Influence on Education" and read his work at the Holbrook Memorial at a later date.
He was also employed as a professor of natural science in Chickering's famous institute in Cincinnati, this service lasting a period of 24 years, from 1862 to 1886. At the death of Mr. Chickering, Professor Venable remained for five additional years as its principal and proprietor.
The Professor commented on his assignment as head of this fine institution. He stated:
"In those days I worked often far into the early morning hours, because my days were taken up with my school work. It was not an easy struggle for me. We had a family of seven children and I made up my mind that each one of them should get a good education. And this I accomplished. My literary work helped me.
"Yes, I have made considerable money at it. I never wrote unless I was moved to write by an event or a cause. Any other kind of writing is necessarily forced and artificial."
He continually relied on his wife as his most severe critic. He submitted everything to her. She never praised him when praise was undeserved. She always read his copy and made corrections of spelling and punctuations.
As was stated earlier in this text, our subject's academic and scholarly career began at an early age. He accomplished a fine reputation as a teacher, writer and lecturer. His quickness for humor and imagination made him an interesting storyteller, whether in speaking or writing. His personality was described as mild and cheerful, though sometimes embraced with melancholy.
One source says that he possessed "decided executive ability." As a result he organized in Cincinnati the Society for Political Education, of which he was its first president.
In the winter of 1882-83 he organized a "School in Popular Science and History," a segment of which fifteen eminent lecturers took part, and which included audiences of both ladies and gentlemen.
Professor Venable was elected in 1881 as a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Another degree bestowed upon him was that in June 1886, he received from Ohio University the degree of Doctor of Laws.
He authored a "History of the United States," articulated by "The Nation" as the best of its class. He also composed two volumes of poems entitled, "June on the Miami," and "Melodies of the Heart." His most highly praised work was the poem," The Teacher's Dream," praised by Longfellow, Holmes, Garfield and other noted men.
An admirer of Professor Venable voiced his opinion of "Melodies of the Heart," stating that it is as a little open chest, "filled with simplicity, beauty, melody, purity, pathos and humor, the whole perfumed with love."
His residence in Cincinnati, located just east of Cincinnati on the Little Miami Railroad, was in a picturesque suburb called Mount Tusculum.
At this site he found solace in his writing and began the day very early. After breakfast he would many times work feverishly on until late hours of the night. It was here that he received the inspiration for his more than 1000 poems and for his famous novel, "The Quest of Empire," which was in its day one of the five best sellers.
It was said of Professor Venable that he had written more than any other man in Cincinnati. He was considered an old style writer and never engaged in the art of typewriting. He stated that he "found it a pleasure to relieve himself of burning thoughts by the use of ink."

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