On my walks to and from school, when I was a Seminary girl, and traveled the length of Wilkinson Street twice a day, I used to be struck with the attractions of a fine old home on the corner of Second Street. Walking in leisurely stride about the garden or upon the porch was an old gentleman of great dignity of aspect.
Shrubs and flowers were blooming in the yard, and in a greenhouse, which attracted much attention because it was unusual at that day. Mr. Pease and his wife were fond of flowers; cultivating many and rare varieties. A Night-Blooming Cereus in blossom in their conservatory, possibly the first ever seen in Dayton, was written about in the papers and greatly admired.
Horace Pease, born in Connecticut in 1791, living some years in Wilmington, Delaware, was drawn, as many young men of that time were, by the call of the West. He left home when a boy of eighteen, with only twenty dollars in his pocket, to try his fortunes. His companion was a cousin, about his own age, and together they rode on horseback through Pennsylvania, following an Indian trail as far as Steubenville, Ohio. Charmed with the roving life and the primal wilderness, through which they passed, another year was spent traveling through Ohio and Kentucky; supporting themselves meanwhile by the sale of skins of foxes and squirrels, which they had shot.
In 1827 Horace Pease settled in Carrolton, establishing a small distillery for the manufacture of high wines from fruit; later a flouring mill, which, in 1832, is said to have had the largest business in Ohio. He was associated in this business with his brother, Perrv Pease, and together, in 1839, they moved to Dayton, establishing a flouring mill on East Third Street (afterward the Joseph Gebhart mill). He was one of the organizers of the Dayton Branch of the State Bank of Ohio, member of the Legislature in 1834, and held various minor civil offices. The first locomotive that steamed into Dayton, on the Xenia and Belpre tracks, was named "Horace Pease,” he having been, with Joseph Clegg, most active in the establishment of that road. In 1849 the Buckeye Iron and Brass Works was founded, and still continues to be one of the solid manufacturing enterprises of Dayton.
The least valuable and the least interesting part of his life is the catalogue of Mr. Pease's business activities. They were paralleled by other men who have made our Dayton; but the faculty which deserves imitation was that extraordinary one which combines practical and theoretical achievement.
As Mr. Pease advanced in mercantile prosperity he never lost sight of the necessity for personal cultivation, the psychic growth which is so frequently overlooked in the career of business men. While making a fortune he did not omit to make himself. A reader from taste and habit, his house grew to be filled with books; scientific, for Mr. Pease was a student; poetry, for he was an idealist; illustrated works of art, for he was a practical designer and inventor; history, for he was one of the best informed men in Dayton; philosophy, for he was an original thinker. It is astonishing to learn, how, with absorbing business cares and wide public interests, time was found to master so large an amount of information upon all subjects. He possessed a wide scope of abstract speculation, together with a concern for small detail in material and mechanical. He could quote Milton while perfecting a safety-valve for a steamboat; read Shakespeare one hour, and consider a tobacco-cutting machine the next. To this combination of characteristics we owe one of the finest things in Dayton; one which gives us prestige among cities; one which strangers always remark upon with admiration --- the old Court House. At the time of its inception, Horace Pease was one of the County Commissioners. He took great interest in the proposed building, spent hours making sketches and studying reproductions of ancient temples. A lover of architecture, he had visions of a building in Dayton that would incorporate the purest design, stand as an education in beauty, and which should outlast him and his children's children. After much study the sketch was finished, and is still preserved in the Pease home.
With the noble realization in stone, we are all familiar. In form and dimensions it is modeled after the purest types of the ancient Greek temples; the design is not a copy of any-'particular building, although the elevation of the eastern portico is almost (with the exception of the shafts of the columns, which are plain instead of fluted as in that building) a reproduction of that of a Temple of Bacchus at Teos near Ephesus. It is hexastyle, having six columns of the Ionic order. The architrave, frieze, and cornice are perfectly plain, but beautiful in their exquisite proportions and severe simplicity of detail, being only relieved by a fillet of dentils supporting the cornice. The sides of the building are supported by pilasters at columnar distance, and at the western front, Ionic columns at the corners preserve the unity of the design.
This design was given to a Cincinnati architect, Mr. Howard Daniels, who prepared the working plans and specifications. The remarkable thing is, that this building, so pure in design as to have received notice in British architectural journals, and considered to be a specimen of the absolute classic, should have been the invention of a man without professional training, whose taste for the beautiful. was developed solely by self directed study of the best models. Nothing in Dayton, approaches it architecturally.
Alas! We have not lived up to it. Ugly buildings have gone up on every street and no one has protested. A Horace Pease is needed once more among us, to keep architecture holy, and to point to the old Court House as a standard of what municipal construction ought to be.
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No account of a man's life is complete without a glimpse of his social and domestic nature. The words of a granddaughter are more fitting than my own to paint Horace Pease as a man and a father.
Mrs. Anne C. Phelps writes:
To have owned a grandfather for whom you feel at all times a conscious pride, is to have possessed something which is indeed above value; the memory of which makes one justly proud.
Of my grandfather Pease, the delight of my childhood, and the pride of my later years, I would write. Proud, dignified, and reserved he was, I grant you; but with his silvery hair, worn long, his black stock, snowy linen, and spotless broadcloth, he was ever the gentleman of the old school. And, whether I recall him pacing the brick walk beside his house, with his hands behind him and eyes bent upon the ground; or in his greenhouse, surrounded by the choice plants and flowers of which he was passionately fond; or at the head of his table, where the poultry melted at his skillful carving; or surrounded by the books from which he drew such wealth of knowledge; or discussing banking or milling interests; or speeding, in less than three quarters of an hour, over the eight miles to his business, handling the "ribbons" (never reins) over the glossy dun horses with silvery manes and tails; or arranging his cabinet of specimens gathered from the White Mountains on the north to the Mammoth Cave on the south; or tenderly caring for his beloved invalid wife; or, with pen and pencil, drawing plans with an architect's ability; or touching his violin with the love, if not the skill of an artist; or gathering his dear ones about him for family worship, I may say of my grandfather, "Take him all in all, he was a man."
His was a business life, interested and successful, but he was most happy when enjoying the companionship of his books. His home, which still stands, and which (with the pride of English blood in his veins) he handed down to his son, has been kept as a sacred trust. Through all the alterations and improvements through which it has passed, the old mahogany has been preserved with the greatest care. The old china, delicate and dainty, can even now serve a dinner of seven courses with covers for twenty.
Such homes are rare in these days of chance and change. To walk into the old parlor and remember that one's mother was married there sixty years ago, is not the heritage of many daughters. It was in this room that the first Christmas tree in Dayton blossomed, and bore fruit of imported dainties never excelled. It was here that the first Wilton carpet, brought over the mountains from the East, was put down, delighting the family. It was here that the beautiful mantel of Italian marble (still in use) was placed; while the mahogany sofas, pier tables, mirrors, and lace hangings made the enthusiasm of my childish heart.
Although my grandfather was of the old Puritan stock, his love of the beautiful, and his pleasure in making those around him happy, accounted for the then rare furnishings. His home was his castle, the hospitality of which was known far and wide. Many a stranded preacher or student found refuge within its walls, while friends from the surrounding country were always welcome.
His fund of knowledge was inexhaustible, and if, at any time, he was found ignorant upon a given subject -- his quick answer, "Never have given the subject a moment's thought, sir," was long remembered by the questioner. Sometimes he would surprise his grandchildren by suddenly asking some such question as,---"What are the seven wonders of the world?" The next few days were spent in research, that they might be ready with an answer at the next meeting.
Quiet in voice and manner, it was in the antislavery days that my grandfather awoke to speech. Many were the battles of fierce oratory waged between him and his opponents as he protested, during those stormy days, against southern usurpation.
These are the memories that I delight in handing down to my children and to theirs, that they may emulate the example of one who united simplicity, refinement, culture, and honesty, with hospitality and sincerity, the Christian graces which adorn the home and save the State.
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