Townshend family

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The Townshend Family papers deal chiefly with the Townshend family of Clay Coton, England, and Avon and Columbus, Ohio, particularly with abolitionist, politician, and agricultural educator, Norton S. Townshend (1815-1895). The collection also includes items from the Dodge (of Massena, New York), Wing (of Bement, Illinois), Wood (of Avon, Ohio), Bailey, and Easterly (both of St. Louis, Missouri) families, who were linked to the Townshends through marriage. Although the Dodges and Townshends were not connected until 1917, the Dodge materials date from 1838 and are quite voluminous.

Norton Strange Townshend:

Norton Strange Townshend was born on Christmas Day 1815 in Clay Coton, Northamptonshire, England, the only child of Joel and Rebecca (Norton) Townshend. The family made their living by farming and grazing livestock on 200 acres of rented land. Norton began his education at four years of age at Bitteswell Seminary in Leicestershire and continued to study there until the family immigrated to the United States in 1830. When the Townshends settled on a farm in Avon, Ohio, Norton’s numerous duties on the farm forced him to end his formal education, although he continued to be taught by his father and made good use of the family library of over 100 books. During this period, Townshend learned a great deal about livestock breeds and expressed an interest in innovative farming techniques, such as draining fields with tile and grafting fruit trees with a wax mixture.

In 1836, Townshend taught district school for a year, as well as Sunday school at the Congregational Church in Avon, indicating that his schooling, though informal, had been effective. In 1837, he began the study of medicine with Dr. Richard L. Howard, and in the winter he attended classes at Cincinnati Medical College. While in Cincinnati, he befriended Salmon P. Chase (future Ohio Senator and Governor, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice. and U.S. Treasury Secretary) and worked as a "forwarder" on the Underground Railroad, procuring and dispatching carriages hiding escaped slaves northward.

Townshend continued his medical studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, receiving his M.D. in May 1840. After graduation, he immediately set sail for Europe, where he observed surgeries and toured hospitals in Scotland, Ireland, England, and France, made temperance speeches and visited relatives in Northamptonshire, and served as a delegate at the World Anti-Slavery Convention of 1840 in London, the latter at the urging of his friend James G. Birney (see Related Collections, below). Returning to Avon, Ohio, the next year, he began his medical practice, and in 1843 married a family friend, 17-year old Harriet Wood.

In the 1840s, Townshend became very active in civic life, joining the anti-slavery Liberty Party and subsequently its successor, the Free Soil Party, and serving as a trustee at Oberlin College. In 1848, he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives, where he took advantage of a deadlock between Democrats and Whigs to secure a partial repeal of Ohio’s discriminatory Black Laws and cast the deciding vote to send Chase to the U.S. Senate. In 1850-51, he unsuccessfully proposed extending the franchise to women and African Americans at the Second Ohio Constitutional Convention. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1851-53 and then served in the Ohio State Senate 1854-1855.

In January 1854, Harriet died of tuberculosis. Townshend married a 31-year old mathematics teacher, Margaret Ann Bailey, in October (see Margaret Bailey Townshend biography, below). Margaret became stepmother to his two surviving children, James and Mary (the firstborn, Arthur, died of croup at age four), and had three of her own: Arthur, Harriet, and Alice (see Townshend children biographies below). Margaret’s sister was married to the renowned daguerreotypist Thomas Easterly, who took portraits of Townshend and the Baileys.

In 1854, Townshend ended his full-time practice of medicine and devoted himself to farming and to the establishment of Ohio Agricultural College at Oberlin, which offered practical scientific training to farmers. The College was moved from Oberlin to Cleveland during the following two years in an attempt to attract more students, but never received the enrollment that Townshend and his colleagues envisioned. In 1857, Townshend became a trustee of the Ohio State Asylum for the Education of Idiotic and Imbecile Youth, an institution he had helped to found. He would remain on the Asylum Board for 21 years. He was also elected a member of the State Board of Agriculture, 1858-1863, and 1868-1869, twice serving as its president.

In January 1863, Townshend was appointed medical inspector in the Union Army at the rank of lieutenant colonel. He traveled through the south and west, inspecting hospitals, prisons, and camps and monitoring quantities of food, vaccines, and medical supplies, until he was honorably mustered out of the service in October 1865. Townshend then returned to the farm and, in 1869, accepted a one-year appointment as Professor of Agriculture at Iowa Agricultural College in Ames during its first operational year. After coming home, he served as a trustee of the new Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College (which became Ohio State University in 1877), at a time when its site and curriculum had not been determined. He voted for its location in Columbus and argued against including liberal arts classes in its curriculum, preferring a purely vocational school, but lost out on that measure.

In 1873, Townshend was asked to resign from the Board of Trustees so that he could be elected chair and professor of Agriculture during the first academic year. He served as professor for the next 18 years, while supervising the Ohio State Farm and the Agricultural Experiment Station for a time. In 1892, he was made Ohio State University’s first Professor Emeritus to honor his teaching and research at the University. He died July 13, 1895, at the age of 79. Three years later, he was honored by Ohio State University with the dedication of Townshend Hall, the newly-built agricultural building.

Margaret Ann Bailey Townshend:

Margaret Ann Bailey was born July 26, 1823, in Clarksburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), to John and Sarah (Lang) Bailey. She was the second of five children: Adoniram "Judson", born 1821; Anna "Miriam" (1826);, Sally Melinda "Linda" (1830); and Mary (1833). The family had moved repeatedly by the time that Margaret had reached age ten: first to Kentucky in 1826, where they were very poor; then to St. Louis County, Missouri, by 1830; and from there, south to nearby Jefferson County, Missouri, around 1832. John Bailey was employed farming and preaching. Early in life, he owned three slaves, but freed them for religious reasons around the time that he married Sarah.

In August 1835, both parents died of "congestive fever" (probably malaria) within four days of each other, leaving five orphans under the age of 15. The children were divided among three households, and Margaret and Miriam went to live with a neighboring physician, Dr. Hathaway, who promised to provide them with an education but instead required endless labor from them and sold their possessions for his own benefit. Margaret wrote to her uncle, who found a new, more kindly guardian for Margaret and Miriam. Using her dwindled inheritance of less than $200 from the Bailey estate, she was able to begin her formal education. She attended the Monticello Female Seminary in Godfrey, Illinois (25 miles north of St. Louis), from 1842-1846. After graduation, she taught school there in order to support and pay for the educations of her sisters.

By 1849, she was in southern Ohio, teaching at the Putnam Classical Institute, and then in 1853, secured employment at the Esther Institute in Columbus, where she taught mathematics and served as assistant principal. On October 17, 1854, she married Norton Strange Townshend, whom she had met through her physician, and left city life for his farm to the north.

Margaret thus became stepmother to Townshend’s two children, James and Mary, and soon began adding children of her own to the family. Arthur Bailey Townshend was born in 1855, followed by Harriet in 1857, and Alice in 1860. In addition to raising five children, financial documents show that Margaret managed the farm while her husband was away, first from 1863-1865, while he was serving as a medical inspector, and then in 1869-1870, when he went to Ames, Iowa, to serve as Professor of Agriculture.

Margaret was also active in civic life. During the Civil War, she raised funds for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. She also participated in the annual Ohio State Fair, serving as a judge of bread, butter, and sewing machines. After moving to Columbus, she founded the Ohio State University Club, a lecture and literary group for women in Columbus, and hosted the meetings in her own home. She died of pneumonia March 14, 1912, at the age of 88.

Townshend Children and Their Families:

Norton S. Townshend and his first wife, Harriet (Wood) Townshend had three children. The first was Arthur Smith Townshend, who was born November 11, 1844, and died of croup on May 11, 1849. A second child, James Houghton Townshend, was born September 28, 1846, and in the early 1870s moved to Minnesota, where he learned the milling business. He lived most of his adult life in Stillwater, Minnesota, and in 1882 married Sarah McCartney, with whom he had four children, only one of whom, Grace (b. 1884), lived past the age of one year. James died of tuberculosis at age 41 on June 29, 1888.

Norton and Harriet’s youngest child, Mary Rebecca, was born on December 21, 1849. She married Henry Patrick Boynton, a lawyer, in 1875 and they had four children--three biological (Arthur, Sidney and Percy) and one adopted (Olga). Percy was considered the "family archivist," whose brief biographies of several ancestors are in the collection.. Mary died March 5, 1915, in Elyria, Ohio.

Townshend and his second wife, Margaret (Bailey) Townshend, also produced three children. The eldest was Arthur Bailey Townshend, born July 30, 1855. Arthur was in the first graduating class of what is now Ohio State University, and became a physician, studying at Starling Medical College in Columbus, Ohio, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. Remaining in New York City, he married Ella Whitley in 1890, and they had one son, Bailey Townshend, born 1896. Arthur died in 1929.

The Townshends’ second child was Harriet Norton Townshend, born September 12, 1857. Harriet also attended Ohio State, although she did not graduate. Harriet was engaged, but her fiancé died before the wedding; she never married. She worked as a librarian at the Ohio State University Library for over 30 years, and was active in several lecture clubs. She lived to be 92, dying May 1, 1950.

The youngest child was Alice Margaret Townshend born June 18, 1860. Like her siblings, Alice attended Ohio State University, graduating in 1880. She married Charles Mayhew Wing, son of Townshend’s friend and Ohio State University trustee Lucius B. Wing. Charles was the president and general manager of the Wing Cigar Company of Columbus, Ohio, and president of First National Bank there. The pair had five children: Lucius (1882-1946), Shirley (1885-1925), Margaret (1886-1981), Alice (1888-1935), and Herbert (1895-1960). Alice and Charles died in 1926, within a year of their son Shirley’s death. Through Margaret Wing, the Townshends are connected to the Dodge family.

Dodge Family:

Thomas Dodge was born in New Hampshire in 1773. In 1799, he married Hannah Kesar (b. 1777), and the couple had 11 children between 1800 and 1821. Their firstborn was Thomas Dodge, Jr., followed by Wallis, Nancy, Luther, Eliza, Hannah, Sibel, Levi and Lepha (twins), Clarissa, and Angeline. From the time of Thomas and Hannah’s marriage until 1817, the family lived in Vermont, where Thomas was a captain and major in the Andover militia. They then moved to Massena, New York, and purchased 160 acres of land, which they farmed. As the children reached adulthood, several of them left New York and travelled west; Thomas Jr. went to Indiana, where he farmed and did business, and Wallis left for New Orleans. Among them, the 11 brothers and sisters produced 44 children.

Unlike several of his brothers, Levi R. Dodge remained in Massena, marrying Lois Payne in 1844; they had seven children. He worked as a clerk for a period, but spent most of his life as a farmer,. Their fourth child, Orange Wood Dodge, was born in 1850. Orange married Florence Isabella Donaghue, known as Isabella or "Bell", in 1882, though Bell had a number of admirers before her marriage. Both were graduates of Potsdam Normal School. After graduating from Middlebury College in Vermont, Orange Dodge worked as a teacher of classical languages, science, and geometry at the Ogdensburg Free Academy, beginning around 1880. Isabella was active in lecture groups and a dedicated volunteer at the library, which named its children’s room for her.

The couple’s first child, Fletcher Donaghue Dodge, was born in 1883, followed by Homer Levi Dodge in 1887. The brothers attended the Ogdensburg Free Academy, where their father taught. After graduating from high school, Fletcher got a degree from St. Lawrence University, and held jobs as diverse as businessman, civil engineer, and trade association lobbyist. He married three times: first to Ray Cohen, a Jewish art teacher in 1913; then in 1927 to Emilie Davis, with whom he had a daughter, Jane Mansfield Dodge; and finally to Eleanor Hill Amendt in 1956. Fletcher committed suicide in 1971, after developing glaucoma and a number of other health problems.

Homer Dodge attended Colgate University and got his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Iowa in 1914, continuing on as an instructor and then assistant professor. At the University of Iowa, he met Margaret Wing, a Home Economics instructor, and the two married in 1917, thereby connecting the Dodges to the Townshend Family. Their first child, Alice, was born in 1920, followed by Amy in 1923 (stillborn), and Norton in 1927. During his lifetime, Homer held numerous faculty and administrative positions at the University of Oklahoma, American Association of Physics Teachers, the National Research Council's Office of Scientific Personnel, and was President of Norwich University 1944-1950. He was also an avid canoeist and lover of nature. He died in 1983, two years after the death of Margaret Wing Dodge.

From the guide to the Norton Strange Townshend family papers, Townshend, Norton Strange family papers, 1807-1995, (William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Norton Strange Townshend family papers, Townshend, Norton Strange family papers, 1807-1995 William L. Clements Library , University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bailey, Gamaliel, 1807-1859 person
associatedWith Chase, Salmon P. (Salmon Portland), 1808-1873 person
associatedWith Cincinnati College. corporateBody
associatedWith College of Physicians and Surgeons in the City of New York. corporateBody
associatedWith Easterly, Thomas M. (Thomas Martin), 1809-1882 person
associatedWith Esther Institute (Columbus, Ohio) corporateBody
associatedWith Fairchild, James Harris, 1817-1902 person
associatedWith Free Soil Party (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Greenwood, Grace, 1823-1904 person
associatedWith Hasbrouck, Lydia Sayer, 1827-1910 person
associatedWith Hayes, Rutherford Birchard, 1822-1893 person
associatedWith Iowa State University. person
associatedWith Kirtland, J. P. (Jared Potter), 1793-1877 person
associatedWith Klippart, John H. (John Hancock), 1823-1878 person
associatedWith Langston, John Mercer, 1829-1897 person
associatedWith Liberty Party (Ohio) corporateBody
associatedWith Medill, William, 1802-1865 person
associatedWith Mendenhall, Thomas C. (Thomas Corwin), 1841-1924 person
associatedWith Monticello Female Seminary. corporateBody
associatedWith National Grange. corporateBody
associatedWith Oberlin College. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio State Asylum for the Education of Idiotic and Imbecile Youth. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio State Board of Agriculture. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio State Fair. corporateBody
associatedWith Ohio State University. corporateBody
associatedWith State Archaeological Association of Ohio. corporateBody
associatedWith Sullivant, Joseph, 1809-1882 person
associatedWith Townshend, Margaret Bailey, 1823-1912 person
associatedWith Townshend, N. S. (Norton Strange), 1815-1895 person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Avon (Ohio)
Elyria (Ohio)
Clay Coton (England)
Northamptonshire (England)
Columbus (Ohio)


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