Friday, December 7, 2012

Happy 210th Birthday Governor Bebb!

Bebb's Cabin birthplace built in 1799
near Okeana OH, restored here in 1959.
Never heard of Governor Bebb? Yeah me neither until I went geocaching in the park named after him.To be honest the official Ohio Historical Marker Marker #25-9 there is pretty boring. For some reason, they didn't include two very interesting tidbits about him that I found from other sources. One, he was an early proponent of Civil Rights and racial equality in mid 19th century Ohio. Two, he was once tried for manslaughter.

First the boring historical marker stuff. 
After the 1795 Treaty of Greenville, a flood of settlers came to the area to build homes. It was here in Butler County that future Ohio Governor William Bebb was born to Welsh immigrants December 8, 1802, the first white child born in Butler County OH west of the Great Miami River. I'm, not sure if that's true or not. It is likely something that was invented when he became involved in politics. Even back then people padded their résumés and it was probably a charming thing to include in order to capture the hearts of voters.
As an adult, Bebb was a teacher and a lawyer before he became active in politics. During the 1840 Presidential campaign, he stumped for fellow Whig William Henry Harrison. He narrowly became Ohio's 19th Governor in 1846 with the catchy slogan "Wm. Bebb and a Home Currency against David Tod and Pot Metal". I'd like to see that on a t-shirt.

Emily gets some frontier justice in front of Berridge Cabin,
built in the early 1800's near Hamilton and restored here in 1992
Now for the more interesting info not on the sign.
Slavery was not allowed in Ohio but Bebb was in favor of repealing the so-called and discriminatory Black Laws that specifically forbid African-Americans from among other things, owning property, legal recourse, the right to vote and access to public schooling. The Governor said this of slavery in his inaugural address, "I cannot forget that the Black Laws still disgrace our statute books. All I can do is earnestly to reiterate recommendation for their unqualified repeal". The Black Laws were finally repealed in 1849 and after serving one term Bebb retired from politics and moved to a farm in Rockford, Illinois.

In 1857, he was tried and ultimately acquitted of manslaughter for shooting and killing a rowdy man named Lemuel Clemens who had been part of a group celebrating Bebb's son's marriage with a "charivari".  Here is a link with some more details of this odd event in the life of Governor Bebb. I guess I can see why they didn't include this unfortunate event on the historical marker but the Civil Rights support was a pretty big deal.

William Bebb died on October 23, 1873, at his farm in Rockford IL at the age of 70. No source seems to say what he died of but age 70 was a pretty long life back then.
1850 - Covered Bridge, built in 1850 near Oxford OH,
restored here in 1969. One of two originals left in Butler County.
The site of his birthplace and cabin is now a Butler County Metro Park and Nature Preserve where a pioneer village has been re-created from several other period buildings around the area including an 1850 covered bridge. It is a pretty neat little historical site to see so many structures from that time period in one place and it's worth a visit if you are ever in the area. I'll be back for some new geocaches.