James Garfield and William Allen are Ohio's two, life-sized, representative bronzes in Statuary Hall in Washington, D. C. Sate Legislators began a process some months ago to depose William Allen, Governor for the 1874-76 term, because of his pro-slavery views and general lack of name recognition. Publicity about the committee's work seems to have been lackluster until just before their choice of 10 finalists was announced last month. The public now has the opportunity to choose the winner through voting at historical sites around the state up until June. For the list of candidates and more information about the voting, go to the Legacy For Ohio website.
During a brief flurry of last minute input on facebook via the Ohio Historical Society, there were some interesting suggestions and comments, although I think the 10 finalists had already been chosen. The Indian leader Techumseh was a popular suggestion, and the only one I think who actually waged war with the US.
My suggestion of S. J. Kirkwood fell on deaf ears, but I thought it had merit. Kirkwood came to Richland County in 1835 with his father, settling on 80 acres near Newville, and for a time teaching school in that neighborhood to supplement the family income. This, and his subsequent work with Abram Armentrout as deputy assessor would have brought him in contact with my own ancestors in that neighborhood as well as people all over the County. After turning to studying law in Mansfield and obtaining his admission to the Bar, he was elected County Prosecutor in 1846.
Kirkwood's first big case was the murder of Franklin Barker by his brother-in-law, Robert M. Bowland. The case puts an historical spotlight on the tremendous legal talent and political influence of Mansfield which was a town of less than 3000 population at the time (but in a time when most people lived on farms, this was a town which served a much larger population all over the county). Names associated with the trial, conviction, commutation, and pardon of Bowland include three future Secretaries of the Interior, one of which was Kirkwood.
Kirkwood was subsequently elected mayor of Mansfield, but later resigned to mover further west to Iowa which became his home state thereafter. There he was elected to the Iowa Senate in 1856 and Governor in 1859. An anti-slavery Republican, he was a strong supporter of Lincoln's policies in the war effort. He served twice in the US Senate, twice as Governor, and as Secretary of the Interior under president James Garfield.
Today "Honest Sam" Kirkwood's life-sized bronze statue represents the State of Iowa in Statuary Hall while Ohio continues to claim him as one of our native sons. I feel it would be economical to give Sam double duty by hanging an Ohio sign on him and using the bronze from melting down William Allen for a better purpose...perhaps a bell or something. Or better yet, hang a North Carolina (his birthplace) sign on Allen and save the expense of moving him altogether.