Tag Archives: Battle of Richmond

Merchants of Madison County

This newspaper clipping has been in my possession for so long I cannot remember from which newspaper it was taken.  It must have been a Richmond newspaper, but not sure about year – 1930?

Interesting story about the merchants of Richmond and the part they played in the early days of the city and county.  Many are buried in Richmond Cemetery.

Merchants of Madison County were its princes

By Fred Allen Engle

(Editors note:  This is a continuation of Mrs. James W. Caperton’s paper on early homes in Madison County which was written in 1930.)

Major Burnam, in his reminiscences – 1903, says that ‘the Merchants of Tyre were her princes’ and that the same might be said of the Merchants of Richmond, preceding and following the Civil War.

Four sons of Mr. William Walker built up large fortunes as Merchants of Richmond.  Mr. Owen Walker and Mr. Jason Walker married sisters – daughters of James Stone.  Mr. Owen Walker, in 1858, moved his family to the brick residence on Main Street in Richmond.  It was torn down to make way for the Methodist Church.  His daughters, Miss Kate Walker and Miss Coralie Walker were very beautiful and were among the first in Richmond to travel abroad.

The wedding of Miss Coralie Walker to Mr. Leonard Hanna of Cleveland was celebrated in this home in 1888 and was a brilliant social event.  The caterer and orchestra were from Cincinnati.  Marcus A. Hanna, brother of the groom, was here for the wedding – a guest in the home of M. and Mrs. W. W. Watts.

Marcus A. Hanna, in 1896, became the United States Senator from Ohio and was the main spring of the McKinley administration.  His vast fortune made him a useful influence to his country.

Mrs. Coralie Walker Hanna contributed $25,000 toward the endowment of the Pattie A. Clay Infirmary as a memorial to the Walker Family, having been requested by her relative Mrs. James Bennett to aid in any way she would, and she and her son have made superb gifts to the city of Cleveland.

The Jason Walker house at the end of Broadway in Richmond is one of the largest houses in Madison County.  It is built of brick and in its day was the centre of much elegant entertaining.  There were many charming daughters in this family.  Mrs. Mullins, Mrs. Pinkerton, Miss Coty Walker (Mrs. Grusby of Florida), Mrs. White, whom it is a pleasure to recall.

Mr. James B. Walker married Miss Helm of Woodford County, and they owned the house on North Street built by col. and Mrs. J. Speed Smith.  Mrs. Walker’s dinners were a tradition in Richmond.  They had two daughters.  One married Mr. Robert Stone and the other, General Benet, U.S.A.  Their grandson, Stephen Vincent Benet, wrote the prize Civil War epic ‘John Brown’s Body’.

Another Richmond merchant was Mr. John W. Crooke, whose home on West Main is still occupied (in 1930) by this three daughters and son Mr. John W. Crooke, Jr., a banker.

Mr. and Mrs. Gary Hawkins – Mrs. Hawkins is a sister of Mr. Owen Walker and his brothers and of Mrs. Sinclair Watts – lived at ‘Linwood’ on the Lexington Pike.  The house was of colonial architecture of brick and a beautiful place.  The debut hall of Miss Ida Jennings, a granddaughter, was given at ‘Linwood’ in June 1878, dancing in a pavilion on the lawn – afterward, Mrs. J. E. Greenleaf.  The present house was built in 1881 by Mr. and Mrs. Brutus J. Clay.

Mr. Howard, who married Miss Goodloe, was another merchant of Richmond who built what is now called the Bronston Place, formerly on Third Street.  It is a handsome brick structure with iron verandah.  This home was the scene of much entertaining in the 1880’s when the five daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Branston were en tapis.

Mr. Holloway, another merchant, built the grand house on East Main, opposite the Cemetery.  It was, for many years, a beautiful place and centre of entertaining.  It was called ‘Abberville’ for Mrs. Bronston’s home in South Carolina.

Mr. Thompson Burnam, Sr., made his fortune as a merchant and then built ‘Elk Garden’.

Solomon Smith, another Richmond merchant built the house now occupied by his granddaughter, Mrs. George Cornelius, on the Hill and which stood near Madison Female Institute.  It has a semi-circular wall in the hall to accommodate the stairway which has a round rail and delicate spirals – a duplicate of this wall and stairway is at ‘Dreaming Creek Heights’, put there in 1861.  The Smith homestead is older.  The home of Hon. W. B. Smith was located on the Summit, and here he and Mrs. Smith celebrated their Golden Wedding Anniversary in 1904, surrounded by their beautiful daughters – Mrs. John M. Park of Nevada, Mrs. W. G. White and Mrs. Robert R. Burnam.

Major McClanahan, a merchant who married the widow of Captain Ezekiel Field who was killed at the Battle of Blue Lick, built the brick residence on the Hill, afterward converted in 1858 into the Madison Female Institute.  A Tudor tower was added with a tessellated finish to the roof which made an imposing building.

This great building was used as a hospital after the Battle of Richmond in the Civil War, 1863.

Madison Institute received the patronage of many of the first families of the Blue Grass, Kentucky and other states – Illinois, Texas, Missouri – who sent their daughters to this school, not only for schooling, but for the even as important education which was to be received from association with the elegant social atmosphere of Richmond and Madison County.  This school was under auspices of the Christian Church and was discontinued some years ago after a successful period of some 50 years or more.