Michael D. Harter – A Lonely End to a Successful Life

Michael D. Harter was born April 6, 1846 in Canton, Ohio to Isaac and Amanda Zenobia Harter.  Michael’s father, Isaac, was a self-made man who came from humble beginnings.  Isaac first arrived in Canton in 1822 when his sister, Mrs. George Dewalt, arranged for him to be indentured to William Christmas, a leading merchant in the city.  Isaac worked for no pay, only board and clothes for 10 years before becoming a partner at the age of 21 and taking over the business in 1836 after Christmas died.  He sold dry goods, groceries, hardware, leather, boots, shoes and hats.


The Harter family contributed much to the banking business in Canton and here in Mansfield.  In 1866, Michael, along with his brother George, and with help from their father, established the banking house George D. Harter & Brother, in Canton, Ohio.  The original building still stands today.  The Aultman’s and Harter’s were two of the biggest banking families in Canton.  Michael’s brother George was married to Cornelius Aultman’s daughter, Elizabeth.   In 1869 Michael was approached by Cornelius Aultman to manage his new company, the Aultman-Taylor Company, in Mansfield, Ohio.   Michael accepted the offer and moved to Mansfield sometime in 1869.  It is also noted in Baughman’s History of Richland County that Michael was involved in the mercantile business with future Mansfield Mayor, Huntington Brown, in 1869.  On March 4, 1869 Michael married Brown’s sister, Mary, in Massillon, Ohio.


Banking was in Harter’s blood and, on February 26, 1873, The Mansfield Savings Bank was organized.  After the erection of its banking house on the corner of Fourth and Main streets, its doors were opened for business on the 15th of October of that year.  Its officers were Barnabas Burns, president; Michael D. Harter, vice president; and R. Brinkerhoff, cashier.   Michael was also treasurer of the Mansfield Mutual Fire Insurance Company, which originated on August 5, 1873; a partner in the banking business, Isaac Harter & Sons in Canton, Ohio; president of Isaac Harter Milling Company in Fostoria, Ohio; and had an interest in a stock company with Gen. R. Brinkerhoff and W. S. McMillen that started The Ohio Liberal newspaper here in Mansfield.

Harter Home

In the 1870 Harter built his home at 381 Park Ave. West, which was built with stone quarried near the future site of the Reformatory.  It was often the scene of social affairs and, after Harter’s death, was used as a residence for a group of businessmen known as The Circle Club.  In 1959 the home was razed and a car wash was put in its place.

harter PC031

On February 27, 1876, Isaac Harter, Michael’s father, died unexpectedly at the age of 64.  Through Isaac’s hard work and dedication, he had become one of Canton’s most respected and successful businessmen.   Michael shared his father’s work ethic and, even though much of his time was taken up through his many business efforts, he still found time to give back to the Mansfield community.  In 1881 he was involved in the incorporation of the Mansfield Normal College with John Sherman, H. C. Hedges and Judge Geddes and, on November 10, 1881, the Soldiers Monument in Central Park was dedicated.  Harter was “the donor of the monument, [and] was received with hearty applause by the assembled thousands and delivered [a] presentation address, appropriate and eloquent both in matter and in style. At the close of his address Mr. Harter formally presented the monument to the patriotic citizens of Richland County. It was then unveiled and viewed with admiration by the people present.”  In addition to this, in 1884, Harter was one of the many people involved in getting The Ohio State Reformatory built in Mansfield.   In 1886 he donated the land on the triangle of Marion Ave. and Park Ave. West, where St. Luke’s Lutheran Church is located.

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Monument in early 1900’s, before it was re-cast in 1998.

In 1891 with Reid Carpenter, Rush Taggart and S. N. Ford, Harter purchased the Citizens Electric Railway, Light & Power Company, of Mansfield.  This company later built the Shelby Interurban Railway.  It was this same year Harter, a Democrat, began representing Ohio’s 15th district in the U.S. House of Representatives and, in May of 1891, he officially retired from business to dedicate his time to his church, family and his political party.  When asked why he was retiring at the young age of 45, Harter replied:

“I think I am setting an example which I hope will be followed by many other business men; that of retiring upon a reasonable competency and leaving the way open for other men to prosper in the calling they give up.  It is the everlasting greed to make money, rather than to be useful that is fast making of Americans a narrow, selfish, grasping, and I believe unhappy, dissatisfied people.”

During his time in Congress, Harter was in favor of the gold standard.  This would put him at odds with his Mansfield neighbor, Senator John Sherman, and the Silver Purchase Act.  Harter’s views eventually won out when the Silver Purchase Act was repealed after the economic depression, known as The Panic of 1893.  President Cleveland oversaw the repeal to prevent the depletion of the government gold reserves as the Act allowed investors to buy silver, exchanged it at the Treasury for gold dollars, and then sell these gold dollars in the metals market for more than they had paid for the silver.  Many of his colleagues opposed his political views, including many in his own party, and Harter declined another nomination in 1895 and returned to Mansfield.

On February 19, 1896, Michael D. Harter arrived in Fostoria, Ohio to look into his business interest in that city.  He appeared in good health and spirits in the days after his arrival.  He was staying in a house he and Mrs. Harter had furnished for their son, which was in the charge of Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Knapp.  When he retired for bed on the evening of February 21, he told Mrs. Knapp to not call him in the morning if he did not arise for breakfast.  When he did not get up in time for dinner, Mrs. Knapp became uneasy and his room was checked.  A shocking sight greeted those who entered his room.  A report of his death said “Mr. Harter was lying in bed attired in his night robes, with a 32-calibre revolver clinched in his right hand.”  It continued: “there was a bullet wound in his right temple, the bullet having passed through his head; the blood that had oozed from the wound had dried and his lifeless body was already cold.”  He was staying in his son’s room and it was with his son’s revolver that the act was committed.

No evidence was found that Harter had planned suicide.  He had mentioned that he had been unable to fall asleep and this was a known condition he dealt with.  It was reported that on the night he took his life, he had taken three morphine pills to induce sleep, which he had obtained from a druggist in the city.  He had written in a letter to his wife, dated Feb. 20, that he was having trouble sleeping and was afraid to resort to opiates, fearful of what effect they would have on him.  On Feb 23 Harter’s remains arrived back in Mansfield and a funeral was held in his home on Park Ave West, on Feb. 26 at 2:00 pm.  In the week following his death, full pages in the Mansfield Newspapers were dedicated to Harter.  The shock of his death was felt throughout the city and condolences and sympathy poured in from around the country.


The Sherman Room Grandfather Clock


Upon entering the Sherman Room, one of the first items that catch most people’s eye is a grandfather clock sitting across from the entrance.  The clock has an ornately gilded brass face; a silvered dial with raised brass numerals; and a sweep seconds hand with a hand painted revolving moon dial. The moon dial rotates, eventually displaying the phases of the moon and changing scenery.  This is an 8-day clock and requires winding once a week.  It was made by the Seth Thomas Company, one of America’s oldest clock makers.

Seth Thomas was born in Connecticut in 1785 and became a clockmaker apprentice at the age of 14 under Daniel Tuttle.  Seven years later, Thomas and Silas Hoadley took a job with Eli Terry.  In 1810 Terry sold his shop to Thomas and Hoadley for $6,000.  In 1813 Thomas sold his half of the business and bought land, which included a clock factory.  The land was conveniently located next to Eli Terry’s new shop.  The two men created a partnership and Thomas continued to make wooded movements until around 1840 when the brass movement was being introduced.  By 1844 wooden movements were no longer being produced and, in 1850, Thomas was producing 24,000 brass movements a year.  In 1859 Seth Thomas passed the company on to his son, Aaron, and died shortly after at the age of 73.  The Seth Thomas name was acquired by different companies throughout the late 20th century and is currently no longer in production.


John C. Larwill from 1896

John Christmas Larwill was born in Wooster, Ohio February 20, 1820.  He came from a pioneering family.  His father, William Larwill, was one of the first settlers in Wayne County, Ohio and his uncle Joseph H. Larwill, along with James Hedges and Jacob Newman, laid out and founded Mansfield, Ohio in 1808. At a young age, J. C. Larwill was appointed clerk of the Ohio State Senate with the influence of his brother-in-law Governor Thomas W. Bartley.  After leaving the Senate, Larwill entered the mercantile business in Loudonville, building up a fortune before he came to Mansfield around 1890.  Larwill was married twice: once to a Miss Workman, who died many years before him, and second to Miss Susan Moore.  He had one son, Arthur Larwill, who preceded him in death on December 21, 1881 at the age of 24.  Upon coming to Mansfield, Larwill became president of the Monarch Stove Company, and was a director in the Ohio Brass Company, Mansfield Gas Company and the Richland Insurance Company.  John Christmas Larwill died on August 30, 1901.

Larwill title


It’s apparent by J. C. Larwill’s will that the library was important to him.  He gave $5,000 to the library association, with his wife Susan acting as trustee, and gave a considerable amount to the Baptist church of Loudonville to help them supply their library.  Susan Larwill contributed many items to the library to continue the legacy of John C. Larwill.  This included not only books, but the Megalethoscpoe, which now sits at the Mansfield Memorial Museum at 34 Park Ave. West, and the Seth Thomas grandfather clock, which sits in the Sherman Room.

The Mansfield Daily Shield. 31 AUG 1901
The Mansfield News. 09 SEP 1901

The Sherman Family: Charles Taylor Sherman


Charles Robert Sherman

John Sherman wasn’t the only Sherman to make an impact on Mansfield, Ohio.  His brother, Charles Taylor Sherman, was already an established attorney in the city when John arrived in Mansfield in 1840.  Charles was the oldest child born to Judge Charles Robert Sherman and Mary Hoyt Sherman.  According to multiple biographies, Charles was born in Norwalk, Connecticut on February 3, 1811 and brought to Lancaster, Ohio about a year later.  Charles began attending Ohio University in Athens around 1829, and graduated in 1833 according to the Annual Catalog of Students from 1861-62.  He studied law in Dayton, Ohio under his cousin Henry Stoddard before moving to Mansfield around 1835.


Charles Taylor Sherman

Charles was a well-respected citizen of Mansfield and in his obituary it says “few men had a wider knowledge of the prominent lawyers of the State, or knew so well thoroughly the history of Ohio.  A gentleman who had resided on Ohio for nearly fifty years, and whose scholarship and intelligence were of high order, said that Mr. Sherman had a more extensive and precise knowledge of the early families and history of the State than any man of his acquaintance not even excepting the great Thomas Ewing himself.”  Ewing was a family friend, attorney and Senator from Ohio and William T. Sherman lived with Ewing after his father’s death.  Not only was he well-respected publicly, but his family also though fondly of him.  His brothers, General W. T. Sherman and Hon. John Sherman, spoke “in the warmest and highest terms of the sound sense, unwearied kindness, good temper and noble exertions shown by their elder brother“ in the days after their father’s death.

newspaper rr

Though outshined by his famous brothers, Charles did much to improve Mansfield; the biggest contribution was his involvement in bringing the railroad through Mansfield.  Charles contributed money, labor and personal influence to the location and building of the Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark Railroad and the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, later becoming director of both organizations.  When the Civil War broke out, Charles T. Sherman organized and was chairman of the military committee in Richland County.  He would later be appointed military commandant of a camp in Mansfield and, after the war, he was appointed by President Lincoln to settle war claims in St.  Louis.

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1873 City of Cleveland Directory

His final public service appointment was of U.S. District Judge of Northern Ohio.  He was appointed by President Johnson to succeed Judge Hiram V. Wilson.  Charles held this position from March of 1867 to November of 1872 when he resigned.  During Judge Sherman’s time in Mansfield, he was also involved in the organization of the agricultural society and for the introduction of better modes of farming, which created larger production and a better quality of fruits.

On January 1, 1879, Charles Taylor Sherman died in his home on Prospect St.  According to his obituary, he retired normally the night before and awoke around 1 o’clock on the morning complaining of a cough and chest pains.  He got no relief from medicine and passed away without a struggle after a few moments difficulty in breathing.

The Remarkable Life and Tragic Death of Dr. R. Harvey Reed.

Robert Harvey Reed was born on October 8, 1851 in Dalton, Ohio, a village about 13 miles east of Wooster, Wayne County, Ohio.  According to Robert G. Patterson, at an early age Reed was taken into the home of his uncle, Robert H. Reed, who raised and educated him.  It was his uncle’s second wife, Eliza, who became a mother figure to him.  R. Harvey attended Union High School at Dalton.  Sometime between the age of 17 and 18 Reed began teaching school; he earned $20 a month.  Around this time, thanks to the money from teaching and other odd jobs, he started attending Mt. Union College in Alliance, Ohio.[1]

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Robert Harvey Reed, age 16 or 17, from Patterson’s Robert Harvey Reed.

In 1873, at the age of 22, Reed began studying medicine under Dr. Wormer of Alliance, Ohio.  Reed returned home to Dalton and continued to study medicine with Dr. David Y. Roebuck.  Against the wishes of his foster-father, Reed entered medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1874.  After his first class, Reed was selected by the faculty to be resident physician at Mission Hospital in Philadelphia and graduated with honors on March 10, 1876.

After graduation Dr. Reed briefly work as a surgeon for the Delaware Copper Mining Company at Lake Superior, Keweenaw County, Michigan.  While there he also was asked to botanize and report on the flora of Keweenaw Point Michigan, which appeared in the “Forestry Report” published by the U. S. government.   On June 20, 1876, Reed came home to marry Miss Melissa A. Stinson of Dalton, Ohio.  In 1877 Reed returned to Ohio, where the next twenty years of his work would take place.


The Daily Shield, 11 NOV 1880

Reed first began working in West Salem, Ohio with Dr. C. C. Stouffer, who was also a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania.  He worked there for 3 years before moving to Mansfield, Ohio in November of 1880.  Dr. Reed’s first ad appeared in The Mansfield Herald on December 30, 1880 and his office was located on N. Park St. for about two years, until he moved to West Third where he had his office next to his residence.


The Daily Shield, 30 DEC 1880

During his time in Mansfield, Dr. Reed was an active member in the Mansfield Lyceum and Reading Union.  It was here that many of his papers were read on sanitation and public health.  Reed would become a pioneer in this field with papers like “The Sanitary condition of Mansfield,” which suggested the establishment of a board of health in the city, and “Sewers and Sewerage,” which discussed the best sewage system adaptable to Mansfield.  It was also in Mansfield where Dr. Reed received his first public office when he was appointed physician to the Richland County Children’s Home on June 30, 1883. Dr. Reed was also involved in the creation of the Richland County Sanitary Association and the Mansfield Board of Health; he served as health officer from 1887 until he left the city in 1894.

Also while in Mansfield, Dr. Reed contracted an infection that remained with him for the rest of his life.  During an operation, Dr. Reed was pricked by a needle and despite several treatments and operations, including many for his life-long friend the famous surgeon Nicholas Senn of Chicago, the infection never cleared up.

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Dr. Reed about 1892, from Patterson’s Robert Harvey Reed.

Later Dr. Reed helped with the establishment of the Ohio Medical University in Columbus, Ohio.  “Chartered in 1890, Ohio Medical University opened in 1892 to teach the medical and collateral professions.  It originally offered schools of medicine, dentistry, and pharmacy.  For a short time OMU had a school of midwifery.“  In 1892 Reed was appointed to the Chair in the Theory and Practice of Surgery and Clinical Surgery.  He traveled between Mansfield and Columbus for two years before moving to Columbus to teach surgery and serve as chief of the surgical staff of the Protestant Hospital. “In 1907 Ohio Medical University merged with its Columbus competitor–Starling Medical College.  In 1914 the Starling-Ohio Medical school accepted an offer to become the medical department of Ohio State University.“[2]


Ohio Medical University

In 1897 Dr. Reed accepted positions in Rock Springs, Wyoming where he worked for the next ten years.  On January 1, 1907 due to failing health, Dr. Reed resigned his position with the Union Pacific Railroad and moved further west to Los Angeles.  By the end of the month, Dr. Reed was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.  According to his obituary in a Rock Springs Miner from February 9, 1907: “at half past twelve o’clock Wednesday afternoon [January 30, 1907], Dr. Reed was left alone in his apartments for a short time. During this brief period he secured a revolver and placing it to his right temple, fired one fatal shot. The report of the shot attracted the attention of the hotel attaches who immediately entered the room, and found his body stretched on the floor, with life extinct. Near his right hand was lying the revolver with which the tragedy was committed.”[3]

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Dr. Reed about 1902, from Patterson’s Robert Harvey Reed.

According The Mansfield Daily Shield, The Los Angeles Times reported that “the man of mystery, who was never seen outside of his hotel room at the Lankersham Hotel, killed himself there yesterday, blowing out his brains with a big .44 caliber revolver.”  They continued to say that “having lost his position, his family and friends through drink, he lay in bed in his room, in charge of his valet, drinking in joyless, helpless, abandonment to the end.”  The night clerk on duty reported the grisly scene: “the body was half turned on one side, and the entire top of the skull was gone – smashed to pulp.  Each of the four walls of the room was splattered with blood and brains. A piece of the skull had been buried to the celling with such force that it broke the plaster and remained imbedded there.  The large revolver lay nestled in the hollow of one of the arms.”[4]


Lankersham Hotel abt. 1907, from the USC Digital Library

Though alcohol may have been the immediate cause of Dr. Reed’s suicide, others claim that his mental health had been deteriorating for years.  According The Daily Shield, Dr. Reed “had written a number of very queer letters to former Mansfield friends which clearly indicated that his mind was wrecked.”  In the same article it was reported that due to the infection Dr. Reed and contracted years ago, he had become addicted to cocaine.  It was due to these addictions and loss of mental faculties that his wife felt compelled to leave him about a year before his death.[5]

Diseases and addiction destroyed a brilliant mind; Dr. R Harvey Reed was at the top of his profession.  He was a pioneer in sanitary conditions in Ohio and during his time in Mansfield and made many great improvements to the city.  Dr. Reed led a remarkable life that should not be overshadowed by his grisly death.


[1] Patterson, R. G., (1935). Robert Harvey Reed: A Sanitary Pioneer in Ohio. The Ohio Public Health Association.
[2] Ohio Medical University, America’s Lost colleges, Retrieved from http://www.lostcolleges.com/ohio-medical-university
[3] Rock Springs Miner, February 02, 1907
[4] The Mansfield Dailey Shield, February 07, 1907.
[5] The Mansfield Dailey Shield, February 02, 1907.