J. J. King and the King Building

Jerome J. King was born May 4, 1842, in Troy Township, Richland County, Ohio to Squire Jacob and Polly King who arrived here from Pennsylvania.  Squire King constructed a sawmill on the “branch of the Clear Fork of the Mohican that runs a short distance south of” King’s Corners.  Jerome received his elementary education principally at the Lexington Union Schools and, when he was 17 years of age, he left his homestead.  and For two years thereafter, he was employed as a salesman of dry goods in Jeromesville, Ashland County, Ohio.  Two years later, in 1861, he came to Mansfield.  Upon his arrival here, he continued in the same business in the store of P. & A. W. Remy.  Mr. King was married in Mansfield, Ohio, Aug. 27, 1867, to Miss Mary G. Miller, by whom he had five children — Jerome Howard, Allen Miller, Clarence Catlin, Rufus Hobert, and Mary Louise.  In the 1870s, King built his home on West First St., where St. Peter’s High School sits today.  The building of the home was first mentioned on June 23, 1870, but, according to the Mansfield Herald, wasn’t finished until 1877 with the paper stating on July 18, 1877, that King had “built a very fine two-story frame house on West First Street.”


King property on Section 33 and 34, Troy Township, Richland County, Ohio (1856)

Jerome King Marriage

Jerome J. King and Mary G. Miller Marriage (27 AUG 1867)

In a short time, he entered into a partnership with A. W. Remy in the retail grocery trade and the store for a number of years was known as Remy & King.  In January of 1878, King bought the entire interest in the firm from Remy and continued the business under his own name.  It wasn’t long after this that King expanded the business beyond groceries to include other items such as baby carriages.  King’s store was located at what was then 32 N. Main St.  Today that location is a parking lot next to Crowe’s Shoes at 56 N. Main St.  Around 1891, King decided to build on the corner of Park Ave West and Walnut on a lot owned by his father-in-law, Dr. A. J. Miller.  According to the Mansfield News, buildings like King’s were a “safe and lucrative source of investment” and “would enhance the city and property values.”


King Building

In June of 1891, during the excavation and construction of the foundation walls for King’s Building, a storm hit Mansfield causing flash flooding.  Teamsters were unloading blocks at the time and had to take shelter, leaving the horses and carts.  The rain fell so fast that they had to “unhitch the horses and drive them out, as the water was then reaching their bellies.”  The wagons stayed and water soon rose above the wheels.  It wasn’t until the following day that the wagon could be removed.  A 1966 News Journal article by Paul White gives a detailed description of the building.  Minnesota Granite was used to enhance the arched front entrance to the middle two of four ground floor storerooms.  The second floor had space for nine offices and the third, as was customary at the time, had a public hall, lodge meeting room, and dance hall.  The basement could be used for a barbershop, restaurant, or more offices.  The Mansfield News reported the building was “done in plain magnificent style.”  It cost $20,000 to build.  One of the first tenets was the Maxwell Brothers’ Store, while other tenets over the years included Hecht and Casey Grocery, Miss M. Helen Wolf’s dressmaking shop, Dr. G. W. DeCamp’s Office, and Professor J. A. Hawkins dancing academy.  One of the last businesses, before the building was razed in 1959, was the Parkway Restaurant.


Jerome J. King from The Mansfield News 23 Mar 1931, p. 1

It was shortly after the building of the King Building that Jerome King changed professions.  At the age of 52, King left the grocery business and became an insurance agent.  This venture, like most in his life, was successful.  A letter from G. E. Tarbell, Second Vice President of the Equitable Life of N. Y. Company, published in the Mansfield News on April 1, 1905, said King had broken all records for the month of March, and that he assured “over one thousand more lives than any single month in society’s history.”  On his 35th anniversary with the company, King was given membership into the company’s veterans’ society for employees who have demonstrated “long and meritorious service.”  Jerome J. King died at his home at 104 West First Street on March 22, 1931, at the age of 88.


Octavius D. Gass: The Father of Las Vegas

Pioneering and a sense of adventure run in the Gass family.  Octavius Decatur Gass, a grandson of Troy Township, Richland County, Ohio pioneer William Gass, is known by some as the “father of Las Vegas, Nevada.”[1]  William Gass arrived In Troy Township in 1812 and built a small, fourteen square foot cabin on 80 acres of land he had purchased from the government at $2 an acre.[2]  Octavius’s father, John Gass, was an “industrious, sober, honest man, and much respected by his acquaintances.”[3]  John married Ann McClure on March 22, 1821,[4] built his own cabin and began farming.  The couple had 8 children: 5 sons and three daughters.  Octavius was born in 1827 or 1828 and was educated in the local schools.  It is rumored he attended Oberlin College, though there is no documentation to prove this, he did have knowledge of Spanish and civil engineering, which would prove useful in his later endeavors.


Octavius D Gass

Octavius, like many men his age, went west seeking fortune during the Gold Rush.  He arrived in San Francisco in early 1850.  He immediately began working unloading two-room, pre-fab houses from the ship, earning $10 a day for his work.  He took his wages and made his way to El Dorado County, California to begin seeking his fortune.  It was while placer mining here that he would meet some of the people who would shape his life, including Nathaniel Lewis, Lewis Cole and lifelong friend, Fenton M. Slaughter.  A few years later, Gass and Slaughter moved to the small town of Los Angeles where Gass would get the position of Zanjero, or water steward.   Gass was responsible for patrolling the irrigation ditches and ensuring landowners only took their fair share.

Gass continued to stake claims, which would prove to be only moderately successful and, around 1862, decided to head east to El Dorado Canyon in the newly created Arizona Territory.  Gass had learned of the Mormon fort, Las Vegas, constructed in 1855 and abandoned in 1857 due to “crop failures, disappointing yields in nearby lead mining efforts and dissension among the group’s leaders”[5].  He purchased the fort with Nathaniel Lewis and Lewis Cole in 1865 calling it the Las Vegas Rancho.  Gass originally owed 160 acres, but soon bought out Lewis and Cole and owned the entire 640 acres.  He would later add the 320 acre Spring ranch to the property.  The fort would serve as a way station for travelers on the Mormon trail between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, Utah.  Gass also became involved in politics in the Arizona Territory, representing Mohave and Pah-Ute counties in the Arizona Territory Legislature.


Gass at Las Vegas Rancho, ca. 1873.  Photo from The Otis Marston Colorado River Collection, Huntington Library

On February 24, 1872, Gass married Virginia Simpson, a niece of Ulysses S. Grant, in Pioche, Nevada.  The couple would have six children.  It appeared Gass had a successful ranch with 960 acres and 30 employees, but the ranch was in a heavy amount to debt and Gass had been looking to sell since 1868.  In 1874 Gass mortgaged the property to neighbor William Knapp for $3,000[6] and, in 1879, Archibald Stewart, “a successful businessman, loaned $5,000 in gold to Octavius D. Gass, taking the isolated Las Vegas Ranch as collateral. By 1881, Gass had defaulted on the loan, and Stewart foreclosed.”[7]


Octavius Gass, Photo from The Otis Marston Colorado River Collection, Huntington Library

In 1881 Gass moved his family to Pomona, California where he sold 1,500 head of cattle to Richard Gird who was stocking the Chico Ranch.  A short time later, he moved to Yucaipa Valley where he tried to raise grapes, but a poor water supply and winds ended another dream.  Gass would return to mining in Baja California and San Bernardino County until moving to Bryn Mawr, California with his son, Fenton, to help tend to orange groves.  Octavius Gass would live into his nineties, dying on December 10, 1924, after a fall.  The man who had owned almost all of the Las Vegas Valley is today only remember by a street named in his honor in Las Vegas and by the 6,943-foot Gass Peak in the Las Vegas Range.[8]


[1] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/12834304/octavius-decatur-gass
[2] Looking Back at Lexington, pp. 15
[3] Graham, A. A., History of Richland County, Ohio. pp. 900
[4] Richland County Marriages, 1813-1871. pp. 142
[5] http://parks.nv.gov/learn/park-histories/old-las-vegas-mormon-fort-history
[6] https://www.reviewjournal.com/news/o-d-gass/
[7] https://www.nevadawomen.org/research-center/biographies-alphabetical/helen-j-stewart/
[8] The Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter, 1988), pp. 371-390.

Postcards: Lexington, Ohio

In the spring of 1812 the first cabin was constructed in what is now Lexington, Ohio.  Amariah Watson brought his wife and four children from Knox County and soon after his arrival he constructed a sawmill and a gristmill.  Watson got along well with the local tribes in the area and made friends by grinding their grain in his gristmill.  Around 1815 Jacob Cook built the first tavern and in 1825 William Damsell built the first grocery store.  It wasn’t until 1839 that Lexington was officially recognized as a village by the U.S. Government.  In 1870 the population of Lexington was 482 persons, according to the U.S. Federal Census, that number had grown to 4,822 in 2010.

For more information on Lexington, Ohio check out these books:

Tales of the old-timers : the history of Lexington / by Robert A. Carter

Looking back at Lexington : a history of the Village of Lexington, Ohio 1813-2002 / / compiled and edited by students and teachers at Lexington Junior High School

Looking back at Lexington, part 2. Voices of Lexington : a history of the Village of Lexington, Ohio 1813-2003 / / compiled and edited by students and teachers at Lexington Junior High School

Looking back at Lexington, part 3 Glimpses of Lexington : a history of the Village of Lexington, Ohio 1813-2005 / / compiled and edited by students and teachers at Lexington Junior High School

Enjoy these postcard images of Lexington, Ohio, click on image for more detail.