Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

James H. Perkins

The Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century 577 (Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Company, 1876):

PERKINS, JAMES H., Lawyer, Editor, Clergyman and Poet, the youngest child of Samuel G. and Barbara Higginson Perlins, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, July 31st, 1810. His youth was spent in mercantile pursuits and in acquiring a fair education; but stocks and trade were not congenial to his tastes, and as soon as he was at liberty to do so he abandoned them. He was wanting in the love of money-making, the prerequisite of worldly success, and when he became acquainted with the true character of competitive trade, he was filled with dismay and disgust. The pride of the opulent and the clinging concessions of the needy, with the fawning flattery that vitiates the courtesies of fashionable life, awakened in his heart a feeling of sad contempt, and he grew plain and blunt in his speech, careless in dress, reserved and solitary. In February, 1832, he moved to Cincinnati. There he be came interested in the study of the law, and entered the law office of Timothy Walker as a student. In the genial, social atmosphere of the West he recovered his buoyancy and began a new life. In 1834 he was admitted to the bar. His commencement in the practice of law revealed a high order of talent, and argued brilliant personal success. But he became dissatisfied with the sedentary life and, as he thought, the low moral standard of the legal profession, and soon abandoned it in utter disgust. He then applied himself with great energy in the uncertain field of literature. He contributed largely to several periodicals; wrote poems, tales and essays for the Western Monthly Magazine, and was in the early part of the year 1834 editor of the Saturday Evening Chronicle, which he purchased in the winter of 1835 and united with the Cincinnati Mirror. He was for a while one of the editors of the Mirror. In the summer of 1835 he engaged with others in a manufacturing enterprise at Pomeroy, Ohio. This was not remunerative, and in 1837 he returned to Cincinnati and took up his pen. In the following year he projected several books, but only finished a series of critical and historical articles for the New York Quarterly and the North American Review. In 1839 his work entitled "The Annals of the West" was written; a work of great research, completeness and perspicuity of style. During the next few years appeared his papers on "Early French Travellers in the West;" "English Discoveries in the Ohio Valley;" "Fifty Years of Ohio;" "The Pioneers of Kentucky," "The Northwestern Territory," and "The Literature of the West." In 1839 he became minster-at-large to the poor of Cincinnati; to this office with great earnestness he gave his best powers of mind and body, and to him the poor and unfortunate of that city to-day owe many of the institutions from which they derive protection and consolation. In 1841 he accepted a call as pastor of the Unitarian Church of Cincinnati. His eloquence, his Christian feeling and work among the poor, led to this selection of him by that society. His literary pursuits he still kept up, and his interest in education and pubic benefactions never flagged; but with his pastoral relations he never was satisfied, and accordingly offered his resignation in 1847, notwithstanding his friends assured him of his remarkable gifts as a preacher, while the house was crowded when he preached, and there were not wanting many other evidences of his fitness. The church refused to accept his resignation, and he was finally induced to withdraw it, and remained in charge of the pastorate of the Unitarian Society until his death, which occurred sadly, and in way much to be regretted, on the 14th of December, 1849. In 1844 he was chosen President of the Cincinnati Historical Society, and in 1849, at the time of his death, he was Vice-President and Recording Secretary of the united Ohio and Cincinnati Historical Societies."