Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

Harvey Rice


The Biographical Encyclopaedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century 395-396 (Cincinnati & Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Co., 1876):

RICE, HARVEY, LL. D., Lawyer and Author, was born in Conway, Massachusetts, June 11th, 1800. When seventeen years of age he requested his father, who was a farmer, to give him his freedom and allow him to acquire a liberal education. This he achieved by graduating from Williams College, in 1824. From college he went directly to Cleveland, where he had no influential friends to aid him in his advancement. His worldly goods, all told, were the plan suit of clothes he wore and three dollars in money. Cleveland at that time contained but four hundred inhabitants. He soon began to teach a classical school in the old academy on St. Clair street, and also to study law under the direction of Rueben Wood, a prominent member of the Cleveland bar. In two years he was admitted to the practice of law, and at once formed a copartnership with Reuben Wood, with whom he had read law. This partnership continued until Mr. Wood was elected to the bench. In 1829, Mr. Rice was elected Justice of the Peace, and in 1830 Representative to the Legislature. Soon after this he was appointed an agent for the sale of the Western Reserve school lands, which comprised a tract of fifty-six thousand acres situated in Virginia Military District. He opened his office in Millersburg, Holmes county, for the sale of these lands, and in three years had sold them all for one hundred and fifty thousand dollars and paid that sum into the State Treasury as a school fund to educate the children of the Western Reserve, the interest of which is now annually paid by the State for that purpose. In 1833 he returned to Cleveland and was appointed Clerk of the Common Pleas and Superior Courts, and held that position seven years. In 1834 and 1836 he was nominated by the Democratic Conventions for Congress, but was not elected, as the Democrats were in a small minority. He was the first Democrat ever sent to the Legislature from Cuyahoga county. In the House Select Committee for provisions, which are still retained on the statute book. In the autumn of 1851 he was nominated and elected State Senator by seven hundred majority. The General Assembly met for the first time under the new constitution, and new laws were to be enacted to secure to the people the practical benefits of the great reforms which had been achieved by its adoption. It was said of Mr. Rice, that he was always at his post. He took an active part in establishing two insane asylums in the State, and performed great service in forming a new system for the common schools of Ohio." He introduced a bill to establish a State reform school for juvenile offenders, which resulted in the establishment of the Reform Farm School at Lancaster. In 1857, he was a member of the City Council, and took a leading part in establishing in Cleveland an industrial school, and was afterward active in extending its usefulness. During the same year he introduced a resolution to erect the Perry monument, which now graces the public park of that city. The resolution made the cost to depend solely on voluntary subscriptions of the citizens. As Chairman of the Monument Committee he carried the object of his resolution into effect in three years after he had introduced it. On September 10th, 1860, the anniversary of Perry's victory on Lake Erie, the monument was inaugurated with imposing ceremony. Mr. Bancroft, the historian, delivered the address. By a careful estimate it is supposed that not less than one hundred thousand people were in attendance. In carrying out the programme the battle of Lake Erie was reproduced in a mock fight on the lake in front of the city. Everything was a perfect success-the monument, inauguration, and the crowd of interested spectators, who fully appreciated the importance of the occasion. In 1861, he was elected a member of the Board of Education, and was appointed President of the Board. In 1862, he was appointed by the Governor, with the approval of the War Department, Commissioner for Cuyahoga County, to conduct the first draft made in that county during the late civil war. While in the discharge of this duty five or six hundred men appeared one morning to demolish his office and records. They had heard that there had been unfairness in the draft, and were greatly excited. Mr. Rice quietly sent to the military camp on the heights for a detachment of soldiers, infantry and artillery, who came to his relief and dispersed the riotous assemblage. To satisfy all, he offered to have a committee appointed to investigate and see that everything had been conducted justly in all respects. Two of the men who had been instrumental in getting up the mob were drafted on the spot. In 1867, he planned and erected at his own expense, approved by the college authorities, a beautiful marble monument in Missions Park, at Williamstown, Massachusetts, commemorative of American Foreign Missions, originated by Samuel J. Mills, a religious enthusiast-thus: in an outdoors meeting they were driven by a violent storm to take refuge under a haystack; while there Mr. Mills suggested the idea of missions to foreign heathen lands as a religious duty. His companions agreed with him, and consecrated themselves in solemn prayer to the great work. From this circumstance originated the American Foreign Missions. The monument is erected on the spot where the haystack stood. It is twelve feet high, surmounted by a marble globe three feet in diameter, cut in map lines. The face of the monument has the inscription, "The Field is the World," followed by a haystack sculptured in bas-relief and the names of the five young men who held the prayer meeting, and the date, 1806. The monument was dedicated, July 28th, 1867, at Maple Grove, in the park, and by special request Mr. Rice delivered the dedicatory address, which was published in pamphlet form. In 1869, he visited California, and became a correspondent for the papers; his "Letters from the Pacific Slope; or, First Impressions," were ready by thousands with deep interest. In 1871 Williams College conferred upon him the degree of LL.D. He is widely known as the author of "Mount Vernon, and other Poems," a volume of 250 pages, which attained its fifth edition. In 1875, he wrote another volume, entitled "Nature and Culture," which has received a wide circulation. His natural abilities are of a high order; his mind thoroughly disciplined and cultivated, and although practising at the bar but a short time he won an enviable reputation for legal ability, discriminating judgment and gentlemanly deportment. He is a graceful and vigorous writer, and is well known as an able contributor to some of the best periodicals of the day. At present he is engaged in literary and other labors, especially in attempting to promote the success of the reformatory institutions of Cleveland. He has twice been married; first in 1828, and afterwards in 1840.