Last updated: February 12. 2014 11:41PM - 671 Views
Jim Roth

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In the last column I mentioned three individuals I would write about and it comes down deciding the most interesting part that makes you, the reader, what to continue reading. See, I could write the entire column on just one person, therefore only what is most interesting for you the reader is what is needed.

I can tell you this much, the more I read and learn, the more I want to find out more and I am not a big fan of genealogy or research for that matter. So, like a journalist, I have to seek out ways to find information which is why the library is a good place to start.

Alfred Willard French Sr. came to Piqua in 1898, and prior to his arrival in Piqua he had been working in the linseed oil industry. But I must digress just a little that he was not from Piqua but came here later in life.

French was born in Connecticut in 1862, attended public schools before enrolling in M.I.T. and graduating in 1889. He would stay at M.I.T to teach mathematics over several years. While with the linseed business, he patented a cake trimming machine which, I must confess, I have no idea what that is, and on May 25, 1900, started the French Oil Machine Company.

During his short life, French was awarded 55 patents. He lost his life at the age of 53 in an auto accident.

As of today, the French Oil Machine Company is still a family owned and operated business and of all the U.S. companies founded in 1900, less than 2 percent have survived and are still owned by descendants of the founding family.

John Franklin McKinney, born two miles north of Piqua on April 12, 1827, attended both public and private schools. After graduation he attended Ohio Wesleyan in Delaware studying law and was admitted to the bar in 1850. He returned to Piqua in 1850 to practice law.

A Democrat, McKinney was a delegate from Ohio to all the Democratic National Conventions from 1850 to 1888. In 1863, he was elected to the 38th Congress of the United States when in 1894 he failed to win re-election to the 39th Congress. In 1871, he won the election to the 42nd Congress. In 1872, he chose not to run for re-election and returned to practicing law.

McKinney also served as chairman of the Democratic State Executive Committee for the years 1879 and 1880. He died in Piqua on June 13, 1903.

In his private life outside of Congress, McKinney had been president of the Piqua School Board, president of the Piqua Hydraulic Company – in which the city became the owner and is now the canal/walk path – and finally as the president of the Western Ohio Park and Driving Association.

John Franklin McKinney is buried in Section 9 along with his wife.

John Harvey Hart, a Civil War veteran, entered the Union Army and was mustered in at Camp Dave Tod in Troy, on Oct. 7, 1861, as a commissioned officer in Company C of the 71st Ohio Regiment and began nearly four years of service. He was 46 years of age at the time. Prior to his service in the Union Army he was an attorney in Piqua and was described as “Eloquent and fluent of speech” and living in Washington Township and married Mary Powers in 1843. On April 6, 1862, he was promoted to Major from 1st Lieutenant and Adjutant. He was promoted again on April 2, 1864, to Lieutenant Colonel and received his final promotion on Nov. 29, 1865, to Colonel.

During his time as Lieutenant Colonel, Hart commanded the 71st Ohio Volunteer Infantry, brevetted Brigadier General, U.S. Volunteers on March 13, 1865, for “gallant and meritorious services during the war.” He was wounded in the Battle of Nashville, Tenn. on Dec. 15, 1864; the Civil War beginning in April 1861 lasted until the surrender in June 1865 by the Confederate Army. During the war it is believed 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers lost their lives.

Hart officially mustered out, ending his service on Nov. 30, 1865, when the 71st Regiment ended in accordance with orders from the war department. He was laid to rest in the lower veterans section just inside the entrance off of Washington Ave., in 1867, at age 53.

What seems to me as I write this is the fact there was a connection between John Franklin and John Harvey Hart. In a letter written by the late congressman, McKinney mentioned Hart as a man of eloquent and fluent of speech. It didn’t ring a bell until reading the speech, that the two men I was writing about actually knew one another, as one wrote about the other.

It sure is a small world after all.

Jim Roth is the Superintendent for the Forest Hill Cemetery

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