Ohio History Journal

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Literary Bequests in Early Ohio Wills




It is not surprising that besides the family Bible, few books or libraries are

mentioned in early Ohio wills, for life on the frontier demanded that one devote

full attention to life's essentials. For most, this meant the acquisition of a piece

of land and the construction of a home. It is such proprietary bequests, there-

fore, that dominate early Ohio wills.

One does discover, however, that the early doctors and lawyers of Ohio fre-

quently made provision for the safekeeping of their medical and legal libraries,

transferring the intellectual tools of their trade to individuals or institutions fit

to preserve such an accumulated wealth of knowledge. One can also find the

family of a similarly prominent, early Ohioan who was the subject of a biogra-

pher's pen, seeking to will his published life story to posterity.

Less frequently, but perhaps more interestingly, early Ohioans whose indi-

vidual livelihoods did not involve the establishment of professional libraries

also occasionally mentioned private book collections in their wills, apparently

valuing such volumes among their most prized possessions. On the rarest of

occasions, one finds an individual or two who, when contemplating his immi-

nent demise, seeks to establish a library as a gift to his fellow man.

It is the purpose of this paper to examine those wills which contain literary

bequests and determine, if possible, the place which literature occupied in the

life of the bequeather. The possible influence or impact of such bequests upon

the community will also be noted.


Early Attorney/Politicians


Edward T. Denig, Red River Settlement of the North, British Possessions requests that

his son Alexander (Ean och she or Boy of Aone) be sent to English school at age 12,

while his daughter Sarah (Mock pe e dai or Firey Cloud) should continue to attend

school until age 15. The children are not to be taken to the U.S. to be educated nor taken

from their mother-better a private teacher, perhaps Rev. Bellecour. The wife is unac-

quainted with federal money so it should be paid to the Hudson Bay Company for use-




Gerald S. Greenberg is Reference Librarian at The Ohio State University's Undergraduate