Democrat, Republican, elections, taxes, laws, courts, etc.… What would American life be without politics? Having been born only thirty nine years after the American Revolution and witnessing events such as the Civil War and Abolition, Lane could not help but be of a political mindset. His manuscript is saturated with political sentiments and views and one can see that Lane refused to be an apathetic citizen.
During the years of Lane’s early life, two major political parties competed each Presidential term: the Whig Party and the Democratic Party. However, the Whig party would not stay in power for very long. In 1854, anti-slavery expansion activists and modernizers joined together in Michigan creating what would eventually be the Republican Party. (Wikipedia: Republican Party) Soon enough, this new party took the place of the Whigs and saw its first political victory in 1860 with the election of Abraham Lincoln, who presided during the American Civil War and Reconstruction.
In 19th century America, “ordinary citizens manifested a greater interest in political affairs and a stronger attachment to the party system than prevails today,” a statement that reads incredibly true in the many pages of Lane’s manuscript. (Gienapp 5) For Lane, this interest in politics started off as sheer fascination towards the spirit and excitement Lane witnessed during his late teens when he arrived in the town of Concord, New Hampshire, where President Andrew Jackson and Vice President Martin Van Buren paid a visit.
Lane goes on to write that:
… the city in such a state of excitement, and so crowded with people, that I could neither obtain lodging or a meal of victuals in public house or private residence; the second day there after being set for the visit of President Andrew Jackson, and Vice President Martin Van Buren, with the members of the Cabinet and other high officials from the National Capital, who were then making a grand tour through the Eastern States. “Old Hickory” was then in the extreme height of his popularity, and the entire military of the State, and a large proportion of its inhabitants, were in attendance, it being one of the most imposing military and civic displays that I ever witnessed. For three days I had to pick up my living from the various eating booths scattered about the city and its suburbs; and for three nights sleep in stage coaches and such other places of temporary shelter as I could smuggle myself into. It being warm weather I did not suffer any very great inconvenience from so doing, excepting that I did not succeed in securing any “stated amount” of refreshing slumber, nor a very large surplussage of pleasant dreams (Lane 55)
Like many of his fellow Americans, Lane quickly became engrossed in politics, printing mainly partisan papers during his days as a journalist while also running for several government positions such as Sheriff, a role in which he was twice elected. Within his autobiography, Lane makes it clear that he is a Republican and proud of it. Of course, because the Republican Party was formed in 1854, Lane could not have been a life-long supporter and within his manuscript, Lane explains his political switch by first admitting that he was “originally a Democrat – as [his] father was before [him]; [his] first political vote being for Martin Van Buren, for President, in 1836.” (Lane 246)
In many ways, Lane's switching political parties was a life changing experience. Who one rooted for in the coming election was a form of identity. For many 19th century voters, “a party identity, once formed, established a lifelong loyalty that became more powerful with age.” (Gienapp 6)
Lane then goes on to explain his seamless drift into the Republican Party:
Entering largely into the Temperance movement in 1842, as already narrated, and also becoming largely imbued with anti-slavery sentiments, as the struggle between Slavery and Freedom waxed stronger, I naturally drifted into the Free-Soil Party, voting again for Martin Van Buren, as the Free Soil candidate for the Presidency, in 1848. (Lane 246-247)
In many ways, voting for the same party over and over, year after year, like many dedicated voters such as Lane, “reinforced the emotional links between a voter and that party” which is continually evident in Lane’s writing, where he describes his party as if speaking of a dear old friend. (Gienapp 17) And if the Republican Party represented the idea of a "friend" then the Democratic Party became much like an "enemy" to Lane. A perfect example of this emotional reaction towards political parties is when Lane rants about the “evils” of Democratic rule with the hope that with the following election (November 1896), his family would soon be “sailing smoothly on the very topmost wave of prosperity and success [on the] Good Old Republican Ship.” (Lane 435)
Here's an excerpt of Lane's opinion of the Democratic Party during the last ten years of the 19th century:
But, in an evil hour, through mendacious misrepresentation, and grossest frauds, the malevolent Democracy, dominated by the self-same plantation elements as of yore, again came into full control of the Government on the 4th day of March, 1893, and lo! and behold! from its attempt to put in antagonistic theories into practice, and to carry out its threatened industrial, commercial and financial “Reforms”, it has, within the few intervening months, brought upon the country a panic and distress, surpassed in severity by no other similar depression in the history of the Nation. (Lane 435)
Lane's involvement with politics went even further than emotions, as he ran multiple times for government positions in his hometown of Suffield, Connecticut. It was during these political episodes that the reader of Lane's manuscript saw just how corrupt and evil the pratices of politicians could truly be.
Lane recounts one of his first experiences running for State Legislature in the Fall of 1853:
On my return from California, besides the three political parties – Whigs, Democrats and Free Soilers – the Temperance question was also assuming political importance, in Ohio, so that, in the fall of 1853, it was determined by the friends of the cause that a thorough going temperance man, only, should be sent to the Legislature from Summit County. A Mass Temperance was accordingly called to put a candidate in nomination. Leading temperance members of the Whig and Free-soil parties were in attendance, and urged against a nominative, pledging themselves that in their forthcoming conventions they would nominate straight-out temperance men, and if the Democracy should do the same, which ever party came out ahead, the desired result would be attained; and furthermore agreeing that if the Democrats did not nominate a straight-out temperance man, they would withdraw their respective nominees, and unite in a general convention for the selection of a candidate that all could support. With this understanding the convention adjourned without making a nomination; though it had been the intention, had the convention decided to put a candidate in the field, to tender the nomination to me, as, having been absent from the county for the past three years, less objectionable, politically if not personally, than any of the old stagers of either of the three parties.
Well, in accordance with this arrangement, the Whigs nominated Dr Porter G. Somers, of Cuyahoga Falls, and the Free Soilers nominated Judge Sylvester H. Thompson, of Hudson, both good temperance men. Then the Democrats held their convention, and nominated a regular whiskey-guzzler, Rolland O Hammond Esq. of Akron. The temperance people then called upon Somers and Thompson to tender their declinations and unite in a joint convention, as stipulated. Thompson promptly signified his readings to do so, but Somers peremptorily declined to do so. Under these circumstances, at the urgent solicitation of good temperance men, from all parties, I announced myself as an “Independent candidate for Representative to the State Legislature”, it being thought that with the entire Free Soil vote (for Thompson was to get out of my way,) and the large sprinkling that I would be likely to draw from both the Whigs and Democrats, (for there were some temperance men even among Democrats in those days) I would stand a fair chance of being elected, if it came to a vote – though the principal object was to bring the Whigs to terms and compel them to unite in a joint convention as agreed.
At first the leaders of that party affected to believe that, with four candidates in the field, they could carry the election any way; but when they began to comprehend the fact that the name of Judge Thompson was to be withdrawn and my name substituted in its place upon the Free Soil ticket, they concluded to come down, and to accomplish their ends in another way.
The joint convention was accordingly called to meet in Union Hall, instead of the Court House as the others had been. The evening before the convention, Hammond, the Democratic candidate, called me out of the store, and pointing to the window of a certain Whig Lawyer in the second story of Union Block, said: “Do you see that light?” “Yes,” I answered. “Well”, said he, “a few chaps in that room are cooking your goose for you, and tomorrow you’ll find yourself done brown”. I laughingly told him that I should be all right, whether nominated or not, but that he would be the one that would be done brown on election day.
Well, the convention met at ten o clock in the forenoon, pursuant to call. A prominent Whig, from Richfield, was, on motion of the owner of the Law office alluded to, called to the chair, and, on motion of another prominent Whig Lawyer, a third Whig Lawyer was made secretary and a County Democrat and myself Assistant Secretaries. Then the several candidates were requested to tender their declinations, and pledge themselves to abide by the action of the joint convention. Judge Thompson and myself promptly did so, but Dr. Somers was found to be absent from the hall. A committee was appointed to hunt the Doctor up, and bring him into the convention, or to secure his assent to the arrangement. The committee, after a long absence, returned and reported, that Doctor Somers held that, having been regularly nominated by the Whig party of Summit County, he did not feel at liberty to decline without the consent that committee had declined to give. It was then moved that the convention proceed, at once, to nominate a candidate for Representative. But the Whigs again intervened, suggesting that, for the purpose of securing harmony, another committee be appointed to labor with Doctor Somers, said committee to report to the convention after dinner. The suggestion was adopted, and after the appointment of the committee, the convention took a recess until two o’clock in the afternoon.
On the re-assembling of the convention, the Chairman of the Committee, N.W. Goodhue Esq. reported that he had the pleasure of announcing that Doctor Somers had unconditionally withdrawn his name as the Whig candidate for Representative, and moved that, in consideration of the great magnanimity of the Doctor, in thus “voluntarily” tendering his declination, with the almost certainty of being elected, he be nominated by this Joint Convention, as its candidate for Representative, by acclamation. The well-trained Chairman of the Convention had already commenced to put the question, when Sydney Edgerton Esq. Then one of the leaders of the Free Soil party, as well as a thorough-going Temperance man, sprang to his feet, exclaiming: “Let us have a show of fair play, at least! I move to so amend the gentleman’s motion that the convention proceed to ballot for a candidate instead of nominating Doctor Somers by acclamation – the Doctor’s magnanimity, in declining after being labored with three hours, by two successive committees, being certainly no greater that that of the other gentlemen who promptly tendered their declinations on the first organization of the convention.
This motion was carried by an apparent heavy majority, whenupon the Chairman immediately appointed four persons to pass through the hall with hats, to collect the ballots – one of the hat bearers being the owner of the law-office, to which the Democratic candidate had so significantly pointed, the night before. The hall was densely crowded; a good many not very strong temperance men having evidently been drummed in, during the recess, to help vote me down. Only two names, Doctor Somers’ and my own, were balloted for. When the ballots were all gathered in, the four hats were placed upon the Secretary’s table, and two tellers were appointed by the Chair to count the vote. The tellers emptied the contents of one hat into the second hat, and then commenced counting into the first – the Secretary and the other assistant keeping the tally. While this was being done, the owner of the law-office alluded to, moved that a collection be taken up for the benefit of a Temperance Glee Club, from a neighboring town, who had entertained the convention with several songs. The motion prevailing the gentleman came up to the platform and said “Mr Lane will you empty the ballots out of my hat into the others, so that I can take up a collection in mine?” Being suspicious that there was a sharp game being practiced, I emptied said hat upon the table, instead of into the other hat. At the conclusion of the ballots in the three hats, I was some fifteen or twenty votes ahead of the Doctor; but after the contents of the fourth hat, lying upon the table, had been gone through with, the Doctor was some twenty or thirty ahead of me. I felt that there were not only from forty to sixty more ballots counted than there were persons in the house at the time, but that a considerable portion of them had been “stuffed”, or “dumped”, into the hat in question, by its unscrupulous owner, in accordance with the scheme concocted in his office the night before. But both my hands, and my tongue, were tied. It was a mass convention – the hall was crowded – people were constantly coming in, and going out, and it would have been impossible to have told how many ballots there should have been, even had the vote been an honest one. I felt very confident, however, from “my stand point”, on the stage, that in no part of the house could so large a proportion of honest votes have been obtained for my opponent, as were collected in that fourth hat. It was not so much the defeat that I cared about, as the means by which I felt it had been accomplished.
But being unable to fix the fraud upon the perpetration thereof, I swallowed the pill, bitter as it was, and gave the Doctor my heartiest support, both on the stump and at the polls. A year or two afterwards a gentleman told me, confidentially, that he saw the owner of that hat dump in a handful of ballots, while passing through the crowd in the back part of the hall, near the door. Such was my introduction into public political life. What was to be its final outcome? We shall see. (Lane 246-251)
However, Lane eventually prevails in the political arena when he is elected Sheriff of Summit County, Ohio, November 3 1856 - November 1858 and once more from 1876-1878.
Here are his accounts of the election as well as his experiences as Sheriff.
Sheriff of Summit County:
This year, 1856, was Presidential Year – the great Fremont - Buchanan campaign being prosecuted with the utmost vigor and enthusiasm, on both sides. Into this campaign I entered with all my powers of mind and body; spending nearly the entire summer, after the nominations were made, in painting banners, cartoons and mottoes; making speeches, reporting meetings +c. Leading Republicans, in several of the townships that I visited, voluntarily suggested that I should become a candidate for someone of the County offices to be filled at the ensuing election, and I finally announced myself as a candidate for Sheriff. Though I did not do much electioneering, in my own behalf, and though there were several other candidates. Who had worked hard to secure delegates favorable to themselves, I was nominated overall – some five or six in number – on the first ballot, by seventeen majority. Then, there was a terrible hue and cry raised against me by the Democracy; I was a “renegade Democrat”, who had “left the Democratic party for the sake of office”; I was a bitter temperance partisan who, if elected, would put every liquor-seller through to the full extent of the law – I was hypocritical in my temperance professions, having both drank and sold liquor in California – I had published the Buzzard and the Cascade Roarer, and had abused every-thing and every-body, and in short had been guilty of all the petty crimes and meannesses in the moral, if not the criminal, calendar. The entire venom of the Democracy, and the Liquor sellers, was aimed at me, and they were very confident of my defeat – the clamor being so great that many of my Akron friends really felt a good deal shaky about the result. Cruising about the county, as I continually was, I could not learn that they were making any headway against me in the outside townships; though I thought that in Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, and along the line of the canal, I should probably fall four or five hundred below the balance of the ticket. Well, the election came off – the returns came in, resulting in a falling off of about one hundred votes in Akron, and some fifty at Cuyahoga Falls, every other precinct in the county giving me a full vote – my majority being 1359, while the general majority was but a trifle over 1500 –
[Finally in office. –] I took possession of the office on Monday the 3rd day of November 1856, the term for which I was elected being two years. In 1858, I was renominated by acclamation, there being no competition against me in the convention; and, no special fight being made against me in the canvass, I was re-elected by the full Republican majority – There is a provision in the Constitution prohibiting a person from holding the office of Sheriff more than four years, in any consecutive six years. But, during my first term, the time of taking possession of the office had been changed by law, from the first Monday of November to the first Monday of January, so that I held the office four years and two months; or two months beyond the constitutional limits; for which extra two months, between my two terms, I had to enter into funds, in the same amount ($10,000) as for the regular terms –
[But not in Jail. –] During my incumbency of the Sheriff’s office I did not deem it advisable to remove my family to the Jail, or to give my personal attention to the care of prisoners, but gave the position of Jailor to my friend, John L Robertson, Esq. allowing him the dwelling portion of the edifice, rent free, and the entire compensation allowed by the County for boarding the prisoners, for his services as Jailor, retaining the Jail fees for my own “use and behoof”. My good friend, Mr Alfred R Townsend, was my regular Deputy; Mr. Lewis M Janes, a former Sheriff of Summit County, also aiding me a part of the time, in my office work; thus enabling me to do considerable outside work myself. Both myself and deputies, in addition to the regular routine work of the office, entered heartily into detective operations, bringing to light a large number of very important criminal operations, and securing the conviction and punishment of the criminals; some thirty in all having been consigned to the Penitentiary during my administration.
…it also suggested to both myself, and my friends, the propriety of my offering myself as a candidate for my old position, as Sheriff of Summit County, at the ensuing Fall Election.
Bitter But Successful Fight.
Having decided, after duly considering the matter, to give the thing a trial, early in the Spring of 1876, I wrote to a number of my personal and political friends in the several townships of the county, briefly stating my situation and desires, and requesting their co-operation, so far as they could, consistently with their own local interests, and private preferences. My candidacy was received with general good will, and early in the canvass it looked as though I would get the nomination by acclamation. But, as the time for holding the convention drew near, so many other aspirants put in an appearance, each, of course, with more or less local backing, it became apparent that the contest would be vigorous, and the result doubtful. The majority of the County offices were to be filled that year, and the question of locality entered largely into the contest; my being a resident of Akron, working materially to my disadvantage. Then, in beer and whisky circles, my temperance proclivities, as in the canvass of 1856, in a largely augmented degree, were bitterly urged against me, while the friends of my younger competitors most vehemently protested that my extreme age unfitted me for the proper discharge of the peculiar duties of the office sought. A number of bitter articles against my candidacy, were also published in the Daily Argus, then published as a so-called “Independent” paper by Rev John F. Rowe – the articles in questions having been written, over an anonymous signature by a prominent lawyer, and ex Judge, who had become embittered against me, during a heated political campaign, a few years before, because I supported, in the Beacon, a certain gentleman for Congress against his particular favorite, for the same position.
[Nominated. –] Though several other candidates for Sheriff made strenuous efforts, in the ward and township caucuses, to secure delegates to the nominating Convention favorable to themselves, without any special effort on my part, the combined delegation of Akron and Portage township, was nearly unanimous for me, which, with votes received from outside townships, gave me the lead among the ten candidates voted for; my vote being 50 out of the 115 votes cast on the first ballot, Mr Joseph F. Whitcraft being the next highest, with 28 votes. – Five ballots were had, the weaker candidates dropping out, from ballot to ballot, until on the fifth, Mr Whitcraft and myself, only, were voted for, my vote being 64 and Mr W’s 47. As 58 votes, only, were necessary to a choice, it will thus be seen that I had a margin of six votes only, though my majority over Mr. Whitcraft was 17, only 111 votes having been given upon the last ballot. This result, considering the earnestness of the contest, and the various combinations sought to be entered into against me, was very gratifying to both myself and my friends. In this, as in the Sergeant-at-Arms matter, I steered entirely clear of all bargains, numerous offers having been made, by the friends of other aspirants, to withdraw in my favor, providing I would agree to give their favorites positions under me, if nominated and elected.
[A Rare Treat. –] It had been customary for the successful candidate, at Conventions to treat the delegates to watermelons, and such other fruits as were in season, cigars, +c; but I made such arrangements that, if nominated, a full barrel of ice-cold-lemonade should be forthwith provided, which was accordingly done; and as the weather was extremely warm, the treat was greatly relished, by all.
[My Opponent. –] The Democrats selected, as their candidate for sheriff, Mr Wallace A. Harrington, of Cuyahoga Falls, a native of the adjoining township of Northampton. Having been quite extensively engaged in buying and selling cattle, Mr Harrington secured quite a following among the Republican voters of the northern townships of the county, and of the butchers, and others, with whom he had had dealings in Akron; while his free and easy notions, and practices, on the beer and whisky, and other kindred questions, drew to his support a large proportion of similarly inclined Republicans, also. In addition to this, not only did several of my unsuccessful competitors in the convention turn against me, in the canvass, and work and vote against me at the polls, but by reason of his having been born in Northampton, and being then a resident of Cuyahoga Falls, a sort of “bull-dozing” effort was made, to secure a unanimous vote for Harrington, as a matter of local pride, in those two precincts. Greatly exaggerated reports, in regard to my age – representing me as being from 75 to 85 years old, thou being then, in fact, but 61 – and of my ultra notions on the various questions of the day, were industriously circulated, both verbally and through printed circulars; the following, distributed in every portion of the county, a few days before the Election, being a fair sample of the entire batch:
“Harrington For Sheriff! Read and Think! Republicans and Independent Voters!
The delegates of the Republican Convention of Summit County have placed upon our ticket the name of S. A. Lane for Sheriff, a man extremely radical in all his views; aged “to second childhood; a man that has enjoyed your political favors years ago, and by the most earnest solicitation he, hoping to retrieve his adverse fortunes, by again appealing to your political charity, worked up and urged his cause so well, that a dozen as worthy and abler candidates were set aside. Mr. Lane was not, and is not, the choice of the masses of voters; therefore many independent voters and taxpayers suggested to, and urged upon, the Democratic County Convention, that they put upon their ticket, for Sheriff, the name of Wallace A. Harrington, of Cuyahoga Falls, a gentleman of great ability; a man consciencious and strictly honest in all his dealings; a man of iron nerve, and wonderfully successful in all that he undertakes; true to every trust, and respected by all who know him.
The Convention acceded to this demand, placing Mr. Harrington in nomination for Sheriff; and this was done without his solicitation. Voters, we now ask, and most earnestly urge you to begin reform at home by placing upon our ticket the name of Wallace A. Harrington, believing him to be much the ablest man, we pledging you that he will faithfully guard our prisoners, our interests and our lives.
[A Grand Triumph –] As intimated in the foregoing manifesto, it was both privately and publicly urged, that, having failed in my own private business, I was not a proper person to be entrusted with the business of the public; while my opponent, being highly successful in his own affairs, could be relied upon to discharge the duties of the office with fidelity and success. Scores of men, including several of the disappointed and disgruntled Republican candidates above referred to, were perambulating the county for weeks, prior to the day of the election, in Mr. Harrington’s interest, without any special effort, on my part, or by my friends, to vindicate myself; or to even state the many damaging facts as to the moral, mental, or business dis-qualifications that might truthfully have been urged against my opponent: and it was generally conceded that if I was elected at all, it would literally be by the “skin of my teeth”. But the “count “ proved far more flattering to me than I had dared to hope for, my majority being just even 500, the general Republican majority of the county, that year, being about 1,000, showing that, with all their appliances and efforts to compass my defeat, only about 200 of the Republicans of the entire county could be brought to the “scratch” of substituting Harrington’s name for mine upon their tickets. Quite a number of the Republicans, who were thus induced to vote against me, afterwards voluntarily confessed to me that they regretted having done so, and would, as they did, give me their support for re-election, when the proper time should come. It may be proper, here, to remark, also, that my, highly successful business competitor, Harrington, before the close of my first term, was found to be so badly embarrassed in his financial affairs, as to compel his removal to the far west, leaving his real estate to be sold by me, under the hammer, on foreclosure of several heavy mortgages thereon; while both the personal and real Estate of one of his chief Republican claquers in Northampton shared the same
Four Years In Jail.
I took possession of the office on the first Monday – this year the first day – of January, 1877. Unlike my former action in that regard, on my election this time, I determined to occupy the dwelling portion of the jail myself, instead of placing it in charge of a Turnkey, though my old friend and former jailor, John L. Robertson, was already domiciled there, as jailor for my predecessor, Sheriff McMurray. My reasons for this were four-fold: First, pecuniary gain; for if there was any money to be made by subsisting prisoners, and from jail fees and perquisites, it was needful for me, in view of my reduced circumstances, and advancing years, to avail myself thereof. Second, in view of the many escapes that had been made from the really insecure old “barracks”, under preceding administrations, particularly the last, I felt as though I ought to have a closer personal oversight of the prisoners committed to my care, than I possibly could have, while residing elsewhere. Third, it would be far more convenient to my business at the Court House, and subject me to far less exposure in cold and stormy weather; and Fourth, it would enable me much better to accommodate Attorneys, and others having business with the office; for I had determined not only to keep the Sheriff’s office open during usual business hours, instead of keeping it closed half or two thirds of the time, as some of my predecessors had done; but to be conveniently accessible, outside of business hours, should any thing of an official nature be required of me. And, though the care and responsibility, and labor, has been very great, especially upon the good and ever faithful woman who has uncomplainingly shared my imprisonment – in reality close confinement so far as she is concerned – the plan adopted was undoubtedly the best thing that could have been done; for not only have the emoluments of the jail gone far towards relieving our pecuniary embarrassments, and necessities, but our extra care, and vigilance, has undoubtedly prevented some, if not many, escapes, that would otherwise have been effected by some of the many desperate characters committed to our keeping.
[Again Successful –] Having successfully nearly accomplished my first term of two years, in the Republican County Convention of 1878, I was renominated without opposition, and by acclamation, in anticipation of which, I had prepared, in advance, another rich treat of lemonade, in one of the side rooms, for the refreshment of the delegates, and others in attendance – both Republicans and Democrats – nearly two barrels being consumed; the unwonted treat being very greatly relished by all. Though during the canvass, a special effort, as two years before, was directed against me, in favor of the Democratic candidate, Mr. Jacob Koplin, then a resident of Norton, but before and since a citizen of Akron – and a far better man for the position, every way, than Harrington – my majority was fully up to the average of the Republican ticket, that year, my vote being just 910 higher than Mr. Koplin’s.
My second term, from January 1st 1879, to January 1st 1881, was equally successful with the first, no serious mishap, either personally, officially or pecuniarily, having overtaken me, though perhaps having several narrow escapes. At the convention in 1880, to nominate my successor, had not the constitutional inhibition against holding the office more than four years, in any consecutive six years, prevented, I doubt not I might again have received the nomination by acclamation, so cordial was the feeling in my favor; a feeling that was so highly appreciated by me, that, contrary to all precedent in an outgoing officer, I was again on hand with my “barl” – two of them in fact – of refreshing lemonade, as a parting souvenir for the many favors I had received at the hands of the Republicans of the County, which, together with the brief speech that I made in announcing the unexpected treat, was enthusiastically received by the delegates and the large number of spectators
Exciting Jail Episodes.
There were, of course, very many things about our jail life that were very disagreeable; many that were very exciting, and some that were quite hazardous. Hundreds of prisoners were committed to our custody during the four years, about 30 being taken to the Penitentiary; but fortunately I was not called upon to execute the death penalty, though coming very near it in the case of Patrick Dunn, for the murder of Elihu Whipple, of Northampton, the jury at first standing seven for murder in the first degree, though finally consenting to a verdict of murder in the second degree, the penalty for which is imprisonment for life.
[A “Close Call”. –] We were also fortunate in not having any escapes from the jail, though having several pretty “loud” calls. The closest shave was a young tramp burglar by the name of James Thompson. Mr John Rowan was then temporarily acting as Turnkey, and having, as he supposed, securely locked the prisoners in their cells, had gone home to stay over night, as was his custom. Thompson had complained of being sick, and Mrs. Randall, then doing our kitchen work, had been dosing him during the day, and when Rowan closed his cell he was apparently in bed and asleep. About 11 o’clock, just after I had gone to bed, there was an alarm from within the jail, and on getting up and going to the door, Thompson was groaning and apparently in great agony. I then went to work to prepare some warm peppermint tea for him, by heating the water in a tin cup, over a gas burner, mother in her night dress coming to my assistance, and Mrs Randall, who had been aroused by the commotion, also hastily dressing herself and arriving upon the scene. Opening the door, I entered the jail with a candle in one hand and the cup of tea in the other , and was proceeding to the rear end of the jail to ascend the stairs to the north balcony, where Thompson’s cell was located; but before turning the corner, I heard a suppressed scream from the women, and turning upon my heel, and retracing my steps on the double quick – making, as one of the other prisoners on the watch said, “the fastest time on record” – I found the two women in a fierce hand-to-hand struggle with the sick Thompson. Mrs Randall had grasped him tightly around the waist from the rear, while mother was pushing him back from the front. I immediately took a hand in the scrimmage, by seizing him by the collar, he, in turn, seizing me by the throat, and making a desperate effort to push me back into the jail. I hung to him, however, with my left hand, and with my right hand loosened his hold upon my throat, while, at the same time, reaching around the inner door with my right foot. I closed the outer guard-room door, which was immediately locked by mother, and bird was fast again, and safely returned to his cage. By this time Sam Blocker, one of my deputies who slept in the house, was aroused by the noise, and was sent down to lock Mr. Thompson in his cell, when it was found that the supposed sick and sleeping Thompson, that Rowan had seen in the bed, was a skillfully prepared “dummy”, which had been constructed out of an extra pair of pants and shirt, stuffed with husks extracted from one of the mattresses; the real Thompson, being a small man, having eluded the vigilance of Mr. Rowan, by secreting himself in the huge stove, before locking up time.
[Suicidal. –] Previous to this, a prisoner by the name of James Lees, as he was about to be taken to the Penitentiary for burglary, attempted to kill himself, by cutting his throat with the jail razor, but, though producing a fearful wound, he was prevented from fully accomplishing his design, and a few days afterward safely landed in the Pen. Another prisoner, a girl of ill repute, attempted to drown herself in the bath tub attached to the upper jail, and had so far succeeded that both pulsation and respiration had entirely ceased; but she was
[Homicidal. –] finally resuscitated. Another prisoner, named John Kennedy, a powerful and desperate fellow, under sentence for assault and battery, becoming very obstreperous, and destructive of the jail furniture and fixtures, in retaliation for my efforts at his subjugation, very seriously threatened and plotted to kill me, and actually did attempt to stab my deputies, George Marriner and Sam Blocker, who with two or three policemen, whose services had been called into requisition, were endeavoring to put him into his cell. For this attempt he was indicted, tried, convicted and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. This was in July, 1880, and if he manages to keep a clean record, by good behavior, he will get about three years off, so that his time will be out about July 1st 1887.
This is the only man, of all the desperate characters I have handled, from whom I could ever anticipate any personal injury; and should I survive his release, and any bodily harm come to me, through violence, thereafter, it may reasonably be concluded that John Kennedy is the perpetrator thereof; or John Canaday, as the name was spelled in the indictment, and entered upon the Record. [Kennedy was parolled about 1886, was soon after once seen in Akron by the police, but on being warned to keep away left town, and has not since been heard from (l894)] (Lane 257-259, 309-318)
Accounts of this election as well as his memories from the position are as follows:
Mayor of the “Tip-Top City”.
As the Municipal Election for 1881, drew near, the question as to who should be the Republican candidate for Mayor of Akron, began to be agitated, and my name, among others, was suggested. Though ordinarily largely Republican, the temperance and other local questions, rendered the election of a Republican Mayor extremely doubtful, the then incumbent, John M. Fraze, Democrat, and a candidate for re-election, having been elected by quite a handsome majority two years before. I said to my friends that while I had no claims upon the party, or the people, for further political favors, and while I would not in any degree seek or work for it, if the Republican Convention thought best to nominate me, and the people of the city should ratify that nomination at the polls, I would take the office and do the best I could with it. The nomination was very handsomely made, by a vote of 36 out of a total 48, upon the first ballot. On the announcement of the result, and being called to the front, I responded as follows:
“Gentlemen of the Convention: In response to your call, I desire to say to you, as a body, what “I have perhaps said to some of you and others individually when mentioning my name in “connection with the office to which you have just nominated me, that I have no claim upon the “Republican party or the people of Akron, or of Summit County, for further official favors, “having already been honored in that direction fully up to, if not beyond, my political, business, “social or moral deserts. When first approached upon the subject, I emphatically said “No”, for “the reasons: first, that I did not wish to become an unmitigated nuisance in the shape of a “chronic office-seeker; and second, because I honestly distrusted my ability to satisfactorily “discharge the intricate and often perplexing duties of the position. Later, however, I have so far “yielded to the solicitation of my friends, of different shades of political opinion, as today, that “while not seeking the office, if the people would give it a trial and do the best I could with it. In “accepting the nomination, however, gentlemen, I have no specific pledges to make, and no “distinctive, prearranged policy to proclaim, should the people ratify your action at the polls on “Monday next. If the record which I have made in the 46 years, nearly, that I have lived among “you, does not evince a hearty desire for your welfare – the welfare of the city of my youthful “adoption – the
“city of my mature manhood – the city of my declining years – then nothing I could now say, “would make that desire manifest to your minds, or the comprehension of those whom you “represent. I will only add, in conclusion, gentlemen, that, I sincerely thank you for the high “compliment implied in this nomination, so handsomely made, and that if elected Mayor of your “city on Monday next, I will endeavor to administer the duties of the office faithfully and “impartially in the interest of all the people of the city to the best of my judgment and ability”.
[Very Close Vote. –] On Election day, as had been anticipated, the most determined and virulent opposition to my election was manifested, Mr Fraze being the Democratic candidate for re-election. Not only the Democratic party, but the entire beer and whiskey element of the Republican party of the city, was bitterly and actively arrayed against me, while quite a large temperance vote was either cast against me, or my name scratched from their ballots – life-long temperance man as I was – simply because I would not publicly declare myself in favor of political party prohibition action. Besides this quite a good many Republican votes were given for my opponent, because of my supposed friendship for certain other candidates for positions in the City government, the Mayor presiding at the organization of the new Council, and having the casting vote in case of a tie in the vote for President of the Council and City Clerk.
[“[…] There, Alle Samee” –] But in spite of all these untoward influences, my election was effected, but it was literally by a “mighty tight squeeze”, my majority being 60,only, while the majorities of the other Republican candidates for city offices ranged from 300 to 700 –
[Duly Installed. –] Having been officially notified of my election and filed the bond and taken the oath required by law, I entered upon the duties of Mayor of the City of Akron, on the 13th day of April, 1881, for the term of two years.
[Fairly Successful. –] Owing to the disjointed condition of the City ordinances, and their non-conformity to existing state laws, as well as from my inexperience in the class of duties devolving upon me, I was greatly embarrassed in the administration of the office for awhile, but soon, by the aid of my efficient lieutenant, Marshal, William H Ragg, and the small but remarkable faithful Police force at our command, a degree of peace and order was secured, which, considering the large transient population; beer and whiskey guzzling, and law and order difying ditchers, graders and pavers, then in our midst was unprecedented in the history of our rapidly growing .
A Double “Surprise Party”
On my 66th birthday, June 29th1881, I said to Marshall Ragg, in the morning, that I wanted him to notify the entire police force of the city, to assemble at the Mayor’s Office at 2 o’clock P.M. sharp, as I had something of importance to say to them. I also invited, J. Park Alexander, President of the Council, City Clerk Newton Ford, and other city officials, and the newspaper men of the city to be present. At the hour named I called them to order and addressed them as follows:
“On the 29th day of June, 1815, in the beautiful valley of the Connecticut, of poor but honest “parents, was born a very handsome boy – baby. Retaining, in a remarkable degree, two of the “characteristics of his babyhood – poverty and beauty – that boy now stands before you happy in “the thought that he is able to “set ‘em up” to his fellow officials, on this 66th anniversary of his “birth. Pitch in!”
At this moment Mr E. B. Cahoon, the confectioner, with an assistant, appeared from an inner room, bearing trays of lemonade, cake and ice-cream, which was partaken of with a relish by all. In the mean time, after a whispered consultation among themselves, Marshall Ragg and one of the policemen slipped away, unnoticed by me, and purchased a fine ebony, gold headed cane, which, in behalf of the Police Force, was presented to me by President Alexander, in an appropriate little speech. This was, of course, as great a surprise to me, as was my treat to them, and the affair was a very pleasant one, all around. Afterwards the head of the cane was engraved as follows: “ Presented to Mayor S.A. Lane, on his 66th Birthday, June 29th 1881, by “the Police Force of the City of Akron, Ohio”, and the six side tablets were inscribed the names “of the donors as follows: “Wm H Ragg, Marshal; David Burin; J.C Russ; S.W. Pike; J.M. “Court; Ed. Dunn; T.A. Doyle; Adam Hart; A.J. Hamlin; J.E. Lant; A.J. Cowley and C.G. “Talcott ”.
Returning from our very pleasant visit East, very greatly invigorated, physically and mentally, about the first of September, 1881, I resumed my duties as Mayor, and kept on the even tenor of my way to the end of my term, though pleasing neither of the extremes – the prohibition temperance element, though not lifting a finger to help, denouncing me for being too lenient; and the beer and whiskey element denouncing me for being too severe, in my enforcement of the liquor statutes and ordinances. During my incumbency I was called upon to deliver addresses of welcome and speak for the city of Akron, on several public occasions, which pleasant, but sometimes embarrassing, duties, I think I may say, without undue egotism, were discharged as satisfactorily to the general public, at least, if not to myself, as were similar performances by either my “illustrious predecessors”; besides which I inaugurated the plan of delivering to the Council annual messages, in regard to the affairs of the city, which were highly commended by the public press, as well as the majority of the Council and the people.
[Thrown Overboard. –] As the end of my term drew near, the question of the succession began to be agitated – a considerable number of both Republicans and Democrats freely, and apparently honestly, expressing the hope that I might be continued for another term. The Republican “leaders”, however, acting upon the hypothesis that as I had made so close a run two years before, I would, if re-nominated, be completely snowed under at the election this year, selected another and, as they supposed, more popular man – Mr. John W. Holloway, formerly the Master Mechanic of the Cleveland, Akron and Columbus Railroad; so thoroughly manipulating the caucuses in his favor, as to give me but eight votes out of the forty-eight in the Convention – each ward being entitled to eight delegates – six only from my own ward voting for me, the remaining two coming from the first and fifth wards. The un-wisdom of the “swap”, was most thoroughly demonstrated by the fact that the vote cast for Mr Lorenzo Dow Walters, the young Democratic candidate, was about 130 greater than that cast for Mr Holloway.
[Again “Oust’ –] Having thus summarily received my “walking papers”, on the 13th day of April, 1883, I turned the office over to my successor, without having failed, except during the vacation above mentioned, in 1881, to be at my post of duty every working day, and having attended every meeting of the City Council but two, and every meeting of the Board of Health but one, during the entire two years.
[The “Spoils” of Office. –] The emoluments of the office, during my incumbency, averaged just about $90000 per year, an amount considerably less than some of my predecessors had, and than some of my successors will, realize out of it, largely owing to the fact that it was my aim to discourage litigation as much as possible, by inducing those at variance to settle their differences amicably, instead of resorting to the law.
[More Surprises.] After turning the office over to my successor, with a little speech making, pro and con, Ex-Marshal Ragg, who retired at the same time, took me most thoroughly by surprise, by presenting me, in behalf of the Police Force, who had so efficiently aided me in preserving the public peace, during my administration, with an elegant pair of gold-bowed eye-glasses, which compliment was not only duly acknowledged, but will be gratefully remembered, while life and memory last. (Lane 322 – 329)
It is clear through Lane’s accounts that political campaigns were in no way a clean and fair match nor were positions of power easy work. Regardless of Lane’s personal defeats and victories, he and many other Americans ultimately won the prize of a new party; the Republican Party personified, “the values of individual liberty, legal equality, and government restrained by law” leading to real change in America, such as the end of Slavery and even the Prohibition of alcohol in the 1920’s. (Gienapp 4)
Gienapp, W. E. (1987). The origins of the Republican Party, 1852-1856. New York: Oxford University Press.
1. Republican ticket . Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 71, Folder 57.
2. A reprint of the original broadside containing the Republican Platform of 1860, adopted by the National Republican Convention held in Chicago, May 17, 1860.] Chicago, 1860.
Printed Ephemera Collection; Portfolio 18, Folder 1b.