Recollections of Life in Ohio, from 1813-1840

William Cooper Howells (1807 - 1894)

Recollections of Life in Ohio is the autobiography of William Cooper Howells (1807-1894), father of the American novelist William Dean Howells. The Howells were Welsh woolen mill owners. William Cooper's father brought the family to America in 1808--at a time when Great Britain actually forbid skilled workmen from emigrating, thus putting the father's practical knowledge of mill machinery in great demand. Small scale industries--paper and woolen mills, flour mills, and distilleries were sprouting apace with farms in the newly opened lands of Ohio, where the Howells settled in 1813. This was a time and place where neighbors joined together to raise log barns and husk corn, where local peach brandy was a staple drink, and where religious revivalism permeated the social fabric, fanned by itinerant preachers such as Johnny Appleseed. The Howells were originally Quakers, but William Cooper's father converted to an "enthusiastic" brand of Methodism, and William Cooper in later years followed the teachings of Swedenborg.

William Cooper Howells' recollections see him herding the family pig down the road with a noose around its hind leg, acting as "corner man" at a log barn raising, curing tobacco in a smoke house, grubbing stumps, fighting snakes, and wrestling with what it meant to be "religious" at the camp meetings to which father took him. Early on, William Cooper showed a literary bent and an interest in politics. He became a printer and a newspaper man and, in the 1870's and 80's served as U.S. consul in Quebec and Toronto.

The novelist William Dean Howells writes of his dad in the introduction to the Recollections: "My father was always a very close and critical observer, both of nature and human nature and equally a lover of both. He was not a poet in the artistic sense, but he was a poet in his view of life, the universe, creation; and his dream of it included man, as well as the woods and fields and their citizenship." Recollections of Life in Ohio is a fascinating and enjoyable read for anyone interested in U.S. frontier history.

Genre(s): Memoirs

Language: English

Section Chapter Reader Time
Play 01 Emigration to America; Down the Ohio by Keelboat Sue Anderson
Play 02 The Woolen Mill; Sketch of Quaker Usages and Customs Sue Anderson
Play 03 Scanty Schooling; A Religious Enthusiast Sue Anderson
Play 04 A Log Cabin; Pigs in the Woods Sue Anderson
Play 05 Early Steamboats; Rafts on the River Sue Anderson
Play 06 Camp-Meeting in the Rain; A Night Grammar School Sue Anderson
Play 07 Washing of Blue Feet; Hewn-Log Farmhouses Sue Anderson
Play 08 Tobacco Raising; Ohio Canal and Work on it Sue Anderson
Play 09 The Author Opens a Grammar School; How Singing was Taught Sue Anderson
Play 10 Six Cents Fine and Five Minutes in Prison; The Author Starts a Magazine Sue Anderson
Play 11 Public Executions; Slaveholders' Panic in Wheeling Sue Anderson
Play 12 Opposition to the Mexican War; Declining Years Sue Anderson