Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part article about the Mosgrove family of Urbana. The article is written by Sherry Virts, historian of the Champaign County Preservation Alliance, which is gearing up for its annual Home and Garden Tour, scheduled for June 25-26.
The June countdown has begun as all involved with the 2016 Champaign County Preservation Alliance’s 24th Historic Homes and Gardens Tour are busy doing their jobs. This educational, entertaining, fundraising tour is always held the last weekend in June, which this year is June 25 and June 26. The research is fascinating with what one can discover in the history of the old homes and families that lived in them in Champaign County. The 2016 work has revealed some interesting connections discovered in the historical records. This story is about some of the Mosgrove Family. And yes, we have a street named after that family and yet there are none listed in the local phone book anymore. Let’s begin with the 1842 home at 323 Miami Street in Urbana, Ohio, that is on the 2016 tour of homes coming up the end of June. This home seems to have once been known by old-timers as one of the old Mosgrove family homes. Mosgroves built and owned several homes and buildings on Miami Street, as well as other property other places in Champaign county.
Research confirms that indeed the home at 323 Miami had been a Mosgrove home for many years. It was lived in from 1845 until 1951, 106 years, by members of one of the Mosgrove family, although actually built in 1842 for John A Mosgrove’s soon-to-be father in law. It was built, owned, and lived in, first by pioneer merchant, Samuel Miller, a most successful business man. Unfortunately Samuel died in 1845, three years after building his mansion, the same year that his only living child, Elizabeth, married John Adam Mosgrove.
John was the son of early pioneer Dr. Adam Mosgrove, a highly respected doctor who had always lived a block east on Miami Street since 1818, the year John was born and the year the family arrived in Urbana. The Miller family was an even earlier arriving pioneer neighbor family, having lived close by before the Mosgroves arrived and later building the large home at 323 Miami. It appears that the newlyweds made their home from the beginning of their marriage with Samuel Miller’s widow (the bride’s mother), Elizabeth Dunlap Miller. As soon as 1858 the property is marked as owned by John A. Mosgrove on an old Urbana plat map on display at the Champaign County Historical Society Museum.
Before telling more of John Mosgrove’s story let’s look at his equally interesting father. According to Ogden’s HISTORY OF CHAMPAIGN COUNTY 1881. page 3, “Dr. Adam Mosgrove arrived in Urbana in the spring of 1818, and, possessed of an iron constitution and undaunted resolution, soon entered upon the large (medical) practice which he maintained up to within a few years of his death, which occurred in March, 1875. He died at the ripe old age of eighty-four, being at that time one of the oldest physicians in the Western States, and had been engaged in the arduous duties of his profession for a period of over sixty years. Doctors Carter and Mosgrove were associated together as partners in the practice of medicine and surgery for many years, and, in a large portion of Central Ohio, the names of Carter and Mosgrove were as familiar as household words. The practice of medicine has changed much since the earlier days of Carter and Mosgrove. Then money was scarce and hard to come at. Those old doctors would ride on horseback, night or day, over the muddy or frozen roads of summer or winter, and through the almost trackless forests, five, ten and fifteen miles, (which would take up to several hours) for the privilege of making a charge of from $2 to $3 or $4, which, after standing for years, would be settled by trade in part, and, finally, by note, which would again, in its turn, stand for years or until a new “dicker” could be made.
“From an intimate acquaintance with the business of Carter & Mosgrove, confirmed by a recent examination of their books, I (Ogden) am safe in saying that their entire receipts did not amount to over 50 cents on the dollar of their business, and of this amount, about 10 per cent only would be cash. Indeed, it seems to have been a constant struggle with them to realize sufficient money to pay for their medicines and to meet that inexorable monster, the tax-gatherer.” (The cost of medicines don’t seem to have changed much.)
For many years, probably up to 1830 or 1835, Carter & Mosgrove were almost the only physicians in Urbana, and of an area almost, if not quite, co-extensive with the county limits. Let’s look at Adam’s long obituary taken from the Urbana Citizen and Gazette, March 18, 1875, as it tells part of the Mosgrove Story. (Newspapers are invaluable for the local information they record especially the obituaries.)
“The Pioneer Dead. Dr. Adam Mosgrove was born August 12, 1790 at Enniskillen, in the county of Tyrone, Ireland, son of John & Isabella (Foster) Mosgrove. At a proper age his early education was entrusted to a private tutor, who gave him a good English education, and prepared him to attend a regular course of studies in the Medical College at Edinburgh, Scotland, from whence he entered the Royal College of Surgery at Dublin, Ireland, graduating on the 7th day of April 1814, and (he) was immediately commissioned a surgeon in the British Navy. While in his native land he passed the various degrees of Masonry and, at twenty six years, had attained the rank of a Royal Arch Mason. Throughout his life he was an active, devoted and consistent Mason, and held high rank in the order.
“He left his home in Ireland on Easter Monday 1815, sailing for America in the ship Charlotte, of which he was the surgeon. Arriving off the American coast the Charlotte became disabled in a storm and put into the Philadelphia harbor for repairs, but a dispute having arisen between the ship’s officers and the British Government, the officers resigned their commissions and left the ship to rot in the harbor, and for many years after its hull could be seen swaying in the water until decay gave it completely to destruction.
“The doctor was then in a strange land, and one that was new, rough, and semi-barbarous. He had a small fortune of seventy guineas, premium money given him at the start of his cruise in the Charlotte, and with it as capital to begin life with, he started west. The first location was at Lancaster, Pa., and the second at Elizabethtown, in both of which places he practiced medicine. In 1817 he was married to Mary Miller, at the latter town. She was a sister to the late Lawrence Miller of Urbana.
“In some way he heard of George Moore, formerly a well-known citizen of Urbana, now (in 1875) deceased, who had early settled here, and who was born in the doctor’s native town. (Perhaps Adam learned of him through his wife whose brother had been an Urbana resident.) In that day there was comparatively few of Tyrone, Ireland’s, natives in this country, and they were widely separated. The ties of nativity were sufficiently strong to attract Dr. Mosgrove to the home of his old friend, and in 1818 he packed his possessions in a wagon and with his wife trudged away to the far west – for Urbana was on the frontier then – and they arrived here in the latter part of June (where Mary gave birth to their first child, John Adam Mosgrove, in July of that same year.) We believe that there are but fourteen persons now (in 1875) living in Urbana who were here at that time (1818), and but two who were then over eighteen years of age (in 1818).
“(Only) a few hundred dollars of coin constituted the wealth of Dr. Mosgrove at that time (1818), and in accordance with the prevailing sentiment of safe investments, he put it into real estate, at the very high prices which ruled in that year. Within the ensuing year the prices of land declined fully two-thirds, and, as(for that reason) he retained the lands he bought up to his death ((that land for which he had paid a high price). A delay of a year or two in the purchases of lands would have made a vast difference in the fortune possessed at his death. An old frame house [in 1818 attached to the brick (office) building that still stands in 2016],still stands (in 1875) west of the Weaver house (Douglas Inn) and was purchased with the tier of lots west to Walnut and south to Market streets. In this house he resided for a number of years until the new residence was built on the north west corner of the same ground, and where he resided to the day of his death (at 127 Miami Street.)
“The only political office he ever held was Deputy U.S. Marshal, in 1830, in which year he took the census of Champaign county. He was a strict Democrat, but always lived in a township, county, and District which was opposed to him in politics. The party has several times placed him in nomination for representative in Congress, and for Senator in the Ohio Legislature. But with overwhelming majorities against the party, it was never anticipated that an election was possible. (despite being a very popular person.)
“In 1834 he was married a second time, to Frances A. Foley, (age 19) a daughter of John Foley, a distinguished citizen of Clark county. (This second marriage occurred because of the death of his first wife, Mary, in 1833, who was the mother of his three sons then about ages 8, 11, and 15.) His second wife,Frances, survives the doctor, though now in feeble health. Of his family yet living in this city, there remain John A. Mosgrove, the eldest son, (with his wife Elizabeth) and children viz: Mrs. Frances Bacon, of Logansport, Ind., Dr. S. M. Mosgrove and Emma Mosgrove of Urbana; Dr. William. F. Mosgrove, Maggie Mosgrove and James M. Mosgrove, sons and daughter of Col. W. F. Mosgrove, the second son, (and his wife Nancy) who died here in 1870; and Dr. James M. Mosgrove, his youngest son.
“Dr. (Adam) Mosgrove was a regular practitioner in Urbana for more than half a century, and well-known in a circuit of one hundred miles in diameter, while his professional services were very frequently demanded beyond that limit. For a number of years he practiced alone, but afterwards became associated with Dr. J. S. Carter Sr. who died in 1852, but their extensive practice was continued for many years. (By the way, The Carter House is also on this year’s Homes and Garden Tour at 206-8 Scioto Street.) In those early times roads were scarce, many of the trails were ablaze with trees and the country was largely marked by numerous cow-paths, all of which Dr. Mosgrove was familiar. Physicians then went horseback, and he being noted as a splendid horseman, rather enjoyed the long and sometimes rough trips over the country, and sometimes he would hitch his horse in the woods at night, rather than unduly tire his favored animal, taking his own needed sleep on the ground.
“Strong and robust, a picture of perfect health, and possessed of a kind and affectionate disposition, his coming was hailed with delight by the sick, who confided in his professional ability, and by the strong to whom he imparted a share of pleasantry and good humor. He was temperate in all things and never given to the drinking of ardent spirits even at a day when custom almost demanded it. Called once to Circleville to assist in an important surgical operation, as was the invariable custom then amongst surgeons, the decanter was passed to everyone present before the operation was commenced, and as stoutly as he was urged to drink so stoutly did he refuse, until he finally compromised with the gentlemen by taking his first chew of tobacco from which he circumstances he dated a modest habit of chewing, which he maintained through life.
“Indomitable courage and industry were remarkable traits of his character. Whatever he undertook to accomplish he perseveringly pursued with all the energy of a strong nature, and he was generally successful in his undertakings. No storm, no event, nothing ever prevented his regular visitation of patients, and no obstacle could successfully intervene between him and his professional duty. A strongly defined sense of honor and the excellencies of old style manners (now, unhappily, so nearly obsolete in (1875) were features of character that marked him clearly as a courteous gentlemen, to whom acquaintances became friends.”
“Some ten years ago (1865) Dr. Mosgrove was remarked as a hale and hearty gentleman who had preserved himself, and really looked twenty years younger than his actual age. He met with an accident at that time, however, by which one of his limbs was broken, and from that day he began to decline. For the past three years he has been quite feeble, rallying at times sufficiently to go about the city, and even enjoyed himself in intercourse with his friends. He lived an active, steady, and consistent life, and died quietly and peacefully, at his home, Wednesday, March 10, 1875, in his 85th year. The funeral service was delivered by Rev. J. B. Britton, pastor of the Episcopal Church of this city, of which Dr. Mosgrove has long been a worthy member, and the interment was conducted by the Raper Commandrey, Knights Templar, in the presence of a concourse of his friends, old and young, who had assembled to pay the last tribute of respect and esteem to an old citizen, an honest man, and a worthy gentleman.”
CCPA’s Histsoric Homes and Gardens Tour
Look for Part II of the Contributions of the Mosgrove Family of Urbana, Ohio as the CCPA prepares for this year’s event-filled tour weekend. Plan on attending his year’s CCPA’s Historic Homes and Gardens Saturday June 25th and Sunday June 26th from 11am to 5 pm each day and learn about how history is being kept alive. Tickets will go on sale at supporting local businesses after June 1. A ticket is good for both days and the tour is never canceled because of rain. If you would like to volunteer to help with the tour or need ticket information, leave a message at 1-800-791-6010 or visit www.urbanahomeandgardentour.com Hope to see you there.
Submitted by the Champaign County Preservation Alliance.