Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Sighs of Sam: Samuel Medary

Medary Elementary School is just north of the Ohio State campus. It is an architectural beauty. I have friends who drive through the neighborhood when they come to town just to admire the building. The Maynard Street area, named for the Maynard family farm, is the location of Medary School. But my friends did not know the namesake of the school.

Samuel Medary was an implacable newspaper editor and rabid Democrat, the publisher of three newspapers in Columbus: the Hemisphere, the Ohio Statesman, and the Columbus Crisis. All these before and during the Civil War.

On March 5, 1863, a mob moved noiselessly through heavily falling snow to the office of the Columbus Crisis. Medary was a protestor of the Civil War, believing that it was a waste of resources and manpower. This didn’t sit well with the citizenry of Columbus and the soldiers of Camp Chase. With bayonets poised, the leaders of the crowd kicked in the door of the office at the corner of Gay and High.

They sacked the place: books, furniture, fixtures destroyed, all doors and windows smashed. Copies of the Crisis were scattered by the thousands in the streets.

But “Governor” Medary had gone to Cincinnati on the afternoon train. President Buchanan had made him the Governor of the Minnesota Territory, and then the Kansas Territory, and the name “Governor” stuck. But that snowy day Medary’s political career was over, due to his opposition to the War and rebukes of President Lincoln in print.

Medary was indicted by a federal grand jury in 1864 for conspiracy against the government and was arrested. He was released on bonds, but died in Columbus, Ohio before he could be tried.

I came to work at Medary School, teaching art to the lively members of the Medary Boys and Girls Club. I stored our artwork in the furnace room, in which sat an immense chuffling and snorting furnace. The principal told me that the floors slanted so in that room because the contents of a coal bin were originally meant to slide down to the former coal-burning furnace.

The octopus-like furnace would utter the ultimate sibilant every fifteen minutes. It scared me at first, but I got to thinking of the noise as the sighs of Sam Medary for his lost Crisis.

Medary School was built in 1892. Its peaked roof, red brick, and grey stone window ledges give off a friendly rather than a formidable feeling. It dominates its neighborhood setting. Mr. Jones said the wind blows parts of the school’s roof off due to the roof’s rakish angle. It’s Sam setting his cap for those who wronged him.

Christine Hayes

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