History & Tourism

The Bartley Boys: Mansfield’s Father & Son Governors

15 Feb , 2017  

This week, Ohio Governor John Kasich sent a letter to the General Assembly requesting a joint session in Sandusky, to take place at the State Theatre on April 4 at 7:00 PM.

Over the last six years, Kaisch has given his State of the State Address around Ohio — in Steubenville, Lima, Medina, Wilmington and Marietta. One wonders whether or not Mansfield will enjoy that honor at some point. After all, Richland County is an old pro when it comes to things gubernatorial — it was once the home of Ohio’s only father and son Governors.

It’s only happened a few times in American history – the governor of a state is succeeded by another family member. In the case of the Bartley boys, however, the uniqueness goes deeper than that.

Thomas Welles Bartley served as Governor of Ohio from April to December in 1844. Having previously served as a member of the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate, he was in the position of Speaker of the Senate when Ohio’s then-Governor, Wilson Shannon, resigned. Bartley then  became Acting Governor while actually continuing to serve in the Senate, an arrangement which sounds ethically suspect to 21st century ears. The situation likely worked, however, as the Ohio General Assembly did not meet during his short term; Bartley spent his time signing documents and making appointments.

Thomas Bartley wanted to run for a full term in that November’s election, however he lost the Democratic nomination by one vote. Good thing, that, as his opponent would have been the Whig candidate, Mordecai Bartley – his own father! And, as it so happens, Mordecai Bartley won that election.

The elder Bartley saw service in the military under General (later President) William Henry Harrison. Like his son, he then served in both the Ohio Senate and the Ohio House. Mordecai Bartley serve a full two year term as Governor of Ohio, leaving office in 1846. His term saw the stabilization of Ohio banking and tax laws. An opponent of the Fugitive Slave Laws, Mordecai also advocated for repeal of Ohio laws which negatively impacted the rights of African-Americans. Mansfield’s Civil War encampment was named Camp Bartley in his honor.

The Bartleys had first moved to the Mansfield area about 1815, and Mordecai never left. He is buried in Mansfield Cemetery, not far from the grave of US Senator John Sherman.

After his short tenure as Governor, Thomas Barley joined a group in platting and laying out the village of Crestline in Crawford County. In the 1850s he had a two year stint as Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, then moved to Cincinnati to practice law. Bartley eventually moved on to Washington, D.C. where he is buried. Speaking of the Sherman family, Thomas’ second wife was Susan Sherman, sister of both Senator Sherman and General William Tecumseh Sherman.

The Bartley name lives on in Mansfield in the form of Bartley Avenue, which extends south from Park Avenue West.

 


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