Bellville, History & Tourism

Richland Roots: The Poppletons

17 May , 2020  

By: 1812Blockhouse Staff

Richland County has produced or been the home to a wide variety of individuals that have made important contributions to the world. 1812Blockhouse has been sharing their stories in a series called “Richland Roots.” This is a brand new post; for other Richland Roots stories, click here.

There are children who you would imagine will live or have lived interesting lives because of their names. Blessed with obviously creative parents, they set out on journeys that take them to places as unique as their monikers.

Such is the case with a set of children born in Richland County in the first half of the nineteenth century, the Poppletons.

Born near Bellville, they were the children of Samuel, a Methodist minister and merchandiser, and Julia Poppleton. The fact that their parents were creative is borne out in the names of their children: Early Franklin, Emory E., Parthinia P., Houston H., Damaris, and Zada Cora.

The Poppletons’ youth was spent in pre-Civil War Richland County, where they often helped out at their father’s store in Mansfield. In the 1850s, they began to travel to other locations for education, business, or, as was the fate for girls at the time, to marry. Damaris would marry the future Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court, while Parthinia married a prominent Cleveland attorney who went on to become general counsel for the Big Four Railroad, a position which would subsequently be held by Houstin H. Poppleton. Emory E. Poppleton was also a railroad executive.

Unfortunately, we can find no record of what those middle initials stood for.

Perhaps the most colorful career of the Poppletons was that of Early Franklin Poppleton, who went on to hold political office. After completing his education at Bellville’s Wilcox High School and Ohio Wesleyan University, Early was admitted to the bar like his brother Houston, opening an office in 1861 which remained open until his death in 1899.

Early Poppleton’s political life included service as a member of Delaware City Council. For six years, he championed advancements in city public improvements, including both the electric light plant and the water works. The electric railway, known also as the “interurban,” was established during his terms.

Poppleton, a Democrat, was elected to the Ohio State Senate from Delaware and Licking Counties in 1870, and then in 1874 he was elected to the US House of Representatives from the Ninth Congressional District, then comprising Delaware, Marion, Hardin, Know, and Morrow Counties.

He served for only one term in Congress, largely because of his maintaining party positions in a district which was becoming more Republican. In the difficult Reconstruction years following the Civil War, Southern requests for reparations were not kindly received. The Weekly Marysville Tribune shared this during Poppleton’s re-election campaign:

“Early F. Poppleton, the Democratic nominee for Congress in this district, who has a seat in the present House of Representatives, has never once opened his mouth in opposition to the presentation of these claims. He rolls them as a sweet morsel beneath his tongue.”

Of course, Democrat-leaning papers were just as profuse with praise. The Union County Journal shared, “[H]is course has been marked with ability, faithfulness, and close application to official duties.”

Poppleton lost the race, and returned to Delaware to practice law. He remained very popular, and his funeral on May 10, 1899, was said to be the largest ever held to date in that city.

Samuel and Julia Poppleton are buried in the Bellville Cemetery; most of the others rest in Cleveland’s Lake View Cemetery, while Early and his wife are interred in Oak Grove Cemetery in Delaware.

The photo above shows the US Capitol in 1875, while Early Poppleton was serving in Congress.

Sources: Cited papers, Wikipedia, History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879); Delaware Gazette; Find-a-Grave; Ancestry.com

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