As it were

Galloway was a notable woman

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This is the story of a remarkable lady. Like many of the American women of her time -- more than a century and a half ago -- Joan Wallin Galloway has been remembered somewhat in the same light as her equally noteworthy husband.

But because her famous son left behind some reminiscences, we can get at least a glimpse of Mrs. Galloway and her world.

I have written elsewhere about Samuel Galloway. Born in 1811, he had a talent for being in places that would become famous for other reasons at a much later date. Born in Gettysburg, Pa., he moved to Highland County, Ohio.

A believer in moral purity, Galloway was certainly in the right place. Hillsboro in Highland County was one of those places where the Prohibition movement began. He later attended Miami University and the Princeton Theological Seminary. Both institutions played a critical role in the struggle against slavery. And Galloway did not like slavery one little bit.

One of the founders of the Republican Party, he became a close and trusted friend of Abraham Lincoln. Admitted to the bar in 1843, Galloway was elected Ohio secretary of state in 1844 and moved to Columbus the same year. By that time, he had been married to Wallin for five years.

She had been born in Cincinnati in 1821 to parents of French and English descent. Cincinnati at that time was something of a small town that was growing very rapidly. In a few short years, it would become a city with the largest German-speaking population in America -- and the largest city in the Ohio Valley.

Wallin was educated at Mr. and Mrs. Stoughton's Young Ladies Seminary in Cincinnati. This was considered by a later account to be "one of the finest seminaries in the west." The same account noted she received a gold medal "for excelling in music and French."

Because of these accomplishments, she received an appointment as a teacher at Dr. Sanis' School for Young Ladies in Hillsboro. And it was there she met young Samuel Galloway, who was visiting his sisters at that place. At the age of 18, she married Galloway in 1839.

For their first few years in Columbus, the Galloways lived at the Neil House Hotel across the street from the first brick Ohio Statehouse at State and High streets on Statehouse Square. But they wanted a real house that could become a real home. Encouraged by his rising status in state and national politics, the Galloways decided to build a house on Town Street in 1852.

The house was removed some years ago, but it was built in the same year and in close proximity to the Kelton House and the Snowden Gray House which are still there.

It was a place of grace and grandeur. It was the place the Galloways called home. Their son Tod, the author of the Whiffenpoof Song, later described it in some detail.

"A large square house with an ample ell. A home of high ceilings, broad hallways and spacious rooms, of big windows with old-fashioned outside shutters and a broad winding stairway leading to an attic which covered the entire third story. ... Another place of delight was the big, cool cellar with rafters hung with strings of onions, peppers and all things so placed for drying.

"Around the wall were barrels of apples, potatoes, molasses, vinegar and cider; while a generous swinging shelf held hams, tongue and fresh vegetables from the farm. In one part was a sunken place in the floor lined with stone slabs where with fresh water, the milk and cream could be kept cool and sweet. Ice packed in sawdust was always kept in an icehouse. The plentious supply of provender was indicative of the open-handed hospitality of the home through which passed a constant stream of guests -- one day the most distinguished; the next plain and humble. A United States senator, often; and often visiting politicians, a stump speaker or a county chairman.

"Spacious grounds surrounded the house filled with all kinds of trees, cedar, maple, silver leaf poplar, fruit trees of all kinds, including six apricots -- a rare tree in central Ohio. A row of locusts vibrant with the sound of bees when in blossom and in the rear gooseberries, raspberries and currant bushes and arbors with Catawba, Isabelle and Delaware grapes.

"In looking back, one wonders how the women managed with more or less -- mostly more -- inefficient servants to perform the household duties, raise a large family of children, superintend their education, and yet find time to entertain and keep abreast mentally and culturally as they did. ... In those days baker's bread was unknown and a crock of homemade yeast was always ready.

"When Oscar Wilde was in this country in the late 80's, he remarked that next to Lady Stanley, my mother was the most brilliant conversationalist he had met."

Joan Wallin Galloway died at home in 1890. She is buried with her family in Green Lawn Cemetery.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek News.

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