Much has been made in recent years about the changing nature of work in America.

Much has been made in recent years about the changing nature of work in America.

The often-stated point is that it will behoove most people to get as much education as possible for as long as possible since it is likely that we will not only have several jobs in our later lives, we may indeed have several different professions.

All of this may be quite true. But the notion of a world of constantly changing occupations implies that somehow, most people in the past stayed in one place, learned one occupation and stuck with it for the rest of their lives.

And that was not always the case.

As evidence of that, we look today at the example of William Hooker Slade. As we shall soon see, were he around today, Mr. Slade would probably fit in quite well.

William Hooker Slade was born in Cornwall, Vt., on Feb. 23, 1823. His family on both sides had been living in America for several generations. His grandfather, also a William Slade, had enlisted in the Continental Army from his home in Connecticut. He fought with that army as it retreated across Long Island, Brooklyn and Manhattan Island as the British relentlessly took control of New York. In the battle for Fort Washington, he was captured by the British and spent a lengthy period of time on a prison ship in New York harbor.

At the end of the war, he apparently decided to get as far away from New York as he could and settled in rural Vermont. And it seems most of the family stayed in that area for some time.

By the time William Hooker Slade was born in 1823, a number of members of the family had begun to look at options other than a lengthy life on the farm. Slade was among them. Educated in country schools, he lived on the family homestead until he was 21. And then, partly because of failing health and partly from curiosity, he took a job in a drygoods store in Bridport, Vt.

Not finding that to his liking, he taught school for four months and then found work in yet another drygoods store, this time in Middlebury, Vt.

In 1848, Slade, like many other people of his generation, decided that his future lay to the West. In those days, Ohio was still considered loosely to be part of the West, even though it had been well-settled for more than half a century. When Slade arrived in Columbus, he found a small Midwestern capital city of about 6,000 people, served by both the National Road and a link to Ohio's extensive canal system. And railroads would be coming soon.

He went to work for a man named William Richards as a clerk and bookkeeper in yet another drygoods store.

After three years, he became a partner with Richards in 1851 and the two men operated the store until 1855. Dissolving their partnership by mutual consent, Slade left town completely and went to Burlington, Iowa, where he ran a "wholesale notion business."

Notions in those days were all the sorts of miscellaneous items - from kitchen utensils to sewing supplies - that every home might or might not need but usually could not live without.

This business apparently did not do all that well. In 1858, Slade, by now an experienced clerk and bookkeeper, came back to Columbus and went to work for Eberly and Shedd, one of the largest wholesale grocers in the region. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Slade, whether for reasons of health or entrepreneurial initiative, avoided direct military service and became Eberly and Shedd's traveling storekeeper to the 57th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Returning to Columbus after the war, he left Eberly and Shedd but stayed in the wholesale grocery business with the firm of J. and W.B. Brooks.

By 1870, William Hooker Slade was 47 years old. He had married Marion Bell of Columbus in 1851 and the couple eventually became the proud parents of nine children - six girls and three boys.

With a family this large, Slade found it necessary to reinvent himself yet again.

He entered into a partnership in 1870 with a man name John Field. The two men opened what turned out to be a reasonably successful lumber business.

It was successful because Columbus was growing quite rapidly in the years after the Civil War. The opening of the Hocking Valley Railroad brought immense quantities of inexpensive coal, iron and lumber to Columbus merchants like John Field and William Hooker Slade.

In 1873, Field's interest was bought by one Edwin Kelton and the firm became known as Slade and Kelton.

The Keltons had been in Columbus for about as long as Slade. Founding father Fernando Cortez Kelton had made his money in wholesale and retail commerce.

Unlike Slade, the family had stayed in Columbus, made some money and built a fashionable house on Town Street - which incidentally, was an occasional stop on the Underground Railroad.

With his move into the lumber business, William Hooker Slade seems to have found his niche in Columbus commerce. The firm did quite well and Slade went on to dabble in Republican politics and served one term on the Columbus Board of Education.

William Hooker Slade died in Columbus in 1919 and was buried in Green Lawn Cemetery. Over a long life, he had certainly proven that multiple careers in America are certainly nothing new.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.