Some people are "loners." They go through life with few friends and acquaintances and generally are not members of churches, charities or social organizations.

Some people are "loners." They go through life with few friends and acquaintances and generally are not members of churches, charities or social organizations.

They are, as frontier scout Simon Kenton -- something of a loner himself -- once put it, people who "live on their own hook."

John Jay Janney was definitely not one of those people. Through a long and eventful life, with much of it spent in Columbus, John Janney became something of a classic example of a man who likes to be part of things. If ever there was a "joiner," John Janney was that man.

Like many people who ended up in Ohio's capital city in the mid-1800s, Janney came from humble beginnings. His family had been in America for quite some time. An eminent clergyman, Thomas Janney, had arrived in Philadelphia in 1683. Over the years, the family spread out and by the time John Janney was born in 1812, his parents had been living around the Goose Creek Meeting House in Loudon County, Va., for some time.

When Janney was one month old, his father died and left him in the sole care of his mother. She managed to get by with a lot of help from her neighbors. The Janneys were longtime members of the Society of Friends, called Quakers, and in Goose Creek, they tended to take care of each other.

They also believed in the value of education. John Janney attended the Goose Creek school from the age of 6 to 15 and later attended a day school in Alexandria for several months. By the standards of his era, he was a very well-educated man.

Members of the Society of Friends were opposed to the institution of slavery and by the time he had reached the age of 21, John Janney had seen enough of what Lincoln later called the "peculiar institution" to last a lifetime. Like many young men of his era, he decided to seek his fortune in "The West."

What many of us in central Ohio tend to forget is that in 1833, this place was "The West." Janney moved to Warren County, Ohio, and stayed there for some time. There were major Friends settlements in Waynesville and Springboro and a lot of Quaker farms in the land in between. From 1833 to 1845, Janney lived in southwest Ohio and worked as a teacher and surveyor.

But like a lot of men with restless energy, Janney kept looking for new opportunities. In 1844, he found one and took a job as a clerk in the Ohio House of Representatives. He liked both the town and the job.

Columbus in 1844 had been the state capital since 1812 and was a comfortable, small city of 6,000 people linked to the rest of the world by the Ohio Canal and the National Road. The Ohio General Assembly only met for a few months each year and for the rest of the time, clerks like Janney kept the small state government running.

While he liked the town and his job, the simple fact was that it did not pay much. Few government jobs did in those days. So John Janney got into the habit of joining any group that might help him and any group that he might help. After a while, this got to be a lot of groups.

In 1847, Janney landed an appointment as chief clerk in the office of the secretary of state. He held that job until 1851, when he was chosen to be secretary to the board of control of the State Bank of Ohio. He held that job until 1865.

After serving briefly as assistant postmaster of Columbus, he moved over to the private sector and became secretary and treasurer of the Columbus and Hocking Valley Railroad until 1881.

At that point, he had made enough money to retire and did just that. But it was not a quiet withdrawal from public life.

Through all of these years of gainful employment, John Janney had been active in a variety of other organizations. A great believer in libraries, he helped establish the private Atheneum Library soon after his arrival in Columbus. Later, as a member of city council, he wrote the legislation establishing the first public library in Columbus in 1872.

It was not his only elected office. Janney also served on the Columbus Board of Education, the board of health, the board of police commissioners and the board of directors of the Ohio Penitentiary.

While holding down a full-time job and serving in public offices, he also kept busy with a number of private organizations. He was a member of the Columbus Horticultural Society and its occasional secretary for 40 years. He taught in the Sabbath School at the Ohio Penitentiary for 15 years. For a number of years, he also served on the board of the Prisoners Aid Society, one of the forerunners of the Board of State Charities.

And while he was doing all of these things, he also served as secretary or treasurer of the local Whig and Republican parties and was secretary and treasurer of the Ohio Republican Party during the Civil War years of 1863 and 1864.

And he also stayed quite involved in the activities of the Society of Friends in its yearly meetings in Ohio and Indiana.

Mr. Janney, it is safe to say, was a joiner.

In 1892, local historian Alfred Lee was looking for someone to write the definitive history of banking, of all things, in Columbus for his forthcoming history of the city. John Janney agreed to write it. He was 80 years old.

It still reads pretty well. And with all we have learned since then, it needs little, if any, revision. It is really that good.

And so was John Janney.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek.