The Walcutts arrived in Ohio in force in the 1830s. They did not come alone.
A number of large families were crossing the mountains in the years after the American Revolution, seeking new homes in the green hills and vast prairies of the Ohio Country. The Walcutts were one of those families who made themselves memorable in different ways.
One of the Walcutts, William by name, was an artist of some note. He moved to New York eventually and became well-known as a sculptor and portrait artist. Another Walcutt, James M. Jr., went to the U.S. Naval Academy in 1838, when he was 16. He served in the Navy through the Mexican War and finally left the service in 1856. He went to work for a commission company, sailing in and out of Chinese ports and dealing in all manner of goods and services desirable to those places.
Other Walcutt family members worked in a variety of trades and crafts in Columbus. At one time, there was even a Walcutt Museum – the only museum in town – where one might find stuffed animals and other anomalies. The museum did well for a time but eventually was eclipsed by theaters, balloon ascensions and a traveling circus or two.
It was into this urban admixture that Charles Carroll Walcott – C.C., for short – was born in 1838.
At that time, Columbus was a village trying hard to become a big city. It was a hamlet of only 2,000 people in 1832, but the arrival of the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Road had made Columbus a city of 5,000 people by 1834.
Charles Walcutt grew up among the working-class kids of the new town as well as with the children of the dangerous “badlands” a few blocks north and east of the Statehouse. He was gregarious and made many friends in the growing town. He was apparently studious, too, and did well in the local public schools.
In 1854, at the age of 16, he was accepted at the Kentucky Military Institute in Frankfort. Not as prestigious – or expensive – as some eastern schools, the institute provided Walcutt with a sound military education as well as with a solid background in civil engineering.
Walcutt returned to Columbus in 1858. Renewing his old acquaintances and forming new ones, he ran for county surveyor as a Democrat and won. He was 20 years old. Feeling himself on road to success, he married local girl Phoebe Neill in 1860. The world looked promising.
Then, as it did for so many people of this time and place, the Civil War changed everything.
With the outbreak of the war, Walcutt immediately began to urge his friends and acquaintances to enlist. He joined the Army with the rank of major because of his personal political connections and his military training. Soon, he was actively involved in training and organizing the 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel.
In February 1862, the 46th joined ranks with Gen. William T. Sherman and marched west to merge with armies led by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The Union army collided with a large Confederate army at a place called Shiloh in one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Walcutt took a bullet in the shoulder and was wounded seriously.
He stayed with the 46th as it later fought its way out of Chattanooga at a place called Missionary Ridge. The infantry joined with Sherman on his March to the Sea. By the end of the war, Walcutt was a brigadier general.
After brief service with the U.S. 10th Cavalry, Walcutt returned to Columbus as a Republican and a friend of President Grant. Grant appointed him to be collector of internal revenue for Columbus in 1869 and he held that job until 1883. In 1872, he was elected to the Columbus school board and served seven years as its president until he stepped down in 1894. In 1883, he was elected mayor of Columbus and served two terms until 1887. His wife died the following year.
When he was not involved in all of these public matters, the apparently indefatigable Walcutt also helped organize the Columbus Buckeyes professional baseball team and was a strong supporter of the Franklin County Fair.
In 1898, he was returning from a vacation in Mexico with his sister when he was hospitalized in Omaha, Nebraska. A longtime health issue led to a limb amputation and he never recovered. He died May 3, 1898, just as American troops were winning in Cuba in the Spanish American War.
When his casket arrived in Columbus, flags were at half staff and a procession of Civil War veterans and local militia companies accompanied the family to his home on Town Street. The funeral, at Walcutt’s request, was held at the Neil House hotel. Walcutt was 60 years old. He is buried at Green Lawn Cemetery.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.