Col. Joseph D. Taylor
Stories of Guernsey county by Wm. Wolfe Page 708-709
Colonel Joseph D. Taylor
Few men have done more for the industrial, intellectual and moral advancement of Cambridge than did Colonel Joseph D. Taylor. For a period of about forty years (1860 to 1899) he was closely identified with every important enterprise that tended to the improvement of the city he had adopted for a home. It is questionable whether the people of Cambridge have ever realized the value of the services rendered by Colonel Taylor in making it the progressive city it is today.
An Ambitious Youth.—Born in Belmont county in 1830, he came with his parents to Oxford township, Guernsey county, two years later, and remained with them on their farm there until he was twenty-one. Intellectual themselves, his parents encouraged him in his ambition to become a scholar, and, after acquiring all the knowledge the district school had to offer, he entered Madison College at Antrim. While enrolled as a student there, and later, he taught in the schools of Oxford township.
During his teaching he read law. At the same time he served as county surveyor, being elected to that office two times. But the legal profession appealed to him most of all. He quit teaching, resigned as a county official, and entered the Cincinnati Law School from which he graduated in 1860. Then he came to Cambridge.
Although an attorney, not a teacher, he received the appointment as a member of the county board of school examiners, which position he held until the Civil War began. He purchased The Guernsey Times of J. C. Douglas, and controlled its policies until 1874, when it passed into the hands of his brother, David D. Taylor.
Raised Company for Civil War.—At the time of the Civil War Joseph D. Taylor raised a company, of which he was chosen captain, for the eighty-eighth Ohio Regiment. After entering the service, he was appointed judge advocate of courts martial and military commissions at Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and at other places. While serving as such he came to Cambridge as presiding judge in a court of eleven officers detailed to try Oliver and Hartup, the murderers of Provost Marshal John B. Cook. The trial, which lasted for three months, attracted wide attention. So intense was the feeling that a company of infantry was necessary to act as guard. For his valuable services to the government during the Civil War Mr. Taylor was twice brevetted and given the military title of colonel.
An Active Prosecuting Attorney.—While in the army he was elected prosecuting attorney of Guernsey county. An occasional leave of absence was granted him to attend to the duties of the court. He was reelected in 1865, and so vigorously were the laws enforced by him that at the close of his term as prosecuting attorney in 1867, there was not an open saloon in Guernsey county.
After selling his interest in The Guernsey Times Colonel Taylor devoted his time to the practice of law and private business enterprises. He had faith in Cambridge, and his main aim, apparently, was to advance its material growth and prosperity. He organized the Guernsey National bank and was its president until his death He erected several blocks of buildings on Wheeling avenue to encourage business enterprises. When some of these were destroyed by fire they were rebuilt by him. When some of the new ones were destroyed by a second fire, they, too, were rebuilt. Better buildings than before were erected each time.
Promoted Enterprises.—Several important manufacturing industries were located in Cambridge through the influence of Colonel Taylor. He took a prominent part in promoting the Cleveland and Marietta (Pennsylvania) Railroad, and in bringing it through Cambridge.
But Colonel Taylor’s efforts in behalf of Cambridge were not confined entirely to the material advancement of the city. As a devoted member of the Methodist Episcopal church he gave much time and money to its support. He was a trustee, superintendent of the Sunday school, and a lay delegate to several general conferences. He was president of the city board of education for several years, also a trustee of Ohio University, and Scio, Mt. Union and Allegheny colleges.
Elected to Congress.—Colonel Taylor was a delegate to two national presidential conventions, the ones in which Hayes and Garfield were nominated, in 1876 and 1880, respectively. He was elected to fill an unexpired term in the Forty-seventh Congress, and for four full terms afterwards. In his connection with national politics he enjoyed an intimate friendship with Presidents Hayes, Garfield and McKinley.
Many men have been benefactors to their communities along single lines. Colonel Joseph D. Taylor, with his versatile mind and keen interest in the welfare and advancement of his home city, took a leading part in each of its many-sided activities. Since the death of Colonel Taylor a new generation has come to take charge of the affairs of Cambridge. His services should not be forgotten, and to that end this article has been written.