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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Edward Thornton Heald

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 11, 2018

When I have a historical question regarding early area history, particularly things related to land purchasing, I pull from my shelf the book “Bezaleel Wells” by Edward Thornton Heald.


It was published in 1948, and the title page says it was “submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master in Arts” at the Western Reserve University.


The subtitle is “founder of Canton and Steubenville, Ohio” which of course relates to Wells.


The 241 page book is extremely well done, with footnotes and an extensive bibliography in the book which enhances the text and information contained in the book.


The index brings a smile to the face of any librarian, and the 5 appendixes provide information to the reader that would be difficult to locate elsewhere.


Perhaps the only fault of the book is the title, which is misleading in that it appears to be a biography of Wells; and it is more so a history of Ohio from the perspective of land purchases and the development of early cities.


The founder of Steubenville in conjunction with James Ross; Bezaleel Wells was born on January 28, 1763 near Baltimore.


He was the third son of Alexander and Leah Owings Wells.  Confusion over the spelling of his name relates to “Bazaleel” being recorded in the Vestry spelling of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records.


“Bezaleel” was the spelling used in his business files based on the Hebrew name used in Exodus.


I have always been curious about the author Edward Heald, and his background and education will ultimately resulted in a college degree in 1942 and the publication of this book some 6 years later.


My search worked backwards from his later residence in Canton to his birth in Portland, OR in 1885.


After early life in the Pacific Northwest, Heald moved to Ohio and attended Oberlin College, graduating in the “Teens.”


Much of his early life was spent in Russia as an administrator for the YMCA, returning to Ohio in the 1920s where he remained the rest of his life.


Edward Thornton Health became a local historian in Canton, writing books about William McKinley as well as a comprehensive 6-volume history of Stark County in 1963.


Following his retirement from the YMCA, he started a program on local radio about local history, which was later developed into a book.


In 1946, he was one of the founders of the Stark County Historical Society, and had a campaign

to record pioneer cemeteries this resulted in another book.


Heald died on June 1, 1967 in Canton, and may be remembered for a quote from the Preface of the 83,000 word Stark County history: “It is well to remind ourselves and the coming generations of the qualities that produced our present greatness, and not lose the spirit of America.”


We owe thanks for his work assembling all of this local history as outlined in the book’s Preface.


Clearly his work was enhanced by his studies at Western Reserve University in 1942, and his findings prove that the Wells Family passed along many items of Bezaleel Wells.


He also found that a general collection of Wells letters does not exist, if it ever existed.


Of the 12 chapters in his book, 2 chapters refer to Steubenville, and 4 chapters refer to Canton, with other chapters relating to early Ohio history as well as culture, religion, and industry.


Some items come from standard local sources such as Doyle’s history and Caldwell’s history; but other items come from searches in academic libraries in Ohio, as well as the Library of Congress.


Perhaps in future weeks, I will examine some of the unique items found in this book.