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Documentation From Buckeye Genealogy

George D. Harter


GEORGE D HARTER. --The strong, true men of a people are always public benefactors. Their usefulness in the immediate and specific labors they perform can be defined by metes and bounds; but the good they do through the forces they put in motion and through the inspiration of their presence and example is immeasurable by any finite gauge or standard of value. The late George D. Harter was such a man. To epitomize his life and character within the limits which this work allows is impossible. But less than most men intellectually his equal does he need the voice of eulogy. A native son of the city of Canton, which was the scene of his mature labors, he left a distinct impress on the civic and industrial life of the county, while his efforts were so discerningly directed along well defined lines that he seemed at any one designated point to have realized at that point the full measure of his possibilities for accomplishment.

George Dewalt Harter, who was summoned into eternal rest at his home in Canton, on the 6th of December, 1890, was born in the old family homestead, which was located on the site of the present Savings Deposit Bank, on south Public Square, in the city of Canton, the date of his nativity having been Christmas day of the year 1843, so that he was but forty-seven years of age at the time of his demise, being called away in the very prime of his honorable and useful manhood. He was the third son of the late Isaac Harter, one of the honored pioneers and most influential citizens of the county, concerning whom a specific memoir appears on other pages of this work, so that a recapitulation of the family history will not be demanded in this connection. Mr. Harter received his early educational discipline in the public schools and at the age of sixteen was graduated in the Canton high school, with a record of high scholarship. Shortly afterward he was given the position of teller in the Savings Deposit Bank, of which Julius Whiting, Sr., was cashier at the time, and he was incumbent of this office at the time when the dark cloud of civil war began to obscure the national horizon. Though but eighteen years of age at the time, Mr. Harter gave prompt evidence of his intrinsic patriotism by tendering his services in defense of the integrity of the Union. Concerning his military career the following tribute was offered at the time of his death by his lifelong friend and his comrade in the Rebellion, John J. Clark, of Canton.:

Comrade George D. Harter, whose early and untimely death we are called upon to mourn, when a youth of eighteen years enlisted as a private soldier in Company E, One Hundred and Fifteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, on the 14th of August, 1862. The nation had become alive to the magnitude of the rebellion and the patriotic spirit of our people had become fully aroused, and the work shops, farms, offices, counting rooms and school houses sent out living streams of willing sacrifices, ready to offer themselves upon the alter of liberty in defense of a common country. Comrade Harter was not formed in a rugged mold, but his early education, his correct habits, his studious cast of mind and his sterling loyalty and devotion to the principles of freedom, made him a willing, earnest soldier in his country's cause and gave him such prestige that on September 18, 1862, he was made a sergeant of his company, and on December 14th of the same year he was advanced to the position of first lieutenant of Company E, which position he held till the close of the war, respected and cherished by all who served under him and trusted and confided in by those under whom he served. Always quiet and unassuming, always attentive to duty and at his post wherever duty called him, his services as a soldier exhibited those sterling traits of character which in civil life exemplified him as a man and so endeared him to all who knew him. His early training in his father's banking house had made of him a correct and methodical accountant and had fitted and qualified him to properly discharge the irksome duties imposed upon officers in command of troops engaged in defense of lines of communication and in garrison, and it its safe to say that there was not a more competent and trustworthy officer on the line between Nashville and Sherman's front in 1863, 1864 and 1865 than the quiet, self-reliant and modest young lieutenant, over whose remains we now shed fraternal tears in kindly remembrance of his many virtues. In December, 1864, when Sherman abandoned his connections and marched his victorious veterans from Atlanta to the sea, General Hood sought to reap rich reprisals by a bold invasion of Tennessee. Lieutenant Harter was then in command of a meager garrison in a block house near Nashville. The right wing of Hood's army swept across the railroad and enveloped its defenses and attacked the block house with artillery at short range--defenses intended only to shelter the garrison from the marauding bushwhackers who interfered with the railroad bridges. Against such odds and under such circumstances Lieutenant Harter held his block house, though it was many times penetrated, killing several men, until night came, when he skillfully and successfully withdrew his command and led them through the enemy's lines into Nashville, where they became a part of the invincible army of General Thomas, which broke Hood's army of invasion to pieces and redeemed Tennessee from the menace of subsequent invasion.

Comrade Harter was present at the fatal catastrophe which, on August 26, 1863, resulted in the sad and untimely death of his brother, Captain Joseph S. Harter, at whose side he remained, ministering with a brother's kindly hand until death relieved the Captain of his sufferings. Besides being a member of the Loyal Legion, he was a comrade in Canton, Post No. 25, Department of Ohio, Grand Army of the Republic, which he joined by muster on the first day of November, 1882. He always took much interest in a quiet and unostentatious way in the welfare of the post. He was one of the most liberal contributors where sickness or distress called for relief. He only needed to know that assistance was required. In his death our post suffers a severe loss and one which our comrades will feel keenly and deeply. He was a brave and loyal defender. He offered to die that his country, proudly, gloriously and united great, might live. At his death his countrymen remember his gallant services and drop upon his grave the sorrowing tears of grateful remembrance.

Another appreciative estimate of Mr. Harter's career as a soldier is the following, which was given by Hosea R. Jones, of Canton, who was a member of the same regiment:

Mr. Harter was looked upon as being one of the best drilled men in the regiment and his bravery was simply undaunted. He marched down to Tennessee in the summer of 1864 and was engaged in a fierce battle there. When the rebels attempted to take possession of and destroy the various block houses, Lieutenant Harter and company of less than twenty men were stationed along the Nashville & Tennessee Railway, in charge of garrison No. 2. The Southerners tried to capture the troops and destroy the garrison because behind it were hiding a large number of colored people. Mr. Harter's company was assaulted by the enemy December 9, 1864, while they had only three pieces of rifled artillery. A continuous fire was kept up from 9 o'clock in the morning until dark. Two of the garrison were killed and five wounded. Under cover of night the garrison withdrew to Nashville in safety. After their retreat General Thomas recognized the services of Lieutenant Harter in defending the block houses to such an extent that he attached Mr. Harter to his headquarters for some time ad finally placed him on General Beatty's staff as aide-de-camp. After that fierce battle General Thomas issued a special complimentary order acknowledging his services as lieutenant in defending his post, and presented him with a handsome saddle. During one of his engagements Mr. Harter's sword was shot off by a shell.

Mr. Harter continued in active service until victory crowned the Union arms and then returned to Canton, where he resumed his position in the bank, continuing to be identified with the institution until 1867, when he became associated with his brother Michael D. in the organization of the banking firm of George D. Harter & Brother, and this institution is still in existence, being known at the present time as the George D. Harter Bank. Apropos of his many capitalistic and industrial associations the following extract is from an article published in the Sunday Herald, of Canton, on the morning after his death: " At the time of his death Mr. Harter was president of the First National Bank and a member of the banking firm of Isaac Harter & Sons. As a banker he was always conservative and successful, at the same time very liberal with his patrons. There are, no doubt, many men in this city today who can date their success in life to favors received from him. But there is a time-honored adage which says: 'there is that which scattereth and yet increaseth,' for Mr. Harter leaves a large estate. There is no public or private charity in this city which is not his debtor. One of the greatest things of this kind to which he had become deeply interested was the new building of the Young Men's Christian Association, on West Tuscarawas street. Trinity Lutheran church also received a share of his donations to religious institutions. The new hospital which he and his wife were building in the western part of the city will be completed." (This institutions now in operation and is unexcelled in its accommodations and equipments.) He was born in the faith of the Lutheran church, of which he was a member from his youth until his demise, while during the greater portion of the time during his adult years he served the same in some official capacity, having been a member of Trinity Lutheran church, of whose Sunday school he was superintendent at the time when his summons came to pass forward to the "land of the Leal." Of him it has been said that he "was neither a Pharisee nor a bigot in religion," and this was to be presupposed as true of one of so high intellectuality and wide mental and practical ken. He was signally appreciative of all that is best in literature and art and his private collections in these lines were among the best in the state, while it was his pleasure to enrich his beautiful home with all that makes for ideality in life, the home life representing an apotheosis of all the term implies, and being so sacred and inviolate as to make it incompatible in this connection to even attempt the lifting of the gracious veil which compassed it. He was a member of the Canton board of trade, of the board of managers of the Young Men's Christian Association and of its building committee. Its politics he gave a stanch allegiance to the Republican party, but, having a deep insight into the well springs of human thought and action and being ever kindly and tolerant in his association with "all sorts and conditions of men," he placed true values upon those with whom he came in contact in the various relations of life, even esteeming character above the mere accidents of temporal prestige or power. Mr. Harter was a distinct man and a true one, and as such it was his to become a potent factor for good in all places in which he chose to interpose, while the unequivocal esteem and affection accorded him on every side constitute the best tribute to his worth as a man. A gracious personality, a cultured and refined taste and a sincerity of thought and purpose which never wavered,--these characterized the man to whom this memoir is dedicated, and, standing in the pure light of his unassuming and noble manhood, we can not but be moved to a feeling of respect and admiration and to a realization of the fact that he lived a life filled to its maximum with usefulness and honor. His death was held as a personal bereavement tot he people of Canton, where his entire life was passed, and his name will be held in grateful remembrance as long as there remain those who have cognizance of his worthy and kindly life.

In conclusion, briefly, reference is made to the domestic chapter in the life of the honored subject. On the 3rd of March, 1869, was solemnized his marriage to Miss Elizabeth Aultman, daughter of the late Cornelius Aultman, one of Canton's most distinguished and public-spirited citizens, and of this union were born six children, concerning whom the following is a brief record: Eliza Aultman Harter (deceased); Mary Elizabeth, at home; C. Aultman (deceased); Amanda, wife of James U. Fogle, of Canton; Catharine and Elizabeth, at home. Besides his widow and four children Mr. Harter is survived by two brothers and two sisters.