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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History
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The Pioneer, a monthly supplement to the Sheboygan Press


Sheboygan Press - May 31, 1933

Sheboygan Pioneer Monthly Supplement

Personal Recollections Of Hugh Mosher And The "Spirit Of '76"

By Mabel Harling


In an article in a recent Sunday Milwaukee Journal describing Marblehead, Mass., the writer tells of seeing the original painting, "The Spirit of '76," and said that he was told that the three figures in the foreground were three generations of the Devereaux family in Marblehead.

I do not know how the Devereaux come into the picture, but I have personal knowledge of the picture and characters that is interesting to me, and may be of interest to others.

The picture was painted for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. The artist chosen to execute it was the well known painter, Willard, of Painesville, Ohio.

He chose for the foremost figures Hugh Mosher, Civil war fifer, and the other man was the elder Willard, the artist's father. I do not recall who the boy was.

My father, the late Henry McMurphy, also a native of Painesville, O., was a schoolmate of the artist Willard, and knew both the Mosher and Willard families intimately. He always called the men "Uncle Hugh" and Uncle Willard," respectively. Mr. Mosher was of the third generation of Mosher war fifers. His father was a fifer in the War of 1812, and his grandfather served in the same capacity in the Revolutionary war. For years he was a familiar figure at all public gatherings, and no soldiers' reunion in the state was complete without "Uncle Hugh" Mosher, the old fifer they called "Yankee Doodle." At one of these reunion he was presented with a gold-mounted fife. He said "that was for show," his "Old Reliable was for blow," and he always carried it in a purposely constructed pocket. In the summer of 1884 I visited in Ohio, where my father's people lived. Mr. Mosher, who then lived in Lorain, came into the neighborhood to visit and was entertained in the same house where I was.

At that time the picture was sold to go to Marblehead, Mass. The Ohio people felt they ought to have an exhibition of it, and it was brought to Cleveland. For a long time no place could be found large enough to exhibit it. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of placing it in the depot, where there was space and the proper light for hanging.

"Uncle Hugh" told me the story how they were taken to New York City and kept at one of the best hotels and treated royally while the picture was being made. A special studio was built for the work.

One day I was his guest, and we went to see the picture that meant so much to him. On the way back to Painesville, a newsboy came into the train with campaign son books. (There was a presidential campaign on) "Uncle Hugh" looked them over, handed several back to the boy and said, "I'll keep this one; I've been a Republican always," and he entertained everyone on the train playing familiar tunes, and a regular concert was held. When we left the train he was given quite an ovation.

The history of the Western Reserve and Lake county says the Mosher family came to Lake county in 1817 from Genesee county, New York.

Hugh Mosher was born in 1819, and died in 1892. Hundreds of old soldiers from all parts of Ohio by whom his death was regarded as a personal loss came to the funeral.

Quite a number of Sheboygan county pioneers were Mosher kin. The father of Mrs. William Waechter of Sheboygan is a nephew; other relatives besides the Luckers were Hinckleys and Calwells. Others who came from the same locality in Ohio were Veseys, Fords, McMurphys and Wrights.


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