James Emmitt

Article taken from The Portsmouth Times, December 23, 1893

The Grave Closes Over the Most Prominent Figure of the Scioto Valley.

A Man of Affairs, and essentially a Man of the People.

His Early Arrival in Portsmouth, and Later Connection with her business interests--His Great Organizing Capacity--Travels in Europe Other matters connected with his life.

Hon. James Emmitt, who died at his home in Waverly last week, though not a citizen of Portsmouth, was nearly as well known here as our own citizens. He landed in Portsmouth when a lad, on the way from Pennsylvania to an Ohio home, and went up the Scioto river to Pike County, and ever after his interests were identical with those of the Scioto Valley.  He saw Waverly grow from a clearing in the wilderness to a smart village, and largely through his influence, energy and wealth saw it become the county seat, and a beautiful and thriving canal town.  As early as 1825 he worked in Portsmouth as a teamster.  Later he learned the trade of blacksmith, and at all times during his long and busy life he proved himself a practical and resourceful man in whatever positian he was placed.  With his bank account pressing close upon the million mark, he was able and willing at any time when occasion demanded it to make a hand at loading a drove of refrafctory swine upon a canal boat, drive a team of blaky horses, or with a club jump into the thickest of a drove of panic stricken cattle and become a temporary but potent cow-puncher.  He could sign his name to a check for a thousand dollars, and calmly go out on the tow-path and properly arrange the harness on the team of an astonished canal driver.

Some time in the forties he was in the commision business in Portsmouth with the late Colonel John Row, the firm being Row & Emmit.  He outlived nearly all of teh old school of Portsmouth merchants, and died in harness.  Hemust have been a man of vast brain power, for with but scanty education he became not only the wealthiest man in Southern Ohio, but a man of almost national reputation, a state senator, and a strong aspiratn for congressional honors.  He was a close observer, and a reader of men, also had a keen relish for life, and saw the bright and humorous side of most everything.  In company with his wife and two youngest sons, "Coon" and "Hank," he treaveled all over Europe, and unlike many Americans who travel in Europe, with greater pretention to learning and culture, he rememberd everything he saw, and could tell of it most entertainingly, and fill in teh story with a pleasant halo of personality.  The two sons were left at a famous college in Germany to be given a classical education.  The boys did well enough at college till an American negro minstrel troupe came along, when they concluded they wanted to see a little more of European life and joined the troupe, traveled with them and returned to America with them, and turned up in Waverly, serenely broke, not long after the arrival home of their good parents.

The bulk of Mr. Emmitt's vast fortune was not made in the Waverly distillery, as a generally supposed, though that industry, with teh Waverly flour mill, might be called the nucleus of his operations.  He possessed the commercial spirit in an eminent degree.  Whatever he touched turned into money.  He was brainy, magnetic, and a great organizer.  His interests and possessions in Chillicothe were nearly as great as those in Waverly.  He owned most of teh land contiguous to Waverly, and at one time controlled all the turnpikes entering the place, and it used to be said that no one could enter Waverly from any direction without paying tribute to James Emmitt.  He never drank, or dispated in any manner, and was consequently sound-bodied and clear-minded.  One of his sons, the well known Floyd Emmitt, of Chillicothe, married Miss Neil Cummins, at that time a beautiful belle of Portsmouth, and daughter of Rev. S. P. Cummins, now residing in Waverly.

Mr. Emmitt was a native of Pennsylvania, and was born in 1806, about seventy miles from Pittsburg.  His good wife died several years ago.

Waverly will miss the clear brain and enterprising spirit of James Emmit.