County Public Library-Greene County Room-Local History and Genealogy in Xenia, Ohio.
Every now and then on the site I get a chance to profile an oddly named politician who has virtually no information available online in regards to their life history and public career. Since the founding of this site one year ago I've lucked into the good fortune of beginning correspondence with a number of historical societies throughout the United States, enlisting their help in researching the life of a particular politician I'm going to write about. Today's profile is one of those wonderful occurrences, as I received a great deal of help from some very special people during the course of my research!
The bearded fellow shown above is one Camoralza Hagler Spahr, an outstandingly named resident and physician of Greene County, Ohio who served a short term as that county's representative in the Ohio legislature during the mid-1860s. As it stands now, very little exists online in regards to this intriguingly named man, and I'm pleased to relate that upon the completion of his profile here there will be at least one substantial biography of Dr. Spahr available online, courtesy of the help and insight of the Greene County Historical Society and the Greene County Public Library!
With that introduction, I'd also like to mention the portrait of Spahr shown above (located in the archives collection of the Greene County Public Library in Xenia, Ohio.) This picture was e-mailed to me a few days ago and the kind folks involved in both of the above-mentioned places graciously granted permission for its use on the site here! This portrait is in all likelihood the only picture of Camoralza Spahr you'll ever see, which speaks volumes about the rarity and obscurity of both the man and the picture. I want to send a big thank you to Green County Public Library Head archivist Deanna Ulvestad, Greene County Historical Society Director Catherine Kidd Wilson, and Greene County Library Director Karl Colon for all of their help and generosity in regards to this wonderfully named Greene County resident.
From the Hundred Year Book and Official Register of the State of Ohio: 1789-1891, Inclusive.
I'll begin Dr. Spahr's profile with a small bit of background on how this article came about. I first discovered the name of this oddly named Ohioan in an Ohio register that cataloged every member of the state senate and house of representatives up until 1891. Since his discovery three years ago little else could be found on him, with the exception being a small write up in the 1881 work History of Greene County, Together With Historic Notes on the Northwest and the State of Ohio. After exhausting all of the available sources mentioning Spahr, I fired off an e-mail to the Greene County Historical Society and was soon rewarded with a message from that society's director, Catherine Kidd Wilson. In her e-mail, Catherine made mention of the above photograph and also was kind enough to send me two pictures of Dr. Spahr's gravesite in Jamestown, Ohio, as well as a newspaper transcription on his candidacy for the Ohio legislature in 1863. A short time later Greene County Library Director Karl Colon put me in contact with library archivist Deanna Ulvestad, who kindly provided me with access to Spahr's portrait!
Camoralza Hagler Spahr's story begins with his birth on January 30, 1826, in Greene County, Ohio, the third of nine children born to Gideon (1788-1856) and Phoebe Hagler Spahr (1798-1867), both Hardy County, Virginia natives who resettled in the Ohio area around 1816. It can safely be said that strange names ran in the Spahr family, with four of Camoralza's siblings being named Bingdella Eddy (1828-1861), Raper Apharaso (killed at the Battle of Stone River in 1863), Barzillai Nelson (later a Methodist clergyman), and Parthena (born 1833). No sources mentioning Camoralza Spahr give mention as to why he was endowed with his highly unusual first name, and it is also a mystery as to the exact origins of the name "Camoralza" (although it sounds like it could be of biblical extraction.)
The Spahr family resettled on a farm near Jamestown, Ohio in 1832, and young Camoralza received his education in schools local to that area. He is recorded as engaging in farm work during his adolescence, and in 1846 began pursuing a career in medicine, becoming a student under two Ohio physicians, Dr. Ebenezer Owen and Dr. Adamson B. Newkirk. In the late 1840s Spahr enrolled in the Starling Medical College in Columbus, Ohio, and after completing his studies opened a medical practice in Jamestown in February 1854.
Within a few years of beginning his medical practice, Spahr married Ironton, Ohio native Mary Ann Peters on March 11, 1858. This union eventually produced six children, who are listed as follows: Phoebe (1859-1913), Fannie (born 1864), George R. (1865-1938) and three other children (a genealogical website lists their names as John Peters, Mary Harriett, and Homer Mason) who are recorded by the earlier mentioned History of Greene County as dying in infancy.
In 1863 Spahr (while still a practicing physician) threw his hat in the political ring, launching a campaign for a seat in the Ohio State House of Representatives. An excellent write up on his candidacy was sent to me by Catherine Wilson and was originally featured in a September 2, 1863 edition of the Xenia Torchlight. The author of this newspaper article, Benjamin F. "Fogy" Shickley, makes special note of Spahr being an "eminent and successful physician" who had received "an excellent education. He is a pleasant and impressive speaker. He is well posted in the politics of the country. He is a gentleman of excellent morals, and his voice, his labor and his means have ever been employed for the preservation of the Union, and the suppression of the rebellion." "Fogy" goes on to state that during the Civil War, Spahr's "best professional services were promptly given, and without any charge to any and all of the family of volunteers that called upon him."
Support for Spahr's campaign was marked by "Fogy" as one of "unanimity", with the author noting that "he is the right man!" and that "fellow citizens, my voice is for Spahr." Newspaper write-ups like this one proved to be a boon to Spahr, as he eventually won election to the Ohio House of Representatives in November 1863, "by the largest majority ever given prior to that time to any candidate for the same office in the county."
Spahr officially took his seat in January 1864 and is listed in his 1896 obituary as having "ably represented Greene County" during his tenure, which concluded in 1866. While still serving in the legislature Spahr is recorded as serving as chairman of a "Union meeting" in 1864 which discussed ongoing events in regard to that year's state and national elections. Spahr (mentioned by his initials "C.H.") is also noted as having been selected to attend a state convention on May 25th of that year. An article on that meeting (which appeared in the Xenia Sentinel) has been posted below.
Spahr returned to his medical practice after leaving the legislature and throughout his later years was involved in various civic affairs in his native Greene County. His obituary mentions him as being an active parishioner in the local Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as his service as a Sunday school superintendent, and the 1881 History of Greene County denotes that Spahr was a charter member and past treasurer of the Grace Encampment No. 171 of the International Order of Odd-Fellows in 1873.
Camoralza Hagler Spahr died at age 70 in the early morning hours of August 3, 1896 at his home in Jamestown. He had been a practicing physician for over 40 years and had maintained his practice until "being laid aside by disease" some years previously. Camoralza's wife Mary Ann survived her husband by a number of years, dying at age 72 in October 1910, and both were subsequently interred in the old Silvercreek Cemetery in Jamestown, Ohio. Research has also shown that many other members of the Spahr family rest here, including Camoralza's parents Gideon and Phoebe, his children George, Homer, Mary and John, and his brother Raper, who lost his life during the Civil War.
Spahr's obituary as it appeared in the August 7, 1896 edition of the Xenia Daily Gazette.
In addition to locating the rare obituary for Dr. Spahr shown above, I was also rewarded with two pictures of his gravesite in the Silvercreek Cemetery, sent to me by Green County Historical Society director Catherine Wilson in one of the earlier mentioned e-mails! These pictures have been posted below, and as one can see that his stone denotes his full name and that he was a "beloved physician in his native county for 42 years."
As stated in the lengthy introduction to Spahr's profile here, this article wouldn't exist without the helpful research and generosity of Catherine Wilson, Karl Colon and Deanna Ulvestad. Its truly amazing that history (however obscure or forgotten) can connect people, even ones that are hundreds of miles away from one another! Because of the research and help of the above-mentioned folks, this article on Camoralza Spahr marks the first time that a proper online "biography" of him has been compiled, and hopefully, it will generate some interest in this forgotten figure in Greene County history!