LIMA — In 1876, James Y. Marmon, the proprietor of a drug store on Lima’s packed-dirt Public Square, decided it was time for a “short sketch of my life,” detailing where he had been and what he had done.
And Marmon, by then in his mid-30s, had been busy and had gotten around a little since his birth in 1840 to Robert M. and Sarah Jane Young Marmon in an area that became known as Marmon Valley near the Logan County town of Zanesfield. Robert Marmon was among the earliest settlers in Logan County.
Marmon in 1876 had three surviving siblings. A sister Eliza, born in 1838, would marry Samuel Curry Adair and eventually move to Iowa. The other two siblings, Gustavus “Gus” Marmon, born in 1844, and Susan Marmon, born in 1849, would, like their brother, become prominent citizens of the Lima area. Susan, known as “Jennie,” operated Lima’s first kindergarten.
“Being only nine years of age when my father died,” Marmon wrote in 1876, “I cannot recollect anything of importance up to that time …” He did, however, recollect that his mother had retained a “hired man” originally employed by his father but the man had “become dissipated and I told mother to discharge him and I could attend to the stock,” Marmon was about 11 years old at the time.
Marmon worked the family’s farm and attended school as time allowed for the next decade. “In the fall of 1859 my brother-in-law (Adair) moved to Lima and in the spring he and his brother, B.L. Adair, and a cousin, C.W. Hunter, entered into partnership for the purpose of wholesaling Yankee notions and manufacture hair rolls, perfumery, and also hat and cap business,” he wrote, adding, “they offered me seventy-five dollars (per) year if I would take charge of the store.” Although the business dissolved in 1861, Marmon was soon involved in another venture.
Marmon and Adair rented space with Dr. Samuel Sanford, with Sanford occupying “the north part for drugs and we the south for notions, and lived upstairs.”
“My object was to learn the drug business and I got a set of books and went to work in dead earnest,” Marmon added. “This continued till July 1862 when I concluded to go to the city and clerk, if I could get a chance, and thereby prepare myself for the drug trade.” Later that month, he took a position with a “little sorrel-headed, humped-back Englishman” in Covington, Kentucky, arriving in that city about the same time Confederate cavalry commander John Hunt Morgan was threatening Cincinnati.
Marmon recalled that “as most of the troops had been called away only a few days previous, the police force and firemen of Cincinnati and Covington were called out to meet John (Morgan) and give him a hearty welcome. For a short time, I must confess, I felt a little weakened and almost wished I had remained in Allen County.” Morgan never reached Cincinnati, eventually surrendering in northeast Ohio.
In March 1863, Marmon returned to Lima with Adair “and he and I entered into a partnership with Dr. S. (Samuel) Sanford to sell drugs …” The ever-footloose Marmon sold his share in this business in February 1865 and, he wrote, “engaged to travel and sell drugs in Ohio and Indiana for G. and S. Crawford of New York.” He quit that job in January 1867 and “for some time I was at quite a loss what to engage in, but finally concluded to locate in the retail drug business, as soon as I could find a town to suit me …”
To that end, Marmon noted, he headed west in June 1867, getting as far as Ellsworth, Kansas, which at the time was about as far west as one could go by rail. After “coming very near locating at Topeka.”
Marmon recalled, he returned to Lima, bought Sanford’s stock of drugs and, in late 1867, opened his business in a town that suited him. In 1870, he married Sanford’s daughter, Anna.
Marmon’s drug store on the west side of the Public Square became a downtown fixture in the late 19th century, offering everything from window shades to books to concoctions to kill potato bugs. Marmon also offered patent medicines, which promised cures for almost anything. A February 1877 advertisement in the Lima Times-Democrat, noting that “consumption (tuberculosis), with other throat and lung diseases should not be ignored,” promised that a 75-cent bottle of Boschees German Syrup from Marmon’s “will keep your whole family healthy during the winter.”
In the 1880s, Dr. Charles M. Townsend, of Lima, who was widely known for his traveling medicine shows, sold the recipe for one of his most famous concoctions, Magic Oil, to Marmon, who became his only authorized agent in Lima.
Marmon, meanwhile, joined the masonic lodge, was elected to city council, invested in property, bought a spacious home on the southeast corner of Market and Metcalf streets and was named to the board of the Ohio National Bank.
On Aug. 3, 1889, Marmon was badly injured while “compounding a prescription in the rear of his drug store,” the Lima Daily Times reported. Marmon was pouring nitric acid into alcohol “when the compound exploded with a loud report.” Marmon was cut by flying glass and burned by the compound.
“The only feature of the accident which is not deplorable is that Jim is the fortunate holder of a $5,000 accident policy in the Traveler’s Insurance Company, which will pay him $25 a week during his disability,” the Times wrote.
In September 1891, Marmon died in Los Angeles, California, “whither he had gone for the benefit of his health,” the Times wrote. Marmon, the newspaper reported, had “throat disease,” which had reached his lungs. His wife, Anna, died in May of 1910. “Mrs. Marmon was the widow of the late J.Y. Marmon, who was for many years a druggist where the Hunter drug store now is in this city, and the family has many relatives in and about Lima,” the Lima Republican-Gazette wrote May 24, 1910.
One of the Marmons’ four children, Blanche, married William K. Boone, another Lima resident, in 1904. The couple soon moved to Xalapa, Mexico, where he took a job supervising a hydroelectric plant. The couple would remain in Mexico for four decades and Boone would become known as a philanthropist and benefactor of the city of Xalapa.
Marmon’s youngest sister, Jennie, was a pioneer in her own right. She is credited with being the first kindergarten teacher in Lima. In 1884, the Lima Daily Republican, visited her in her school on the corner of High and McDonel streets, which was then half a dozen years old.
“The rare skill in the management of her trust, her wonderful patience, and the unvarying good humor of Miss Marmon indicates that she is especially fitted for the duties she has undertaken,” the newspaper wrote. “Her empire is one of love and trust, and it seems to be reciprocal between scholars and teacher. Next week the Kindergarten will close for the season, and Miss Marmon will go to Iowa on an extended visit.” She died in Iowa, where she had gone to live with her sister, Eliza Adair, in November 1904. Eliza Adair died in July 1912.
Marmon’s brother, Gus Marmon, “one of the well-known and prominent residents of Allen County,” in the words of the Republican-Gazette, died at his home near West Cairo (Cairo) in January 1910. “Deceased was an old soldier and was well known in the vicinity of West Cairo …,” the Lima Daily News wrote Jan. 28, 1910.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.