Azariah Doan: Clinton County’s forgotten general


Jonathan McKay - Contributing columnist



© Molly Boatman | http://mollyboatman.com

© Molly Boatman | http://mollyboatman.com


Most people in Clinton County have heard of General James William Denver and the Denver family, as well as what they accomplished. There is another general who is just as accomplished as General Denver, and his name is Azariah Doan.

Azariah Doan was born to Jonathan and Phoebe Doan in 1824. He had a normal childhood and grew up a Quaker, which would become a very important part of his life and his teachings.

Azariah studied law and in 1845 he was admitted to the bar. He was elected clerk of courts in 1850 and elected prosecuting attorney 1855 to 1861.

In April 1861 his world would change, and he would change with it.

On a Sunday in April 1861, it was announced at his home Quaker Meeting that President Lincoln had sent out a call for 75,000 volunteer troops to join the Union Army. By firsthand accounts, Doan rose from his seat and went down to the front of the church. He stood by the minister and called for volunteers.

This was most shocking in a Quaker Meeting, but the war was just and the cause was known. Doan raised an entire company of men at that service. On April 22, 1861 hen became Lieutenant Doan and he raised the first company of men from Clinton County. His company would be known officially as the 12th Ohio Volunteers, and they would enlist for three months.

Doan was an excellent soldier and made the rank of Captain in no time. By the time his enlistment was up he and Captain Henry Corbin raised another regiment, the 79th Ohio Volunteers. The Clinton County boys were joined by Warren County boys this time.

Corbin would later become Theodore Roosevelt’s Chief of Staff.

Doan again rose through the ranks and became a Lt. Colonel. He then later became a Brevet Brigadier General for his fighting in the Battle of Avery Borough, where he commanded three regiments.

Doan was a distinguished looking man, as we have come to know from photographs on file at the Clinton County History Center.

He had a beard and wore a tailored uniform. Being a Quaker, he never carried a gun but he did carry a cavalry sword that dragged on the ground when he walked. He wore the sword so much that the end of the saber was worn down by the end of the war.

He had a horse named Bill that he rode everywhere. Bill was not just to carry Doan; Bill would also carry wounded soldiers while Doan walked beside him. Bill also carried a drummer boy named Gilbert Van Zant — “Little Gib” to the troops. Gilbert came from Port William and became the youngest enlisted man in the Union Army.

After the war, Doan was offered a commission in the army, which he declined. He returned to Clinton County, a war hero in every sense of the word. Bill came as well, as a most celebrated horse. Both horse and rider were paraded in the streets of Wilmington.

Doan would later marry, have 11 children and one step-son, from his second wife, as his first wife died.

He would live in what would become known as the Heiland House, now owned by Wilmington College. It was the only home on that side of town. He would build a front porch for greeting folks and sitting on in the evenings.

Doan would run for the State Senate and win. Later he would come home and run for Common Pleas Judge serving three five-year terms. He would also be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1888.

You can say that he lived a very full life — but that is not the end of Doan’s story.

Doan would host the 79th Ohio Volunteer reunions on his lawn every Decoration Day, what we know today as Memorial Day.

His horse, Bill, would participate in the annual parade until his death, then Bill was stuffed and displayed in the Wilmington College Library. All the men from the troop would come over and place a wreath around Bill’s neck every reunion.

Unfortunately, Bill would not last long and would basically become nothing more than a skull due to mismanagement of him. Though, his skull would be brought out on Alumni Day.

Doan would see hardship in his later years, as he was so generous to others. His house would be foreclosed on but his wife would be able to get it back later. It was said that Azariah Doan was one of the kindest men in the county and would never turn a person away.

Two of his men are buried in the family plot because they had nowhere to be buried. This is only one of the many gestures that he was a part of.

Azariah Doan would pass away in 1911 at the age of 87. He has been forgotten by most of Clinton County, but he should be remembered for all of his contributions to the county and beyond. He was a great man, and his story of greatness was just retold by Andrew McCoy at the Talking Tombstones event put on by the Clinton County History Center.

Andrew certainly embodied who Azariah was — a gentleman, statesman and a Quaker. He should never be a forgotten general.

Jonathan McKay is a Clinton County native and a current member of Wilmington City Council.

© Molly Boatman | http://mollyboatman.com
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Jonathan McKay

Contributing columnist