On Tuesday, March 30, 1915, Bishop Milton Wright wrote these lines in his diary:
…Edward W. Hanley was buried to-day. It is said to have been in attendance second only to that of C. L. Vallandingham. Hanley was a Catholic; his wife a Protestant.
Edward W. Hanley is not a name frequently heard anymore when speaking of Dayton’s history. Not like Wright, Patterson, Deeds, Kettering, or any number of others.
Who was Edward W. Hanley? And what manner of prominence had he achieved that his death drew such a crowd of mourners as to be compared with that of Clement L. Vallandingham?
Vallandingham, a Dayton lawyer, was leader of the Peace Democrats, also known as “Copperheads,” during the Civil War, and editor of the Democratic newspaper the Dayton Daily Empire. Following the war, he was a leader in the Ohio Democratic party. He died in June 1871 and was buried in Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery. (Learn more about Vallandingham on Ohio History Central.)
Edward W. Hanley was born in Dayton in 1858. In the earlier days of his life, Edward W. Hanley had been affiliated with several different Dayton firms, including W. P. Callahan & Co., Barney & Smith Car Works, Patterson & Co. coal dealers, and the Sunday World newspaper. He was at one point assistant postmaster for Dayton. In 1891, he began a long career with the Dayton Gas Company, of which he was director, secretary, and treasurer by 1897, and president at the time of his death.
Additionally, according to The Democratic Party of the State of Ohio (1913, p. 206):
For years Edward W. Hanley has been a leading Democrat of the state. He is a leader in Dayton and Montgomery County and the head of the local organization, is a chairman of all local committees and the director of the Party’s policies in local affairs. He has frequently served as member of the State Committee and is at present chairman of that body. He was Assistant Postmaster for Dayton for three years under Grover Cleveland, was delegate to the Democratic National Convention at St. Louis in 1904 and delegate-at-large to the National Convention held at Denver in 1908. In January, 1911, Mr. Hanley was a strong candidate for United States Senator from Ohio.
Anyone so active in state politics and even considered for U.S. Senator must have been a prominent and important individual indeed!
Following the 1913 Flood, Edward Hanley was one of the founders of the Miami Conservancy District. The document at left, from the Miami Conservancy District Records, is a list of original members of the Dayton Citizens’ Relief Commission, including Hanley. In addition to being a successful and powerful man, he was also obviously and actively concerned with the welfare of his community.
After Hanley’s death, Edward A. Deeds, Chairman of the Flood Protection Committee, was quoted by the Dayton Daily News as having said: “Every citizen in our flood-stricken valley owes a debt to Edward W. Hanley which cannot be repaid” (DDN, 28 Mar. 1915). The full testament of Deeds to Hanley can be seen in the article gallery at the bottom of this post.
It seems that Hanley was also a genuinely likable fellow, according to the following bit of an 1897 biographical sketch by Frank Conover (p. 485):
Mr. Hanley enjoys quite a reputation as a writer, and has contributed to numerous publications for the past ten years. He has written quite a number of humorous and sentimental songs. As a reciter and general entertainer he also has quite a reputation… Mr. Hanley, in each of his varied occupations, has made friends and built for himself a good and enduring reputation. His personal popularity grows not only out of his business ability and integrity, but from his unfailing geniality of disposition and sense of humor.
An investigation into the Dayton Daily News microfilm revealed—in addition to further evidence of Hanley’s much-revered status in the community (based on the number of pages dedicated to his death)—the source of the Vallandingham comment as well. It would seem that Bishop Milton Wright was referencing what he’d read in the March 30th Dayton Daily News, rather than speaking from his own memory (although the Wrights were in Dayton in June 1871!):
Additional articles from the Dayton Daily News regarding Hanley’s death can be seen in the following gallery (click on an image to enlarge it):
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about who Edward W. Hanley was and why he was so important to the people of the Miami Valley in 1915!
- Dayton Daily News (microfilm): March 26-30, 1915.
- Frank Conover, Centennial Portrait and Biographical Record of the City of Dayton and of Montgomery County, Ohio (Chicago: A. W. Bowen, 1897), pp. 482-486, SC&A call number F499.D2 C86.
- Miami Conservancy District Records (MS-128), Wright State University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives (view PDF finding aid).
- American Gas Light Journal, vol. 102 (April 12, 1915), p. 238, accessed 16 Apr. 2015 via Google Books.
- Thomas Edward Powell, The Democratic Party of the State of Ohio (Ohio Publishing Co., 1913), p. 206, accessed 16 Apr. 2015 via Google Books.
- “History of MCD: MCD Founders,” Miami Conservancy District web site.