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Fundamental Documents of Ohio







Upon the resignation of Governor Meigs in March of 1814, Othniel Looker, who was then speaker of the state senate, became acting governor of Ohio under the provisions of the constitution of 1802. Sketches of Looker's life published before 1956 are incomplete and inaccurate. The following account of his early years is taken from that of an authority on Looker family history.

Othniel Looker was born on October 4, 1757, on Long Island. After the death of his father, John Looker, his mother moved to Hanover, Morris County, New Jersey, when Othniel was two years old. There she supported her family by teaching school.

In May 1776, before he was nineteen, Othniel enlisted at Elizabeth- town in the New Jersey militia and served as a private throughout the Revolutionary War. In 1779 he married Pamela Clark, a daughter of Henry Clark of New Jersey. As a young man Looker learned the weaving trade, but turned to school-teaching, which he practiced for thirty years. About 1788 the family moved to Vermont, where they resided for about a year before moving to New York State. Saratoga County elected Looker representative in the New York State Assembly for the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh sessions, 1803 and 1804.

Having received a grant of land in the West for his war services, he came in 1804 to Hamilton County, Ohio. According to several accounts he settled in Harrison Township; the tax duplicate of Hamilton County for 1810 indicates, however, that he was paying taxes on 157 acres in Crosby Township, but there is no entry for that year in Harrison Town- ship. He soon became widely known and respected, for he was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1807 and thereafter represented Hamilton County in the house in the six, seventh, and eighth general assemblies (1807-9) and in the senate in the ninth, tenth, and twelfth through the fifteenth (1810-12, 1813-17). He was speaker of the senate in the 1813-14 assembly and thus became acting governor from March 25 to December 8, 1814, for the remainder of Governor Meigs's unexpired term. He discharged his duties with ability, but his brief tenure was uneventful. One incident, however, is worthy of note. In August 1814 he issued a call for five hundred volunteers to join an expedition under General Duncan McArthur against the Indians on lower Lake Michigan. He became a candidate for governor for the next term, but he lacked the prestige of his opponent, Thomas Worthington, and was defeated. Looker carried only five counties including his own, and polled only 6,171 votes to 15,879 for Worthington.

In 1816 Looker served as a presidential elector when the electors from Ohio voted for James Monroe and Daniel D. Tompkins. He remained in the senate until 1817 and then returned to Hamilton County, where in the same year he was made one of the associate judges of the court of common pleas, serving until 1824. He then retired to his farm in Harrison Township and apparently lived there until after his wife's death in 1841. He then lived for a time in Cincinnati with his son James Harvey Looker, the eldest of his nine children, who was one of the earliest newspaper publishers in Cincinnati.

In 1844 the former governor went to Palestine, Illinois, to live with his daughter Rachel, the wife of Judge Joseph Kitchell of that place. He became a highly respected member of the Illinois community. His last public address was made there on the Fourth of July, 1845, when, dressed in his continental uniform and overcome with emotion, he con- trasted the early history of the country with its splendid destinies. He died within the month (July 23) and was buried in the Kitchell family lot. A monument was erected to his memory on the Looker farm in M or- Harrison Township. Governor Looker had lived an honorable and useful life, and holds a record for longevity among former governors of the state. He has the distinction of being the only Ohio governor who served in the American Revolution. The Ohio Historical Society


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