In the spring of 1975, Grace Goulder Izant, former feature writer for The Plain Dealer and Ohio historian, regaled the Hudson Historical Society with the story of her coming to the town in 1924. Friends encouraged her to write more about the town.
So reportedly over cocktails and dinner at her home, Great Elm, on College Street, Izant thought this a good idea and announced she would in fact heed their advice and write a book.
The result: Eight years later -- and not long after her death -- "Hudson's Hertiage: A Chronicle of the Founding and Flowering of the Village of Hudson, Ohio" was published by Kent State University Press. Like her friends, the publisher must have considered her story worthy of retelling, because in May, KSU released it in its first paperback printing.
"Hudson's Heritage" is the story not only of Hudson, the town, but of (David) Hudson, the 39-year-old gentleman farmer from Goshen, Conn., after whom it was named.
Hudson, the town: Ever since Charles II of England conceeded the tract of the Northwest Territory known then as the Western Reserve to Connecticut in compensation for New Wyoming (Pennsylvania), David Hudson and his two longtime friends -- and brothers-in-law -- Birdsey and Nathaniel Norton, dreamed of owning Reserve property. While on several occasions all three would, it is the acquisition of Township 4 Tract 10 that seemed their most significant, since it appears that in it they took not only a financial interest but a personal one.
Of the six who were reportedly part of the group who drew the lot in that January 1798 land lottery, none but Hudson ever laid eyes -- let alone a foot -- on the new settlement.
The Nortons may have provided the capital, and the others -- Benjamin Oviatt, Stephen Baldwin and Theodore Parmalee -- scads of relatives who would eventually come to populate it, but it was Hudson who actually set the town's course and made it a reality.
It is he -- "one of those individuals surfacing occasionally in history who seems born for his epoch" -- who Izant clearly considers Hudson's true founding father, regardless that the names of all six are etched above Hudson Library
Hudson, the man: Hudson's goals -- which he detailed in a letter -- for setting out into "the howling wilderness" was to found a town which he would "minister on strict Christian principal, maintain under law and order, emphasize morality and promote education."
But Hudson also was an astute businessman, and he wanted his little town to flourish. He founded Western Reserve College in hopes of not only training "pious youths for the ministry and some laity, teachers, doctors and the like," but also of attracting a major influx of people with the highway that would have to be built to accommodate the school. With those people would come tremendous opportunities for business and capital gains.
If there would be any other individual whom Izant seems to credit for charting the town's course it would be James W. Ellsworth, the bank and oil baron, who brought it back from economic ruin in the 1920s. A arial veiw of his property adorns the book's cover.
Hudson, the book: "Hudson" is a history book, so be warned it is full of places, dates and names. Many of the people are related, and should be familiar to folks around here since Youngstown, Warren, Akron and the like also were carved out of the Western Reserve. Trumbull was the territory's county seat.
But, although a history, it is in no way dull thanks to Izant's descriptive and flowery writing, which no doubt made her "Ohio Scenes & amp; Citizens" series in the Plain Dealer a favorite for 25 years. And, readers may learn a little more about Ohio, if not local history.
There are problems, however. Some stylistic; some organizational.
Some passages are written as first-hand accounts: "Washington's audience listened, profoundly moved by the significance of his message and by his presence," and with no credit to a specific source seem out of place for a history book. But, knowing that Izant did extensive research in Connecticut disspells the notion that she is just taking literary license to tell a better story.
Foot- or endnotes would have been more helpful (and more covenient) than a chapter at the end of the work where one still must search for information.
Readers who like to know what they are looking at when they come to a photo or graphic may find it irritating to also have to hunt for its indentification. It wouldn't be so bad if none of the graphic elements were identified, or better if all were since ample space for writing a one-line caption exists in most cases -- but some are and some aren't. The inconsistancy is frustrating.
It is fitting, however, that the work concludes where the project began -- with Izant's charming narrative about the little town for which big things were hoped.
X"Hudson's Heritage: A Chronicle of the Founding and the Flowering of the Village of Hudson, Ohio" by Grace Goulder Izant. Kent State University Press, 1985; first paper edition, 2001; 278 pages; $18.

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