The man returned to Warren, held public office and retired as a bailiff at 95.
By MONICA BOND
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- There's a big tale behind the small plaque beneath a tree in Courthouse Square.
Few people are aware the plaque honors Civil War veteran Marcellus Ovando Messer, who served with the Ohio Volunteer Infantry Sept. 7, 1861, to Oct. 24, 1865. He lived to see World War I, the Great Depression and the growing German war machine.
Wendell F. Lauth, Trumbull County historian, said the plaque on the east side of the Trumbull County Courthouse is near where the Bell-Harmon Post No. 36, Grand Army of the Republic, met. Messer, who became the post commander, was a charter member when the post was organized June 24, 1880, Lauth said.
Lauth said it was a custom for the members to plant trees or dedicate plaques in honor of the veterans.
Grand Army met in the courthouse, on the ground floor, Lauth said. "He was one of the [city's] last Civil War veterans."
Emily Varner, Trumbull County's archivist, hadn't known about the plaque that was partially concealed by turf. Her records show Messer was born Nov. 2, 1842, in Guilford, N.H., the son of Loren S. Messer of New Hampshire and Chastine W. Cook of Vermont. The family moved to Warren in 1856.
Messer was about 5 feet 4 inches tall, had blue or gray eyes, a fair complexion and brown hair.
At 18, while still in high school, Messer joined the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Sept. 7, 1861, and served in C Company.
Messer was discharged as a corporal Dec. 31, 1863, at Flat Creek, Tenn., "by reason of re-enlistment as a veteran volunteer," his discharge record states. He joined the 19th Ohio Veteran Infantry Volunteers on Jan. 1, 1864, and again served in C Company.
"After Lee's surrender he went to Texas as part of Gen. Grant's army to watch Emperor Maximillian in Mexico," service records say. Messer was discharged at the end of the war, Oct. 24, 1865, at San Antonio. He reached Columbus on Nov. 22 and was paid, before returning to Warren.
Messer "served continually in the same Company and Regiment through the entire war, a period of nearly four years and three months, without being sick or wounded or on detached service, and having never missed a march or battle in which the Regiment was engaged. He did not taste of liquor while in service," service records state.
Lauth's resources show Messer's 19th Regiment participated in 21 battles and crossed Tennessee 16 times. "The men marched over 6,000 miles and traveled another 6,500 by rail and water."
Lauth said the regiment had 111 losses in battle and another 168 losses by disease. Some of its noteworthy battles were Shiloh, Mission Ridge, Perrysville, Chickamauga and Jonesboro; it "went thru the Atlanta campaign under Gen. W.T. Sherman with a battle almost every day for 100 days," the service record says.
Messer was one of the fortunate soldiers who survived. Of the 2,213,000 Union participants, 364,000 died. Confederate records indicate there were about 1 million participants; 133,821 deaths are recorded, with an estimated additional 28,000 who died in Union prisons.
"That's guessing, because they have no documentation to back it up," Varner said. The Confederates destroyed many of their documents so they wouldn't fall into Union hands.
Messer then returned to Warren. He joined First Presbyterian Church in 1866. A diary he kept that year has an invocation at the end of most entries, such as "Dear Lord, keep me all to thyself." By the next year he was active in the Masonic Lodge.
"One of his most cherished possessions was a solid gold plate which he carried in a leather case in his pocket and on which was engraved his life membership in the Masonic Order," Messer's obituary says.
Dec. 29, 1873, Messer applied for a marriage license and on Dec. 31 married Frances "Fannie" M. Dickey. They had one son, Samuel Fred Messer, born July 22, 1878.
Fannie Messer, born Oct. 10, 1851, was a daughter of Samuel Fisher Dickey and granddaughter of Samuel F. Dickey Sr. The Dickeys also were originally from New Hampshire. They came to Warren in 1843 and settled on the banks of the Mahoning River.
Marcellus and Fannie Messer lived in the old Dickey homestead on Tod Avenue, said Lauth. "It is a beautiful house, there's a lot of history there," he said.
The house was part of the Fannie D. Messer plat, at the corner of Tod and Messer Street, now called Sylvan. "It's kind of amazing that his wife had a plat named after her," Varner said.
The house is now owned by Sam Hazinakis, who plans to restore it. Hazinakis said Messer's last direct descendant, his great-grandson Frederick "Fritz" Gillespie, owned it until his death in 2002. Although run-down, Hazinakis said he thinks the house has potential.
"I always did admire the house," he said. "I didn't want to see someone buy it and make it some apartments."
Fannie Messer also owned property at the corner of Tod and Buckeye, which she bought from Messer's parents for $540, Nov. 10, 1876, and left to her husband upon her death.
Marcellus O. Messer, a Republican, was a member of the city council for five years, 1882-83 and 1888-90, served on the city board of review for 11 years and was a deputy in the probate court office for six years.
Documents at the Warren Trumbull County Public Library say Messer "was chairman of the light committee when Warren first obtained electric lights." He participated in Memorial Day services at Oakwood Cemetery every May 30 for many years, and had "practically perfect" attendance at Bell-Harmon post meetings.
Messer went regularly "to the Masonic club to listen to the radio reports of baseball games, of which sport he was an ardent devotee."
Messer served almost 20 years as a bailiff in the probate court. Nicknamed "Daddy" by courthouse regulars, he retired from the court Dec. 31, 1937, at 95.
Messer died of heart inflammation Nov. 27, 1938, and was buried two days later in Oakwood Cemetery with his wife, father and mother.
A living descendant could not be traced by the local historians. Frederick "Fritz" Gillespie, who owned the house on Tod Avenue, is believed to be Messer's last direct descendent.
"I think it was a cousin who settled his (Gillespie's) estate," Lauth said.