Stratton House Inn :: Ohio Revisited: Belmont County, Part 18 -- The Heatheringtons of Bellaire.
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by Henry Howe.

In his early mining operations at Bellaire, Ohio, Capt. John Fink found excellent help in the Heatheringtons -- a family of English miners. They consisted of the father, John, and his four sons -- Jacob, John, Jr., Ralph, Edward -- and a John More. They worked in a coal-bank, in the hill south of McMahon's Creek. They would get to work about daybreak, bring their coal to the mouth of the pit on wheelbarrows. There they would empty their coal into barrels which they would place in a wooden sluice, down which the barrels would slide to a lower level -- making a tremendous rattling noise, which reverberated over the cornfields and resounded among the hills around. At that time Bellaire was only a farming spot and the farmers complained that the noise disturbed their morning sleep. After a while they became reconciled to the noise, because it brought money and business to the place, and the miners, who had hearty appetites, had to be fed.

The family also was musical. In the evening, after their day of toil, they brought out their musical instruments -- fife, drum, clarinet, triangle, etc. John, the father, and his four boys, and John More gave the valley folks the best they had. So, if the early morning hours were filled with rasping clatter, the evenings brought full compensation.

Jacob Heatherington

When I entered the lower end of Bellaire, by railroad along the river valley, I was struck by the grand appearance of a mansion under the hill, with a row of poplar trees extending up to it. This, with the huge glass greenhouses with their big cupolas, and other industrial establishments of the place, the great bridge across the Ohio, and the grandeur of the hill and river scenery, made an enduring impression.

The owner of this palatial residence is Jacob, or, as he is commonly called, Jake Heatherington, one of the sons of John Heatherington. Jake is now [in 1887] an old and highly respected man of seventy-three years of age and with a large estate, but he cannot read nor write.

The Miner and his Mule Partner

Jacob Heatherington was born in England in 1814. At seven years of age he was put to work 2,400 feet underground in a deep coal mine, and worked sixteen and eighteen hours a day. He never went to school a day in his life. In 1837, when he was twenty-three years old, he rented a coal-bank from Capt. John Fink, and bought eight acres of land on credit. This was his foundation upon which he build his fortune.

At first he wheeled out his coal on a wheelbarrow; his business grew, and he took in a partner. The firm became known as Jake Heatherington and his mule Jack. For years he mined his own coal, and drove his faithful, silent, yet active partner, a little fellow, only about three and a half feet high. A strong affection grew up between them -- a mule and a man -- and so great was it that Jack rebelled when anyone else attempted to drive him. From a few bushels per day the business increased to thousands, and Jake's coal fed the furnaces of scores of steamers. His possessions enlarged in various ways; his eight acres increased to over 800, he owned some thirty houses, shares in glassworks, and possessed steamboats.

He could never read the names of his own boats as he saw them pass along the beautiful river sixty rods from his door; but he didn't care, for he knew them by sight, and no more required their names on their sides for his use than he wanted painted on the side of his beloved mule, in staring letters, the word JACK!

The House that Jack Built

In 1870 he built his imposing residence, at a cost, it is said, of $35,000, and dedicated it to the memory of Jack. He always says it is "The House that Jack Built." His good fortune he credited to Jack; for without his faithful services he never could have afforded to build it. Over the doorway is a noble arch, the keystone of which is the projecting head of a mule, a likeness of Jack. When the house was built Jack was twenty-eight years old, retired from active business, sleek and fat.

Then came the eventful day of his life. Jake brought Jack out from his retirement to show him the grand mansion Jake owed to him. In the presence of the assembled neighbors, Jake led Jack up the steps under the splendid archway, and Jack followed him through the house, while he talked to him in the most loving and grateful way and showed him everything; all of which Jack fully understood as a mule understands a man. Jack lived many years after this in "otium cum dignitate."

To be born is to eventually die; it is a mere question of time; with mules there is no exception. Then came Jack's last sickness; the most tender nursing was of no avail. The grief of Jake at Jack's death was indescribable. To this day he goes with visitors, and points out Jack's grave under an apple tree near his house, and talks of the virtues of the departed. His age was forty years and ten days; his appearance venerable, for time had whitened his entire body until it looked like snow.

My Visit to Jake

It was in the twilight of a Sunday evening when I called upon Jake Heatherington in 1887. I passed under the poplars and across the lawn to the mansion. The old man and his wife were seated on the doorstep, enjoying the close of the day as it rested in silence over the lovely hill-crowned valley.

When I handed him my card, I happened to look up and saw the mule looking down, as if watching me. In a moment the old gentleman handed it back, saying: "You will please read it; I am not much of a scholar."

"No matter," I replied; "talking was done before printing; I will talk." I passed an hour there, during which he gave me some of the incidents of his early life, as previously related. He is rather a small man, but young looking and compactly built. Just after the Civil War he fell in a coal-boat and broke his hip, from which he still suffers.

Although he cannot read or write, he is of the quality that poets are made. His steadfast friendship and compassion for his mule demonstrates a sentiment that touches us all. Here is the personification of compassion even for the most lowly of God's creatures. "Love me, love my dog," was a thought in Paradise before it was a proverb on earth.


This entry is adapted from Henry Howe's HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF OHIO (2 vols., 1907). The book has been reedited, updated, and restructured for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. This entry may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned the entry for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.

DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 1998 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
ENTRY NUMBER: EBK31135111

 

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