Very often people will conflate Jeptha H. Wade with his grandson Jeptha “Homer” Wade II (1857-1926), one of the founders of the art museum, and a significant donor to that institution and many other institutions in the city including the Cleveland Protestant Orphan’s Asylum (now Beech Brook), Lakeside Hospitals, Rainbow Babies, Huron Road Hospital, Western Reserve College, and University School. In the 1916 rotunda of the Cleveland Museum of Art are a series of four pilasters, each bearing the name of one of the founders of the museum. On one of them is written “Jeptha H. Wade” and the viewer is left to decide whether the pilaster is a testament to grandfather or grandson, or both.
The matter of grandfather and grandson opens the question of Randall Palmer Wade (1835-1876), J. H. Wade’s only son, the father of Jeptha “Homer” Wade II and his sister Alice Wade Everett (1859-1916). Randall is the “missing Wade,” and his name has been largely forgotten for several reasons, including his principal role as the defendant in a series of well-publicized slander trials, and his early death at the age of 41.
About Randall Palmer Wade (1835-1876)
Randall Palmer Wade was born on August 26, 1835, in Seneca Falls, New York, to the energetic polymath Jeptha H. Wade (1811-1890) and his wife, Rebecca Facer Wade. Just over a year later, in November 1836, Rebecca died and Jeptha, left with an infant, moved quickly to locate a suitable candidate to be a wife and mother for his infant son. He married for a second time in 1838, taking as his bride 23 year-old Susan Fleming, an unmarried daughter of John and Susannah Fleming of Romulus, New York, his own home town. Two of John’s brothers were married to two of Jeptha’s sisters, so the marriage was a family affair and it was no doubt a great relief to 26 year-old Jeptha, who was then earning a living as an itinerant portrait painter, to hand over the care of his two-year old son to the willing Susan. After several years, and a move to Adrian, Michigan, Jeptha eventually gave up painting to pursue a career in the new telegraph industry.
Randall’s childhood was spent as a messenger for his father’s telegraph company on the line between Detroit and Jackson, Michigan. When he was seventeen, according to family history, Randall could read the telegraph by sound, a rare accomplishment at that time, and he was chief operator of the “Wade Lines” for Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, working in the shadow of his powerful father.
“…[Jeptha was] favored with a powerful and imposing figure six feet in eighth [sic], a constitution physically and mentally strong, tirelessly devoted to the requirements of business, willing and prompt in responding with an approachable unostentatious [sic]manner made him always, the first and most desirable choice for Director, financier, advisor [sic]or other officer. (MS. 3292, Container 3, Folder 24)
Randall attended the Kentucky Military Institute from 1854 to 1856. Also in 1854, during a visit home to his parents, then living in Columbus, Ohio, he met a young woman his own age named Anna R. McGaw. His parents were boarding with Miss McGaw’s sister and brother-in-law, Dr. & Mrs. A.M. Denig. Randall’s journals and letters to his family and soon-to-be girlfriend, as well as their letters to him, reveal a high-spirited young man away from home for the first time (he was 19) with a love of learning, music, and beautiful things. Early in this journal, from his time at the Kentucky Military Institute, he enumerates the standard issue “furnished by the institute” fittings in his room and then describes his additions:
I have added several others at my own expense, which make the room look pretty nice, indeed a good many say that I have the most tastily “fitted up” room in College, on my floor I have a nice figured wool carpet spit-box and door-rug, a very comfortable splint bottom rocking chair which I brought in the State prison, my stand is covered with heavy green cloth, on it stands a cheap open book case covered with green and rather fancifully trimmed with tape, lace etc, containing a good collection of some of the “best authors,” Turkey red window curtains with silver plated hooks for them to hang in a carved cornish board painted green on the top of my window, nice curtains for my wash-stand-clothes etc, several little fancy fixings with pictures etc which help the looks of the room, the pictures are put up principally to cover up some of the worst nail holes, my foils and masks hang against the wall, also my musket and accoutrements. (MS. 3292, Container 25, pp. 3-4)
After a two-year courtship, he and Anna became engaged. In the summer of 1856, Randall left school, and moved to Cleveland with his parents. The family bought a home at 103 Huron Street. As Jeptha was often on the road, he empowered Randall to oversee work on the house.
It is a large fine brick house in a double to in the heart of the city-surrounded by costly dwellings & in the pleasantest location in the city-taking the whole year into consideration. The grounds can and will be decorated tastily and beautifully. The house is to be put in tip top order both inside & out. Good wells, brick barns—lattice arbors +c are there now. These improvements are to be left in my charge. [MS. 5228, Letter from Randall P. Wade to Anna McGaw dated Cleveland, July 19, 1856]
In Cleveland Randall Wade found work as a teller in Cleveland banks and he informs his fiancee that Jeptha was determined to have a new fine house on Euclid Avenue which was then rapidly evolving into what would be known as Millionaires Row.
…But Father thinks he will buy a still finer place when he gets a little better able, a year or so from this time. [MS. 5228, Letter from Randall P. Wade to Anna McGaw dated Cleveland, July 19, 1856]
Anna and Randall were married in November of 1856 and the newlyweds lived in the Huron Street home with the elder Wades. In 1857 the young couple welcomed a son, Jeptha Homer Wade II in 1857, and a daughter Alice Louise in 1859. Childbirth may have affected Anna’s health given that it is not a subject within the surviving courtship letters but becomes part of Randall’s missives after the birth of her children which are tenderly solicitous often mentioning her poor health and his desire for her to be well.
In 1861 Randall studied law at the Ohio Law College, but never practiced. During the Civil War, he was the chief clerk of the United States Military Telegraph Department in Washington D.C. He subsequently was transferred to the Cleveland district where he took charge of purchases and supplies for two years.
Randall’s postwar career was devoted largely to his father’s business interests. His father’s continuing and very public role in the growth and development of the Western Union Telegraph Company ensured Jeptha a place in Cleveland’s business society. Randall had been elected secretary-treasurer of the Cuyahoga Mining Company in 1861 and became owner of the company in 1864. His other business affiliations included being a director of the Citizens Savings and Loan Association, director of the Kalamazoo, Allegan and Grand Rapids Railroad Company, president of the American Sheet and Boiler Plate Company, and secretary and director of the Chicago and Atchison Bridge Company. Thus for most of his life Randall’s professional success was inextricably tied to that of his father. In a handwritten document titled “Memoirs of Randall Palmer Wade, by a Relative” the anonymous author (possibly Anna McGaw Wade) writes,
There was, however, one source of unhappiness that haunted him [Randall], and which his love for his generous father kept concealed form him, that, was the dwarfing of his business influences beyond the limit which his large means and ability were entitled, by his overshadowing parent. [MS. 3292, Container 3, Folder 24]
Jeptha, however energetic, was plagued by bouts of illness linked, by him, to bouts of cholera and typhus earlier in his life. In 1866 Randall Wade traveled to New York City to nurse his father through a serious illness that eventually forced him to step down from his position as chairman of Western Union Company. During this period Randall worked up the nerve to discuss future plans with his father. On December 18, 1866 he wrote to his wife:
You doubtless remember I expressed a desire to Father that I would like to go into business to have some regular employment and that he agreed with me….last evening I asked Father if he would loan me about $20,000 on interest to give me a start, that I would pay the interest, and eventually pay the principal. And he replied (God bless him) “my son I will give you twenty or thirty thousand dollars, as you need, to start in business, and besides that which I get home I am going to give you one hundred thousand dollars more, that your income may be ample and independent of me.” [MS. 3292 Container 3, Folder 24]
Randall Wade had his heart set on owning a jewelry store with an already-established local jeweler, Sylvester Hogan. It was here Randall hoped to make his mark. His father bankrolled the project in early 1867 thus allowing Randall the opportunity to indulge in his passion for collecting—gems, jewels, and art objects—albeit for a commercial business—and to try and make a name for himself apart from his famous father and his father’s business interests.
Randall was confident and opinionated, despite his lack of experience in retail. Less than 6 months into his new venture, as co-proprietor of Hogan & Wade Jewelry, Randall was accused of slandering a shop girl, Rosa Benton, who worked for a competitor at N.E. Crittenden’s Jewelry Store.
According to the slander suit brought against Randall he is said to have said:
Critenden has a loose girl clerk. I have found out all about it, sure. She has been intimate with [Mr] Mould; and when Mrs. Mould was from home, she and Mould acted so badly that the servant girl would not stay in the house. [Cleveland Leader, December 19, 1870 Page, Col 6]
Randall’s injudicious words in 1867 set in motion events that resulted in four slander trials, over the course of nine years. The case would not finally be settled until after Randall’s death in 1876.
The trials and the lengthy arguments on both sides ensured that the reputations of both Rosa Benton and Randall Wade were forever tarnished in Cleveland. In 1869 Randall essentially retired from any active role in the jewelry business he had so enthusiastically taken up. Randall participated in the first trial, which ended in a judgement against him for $5000. A new trial was requested, granted, and scheduled for the following year after the Wade’s put up a bond in the amount of $10,000.
Randall Wade and his family were in Europe for most of the period covered by this second trial, and while there is no reason to believe that the trip to Europe was planned specifically as a mechanism for the more delicate family members—his step-mother, wife, and children—not to have to suffer through the press and notoriety of a second trial, certainly the continuing legal battle was a contributing factor.
The journals and the surviving letters from family members—Randall and his son— to Jeptha H. Wade—at home in Cleveland taking care of business, make no mention of Randall’s legal troubles. Randall’s are full of details of travel and business, while young Homer’s letters provide enthusiastic descriptions of the family’s adventures in Europe.
After their return from Europe, Randall seems not to have been much in evidence in the public life of Cleveland though occasional traces of him can be found in the newspapers. In December 1871 The Cleveland Leader reported …a “chess congress” being held in town and notes “the players and members of the Cleveland club were entertained during the evening by R. F. [sic] Wade at his residence on Euclid Avenue. In February 1875 the trial was in the news again when a petition for a new trial in district court for Benton/Wade issue was denied. but it was noted that the case is still before the Supreme Court of Ohio in Columbus awaiting decisions on some “important points.”
What we do know is that Randall was quite busy during this period, mostly unofficially, working with his father on efforts to beautify their adjoining Euclid Avenue homes and gardens, at E. 40th and Euclid Avenue, and he may have been a moving force behind the scenes in the development of Wade Park Avenue, Wade Park, and what would eventually become known as the Wade Allotment. In 1874 Randall is mentioned in the newspapers on August 24, when he was presented with a set of rare and costly art books, by the Honorable H.B. Payne in recognition of Randall’s work in organizing the Little Mountain Resort. Earlier that same year Randall had been a part of a committee to the City of Cleveland to present plans to turn a portion of Euclid Avenue into a boulevard. Randall, according to the reports, was the author of the plans:
“Yesterday afternoon between 30 & 40 of the Euclid ave. property owners attended the meeting at city hall, held to further consider the feasibility of transforming a portion of the grounds on the north side of Euclid avenue between Erie st. and Willson ave. into a boulevard or park. The committee reported that there is no existing laws of this state which will permit an appropriation of grounds for parks, and to assess the cost on property found to be specially benefited. A map of the proposed plan has been most carefully prepared by R.P. Wade. It has been suggested that legislation might be sought in aid of the improvement. It was suggested that the whole matter be again referred to the committee including: Messrs. James M. Hoyt, F.D. Crocker, R.P. Wade, James Mason and G.H. Ely.” (Source: Annals of Cleveland, Vol. 57, #2655 L Apr 30, 1874:8/1)
Though nothing came of this the project is another indication of how Randall quietly continued to pursue his own interests in shaping Cleveland’s green spaces.
Randall’s private but promising activities were cut short by his untimely death at the age of 41. On June 24, 1876 Homer wrote dutifully in a new journal:
June 24 Father died very quietly and peacefully of pneumonia at 4 oclock P.M. at home surrounded by friends and relatives. [MS. 3292, Container 4, Folder 40)
A few more journal entries of that summer are Homer’s last written words about his father that survive. Homer was just 18 when his father died and he was forced by circumstances to become his 66 year old grandfather’s right-hand man. Grandson and grandfather were very close and at this point Randall all but disappears from the history of the Wade family in Cleveland. Randall’s wife, Anna, never remarried and lived with her son and his wife, Ellen Garretson Wade, (after their marriage in 1878) until her death in 1910.
Much of Randall’s material legacy—the grand homes on Euclid Avenue and Little Mountain Resort—are all gone. What survives are letters, and the travel journals located in the archives of the Cleveland History Center at Western Reserve Historical Society.