The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

February 26, 2012

Orwell’s man of adventure and the circus

There must be something in the blood of Scotsmen that makes them successful as circus owners.

Walter L. Main, Ashtabula County’s most famous circus owner, had parents of Scotch ancestry. And so were Isaac and Sarah (Hunt) Hilliard, the parents of Marshall M. Hilliard, owner of the eponymously named circus.

Isaac Hilliard was a harness maker who migrated from Vermont to Ashtabula County in 1836. They settled in Orwell, where Isaac practiced his trade.

Marshall was the most noticeable of the couple’s 11 children, with the possible exception of Frank P., who was the sheriff of Yazoo City, Miss. Frank was shot and killed while serving at the courthouse.

Marshall was born Aug. 26, 1830, in Vermont. He was educated in Orwell and learned the harness-making trade from his father. At the age of 22, Marshall responded to the call of the California Gold Rush and spent the next eight years mining, building tunnels and hydraulic work.

It was while in California that he developed the theatrical flair that blossomed into circus ownership back in Ohio. Further, Marshall demonstrated a good sense of business. He loaned money with an interest rate of 2.5 percent a month and used his earnings to speculate on other ventures.

Back in Ohio, Marshall and his brother Frank went into business in Orwell. That venture created a need for cotton from the South, and in December 1863 the intrepid brothers headed into enemy territory with diamonds in their pockets for currency.

According to Marshall’s diary of the journey, he was arrested on several occasions and held by the Confederates. He was taken prisoner at Yazoo City and eventually imprisoned in a stockade in Demopolis, Miss. His diary describes miserable conditions: “We drew sour molasses for breakfast and they made me sick all day.” — May 27, 1864. “Most all of the boys could not sleep at all and had to walk and dance to keep warm.” — March 15, 1864.

Prisoners received “very bad beef for breakfast” and the foul food often resulted in gastrointestinal distress.

On July 24, 1864, Marshall made this entry: “I broke out of Prison at Meridian Miss last night at 9 o’clock.” The fugitives headed north, stealing chickens for sustenance and escaping a pack of hounds. After more than a week on the run, he encountered Union soldiers and took an oath of loyalty on Aug. 5, 1864. Hilliard headed north along the waterways, eventually reaching his home in the fall of 1864.

Text Only
Currents
  • Historic Kirtland Nativity Exhibit Nativity exhibit to open in Kirtland

    Volunteers are still busy putting up more than 600 Nativity scenes for the nationally acclaimed exhibit at Historic Kirtland in preparation for the formal opening on Friday. A lighting celebration and musical program will begin 6 p.m. Friday. Nativity sets representing countries and cultures from around the world will fill the Visitors Center and the one-room schoolhouse located next to the center. The theme of the 11th annual exhibit is “Unto Us A Son Is Given.” Admission is free and open to the public. Historic Kirtland is located at 7800 Kirtland-Chardon Road, just off Route 306 south of I-90.

    November 27, 2013 2 Photos

  • newspaper bicent.jpg Odd Tales of Ashtabula County

    Twins were pretty rare in Williamsfield Township, so when Correne Cutlip delivered twin girls on April 22, 1939, her husband, Bob, started calling neighbors and relatives with the good news and a plea for help: they would need twice as much of everything.

    December 9, 2012 1 Photo

  • axis salley and sister.jpg Guilty of treason!

    She was a lonely child, precocious, some said; others said she was simply aloof. Two things for certain, she was beautiful — neighbors often remarked on her black curls — and odd, especially by  the standards that existed in Conneaut in 1916.

    November 25, 2012 2 Photos

  • OHAST108.jpg Those 10 Calaway girls

     In an era when many couples are happy to dote on just one offspring and most U.S. McMansions have at least 2.5 bathrooms, the story of the Calaway sisters is amazing.

    August 5, 2012 3 Photos

  • Hewitt.jpg The music got him 'All stirred up inside

    Floyd Hewitt loved to listen to the radio, especially that cool jazzy music that got him “all stirred up inside.”

     

    July 30, 2012 1 Photo

  • Burton's house.jpg The romantic bachelor

    The brass plate is partially obscured by the July grass that grows about the stone substrate.

    July 15, 2012 1 Photo

  • Smith Marine Museum Owen.jpg ‘Perfectly fearless’

    Second of a two-part series on the Big Blow of November 1913

    July 8, 2012 1 Photo

  • cef Davidson launch.jpg Launching an industry

    Shortly after midnight on Sept. 26, 1941, German  U- boat No. 203 fired four torpedoes into convoy HG-73 north of the Azores.

    June 17, 2012 2 Photos

  • bicen whitla.jpg Ransom for an attorney’s little boy

    Tony Muscarelli, 13, and Willie Madden, 12, were walking down Depot Street, Ashtabula, on the evening of March 20, 1909, when a 30-year-old man accosted them from across the street.

    June 10, 2012 1 Photo

  • cdf bicent run 2.jpg Jumbo legend

    Kelsey’s Run rambles through the flatlands of Conneaut Township Park, carving graceful curves in the grassy area just north of Lake Road and slipping quietly under the two stone bridges in its final stretch toward Lake Erie.

    June 3, 2012 1 Photo

House Ads
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Andover Fire 1955
Carferry Ashtabula
AP Video