The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Currents

July 15, 2012

The romantic bachelor

Jefferson-born Theodore E. Burton helped protect Niagara Falls as honeymoon spot

CONNEAUT — The brass plate is partially obscured by the July grass that grows about the stone substrate. One is more likely to be drawn to the white house by the orange lilies than the tiny memorial that marks the birthplace of Theodore Elijah Burton at 73 E. Jefferson St., Jefferson.

While most Ashtabula County residents recognize the names of Sen. Benjamin Wade and Rep. Joshua Giddings, even if they can’t place them on a timeline or speak of the deeds that made them famous, Burton’s name is rarely spoken in these parts.

That’s a shame, for Burton’s contributions to our nation and world are with us more than a century after he championed them: the Panama Canal, an efficient inland waterways system and a Niagara Falls with minimal industrial intrusion at the cataract.

Burton, who was born in Jefferson Dec. 10, 1851, had an outstanding career in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, living up to the prophecy spoken by the physician who delivered him: “He will make a remarkable man.”

“Certainly he towered above all others in his Congressional statesmanship of his time. Nor was his statesmanship limited to legislative activities,” wrote Herbert Hoover in the introduction to Forrest Crissey’s biography, “Theodore E. Burton American Statesman.” “… his span of legislative service stretched over forty years. So much did he feel that his best service to his country was in the legislative hall that he refused to leave it for offers to the Federal bench or position in the cabinet.”

Burton served two terms as an Ohio senator and 28 years in the House, as well as two years on Cleveland City Council. But his accomplishments went far beyond those typical of a congressman. Hoover recognized him as “an economist of the highest order,” “the father of our modern inland waterways system,” an “implacable foe of ‘pork barrel’ legislation,” and at all times “the advocate of constructive measures for peace.”

 So significant was Burton in Hoover’s mind, the president who was midwife to the Great Depression declared “The greatest loss I suffered in my Administration was his passing in 1929 (one day before the markets crashed), for he had understanding of our problems of those times as did no other Senator.”

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