Capt. Farrar’s Famous Groundhog Oration

Image from Historical Collections of Ohio, Vol. 1 – by Henry Howe ©1888

Farrar’s Groundhog Speech.

We have been asked for information concerning Captain Farrar’s famous groundhog oration, In reply we reprint the following from the pen of a writer in Cambridge, Ohio, who contributed the readable account to a recent daily publication:

Each groundhog day. whether the sun shines or not, brings back to the citizens of Cambridge, Ohio the old story of how “Groundhog” Farrar got his nickname.

Captain William H. Farrar, at one time a leading lawyer in Eastern Ohio, banker, philanthropist and several times Mayor of Cambridge, was sent to the Legislature back in the seventies by the Republicans of Guernsey County. He was expected to make his mark as a law maker, as he had ability and was an eloquent speaker. The following incident, whatever else he said or did while a member of the lower House, gave him newspaper notoriety from one end of the land to the other:

One of the biennial sessions of the Buckeye Legislature, somewhere around 1884-87, was noted for what it did not do. There seemed to be no leader of either party, and, in fact, there seemed to be no laws needed, few changes in the existing laws and the members, both of the Senate and House of Representatives, were equal to the occasion and loafed most of the time.

One day, while the members of the House were sitting around waiting for some one to ‘do something’ or move the usual adjournment, Captain Farrar arose and said:

“Mr. Speaker, I have a resolution which I wish to offer and I ask as a personal favor from my colleagues that I be allowed to make some remarks before submitting the measure.”

The voice from old Guernsey was like a bolt from a clear sky. Weeks had passed without a set speech on any subject and the eagerness of the members to ‘hear something’ and to finally get to vote on a measure was expressed by many of them, and the Speaker himself waived any objection.

Captain Farrar began by setting forth the duty of the members of the body. He told of how each man was violating the trust put in him by his own people. He declared that the state of Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Chase, Ewing, Hayes, Tom Corwin and a hundred other brilliant men was being made ridiculous by the House of Representatives, and the people who sent them to the Statehouse were disgusted. He then gave a history o’f the state in its territorial days; the settlement at Marietta,; the admission of Ohio to the Union in 1803; the part the Buckeye State had taken in national politics and what she had done in the War of the Rebellion. By this time he had spoken almost four hours, and as he sat down he asked leave to continue the following day.

Members approached him after his long speech and asked him what his object was. He only informed them that he would not discuss his speech.

The following day found every member in his seat. The newspapers had printed long accounts of the splendid flow of oratory, and this drew a crowd to the galleries. No one knew what the Guernsey member had up his sleeve, but they felt that something was going to happen. The Captain arose promptly, and, picking up his historical talk of the day before, issued forth such a flow of oratory as had seldom been heard in the Capitol. His eloquence caused profound silence, and there were no interruptions from ‘the other side.’

The second day’s session was brought to an end and the members were as much at sea as on the previous day. There was eloquence, but no argument. What was Farrar driving at? Were the Supreme Court members to be impeached? Was there treason somewhere? * No one knew. There was no question brought up which could call forth a denial from his opponents. There was a great mystery, and no one could fathom it

That night party leaders were summoned from Cincinnati, from Cleveland, Dayton and Toledo. A delegation from Cambridge was hurried to Columbus to find out what was going to happen. Their representative had talked for two days and had not finished!

The third day found a great crowd in the Assembly Hall. The Senate met and immediately adjourned. The members crowded into the House. The galleries were packed almost to suffocation, and Captain Farrar arose.

Several long, uninteresting decisions by the Supreme Court were read; long lists of prices of coal, wool, wheat, etc., were read. War stories were told and sketches were given of illustrious Americans. Weakened by the awful strain and so hoarse he could scarcely speak, he stopped for a moment, then, taking his bill from his inside coat pocket, concluded as follows:

“And now, Mr. Speaker, having covered the points I think necessary, I submit, for an immediate vote of the House, a bill which urges that Groundhog Day be set back from February 2d to January 2d, so that we may have an earlier spring.”

From:

Title: Ohio archaeological and historical quarterly, Volume 12
Author: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society
Publisher: Published for the Society by A.H. Smythe, 1903
Pages 331-333 (google book link)

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