The Canal Builder ----- John George Isham
John Isham was born in Sharon, New York in 1815. We know nothing of his childhood but the record indicates that he came to Waterville from Monroe, Michigan in 1840 when a good friend won a contract to build section 29 of the Wabash and Erie Canal. John served his friend as superintendent of construction on this section from Dutch Road to Maumee. When the canal opened to traffic in 1843 John was appointed superintendant of maintenance and repairs for the northern portion of the canal.
John George Isham found more than good work in Waterville. He fell in love with a very young Eliza Daggett and they married in 1843. He also purchased a farm on river tract 42 and the couple settled into a log cabin there. John could work the farm in summer and supervise the repair work on the canal in winter when the canal was closed to most traffic. The couple had two children, Benjamin Smith Isham born 1843 and Alfred Daggett Isham born in 1846. Alfred was killed at Petersburg in 1865 during the Civil War. Eliza tragically died in 1848 just as John was starting to build the “big house” on is farm. John, with two young children to care for soon married Sarah Cooper, daughter of Waterville pioneer Henry Augustus Cooper. John and Sarah lived in the log cabin and three children were born to the couple before the big Greek Revival farm house was finished in 1853. Three more children were born in this house and the couple also raised five other children of close relatives. John served as superintendent of repair for over 20 years ending in the late 1860s when crippling arthritis forced his retirement. He moved to town in the 1870s purchasing the Morehouse home on River Road at Wood Street (now Farnsworth Road). He wasn’t happy there and moved back to the farm in the 1880s giving the town house to his daughter Sarah May and her husband Dr. Samuel Downs. John George Isham died at his farm on June 9, 1901. His youngest son John Findlay Torrence Isham (subject of a previous article on this site) took over the farm. The old house still stands at 8460 S. River Road just across from Farnsworth Park.
Author’s note: The only known picture of John George Isham was taken when he was old and sickly. He was obviously a robust hard-working man most of his life.