by Ronald R Johnson (www.ronaldrjohnson.com)
When the young Lloyd Douglas and his wife Besse moved from North Manchester, Indiana to Lancaster, Ohio in the summer of 1905, it seemed like they had stepped into a larger world. The towns were a little over 200 miles apart, but the life that Lancaster offered them had many more opportunities.
For one thing, the people in North Manchester had known Douglas as a boy; despite his drive and energy, it was hard for him to recreate himself. Lancaster gave him a fresh start, and he took advantage of it.
North Manchester was a town of 2,500 people; Lancaster had 10,000 residents, and it was a little less than 40 miles southeast of Columbus, the state capital. Although the map below shows how the area looks today, with highways that didn’t exist at the time, we can still see that it was a more populous area with many more social opportunities than Douglas had had in Indiana.
Speaking of social opportunities, when Douglas was installed as pastor at the First English Lutheran Church in Lancaster, the guest speaker was Frank Garland, Synod President and pastor of a large Lutheran Church in Dayton. Douglas did a fine job of networking while in Lancaster, but Garland himself ended up being an extremely helpful contact, as we will see later.
One family in particular formed lifelong bonds with Douglas: the Vorys Family. Arthur, the father, had an important position in state government, and his four sons learned a lot from Douglas in their catechism classes with him. Arthur went on to form a law firm with three other partners, and his son Webb Vorys took leadership of the firm a generation later. The firm is still active today.
During his time at Lancaster, Douglas was approached by Milton Valentine, the editor of the Lutheran Observer, to write articles for that paper. Douglas didn’t just honor the editor’s request; he wrote articles that stood out.
While in Lancaster, Besse gave birth to their two daughters, Betty and Virginia.
Douglas ramped up his public speaking, crisscrossing the region to give graduation addresses and other speeches. At his own church, he started an innovative Men’s Group that brought in a younger crowd. He spoke at the nearby YMCA (when it was still largely a religious institution) and became a favorite among the young men there. He was even instrumental in getting the city of Lancaster to create its first hospital.
It was just the kind of place that gave Douglas a chance to show what he could do. Over the next several posts, I’ll go into more detail about his accomplishments there.
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