McGuffey's Family

Harriet Spining McGuffey

Harriet Spining McGuffey

When McGuffey first came to Oxford, he found a pioneer village with only a few log and frame houses and one solitary brick house at the northeast corner of South (Collins) and South Main streets. There was a stump-dotted campus, containing "the college edifice" and a plain little red house for the President. The new professor took his meals at the Oxford Hotel, on East High Street, at the corner of East Park Place. At the other end of the block lived Charles Spining, a merchant.

When Spining's attractive sister, Harriet, came down from Dayton to visit him and their sister, Mrs. Peter Monfort, she was introduced to Professor McGuffey. They fell in love and were married on April 3, 1827. The wedding took place at Woodside, the bride's home near Dayton. Woodside was the nine-hundred-acre estate of Judge Isaac Spining, a prosperous and highly respected citizen of Montgomery County. The estate is now a part of Wright-Patterson Field.

Harriet was a beautiful girl, with dark brown hair that lay in deep waves all over her head. The long curls she wore on either side of her face were held in place with small tortoise-shell combs. It was then the fashion for married women to wear caps. Harriet's new husband liked the custom so much that she wore caps the rest of her life. Some of her evening caps were very beautiful.

The McGuffeys went to board at the house of John Dollahan, the lone brick house on South Main Street. Harriet was unhappy in her cramped quarters, and her health declined. Dr. James Hughs, nephew of the Rev. Thomas E. Hughs, advised the young couple to go to housekeeping.

In 1828 McGuffey bought a four-acre tract of land (Outlot 9) on East Spring Street. On it was a small frame house in which the McGuffeys lived for a time. Two of their children were born in it. Later, the McGuffeys built a two-story brick house of six rooms, immediately in front of the old house, joining the two houses to make an elegant mansion, which they painted bright red. This was a more suitable dwelling place for the daughter of Judge Isaac Spining. They moved into the new house in 1832-33.

Two boys were born in the new house, William Holmes, on October 1, 1834, and Charles Spining, on November 8, 1835. Willie lived only two weeks, and Charles died in 1851. The two daughters - Mary Haines and Henrietta - were born on January 20, 1830, and July 10, 1832, respectively. Mary became the wife of Dr. Walker Stewart of Dayton, Ohio. Henrietta married Dr. Andrew Dousa Hepburn, a distinguished teacher at Miami, who for a short time was President of the University just before it closed in 1873.

Text by Dr. William E. Smith, 1973

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