“He Fell into Intemperance…”
By Don Schmidt
George A. Clifford (1828-1865) was a noteworthy person in early Stark County history—lawyer, newspaper editor, Civil War veteran, historian. Clifford committed suicide in Washington, D. C., four months after the end of the Civil War. He was survived by his wife and five young children. He is buried in Toulon Cemetery.
George A. Clifford practiced law at Knoxville, Illinois, then was city editor and reporter on the Chicago Democrat; next practiced law at Toulon, entered the service of the Union, and afterward was employed as stenographer and legal adviser. In 1860 he was assistant editor of the campaign paper called the Stark County Democrat.
George Clifford’s death was covered by the Chicago Tribune.
“Mr. George A. Clifford, about 38 years of age, and a fourth-class clerk in the Department of Internal Revenue, jumped from the fifth-story window of the National Hotel Wednesday, August 23, 1865. The deceased had been depressed in spirits during a few weeks past, and was found wandering about the passage of the hotel Tuesday night in a bewildered condition by the watchman, who sent him to his room. The watchman soon after went to Clifford’s room, saw the window hoisted, looked out and saw a body lying on the pavement.”
The coroner’s jury rendered a verdict that the deceased came to his death by falling from a window to the pavement. Arthur Clifford, a 10-year-old son of the deceased, was asleep in the room when his father exited the window.
Leeson’s 1887 history of Stark County describes Clifford’s suicide euphemistically: “He fell into intemperance and dropped from a window.”
Among the personal possessions of Mr. Clifford was an eight-barreled pistol. Some of the coroner’s jurors contributed money to send the 10-year old son to Toulon. But the coroner detained the gun and sold it to reimburse himself for his services.
In 1861 Clifford wrote the very first history of Stark County. No bound copies of Clifford’s history have survived, not even in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield. Only Chapters VII and VIII have been preserved. Dixie King and Floyd Ham found these chapters in 1861 and 1862 issues of The Stark County News and Stark County Union, respectively.
Digitized copies of old Toulon newspapers may be found online at the Toulon Public Library District website.