Organized January 8, 1895
1783 – 1870
– Eighth and Tenth Governor of the State of Ohio –
The name of Allen Trimble is indelibly impressed upon the pages of Ohio history. A strong, self-reliant personality made Allen Trimble one of the most popular pubic servants of his day. Although modest, he could be firm when occasion demanded. He earned the respect and confidence of the people of Ohio.
Allen Trimble was born November 24, 1783 in Augusta County, Virginia. He was the son of James and Jane Allen Trimble. His ancestors were Scotch-Irish and among the early settlers of Virginia. In those days the settlers were often exposed to Indian attacks. In fact, Allen’s grandfather, John Trimble, was killed defending his home and family. The Indians took Allen’s father, James Trimble, prisoner in this same attack. James was soon rescued.
James Trimble later fought in the battle of Point Pleasant and, during the Revolutionary War, commanded a company of the Virginia Militia. Having received land grants for his military service, James moved his family to Fayette County, near Lexington, Kentucky in October 1784.
Growing up in Kentucky, Allen Trimble received a sound but limited education. His family hired a teacher who taught him English, Business, and Surveying. Allen was hindered by poor health and did not continue his formal studies past the age of seventeen.
By 1802 James Trimble resolved to free his slaves and make his family’s home in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. To this end he visited Ohio accompanied by his son, Allen, to find suitable land. He chose a tract of 1200 acres on Clear Creek in Highland County. By April 1804 James had built a cabin, cleared the land, and planted an orchard.
James Trimble died in October 1804, leaving his 20-year-old son, Allen, as the head of the family. With a strong sense of duty to his mother and younger siblings he proceeded to settle the affairs of his father’s estate. He moved the entire family to their new home in Highland County in 1805.
For the next few years Trimble ran the family farm and did surveying for nearby landowners. In January 1806, Trimble married Margaret McDowell. Three years later, in January 1809, she died leaving Trimble with two sons. In 1811, Trimble married Rachel Woodrow. Together they had five children.
In 1808, Trimble was appointed Clerk of the Common Pleas Court of and Recorder of Highland County. These appointments caused him to move his residence to Hillsboro, the county seat. He also continued his surveying work as time allowed.
Being enthusiastic and patriotic, Trimble found a substitute for his civil duties and yielded his county’s call to military service in the War of 1812. He was elected Colonel of the second regiment under General William Henry Harrison and ordered to the relief of the garrison at Ft. Wayne. He commanded a successful expedition to disperse the Indians on the upper Wabash and Eel rivers.
Trimble was always eager to be in the front. He led his men with such valor that they were termed soldiers who did not know the art of flinching. He performed his duties in such a manner as to elicit the complimentary approval of General Harrison.
In 1813, Trimble responded to Governor Meigs militia calls by taking a regiment of volunteers to Upper Sandusky. General Harrison soon dismissed this regiment for lack of necessary supplies.
Thus coming into prominence in Highland County, Trimble was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1816. He took his seat in the first General Assembly to meet in Columbus. In 1817, he was elected to the Ohio Senate from Highland and Fayette Counties. In all, he was elected to four two-year Senate terms. In 1818 he was elected speaker of the Senate. It was often claimed that Allen Trimble was the ablest presiding officer that had been known in Ohio.
In 1821, Allen Trimble’s brother, U.S. Senator William Trimble, died. Ohio’s governor, Ethan A. Brown, was chosen to replace Sen. Trimble leaving the Governor’s office open. By provision of the Ohio Constitution, Allen Trimble, the Senate speaker, became Ohio’s eighth Governor.
Governor Trimble felt both wealthy and poor children needed to be educated. He also felt Ohio should support institutions of higher learning in order to prevent Ohioans from going east for their advanced training. He appointed a committee on the common schools, whose work established the basis for Ohio’s public school system.
Trimble ran for Governor in 1822 and again in 1824. Both times he was defeated by Jeremiah Morrow. Since both men held similar views on the questions of the day, the elections were a reflection of the personal popularity of the candidates.
In the 1824 legislative session, Trimble was chosen as one of the Canal Fund Commissioners. The commission was authorized to negotiate a loan for building the newly planned Ohio canal system. He saw the canals as an important way to get agricultural products to market.
Trimble’s work on the Canal Fund Commission had increased his reputation and popularity. In 1826 and 1828, when Morrow was not in the running, Trimble won election and became Ohio’s tenth Governor. During his first elected term, the legislature authorized Trimble to select half a million acres of land granted by Congress for canal purposes. He did this in the summer of 1827.
In 1828, Trimble joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was a faithful and consistent member and found deep satisfaction in his faith.
In that era, the Governor’s powers were sharply restricted by the Ohio Constitution. Trimble found some of his official duties tedious. He evaluated pardon applications and found the decisions most difficult. Trimble encouraged an increase in manufacturing and a decline of U.S. dependence on Great Britain, advancement in agriculture, and the development of improved strains of domestic animals. He also reformed the control of the state’s penitentiary in Columbus.
Governor Trimble continued to support education and the public school system. He recommended education for all and an increase in taxes to pay for it. He strongly supported the Medical College of Ohio. Trimble served as president of the Hillsboro Academy board of trustees from 1829 to 1854.
At the close of his term in December 1830, 47 year old Allen Trimble left public office. He had been in official positions continuously for twenty years. However, he remained active in party politics. Trimble was a delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1831 and ran, unsuccessfully, for election to the Ohio Legislature in 1832. In 1855, Trimble accepted the American Party’s nomination for Ohio Governor, but was not elected.
Trimble could now devote himself to agricultural pursuits, which had always afforded him pleasure. He was especially interested in improving domestic breeds of cattle and horses. He was a pioneer in the importation of British horses. He was a stockholder in the Ohio Company for Importing English Cattle organized in Chillicothe in 1833.
Trimble was instrumental in establishing the Ohio State Board of Agriculture and served as its first president from 1846 to 1848. His chief interest was in the creation and successful operation of county agricultural societies. These societies would sponsor fairs for exhibiting animal husbandry implements, produce, improved stock, and manufactured articles. He was inducted into the Ohio Agricultural Hall of fame in 1968.
Allen Trimble died at his Hillsboro residence on February 3, 1870, having been in failing health for several years. He was 86 years old. As a final tribute, local businessmen closed their stores during his funeral services. He is buried at the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Few men have rendered such honest, unselfish, and faithful public service as Allen Trimble. His achievements were made possible by his deep sense of duty to his community, state, and nation. His efforts gave Ohio rapid growth and substantial prosperity. He made Ohio a worthy example as the first-born of the states of the Northwest Territory. His life should be an example and inspiration to all Ohioans.
“Trimble, Allen,” The Biographical Encyclopedia of Ohio of the Nineteenth Century, Cincinnati and Philadelphia: Galaxy Publishing Company, 1876. (pp. 590-592)
“Trimble, Allen,” A Biographical Cyclopaedia and Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Men, with an Historical Sketch, of the State of Ohio, Cincinnati: John C. Yorston & Company, 1879. (pp. 68-69)
“The History of the State of Ohio,” The History of Union County Ohio, Vol. 1, Chicago: W. H. Beers & Company, 1883 (p. 163)
Roster of Ohio Soldiers in the War of 1812, The Adjutant General of Ohio, 1916.
Weisenburger, Francis P. “Allen Trimble,” The Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 18, New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1936. (p. 641)
Smith, S. Winifred, “Allen Trimble,” The Governors of Ohio, Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1969. (pp. 24-26)
Kalette, Linda Elise, “Allen Trimble,” The Papers of Thirteen Early Ohio Political Leaders, Columbus: Ohio Historical Society, 1977. (pp. 149-151)
“Allen Trimble,” Ohio Biographical Dictionary, Vol. 2, St. Clair Shores: Somerset Publishing Company, 1999. (p. 430)