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 Hiram Alonzo Pease  (1820 - 1881)

About: Hiram Alonzo Pease
 

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Lived/Active: Michigan/Ohio/Massachusetts      Known for: portrait painting, photography

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
(Hiram) Alonzo Pease was born in Stockbridge, MA in 1820. His father, Hiram Abiff Pease was also born in Stockbridge and worked as a farmer. (The elder Pease married Lydia Remile in 1818 and had ten children.) In 1828 the family moved to Ohio, and were among the first white settlers in the area.  Hiram Alonzo began painting portraits and historical scenes there such as  William Henry Harrison’s Camp in the Wilderness, 1840; Desmosthenes at the Sea Shore 1844.

It is suspected that Hiram Alonzo Pease returned to Berkshire County on occasion, perhaps to visit relatives and paint commissioned portraits. One portrait is the oil painting of David Carson (1783-1858) in the collection of the Berkshire Athenaeum, Pittsfield, MA. (The name H.A. Pease appears in the Pittsfield Sun’s “List of Letters remaining at the Pittsfield Post Office” on June 16 and June 21, 1849.)  The 1850 census of Pittsfield reveals that Hiram A. Pease “portrait painter” was residing at the home of Henry M. Osborn, a blacksmith.

By 1856 he was working as a photograph colorizer. He returned briefly to Oberlin, OH in 1860, commissioned to paint portraits of Oberlin College presidents Finney, Mahan and Fairchild. Then he moved to Detroit.  In 1861 he joined the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry for three months.  From 1865-1878 he was in Utica, NY, exhibiting his paintings there. His portrait of the Honorable S. Campbell was shown at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876.  Others appeared at the National Academy of Design in 1870, 1874, 1878 and 1880.  Among his last works was a portrait of George Washington after Gilbert Stuart, sent as a gift to President James A. Garfield. 

In 1880 Pease and his wife moved back to Oberlin, OH, where he died May 5, 1881. An obituary for an Alonzo Pease was printed in the Oberlin Weekly News, May 31, 1881. The writer of the obituary states that Alonzo Pease was born in Stockbridge in 1820, and with his father, Hiram A. Pease, came to Oberlin in 1834. Alonzo Pease was described in the article as a “self-made man (for) in the New West there were no schools of Art, and he found no one to whom he could go for instruction. The writer refers to eighteen portraits by Pease. These include portrait commissions for Oberlin College as well as portraits of the President and professors of Hamilton College. Among his best portraits were Garret Smith, the philanthropist; Joshua R. Giddings, the early anti-slavery champion of the Western Reserve; Professor Morse of telegraph fame; and David Dudley Field, the lawyer. The obituary also mentions the portrait of Dr. Morgan, which was the first painting by Pease to be accepted for exhibition at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1870.

Alonzo Pease (not Hiram Alonzo Pease) is listed in the New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860.  The artist is described as a portrait and landscape painter at Cleveland, OH in 1859 and at Detroit, MI in 1860-1861.

It is not known how many other portrait of Berkshire residents Pease painted. Pease probably dropped his first name to avoid confusion with his father’s name. Like other itinerant portrait painters, Pease traveled a great deal, possibly seeking commissions in MA, MI, NY and OH.

Following are short biographies of the Artist Alonzo Pease (1820-1881)

"Archivist and College Friends Rescue Portraits Relating to Early Oberlin History"
When he was 12 years old, Alonzo Pease accompanied his uncle Peter to Ohio, where Peter Pindar Pease and his family built the first structure in Oberlin. Growing up in the New West, where there were no schools of art, Alonzo was entirely self-taught. His earliest known work is a small watercolor on paper of the town of Oberlin, painted in 1838 when he was 18.

The watercolor appeared at the top of a letter to Sylvester Stoddard in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Titled Partial View [of] Oberlin, the letter and drawing were somehow separated. The Oberlin College Archives acquired the drawing in 1994 as a gift from David Dreyer '62, who purchased it from David Good, Antiques, in Camden, Ohio. The location of the letter is unknown.

(See Marcia Goldberg, "Alonzo Pease's Oberlin," Timeline [July/August, 1997]: 20-23.)

Pease moved to Cleveland in 1856, where he spent the next three years working as a photograph colorizer for various studios. He returned to Oberlin in 1859 to paint portraits of people connected to the College and First Congregational Church. After a short move to Detroit, and an even shorter stint in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, he moved to New York in 1865; he stayed there until his return to Oberlin in 1880. He died the next year.

Hiram Alonzo Pease: The Legend of a Principled Abolitionist
By Richard Donegan-AmeriCorps Civil War 150 Leadership Volunteer at the Oberlin Heritage Center

One of Oberlin’s proudest legacies is the town’s role in the Underground Railroad and the fight against slavery. That so many of its citizens were ardent abolitionists is not unknown. A number of people acted in national, state and local theaters to assist people seeking freedom. Naturally, these people’s abolitionist sentiment explained their actions. For one Oberlin man, Hiram Alonzo Pease, history has not shown an exception. As a Captain of the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, Pease’s resignation from his post has long been seen as a protest against the decision of his commander, Colonel William B. Hazen, to return two runaway slaves to their southern master. The narrative of Pease’s resignation as an instance of Oberlinian refusal to be complicit in slavery most likely stems from Robert Fletcher’s 1943 book, A History of Oberlin College, in which the author briefly mentions the incident: “Pease resigned because the colonel insisted on returning escaped slaves to their masters”. However, the real reasons for Pease’s resignation, and the events surrounding it, suggest his story does not fit so nicely into the accepted historical narrative.

Hiram Alonzo Pease was born in Stockbridge, Berkshire County, Massachusetts on December 23, 1820. His father was Hiram Abif Pease, described as “an excellent man, but a genuine Yankee and odd in the extreme.” His mother was Lydia Remele, whom Hiram Abif Pease married two years before Hiram Alonzo’s birth. Hiram and Lydia Pease would have four more children before the family followed Hiram’s brother, Peter Pindar Pease, out to the Western Reserve. The Pease family reached Brownhelm Township in Lorain County, Ohio by 1831.  On the way through Buffalo, Hiram Abif Pease reportedly was introduced to Graham crackers, a mix of flour mixed with water. The crackers lasted the family for an entire year and became an early staple in Oberlin history.

Partial View [of] Oberlin by Hiram Alonzo Pease ca. 1838 (Oberlin College Archives)
Hiram Alonzo Pease, known mainly as “Alonzo”, was the age of 12 when his father and uncle Peter Pindar Pease began to clear land for the colony of Oberlin. Alonzo assisted them with the construction of the colony’s first log cabin. Though Alonzo was on the frontier and tasked with numerous physical strains, he eventually took up painting as his primary passion. Alonzo attended Oberlin Preparatory School from 1840 to 1841, and studied only occasionally at Oberlin College, where “all efforts to make of him into a student were [in] vain”.

Over the next twenty years, Alonzo developed his talent for painting. He worked in various capacities in the art field in Oberlin, Detroit and Cleveland. In the latter town he was a photograph colorizer for James F. Ryder and William C. North. Though, accolades for Pease’s work mainly were for his portrait work. He received commissions to paint Oberlin College presidents Charles Grandison Finney, Asa Mahan, and James Harris Fairchild. During the 1850’s, Pease joined the Ohio Militia and became a commander of a company in Lorain County. Alonzo devoted so much time to the study of military tactics, Napoleon Bonaparte and other military greats that he earned the consternation of his father and Charles Grandison Finney.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Alonzo was in Detroit and decided to move his family back to Oberlin. Once in town, and seeing that the war was going to last longer than a few months, Alonzo endeavored to raise a company for service. In early August, 1861, Pease approached an Oberlin attorney, John W. Steele, with the prospect of forming a military unit. Oberlin had already sent over 150 men to the army. In a town of 2,100, Pease and Steele struggled to gain recruits for the standard sum of 100 men for a company. By early September, after Pease had official permission from the state of Ohio to raise the company dubbed “The Lorain Guards”, 52 men had entered the rolls and all gathered at Oberlin on September 16, 1861 to eat a farewell dinner put on by the citizens of the town. That night, the company boarded a train for Camp Wood in Cleveland to join the 41st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. In keeping with Pease’s artistic profession the Cleveland Plain Dealer stated of the Lorain Guards “We trust they will make their mark upon their great war canvass, honorable to themselves and their country and as indelible as time.” The next morning, Alonzo was elected by the men as Captain of the Lorain Guards, who were designated Company ‘H’ of the 41st OVI. Over the next weeks the company increased in strength to 80 men. John W. Steele was elected to be 1st Lieutenant of the company and the regiment drilled incessantly under its Colonel, William B. Hazen.

Source:
Charles Flint, Charles Flint Art & Antiques


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