Local History Collections

Collection ID: LH-93
Location: LH-93

(Description ID: 594794)

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums

Dr. Gustavus A. Gessner


Biographical Sketch
Scope and Content

The collection was acquired from Gessner family members between 1942 and 1957. The Hayes Center Portrait File contains a photograph of Gessner taken in later life. A photocopy of an image of Gessner in Civil War uniform is part of the collection.

Biographical Sketch
Gustavus A. Gessner was born March 11, 1844 to Dr. Louis and Elizabeth (Schwartz) Gessner in Fremont, Ohio. He attended the public schools and at various times worked in the "Courier" printing office, as a clerk in the Fremont Post Office, and in drug stores in Fremont and Fostoria.

At the outbreak of the Civil War Gessner enlisted for three months service in the 21st Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was stationed in the Kanawha Valley during the summer of 1861. Upon his discharge in August he enlisted in Company H, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry commanded by Ralph Buckland. While in the 72nd O.V.I., Gessner served as sergeant, color-bearer, and hospital steward. He was captured as the Battle of Shiloh and severely wounded in a successful escape attempt. Gessner was also one of the many members of the 72nd captured after the fighting as Guntown, also known as Brice’s Crossroads, Mississippi. He was held prisoner at Andersonville, Georgia and Charleston and Florence, South Carolina.

After the war Gessner attended the University of Michigan medical school. He practiced medicine and was engaged in the pharmacy business in Elmore, Ohio, but in 1869 returned to Fremont and worked for Stephen Buckland & Son as a pharmacist. In 1875, Gessner along with Drs. John B. and Robert H. Rice and Stephen and Ralph Buckland formed the Trommer Extract of Malt Company. He was appointed postmaster for Fremont in 1899 and reappointed in 1904 and1909. During his medical career Gessner received four patents for bottle stoppers and mechanisms. He was also active in the Masons and the Republican Party.

Gessner was a member of the Manville Moore, Post #525, Ohio Department, G.A.R. and served as president of the Ohio State Association of Ex-Prisoners of War. In 1882 he helped organize a veterans’s protest of the appointment of Samuel Sturgis as Superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C. These veterans contended that Sturgis’ incompetence as commander led to the defeat and heavy losses at the battle at Guntown.

Gustavus Gessner married Corolen E. Lawton, daughter of William and Betsy Ryder Lawton, in 1867 and they had four children: Dorr Lawton Gessner, Gustavus A. Gessner, Jr., Gertrude Lisette (married Dan A. Brown), and Bessie Hope Gessner. Both Corolen and Gustavus died in the fall of 1916, she on Sept. 18 and he on Oct. 24, and they are buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Fremont, Ohio.

Scope and Content
This collection holds the material touching on many aspects of Dr. G. A. Gessner’s life. The first several folders contain letters, written in 1882, from Civil War veterans of the 72nd O.V.I., the 95th O.V.I., and the 4th Iowa Cavalry regiments recalling the battle at Guntown, Mississippi (also called Brice’s Crossroads). Specifically, the veterans wrote of their recollections of the behavior of Gen. Samuel Sturgis that day and his failure as a commander. These letters were written in response and opposition to Sturgis’ appointment as Superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home in Washington, D.C. There is also printed material regarding this battle.

Other items of a military nature include speeches, etc. pertaining to life in a prisoner of war camp, especially Andersonville, Gotthilf Eberhard’s 1906 memoir of the 72nd O.V.I. at the Battle of Shiloh, and reunions of the 72nd after the war. Gessner’s prescription book from April 10-Oct. 8, 1864 is also found here. This book was later a journal of personal writings.

There is a large amount of general correspondence dating from after the Civil War until G. A. Gessner’s death in 1916. This correspondence deals with Gessner’s appointments as Fremont’s postmaster and his activities in the Republican Party, postal matters, and the affairs of fraternal organizations to which he belonged. Correspondence with family members, household bills, and newspaper clippings regarding local people and events give some additional insight into Gessner’s life.

Ac. 262, 340, 1134
1 1/4 linear ft.

Box 1

             1-3 Battle of Guntown Correspondence
             4 Speeches & Material of Ex-Prisoners of War
             5 Civil War Correspondence of Dorr Lawton, 18th New York Cavalry
             6 72nd O.V.I. Reunions, etc.
             7-12 General Correspondence

Box 2

             1 Immediate Family - Badges, Commission, etc.
             2 Miscellaneous Correspondence
             3 Miscellaneous & Undated Material
             4-7 Financial Papers
             8 Local Interest
             9-12 Newspaper Clippings
             13 Programs, etc.
             14 Patent Material

Box 3

             1 Prescription Book/Personal Book - Diagnoses and Treatments of 72nd O. V. I.
             2 Guntown - Printed Material
             3 Dr. L. Gessner’s Notebook on Dr. Oesterlen’s Class Lecture (German) 1856