Mrs. Narcissa (Newkirk) Douglas: Wooster Woman of Many Attainments

1896 Wooster centennial celebration in which Narcissa Douglas participated as the chairperson of the Women’s Relief Movement. Courtesy of the Wayne County Public Library via Ohio Memory.

All too often, women get lost in history. When they are young and still living with parents, they may fall in the shadow of their father or grandfather. Once they marry, they fall into the shadow of their husband. Such is the story of Mrs. Narcissa (Newkirk) Douglas.

Narcissa Newkirk was the youngest daughter of Henry and Jane (Hart) Newkirk. She was born in Clinton Township, Wayne County, Ohio, on February 15, 1839. She was the granddaughter of Isaac Newkirk, a citizen of Washington County, Pennsylvania, who joined the volunteer army to help with conflict between early white settlers of northern Ohio and the region’s American Indians. While on one of his marches, he discovered what later became known as Newkirk’s Spring in southern Wayne County. Following the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795, Isaac Newkirk secured this property and sent two of his sons, Henry and Reuben, to settle the land: the former was the father of Narcissa. In the spring of 1814, the two sons built and later operated the first linen and woolen mill west of the Allegheny Mountains.

When Narcissa was 14 years old, she was sent to Professor Diffendorf’s Academy at Hayesville, Ohio. She spent several years studying at the academy and later attended Mrs. Hanna’s School for Women in Washington, Pennsylvania, graduating there in 1859. Two years later, on June  20, 1861, she married Benjamin Douglas (Wayne County, Ohio, Marriage Records, vol. 6 p. 3), who was a former classmate from Diffendorf’s Academy and a graduate from the Cleveland Law College. Benjamin Douglas was a well-known historian and author, regarded with great respect in the political and legal realm in Wayne County. To this day, Benjamin Douglas is known as the greatest authority on early Wayne County history.

Obituary for Narcissa (Newkirk) Douglas, Wooster Daily Republican, March 22, 1917, p. 3.

Narcissa became very involved in her local  community. During the Civil War, she was in charge of the Woman’s Relief Movement in Wayne County. She was also one of the earliest members of the Wooster Thursday Club, the oldest women’s club of Wooster and one of the first organized women’s clubs in the United States. During the Wayne County Centennial Celebration in 1896, she was the chairperson of the Woman’s Movement. Narcissa was a devoted Presbyterian and taught Sunday School class in her earlier years.

Following the death of her husband on July 20, 1909, she moved to Versailles, Kentucky, to live with her daughter. She succumbed to an illness and died at her daughter’s home on March 14, 1917. Her body was brought back to Wooster for interment in the Wooster Cemetery.

The source for this post was an article published in the Wooster Daily Republican on March 22, 1917,  p. 3. To learn more about Wooster and Wayne County history, visit the Wayne County Public Library’s Wayne County, Ohio Through the Years digital collection on Ohio Memory and search through some of their historic newspapers: the Wayne County Democrat, Wooster Daily News and Wooster Daily Republican.


Thank you to Deborah Kitko, Genealogy Librarian at the Wayne County Public Library, for this week’s post!

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