Samuel Ogden Edison Jr., Thomas Edison’s father, was born in Nova Scotia and was a man of many talents: skilled carpenter, tavern owner, businessman, manufacturer, tailor. He was a man of fertile resources and great energy of character. He was a tall man (6’2”) of much intelligence. He built the deceptively small-looking home for his family in Milan, on the side of the hill, which afforded it three stories as seen from the back, not the one story seen from the street side and beautifully done in the Greek Revival style, unusual for that size home. In Milan, Samuel entered into the shingle-making business around the bustling Milan Canal.
There are several stories about Tom and his father. Perhaps the most notorious of the time spent in Milan, (1847-1954) is when Samuel felt compelled to take young Tom to the center square in Milan to give him a spanking when he and a friend had set fire to a barn. Tom was always asking questions of his father and when, after Tom pursued his father with endless demands for information, his father, giving up, said he didn’t know the answer. And Tom replied, “Well, why DON’T you know?? When Samuel was much older, he remembered his son Tom as mischievous and exasperatingly inquisitive; not as a child prodigy who would develop into the greatest inventor of the 19
centuries. The older Tom was softer on his father and helped him plant a ten-acre garden at their home in Port Huron, Michigan and helped him sell the produce in town. Tom became an entrepreneur himself when he was 12 years old; perhaps because of the model he saw in his father. When the much older Thomas Edison was building his first laboratory at Menlo Park in NJ in the 1870’s, he had his father supervise the lab’s construction. Samuel was visiting his niece in Norwalk, Ohio, south of Milan, in 1896 when he died. His son, Thomas traveled back to the home of his boyhood to attend his father’s funeral.