The Spirit of Zophar Warner

January 15, 2021



On this sunny wintry Saturday afternoon…as the drifting slush at the Lake’s edge offers that it will soon freeze over…we must assure that our souls do not do the same…

It occurs to me amidst all these caring and passionate posts and reflections about life in Lake County, our communities, our fears and dreams, that we are not just a cross-roads of America…a fly-over state…but the epicenter.

Prior to Ohio’s statehood there was a time with no governing jurisdiction over what would become Lake County.  And yet, contracts were completed, marriages happened, peace was maintained.  Some refer to this as a libertarian utopia.  I say…Welcome to Lake County!  Around 1820 a resident was killed due to a dispute over a gun.  Zopher Warner.  The perpetrator was tried and hanged in Chardon, the first incidence of capital punishment.  The victim’s family moved to Willoughby.  By 1960 a family member of the same name formed Warner Nursery, one of the greatest of modern nurseries.

John Brown, the abolitionist blamed for commencing the Civil War, grew up in Northern Ohio.  The man who ran down a woman with his car in the 2017 ‘Unite the Right’ protest in Charlottesville was from NW Ohio.

Sometimes I think there is a dark river that runs beneath our communities.  As I sought to comprehend the drug dependencies and deaths in recent years…our Sheriffs indicate most of our crimes in Lake County are related to drugs!…it seemed the dark river was flowing freely and we were all vulnerable…at least through our family members and employees… Dark thoughts about dark rivers.

My wife and I are watching ‘Mindhunter’ on Netflix about the early FBI efforts to profile serial killers.  It’s a great series…but very graphic…I don’t recommend it to everyone!  It follows two stodgy FBI investigators through the 1960s and 1970s seeking to understand the killers like Manson and others.  It mirrors the shock and dismay of all Americans our age!  We’re still trying to understand!

In 1989 self-proclaimed prophet Jeffrey Lundgren brought this lesson home to Lake County with the murder of five people in Kirtland.  The successful prosecutor in the case was Steve LaTourette, who, like many prosecutors, used this position and publicity as a springboard to national office.  He was elected as a congressman from Lake County in 1992.

I enjoyed a number of conversations with Congressman LaTourette and his staff, although we did not always agree.

During a meeting at La Malfa Party Center in February 2012 some of us remember his aides approaching the podium with whispered news.  Eventually he announced there had been a school shooting in Chardon.  I thought he handled it in an appropriate way…not just as a legislator…but as an advisor for our communities.

Dark times.

I miss Congressman LaTourette.  I wish he was still here…to adjudicate recent events and recent dark times.

Congressman LaTourette, although I did not know him well, is one of the reasons I dislike comments about ‘all politicians are bad’.  I met Senator Voinovich several times and I also thought he was a decent guy, a legislator committed to good works.

Our communities are not just a crossroads.

We are the epicenter of America.

Let’s engage the spirit of Zopher Warner…rediscover, reengage, rebuild…

America is One Nation…under God…the God of our choice…and under the insistence of our better angels…towards liberty, humanity, forgiveness, optimism…America!


Mark Gilson