Elias Florence was born in Fauquier county, Virginia, February 15, 1797. His father was William Florence, and his mother Fanny (Robinson) Florence, both born and raised in Virginia. In 1806 William Florence emigrated, with his family, to Ohio, arriving in Muhlenberg township April 9th of that year. He located on part of the original tract owned by General Peter Muhlenberg, of Revolutionary fame, and purchased one hundred acres of land of Mr. Wilson, who owned a part of this tract. He afterwards added to his original purchase, until he owned some seventeen hundred acres. He was one of the first three county commissioners of pickaway county, and was twice elected to the State legislature, in 1816 and 1817, serving the first term that the old Columbus Stat-house was used. In 1828 he was elected as associate judge, by the legislature, and served two terms. His death occurred in 1870, at his residence on the west side of Darby creek, aged ninety-six years. His children were Elias, Robinson, William, Nancy, Sally, Betsy, Mary, and Kittie, who died when an infant.
Colonel Elias Florence obtained a common-school education, such as the schools of that early day furnished, the first of which, in the township, was established by his father, on his farm, at his own expense. His boyhood was spent at the usual work of those early days. In clearing the land, and rough it in a new country. Among his early playmates were the Indian boys of the bands that camped and roamed along Darby creek. As he advanced in years and experience, he became a stock dealer, and in that business, visited Kentucky and purchased stock, which he drove to the township and fattened, after which he drove them across the mountains to Philadelphia and New York.
He was married March 26, 1818, to Elizabeth Radcliffe, of Kentucky. They had eight children: Ezra, George, Gustavus, William, Mary, Chrissie, Fanny, and Isabel. Ezra lived to maturity, and married Sarah Renick. He died of consumption, leaving three sons and one daughter. The other boys died young. Mary married William Scott, by whom she had two sons, the first of whom was Elias F., who was commisioned first lieutenant of Company A, Forty-fifth Ohio volunteer infantry, in May, 1862, and promoted to captain in December, of the same year; was wounded at the battle of Resaca, Georgia, May 14, 1864, and died two days afterwards. Her second son was William, who now lives on a farm of three hundred acres, near Darbyville. Chrissie, the next daughter of Colonel Florence, married John Williams, and died in Madison county. Fanny married William Cochran, and died many years ago. Isabel married Rev. Owen Simpson, and died in Circleville.
Colonel Elias Florence was elected to the State legislature, in 1829 and 1830, in a Democratic district, although belonging to the Whig party, receiving every vote cast in his own township. He was again elected in 1834, and again in 1840, to the legislature, and in 1835, to the State senate. He served four years in the house and two in the senate. In 1843, he was elected to congress, and served two years. In 1850, he was a member of the constitutional convention.
He enlisted in a light horse company during the war of 1812, but peace being declared, the company was not called into actual service. He was elected colonel of a regiment of Ohio militia and served as such from 1820 until 1837 or 1838.
From the time he first engaged in business until within a few years, he accumulated much property, owning, at one time, about five thousand five hundred acres of land and a large amount of live stock. His home was always a most hospitable one, and the occassions were rare when it was free from visitors. The spirit of old Virginian hospitality pervaded the entire family, and does to this day. His friends are many, and are not confined to the limits of the township in which he lives.
Col. Florence has always been regarded as a man of excellent business qualifications, exhibiting a remarkably sound judgment and a commendable prudence in all of his dealings and business transactions. These qualities, however, were combined with an unusual generosity of nature, which, in the later years of his life, brough about his financial embarrassment. His first impulse, on seeing a person in need of aid, especially of a pecuniary nature, was to render him all the assistance in his power to grant. This led him into the generally baleful practice of endorsing the notes of others, by which he was eventually financially ruined. He gave up every dollar of his property to his creditors, not reserving even a homestead. The farm on which he now resides, comprising some two hundred acres, was purchased for his use during the remainder of his life, by a number of his friends, who were unwilling that one whose life had been so useful, whos conduct under adverse circumstances had been so noble, and whom they so much esteemed and loved, should be without a comfortable home in his declining years.
Col Florence possess a vivid recollection of early events in the settlement and development of the county, and an inexhaustible fund of anecdote apropos of pioneer times, and the writer of this has drawn upon him freely, as a source of information, in the preparation of the history of various townships. Col. Florence is now in the tighty-third year of his age. His brother, William Florence; his daughter, Mrs. Scott; and his niece, Matilda Radcliffe, reside with him.