Jacob Herr Driesbach – Famous lion tamer from Apple Creek, Ohio

Drew Norman

I am starting a new column on ACHS blog we are going to dedicate some posts to Famous people from Apple Creek, Ohio

Thank you to a Facebook message by Mark Sullivan who inquired about this gentlemen. Sure enough found a article in our local newspaper.


APPLE CREEK — One of the most famous people to reside within the borders of Wayne County during the 19th century was nationally acclaimed lion tamer Jacob Driesbach, better known in entertainment circles of the day as “Herr Driesbach.”

Born Nov. 2, 1807, in Sharon in Schoharie County, N.Y., he was 11 years old when his father died, and he eventually drifted into New York City where he worked for the Zoological Gardens. There he earned a reputation for his ability to control wild beasts, and became the first known person ever to make a performing animal of the leopard.

In 1830 Herr Driesbach joined the traveling menagerie of Raymond & Co., and soon traveled to Europe, enjoying unprecedented success. He traveled throughout Europe, performing before crowned heads in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Germany, Holland, Russia and numerous other countries.

In 1840 he returned to the U.S., having established a worldwide reputation and becoming the foremost man in his profession. For the next 14 years he made annual tours throughout the United States.

One day in August 1850, Herr Diesbach and his circus retinue were traveling over the old Wooster-Wheeling stage route (today U.S. Route 250), which passed through Mount Eaton. Being the meal hour, the troupe stopped at the Lucas Inn, the local hotel and tavern. Sarah Walter of Wooster Township was a boarder at the hostelry and assisted in preparing the meal.

She later wrote: “We had taken special pains to get up a nice meal, and I went into the dining room to help wait on tables. Like any other country girl, I was on the lookout for Driesbach, of whom I had heard. He came in and took a seat at the table near where I stood. Another gentleman, Gus Hunt, asked Driesbach, ‘How does this meal suit you? About everything here, ain’t there?’ Driesbach surveyed the table and replied, ‘Yes, everything but an onion.’

“I heard him mention onion and I stepped up and inquired if he desired any. He told me he would take one, if fresh. I ran out to the garden and hastily secured two nice onions, which I took to him. That was all that was said then, but that evening I spoke to him casually, passing the compliments of the day. A few days later I received a letter from him, asking me to correspond. I answered that letter and from then on we corresponded. We were married in April 1854, four years after we first met.”

Following their marriage, the Driesbachs settled down to the peaceful pursuits of rural life. In 1875 they began keeping a hotel in Apple Creek. In early December 1877, the former lion tamer suddenly fell ill and died two days later on Dec. 5, leaving a widow and one son.

Source: “The History of Paint Township & Mount Eaton, Ohio” by the Mount Eaton-Paint Township Historical Society

Friday: John Snyder was self-made man

Reporter Paul Locher can be reached at 330-682-2055 or plocher@the-daily-record.com.

Showing 2 comments
  • greyhard

    Herr Driesbach was a very remarkable man, and his life was full of perilous incident, adventure and romance.

  • grossu

    In 1875 he began hotel keeping at Apple Creek Station. Here, after two days’ sickness, on December 5, 1877, he died, leaving a widow and one son. Forrest held out for several minutes, but the symptoms became so terrifying that he owned up that he was afraid. He beseeched the lion king to let him out, ashe dared not move a finger while a lion kept rubbing against his leg. After Forrest acknowledged that he knew what fear was, and agreed to stand a champagne supper, Driesbach released him.

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