The Congregational Church(es)

First Congregational Church, 140 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

First Congregational Church, 140 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

It is impossible to study the history of Wellington, Ohio without learning something about the history of the Congregational Church in this community. I am in no way qualified to speak to the complex theological and political issues that shaped the church’s evolution across the nineteenth century. Those interested in a detailed examination of antebellum Presbyterian and Congregational reform movements, for example, should review the work of my fellow blogger and Wellington historian, Joshua Fahler.

I am interested in architecture as material culture, however, and so I have been tracing the different church facilities erected in the village since its settlement in 1818. The Congregational churches are particularly interesting in the ways in which they interweave with the overall development of the town.

Secondary sources often identify the first place of worship of the ‘Church of Wellington’ at what is now the intersection of North Main Street and East Herrick Avenue. The History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) recorded, “The first place of meeting was a log school house at the center, where the brick block on the corner now stands” (pg. 354). Rev. W. E. Barton’s A History of the First Congregational Church of Wellington, Ohio (1892) concurred: “The first meeting house was a log school-house standing on the corner where J. S. Mallory & Co’s store is now located” (pg. 24). Robert Walden wrote in the mid-twentieth century, “The first church at the center of Wellington was DeWolf’s Temperance. It was open for services April 20, 1824, in a log building at the corner of Public Square and North Main Street. The building was called DeWolf’s Temperance Tavern and was just what its name implied–a temperance lodging where no liquor was for sale” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A158).

Neither Walden nor either of the other volumes offer any documentary evidence to support their assertions. The specific date that Walden cites–April 20, 1824–was the date on which a church body was officially constituted in the village. In the earliest days, services rotated among the private homes of members, including that of Amos Adams, as the unpublished manuscript records of the group show. They also met in the “Center School House at Wellington” on at least one occasion in November 1825. It was not until three years after constitution, in May 1827, that the congregants voted to receive “Mr. Matthew D. Wolf and his Wife Mary…from the Church of Otis” (Records of the First Congregational Church…, unpublished mss., pg. 11).

Mathew DeWolf’s obituary in The Lorain County News noted his forty-year membership in the church, but said nothing about him playing host to the congregation in his business establishment. (I examined his lovely psalter in a previous post.) Interestingly, the author of the obituary, J. B. Lang, knew first-hand that DeWolf had been a school teacher in the village, as Lang was one of his early pupils. Lang knew DeWolf emigrated to Wellington from Otis, Massachusetts “about the year 1827″ (7-19-1865, pg. 3). Was there an early structure, belonging at some point to DeWolf, that served as a school, a public house, and a house of worship? I have no definitive proof but it seems plausible to me.

When Wellington’s first Town Hall was erected on Public Square in 1829, that building definitely served as both a civic arena and a religious facility. The Wellington Enterprise published a transcription of the 1829 “Subscription for Town House &C” which read in part, “We the undersigned agree to pay the sums annexed to our names, to be expended in erecting a brick building at the center of Wellington, in the lower story of which there is to be a school room for the use of the district…the remainder of the building to be at the disposal of the first congregational society in Wellington provided they shall lay a tile or brick floor to the upper story and that said story shall at all times be open for the transaction of town business and funerals…” (5-12-1886, pg. 3). The subscribed amount for the proposed hall was $119.50.

The Enterprise dated the dismantling of this first town hall to 1845, but that is not certain. History of the First Congregational Church recorded that (perhaps even before the hall was taken down) a frame structure was erected on the adjacent lot by the congregants in 1839, but it burned to the ground that winter (pg. 25). The same information is included in History of Lorain County, with a note that the loss on the fire was “about three thousand dollars” (pg. 355).

“The next season the church and society entered upon the work of rebuilding, and put up and finished a new one, upon the same site, and upon the same plan as that destroyed, at about the same cost,” it continues. This 1840 structure, which over time came to be referred to as the ‘Old White Church’ is the first Congregational house of worship of which I have located images. If the text in History of Lorain County is correct and the Old White Church was built “upon the same plan” as the 1839 church that burned, we can hypothesize that its facade was similar, if not identical.

"The Old White Church, Built in 1840." Engraving featured in "The Wellington Enterprise," 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

“The Old White Church, Built in 1840.” Engraving featured in “The Wellington Enterprise,” 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

Detail of the Old White Church in "Village of Wellington" (1857) by Archibald Willard. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Detail of the Old White Church in “Village of Wellington” (1857) by Archibald Willard. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

In 1885, when plans were underway to construct the present Town Hall, the wooden structure being used as a town hall was sold at auction to W. R. Santley and Co. for $209 “that being the highest bid received” (Enterprise, 6-3-1885, pg. 5). In 1892, the same year Barton published, a fire broke out at Santley’s lumber company on the evening of August 3rd. The newspaper headline proclaimed, “The old Congregational Church and Town Hall Reduced to Ashes.” The article explained, “The company owned the building, which was once a Congregational church and then served as a town hall until 1885, when it was purchased by the lumber company and removed to the mill yard” on Magyar Street (8-10-1892, pg. 5).

Over the course of the century, the Congregational Church in Wellington experienced at least two schisms, during which members withdrew from the main body and formed other churches. I would refer those interested in a  more comprehensive explanation to read the two published histories of the church and Mr. Fahler’s work. The first group, which called itself the Independent Church, organized in 1843 and eventually reunited with the main body in 1851. It “had no house of worship, but met in the town hall, which even before the division had often been used by the First Church for social meetings” (History of the First Congregational Church, pg. 25).

In 1852, a smaller group of dissenters again broke away from the First Church and called themselves the Free Church of Wellington. The Free Church apparently “received two hundred dollars’ assistance in building its house” (pg. 20) from the Home Missionary Society and put up a frame structure just north of the site of the present church, on the west side of South Main Street. The two factions reunited in 1861.

"The Old Free Church, Built in 1852." Engraving featured in "The Wellington Enterprise," 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

“The Old Free Church, Built in 1852.” Engraving featured in “The Wellington Enterprise,” 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

Detail of the Free Church in "Village of Wellington" (1857) by Archibald Willard. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Detail of the Free Church in “Village of Wellington” (1857) by Archibald Willard. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission
to display generously granted by the library.

The Lorain County News reported in early 1866 that “a movement is on foot to thoroughly repair the Congregational Church in this place, which has been long needed. The township trustees are repairing, fitting up and thoroughly painting the Town Hall, which will do away with the necessity of using the church for everything, as for some time past” (3-28-1866, pg. 3). By the end of the year, the church had “received a coat of paint on the outside, which adds greatly to its appearance. The thorough repairing lately given it makes it a very pleasant place of worship.” At the same time, “a fine stone walk, and…lamp post” were installed in front of the Town Hall (12-19-1866, pg. 3). Given the association in the writing of the church with the hall–suggesting geographic proximity–I am assuming that both of these notices refer to the Old White Church, and that the Free Church farther down the street was already being used for some other purpose by the mid-1860s. In 1892, Barton wrote that the Free Church building “is now used by Christie & Bennett as a wagon shop” (pg. 25). The caption on the engraving above suggests it was still a wagon shop nearly ten years later.

When the theological and political rifts of the war years were healing, the next major difficulty faced by the congregation was overcrowding. The coming of the railroad and the Cheese Boom had increased both the population and the overall wealth of the community in the years since the construction of the two wood-framed sanctuaries. Many of the town’s most prominent businessmen were members of the Congregational faith. When a subscription was raised to erect a magnificent brick church on the corner of South Main and Magyar Streets in January 1878, contributors included Noah Huckins, John Wilbur, John Artz, Sidney Warner, Watson Wean, Timothy Doland, David Wadsworth, Sereno Bacon, Joseph Turley, Albert Couch, and many more. I have written before about Hiram Allyn receiving the construction contract for the project, which totaled some $25,000.

"First Brick Church--Built 1878-1879, Burned 1895." From "A History of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Wellington, Ohio, 1824-1974," by the Rev. Ronald Boldman.

“First Brick Church–Built 1878-1879, Burned 1895.” From “A History of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Wellington, Ohio, 1824-1974,” by the Rev. Ronald Boldman.

The 1879 building, which Barton called “the finest and best arranged church edifice in the county, and outside the large cities, one of the very best in the state” (pg. 25) does indeed sound impressive in the descriptions of the time. Its heating and lighting systems were the latest technologies, and its interior was sumptuous. Sadly, it caught fire and was totally destroyed in February 1895. It was less than two decades old.

Interior view of the 1879 brick Congregational Church, which burned in 1895. Photo 970465 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Interior view of the 1879 brick Congregational Church, which burned in 1895. Photo 970465 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

The present brick church, shown at the top of the post, was constructed on the site of the burned church. G. Frederick Wright’s A Standard History of Lorain County was published in 1916, but he copied so much content directly from The History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) that he did not even bother to note the destruction of the 1879 church and its later replacement, which occurred almost immediately. The present church was dedicated in September 1896.

Just For Fun

Detail of an advertisement for Chapman &  Robinson Clothiers. "The Wellington Enterprise," 10-18-1893, pg. 1.

Detail of an advertisement for Chapman & Robinson Clothiers. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 10-18-1893, pg. 1.

I must be an even bigger nerd than I thought. I found this advertisement on the front page of the Enterprise this morning, while engaging in my favorite Saturday activity: reading microfilm at the library. It gave me a big chuckle. Any other Game of Thrones fans out there, excited for tomorrow night’s premiere?

Treasures

Early nineteenth-century volumes from a private collection. Photo by author.

Early nineteenth-century volumes from a private collection. Photo by author.

For me, one of the greatest joys of writing this blog has been connecting with other people interested in the history of Wellington. I am particularly fond of studying material culture, so I was delighted when I was recently allowed to examine some artifacts from the village’s past. The owners of the objects have graciously allowed me to share them with you.

The two volumes pictured at the top of the post are both nineteenth-century imprints. Each bears an inscription by an early Wellington settler. The smaller of the two is a lovely, leather-bound 1834 psalter, small enough to fit comfortably within my hand. It was once owned by Mathew DeWolf, who journeyed here from Massachusetts in 1827. By the 1830s, he owned and operated a “temperance tavern” (i.e. an alcohol-free public house) at what is now the corner of North Main Street and East Herrick Avenue. His building was also used as an early house of worship. Perhaps this psalter played some role in that.

Inscription by "M. DWolf - Wellington, Ohio" on the endpaper of an 1834 "Psalms of David." Private collection. Photo by author.

Inscription by “M. DWolf – Wellington, Ohio” on the endpaper of an 1834 “Psalms of David.” Private collection. Photo by author.

The larger volume is an earlier imprint than the psalter, but also a religious text. The Journal of the Rev. Francis Asbury, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church was lengthy enough to be issued in three volumes; this third volume was printed in New York in 1821. It belonged to Dr. Daniel Jay Johns. When twenty-one-year-old Johns emigrated to this area in 1818, it was wilderness; by the time he died in 1886, the three-story brick Town Hall and Opera House was being dedicated. Much of that urban development is often attributed to Johns’ role in securing a railroad line through Wellington in the late 1840s.

Inscription by "Dr. D. J. Johns" on the endpaper of  an 1821 "Journal of the Rev. Francis Asbury." Private collection. Photo by author.

Inscription by “Dr. D. J. Johns” on the endpaper of an 1821 “Journal of the Rev. Francis Asbury.” Private collection. Photo by author.

Finally, this lovely little bureau, bearing modern pulls but otherwise in excellent condition, is an example of Wellington furniture production. It is a product of the Couch cabinet factory, which began operation on South Main Street in the 1840s and was in business until at least the end of the century. I recently found a notice in The Lorain County News which reads, “A. G. Couch has the contract to furnish furniture for our hotel. We are not informed of the amount required, but it is to be all new throughout” (8-6-1868, pg. 3). I wonder if looking at this bureau is giving me visual clues as to the style and decor of the American House in the late 1800s.

Small bureau made by Couch cabinet factory. Private collection. Photo by author.

Small bureau made by Couch cabinet factory. Private collection. Photo by author.

The piece is signed in graphite on the reverse. Since Albert G. Couch’s son, (future Wellington mayor) George L. Couch, did not officially join the family business until about 1875, the fact that both men’s names are included in the attribution suggests that this piece postdates that transition.

Inscription "A. G. & G. L. Couch, Wellington, Ohio" on reverse of bureau. Private collection. Photo by author.

Inscription “A. G. & G. L. Couch, Wellington, Ohio” on reverse of bureau. Private collection. Photo by author.

So start sleuthing around your houses, Wellington! Look on the bottoms of furniture pieces and the backs of ceramics, and check old books and photographs. The Couches and Sawtells and Tissots of this town were producing objects for decades; those items must still be here in our attics and basements. If anyone has any treasures they would like to share, I would love to have you post a comment.

Base Bawlers

"The American National Game of Base Ball." Currier & Ives lithograph (1866).

“The American National Game of Base Ball.” Currier & Ives lithograph (1866).

Base Ball. Several match games have been played lately by the ‘Base Bawlers’ and we understand the result has favored the Wellington boys each time” (Lorain County News, 9-2-1868, pg. 3).

Two of the most evocative words in the American lexicon are surely, “Play ball!” I am a baseball fan myself, devoted since childhood to the Boston Red Sox. It may be snowing like mad tonight, but Monday is Opening Day. Here in Cleveland, the home opener will occur Friday–presuming it stops snowing. A huge banner hanging on the stadium has been counting us down through the last days of winter. In honor of spring and a new season, I offer this post about some of Wellington’s early triumphs on the baseball diamond.

The very first issue of The Wellington Enterprise ever printed devoted column space on its front page to recounting the results of a baseball game. Two Wellington teams–the Lorain Base Ball Club and the Buckeye Club–played a sort of exhibition match at the fairgrounds. Baseball was played rather differently in the mid-nineteenth century, as the final score demonstrates: Lorain beat the Buckeyes, 76 to 45. “The defeated Club need not be intimidated by its first losses as none expect to see a new Club, and especially one formed from new material, defeat an old organization. A little practice will make the ‘Buckeyes’ expert as their rivals, and then look out for fun!”

The second-ever issue of the newspaper again devoted an entire column on its front page to describing two baseball games. The victorious Lorain Club of Wellington took on a team from Medina on September 19, 1867 and then the Sullivan Star Club four days later. These sporting battles were also fought at the fairgrounds.

Wellington beat Medina in the first contest, 101 to 74. The game lasted four hours, as did the subsequent bout against Sullivan, though the former had eight innings and the latter nine. The Enterprise was stinging in its commentary: “On Monday the 23d, the Sullivan ‘Star Club’ came here with strong confidence in their ability to bear the conqueror’s palm with them to Sullivan; but it was evident before the game was half over that they had come on a bootless errand (which was literally true, as they were all barefooted) and the result was, their demonstrations also were reserved for another time” (9-26-1867, pg. 1). Final score of that game was 88 to 51.

Early box score. "The Wellington Enterprise," 9-26-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

Early box score. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 9-26-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

“We noticed among the players a fair representation of business men who had thrown aside for a time the perplexing cares of the office to participate in the health imparting game,” the Enterprise noted approvingly. Indeed, players on the Lorain Club included furniture maker and future mayor George Couch, and a young Charlie Horr playing third base and scoring nearly twenty runs in the two competitions against out-of-towners.

“Not only does the game strengthen the muscles but its conviviality creates a more cheerful disposition–two things most conducive to longevity,” the newspaper proclaimed. For players and observers, I think.

Sereno and Mary Bacon

"Residence of S. D. Bacon, Wellington, Ohio." From "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), opposite pg. 349. A caption notes that the engraved images are taken from photographs by William F. Sawtell.

“Residence of S. D. Bacon, Wellington, Ohio.” From “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), opposite pg. 349. A caption notes that the engraved images are taken from photographs by William F. Sawtell.

On April 8, 1889–almost exactly 125 years ago–Noah and Ermina Huckins sold their house, barn and two adjoining lots fronting Lincoln Street to local farmer S. D. Bacon for $2,750. Regular readers of the blog will recall that one of my unanswered questions about Huckins is why he chose to sell all his properties and businesses in Wellington to become junior partner in an Oberlin hardware store.

I had always assumed that when Huckins sold the Italianate house he built on family land in 1876, he immediately departed with his wife and children. But I recently discovered notices in The Wellington Enterprise that suggest only Huckins left the village right away. “Mr. N. Huckins who is now engaged in business in Oberlin returns occasionally to visit his family and friends,” the paper reported on April 17, 1889. I took that to mean he was visiting extended family; his wife’s siblings still lived in Wellington.

But nearly three months after the sale of the house, this notice appeared in the Oberlin notes section of the Wellington paper: “N. Huckins, of the firm of Carter & Huckins, has rented the residence of Mrs. Mary Jewett, No. 18 East Lorain street, and will remove his family from Wellington to this place about August 1st” (6-26-1889, pg.5). From what I can determine, the Jewett home stood on the present day site of a park across from the Allen Memorial Art Museum and is no longer standing.

Undated image of East Lorain Street, Oberlin, Ohio. The house at the left of the frame is likely the Jewett home rented by Noah Huckins in 1889. Image courtesy of "Oberlin in the Past" Facebook page.

Undated image of East Lorain Street, Oberlin, Ohio. The house at the left of the frame is likely the Jewett home rented by Noah Huckins in 1889. Image courtesy of “Oberlin in the Past” Facebook page.

Where was Huckins’ family living while he started over in Oberlin? I do not know, but the most likely scenario is that they temporarily moved back into the Adams family homestead, then occupied by Ermina Huckins’ twin brother Erwin and his wife, Mary Emma Mallory Adams. The Adams homestead was just north of the Huckins’ house on Main Street. Why Noah Huckins would sell everything and move less than ten miles away without already having another home in which to settle his family is a mystery. His son Howard was then fifteen; daughter Ibla was eleven. Perhaps Huckins wanted to allow them to complete the school year. I know only that the family did not purchase a home in Oberlin until 1890, when they bought a modest dwelling at 151 Forest Street from Mary Humphrey.

Meanwhile, my Italianate had its second owners. Sereno Dwight Bacon had been born in Vermont in 1825 but emigrated with his family to Lorain County in 1842. He married Mary Ann Bailey in 1846; she was born in New York but was adopted after her mother’s early death and moved to Medina as a child. The Bacons bought a two hundred acre farm in Wellington Township in 1851 and raised three children there.

The 1860 federal agricultural census recorded that Bacon owned eighty-two milch cows and thirty-four sheep, as well as swine and horses. (An 1879 newspaper notice indicates that his sheep flock had grown to more than 260 animals just two decades later.) That year, his farming operation had produced 1,300 pounds of butter and 10,800 pounds of cheese. This is six years before the first cheese factory opened in Huntington, Ohio; the Bacon farm produced five-and-a-half tons of cheese onsite, in addition to all its other crop and livestock management.

(L) Detail of the Bacon farm, from "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), opposite pg. 349. (R) Photo by author of private residence on Pitts Road, 2013.

(L) Detail of the Bacon farm, from “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), opposite pg. 349. (R) Photo by author of private residence on Pitts Road, 2013.

By the time the Bacons purchased my house, it was clearly their retirement home. Sereno Bacon was sixty-four years old and had done very well financially; tax records indicate that he ranked among the wealthiest individuals in Wellington throughout his years of residence in town. One of the things I find most interesting about the Italianate’s first two owners is that both made their fortunes from the so-called Cheese Boom, but in very different ways. Bacon was a dairy farmer, producing the milk that (after the mid-1860s) middlemen made into cheese in a nearby factory. Huckins felled trees and built thousands of wooden boxes to ship that cheese to far-away markets.

The Bacons’ living children were grown and married by the time Sereno and Mary left their farm on Pitts Road and moved three miles to the “Cheese City.” The 1890 census records do not survive, so I do not know the composition of the household when they first moved into town. I do know that their grandson, Aaron Lynn Bacon, born in 1881, moved in with them after his mother’s death. Aaron Lynn was therefore the third child to live in the Italianate, after Howard and Ibla.

The Bacons rarely appeared in the newspaper, in stark contrast to Noah Huckins’ hundreds of mentions. My walk-through of the Italianate with architectural historian Shawn Godwin suggested that the Bacons probably wired the house for electricity shortly after moving in, but otherwise changed it very little. I am tempted to characterize this as “a quiet life.”

Sereno Bacon died in 1901, shortly after the couple’s fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. Mary Ann Bacon survived until 1909, though tax records continued to record the house as belonging to her deceased husband for those eight remaining years of her life. The Bacons are buried in Greenwood Cemetery with a daughter and infant grandchild who predeceased them. The two surviving Bacon children sold the Italianate shortly after their mother’s death.

Headstone of Sereno and Mary Bacon, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Sereno and Mary Bacon, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Aaron Lynn Bacon inherited the family farm on Pitts Road and had just finished renovating his grandparents’ 1861 brick homestead (pictured above) when he was tragically killed. The accident occurred only a few years after his grandmother passed away. “KILLED BY INFURIATED BULL,” screamed the Enterprise headline. The young farmer was feeding the animal early on a Sunday morning when it charged him, breaking his legs and ribs. He “suffered much from his injuries” and died the next night, September 3, 1912. He was not yet thirty-one years old. Aaron Lynn Bacon is also interred in Greenwood Cemetery.

Headstone of Aaron Lynn Bacon at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Bacon is buried with his aunt and uncle, Ada Bacon Harris and Hugh Harris. Hugh owned a shoe store in Wellington and eventually became Lorain County Treasurer. Photo by author.

Headstone of Aaron Lynn Bacon at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Bacon is buried with his aunt and uncle, Ada Bacon Harris and Hugh Harris. Hugh owned a shoe store in Wellington and eventually became Lorain County Treasurer. Photo by author.

While conducting this research into the history of our house and its owners, we made a discovery. The story of Aaron Lynn being trampled by the bull sparked memories of a similar incident in my husband’s family history. It turns out that my husband is related to the Bacons. Since he grew up in the area, it is not terribly surprising to learn that we are connected to a previous occupant of the house. But imagining that other, ill-fated little boy bounding down our floating staircase makes it all the more poignant to watch my own son, his great-great-great nephew, growing up.

When This You See, Remember Me

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author's collection.

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author’s collection.

One of my earliest posts was a small grouping of images taken by local photographer William F. Sawtell. I have continued to collect samples of his work while writing this blog, and I thought it would be enjoyable to feature a few more portraits in this entry.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author's collection.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author’s collection.

This little beauty has an unknown substance sprinkled across her surface, but I like her both because I think it is a charming composition, and also because she is the only example I have that features the photographer’s identification on the front of the card. Sawtell clearly used at least two variant spellings of his last name during his career.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author's collection.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author’s collection.

Ladies far outnumber gentleman in my small sampling. This is one particularly strong image of an older man.

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author's collection.

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author’s collection.

The style of the back of a portrait is sometimes as compelling as the photograph itself. I particularly like the two versos that I have featured here. Both include a camera as well as an artist’s paint palette. While this is likely a visual allusion to the photographer as artist, I like that it also calls to mind Sawtell’s actual talents as a painter.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author's collection.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author’s collection.

This young lady is a stunner. The verso of her image is identical to the one shown at the top of the post. Note the similarity in backdrops to the gentleman above.

I wish there was a way to determine the identities of any of these individuals. They might be the relatives of someone reading this blog. As much as I love collecting these old photographs, it also makes me a tiny bit sad. When I visit local antique shops, and search through endless piles of such pictures–keepsakes once so precious to their original owners–I can’t help but think of them as orphans. They are cut adrift in time. Remembrances, without the remembering.

Famous Faces

1865 image of President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train. Used with permission of The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train.

1865 image of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train. Used with permission of The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train.

I have been keeping an informal, penciled list on a folder for some months, of all the famous individuals who visited Wellington during the nineteenth century. I thought it might be fun to share as a post. I will add to this compilation if I discover additional names.

The image above shows the funeral train of President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated in 1865. I wrote recently about the replica train now under construction. The original train, carrying the president’s remains, traveled through Wellington on April 29, 1865. Huge crowds turned out at two o’clock in the morning, in a driving rain, to see the slain leader pass.

President Rutherford B.  Hayes (1822-1893). Image from Wikipedia.

President Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893). Image from Wikipedia.

Rutherford B. Hayes was close friends with local businessman Sidney Sardus Warner. Hayes gave a speech in Wellington after taking office as Governor of Ohio in 1868. He and wife Lucy Hayes were frequently mentioned in the local newspaper, particularly after they left the White House in 1881, visiting the village by rail. Some of Warner’s personal papers are now housed at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. Warner’s daughter, Orrie Louisa, was a guest of Mrs. Hayes in Washington D. C. during the 1881 inauguration of James Garfield.

President James A. Garfield (1831-1881). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

President James A. Garfield (1831-1881). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

I have written about Garfield’s connections to Wellington. He visited the village at least twice prior to his election to the presidency. In November 1860, he dedicated the Disciples Church, still standing at 123 Union Street. Nearly two decades later he returned, in the autumn of 1879, to give a political speech at the (second) Town Hall.

President William McKinley (1843-1901). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

President William McKinley (1843-1901). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Lincoln and Garfield were the two U. S. presidents murdered in the nineteenth century; William McKinley was the first of two to be assassinated in the twentieth. McKinley had a lengthy political career in Ohio, including serving as governor, prior to being elected to the White House in 1896. He spoke in Wellington while running for Congress in 1884, and made a whistle stop in the village during his successful campaign for a second presidential term in 1900.

Belgian actress Mlle. Rhea, born Hortense-Barbe Loret (1845-1899). From "The Cabinet Card Gallery" Blog.

Belgian actress Mlle. Rhea, born Hortense-Barbe Loret (1845-1899). From The Cabinet Card Gallery.

Mademoiselle Rhea may not be a household name now, but she was quite a famous actress in the late 1800s. I described her performances at the 1886 opening of the Opera House in a previous post.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872). Image from Wikipedia.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872). Image from Wikipedia.

Horace Greeley is the newspaper editor and political activist who famously wrote, “Go West, young man,” in support of America’s territorial expansion, our so-called “Manifest Destiny.” He spoke before the Wellington Lecture Association in February 1861. His topic was “America West of the Mississippi,” and drew a very large audience despite inclement weather.

Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895). Image from Wikipedia.

Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895). Image from Wikipedia.

Frederick Douglass was one of the most famous authors and public speakers of nineteenth-century America. He gave a lecture in town in the spring of 1868. “The Colored Orator of world wide reputation” was invited by the Wellington Reading Room Association. “Don’t fail to hear Fred Douglass on Friday,” cautioned The Lorain County News, “We do not often have an opportunity of hearing as distinguished a man as Fred” (3-25-1868, pg. 3).

Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Salmon P. Chase served as a senator and governor of Ohio, U. S. Treasury Secretary, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during his long career. He passed through Wellington while traveling to Columbus by train in June 1860. Chase had lost the presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln at the Republican National Convention in Chicago just one month earlier. It was a heavy blow to his pride, particularly since the defection of several Ohio delegates in support of Lincoln began the turn of the overall political tide in his favor. Still, the notice of Chase’s brief visit quotes him as saying that “the administration of Abraham Lincoln would be characterized by its honesty and ability” (The Lorain County News, 6-13-1860, pg. 3). For those interested in a deeper exploration of what Chase privately thought of Lincoln (spoiler alert: not much) I highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent Team of Rivals.

The Liberty Bell. Image from Wikipedia.

The Liberty Bell. Image from Wikipedia.

Not a person, I realize, but an iconic object nonetheless. The Liberty Bell stopped in Wellington on April 27, 1893, on its way to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The bell was traveling via train on the Big Four railway line, so Mayor George Couch wrote to the committee organizing the exposition (of which Charles Horr’s brother was conveniently a member) and asked that the train stop here. The village organized a series of celebratory activities, including a parade of student scholars, a welcome address, and a public viewing of the famous visitor. The train depot was decorated patriotically and local photographers H. H. Saunders & Son took an image of the bell that they later offered in print form for $0.25 to $0.50. The visit lasted thirty minutes.

UPDATE: The eagle-eyed among you will note that I have removed the image and text related to Mark Twain. Subsequent research uncovered the fact that the person who arrived in Wellington in June 1868 and introduced himself as the famous author was, in fact, a charlatan. “Twain” agreed to deliver a lecture at the Methodist Church, going so far as to announce it via a letter published in The Wellington Enterprise. But when he was told that a visitor from California was in the village whose husband knew the celebrity, “Twain” caught the next train out of town, leaving behind an unpaid hotel bill “and five cents for a collar at Shrier’s” (The Lorain County News, 6-24-1868, pg. 3). As Mark Twain famously did not observe, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”