Charles William Horr (1837-1894)

Former headquarters of Horr, Warner & Co., built in 1870. Located at 134 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Former headquarters of Horr, Warner & Co., built in 1872. Located at 134 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

If there is one man to whom Wellington owes a debt of gratitude, it is C. W. Horr. He was the driving force behind the introduction of the “factory” system of cheese production, and was so successful at it that he created an economic climate in which dozens of subsidiary business ventures were able to thrive. He left an indelible mark on the town, by helping to create wealth that funded a flurry of grand residential and commercial construction, still impressing visitors to this day.

Charles W. Horr. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Charles W. Horr. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

Of all the individuals I have been researching, Horr has probably had the most written about his life and accomplishments. He has an extensive biography, for example, in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894), a source I mentioned in an earlier post as available free-of-charge via GoogleBooks. In other ways, however, Horr continues to elude me. I have been unable to locate his personal papers, nor have I been able to locate any extant business records for Horr, Warner & Co., despite its extensive interests across the county.

Horr was born in Avon, Ohio on January 25, 1837. As with many of the men I have studied from this town in this period, he was “self-made” and took pride in having built a fortune from humble beginnings. After a childhood spent living on a farm and intermittent education around planting and harvesting times, he set out for the closest urban area of Cleveland when he was 16 years old. Two years later, after briefly returning home to Lorain County, he relocated to Nashville, Tennessee and worked as a teacher. By age 21, he was a principal in Napoleon, Ohio.

While serving as a principal, he furthered his own academic credentials at Antioch College. He graduated in 1860 and very shortly after, married Esther A. Lang of Huntington, Ohio. They eventually produced five children, all boys. Charles and Esther moved to Illinois shortly after their marriage, but the Civil War interrupted Horr’s second tenure as a public school principal. While Charles served in the army, Esther returned home to Ohio.

When the war ended, Charles decided to settle in Huntington. He and his brother, J. C. Horr, realized that centralizing production of cheese into “factories” could minimize the inefficiencies of home production and maximize profits. In an era before refrigerated train cars, it was not possible to transport milk long distances before it spoiled. Turning the milk into cheese allowed much longer storage times and enabled farmers–or their new middlemen–to market products that might previously have been wasted.

Depot Street Cheese Warehouse, date unknown. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Depot Street Cheese Warehouse, date unknown. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

The Horr brothers started the first cheese factory in Huntington in April 1866. Charles Horr joined financial resources with Sidney Warner to form Horr & Warner in 1869, and three years later added E. F. Webster to become the firm of Horr, Warner & Co. In 1872, the company opened a large brick headquarters opposite the railroad line; the Lorain County News called it “by far the most elegant office in the county” (9-26-1872, pg. 2). Within a decade, they erected a state-of-the-art, three-story cold storage warehouse; employees harvested winter ice to fill it in nearby company ice ponds. At the peak of the “Cheese Boom” in 1879, nearly eight million pounds of cheese shipped through the town (Wellington Enterprise, 3-29-1911, pg. 7).

Horr amassed a great personal fortune. In 1872, he built a large Italianate house on the southern edge of Wellington. In the spring of 1883, it was the third private residence in the town to have a telephone installed. The Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio (1874) shows thirty acres of land behind the house on South Main Street; by Horr’s death there were thirty-six acres, a large barn, and a 1.5 acre water reservoir. Today, the house is as magnificent as ever, but it is surrounded by other residences and a portion of its former parcel is owned by the adjacent town cemetery. The reservoir is now a quiet neighborhood.

The C. W. Horr House. Located at 563 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

The C. W. Horr House. Located at 563 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

The introduction of refrigerated train cars made it more profitable for local farmers to sell their milk directly to urban centers like Cleveland, rather than processing it into cheese. Horr, Warner & Co. closed its last factory in 1912 and transitioned into growing vegetables around Lodi, Ohio. “They were the largest growers of onions in the United States and exported vegetables throughout the country and abroad. They also grew potatoes, cabbage, and enough celery ‘to make nerve tonic for the world'” on four farms totaling 1,200 acres (McKiernan and King, Building a Firm Foundation: Medina County Architecture, 1811-1900, pg. 127).

In 1894, Charles W. Horr died in his home at age 57. According to a death notice in The New York Daily Standard, “Mrs. Caroline [Turner Horr] Robinson, the aged mother of ex-Congressman Roswell G. Horr, died at her home in Wellington, O., Wednesday, at the age of 90 years. She was one of the oldest women in that part of the state. A few hours later her son, Charles W. Horr, of Wellington, also died from diabetes and heart failure, after an illness of only five days. Roswell G. Horr was present at the death-beds of his mother and brother.” Sadly, Horr’s granddaughter, Olive, and brother, Rollin, also died the same year. All (except Charles’ parents, buried in Avon) are interred in the large family plot in Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery.

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13 thoughts on “Charles William Horr (1837-1894)

  1. Peggy

    I have never heard that the Horr Wagner Co. got into vegetables after closing it’s cheese factories. Very interesting. Thank you for your research. I look forward to see your next blog.

    Reply
    1. Armchair Historian Post author

      Hi Peggy, thanks for your comment. Yes, there is a bit of coverage of the Horr-Warner operations out in Lodi within the pages of “The Wellington Enterprise.” I also found a book–mentioned in the post–called, “Building a Firm Foundation: Medina County Architecture, 1811-1900.” As so often happens, I was consulting the book looking for something totally different, but found a page of photographs related to Horr-Warner. The young people who worked the gardens were called “muck angels” and there is one particularly striking photograph of perhaps fifty of them posed in front of a row of buildings. The operation was so large that it got its own post office called “Haldo” in 1893. Eventually, the name of the operation changed to Garden Isle Farm. There is still a Garden Isle Road in Lodi that seems to have several farming operations on it, but I don’t know if any of them are “descended” from Horr-Warner Co. I would love to know, if anyone reading this has additional information. I’m still trying to track down the Horr-Warner company papers.

      Reply
      1. Marilyn

        My name is Marilyn Hall. I married Dewey Hall in the 70s. His father, Wesley Hall, (now 93 yrs. old and his brother Ken. Robert Hall (Wesley’s father) share cropped for many years. The entire farm was broken up into parcels in each sharecropper was responsible for their area.

        But this is only part of the story. Wesley being 93 and his wife Doris 89, or Dewey could fill you in more details and pics. We have pictures of the muck angels.

  2. Marilyn

    Wes and Ken changed the name to Hall Growers, Inc. when they purchased the farm from Horr-Warner.

    The road is called Garden Isle Farm. The entire road (approx. 1 1/2 miles is owned by Hall Growers.

    We grow Sweetcorn (approx. 100 acres), Green beans ( approx. 1 acre), Soybeans (approx.. 900 Acres), Corn (approx. 900 acres) and pumpkins (approx. 10) Acres

    Reply
  3. Armchair Historian Post author

    How wonderful that you found this page! So your husband’s family purchased the land from Horr, Warner & Co…any chance HW left some old boxes of records behind? 🙂

    If you have access to a scanner and would be willing to scan some of your muck angel images, I would be absolutely delighted to share them via the blog, with whatever information you may be able to provide.

    Thank you again for commenting with this additional piece of the story!

    Reply
  4. @AnOrdinaryDad

    Very interesting article. I used to live in that house from 1996-2002. It’s neat to read about its history and the man who built it. Thank you for your research!

    Reply
  5. D

    Was there a brick 1872 house on West Rd in Wellington that was part of the farm? the plat says Horr plat, was wondering if this was a Horr family property originally

    Reply
    1. Armchair Historian Post author

      I’m not sure if I am understanding your question, D. If you mean West Road that is also route 38, i.e. the boundary between Wellington Township and Penfield Township, I looked at the 1874 “Atlas of Lorain County” and none of the lots on either side of the road are labeled as belonging to a Horr. If you mean the West Street that runs north-south between Johns Street and what is today West Herrick Avenue (in the northeast quadrant of the village), the same atlas shows about ten empty lots with no apparent structures on them. Nothing is labeled as belonging to the Horr family. Do you have any additional information, or can you clarify which location you think is meant?

      Reply
  6. Linda Voligny

    My mom Mary Stancin now deceased was one of the muck angels. My grandfather lost his job in the steal mills and moved his whole family to Lodi. My mom and dad would take me for drives thru the farm area and the barn my grandfather tended. I remember going thru town and under the rail road bridge to the fields. My grandparents Helen and Luke had three children, Stephania, Mary and Joseph, they all graduated from Lodi High. My mother worked for an attorney there in town until our family moved to medina.

    Reply
  7. Doug Robinson

    I am related to the Horr family of Avon and Wellington, Lorain, OH. C. W Horr’s father, Capt. Roswell Horr (1796-1841), came to Avon in 1834 from Waitsfield, Washington, VT and was Justice of the Peace in 1840 in Avon and served also as postmaster. Roswell was born to Dea. John Horr (1765-1827) and Theodosia Durkee (1764-1827) who lived in Pomfret, Windsor, VT whereby all 10 of their children were born. Dea. John Horr, served as a private in Capt. Edmund Hodges Company, Vermont militia in Oct 1780, as did his father, Elijah Horr (1741-1808), who was a corporal in Seth Hodges regiment of Vermont militia serving from 16 Aug 1777 to 4 Oct 1777 most likely marching to Bennington Battle area. My relation is by Capt. Ralph Chauncey Horr (1790-1870), older brother of Roswell Horr (above), who had married my 4X great aunt, Anna Robinson (1791-1821) who was a Capt. in the Light Infantry in 1820 at Plattsburgh, Clinton, NY. Roswell Horr, was a Capt. in the 3rd Company, 4th Regiment of the 2nd Brigade in the Vermont Militia and moved from Pomfret, VT to Waitsfield, VT in 1816.

    Reply

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