Perhaps Noah Huckins left Wellington because he anticipated that the “Cheese Boom” would soon end. Maybe he preferred selling hardware to traveling across the country seeking new sources of lumber. Possibly some other factor was at play that we can know nothing about: his son’s educational prospects; his daughter’s health; his business relationship with Charles Horr. Whatever the reasons, in 1889 he sold the Italianate house on North Main Street to local farmer Sereno D. Bacon. He transferred extensive real estate holdings around the village to Horr in a single day’s transactions. And he moved his family ten miles north to begin a new chapter in Oberlin, Ohio.
Huckins once again bought in as the junior partner in an established hardware business, at age 50. He joined Oren Franklin Carter in an operation then known as Carter & Huckins. Carter had only opened his store seven years earlier, with a partner named Wood. According to the 1998 Ohio Historic Inventory report on the building, located at 13 South Main Street, “When Carter and Wood opened their hardware store in November 1882 it was a celebrated community event. The building had the town’s first elevator which could take customers from the basement to the third floor.” The store is visible in the ca. 1890 image of downtown Oberlin at the top of the post; it occupied the building on the far right of the photograph.
When they arrived in town, the Huckins family initially occupied a modest house at 151 Forest Street that still stands today. It is referred to in its 2003 Ohio Historic Inventory report as the “Huckins-Hall House.” Noah’s son Howard entered the Oberlin Preparatory Academy for a year prior to matriculating at Oberlin College, from which he graduated in 1894. Daughter Ibla attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1895 to 1899, then from 1900 to 1902. Perhaps her health issues caused the hiatus in her attendance.
After six years of partnership, Noah Huckins bought out Oren Carter and brought Howard into the hardware business to form Huckins & Huckins. Howard married in 1898 and moved with his wife to a house at 263 Elm Street, also still standing. Howard and Jennie Thomas Huckins rented the property and the federal census for 1900 shows them living with three adult males all labeled “lodger–at school.” Then Noah suffered two terrible losses. His wife of almost 33 years, Ermina Adams Huckins, died in 1903 at only 54 years old; less than two years later, his beloved Ibla died at just 27 years old. What made the events more terrible was their similarity; in both cases doctors told the family that a surgery was necessary but not dangerous, and assured them that the patient would most likely make a full recovery.
Huckins & Huckins seems to have done quite well financially. Howard and Jennie soon purchased a large Italianate house at 117 Elm Street, subsequently named “Burroughs Cottage” and then “Elmwood Cottage.” The house no longer survives, having been demolished in 1962 to accommodate construction of college dormitories. Noah Huckins moved to 117 Elm Street after his wife and daughter died. It also served as a boarding house for female Oberlin College students. Both the Wellington and Oberlin newspapers ran regular reports on social events Jennie Huckins hosted at her elegant home. A front-page feature published in The Wellington Enterprise in February 1916 called the house “one of the handsomest residences in the village, having been remodeled and refurbished at considerable expense.” On July 4, 1917, the paper noted, “The recent enlargement of the Huckins home includes a sun-parlor, a music room in which is a grand piano, which the mistress plays with taste and skill, and a suite of rooms ideal in appointments for private use. The ample lawn bordered with a great variety of shrub and flowering plants, and with sufficient shade, is very attractive to student girls who find a home in this privileged place, and have lawn parties there” (pg. 1).
Noah Huckins continued to be as active in the community of Oberlin as he had been in Wellington. In 1909, he was appointed by the Oberlin Board of Commerce to secure the paving of East College Street, and promptly set off door-to-door to collect the signatures of every resident on a petition to that effect; he was then 70 years old. He regularly visited his former hometown, and was welcomed in The Wellington Enterprise as “an oldtime citizen and highly respected” (3-8-1916, pg. 7). When he died September 12, 1921, obituaries appeared in several local publications. The Oberlin Tribune ran a front-page remembrance that concluded, “The citizens of Oberlin early recognized in Mr. Huckins his sterling traits of character and appreciated his advice and the frank manner in which he expressed an opinion. He had a ready wit and his stories and anecdotes were always the light of a banquet or party. He made hosts of friends and he will be missed by the entire community.”