“Persons bearing the name Howk and those named Wadsworth were the most numerous by far of our early pioneers. They settled in the town, bought land, and became prosperous farmers” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A175).
An entire blog could be written about the members of the Wadsworth family. Their history is the early history of Wellington, and their business endeavors went a long way toward securing the financial success of the town in the nineteenth century. I want to focus on a single member of the family, David Lawton Wadsworth, because he connects to my larger story in two ways: 1) he owned a cheese box manufacturing facility that was a competitor of Noah Huckins‘ business; 2) he was Noah Huckins’ neighbor on North Main Street.
When I began to research the house at 600 North Main, one of my chief questions concerned why it was built where it was. Many of the grandest homes in Wellington were situated on South Main Street. What I have learned is that there were once fine houses on the northern end of town, as well, including the now-lost home of the Howks, but none finer than the 1866 Italianate constructed by David Wadsworth. Since that house was relocated to West Herrick Avenue in 1998, and sadly demolished in the summer of 2012, it is difficult to remember that it spent its first one hundred and thirty years just two blocks from–almost within sight of–Noah Huckins’ Italianate.
David L. Wadsworth was born in Becket, Massachusetts in 1825, yet another New England emigrant to northeast Ohio. In 1833, when he was only eight years old, he journeyed twenty-four days by covered wagons to Wellington. His life and career are outlined in a four-page illustrated biography in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894). He and his family are the subjects of several columns written by Robert Walden. And both he and his wife, born Rosenia C. Woodworth, had significant obituaries published at the time of their deaths. So a great deal of material exists that documents Wadsworth’s personal history. I want to highlight his business interests and the magnificent house he left behind.
“In 1868 Mr. Wadsworth purchased a planing mill, and embarked in the manufacture of doors, sash and blinds, dealing largely in lumber, shingles, lath, etc. Afterward other industries were added, to wit: a cheese and butter-box factory…He was a prominent dealer in real estate, buying farms, building houses about town for dwellings and other purposes, a hundred or more, adding much to the general growth and prosperity of the village wherein he dwelt” (Commemorative Biographical Record, pg. 707). I have written previously that the wealthier businessmen in town often engaged in real estate development as a means of increasing the town’s permanent population and also of accommodating the lower-class, more transient “mechanics” who filled the village when construction projects occurred.
Walden describes the Wadsworth lumber yard this way: “It was valuable property, and his planing mill, with its cheese-box factory, was a hive of industry. His stacks of white pine lumber filled the yard between railroad tracks and Kelley-st. Many men were employed in making window frames and miscellaneous items of the industry and turning out fine building lumber” (#A199). He asserts in another column, “Lumber was stacked as much as two stories high” (#A175). In 1881, The Wellington Enterprise reported that N. Huckins & Co. had purchased “the Wellington Planing Mill, and Sash and Blind Factory by D. L. Wadsworth.” It noted that the work of the factory “began to tell on [Wadsworth’s] health” so he decided to sell (10-5-1881, pg. 3). Just two years later, the newspaper announced, “N. Huckins & Co. have sold the planing mill and cheese box and butter tub factory to D. L. Wadsworth, the former proprietor, who will take possession in a week or so” (11-18-1883, pg. 3). No clear explanation was ever given in print of why Wadsworth wanted his factory back, or why Noah Huckins was willing to return the operation to his formerly-retired business rival.
Of all the people I have researched, I would hazard a guess that David Wadsworth was the most proud of his beautiful house. It is frequently mentioned in connection with his name. This is not a phenomenon I have observed even with homes as magnificent as those belonging to Charles Horr or Sidney Warner. It is specifically noted in Wadsworth’s Commemorative Biographical Record essay that “in 1866 the present family residence, situate [sic] on North Main street, was completed and occupied” (707). A description of his daughter’s wedding and even his own funeral focus as much on the grandeur and elegance of the house as on the events themselves. “The casket and rooms were adorned with choice flower pieces…The day was most divinely fair, each shrub and tree had put on its most attractive colors, and the rich, mellow sunshine, softened by cooling breezes, baptized Mother Earth with a glory quite indescribable…The roomy house and extensive grounds were filled to overflowing…His widow still resides in the now lonely home, where, on every hand, are seen evidences of the thoughtful outlook and careful supervision on the part of the dear departed, for the comfort of those dwelling within the home circle” (708-709).
Wadsworth died in 1892, at the age of sixty-seven. His widow Rosenia outlived him by thirteen years, dying in 1905. Both are interred (along with numerous other Wadsworths) in Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery. By the time Robert Walden was writing about the Wadsworth history in the late 1950s, their former family home was serving as the American Legion post in Wellington. In 1997, the Rite-Aid chain purchased the North Main Street lot on which the house sat, and intended to demolish the structure to make way for a drugstore and parking lot. Wellington’s Southern Lorain County Historical Society spearheaded an effort to relocate the house to donated land on West Herrick Avenue. There it sat from 1998 until 2012, when it was demolished. The house was sadly diminished from its nineteenth-century magnificence, but still impressive even in its decline.