Bowlby & Hall

Mechanics Street, now known as East Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Grocers Bowlby & Hall operated out of the building just east of John Wilbur's hardware and stove store. Image must have been taken after 1882, when William Rininger erected his dry-goods store with the elaborate tin cornice. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Mechanics Street, now known as East Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Grocers Bowlby & Hall operated out of the building just east of John Wilbur’s hardware and stove store. Image must have been taken after 1882, when William Rininger erected his dry-goods store with the elaborate tin cornice. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

“–CHANGE OF BASE.–The firm of Arnold & Bowlby has been changed to Bowlby & Hall. ‘Seth’ retires after nearly ten years of waiting upon customers, and says he will now spend the winter exchanging a few lies with the ‘boys’ until something new in the way of business turns up. Mr. Hall is too well known in this community to need any commendation from our pen. You will always find him on hand, and ready as ever to take your money and give you full value in goods. Call upon the new firm and you will be well treated” (The Wellington Enterprise, 11-7-1878, pg. 3).

I have another cemetery tale to tell. I was familiar with the names Bowlby and Hall because their grocery and produce shop was situated between John Wilbur’s hardware store and William Rininger’s dry goods store. I didn’t know too much more beyond the anecdote I related in an earlier post, about a young boy becoming trapped under the wooden sidewalk in front of their establishment in 1882.

One afternoon while I was walking through Greenwood Cemetery, a large stone with the name “Bowlby” caught my eye. (Truth be told, it was the lettering that captured my attention; I’m a bit of a font junky.) Upon investigation, I discovered the name “Hall” carved on the opposite side.

Bowlby headstone, Greenwood Cemetery. The name "Hall" is carved on the opposite side. Photo by author.

Bowlby headstone, Greenwood Cemetery. The name “Hall” is carved on the opposite side. Photo by author.

I have heard of co-workers becoming close, but being buried together seemed extreme to me. Then I looked more carefully at the individual markers.

John and Mary Sage Bowlby headstones. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

John and Mary Sage Bowlby headstones. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Herbert and Elva Sage Hall headstones. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Herbert and Elva Sage Hall headstones. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Mr. Bowlby and Mr. Hall married sisters, Mary and Elva Sage. Presumably that is why they went into business together when Seth Arnold retired in 1878. Right next to this grouping of headstones is a small marker for Orrin and Hepsibeth Sage. Federal census records confirm that they are the parents of the Sage sisters. Orrin Sage was also Noah Huckins’ first partner in the hardware business when Huckins moved to Wellington, and thus Sage was the original owner of the building eventually operated by John Wilbur. I wonder if that is why Sage’s sons-in-law ended up going into business right next door.

Orrin and Hepsibeth Sage  headstone. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Orrin and Hepsibeth Sage headstone. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

John Bowlby was fourteen years older than his wife, and eighteen years older than his junior partner. It seems amusing that the Enterprise described Herbert Hall in the 1878 partnership announcement as “too well known in this community to need any commendation from our pen,” making him sound rather older than his twenty-two years.

John and Mary Bowlby had been married ca. 1873, when John was thirty-five and Mary just twenty-one. The Halls married four years later, in January 1877, making Elva eighteen on her wedding day. I located an entry for the Halls in the 1880 federal census; they were living on South Main Street, not far from the Couch family. The couple already had one child, a two-year-old daughter called Bessie. Also living with the family were two sixteen-year-olds: Lewis Jackson, a boarder described as a “grocer clerk,” and Nina Serage, a servant. Twenty-one-year-old Elva must have had quite a time managing a toddler and two teenagers in her house.

The 1880 census also records the Bowlbys residing on Courtland Street. They had two children at the time, six-year-old Frank and three-year-old Ethel. Orrin Sage having died six years earlier, his widow Hepsibeth Sage was living with her daughter’s family, described on the federal census as a “boarder” in the home. At fifty-two, Hepsibeth was only a decade older than her son-in-law.

Undated image of the Bowlby home. This house still stands at 115 Courtland Street. Photo 970434 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of the Bowlby home. This house still stands at 115 Courtland Street. Photo 970434 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I found a mention of an advertisement for Bowlby & Hall in a 1909 book of Ohio Farm Laws. Herbert Hall actually died in 1904, at just forty-eight years of age. But the business apparently endured, perhaps until John Bowlby’s death fifteen years later, in 1919. He was eighty-one.

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