In politics, a “process story” is one that focuses on how a policy is made, rather than the content of the policy itself. I traveled to the Baldwin Wallace University Archive in Berea, Ohio today and thought I would write a post about the visit and the documents and objects I was able to examine. My thanks to University Archivist Jeremy Feador, who graciously put his time and resources at my disposal.
I initially contacted Mr. Feador a few months back while trying to understand what brought Noah Huckins from Canada to Ohio in the 1850s. I knew that Noah and his brother George both attended what was then known as Baldwin University, though Noah never formally graduated. Feador immediately sent me back an early image of Huckins, and let me know that there are a few pieces of correspondence from Huckins in the archive’s John Baldwin Collection.
When I arrived today, Mr. Feador first brought out the photo collage from which he obtained the image of young Noah Huckins. But what immediately drew my eye was a photograph of another young man, labeled, “John W. Houghton A.M. M.D.” Readers of this blog will remember how excited I was to learn that Wellington newspaper editors John and Mary Hayes Houghton lived across the street from the Huckins family; you may well imagine how thrilled I was to discover that Houghton and Huckins were actually classmates at college! Perhaps this is why Huckins relocated to Wellington after the Civil War ended. Feador checked the student directory and confirmed that both of John Houghton’s wives, Mary Seymour and Mary Hayes, also attended Baldwin University.
I was next able to peruse the John Baldwin Collection, which contains papers related to both John Baldwin, founder of the college, and his son, John Baldwin, Jr. (The original documents are held by the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, Ohio; Baldwin Wallace has a collection of photocopies.) The younger Baldwin was also a classmate of Huckins and Houghton, and his image is featured on the collage, as well. In fact, both documents in the collection that relate to my research are from Noah Huckins to John Baldwin, Jr.
The first item is a short note dated December 27, 1877. It reads as follows: “Bro[ther] Baldwin[,] ‘Yourself wife & baby’ at hand. They came in good shape for us to entertain at present — as ‘our wife’ is ‘Enceinte.’ Sometime in the future we shall be glad to see the originals of those fine Photo’s at our home. My kindest regards to Lury. Happy New + Properous Year to you and yours. I will keep you in mind about the stone for new church. Yours, Noah.”
Huckins seems to be referring to receipt of a family photograph, perhaps sent for the Christmas season. The baby in question is likely Milton T. Baldwin, third and final child of John and his wife, Lury Ann Gould Baldwin (yet another Baldwin University alumna). Milton would have turned four just weeks before this note was sent. And Huckins mentions that his own wife, Ermina, is pregnant (“Enceinte”) with the couple’s second child, Ibla Belle. She would be born two months later. He concludes that he will keep Baldwin “in mind about the stone” for the soon-to-be-built Congregational Church, which would be completed in 1879. The Baldwin family fortune had been made by the discovery of sandstone on their lands which was eventually quarried commercially; I do not know if they received the contract to supply stone for the Wellington church. What is personally interesting to me is Huckins anticipating a future visit from his friends “at our home,” which is, in fact, my Italianate. The house was brand new, just finished the year before.
The second document is a simple telegram, so not written in Huckins’ own hand. It contains a single line. “I am sick and cannot come — accept our regrets. N. Huckins.” This telegram was sent to John Baldwin, Jr. in 1879 but I know nothing more about it than that. Whatever event Huckins was missing due to illness is lost to history.
I continue to discover networks of connectedness among this community of individuals. I have been reading a wonderful thesis for the last few days describing the Presbyterian and Congregational reform movements in Lorain County in the early nineteenth century; the Huckins and Adams families, the Horrs, and many of the most prominent businesspeople in Wellington were members of the Congregational Church. Baldwin University, meanwhile, was founded on Methodist principles. The Houghtons, William and Charlotte Howk, and many others attended Wellington’s Methodist Church. I did not make any spectacular discoveries nor solve any age-old mysteries in the archive today, but I did find a new way of seeing a seemingly familiar subject. And as writer Marcel Proust once observed, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”