Master of the House

1896 image of The American House, the hotel made famous by the  Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Photo 970095 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

1896 image of the American House, the hotel made famous by the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Photo 970095 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I once read in a description of the American House that no one had ever been able to compile a complete list of its proprietors. I love a challenge, so I have been creating such a list ever since. The hotel was built ca. 1833/34 by the Wadsworth family, and purchased for demolition by Myron T. Herrick in 1902. It existed for fewer than seven decades. The first time I find it referred to as the American House is in an 1852 advertisement in The Wellington Journal.

Below is all the information I have at present on its owners and proprietors. Please note that each year listed indicates that I found a mention for that individual in that year; it was not necessarily that person’s first year associated with the hotel. There is also a lack of clarity in some cases as to whether the individual was the owner and/or the “host,” or what we would today call the hotel manager.

1833/34  [Jabez] Lorenzo and [Oliver] Sardine Wadsworth, brothers

1844        Jabez L[orenzo] Wadsworth

1852        J. M. Tuttle “recently purchased and refitted this establishment” (March)

1858        Oliver S[ardine] and Alma Wadsworth

1859        Mrs. Bishop

1860        B. B. Hawks

1867        Charles Biggs, landlord; David Franks and I. P. Smith, owner

1868        David Franks; Mr. Terrell (as of June) and I. P. Smith, owner

1869        Mr. Terrill; Mr. Woodworth (as of April)

1876        Mr. Wilcox; W. A. Woodworth (as of April)

1877        W. A. Woodworth

1878        Stan. Wilcox “so long identified with this house that [he] is familiar [to] the traveling public and the people of Lorain county generally”

1880        S. E. Wilcox, Proprietor

1881        Stan [no last name given, presumably Wilcox]

1883        Mr. Wilcox; Wm. Jordan, “having rented it for a term of years” (as of May)

1887        Mrs. Dickerman

1889        Mrs Dickerman; Stanley Wilcox (as of April)

1891        S. E. Wilcox “conducted this house from 1869-1883, when he went west. He decided to return and took charge of the house again two years ago and has managed it ever since.”

1892        Landlord [Levi] Stemple

1893        L. Stemple

1898        G. R. Lester of Clyde, Ohio

1899        J. S./I. S. Rinehart of Galion, Ohio

1902        Purchased by Myron T. Herrick; demolished to make space for public library

The most curious case is that of Stanley Wilcox, who apparently was associated with the hotel from 1869 to 1883, and again from 1889 to 1892. During the 1860s and 1870s, W. A. Woodworth was named in the newspaper numerous times as “landlord” and “proprietor” of the hotel. Perhaps Wilcox was the owner of the business at that time, but not handling day-to-day operations. Perhaps they ran the hotel together. Further research is clearly required.

Stanley E. Wilcox. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Stanley E. Wilcox. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

UPDATE: Just after posting, I located an obituary in Lorain County News for Hiram Woodworth, who lived in Wellington from 1863 until his death a decade later. It reads in part, “He purchased the old American House, rebuilt it and made it the comfortable home for travelers that it now is” (10-16-1873, pg. 2). What Hiram’s relationship was to W.A. Woodworth, I do not know. I also do not know the exact dates he owned the hotel, though a man named I. P. Smith was explicitly listed as the owner in notices in The Wellington Enterprise dated 1867 and 1868.

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