Freeman Battle (1850-1897)

Trade card for Standard Sewing Machine Co., Cleveland, Ohio. Stamped

Trade card for Standard Sewing Machine Co., Cleveland, Ohio. Stamped “FREE BATTLE, AGENT, WELLINGTON, O.” on reverse. Though the background of the image appears grey, it is a metallic silver that reflects light as the card is turned. Author’s collection.

Regular readers of the blog will know of my affection for both trade cards and objects that lead to stories. This lovely polychromatic trade card, which measures approximately three by five-and-one-quarter inches, represents a sewing machine company from Cleveland, Ohio. But the reverse of the card is stamped on the diagonal, “FREE BATTLE, AGENT, WELLINGTON, O.,” and that leads us to a little story.

Freeman Battle was born on September 2, 1850 in Brighton. His grandfather, Ithiel Battle, was an early settler of Wellington township; his name was recorded in an 1827 census of the white male inhabitants of Lorain County. On November 6, 1880, Freeman married Alice E. Sage. She was the daughter of Samuel L. Sage, a grocer on North Main Street in Wellington. In 1890, when Sage was fatally shot by his own shop clerk, it was to his son-in-law’s house on Mechanics Street that he was carried, dying there three hours later.

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Advertisement for “The Domestic” sewing machine, sold locally by Free Battle. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 3-18-1891, pg. 4.

Battle was employed as a retail agent selling sewing machines. According to his advertisements, his office was in the building erected in 1890 by Hoyt & Peters, also on Mechanics Street and still standing today. When his father died in September 1896, Freeman rented out his house and moved his family back to Brighton to care for his aging stepmother. He was apparently already in ill health himself; as early as 1885, reports in The Wellington Enterprise described him as “sick with congestion of the liver,” (2-11-1885, pg. 5). Even so, he continued on in business and promotions for his Wellington operation appeared in the newspaper for several months after he no longer resided in the village.

Freeman Battle died in Brighton on October 18, 1897. His obituary reported that he was “in the hope of going to some climate which would prove beneficial to his already failing health, but the disease which had so firm a hold upon him developed so rapidly that he was obliged to abandon the trip toward which he had looked forward with so much hope. His illness was protracted and painful, alternating with hope and fear, but when he at last realized that although he was just in the prime of life, the summons had come to him to come up higher he said to his faithful wife, the Lords [sic] will, not mine be done” (Enterprise, 11-3-1897, pg. 5).

Battle was just forty-seven years old when he died. His widow, Alice, survived him by four decades, dying in 1936 at the age of eighty-five. Both are interred in Greenwood Cemetery, though for unknown reasons, Alice’s name is not recorded on the stone. If the couple had any children, I have found no record of them. Only the little girl on the card remains.

Headstone of Freeman Battle, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Freeman Battle, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

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