Author Archives: Armchair Historian

The Ledger of Foote & Locke

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A business ledger belonging to Wellington dry goods merchants Foote & Locke, dating from October 3, 1837 to September 7, 1839. The original object is held in the Oberlin College Archives. Photo by author.

Within the archives of Oberlin College, in their miscellaneous local business records, is a leather-bound ledger volume. It is large, more than fifteen inches long and twelve inches across when opened. And at a whopping 517 pages, it is packed with information. This object (and two smaller accompanying pieces) is all that remains of a dry goods store that operated in Wellington in the late 1830s and early 1840s, called Foote & Locke.

There is very little extant documentation from this period in Wellington’s history. Settlement had happened so recently–just twenty years before–that the urge to document the village’s past had not yet seized its residents. Publication of The Lorain County News and The Wellington Enterprise was decades in the future. I have never even seen a map of the community that dates before mid-century. So this ledger is a glorious window into everyday life, if we look carefully at its contents.

On their surface, those contents may seem fairly dry. The ledger is filled with line after line of individual purchases, from items as small as a single pencil to much larger-scale orders, like all the lumber necessary to construct a barn. But examining the pages closely reveals more subtle detail, which give color and texture to our imagining of what the town was truly like in its earliest years.

I spent three days this summer at the Oberlin College Archives, poring over the ledger. At first, I could see only lists of names, and all names I would have expected to find in this era: Adams, Clifford, DeWolfe, Herrick, Hamilton, Howk, Johns, Wadsworth and Wells, to name just a few. Foote & Locke were not the only dry goods merchants in Wellington; John Reed had moved his family to the village in 1835 and opened a store on the northwest corner of what is today Main Street and Herrick Avenue. It operated for at least twenty years, until Reed’s untimely drowning in the Black River in June 1855. John Reed is one prominent citizen whose name is therefore conspicuously absent from this, the records of his business competitors.

Henry Martin Bradley wrote in his 1907 autobiography that when his family emigrated to the village in 1835, “[W]e found the roads hardly passable because of the swamps and the clouds of mosquitoes which seemed to be waiting to greet us as new comers.” This shop ledger adds some nuance to that characterization. Foote & Locke were procuring resale goods from merchants in larger urban markets. A second, smaller volume lists at least five vendors from New York City–including Weed & Co., Trask & Marvin, and L.H. Bennet–as well as one from Albany. These bulk orders would have shipped via the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, and arrived in Wellington within just a few weeks.

Wm Howk spelling book

An entry for William Howk, dated November 15, 1838 (pg. 431), showing the purchase of a spelling book. The book was presumably intended for William and Charlotte Howk’s only child, a daughter called Emma who would have been five at this time. Emma died in 1853, just twenty years old. Photo by author.

In the month of October 1837, residents purchased a diverse array of food items from Foote & Locke: tea, sugar and maple sugar, cinnamon, saleratus [sodium bicarbonate, a main ingredient of baking powder], alum, tobacco and snuff, beef, spice, raisins, butter, madder [a medicinal root], ginger, bushels of corn and onions, coffee, and eggs. Elsewhere in the ledger I found listings for purchases of pepper, cloves, rice, pork, oats, wine and port, bushels of dried apples and crab apples, bushels of beans, cheese, gallons of molasses, fish, nutmeg, jam, mutton, oil and tomatoes.

Tea was far and away more popular than coffee. Cheese was rarely mentioned, probably because many farmers had cheese-making operations at home. Perishable items were clearly seasonal, and in some instances it appears that the shop came into possession of a limited quantity of a particular item, perhaps in trade or accepted as payment from a customer. For example, fish appears in the volume only in May 1838, when a string of a dozen purchases are recorded over a period of days, then it vanishes from the inventory.

Prefabricated clothing and prepared foods were not yet available for sale. Instead, fabric purchases are among the most common in the ledger, so that clothes could be manufactured domestically. Even bread was not for sale; instead, the component ingredients for baked goods, such as saleratus and alum, were purchased regularly.

It was not only the essential materials for survival that were on offer at Foote & Locke. There are transactions for letter paper, pearl buttons, dress handkerchiefs, satinette [a cotton fabric finished to resemble satin], silk cravats, velvet, ivory combs, lace, looking glasses, strings of beads, cashmere, watch chains and even a “Geography Atlas” (pg. 201). One would need to do a careful comparative study of the prices of these items to get a sense of whether they were, in fact, luxury goods. But it is clear that even in its earliest days, Wellington’s residents had expectations of maintaining a similar standard of living to that which they had known in the eastern states of their birth. (Remember that many of the village’s earliest arrivals were coming from the rural counties of Massachusetts’ Berkshire region.)

Champain Bottles

A ledger entry dated November 1, 1837 (pg. 33) showing Oliver Sardine Wadsworth and his brother, Jabez Lorenzo Wadsworth, making multiple purchases including “6 Champain Bottles.” The Wadsworth brothers were keepers of the local hotel in Wellington, opened around 1833. It was known first as The Wellington House, then Wadsworth’s Hotel, before finally settling on the name by which it is best known, The American House. Photo by author.

We can also see evidence of townspeople buying the materials they required for their professions. John Case, the local tanner and cobbler, could be found purchasing supplemental pieces of leather and small cords. Dr. Daniel Johns stocked up on madder root, a medicinal plant. The Wadsworth brothers, Oliver and Jabez, bought fabrics, dishes, plated spoons and even “Champain Bottles,” presumably for use in their hotel (see above). Asa Hamilton, a carpenter and joiner, replaced tools such as hand saws. The only woman who shows up regularly in the ledger, Lucinda Smith, was presumably a dressmaker and/or milliner, based on her repeated orders for large quantities of fabrics and traditionally feminine-associated items including ornamental hair combs, pearl buttons, and lace (see below).

Smith is the exception to an otherwise overwhelmingly male list of names. When I first began to examine the ledger, I conjured a mental image of a shop peopled entirely with men. Then I began to notice entries that were written in this fashion: “Ephraim Herrick pr Evaline,” or “William Bradley per Lady [i.e. his wife].” I initially took this to mean that the man was making a purchase on behalf of his spouse or daughter at home. But I soon realized that I was completely backward in my thinking. “John Case per Girl” is very likely a servant running to the local shop to buy something on behalf of her employer, or more precisely, to charge something to his account. Suddenly my imaginary shop was filled with women and children–Evaline Herrick, Sarah Wilcox, Mehitable Fox Couch Howk and her daughter, all patronizing the store and having their transactions recorded under the family’s male “breadwinner.” Thirteen-year-old Henry Martin Bradley, or his older brother Charles, visited Foote & Locke, as well; there is at least one purchase of a ball of wicking [the cord of a candle] being charged to “William Bradley pr Son” (pg. 126).

Lucinda Smith 2

A July 17, 1838 (pg. 282) entry for Lucinda Smith, one of only two women–the other being widow Sarah Wilcox–who had her own account at Foote & Locke. Smith made regular purchases of fabrics, ribbon, lace, etc., leading me to believe that she made her living as a dressmaker and/or milliner. Smith does not appear under her own name in either the 1830 or 1840 federal censuses of Wellington, which may mean that she became a widow and/or she relocated or died between decades. Photo by author.

Many of these purchases were paid for in trade, either in labor or material. The smaller invoice book that accompanies the ledger, which lists New York and Albany merchants from whom Foote & Locke were obtaining resale goods, also includes extensive accounts for grain, cheese, wheat and potash turned in to the store for credit by residents. (Henry Martin Bradley wrote at length in his autobiography about cutting and burning trees to extract lye and “black salts,” which he then exchanged in the village for flour and other groceries.) There are multiple entries that suggest one-off non-cash transactions, such as Isaac Humaston’s son buying fabric and lighting materials, marked “pay in sugar,” or David Pucket receiving a $0.25 credit “By Work on Wheelbarrows.” And residents including Gideon Adams, Sandford Humphrey and John Howk obtained substantial amounts of purchasing power in exchange for farm animals such as hogs or “1 English Cow” (pgs. 308-9, 381-2).

According to the federal censuses of 1830 and 1840, the population of Wellington climbed in ten years from 224 residents living in 47 households, to 781 residents living in 134 households. The town was expanding rapidly. It would be only ten years until a busy railroad line connected Wellington to the urban environments of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and beyond. This set the stage for a late-century expansion in both population and economic prosperity fueled, in large part, by the exportation of cheese. But the explosive commercial successes of the 1870s and ’80s–which resulted in private fortunes and grand houses still standing on South Main and Courtland Streets today–were rooted in the backbreaking work of families carving farms out of forest, trading ashes and hogs for spools of thread and spelling books.

Mystery Solved

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Photograph of the August 16, 1937 fire that destroyed the H.C. Otterbacher farm implement warehouse on Depot Street, which had formerly served as the so-called Old Free Church. Image courtesy of Mr. Alan L. Leiby.

Just weeks ago I posed the question, whatever happened to the Old Free Church? In that March post, I laid out the history of the structure, built on South Main Street to house an anti-slavery congregation during an 1850s schism in Wellington’s Congregational church. I traced the life of the building from its construction in 1852, up to the final record of it that I could locate, namely a 1933 Sanborn fire map. By that point in its existence, the little wooden building had been relocated to what is now Depot Street and was being used to store farm implements.

At the conclusion of the post, I asked if any readers remembered the building or knew its fate. Mr. Alan Leiby, creator and moderator of the Memory Lane Wellington Facebook page, quickly located two late-nineteenth-/early-twentieth-century images that featured small portions of the building. I appended both of those pictures to the original post. But recently Mr. Leiby located a third image (shown above). It depicts the same wood-frame structure in the process of burning down. No additional information was attached, though vehicles in the background of the shot suggest a date during or after the 1920s.

I located the Depot Street lot on an 1896 map of the village and determined that it was block 1, lot 74. Given that the building appeared to be intact as late as 1933 (though it was certainly possible that the original structure could have burned and been rebuilt on the same footprint), I picked the arbitrary date of 1930 and began to comb through village tax duplicates. Taxes are organized alphabetically by the last name of the land owner–which I did not know–so I had to scan through approximately seventy pages of returns looking for the correct block and lot numbers. And I found what I was looking for: Harry C. Otterbacher owned the lot in 1930, and all the subsequent years up to (and beyond) 1937, when I discovered the following:

1937 Wellington Village Tax Duplicates

1937 Wellington tax records for Harry C. Otterbacher. Note that the $1,000 valuation of a building on block 1, lot 74 has been manually crossed out and annotated “Bldg Burned.”

Knowing that a building fire occurred sometime in 1937, I began to search through the microfilmed issues of The Wellington Enterprise for that year. Fires and automobile accidents were almost always front-page news at that time, which made the search somewhat easier. And sure enough, on the Friday, August 20, 1937 issue, the headline announced, “FIREMEN BATTLE $20,000 BLAZE.” Proclaimed “the most spectacular fire” in the village in nearly a decade, the conflagration consumed the small farm implement warehouse and partially destroyed the adjoining two-story brick building. The newspaper noted that had the alarm sounded just moments later, the consequences for the “entire southwest business section” would have been catastrophic, as Wellington’s fire department would have been en route to Ashland, in response to a call for aid from that city in battling a blaze of its own.

Multi-page coverage of the fire included a (sadly murky) photograph of “dense clouds of smoke” pouring from the structure, as a consequence of 1,500 gallons of oil stored there. Otterbacher employees attempted to remove tractors and other equipment from the building as it burned, but the thick smoke quickly made recovery efforts impossible. It took nearly five hours to extinguish the fire that Monday afternoon. The heat was intense enough to ignite a telephone pole located more than twenty feet away from the building. Two gas stations across the street “were closed and gasoline was drained from the pumps because of the danger of explosion” (pg. 2).

The Enterprise published a three-column article in the same issue, detailing the history of the destroyed building. “Considerable speculation” had arisen as to its origins, the paper reported. No, it had not come from Huntington as some residents were suggesting. It was built on South Main Street as a church, later used as a “town hall and public meeting place,” then served as a carriage shop before ending its existence on Depot Street as a farm implement warehouse and sales room (pg. 4).

How I wish every mystery I have run across while writing this blog had concluded as neatly as this one!

“O Generous Southern Hospitality” by John P. Gurnish

Gurnish

Cover art for “O Generous Southern Hospitality” (2014) by John P. Gurnish.

It has been quite a long time since I offered up a “book report” on this blog–more than three years, to be precise. But I just finished reading this slender volume and knew that anyone interested in the history of Wellington would also want to learn about it.

The book’s author, John P. Gurnish, recently gave a talk in the area. I was not able to attend, but was able to obtain a copy of his 2014 book from the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, or ‘Spirit of ’76’ Museum, which has a few additional copies still for sale. I would encourage anyone curious about the village’s Civil War connections to look it over.

The subject of the self-published book is Franklin S. Case, son of local tanner John S. Case. Franklin served his country heroically during the Civil War, and was a prisoner of war of the Confederate Army from late June, 1864 until March, 1865. He experienced all the deprivations and traumas of captivity, while being held at the infamous Libby Prison, among other places. Case wrote letters frequently to the Lorain County News, and kept a detailed journal of his time in detention; those first-hand accounts form the basis of much of this volume.

If you are not able to purchase a copy from the historical society, this book can also be ordered directly (in hardcover or paperback formats) from self-publishing website Lulu.com.

Easter Sunday

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English Easter card, printed ca. 1890.

Happy Easter to all who celebrate! In nearly four years of writing this blog, I have somehow never done an Easter post. So I searched through The Wellington Enterprise and include a few brief notices for your holiday reading pleasure.

“Easter Sunday is coming more and more to be observed in the Protestant Churches, and few let it pass without special services. At the Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday, the Scripture texts and floral decorations were numerous and elaborate and all the services of both Sunday School and Church were prepared with reference to the day. The Sunday School numbered 401 and birds as well as flowers and music assisted to make it delightful to the children. The Congregational Church had also profuse floral decorations” (3-28-1883, pg. 3).

“Very impressive Easter services were held in the churches Sunday. The choirs had made special selections for the occasion and sang them with spirit. The divines had evidently devoted a number of days to preparation of their subjects and the time arrived for closing before they were half through telling of the events of the anniversary of the occasion. The day was a beautiful one and inspiration was within the reach of every one who were in condition to receive it” (4-28-1889, pg. 5).

“The services in the Congregational church were of unusual interest. Elaborate floral decorations appropriate for the occasion had been arranged on a temporary platform built several feet in front of the pulpit. Large palms flanked the platform, and all between them was a mass of green foliage with white blossoms. A rich vase of Easter lilies graced the desk. On the front of the pulpit was a large star covered with white flowers from the Dark Continent; above was the text ‘He is Risen’ wrought in purple Immortelles on a background of white…” (4-1-1891, pg. 5).

And a late-century report from nearby Rochester:

“In spite of the muddy roads there was a good attendance at the Easter concert at the Baptist church Sunday evening. The church was prettily decorated with potted plants, and Easter flowers, with their fragrance, added their beauty to the church. The center attraction was the beautiful cross with the motto, ‘Christ Has Risen.’ The little children with their smiling faces, presented a picture of perfect happiness when the beautiful Easter eggs of various colors were presented them. Rev. Lash made some very interesting remarks appropriate for the occasion” (4-5-1899, pg. 8).

Happy Easter, readers!

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Illustration from “The Wellington Enterprise,” 3-29-1899, pg. 3.

 

The Hotel de Foote

Hotel de Foote built 1881

The Santley house, later the Hotel de Foote. Construction on the house began in 1881, though the Santley family did not move into the property until March 1882. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

Immediately south of Farm and Home Hardware, on the western side of South Main Street, sits a lovely old brick home. Hemmed in as it is today by neighbors and trees, the house might escape the notice of casual visitors to the village. Little might they suspect that this was once Wellington’s foremost luxury hotel, and before that, the broken home at the center of a local scandal.

William R. Santley was born in New London, Ohio in 1839. He attended Baldwin University (as did Noah Huckins, born the same year); it was perhaps during his stay in Berea that he first met Mary McDermott (1842-1921). She was an immigrant whose family had come to Ohio (as had Huckins and John Watson Wilbur) from Whitby, Ontario, Canada. The couple were married on February 27, 1868 in Maumee, Ohio, when William was nearly thirty years old.

The Santleys moved to Wellington around 1870 and William opened a lumber mill and cheese box factory on the western end of Maygar Street in partnership with R.A. Horr. W.R. Santley & Co. was highly successful, soon operating mills in other states including Kentucky and Tennessee, and the mill owner became one of the wealthiest citizens of the village. He served on the Board of Education, the village council, and both William and Mary were prominent and active members of the Methodist Church. Santley pledged $5,000 to the church to construct an addition in the 1880s.

W.R. Santley Sawmill on W end of Magyar St

W. R. Santley & Co. sawmill on Magyar Street, undated image. Photo 970800 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

It was during this period of financial prosperity that the couple began to build a magnificent new house on South Main Street, “one of the most costly residences in town” (Wellington Enterprise, 9-7-1892, pg. 5) just across the street from their church. The newspaper reported on the steady progress of the project, from the family purchasing a new piano from local vendor William Vischer over Christmas 1880; to the installation of the slate roof in September 1881; to the completion of the landscape gardener’s work in summer 1882, which resulted in a “very artistic and beautiful appearance” to the grounds (8-23-1882, pg. 3). The family moved into the house in March 1882, and tax records show that by 1883, the property–listed under Mary Santley’s name, as was customary–was valued at $4,500, a huge sum. Also in 1883, the Santley house was one of the first private residences in the village to have a telephone line installed.

WR Santley ordering card

Printed order card for W.R. Santley & Co. dated for the 1870s. Author’s collection.

But the good times were not to last. Just five years after first occupying the house, Mary sold it to her brother, Michael McDermott. This was likely a protective legal move, intended to keep the house from being lost outright. We do not know precisely what happened to William Santley’s businesses, as there are no remaining issues of The Wellington Enterprise from mid-1886 until 1889. But we know from later writings that he suffered bankruptcy, and had to endure a very public and humiliating default on his pledge to the Methodist Church. Despite their efforts, the family did lose their beautiful home, which was sold in July 1888 to G.D. Foote.

William Santley began again, restarting his lumber business in 1888. The family erected a smaller, “less pretentious” house and William went into partnership with his brother-in-law Michael, under the name Santley Lumber Company (Enterprise, 9-7-1892, pg. 5). That enterprise eventually opened mills in Missouri and Arkansas, and Santley slowly began to rebuild his fortune and restore his reputation in the village.

In the fall of 1892, Wellington was shocked to learn that Mary McDermott Santley had filed for divorce from her husband of twenty-four years, on the grounds of infidelity. The revelation was especially jarring because while Mary Santley was considered “happy and friendly” by her neighbors, William “seems unapproachable and would be picked out by a stranger in a crowd as a clergyman, who looked upon all kinds of worldly amusements as wicked.” The Santleys were apparently already living apart, as Mary filed from her residence in Ashtabula County, while William allegedly committed his transgression at a residence in Cleveland, though he continued to officially reside in Wellington. The newspaper observed, “No one ever had a suspicion of discord in the family” (ibid).

The Santleys had two children, both marked in the 1880 federal census as “adopted.” Daughter Netta, born ca. 1869, married in the family’s “less pretentious” house in 1889. Son Fredrick, born ca. 1874, had several brushes with the law, including dismissed assault charges. Fred was later part of a gang that robbed seven stores in Oberlin in 1896 and spent several years in the Mansfield Reformatory as a result. Mary McDermett Santley attested in her divorce petition that she had no living children, but that is simply because Netta and Fred were not her biological offspring. (She also opted to describe herself as a “widow” on all future federal censuses, rather than the more shameful option of “divorced.”)

In February 1893, a judge dismissed the Santley divorce suit “without prejudice.” But the proceedings must have been finalized soon thereafter, because by the fall of 1894 William Santley remarried Ruth Poer or Poore in Indiana. He brought the new Mrs. Santley back to Wellington in November. (The former Mrs. Santley, meanwhile, moved to Maryland to work for the Women’s College of Baltimore.) Four years later, in 1898, William Santley and his second wife relocated to Columbus, Ohio, where he died and was buried in 1922.

WE, 4-13-1898, pg. 6

Advertisement for the Hotel de Foote. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 4-13-1898, pg. 6.

But what of the beautiful house? We briefly encountered George Dellraine “Dell” Foote (1836-1904) in a previous post. He operated a stable on Liberty Street–today’s West Herrick Avenue–from at least the late 1870s. Dell purchased the Santley house in July 1888, as we have seen. The extended Foote and Santley families had a long history of working in each other businesses and engaging in real estate transactions; in this instance, the relationship may have been even closer, as Dell Foote’s daughter married into the McDermott family. The first mention I have located for Hotel de Foote, the business he opened within the Santley house, is September 1892. The hotel continued to operate under that name until Foote’s death in 1904.

The Hotel de Foote was the premier, even luxury, hotel of the bustling village. Its arrivals list was routinely published in the Enterprise, and all visiting dignitaries stayed there. (Remember that the American House was six decades old when Hotel de Foote opened, and reportedly showing every year of its advanced age.) The facility boasted “water and gas supply, although there is neither system in the town–in fact, it is essentially a metropolitan hotel” (Commemorative Biographical Record, pg. 753). It also served as a local function space, hosting banquets, club meetings, and receptions. Numerous traveling physicians advertised when they were visiting Wellington that services could be obtained by application to the Hotel de Foote.

Hotel De Foote

Unmailed postcard, “Wellington, O. Hotel de Foote and Annex.” Printed for A.H. Binder and made in Germany. Author’s collection.

In 1897, a review of the hotel was published in the Enterprise that is worth quoting at length: “I found but one hotel really entitled to rank under the nomenclature of ‘first-class.’ This house is the Hotel De Foote. It is a modern structure fronting the park square, stands removed from the street walk, in the center of pleasant grounds, beautified with grass lawns and flower beds. The prospective to the house is charming. A wide walk and roadway leads up to the front entrances, where a broad flight of steps is the approach to the veranda, which extends from the office door. The lawn and walks are shaded by fine trees and the whole aspect is most inviting and restful. The house is elegantly furnished throughout and is fitted with modern conveniences. The dining room is a well appointed apartment, pleasant to dine in and seating all who come. All the rooms in this house are modern, large, well ventilated and supplied with every convenience. Nothing is lacking which refined and cultured people consider necessary for comfort and correct living. Commercial men who come to Wellington patronize this hotel, for as a rule they are a luxury loving class of men, well dressed and well-bred, and they demand the best hotel accommodations. Nothing less will satisfy them. Said a prominent traveling man to me, whom I met in Cincinnati a short time ago: ‘When you go to Wellington, stop at the ‘Foote.’ Its [sic] the only place–everything the best and right up-to-date.’ Mr. G.D. Foote, the proprietor, is an ideal host, one of the old regime of gentlemen bonifaces” (6-30-1897, pg. 6).

Dell Foote certainly understood his clientele. He maintained a widespread reputation for being a generous and gregarious host, while catering to his guests’ every need. In 1894, for example, he opened a railroad ticket broker’s office inside the hotel, to “buy, sell and exchange tickets…quite an accommodation to the traveling public” (Enterprise, 11-28-1894, pg. 5). As late as the summer of 1897, he continued to personally manage the livery stable while also running the hotel. When he died in 1904, his front-page obituary noted that he “was known far and wide as a genial landlord and an energetic, big hearted fellow citizen. He was an eccentric character and a man of versatile talents” (Enterprise, 1-13-1904).

In 2010, I submitted a nomination to This Old House Magazine and was delighted when they selected Wellington as the Best Old-House Neighborhood in the state of Ohio for that year. Out of the dozens of images I sent, the one they elected to use to represent Wellington was a photograph of the Santley house. Divided into multiple apartments over the course of the twentieth-century, since 1990 it has once again been used as a single-family private residence. Time may have roughened its edges a bit, but its former grandeur is evident even now.

“Sailing Under False Colors”

There are numerous examples on the Internet of images that purport to show nineteenth-century men and women cross-dressing in studio portraits. I cannot personally attest to the authenticity of these images as a whole, but this particular concoction is an imposition of young Thomas Edison’s head onto Clara Barton’s body.

“ARRESTED IN WOMAN’S CLOTHES.–A person in woman’s apparel came in this morning on the Toledo train, and going to the Pittsburgh Railroad ticket office, asked for a ticket to Wellington. The person’s voice was so unfeminine as to attract the attention of an officer standing by, and a very masculine face was discovered to belong with the masculine voice. Officer Warren took him into the Soldiers’ Aid Rooms, and he acknowledged that he was sailing under false colors. He had a black bag containing his suit of men’s attire. He had $2 in money in his pocket, and a piece of paper containing directions how to proceed from some point on the Milwaukee and Lacrosse Railroad to Wellington, Lorain county, Ohio. He was not disposed to be communicative at all. He said his name was Foot, and that he came from Wisconsin. He did not disclose his object in assuming female attire in which to travel through the country. His age, we should think, is about twenty-one years. Warren asked him if they dressed in Wisconsin in that way, and he replied rather dryly, ‘The women do, mostly.’ He was taken to the watch-house, and is most persistently silent. A gentleman who saw him, remarked that he desired no better evidence that he was not a woman, than his ability to hold his tongue afforded. It sounds like an aspersion on the sex. The young man might have belonged to the band of rioters in Oseaka [Ozaukee] county, Wisconsin, who recently resisted the draft with so much violence. If so, the female attire is a disguise which he assumed in order to make his escape. There is no law in Ohio as there is in New York, making it a punishable offense for either sex to don the other’s peculiar attire. The young man may be very much wanted in Wisconsin, from whose cherishing protection he was at so much pains to flee” (Cleveland Daily Leader, 11-15-1862, pg. 4).

I confess that when I first read the above notice, I suspected it was what we today call “fake news.” The most amusing and salacious tidbits that crept into nineteenth-century newspapers are often the most difficult to substantiate. I wrote once before about a humorous 1836 letter to the editor that seems to have been fabricated. But the more I dug into the details of this report, and a subsequent piece that appeared in the same newspaper two days later, the more I was able to corroborate. This incredible story seems to be true.

Andrew Jackson Foote was born June 21, 1842 in Tioga, New York. He appeared in the federal and New York state censuses in 1850 and 1855 living in the household of his parents, William Claybourne Foote (1803-1881) and Sarah Bromley Foote (d. 1867). By the federal census of 1860, the family had relocated to Westfield, Wisconsin and it appears that all of Andrew’s siblings had moved away or died, leaving him the sole of six children still at home.

In 1862, Andrew would have been twenty years old, very close to the estimation of “about twenty-one years” made by the Cleveland Daily Leader reporter. But in a follow up story, it was noted that Andrew “claims to be but sixteen years of age.” This may be an important detail.

“THE MASQUERADER.–The young man who was caught at the depot masquerading in women’s clothes, is still at the Station House. He says his name is Andrew Foot, and that his home is in the town of Oxford, Marquette county, Wisconsin. He claims to be but sixteen years of age. He wished to leave home and come to Wellington in this State, and learn the harness makers trade with a brother who resides there, but his parents opposed it, so in order to get away he [line of text missing] -ing a description of the direction necessary for him to take started. Having his own clothing in a carpetbag he intended to change his suit after getting started on the route, but found no opportunity. He has written a letter to his brother in Wellington, making known his situation and beseaching [sic] him to come and release him from dusance [durance] vile. He don’t like [look?] like a dangerous character and is evidently an inexperienced boy caught in a very foolish adventure. He will have to remain where he is over Sunday, doubtless” (pg. 4).

Andrew was telling the truth about having a brother living in Wellington. The 1860 federal census includes Frank D. Foote, then twenty-five, a New York-born carpenter living in the household of James and Mary Griffith. There was also a Mary Foote listed in the same house. The census data for the Griffiths was collected on July 9th; Frank Dunlery Foote had married Mary A. Caughlin in Wellington on June 19th, just three weeks earlier. Frank was still in the village in June 1863, when he was listed as a twenty-eight-year-old married carpenter in Union Army draft records.

Advertisement for the G.D. Foote Livery Stable. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 10-19-1881, pg. 1.

Wellington has counted members of the extended Foote family among its residents since its earliest days. Many emigrated from western Massachusetts; some went on to settle Wisconsin. A significant number chose to stay and pursue trade in Wellington, and at least two dozen find their final repose in Greenwood Cemetery. Andrew’s stated intention to “learn the harness makers trade” may have been something of a family tradition. One of the livery stables in Oberlin in the 1870s was run by Foote & Ream, while Wellington’s most prominent livery operation in the 1880s and 1890s was G.D. Foote & Co.

George Dellraine Foote, known as “Dell” or “Uncle Del,” operated a wood-frame livery stable on the south side of Liberty Street at least as early as 1879. He owned three lots corresponding to the present-day location of an imposing brick building (on what is now called West Herrick Avenue) that has the words “WELLINGTON STABLES” in raised stone letters on its pediment. Dell Foote sold his lots to C.W. Horr in 1888, but advertisements for Foote’s Livery Stable appear in The Wellington Enterprise through at least 1899. (Foote died in January 1904.) I can find no extant images of the stable from the nineteenth century. In the absence of further evidence, my working theory is that wealthy businessman Horr probably erected the brick building that still stands today, but the operation continued under its former name. Dell may have remained involved in some capacity, but he also went on to open the Hotel de Foote on South Main Street, which I will discuss at greater length in my next post.

Wellington Stables building, 139 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

All of that was in the future, however, as Andrew Foote steamed southward toward his date with infamy. Was he telling authorities the truth when he explained why he had run away from home? We know he lied about his age. Why would a twenty-year-old man need to go to such extremes to escape the nest? I wonder if Andrew concocted the story of overbearing parents to cover a darker motivation for fleeing Wisconsin. My first thought when I began to read the initial story was to wonder if the young man was running from a Civil War draft in Wisconsin. The Cleveland Daily Leader reporter clearly wondered the same thing, as the piece notes the Ozaukee County, Wisconsin draft riots of November 12, 1862–just three days before Foote was intercepted in Cleveland. Westfield, Wisconsin is less than one hundred miles from Port Washington, site of the famous riots. It could be a complete coincidence, but the fact that Andrew Foote took the trouble both to dress in women’s clothing and to lie about his age is curious. All northern males citizens from age 20 to 45 were at risk of being drafted, and single men were taken before married men. Even if he was not directly involved in the riots, Andrew Foote may have been fleeing the prospect of military conscription.

Sadly, we do not know the rest of Andrew’s story. One can only imagine the mortification of his family once the articles began appearing in a major metropolitan newspaper. Did news of his misadventures reach Wellington? Did he? Perhaps his brother Frank traveled up to Cleveland, secured Andrew’s release, then put him on the first train back to Wisconsin. He returned at some point, because he died there on January 3, 1865, just two years later. I do not know if Andrew ever served in the Union Army, or if his death was due to natural causes. (His older brother, James Foote, served and died in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1863.) Andrew Jackson Foote is buried in the Oxford, Wisconsin cemetery with his parents, his older brother William, and a dozen more members of the extended Foote family.

Headstone of Andrew Jackson Foote (1842-1865) in the Oxford, Wisconsin village cemetery. Image used courtesy of Foote family descendant Kelli Rodriguez.

Whatever Happened to the Old Free Church?

Old Free Church 8-28-1901 p. 2

“The Old Free Church, Built in 1852.” Engraving featured in “The Wellington Enterprise,” 8-28-1901, pg. 2.

If you have followed this blog since the beginning, you are probably aware of my ongoing battle to untangle the histories of both Wellington’s Town Halls and its Congregational Churches. Numerous buildings have served as each–and a few have served as both. As evidence has surfaced over the years, I have gone back and amended earlier writings to clarify the timelines. Every time I think I have it all sorted out, some new document comes along and remuddies the waters.

One of the unresolved mysteries is the fate of the building known as the Old Free Church. This wooden structure was erected on South Main Street, approximately where today’s Congregational Church stands, in 1852. I have pieced together an outline of what happened to it over the decades that followed, though its ultimate fate is still unclear. I am hoping that perhaps someone reading this might be able to shed some light on the answer. Here is what I know:

1852-Built on South Main Street.
“[T]he Free Church received two hundred dollars’ assistance in building its house” (Barton, History of the First Congregational Church of Wellington, Ohio, pg. 20).
“[1852] Steps were taken to secure a pastor, and a committee was appointed to secure a site for a building” (Ibid, pg. 22).

1857-Archibald Willard painted Village of Wellington and depicted the Free Church.

Detail of old free church

Detail of the Free Church in “Village of Wellington” (1857) by Archibald Willard. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

1860-The two split factions of Wellington’s Congregational Church reunited (Ibid, pg. 24).

1863-Free Church became the Town Hall.
“An exchange has been effected by the Board of Education, so that the building known as the ‘Free Church’ has now become the Town Hall…” (Lorain County News, 9-9-1863, pg. 3).

1874-Building was recorded on map of the village as “Town Hall.”

1874 Town Hall

Detail of Wellington Village map showing a structure labelled “Town Hall” on the west side of South Main Street. From “Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874.” Pg. 61. Photo by author.

1879-Conjectural date at which Free Church stopped serving as Town Hall; at some point it was sold and relocated to make way for a brick church on the same South Main Street site–which burned to the ground in 1895.

1892-Free Church was in use as a wagon shop.
“The Free Church built the large structure which is now used by Christie & Bennett as a wagon shop” (Barton, pg. 25).

WE 2-19-1890, pg. 1

Advertisement for Christie & Bennett. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 2-19-1890, pg. 1.

1894-Christie & Bennett dissolved their partnership; Bennett continued the business alone (The Wellington Enterprise, 8-22-1894, pg. 8).

1901-Image of the Free Church used in Homecoming Week special publication (above) noted “now used as a wagon shop.” (Ibid, 8-28-1901, pg. 2).

1902-“The Old Congregational Church Now a Wagon Shop.”
“The old wagon shop that fronts the railroad track south of West Main street and now occupied by Mr. Harry Bennett, was once the Congregational church of this place…The old belfry has been removed but the wide panel corner boards and cornice are still in evidence and the building bears the appearance of better days” (Ibid, 8-16-1902, pg. 1).

And that is where the mystery stood until very recently. I began to dig into Harry Bennett’s taxes, bearing in mind the clue from the above story that the wagon shop “fronts the railroad track south of West Main street,” i.e. today’s West Herrick Avenue. Bennett did indeed own two lots of land on the diagonally-oriented Rail Road Street, though an 1896 map indicates no buildings on either of his holdings. I then took a look at Sanborn fire maps for the period, and found that a structure labelled “Wagon Shop” did stand on that corner of Rail Road and West Main (also called Liberty Street) on maps for 1889, 1899, and 1904.

Sanborn June 1904

Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Wellington, Ohio dated July, 1904 showing the intersection of Rail Road Street and West Main (or Liberty) Streets. Wagon shop is circled. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 3-22-2017.

The same structure remained on block 1, lot 73 for at least three more decades. It appeared on Sanborn maps in 1911, 1922, and 1933; each time it was labelled “Agricultural Implements” or “Farm Implements.”

Harry Bennett did not own the lot nor the building on it. In the 1902 Enterprise story cited above, he was said to occupy the wagon shop but was not named its owner. The two lots that Bennett did own were the empty space just southwest of the wagon shop on the Sanborn map above. Perhaps he rented the building for his business, then bought nearby land as a place to park the carriages, wagons and sleighs his shop serviced.

In a rather remarkable coincidence, just yesterday Mr. Alan Leiby, the creator and moderator of the Memory Lane Wellington Facebook page, sent me two historic photographs of West Herrick Avenue, for a completely unrelated topic I was researching. When I looked at the Sanborn maps and realized the area of town in which the Free Church might have been relocated, I quickly reexamined those images.

west liberty st post-1904

Post-1904 image of West Main or Liberty Street, at its intersection with Rail Road Street. Is the wood-frame building at the far right the Old Free Church? Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

Is the wood-frame structure that appears in this photograph the wagon shop that was once the Old Free Church? It seems to be the correct dimensions and bears a strong resemblance to the engraving at the top of the post. “The wide panel corner boards and cornice” noted in the 1902 Enterprise article are found in the image, as well.

So, dear readers, I am putting the question to all of you. This building was still standing in Wellington as late as 1933, perhaps far longer. Does anyone remember this structure? Was it demolished or relocated yet again? How marvelous if we could locate it during the Bicentennial commemorations, perhaps hiding in plain sight and serving as someone’s home. Please comment if you can shed any more light on the mystery.

UPDATE: Mr. Leiby comes through again! After reading my post on the Old Free Church, he located another image–spectacular all by itself–that shows a bit more of the building. My guess is that this photograph is earlier than the post-1904 image above, though it is difficult to date the clothing styles as most of the subjects are in costume. The building clearly said “CARRIAGES” at some point, and the window appears to read in part, “CARRIAGES, BUGGIES AND WAGONS.”

Old Free Church as Wagon Shop

Undated image of the buildings situated at the junction of Liberty Street (now West Herrick Avenue) and Rail Road Street (now Depot Street). Photograph courtesy of Mr. Alan L. Leiby.

UPDATE: Mystery solved!