Category Archives: Agriculture

Sacred Cow

ca. 1880

“HOLSTEIN HEIFER, 2 years old.” Hand-colored engraving printed ca. 1880.

I recently received an inquiry from a longtime reader of the blog. What did I know about Wellington’s most famous bovine citizen, the nineteenth-century Holstein cow called Molly Bawn? I had to confess that I did not know much. A quick Google search uncovered a parcel of self-described “legends” about the animal. Local cheese dealer Charles Horr went on a trip to Europe, where he discovered that Holstein cows produce much higher volumes of milk than their American counterparts. Impressed, he bought a two-year-old specimen called Molly Bawn (or Mollie Baun, or any combination of variant spellings) and brought her back across the ocean. Horr thereby introduced Holstein cows to America/Ohio/Lorain County…you get the idea. Molly went on to produce record-breaking amounts of milk, perhaps the most milk ever produced by a cow, and that is why Wellington became famous for cheese production–and why we still remember Molly to this day. The trouble is, existing historical documentation does not support any of those assertions.

Holstein Friesian cows (rather confusingly known as Holsteins in America, but Friesians in Europe) are the highest-production dairy animals in the world. The breed originated in the northern provinces of what we today call the Netherlands, namely North Holland and Friesland. The enormous black-and-white or red-and-white animals were being shipped to America as early as the 1600s, when Dutch settlers in New York brought or sent for “Dutch cows” to fill their pastures. The Holstein Herd Book, first published in 1872, noted that the initial import of “pureblood” breeding stock occurred with the shipment of a single cow to Massachusetts in 1852 (pg. 19).

Map of Holland province

Map of the northern provinces of the Netherlands, showing Holland and Friesland. Holstein Friesian cows originated as a breed in this region, and Molly Bawn was born here.

The first eight volumes of the Holstein Herd Book are available digitally, spanning the years from 1872 until 1885. Every breeding-stock Holstein cow or bull that was registered by its owner is found in the Herd Book, described in great detail and assigned a unique and sequential identifying number. Examining the first two volumes, I was able to determine that by 1875, there were nationally-registered Holstein cows in fourteen of the thirty-seven states then in existence. They grazed from Maine to California, though admittedly were predominantly concentrated in the northeastern quadrant of the nation. So Molly Bawn was certainly not America’s first Holstein, by two centuries or more. What about Ohio, then? I’m afraid not. The same series of volumes shows that by 1880, these overachieving milch cows could be found in at least fifteen different communities across the state, including Wooster, Franklin, Xenia, Toledo, Canton, Painesville and Hudson.

Charles Horr was a very successful businessman who made his fortune selling other people’s cheese and butter after the Civil War. His company, which had multiple names over the years but is most often referred to as Horr-Warner, at its high-water mark managed thirty cheese and butter factories in the region. The most visible signs of Horr’s status were luxurious offices in the busy commercial district of the village and an enormous estate on its still-rural outskirts. Horr visited Europe in 1877 and “made permanent arrangements for an export trade” of Ohio cheeses to foreign shores (Wellington Enterprise, 10/10/1894, pg. 1). While he certainly already knew about Holstein cows and their reputation for stupendous and reliable milk production, it is possible that Horr took a side-trip to Holland to see a few in person. As we have already established, though, there were multiple specimens a great deal closer to home.

One thing is certain: Charles Horr did not see Molly Bawn on this 1877 European trip, nor did he purchase her there or bring her back to Ohio. Molly was not “calved,” or born, until February 24, 1880. This is reflected in both her official Herd Book entry, and in another volume called the Holstein-Friesian Advanced Registry.

Holstein Herd Book v5 1881

Holstein Friesian Register 1886

Though Molly did enter the world in North Holland, six months later she was on her way across the ocean, courtesy of a breeding operation called Smiths & Powell, based in Syracuse, New York. It was from Smiths & Powell that Charles Horr purchased Molly, along with two of the three other animals that made up his initial Holstein herd. The fourth cow, graced with the lyrical name Lady Ethelind, was purchased in Painesville, Ohio.

The name “Molly Bawn,” incidentally, probably originated from an Irish folk song–alternatively sung “Polly Vaughn”–commonly known since the late eighteenth century. A popular novel had also been published under that title in 1878, by Irish writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. (The novel was later made into a silent film in 1916.) Charles Horr christened his opulent home Bawndale–or Baundale–and while we know that construction on the house was completed in late 1872, we do not know if Horr named the house after the cow, or vice versa.

Barn cropped

This magnificent wood-frame barn, possibly once home to Molly Bawn, stood behind the Horr residence at 563 South Main Street. It was dismantled in the mid-twentieth century and relocated to the Hayden family farm, 1.5 miles north of the village. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

In 1883, the Wellington Enterprise published an editorial about getting the maximum return on investment possible from cattle purchases. Choose the breed best suited to the task at hand, the paper advised. Holsteins were well understood to be superior milch cows. The Enterprise offered as an example C. W. Horr’s three-year-old “Mollie Bawn” who had birthed a calf of her own that winter and was reliably yielding more than sixty pounds of milk per day. In the following week’s edition, “to answer the many questions” that resulted from the previous report, a table was printed showing Molly’s production tallies for the first ten days of May. It was nearly seven hundred pounds of milk.

I believe this editorial and follow-up piece may be where Molly’s fame was born, not necessarily in the nineteenth century but perhaps in the twentieth. Ernst Henes, the editor of the Enterprise in the mid-1900s, liked to scan old issues of the newspaper and write about what he found, both in special commemorative issues and in print publications. I would hazard a guess that it was Henes’ work that ensured Molly Bawn a place in the current memory of the town. (She also served as de facto mascot of the now-defunct Wellington Cheese Festival for nearly two decades.) Charles Horr gave a lengthy speech to the Ohio State Board of Agriculture in 1891, describing how he had built a herd of 130 exceptional Holsteins over a decade. He mentioned several animals by name, but Molly was not one of them. When he wished to advertise the sale of cattle from his “Bawndale Herd,” it was not Molly’s image Horr published in the paper, but instead a cow called Nundine. In another advertisement, Molly’s name was one among many “celebrated” breeders including Aaggie, Lady Netherland, Sadie Vale and Saapke.

So Molly was not America’s first Holstein. Nor Ohio’s. Nor even Lorain County’s. Oberlin’s Ohio Weekly News is filled with early 1880s notices and advertisements referencing Holsteins with thoroughbred status and the Herd Book numbers to prove it. But surely Molly must have been Wellington’s first Holstein? Charles Horr must have been the first person from Wellington to import the breed? In fact, he was not. According to the 1881 Herd Book, O. P. Chapman, a breeders association member, was the first Wellington resident to register a Holstein. His bull, Captain John, was purchased in Painesville, Ohio sometime after its birth in 1880 and was the 619th registered in the country. (Horr’s first Holstein bull, Syracuse, was 822nd on the list.) Chapman’s cow, Queen Anne, was born in North Holland in 1880 but bought from the same operation in New York patronized by Horr. Queen Anne was the 1,256th female Holstein registered in America. The 1,292nd spot belonged to Chapman’s cow Mildred. Horr’s Molly Bawn occupied slot 1,298.

The most wonderful thing about this, at least from my perspective, is that O. P. Chapman spent a quarter-century living in the house next door to my current home. He built the carriage house that is now part of my property. When it was completed in the spring of 1883, the Enterprise noted, “O. P. Chapman has the best arranged and finest finished horse and stock barn on his place on South Main St. we ever saw. It will pay any admirer of good things to call and see it. He has also some very fine blooded stock, and is giving special attention to their growth and improvement” (5-9-1883, pg. 3). I never realized that our cattle stalls once housed Wellington’s first Holsteins. Queen Anne, Mildred and Captain John may well have lived out their lives in my backyard.

Carriage House

O. P. Chapman’s carriage house. Originally built as part of the property for 318 South Main Street, it is now included in the parcel for 326 South Main Street. Photo by author.

Charles Horr spent nearly fifteen years building up a renowned collection of what he termed “deep milkers.” Initially he imported animals from locations in North Holland and Friesland with names like Purmer, Hoorn, Bovencarspel, Westwoud, Beemster, Wieringerwaard, Schermerhorn and Harwerd. But soon he felt that the quality of his stock was advanced enough that he no longer required outside blood. While in volume one of the Holstein Advanced Register, for the year 1886, he imported eleven of the fourteen cows listed, by volume two (1887 to 1889) he “owned and bred” twelve of the nineteen submissions.

He entered members of his herds (Horr also raised Ayrshires, Durhams, Herefords and Aberdeens) in cattle shows and agricultural fairs; served as president of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America; and was an organizer of the National Dairy Union. After Horr’s untimely death in 1894, the Enterprise commented on the speed with which his Holsteins were being purchased and shipped around the country. But the Bawndale Stock Farm endured under the leadership of his son, also called Charles, who continued to breed, sell, and host annual visits of faculty and students from the agricultural department at Purdue University in Indiana.

I suspect Charles Horr would be amused by the mythology that has grown up around the humble animal known as Molly Bawn. It was Horr’s considered opinion, after all, that “a dairy cow should be regarded as a machine designed for the conversion of food, air and water into milk” (Enterprise, 1/21/1891, pg. 4).  Whatever else may be said about Molly, the milk-producing machine discharged her duties exceptionally well.

UPDATE: I just finished rereading Frank Chapman Van Cleef’s excellent article, “The Rise and Decline of the Cheese Industry in Lorain County,” published in 1960. Van Cleef’s father was a longtime employee of Charles Horr, and the author himself also worked in the local cheese industry. In his twenty-five page examination of what made Wellington a national hub of cheese production, Van Cleef never mentions Holstein cows. In fact, he argues persuasively that the industry peaked in the late 1870s, and was already in decline by the time Molly Bawn and her herdmates came to town. Van Cleef also mentions Charles Horr’s 1877 trip to Europe. As the result of a visit to Wellington by a provisions dealer from Glasgow, Scotland, Horr-Warner agreed to produce five to eight hundred boxes of cheese for weekly or semi-weekly shipment overseas. Later that year, Horr made a reciprocal visit, to Glasgow and Liverpool. No day trips to the Netherlands to shop for cattle are mentioned.

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Big Cheese

Receipt for cheese purchased from Horr, Warner & Co., dated September 7, 1886. Author's collection.

Receipt for cheese purchased from Horr, Warner & Co., dated September 7, 1886. Author’s collection.

I recently came into possession of a few pieces of Wellington-related ephemera that I wanted to share with you. “Ephemera” in archival terms refers to those pieces of printed material that were never intended to be saved, disposable items such as play bills, ticket stubs, and receipts. Such items can be highly collectible due to their rarity, and more importantly, can be wonderful research tools. I mentioned in an earlier post that a collection of ephemera related to John Watson Wilbur’s hardware store–including invoices, checks, business correspondence, and railroad shipping receipts–is now held by Winterthur, one of the preeminent decorative arts museums and archives in the country.

I have two very similar receipts for cheese purchases, both made by the same wholesale grocery business in Circleville, Ohio. In 1886, Weaver & Shulze purchased ten boxes of cheese from Horr, Warner & Co. for a price of $30.42. A handwritten note on the receipt informs that “Eastern buyers are making free inquiries for cheese and are bidding up to get them,” which was apparently inflating the local price. If Weaver & Shulze were hoping to get a better deal elsewhere in Wellington, they did not find it when they purchased ten boxes of “Nickel Plate F” cheese from J. P. Eidt seven months later. He charged them $36.24 and noted unapologetically, “These are old Cheese. New ones not In yet.”

Receipt for cheese purchased from J. P. Eidt, dated April 16, 1887. Author's collection.

Receipt for cheese purchased from J. P. Eidt, dated April 16, 1887. Author’s collection.

Prior to his days as a manufacturer and wholesale dealer in cheese, John Peter Eidt had run a business on the east side of North Main Street. It was located in the same building (no longer standing) where Wah Sing would later move his laundry operation after the American House was torn down at the turn of the twentieth century. I have found two lengthy descriptions of Eidt’s shop in The Wellington Enterprise, and I want to include one in full because I think it gives a wonderful sense of the availability of goods and services in the village. This was written in 1879, but you may be surprised by how very modern it sounds. “J. P. Eidt. Bakery and Lunch Room, North Main St., is one of the necessary institutions of Wellington business life. Mr. Eidt succeeded L. G. Black in this establishment, two years ago, since which time he has succeeded admirably. He is a practical baker and a thoroughly competent business man. The sales-room in front is filled with a choice stock of Fancy Groceries such as Spices, Flavoring Extracts, Canned Goods, Teas, Coffees, etc., while in the line of Confectionery, a complete assortment is kept, from the fine French Candies to the Taffy, Stick, and Pan Candies. Mr. Eidt manufactures these goods himself. A full line of Cigars and Tobacco is also kept. The show-cases are filled with all kinds of Pastry, Bread, Cakes, Rods, Lunns, Pies, Crackers, etc. Back of the sales-room is a lunch-room neatly fitted up, where a Hot Meal, Oyster-Stew, or Cold Lunch can be had at any hour and the satisfaction that it has given has gained for the proprietor a lucrative custom. Back of this room is the Bake-Shop, which is supplied with all the necessary fixtures for doing baking and is always neat and tidy. Since Mr. Eidt took possession of the establishment he has made some decided improvements in its arrangements and it is now one of the best places in town to drop into and get a good cup of tea or coffee or a lunch. All kinds of Fruits are dealt in and Ice-Cream in its season. We wish the proprietor success for he deserves it” (2-6-1879, pg. 3).

John P. Eidt. From "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pg. 136. Photo by author.

John P. Eidt. From “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pg. 136. Photo by author.

A notice-cum-advertisement published in October of the same year informed the public that Eidt was receiving oysters directly from Baltimore, Maryland two times per week. “Persons who wish to get them in large quantities for parties and social gatherings of any kind, will find it to their interest to get them of him. Give him two days notice (the time it takes to get them) and he will get them for you in good order” (10-30-1879, pg. 3). The businessman also used clever and novel advertising techniques, such as publishing a correspondence purportedly between himself and one “Mr. Santa Claus” to announce that Eidt would once again be Santa’s “headquarters” for the Wellington Christmas trade (12-11-1879, pg. 3).

In April 1879, Eidt married Ermina (Minnie) Roser, the daughter of local cheese dealer John Roser. Two years later, the baker sold his stock, rented out his facility, and entered the cheese business with his father-in-law. The industry must have seemed lucrative and secure to Eidt, still in his twenties; nearly eight million pounds of cheese and more than one million pounds of butter were shipped through Wellington in 1879, the high-water mark of production. But even as Eidt and others ventured into the trade, they could not know that within thirty years, Wellington would no longer have a single cheese factory, nor would the region produce a single pound of cheese.

Headstone shared by J. P. and Ermina Eidt, and her parents, John and Caroline Roser. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, OH. Eidt seems to have gone by the name Peter, as it is inscribed on both this stone and also his individual marker. Photo by author.

Headstone shared by J. P. and Ermina Eidt, and her parents, John and Caroline Roser. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Eidt seems to have gone by the name Peter, as it is inscribed on both this stone and also his individual marker. Photo by author.

Sereno and Mary Bacon

"Residence of S. D. Bacon, Wellington, Ohio." From "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), opposite pg. 349. A caption notes that the engraved images are taken from photographs by William F. Sawtell.

“Residence of S. D. Bacon, Wellington, Ohio.” From “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), opposite pg. 349. A caption notes that the engraved images are taken from photographs by William F. Sawtell.

On April 8, 1889–almost exactly 125 years ago–Noah and Ermina Huckins sold their house, barn and two adjoining lots fronting Lincoln Street to local farmer S. D. Bacon for $2,750. Regular readers of the blog will recall that one of my unanswered questions about Huckins is why he chose to sell all his properties and businesses in Wellington to become junior partner in an Oberlin hardware store.

I had always assumed that when Huckins sold the Italianate house he built on family land in 1876, he immediately departed with his wife and children. But I recently discovered notices in The Wellington Enterprise that suggest only Huckins left the village right away. “Mr. N. Huckins who is now engaged in business in Oberlin returns occasionally to visit his family and friends,” the paper reported on April 17, 1889. I took that to mean he was visiting extended family; his wife’s siblings still lived in Wellington.

But nearly three months after the sale of the house, this notice appeared in the Oberlin notes section of the Wellington paper: “N. Huckins, of the firm of Carter & Huckins, has rented the residence of Mrs. Mary Jewett, No. 18 East Lorain street, and will remove his family from Wellington to this place about August 1st” (6-26-1889, pg.5). From what I can determine, the Jewett home stood on the present day site of a park across from the Allen Memorial Art Museum and is no longer standing.

Undated image of East Lorain Street, Oberlin, Ohio. The house at the left of the frame is likely the Jewett home rented by Noah Huckins in 1889. Image courtesy of "Oberlin in the Past" Facebook page.

Undated image of East Lorain Street, Oberlin, Ohio. The house at the left of the frame is likely the Jewett home rented by Noah Huckins in 1889. Image courtesy of “Oberlin in the Past” Facebook page.

Where was Huckins’ family living while he started over in Oberlin? I do not know, but the most likely scenario is that they temporarily moved back into the Adams family homestead, then occupied by Ermina Huckins’ twin brother Erwin and his wife, Mary Emma Mallory Adams. The Adams homestead was just north of the Huckins’ house on Main Street. Why Noah Huckins would sell everything and move less than ten miles away without already having another home in which to settle his family is a mystery. His son Howard was then fifteen; daughter Ibla was eleven. Perhaps Huckins wanted to allow them to complete the school year. I know only that the family did not purchase a home in Oberlin until 1890, when they bought a modest dwelling at 151 Forest Street from Mary Humphrey.

Meanwhile, my Italianate had its second owners. Sereno Dwight Bacon had been born in Vermont in 1825 but emigrated with his family to Lorain County in 1842. He married Mary Ann Bailey in 1846; she was born in New York but was adopted after her mother’s early death and moved to Medina as a child. The Bacons bought a two hundred acre farm in Wellington Township in 1851 and raised three children there.

The 1860 federal agricultural census recorded that Bacon owned eighty-two milch cows and thirty-four sheep, as well as swine and horses. (An 1879 newspaper notice indicates that his sheep flock had grown to more than 260 animals just two decades later.) That year, his farming operation had produced 1,300 pounds of butter and 10,800 pounds of cheese. This is six years before the first cheese factory opened in Huntington, Ohio; the Bacon farm produced five-and-a-half tons of cheese onsite, in addition to all its other crop and livestock management.

(L) Detail of the Bacon farm, from "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), opposite pg. 349. (R) Photo by author of private residence on Pitts Road, 2013.

(L) Detail of the Bacon farm, from “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), opposite pg. 349. (R) Photo by author of private residence on Pitts Road, 2013.

By the time the Bacons purchased my house, it was clearly their retirement home. Sereno Bacon was sixty-four years old and had done very well financially; tax records indicate that he ranked among the wealthiest individuals in Wellington throughout his years of residence in town. One of the things I find most interesting about the Italianate’s first two owners is that both made their fortunes from the so-called Cheese Boom, but in very different ways. Bacon was a dairy farmer, producing the milk that (after the mid-1860s) middlemen made into cheese in a nearby factory. Huckins felled trees and built thousands of wooden boxes to ship that cheese to far-away markets.

The Bacons’ living children were grown and married by the time Sereno and Mary left their farm on Pitts Road and moved three miles to the “Cheese City.” The 1890 census records do not survive, so I do not know the composition of the household when they first moved into town. I do know that their grandson, Aaron Lynn Bacon, born in 1881, moved in with them after his mother’s death. Aaron Lynn was therefore the third child to live in the Italianate, after Howard and Ibla.

The Bacons rarely appeared in the newspaper, in stark contrast to Noah Huckins’ hundreds of mentions. My walk-through of the Italianate with architectural historian Shawn Godwin suggested that the Bacons probably wired the house for electricity soon after moving in, but otherwise changed it very little. (I subsequently learned that electricity was first available in the village in August, 1896.) I am tempted to characterize this as “a quiet life.”

Sereno Bacon died in 1901, shortly after the couple’s fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. Mary Ann Bacon survived until 1909, though tax records continued to record the house as belonging to her deceased husband for those eight remaining years of her life. The Bacons are buried in Greenwood Cemetery with a daughter and infant grandchild who predeceased them. The two surviving Bacon children sold the Italianate shortly after their mother’s death.

Headstone of Sereno and Mary Bacon, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Sereno and Mary Bacon, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Aaron Lynn Bacon inherited the family farm on Pitts Road and had just finished renovating his grandparents’ 1861 brick homestead (pictured above) when he was tragically killed. The accident occurred only a few years after his grandmother passed away. “KILLED BY INFURIATED BULL,” screamed the Enterprise headline. The young farmer was feeding the animal early on a Sunday morning when it charged him, breaking his legs and ribs. He “suffered much from his injuries” and died the next night, September 3, 1912. He was not yet thirty-one years old. Aaron Lynn Bacon is also interred in Greenwood Cemetery.

Aaron Lynn Bacon. From "Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio, Volume 1" (1916) by G. Frederick Wright, opposite pg. 899.

Aaron Lynn Bacon. From “Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio, Volume 1” (1916) by G. Frederick Wright, opposite pg. 899.

Headstone of Aaron Lynn Bacon at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Bacon is buried with his aunt and uncle, Ada Bacon Harris and Hugh Harris. Hugh owned a shoe store in Wellington and eventually became Lorain County Treasurer. Photo by author.

Headstone of Aaron Lynn Bacon at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Bacon is buried with his aunt and uncle, Ada Bacon Harris and Hugh Harris. Hugh owned a shoe store in Wellington but later moved to Elyria and became Lorain County Treasurer. Photo by author.

While conducting this research into the history of our house and its owners, we made a discovery. The story of Aaron Lynn being trampled by the bull sparked memories of a similar incident in my husband’s family history. It turns out that my husband is related to the Bacons. Since he grew up in the area, it is not terribly surprising to learn that we are connected to a previous occupant of the house. But imagining that other, ill-fated little boy bounding down our floating staircase makes it all the more poignant to watch my own son, his great-great-great nephew, growing up.

Serendipity and Ice Harvesting, Revisited

Men cutting ice at West Lake Park, date unknown.  Photo 970553 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Men cutting ice at West Lake Park, date unknown. Photo 970553 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

“Huckins and Horr having taken a contract to furnish the W. and L. E. railroad with water at this station for five years, are making a pond just across the street from J. S. Case’s residence, west of town. The excavation and dam are nearly completed. The upper end of the pond extends quite or nearly to the railroad. They will cut the ice from it in the winter to supply their warehouse” (The Wellington Enterprise, 10-26-1881, pg. 2).

Readers of this blog will recall how excited I was several months ago to locate evidence of a large ice harvesting pond north of the Wellington Fairgrounds. I wrote about piecing the evidence together here, and then documented the location as it exists today here. So you can imagine how delighted I was to find the above notice in the newspaper recently, which confirmed something I had long suspected, namely that Noah Huckins, builder of my house, also built the pond.

To be certain, I looked up John Seward Case’s tax records for 1881. They confirm the transfer that year of a parcel of land on the western side of town to N. Huckins & Co.

Detail of 1881 Wellington Corporation tax record for John S. Case. Note the recorded transfer of land to N. Huckins & Co.

Detail of 1881 Wellington Corporation tax record for John S. Case. Note the recorded transfer of land to N. Huckins & Co.

I also checked an 1874 map of Wellington. It clearly shows the location of Case’s residence and tannery as being directly across Liberty Street, now West Herrick Avenue, from the future site of the pond.

Detail of Wellington Village map showing residence of J. S. Case just north of Liberty Street, now West Herrick Avenue. The empty acreage between his house and the fairgrounds (shown in green) would be the future site of N. Huckins & Co.'s ice harvesting pond. From "Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874." Pg. 61. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map showing residence of J. S. Case just north of Liberty Street, now West Herrick Avenue. The empty acreage between his house and the fairgrounds (shown in green) would be the future site of N. Huckins & Co.’s ice harvesting pond. From “Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874.” Pg. 61. Photo by author.

The pond made its way into the newspaper again in the summer of 1882. Young Levi Pitts, grandson of one of Noah Huckins’ neighbors and living in her house on North Main Street, drowned in a pond northwest of town that belonged to dry-goods store Baldwin, Laundon & Co. A vivid account of Pitts’ tragic death was published on June 28th and the same edition carried an editorial on the dangers of venturing into water, particularly if one does not know how to swim. It concluded, “We are informed that C. W. Horr’s pond south of town and N. Huckins & Co’s west of town are each 10 or 12 feet in depth in places and are equally unsafe as the one where the accident occurred, and we have been requested to warn parents against allowing their children to bathe in them” (pg. 2).

Noah Huckins transferred all of his real estate holdings in the village to Charles Horr–except the house on North Main Street, which he sold to farmer Sereno D. Bacon–when he moved his family to Oberlin in 1889. Horr died just five years later. This is why the 1896 map details I included in my previous post label the pond as belonging to E. A. Horr, i.e. Charles Horr’s widow Esther.

The deeper I dig into the nineteenth-century history of Wellington, the more connections I find to Noah Huckins. It seems incredible to me that he has been so utterly forgotten by this town.

UPDATE: When it rains, it pours. Since publishing this post, I have found yet another notice about the pond. “The water has been pumped out of N. Huckins & Co’s new pond and the work of excavation is being pushed as rapidly as possible. It will be when finished quite a respectable little lake lying along side the Fair ground and we hear is to have small row boats on it the coming season for the accomodation [sic] of visitors” (The Wellington Enterprise, 10-24-1883, pg. 3). Row boats on the lake! I love this! It reminds me of the paddle boats available to the public today on the lake at Wellington Reservation Metro Park. What a genteel little village this was in the late nineteenth century.

Cheese Workers of Wellington, Unite!

Undated image of workers at a local cheese house. Photo 970539 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of workers at a local cheese house. Photo 970539 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

“Wellington did not dominate the production of cheese during the years in question. Wellington’s claim to fame rested more with its position as the center of trade and market activity” (King of Cheese, pg. 20).

I haven’t posted in a few days because I have been working my way through a dense but very interesting paper about nineteenth-century Wellington. It is an Oberlin student thesis written by Jon Clark in 1992 entitled, King of Cheese: Growth and Modernization in Wellington, Ohio, 1850-1880. I would like to thank the Southern Lorain County Historical Society for allowing me access to their copy of the paper. It is also available through the Oberlin College Archives, if others would like the opportunity to read it.

Clark undertook the monumental task of quantifying four decades of federal census records in a database, capturing personal information for thousands of Wellington residents of the mid-1800s. He then performed various statistical analyses to better understand the demographic trends affecting the village in the period. His goal was to “discover the impact which economic growth and modernization had on the nature and structure of Wellington society between 1850 and 1880” (pg. 9).

Though Clark believed at the beginning of his project that he would be observing a town transformed by agricultural manufacturing, what he found was somewhat different, and surprising to him. “It was not the cheese industry which thrived in Wellington in the nineteenth century (although it certainly had its share of factories) but rather the cheese trade. It was not factories that so much dominated the local landscape as it was warehouses and stores. Consequently, the story that is told in the following pages is not so much a story of the transition from farm to factory as it is of commercial growth in the countryside” (pg. 10).

The federal census data clearly indicates that Wellington was a boom town in this era. A few statistics illustrate the point. From 1850 to 1870, the value of the town’s real estate grew from $460,625 to $1,327,630–almost two hundred percent higher in just twenty years (pg. 25). Residents of the town nearly doubled in the decades from 1860 to 1880; the male labor force alone increased 69% in the same period. Employment seems to have kept pace with population expansion; according to the 1880 census, only seven men out of 533 experienced unemployment for more than five months in the year (pg. 37).

Image taken October 21, 1871 at the Horr, Warner & Co.  barn on South Main Street. Photo 970096 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Image taken October 21, 1871 at the Horr, Warner & Co. barn on South Main Street. Photo 970096 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

While I cannot speak to the accuracy of the mathematical models employed, I can say that Clark’s results seem, in the main, to match the evidence I have uncovered through written records of the time. He found that a steady rate of approximately 15% of the population was foreign-born from 1850 to 1880, but could find no evidence of segregation or systemic discrimination. “Those who were native born do not appear to have formed a community apart from those who were foreign born” (pg. 54). There was a relatively high turnover rate for residents from decade to decade; Clark breaks the populace into “persisters” and “non-persisters,” in other words, those who appeared in more than one census and those who disappeared from the records in a single ten-year period. The only significant differences he could find between any groups in the village–in categories such as elected offices held, likelihood of voting, likelihood of being a boarder vs. owning one’s own home–were between these two groups.

Clark notes that both the percentage of the overall population living as boarders, as well as the average number of boarders kept by individual property owners, fell significantly in the years from 1860 to 1880. This makes sense considering the surge in new real estate construction, expressly intended to create inexpensive housing and rental units across the village, which I have mentioned previously.

Those most likely to be “non-persisters” were workers who arrived each time a railroad construction project was underway. Clark writes, “The railroad changed the face of the town…Its very construction made residents aware of the existence and lifestyles of Americans very different from themselves. As 213 railroad workers, most of them Irish immigrants, set to work laying tracks through the town, Wellingtonians were introduced for the first time to an immigrant laboring population. These workers, who lived in shanties on the town’s outskirts and who attended their own Catholic Church, were a different sort than most Wellington residents were used to associating with” (pg. 15). While I understand the point Clark is trying to make, I think his conclusions are somewhat overstated. I don’t believe he is taking into account the fact that in 1850, nearly everyone in the town was an immigrant, either from another region of the United States or another country. Virtually every resident was what might today be termed “working class,” i.e. one dependent on physical labor to produce economic value. As a group, the population was not as homogeneous nor as provincial as Clark seems to suggest. And I have never seen any written references to “shanties” anywhere in the town.

Undated image of workers at the W. R. Santley sawmill on Magyar Street. Photo 970799 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of workers at the W. R. Santley sawmill on Magyar Street. Photo 970799 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

One interesting idea raised by the paper is the suggestion that temperance organizations such as the Murphy Movement–of which Noah Huckins was at one time the local chapter president–were often driven by employers who wanted to create a more reliable (i.e. teetotaling) workforce. The Murphy Movement caught on in Wellington during the Depression of the 1870s. It was promoted in The Wellington Enterprise because the newspaper’s editors, the Houghtons, were committed supporters of temperance. One of the goals of the group was to obtain participants’ signatures on pledges that they would abstain from all drinking. Clark suggests that employers “may have used the Murphy Movement pledge cards to identify non-drinkers” who would then be given preferred status for future employment (pg. 87). Since Huckins was running a large-scale manufacturing operation on behalf of C. W. Horr, it’s an intriguing notion.

While I disagree with some of Clark’s conclusions, I applaud his efforts to get a clearer sense of what life was like for those whose stories are not recorded in Wellington’s written records. He himself concedes that whatever “economic inequality” there was in the village over the three decades of his study, it was “a very narrow gap when compared to the polarization…in contemporary American cities” (pg. 91). He also allows that there was “a growing sense of community” based, at least in part, on a shared pride in the town’s new national reputation as “The Cheese City.” In the end, I don’t believe the overarching story of nineteenth-century Wellington is one of oppression, exclusion, or exploitation. It is a story of diverse groups of people who chose to come together to form a new community, to their mutual benefit and yes, profit.

Prospecting for Ice (Ponds)

Wellington Ice Storage Barn, dated 1906. Photo 970011 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Wellington Ice Storage Barn, dated 1906. Photo 970011 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I spent today engaged in one of my favorite pastimes: historical sleuthing. I was hunting for evidence of long-forgotten ice harvesting ponds. This abbreviated post is really an addendum to yesterday’s installment.

First, I headed to Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery to seek evidence of the Horr farm ice pond. What I found was a long ditch running between the neighborhood on Monstrose Way and the modern northern boundary of the cemetery.

Ditch running parallel to northern boundary of Greenwood Cemetery. Photo by author.

Ditch running parallel to northern boundary of Greenwood Cemetery. Photo by author.

The ditch terminates in a large depression at the north-east corner of the cemetery. I don’t know if this is a naturally occurring geological feature, or the remains of the 1 1/2 acre ice pond that Charles Horr constructed on his farm in 1880. The pond was five feet deep, and this change in elevation does not appear to be much deeper than that.

Depression at the north-east corner of Greenwood Cemetery. Photo by author.

Depression at the north-east corner of Greenwood Cemetery. Photo by author.

Next, I headed down West Herrick Avenue, to the section of town that the 1896 map shows with an ice house and large pond. I have been working under the assumption that the northernmost pond on the map was the one referred to as Westlake Pond or Park. Author Robert Walden noted, “It was named and the grounds about it developed largely through the vision and untiring efforts of Mayor Charles Gott while he was chairman of the Board of Public Affairs” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A63). That piece of land is now occupied by the Village of Wellington Department of Public Works. What appears from the street to be a small grassy hill is, in fact, a circular berm that runs around the perimeter of the DPW buildings and vehicle parking lot. This was the edge of the nineteenth-century pond. It was difficult to photograph the berm clearly since it is so large, but here is one side view.

Side view of grassy berm encircling the Village of Wellington Department of Public Works. Photo by author.

Side view of grassy berm encircling the Village of Wellington Department of Public Works. Photo by author.

Readers of yesterday’s post will recall that an ice house stood north of the pond, fronting what is now West Herrick Avenue; Walden claimed that the storage facility served Horr, Warner & Co., then later was run by a man named Lewis Dibble. The photograph below shows that same plot of land today, a plain strip of mowed grass with a flagpole and welcome sign for the village.

West Herrick Avenue, southern side. Photo by author.

West Herrick Avenue, southern side. Photo by author.

I searched to see if I could locate any additional images pertaining to ice harvesting, and found the historic photograph at the top of this post. It was named, “Wellington Ice Storage Barn around 1906,” but had no location recorded, so I was not certain it had any connection to the places I have been writing about. However, a note was attached identifying the people in the image: Mr. Burlingame, Mr. Doan, Lewis Dibble and young Gertrude Dibble. Since Lewis Dibble ran the ice house just north of Westlake, it seems likely that this image depicts the very building that once stood on now-empty land in front of the DPW.

I don’t mind telling you, dear reader, that I was pretty pleased with myself by the end of my adventures. Then later today I spoke with my father-in-law, who grew up not far from here and is very interested in local history himself. Oh yes, he knew about Westlake and the ice ponds; and yes, those were the correct locations. Thus was I reminded of an important fact that any historical sleuth needs to keep always in mind: just because I don’t know something, that doesn’t mean it isn’t known.

Serendipity and Ice Harvesting

Men cutting ice at West Lake Park, date unknown.  Photo 970553 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Men cutting ice at West Lake Park, date unknown. Photo 970553 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I was not planning to post today, but I found something that tickled me so much I felt compelled to share it. I was browsing through some photocopied articles from the so-called “Robert Walden Notebook” held in the Herrick Memorial Library’s local history collection. Walden (1868-1964) was a highly respected lawyer, author, and for two years editor of The Wellington Enterprise. In the 1950s, Walden began writing a regular column for the newspaper that was titled, “Wellington Vignettes,” “That and This,” and finally “Once Upon a Time.” In the column, he offered detailed descriptions of the places and people he had known growing up in the town. The dates are not always totally accurate, but they are amazingly close given that they were recalled by an 80-year-old man reflecting back on the century past.

While paging through articles looking for something else, I came across one I had not read closely called, “Cheese, Ice Ponds and Tragedy in Two Parts.” Since the individual columns are not dated in the notebook, it is difficult to determine when this was published, but it is number A63 in the series. From it, I learned that the pond Charles W. Horr added to his property, which I mentioned in passing in the post on his life, was not ornamental nor even for fire suppression, as I had theorized. Its purpose was to provide ice for his cold storage facilities. I’ll quote Walden at length:

“Development of the cheese industry here necessitated storage and ice refrigeration, since electric power was not to be made available for about a quarter of a century. Some large buildings were erected for storing ice. One of the largest of these was a frame building located in the hollow between Herrick Ave., west and Westlake pond. It was known then as Ice House Pond and by others as the Horr, Warner Pond. After ice was no longer required for the refrigeration of cheese by its owners, because cheese was no longer manufactured in the Wellington district, ice still was harvested from the pond and stored in the ice house by Charles West and Lewis Dibble then by Dibble after West had retired from the business.”

Detail of Wellington Village map from "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map from “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

The above detail of an 1896 Wellington map shows the ice house that Walden mentions, south of West Herrick Avenue–then called West Main or Liberty Street–and north of two large ice-harvesting ponds, both labelled “E. A. Horr” because Charles W. Horr died two years prior to the publication of this atlas. (Esther A. Horr was his widow.) The undated photograph I featured at the top of the post shows men cutting blocks of ice with handsaws at “West Lake Park.” I believe this is the northernmost of the two ponds shown on the map.

A few paragraphs later, Walden writes, “The largest ice refrigeration and storage building for cheese is the square brick building between Depot st. and the Big Four depot, built by Horr, Warner & Co.” I included a photograph of this building in the Horr biographical post; it still stood at the time of Walden’s publication but burned to the ground in 2007. He concludes, “Ice was harvested from a number of large ponds in or near the village. It furnished seasonal employment each ice-producing year for many horses, sleds and men. Three large ponds were constructed by Horr, Warner & Co. for the ice they would produce. One of them was on the farm of Charles W. Horr, father of the present Charles W. Horr, Sr.” (Charles W. Horr, son of the cheese entrepreneur, died in 1954.) A detail from the same map shows the thirty-six acre Horr property, with the ice pond visible directly north of Greenwood Cemetery. Comparing the 1896 map to today, I believe that Montrose Way skirts just north of the area once occupied by the pond.

Detail of Wellington Village map from "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map from “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

This is a testament to how savvy a businessman Charles W. Horr was. He planned a pond that would add beauty and value to his property, provide a measure of security against the threat of fire, and could be endlessly harvested for a naturally-renewable resource of which he required enormous (and otherwise costly) quantities. But he didn’t stop there: why waste perfectly good dirt if you can reap a profit from it? I found a notice in the May 6, 1880 The Wellington Enterprise which read, “C. W. Horr is making a large reservoir on his farm east of his house to cover 1 1/2 acres of land and to be five ft. deep. M. V. Webster has contracted to take out 150 loads of earth each day until some time in September, and is delivering it in the village to purchasers for purposes of grading” (pg. 3). The man was a genius.

I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have stumbled upon this answer to a question I did not know I had. This is exactly the kind of serendipitous discovery that makes me love studying history. There are nearly 250 columns penned by Walden and it makes me wonder what other “mysteries” are actually hiding in plain sight?