Category Archives: Cheese

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.

David Lawton Wadsworth (1825-1892)

D. L. Wadsworth house,  formerly located near 267 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. From "The History of Lorain County, Ohio," (1879), opposite pg. 347.

D. L. Wadsworth house, formerly located near 267 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. From “The History of Lorain County, Ohio,” (1879), opposite pg. 347.

“Persons bearing the name Howk and those named Wadsworth were the most numerous by far of our early pioneers. They settled in the town, bought land, and became prosperous farmers” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A175).

An entire blog could be written about the members of the Wadsworth family. Their history is the early history of Wellington, and their business endeavors went a long way toward securing the financial success of the town in the nineteenth century. I want to focus on a single member of the family, David Lawton Wadsworth, because he connects to my larger story in two ways: 1) he owned a cheese box manufacturing facility that was a competitor of Noah Huckins‘ business; 2) he was Noah Huckins’ neighbor on North Main Street.

When I began to research the house at 600 North Main, one of my chief questions concerned why it was built where it was. Many of the grandest homes in Wellington were situated on South Main Street. What I have learned is that there were once fine houses on the northern end of town, as well, including the now-lost home of the Howks, but none finer than the 1866 Italianate constructed by David Wadsworth. Since that house was relocated to West Herrick Avenue in 1998, and sadly demolished in the summer of 2012, it is difficult to remember that it spent its first one hundred and thirty years just two blocks from–almost within sight of–Noah Huckins’ Italianate.

D. L. Wadsworth. "Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio" (1894), pg. 705.

D. L. Wadsworth. “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio” (1894), pg. 705.

David L. Wadsworth was born in Becket, Massachusetts in 1825, yet another New England emigrant to northeast Ohio. In 1833, when he was only eight years old, he journeyed twenty-four days by covered wagons to Wellington. His life and career are outlined in a four-page illustrated biography in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894). He and his family are the subjects of several columns written by Robert Walden. And both he and his wife, born Rosenia C. Woodworth, had significant obituaries published at the time of their deaths. So a great deal of material exists that documents Wadsworth’s personal history. I want to highlight his business interests and the magnificent house he left behind.

“In 1868 Mr. Wadsworth purchased a planing mill, and embarked in the manufacture of doors, sash and blinds, dealing largely in lumber, shingles, lath, etc. Afterward other industries were added, to wit: a cheese and butter-box factory…He was a prominent dealer in real estate, buying farms, building houses about town for dwellings and other purposes, a hundred or more, adding much to the general growth and prosperity of the village wherein he dwelt” (Commemorative Biographical Record, pg. 707). I have written previously that the wealthier businessmen in town often engaged in real estate development as a means of increasing the town’s permanent population and also of accommodating the lower-class, more transient “mechanics” who filled the village when construction projects occurred.

D. L. Wadsworth box factory, formerly located north of Johns Street, at the point where it bends southeast to connect with Kelley Street. Photo 970160 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

D. L. Wadsworth box factory, formerly located north of Johns Street, at the point where it bends southeast to connect with Kelley Street. Photo 970160 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Walden describes the Wadsworth lumber yard this way: “It was valuable property, and his planing mill, with its cheese-box factory, was a hive of industry. His stacks of white pine lumber filled the yard between railroad tracks and Kelley-st. Many men were employed in making window frames and miscellaneous items of the industry and turning out fine building lumber” (#A199). He asserts in another column, “Lumber was stacked as much as two stories high” (#A175). In 1881, The Wellington Enterprise reported that N. Huckins & Co. had purchased “the Wellington Planing Mill, and Sash and Blind Factory by D. L. Wadsworth.” It noted that the work of the factory “began to tell on [Wadsworth’s] health” so he decided to sell (10-5-1881, pg. 3). Just two years later, the newspaper announced, “N. Huckins & Co. have sold the planing mill and cheese box and butter tub factory to D. L. Wadsworth, the former proprietor, who will take possession in a week or so” (11-18-1883, pg. 3). No clear explanation was ever given in print of why Wadsworth wanted his factory back, or why Noah Huckins was willing to return the operation to his formerly-retired business rival.

Of all the people I have researched, I would hazard a guess that David Wadsworth was the most proud of his beautiful house. It is frequently mentioned in connection with his name. This is not a phenomenon I have observed even with homes as magnificent as those belonging to Charles Horr or Sidney Warner. It is specifically noted in Wadsworth’s Commemorative Biographical Record essay that “in 1866 the present family residence, situate [sic] on North Main street, was completed and occupied” (707). A description of his daughter’s wedding and even his own funeral focus as much on the grandeur and elegance of the house as on the events themselves. “The casket and rooms were adorned with choice flower pieces…The day was most divinely fair, each shrub and tree had put on its most attractive colors, and the rich, mellow sunshine, softened by cooling breezes, baptized Mother Earth with a glory quite indescribable…The roomy house and extensive grounds were filled to overflowing…His widow still resides in the now lonely home, where, on every hand, are seen evidences of the thoughtful outlook and careful supervision on the part of the dear departed, for the comfort of those dwelling within the home circle” (708-709).

D. L. Wadsworth house when it served as the American Legion, 1962. Photo 970833 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

D. L. Wadsworth house when it served as the American Legion, 1962. Photo 970833 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Wadsworth died in 1892, at the age of sixty-seven. His widow Rosenia outlived him by thirteen years, dying in 1905. Both are interred (along with numerous other Wadsworths) in Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery. By the time Robert Walden was writing about the Wadsworth history in the late 1950s, their former family home was serving as the American Legion post in Wellington. In 1997, the Rite-Aid chain purchased the North Main Street lot on which the house sat, and intended to demolish the structure to make way for a drugstore and parking lot. Wellington’s Southern Lorain County Historical Society spearheaded an effort to relocate the house to donated land on West Herrick Avenue. There it sat from 1998 until 2012, when it was demolished. The house was sadly diminished from its nineteenth-century magnificence, but still impressive even in its decline.

D. L. Wadsworth house, just prior to 2012 demolition. Formerly (re)located on West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio.

D. L. Wadsworth house, just prior to 2012 demolition. Formerly (re)located on West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio.

Noah Huckins (1839-1921)

Noah Huckins, ca. 1860. Image used courtesy of Baldwin Wallace University Archive.

Noah Huckins, ca. 1860. Image used courtesy of Baldwin Wallace University Archive.

Writing this post feels a bit like jumping ahead to the last chapter of a book and reading it first. Noah Huckins has become the central character in the story I am trying to understand. I have spent many months piecing together his life story from tiny notices in newspapers and single lines in other people’s diaries; presenting it as a complete narrative almost feels anticlimactic.

Huckins was born on the outskirts of Toronto, Canada in 1839. When he was a teenager, he and his older brother George emigrated to the United States to attend Baldwin University, which is today known as Baldwin Wallace University. George was studying to be a Methodist minister, and Baldwin University was, and is, affiliated with the Methodist Church. Both brothers attended the school but only George graduated; the Civil War interrupted Noah’s education and he dropped out during his junior year to enlist in the Union Army, never to complete his degree. What motivated his decision to fight in a foreign war? Was he a committed abolitionist or perhaps just committed to staying in his adopted country? The answer is lost to history.

George also volunteered but died of fever while stationed in Nashville, Tennessee in 1862. Noah finished his military service and for reasons unknown, moved to Wellington where he taught school. In 1867, he became the junior partner in an established local hardware business, which was then known as Sage & Huckins. Orrin Sage retired due to ill health the following year, and Huckins took on a new partner, John Watson Wilbur. Huckins & Wilbur maintained the same shopfront they inherited from Sage for seven years, and when Huckins eventually left the business, Wilbur continued to run it until the end of the century. You can see the store in the image below, clearly labelled “Hardware. Stoves and Tinware.”

Mechanics Street, now known as East Herrick Avenue. Date unknown. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Mechanics Street, now known as East Herrick Avenue. Based on the building configurations, the image was taken sometime between 1882 and 1913. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

While Huckins was establishing himself in business, he became connected with one of the oldest families in the village, the Adams family. In August 1866, Noah married Ellen Victorine Adams and within a year the couple had a baby daughter, Maud. Sadly, Maud died at six months of age and Ellen followed just three months later, only 24 years old. At the time of the 1870 federal census, Noah was still living in the home of his in-laws, Gideon and Bertia Adams. The Adams home, likely the oldest brick residence in Wellington, stood on North Main Street from 1830 until last year, when it was demolished due to a major structural failure.

A few months after the census, Huckins married his former sister-in-law, Ermina Fowler Adams, ten years his junior. After losing their first child in 1872, Noah and Ermina eventually had two more, Howard (b. 1874) and Ibla (b. 1878). Ibla seems to have suffered from many health issues and might even have been deaf for part of her life. She died young and her obituary noted that the loss was a heavy blow “especially for her father, who had protected her and cherished her with great tenderness and solicitude all through her long suffering” (Oberlin News, 7-25-1905, pg. 1).

In 1875, Huckins left his hardware partnership and went to work for Charles Horr. He formed N. Huckins & Co., a box manufacturing facility that existed to support Horr’s cheese factories. Frank Chapman Van Cleef notes several times in his article on the rise and fall of the cheese industry the difficulty Horr had in securing enough boxes to keep up with his cheese production. “The busiest places in town were the cheese box factories. Several hundred boxes were made each day and a large amount of lumber, mostly elm, was being cut up” (pg. 51). Huckins was often mentioned in the newspaper traveling to other states looking for timber to purchase. August 29, 1878, the Enterprise reported that his factory had produced more than 1,000 boxes in a single nine-hour shift. “750 is regarded a day’s work,” the notice concluded.

W. R. Santley sawmill on Magyar Street, date unknown. N. Huckins & Co. was also located on Magyar Street and the operation probably looked very similar. Photo 970800 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

W. R. Santley sawmill on Magyar Street, date unknown. N. Huckins & Co. was also located on Magyar Street and the operation probably looked very similar. Photo 970800 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Fortunes clearly on the rise, Huckins commenced building an Italianate wood-frame house on land formerly owned by his wife’s family; to this day, the area of the town around Lincoln Street is known as the Adams Addition. The fundamental question I wanted to answer with this project was, when was my house built? I cannot tell you how happy I was the day I read this: “The foundation of the new house being built by Mr. N. Huckins, on the corner of North Main and Lincoln streets, is complete and the grading is being done” (The Wellington Enterprise, 1-13-1876, pg. 3). And then the following year, this: “N. Huckins has enclosed the lawn about his residence with a neat hedge of hemlock, and further added to his premises, fruit and ornamental trees. A little more than a year ago the site occupied by his home was a moist corner of pasture land. It has been graded into a well-shaped lot, high and dry, and seeded, so that a lawn-mower does its frequent shaving. The place is fast becoming one of the most attractive in Wellington” (5-3-1877, pg. 3). A “fine horse barn” was added east of the house in 1881, but no longer exists.

600 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones of The Rosen-Jones Photography Studio, Oberlin, Ohio.

600 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by Tanya Rosen-Jones of The Rosen-Jones Photography Studio, Oberlin, Ohio.

While building this substantial homestead, Huckins also became heavily involved in what we might today call “volunteer work.” He was, at various times, secretary of the library association; chairman of the Congregational Church’s 1876 (U. S.) Centennial celebrations; a member of the school committee; president of the Republican Club; president of the Murphy Movement, a temperance organization; a member of the Memorial Day Observances committee; and on and on. The impression one gets is of an up-and-coming young man trying to make his mark on a community.

N. Huckins & Co. did extremely well, and its business ventures and real estates transactions were numerous and complex. (I will talk more in a future post about the company and about another partnership of Huckins and Horr, the Wellington Milling Co.) I located contemporary credit reports that chart the enterprise’s expansion. In 1877, the credit reporter estimated that Huckins’ stake in the company was worth $8,000, while Horr’s was worth $60,000. By 1888, the reporter estimated the overall value of the company at more than $150,000.

Then, in 1889, Huckins decided to leave the town that had been his home for a quarter-century. The only indication I have found as to why is a line in his obituary which begins, “With the idea of enlarging his field of activity he came to Oberlin…” (Oberlin Tribune, 9-16-1921, pg. 1). He sold the family home on North Main Street and transferred all of his corporate and real estate holdings to Charles Horr in the same week. In my next post, I will conclude Huckins’ life story with a brief outline of his decades as a successful hardware salesman in Oberlin, Ohio.

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.