Category Archives: Genealogy

Bicentennial Lecture

2018 Lecture

If you would like to watch the presentation I made on January 9, 2018 to kick off Wellington’s Bicentennial Lecture Series, please click here.


. . . And His Lovely Wife

Mary Ann Adams

Drawing said to depict educator Mary Ann Adams Conkling (1816-1871). Image used courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

Happy holidays, dear readers! It is a very busy season at the best of times, but even more so this year as I promote and distribute copies of my new book, Fully Equal to the Situation: Nineteenth-Century Women of Wellington, Ohio. Sales have been going well thus far and I am tremendously grateful to everyone who has supported the project.

While organizing and filing research materials to clear the decks for 2018, a.k.a. Bicentennial Year, I realized I had several images that I have not posted to the blog previously. And a few of them had common subject matter: they were portraits of women.

As a general rule, I try to include as many visuals as I can reasonably insert when writing a post. I personally enjoy looking at period images, and they go a long way toward humanizing and grounding any piece of writing. But there have been occasions when I decided not to include an image, usually due to space constraints, but sometimes because the image did not seem sufficiently relevant to the topic at hand. An unintended consequence of this decision was that more than once, I did not use an illustration that depicted the spouse (read: wife) of a subject. Given the topic of the book I just published, that was an omission I felt I had to rectify.

The portrait at the top of this post falls into a slightly different category. Mary Ann Adams Conkling was the subject of a lengthy post about her local school for girls, the Wellington Seminary. But I did not become aware that this drawing existed until long after the post was published. The study is in the collection of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society and is currently on display in their second-floor exhibition about area schools through the decades. I encourage you to visit and see it in person.

The Houghton Genealogy 1912 opposite pg 186

Journalist and newspaper publisher Mary Hayes Houghton (1837-1921). Image from “The Houghton Genealogy,” written and published by Dr. John Houghton in 1912.

I have also written a bit about Mary Hayes Houghton, in connection with her husband, Dr. John Houghton, and the period of time during which they co-edited the Wellington Enterprise. In those posts, I used a photograph of Mary Houghton taken late in her life. She was not yet forty when she and John purchased the Enterprise, so the image above is a more accurate reflection of what she would have looked like at that time.

Eliza Jane King Rininger 1820-1902

Eliza Jane King Rininger (1820-1902).

William Rininger was one of the wealthiest businessmen in Wellington for decades. He had dry goods shops in at least two locations on what is today East Herrick Avenue. I have written about his reputation as a cantankerous and confrontational man, and the public squabbles he engaged in during his thirty-five years in the village. I know very little about his personal life, and even less about his wife, Eliza. I initially found her portrait attached to a burial record for the Rininger family mausoleum in Attica, Ohio. I have subsequently discovered that there are at least a half-dozen studies that remain of the well-to-do Mrs. Rininger, which can be found online appended to the genealogy records of family descendants.

Mrs. Sawtell

Estella Le Hentz Rasor Sawtell (1843-1909). Image used courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

This final portrait is also one of which I became aware only after the relevant post was published. Estella Sawtell was married to local photographer and amateur artist, William Sawtell. I know little about Estella beyond the fact that she suffered from very poor health, dying of intestinal cancer six months after her husband passed away. Her adult life was filled with hardships, including the poor physical and mental condition of her spouse (who voluntarily committed himself to an asylum for two years) and the loss of her only son to tuberculosis at age twenty-two. I presume her husband shot this portrait, which now belongs to the Southern Lorain County Historical Society.

If you are interested to learn more about the female citizens of Wellington in the 1800s, my book of biographical essays on a dozen people–including pioneers, social reformers, and yes, even a doctor–is available for purchase online and in person at “The Spirit of ’76” Museum. I am also pleased to announce that the Oberlin Heritage Center will be carrying the title in its gift shop in 2018. This is likely my last post of the year, so get ready everybody! BICENTENNIAL will be here in just ten days!

Hot Off the Presses!


I am excited to announce that my new book, Fully Equal to the Situation: Nineteenth-Century Women of Wellington, Ohio is now available! After a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, we were able to cover the costs of adding even more material to the finished volume. Thank you so much to everyone who pre-ordered a copy. The published book includes eight extended and annotated biographical essays of a dozen Wellington women, with more than thirty illustrations. Even if you have been a follower of this blog since the beginning, there will be original content that you have not yet read.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, there are several ways to do so. I personally have a stock and am happy to respond to emails or messages posted to this page. For those who live outside the area, the publisher is selling copies via his website. (Railway Station Press is able to accept multiple payment methods, including PayPal. Media Mail shipping is included free of charge, with more expedited delivery options available at cost.) The price for a paperback is $18. A limited number of signed hardcovers are available for $50; the first ten people to purchase one of these will also receive a 19th-Century Wellington magnet.

Copies will be available at my Bicentennial kick-off lecture in early January; please see the “Upcoming Talks” page for details. The Spirit of ’76 Museum and the Women’s League of Wellington have invited me to do book readings, and I will add those events to the aforementioned talks page as soon as they are finalized. It was my privilege to donate two copies to the Herrick Memorial Library, one of which has been added to the non-circulating local history collection. Public libraries are too-often unappreciated treasures and neither this blog nor the book would exist without them.

Program Announcement IV

Screen Shot 2017-11-11 at 11.55.40 AM

The Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts, Wellington, Ohio.

Into the Wilderness: A Massachusetts Household Emigrates to Ohio
Inaugural Lecture of the 2018 Wellington Bicentennial Series

Patricia Lindley Center for the Performing Arts
January 9, 2018 | Doors open at 6PM; lecture begins at 7PM

In 1818, a Dutch farming family from the Berkshire region of Massachusetts left behind all they knew and traveled west on foot to begin a new life in the Ohio country. Many of us have heard stories of the founding of Wellington, but what you may not know is that one member of that settler household was a woman of color, a freed slave who had formerly belonged to the family she now accompanied “into the wilderness.”

This talk is free and open to the public. If you would like to indicate your interest in attending, you can do so on the Wellington Bicentennial Facebook page. And please take a look at the other monthly lectures and presentations scheduled for the remainder of the year!

Nearing the Finish Line

22540112_1462986340416558_4120680513426473012_nRegular readers of the blog may have noticed that it has been fairly quiet of late. That is because I have been spending a great deal of time on finishing up the manuscript and publication process for my forthcoming book! I received the first proof this week and have been busy copy editing.

The book was due to be shipped to those who pre-ordered a copy in December. We are currently running ahead of schedule and it looks as if copies may be mailed out in November. Fingers crossed!


Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 1.20.48 PMGreat news! The Kickstarter pre-order campaign for my forthcoming book Fully Equal to the Situation: Nineteenth-Century Women of Wellington, Ohio successfully concluded this morning. We reached 160% funding, or more than half-again over our first goal. The completion of the stretch goal means that we will be able to add more content than originally planned. Nearly forty books were pre-ordered. If you would like to purchase a copy, never fear! Once the book is published, it will be available in Wellington, and online via a link which I will add to this site at that time. Thank you to everyone who has supported the blog and book!

Another Year Has Gone By…

Mock Up Cover
Hard to believe, but another year has come and gone. Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog. Many exciting things have happened in the past twelve months, not least of which has been the upcoming publication of my book. (At left is a mock up of the cover.) There are just about three weeks left to pre-order a copy, which you can do here. I have already submitted the manuscript to the publisher and we will soon be working on finalizing illustration choices, etc. I am proud of the work that has gone into this little volume and I hope those of you interested in reading it will find it compelling and informative. Many thanks to everyone who has already ordered a copy, and to those of you still following this blog as we enter our fifth year together.