Category Archives: Genealogy

Dr. Harriet E. Warren (1842-1894)

Advertisement for Dr. H. E. Warren. "The Wellington Enterprise," 2-12-1890, pg. 1.

Advertisement for Dr. H. E. Warren. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 2-12-1890, pg. 1.

“The first woman doctor in Lorain County was Dr. Harriet Warner who opened up an office on Herrick Ave. in Wellington. She had qualified as a doctor in a medical college, but because she was a woman a certificate to practice medicine in Ohio was denied her. Undaunted (and in fact illegally) she ‘hung out her shingle’ and started practice in the village. By bulldog persistence she did finally persuade the state to grant the certificate due her” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A214).

This brief biographical sketch was written by local amateur historian Robert Walden sometime around 1961. At that time, Walden was ninety-three years old and within a year of his own death. Even if he had known Dr. Harriet E. Warren personally, she had been dead for over sixty-five years. I have no way of knowing at present how many details of his story are correct, but I do know that several particulars–not least of which is the doctor’s name–are inaccurate.

Harriet E. Warren was born in Wellington in 1842. She was very bright and apparently teaching school by a young age. I have no notion of what made Harriet Warren want to become a professional healer in nineteenth-century Ohio, but by the 1870s she was studying medicine with local physician and druggist Dr. James Rust. She graduated from his alma mater, the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College, in 1877; the school had begun accepting female students just six years earlier.

Headstone of Dr. James Rust and his wife, Sophia Goss Rust, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Dr. James Rust and his wife, Sophia Goss Rust, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

After a decade of practicing in Elyria, during which time she was active in both the Lorain County Medical Association and a public advocate of prohibition, Warren returned home to Wellington. In the little I have found published about her, I find no mention of the “illegal” nature of her work that Walden alleged. John Houghton, another local doctor and druggist, wrote of Harriet Warren: “Notwithstanding social and professional prejudices necessarily encountered in the practice of medicine by a woman, she built up a respectable and lucrative practice and had the confidence and esteem of her patrons and friends” (The Wellington Enterprise, 8-22-1894, pg. 4).

According to an advertisement that appeared in the Enterprise nearly one hundred times (see above), Dr. Warren lived and kept an office in the post office building, which was then located on South Main Street. Though run for many years out of John Houghton’s drug, book and stationery shop, in 1879 the post office had relocated four doors north, to a small, two-story brick building adjacent to Baldwin, Laundon and Company’s enormous corner dry-goods store. It continued to appear in that location on Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for both 1889 and 1893.

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Wellington, Ohio dated April, 1889. Shows the "P.O." or post office, located on South Main Street. Also noted in that building is a "Confecy" or confectionary (i.e. candy) shop. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 5-19-2014.

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Wellington, Ohio dated April, 1889. Shows the “P.O.” or post office, located on South Main Street. Also noted in that building is a “Confecy” or confectionery (i.e. sweet) shop. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 5-19-2014.

Early-twentieth-century image of the west side of South Main Street. The building on the left side of the frame once housed Houghton's drug, book and stationery shop. The building on the right  side of the frame was home to the post office and once held the residence and medical office of Dr. Harriet Warren. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Early-twentieth-century image of the west side of South Main Street. The three-story building on the left side of the frame once housed Houghton’s drug, book and stationery shop. The two-story building on the right side of the frame was home to the post office (the sign is visible over the doorway) and once held the residence and medical office of Dr. Harriet Warren. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

In August 1894, when she was fifty-two years old, Dr. Harriet Warren was killed in a tragic accident. While driving a buggy to visit a patient north of town, Warren was thrown out of the vehicle and trampled when her horse took a fright. Another female passenger was unharmed, but the doctor was badly injured and unable to move. She was taken to the home of her brother, F. D. Warren. Drs. Rust and Houghton both came to offer medical assistance, but she died in the early hours of the following morning.

John Houghton delivered a lengthy and moving eulogy at her funeral, which was reprinted in the Enterprise. Her family had asked him to perform the task, he said, because “professional tastes and common sympathies, social, political and otherwise, conspired to bring us frequently in each other’s society and I may have come to know her more intimately than most others, save her near relatives” (8-22-1894, pg. 4). There were resolutions of sympathy from the Wellington Grange, and the Bible studies group of the Methodist Sunday School cancelled their lesson in favor of a memorial service attended by more than sixty people (9-5-1894, pg. 5). According to a description of the memorial service, “A picture of Dr. Warren was tastefully draped and the room decorated with flowers.” I have been unable to locate any such photograph. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in the Warren family plot.

Headstone of Warren family, including Dr. Harriet E. Warren, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Warren family, including Dr. Harriet E. Warren, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

I do not know if Robert Walden was correct in naming Harriet Warren the first female physician in Lorain County. In examining a forty-page publication called “Medicine in Lorain County’s First Century” (1960) by C. Ruth Zealley, I found no mention of her, though I did note the inclusion of Wellington doctors Daniel Johns and John Houghton. (A single paragraph discusses female practitioners, and mentions only Dr. Lydia Chapin Jump by name; she graduated from the same school as Warren, though seven years later, and worked in Oberlin.) I am so curious to know more about Warren’s life and professional career. Perhaps someone reading this is a relative and could shed some light through family papers or stories.

I will give the last word to her friend and colleague, John Houghton: “Modest and unpretentious, she yet had a vigorous intellect, a good memory, was an extensive reader and thoroughly in touch with all the progressive ideas and movements of the day. She had for her grievance the woes and misfortunes of the afflicted and oppressed, and in her efforts to compass their release knew no shrinking, no selfishness . . . Her wisdom, her good sense and womanliness, the brightness and strength of her intellect, her cheerful, charitable spirit, her modest yet dignified bearing, her intense love of nature and her appreciation of and tenderness for all God’s creatures were known to all who knew her. The spontaneous expression of sorrow from families who had known her professionally is a worthy tribute of her character.”

UPDATE: Wellington Genealogy Group president Marilyn Wainio generously shared some of her own research findings about Dr. Warren with me. She uncovered seven articles published about Warren in Elyria and Cleveland newspapers. The notices confirm her participation in the Lorain County Medical Association, as well as her being an active member of the Elyria Woman Suffrage Association. There is a passing reference to a Harriet E. Warren who was a published author; if this is the same person, I have not been able to learn what title(s) she wrote. Perhaps most interestingly, there are two pieces about Dr. Warren’s work as the “Dispensary physician” of the Women and Children’s Free Dispensary in Cleveland. The clinic, “organized by lady physicians of this city,” operated out of Cleveland’s Homeopathic Hospital College, where Warren had completed her medical training only two years before. “In addition to the resident dispensary physician, Dr. Harriet E. Warren, who is a most accomplished lady, and thoroughly fitted for her position and duties, there is a very efficient corps of attendant physicians, composed of six well-known lady physicians” (The Cleveland Leader, 1-31-1879, pg. 3). Leaving aside the question of whether Harriet Warren was the first female physician in Lorain County, it certainly seems that women doctors in northeast Ohio were not as scarce as one might have initially supposed by the 1870s.

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Death and Taxes

Detail of 1837 Wellington Corporation tax record. Lawton Wadsworth's 1.5 acres of land in Lot 22 are valued at $11. Immediately below that, his two sons are listed owning a "House" valued at $1,000. I believe this is the first explicit recorded reference to what would become the American House in tax records.

Detail of 1837 Wellington Corporation tax record. Lawton Wadsworth’s 1.5 acres of land in Lot 22 are valued at $11. Immediately below that, his two sons are listed owning a “House” valued at $1,000. I believe this is the first explicit recorded reference in the tax records to what would become known as the American House.

I love tax records. Not my own, of course. But other people’s? Definitely. After my last post about the keepers of the American House, it occurred to me that a closer examination of village property taxes might clarify exactly who owned the hotel and its land, and who simply managed it as an employee. So I looked at all seventy years of records. (Yes, you read that correctly.)

I could trace ownership of the specific lot on which the hotel stood back to 1835, when Lawton Wadsworth first appears in the data. Since taxes are paid after they are accrued, that seems to confirm 1834 as the year the family purchased the land. However, the lot was valued at only $11 for its first three years, which suggests that it remained empty. Not until 1837 did Lawton’s sons, Oliver Sardine and Jabez Lorenzo Wadsworth, appear on the tax rolls with their father, for ownership of a “House” valued at $1,000. There are very few houses separately listed in the 1837 valuations, and I cannot find any valued higher than that of the Wadsworth brothers. My working hypothesis at present is that the structure was sizable and made of brick (to account for the high valuation), but was built a few years later than the date handed down to us. If that theory is correct, it might explain some of the contradictory accounts of which was the “first” brick building erected in the village.

By 1838, Jabez Wadsworth owned the lot formerly held by his father. He and brother Oliver co-owned the “House” for a few years, but by 1841 Jabez alone was the tax payer of record for both land and structure, a status he retained until 1863. There was a single interruption in that twenty-five year period. In 1852, he apparently sold the property to James and H. B. Nelson. In a rare burst of descriptiveness, the tax recorder added the phrase “Tavern stand” next to the parcel number. The Nelsons held the business for a year but by 1854 it belonged to Jabez once again. (At present, I do not know the connection between the Nelsons and J. M. Tuttle, who in 1852 advertised in The Wellington Journal that he had “recently purchased and refitted” the American House.)

Detail of 1852 Wellington Corporation tax record. Shows the transfer of J. L. Wadsworth's "Tavern stand" on lots 4,1 and 4,2 to James and H. B. Nelson. The property was valued at $1,963 at that time.

Detail of 1852 Wellington Corporation tax record. Shows the transfer of J. L. Wadsworth’s “Tavern stand” on lots 4,1 and 4,2 to James and H. B. Nelson. The properties were valued at $1,963 at that time.

In 1863, Wadsworth finally sold the enterprise for good, to N. A. Wood. I do not know the circumstances of the transfer. In 1869, Wadsworth committed suicide and the Lorain County News reported, “The cause of the rash act is supposed to be insanity, produced by financial troubles and loss of property” (9-29-1869, pg. 3). Wood held the hotel for only three or four years, selling it to Hiram Woodworth in 1866 or 1867.

I briefly mentioned Hiram Woodworth at the conclusion of my last post. Born in 1800, Woodworth had experience running a hotel in New York state when he was first married. He relocated his family to Ohio in 1831 and lived in Rochester township for more than thirty years. According to the obituary of his widow, Caroline L. Wales Woodworth, “They then [1863] sold the old homestead and moved on a farm north of the village of Wellington and there resided three years, when they bought and moved into the American hotel, at Wellington. After her husband’s death she made the hotel her home until she bought a home on Magyar street” (Wellington Enterprise, 10-31-1894, pg. 1). Hiram Woodworth died in October 1873. Mrs. Woodworth continued on at the hotel for at least a decade longer; an 1884 notice in the Enterprise announced, “Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Sawtell have taken the apartments lately occupied by Mrs. Woodworth at the American House…” (1-2-1884, pg. 5). Meanwhile, the property remained in Hiram Woodworth’s name for more than twenty years after his death; it was transferred only after Caroline’s passing in 1894.

Hiram Woodworth. "Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio" (1894), pg. 685.

Hiram Woodworth. “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio” (1894), pg. 685.

Who obtained the assets from the Woodworth estate? At first I thought the list of names in the tax register represented some sort of business consortium. Then I read the following in Mrs. Woodward’s obituary: “Four daughters and one son were born to Mr. and Mrs. Woodworth, [namely] Mrs. D. L. Wadsworth of Wellington, Mrs. F. M. Sheldon of Hornellsville, N. Y., Mrs. S. E. Wilcox, and Warren Woodworth.” (The fifth daughter was already deceased.) The names of the individuals who paid taxes on the hotel and land after Caroline Woodworth’s death? Wilcox, Sheldon and Ordway.

Stanley Wilcox, so long associated with the operation, was Hiram and Caroline’s son-in-law. W. A. Woodworth, another noted landlord of the American House, was their son. And their eldest surviving daughter, Rosenia, was married to David Lawton Wadsworth, youngest brother of the hotel’s two original owners. I was positively giddy when these pieces all fell into place.

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.

You may be wondering about the final name in the list, Ordway. David and Rosenia Wadsworth’s daughter, Georgie, married D.B. Ordway in 1885, and briefly lived in Hornellsville near her aunt, Mrs. Sheldon. So all of the American House’s final owners were related by blood or marriage. They eventually sold the property to soon-to-be Ohio governor Myron T. Herrick (elected in 1903), who demolished the hotel to make space for a public library, and first appeared in the tax records in that context in 1902.

David and Rosenia Wadsworth were married in 1850, long before her parents relocated to Wellington. Did David play a role in bringing them to the village? Did he want his new relatives to help him reclaim, in some fashion, the venerable old institution his pioneer family had built and managed for so long? The only certainties in life are death, taxes, and the endless yarn spinning of history lovers.

UPDATE: I found an interesting anecdote while perusing Robert Walden’s local history columns. In an article about the Stemple family (proprietors in the 1890s), Walden wrote: “For some years prior to 1902 the old tavern [of the American House] had been falling apart. It was infested with rats, mice and cockroaches. Mrs. Stemple had waged a successful campaign in a series of battles, including the inspection of every particle of food that came up from the kitchen to the dining room tables, but rats and mice accept no defeat. Besides all of these annoyances and others, the roof to the hotel leaked badly and no one had authority to repair it. During the years when Hiram Woodruf [sic] was the landlord there he had given a mortgage upon the building to Wm. Rininger and died without liquidating the debt. Since his estate had no money for the repair and Mr. Rininger refused to make the repairs himself or authorize them at his expence [sic], each succeeding season worsened the disrepair of the roof” (#A116).

Coincidentally, I also just ran across this notice in The Wellington Enterprise, which seems to corroborate Walden’s comments: “A new tin roof is being laid on the American House by Ranson & Wilbur. It is the first time in 33 years that the hotel has been vacant…” (1-12-1898, pg. 5).

Master of the House

1896 image of The American House, the hotel made famous by the  Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Photo 970095 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

1896 image of the American House, the hotel made famous by the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Photo 970095 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I once read in a description of the American House that no one had ever been able to compile a complete list of its proprietors. I love a challenge, so I have been creating such a list ever since. The hotel was built ca. 1833/34 by the Wadsworth family, and purchased for demolition by Myron T. Herrick in 1902. It existed for fewer than seven decades. The first time I find it referred to as the American House is in an 1852 advertisement in The Wellington Journal.

Below is all the information I have at present on its owners and proprietors. Please note that each year listed indicates that I found a mention for that individual in that year; it was not necessarily that person’s first year associated with the hotel. There is also a lack of clarity in some cases as to whether the individual was the owner and/or the “host,” or what we would today call the hotel manager.

1833/34  [Jabez] Lorenzo and [Oliver] Sardine Wadsworth, brothers

1844        Jabez L[orenzo] Wadsworth

1852        J. M. Tuttle “recently purchased and refitted this establishment” (March)

1858        Oliver S[ardine] and Alma Wadsworth

1859        Mrs. Bishop

1860        B. B. Hawks

1867        Charles Biggs, landlord; David Franks and I. P. Smith, owner

1868        David Franks; Mr. Terrell (as of June) and I. P. Smith, owner

1869        Mr. Terrill; Mr. Woodworth (as of April)

1876        Mr. Wilcox; W. A. Woodworth (as of April)

1877        W. A. Woodworth

1878        Stan. Wilcox “so long identified with this house that [he] is familiar [to] the traveling public and the people of Lorain county generally”

1880        S. E. Wilcox, Proprietor

1881        Stan [no last name given, presumably Wilcox]

1883        Mr. Wilcox; Wm. Jordan, “having rented it for a term of years” (as of May)

1887        Mrs. Dickerman

1889        Mrs Dickerman; Stanley Wilcox (as of April)

1891        S. E. Wilcox “conducted this house from 1869-1883, when he went west. He decided to return and took charge of the house again two years ago and has managed it ever since.”

1892        Landlord [Levi] Stemple

1893        L. Stemple

1898        G. R. Lester of Clyde, Ohio

1899        J. S./I. S. Rinehart of Galion, Ohio

1902        Purchased by Myron T. Herrick; demolished to make space for public library

The most curious case is that of Stanley Wilcox, who apparently was associated with the hotel from 1869 to 1883, and again from 1889 to 1892. During the 1860s and 1870s, W. A. Woodworth was named in the newspaper numerous times as “landlord” and “proprietor” of the hotel. Perhaps Wilcox was the owner of the business at that time, but not handling day-to-day operations. Perhaps they ran the hotel together. Further research is clearly required.

Stanley E. Wilcox. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Stanley E. Wilcox. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

UPDATE: Just after posting, I located an obituary in Lorain County News for Hiram Woodworth, who lived in Wellington from 1863 until his death a decade later. It reads in part, “He purchased the old American House, rebuilt it and made it the comfortable home for travelers that it now is” (10-16-1873, pg. 2). What Hiram’s relationship was to W.A. Woodworth, I do not know. I also do not know the exact dates he owned the hotel, though a man named I. P. Smith was explicitly listed as the owner in notices in The Wellington Enterprise dated 1867 and 1868.

Changes Afoot

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Wellington, Ohio dated February, 1933. Shows the house at 600 North Main Street, and its northern and eastern adjacent neighbors. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 1-26-2014.

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Wellington, Ohio dated February, 1933. Shows the house at 600 North Main Street, and its northern and eastern adjacent neighbors. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 1-26-2014.

I am violating my self-imposed ban on writing about anything in the twentieth century, so that I can offer a concluding chapter on the evolution of the Italianate at 600 North Main Street. I mentioned several months ago that I toured the house with an architectural historian and that many of the alterations he observed in the building occurred after Noah Huckins and Sereno Bacon owned it. This is the story of those changes.

When Sereno’s widow, Mary Bacon, died in 1909, her two living children sold the Italianate to an elderly widow and her youngest daughter. Aura and Edna Perkins took possession of the house, barn, and two lots of land. According to 1910 corporation tax records, the house was then valued at $540 and the barn at $90.

I know very little about Aura Perkins, except that she was a writer who published at least five poems I have found in The Wellington Enterprise. One seems particularly appropriate to this post. It was entitled, ” Beautiful Home,” and read in part: “O the beautiful homes of earth!/Our hearts are filled with pride/As we travel on thro’ the noonday heat,/Or pause at the even tide./The mansion that stately stands–/The cot by the dusty road–/All bear the print of the loving hands/That set up this best abode…” (9-16-1880, pg. 3). Like all of her poems, this one ultimately had a religious theme.

Daughter Edna never married. She spent her working life as a clerk or manager of local shops. In 1916, Rogers and Bill advertised: “We have arranged to leave our store in charge of Miss Edna B. Perkins as manager” (10-11-1916, pg. 5). When she died, her obituary noted that she was “for many years an employee of the E. E. Watters dry goods store” (2-16-1942, pg. 1).

In 1915, Aura and Edna sold off the lot and barn east of the house, fronting Lincoln Street. I do not know if this was due to financial difficulties, but in April of that same year they placed an advertisement in the newspaper offering furnished rooms in exchange for light housekeeping. And it is at just this historical moment that changes begin to appear inside the house.

The modifications suggest an intentional transformation of the residence into two separate living spaces. During the period from about 1910 to 1915, the kitchen was modernized; the back porch and washroom were enclosed and transformed into a downstairs bathroom; a built-in linen closet and chest of drawers (added inside a closet) were installed on the second floor. A second bathroom was created inside a small bedroom closet upstairs, and a tiny second-floor room shows evidence of plumbing work associated with a kitchenette. Most tellingly, an awkward back door was installed in place of a window, with direct and separate access to the second floor.

Undated image of Owen Prosser at work in his shop on North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo 970603 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of Owen Prosser at work in his barbershop on North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo 970603 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I noted in a previous post that I conducted an oral history with Mrs. Pat Markel, whose grandmother and step-grandfather, Owen Prosser, lived in the house in the late 1940s. In fact, federal census records show the Prossers sharing the house at 600 North Main Street with Edna Perkins (Aura died in 1922) as early as 1935. At the time of the 1940 census, Edna Perkins was 70 years old; Owen Prosser was 63 and his wife, Minnie, was 58. Also living in the house was Owen’s son, Harold–known throughout the village as “Shorty”–then 35 years old. The Prossers paid $36 per month in rent.

Mrs. Markel vividly remembered that “Mr. Prosser” (as she always called him) slept alone upstairs, while her grandmother slept in a large room downstairs, between the parlor and kitchen. She recalled a couple called the Newlins living in the “upstairs apartment,” which was essentially created by closing a single door between the back part of house and an upstairs landing. The Newlins, she remembered, did not share her grandmother’s kitchen, and always exited out the back door.

I assumed that after Edna Perkins’ death in February 1942, the Prossers (who, remember, had already been tenants in the house for at least seven years by then) relocated into the more spacious section of the home. But I was wrong. I found Edna Perkins’ probate documents and the inventory of her possessions clearly states: “Household furnishings of three room apartment.” So even though she was the owner of the property, Perkins was living in three small rooms upstairs while another family occupied the majority of the building. The inventory is rather remarkable in that, while occupying only three rooms, Perkins somehow fit fifteen chairs!

Headstone of the Perkins family at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Edna Perkins' name is listed on one side of the monument with three siblings; her parents are listed on the other. Photo by author.

Headstone of the Perkins family at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Edna Perkins’ name is listed on one side of the monument with three siblings; her parents are listed on the other. Photo by author.

Edna Perkins left the Italianate at 600 North Main Street to her niece, Hazel Perkins White, of Willard, Ohio. According to the 1910 federal census, Hazel had lived there with Aura and Edna when she was a teenager. She sold the house immediately, and the new owner apparently wanted to use the property for rental income, as he allowed the Prossers to remain for a number of years. The 1950 federal census is not yet available to check, but Mrs. Markel thinks it might have been as late as 1948 before they moved. Owen Prosser died in 1953.

While I might uncover more details about the life of Noah Huckins, this will be my last post about 600 North Main Street. Part of the reason for my recent absence from working on this blog is that my husband and I sold the house about two weeks ago. Out of respect for the privacy of the new owners, I will now be turning my attention elsewhere. The good news is that we still live in Wellington; the “bad” news is that our new house was built in the early twentieth century. But it does have a history strongly rooted in the previous century, and I will begin writing that story in the weeks to come.

The Case of the Mysteriously Missing Mayor

Denver, Territory of Colorado, ca. 1872. Image X-19446, Denver Public Library Digital Collections.

Denver, Territory of Colorado, ca. 1872. Image X-19446, Denver Public Library Digital Collections.

“On Tuesday evening Mr. Foster was arrested and brought before Mayor Huckins, on the charge of selling cider to a person in the habit of getting intoxicated. His line of defense was that the cider, though seven months old, was perfectly sweet and entirely harmless…The Mayor seems to have differed from him in opinion, as he was fined $10, and costs” (Lorain County News, 5-9-1872, pg. 3).

I first became aware that Noah Huckins had served as mayor of Wellington when I was looking at a copy of History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879). The volume includes a sequential list of all the mayors from the year of incorporation in 1855 until publication more than two decades later. The dates are very regular up to the time of Huckins’ election; a standard term of office by the 1870s was two years, but he served just six months. No explanation is given.

List of Wellington mayors from 1855 until 1879. From "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), pg. 352.

List of Wellington mayors from 1855 until 1879. From “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), pg. 352.

I was struck while looking at this list by a feeling of déjà vu. I realized that I had seen the very same chronology included in Ernst Henes’ 1983 publication, Historic Wellington Then and Now. But when I rechecked that list (pg. 28), Huckins was nowhere to be found. Henes left him off entirely, skipping straight from J. B. Lang (1870-1872) to J. W. Houghton (1873-1874) without accounting for the gap in dates.

The Wellington Enterprise largely does not survive from the period that Huckins was in office. For months I have wondered why he did not complete his term. Everything I have ever read about the man testifies to his upright character so a scandal of some kind seemed unlikely. I know from cemetery records that he and second wife Ermina Adams Huckins had a stillborn baby–her first and tragically, his second, lost child–in February of 1872. But if the pain of that loss played some role, why had Huckins stood for election and accepted the office of mayor just two months later, only to resign in the autumn?

I mentioned in a previous post that I recently began looking at the Village of Wellington Council Journals and Ordinance Records with the Wellington Genealogy Group. The very first volume I examined contained the year 1872, during which Huckins served then resigned. His entire six months in office fills only a dozen manuscript pages. He was sworn in by the sitting mayor, J. B. Lang, on April 20th “to serve as Mayor of the incorporated Village of Wellington for the period of Two Years” (No. 2, pg. 97). The first hint of trouble does not occur until July 24th, when “By reason of the inability of the Mayor by illness — J. B. Lang was appointed Mayor ad interim — by unanimous vote of the Council” (No. 2, pg. 104).

Detail of Village of Wellington Council Journal and Ordinance Record, recording the swearing-in of Noah Huckins as mayor on April 20, 1872. No. 2, pg. 97. Photo by author.

Detail of Village of Wellington Council Journal and Ordinance Record, recording the swearing-in of Noah Huckins as mayor on April 20, 1872. No. 2, pg. 97. Photo by author.

Council adjourned for two weeks, but Huckins was not present at the next meeting on August 7th. He reappeared at the August 14th and 28th meetings, but was gone again on September 11th. Then on the 18th, this note appears amongst an otherwise routine list of motions about paying fees and assessing road taxes: “Mayor Huckins tendered his resignation to take effect immediately — which on motion was accepted — On motion the clerk was instructed to call a Special election to be held on Saturday evening — Sept 28 1872 — to elect one Mayor in place of N- Huckins resigned” (No. 2, pg. 106). No further elucidation is offered for this rather extraordinary occurrence, which so far as I know is unique in the nineteenth-century history of the town.

Though “illness” seemed to be as much detail as I was going to find, I continued to hope that more information was available. I decided to check the Lorain County News, a weekly paper published in Oberlin during the period in which the Enterprise no longer exists. On August 15th, the Wellington correspondent submitted this notice: “RETURNED.–Mayor Huckins returned last week from a trip up the lakes. He took the journey for the benefit of his health, and was absent from home about six weeks” (pg. 2). This coincides with Huckins’ dates of absence from Council meetings between early July and mid-August, but he was likely gone for only four weeks.

And then, on October 3rd, the paper printed this: “NEW MAYOR.–An election for mayor, to fill the place of N. Huckins, resigned, was held at the Town Hall, on Saturday evening. Dr. J. W. Houghton was elected to fill the vacancy. The many friends of Mr. Huckins, will deeply regret that his health compels him to seek for a home in a milder climate. He intends to spend the winter at Denver City. It may be a consolation to the Greeley men to know that Mr. Huckins will remain in town until after the State election” (pg. 2).

This passage suggests that Huckins was considering relocating away from Wellington permanently. Clearly that did not happen, though I don’t know why. Perhaps his health improved. I don’t know if he ever visited Denver. I have evidence that he was in town in May 1873, and his son Howard was born in Wellington in June 1874. The following year, 1875, Ermina’s father Gideon Adams died. Shortly thereafter, Huckins dissolved his hardware partnership with J. W. Wilbur and started N. Huckins & Co.; he also began building an Italianate-style house on Adams family land north of town. If he ever ventured into Colorado, which became a state in 1876, it was only as a tourist.

I remain curious to know what his specific ailment might have been. Huckins had two children who died in infancy or at birth, and his two surviving children both suffered from serious health issues. Son Howard had an operation when he was twenty-five “with a view of effecting a permanent cure of the difficulty with which he has suffered for some time on account of a gathering in his neck” (Wellington Enterprise, 11-1-1899, pg. 4). Daughter Ibla died at only twenty-seven, “a great sufferer from a difficulty of the neck and throat, which affected her hearing, and which finally became so severe as to demand an immediate operation” (Oberlin News, 7-25-1905, pg. 1). The “severe and lengthy operation” led to the “surgical shock” from which she died. Her obituary compared her to Helen Keller and characterized her life as being good and useful, despite being “handicapped by infirmity.” Ibla Huckins attended the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music for six years–a fact mentioned in neither of her published obituaries–so I wonder if her hearing impairment occurred near the end of her life.

It is the insatiable greed of the historian (and genealogist) that every mystery we solve is immediately replaced with two or three or twenty more. I wonder sometimes what Noah Huckins would think about a total stranger obsessively piecing together the details of his life, a century after his death…tax and real estate records, business partnerships, personal relations, medical history. Would he be amused? Confused? Horrified? Angry to have his privacy invaded? There I go, asking unanswerable questions again.

UPDATE: Perhaps not so unanswerable after all.

Odds and Ends

The Leviathan visits Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

The Leviathan visits Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

It has been a few weeks since my last post so I wanted to touch base with you, dear readers, to assure you that I have neither forgotten nor abandoned this blog. In fact, several rather exciting things have happened of late that directly pertain to my ongoing research project.

Firstly, this is the weekend that the Leviathan is visiting Wellington. You may recall that the Leviathan is a reproduction of the steam engine that pulled President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train across the nation–and right through Wellington–in 1865. My family rode the train yesterday and had a wonderful time. There are four trips scheduled for tomorrow (Easter Sunday) and a limited number of tickets are available for purchase trackside. If you are in the area, I highly recommend making time in your holiday schedule. All proceeds go toward the larger Lincoln Funeral Train replication and cross-country commemorative trip next year.

I have also been privileged recently to join the Wellington Genealogy Group. This is a dedicated, hard-working body of individuals who are committed to preserving the primary documents of Wellington’s past. The project we embarked on just this week is to digitize the Council Journals and Ordinance Records of the village dating back to 1855, the year of incorporation. The very first volume I picked up contained the records of council business in 1872, when the mayor of the town was one Noah Huckins. You can imagine how excited I am to read more.

Endpaper of Council Journal and Ordinance Records of the Incorporated Village of Wellington, No. 1 [1855-1869]. Photo by author.

Endpaper of Council Journal and Ordinance Records of the Incorporated Village of Wellington, No. 1 [1855-1869]. Photo by author.

At the same time, the genealogy group is preparing transcriptions of the records of Wellington’s Congregational Church for publication. (They have already issued a similar volume for First United Methodist Church records dating back to the 1850s.) The documentary history of the Congregational Church is particularly rich, beginning more than three decades before the village was incorporated, in 1824. It provides a unique window into the lives of some of Wellington’s earliest settlers.

The focus of my own research has been slowly shifting further back in time, and I’m currently investigating some families who lived in town as early as the 1820s. One of the people I am interested in is a man named John Reed, a merchant who was very active in the Congregational Church. Reed drowned in the Black River in 1855. While looking at his probate documents, I came across a twenty-page inventory of his belongings, most likely including the contents of his store. (His building stood at what is today the intersection of North Main Street and West Herrick Avenue, occupied since 1873 by Benedict’s Block–named, incidentally, for Ethel Benedict. He was John Reed’s brother-in-law, and took charge of his business affairs and real estate, after Reed’s tragic death.) The inventory has pages of personal and business accounts being settled with Reed’s estate, thousands of dollars in credit presumably extended for the purchase of goods. Teasing apart the networks of connectedness and examining the material culture contained within this single document could fill a doctoral dissertation.

At present, I am pursuing eight different topics that I hope will each result in a post. After that, who knows? I wrote back in October that I thought I was nearing the end of the line (Leviathan pun intended) and seven months later, I am still finding things to be curious about. I will say that now that spring is finally here, I will have less time for weekend library excursions, as grass must be mown and weeds pulled. I hope you all will be enjoying the warm weather so much you won’t even notice my absences. As always, I welcome your comments, questions, and suggestions of topics.

The Congregational Church(es)

First Congregational Church, 140 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

First Congregational Church, 140 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

It is impossible to study the history of Wellington, Ohio without learning something about the history of the Congregational Church in this community. I am in no way qualified to speak to the complex theological and political issues that shaped the church’s evolution across the nineteenth century. Those interested in a detailed examination of antebellum Presbyterian and Congregational reform movements, for example, should review the work of my fellow blogger and Wellington historian, Joshua Fahler.

I am interested in architecture as material culture, however, and so I have been tracing the different church facilities erected in the village since its settlement in 1818. The Congregational churches are particularly interesting in the ways in which they interweave with the overall development of the town.

Secondary sources often identify the first place of worship of the ‘Church of Wellington’ at what is now the intersection of North Main Street and East Herrick Avenue. The History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) recorded, “The first place of meeting was a log school house at the center, where the brick block on the corner now stands” (pg. 354). Rev. W. E. Barton’s A History of the First Congregational Church of Wellington, Ohio (1892) concurred: “The first meeting house was a log school-house standing on the corner where J. S. Mallory & Co’s store is now located” (pg. 24). Robert Walden wrote in the mid-twentieth century, “The first church at the center of Wellington was DeWolf’s Temperance. It was open for services April 20, 1824, in a log building at the corner of Public Square and North Main Street. The building was called DeWolf’s Temperance Tavern and was just what its name implied–a temperance lodging where no liquor was for sale” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A158).

Neither Walden nor either of the other volumes offer any documentary evidence to support their assertions. The specific date that Walden cites–April 20, 1824–was the date on which a church body was officially constituted in the village. In the earliest days, services rotated among the private homes of members, including that of Amos Adams, as the unpublished manuscript records of the group show. They also met in the “Center School House at Wellington” on at least one occasion in November 1825. It was not until three years after constitution, in May 1827, that the congregants voted to receive “Mr. Matthew D. Wolf and his Wife Mary…from the Church of Otis” (Records of the First Congregational Church…, unpublished mss., pg. 11).

Mathew DeWolf’s obituary in The Lorain County News noted his forty-year membership in the church, but said nothing about him playing host to the congregation in his business establishment. (I examined his lovely psalter in a previous post.) Interestingly, the author of the obituary, J. B. Lang, knew first-hand that DeWolf had been a school teacher in the village, as Lang was one of his early pupils. Lang knew DeWolf emigrated to Wellington from Otis, Massachusetts “about the year 1827” (7-19-1865, pg. 3). Was there an early structure, belonging at some point to DeWolf, that served as a school, a public house, and a house of worship? I have no definitive proof but it seems plausible to me.

When Wellington’s first Town Hall was erected on Public Square in 1829, that building definitely served as both a civic arena and a religious facility. The Wellington Enterprise published a transcription of the 1829 “Subscription for Town House &C” which read in part, “We the undersigned agree to pay the sums annexed to our names, to be expended in erecting a brick building at the center of Wellington, in the lower story of which there is to be a school room for the use of the district…the remainder of the building to be at the disposal of the first congregational society in Wellington provided they shall lay a tile or brick floor to the upper story and that said story shall at all times be open for the transaction of town business and funerals…” (5-12-1886, pg. 3). The subscribed amount for the proposed hall was $119.50.

The Enterprise dated the dismantling of this first town hall to 1845, but that is not certain. History of the First Congregational Church recorded that (perhaps even before the hall was taken down) a frame structure was erected on the adjacent lot by the congregants in 1839, but it burned to the ground that winter (pg. 25). The same information is included in History of Lorain County, with a note that the loss on the fire was “about three thousand dollars” (pg. 355).

“The next season the church and society entered upon the work of rebuilding, and put up and finished a new one, upon the same site, and upon the same plan as that destroyed, at about the same cost,” it continues. This 1840 structure, which over time came to be referred to as the ‘Old White Church’ is the first Congregational house of worship of which I have located images. If the text in History of Lorain County is correct and the Old White Church was built “upon the same plan” as the 1839 church that burned, we can hypothesize that its facade was similar, if not identical.

"The Old White Church, Built in 1840." Engraving featured in "The Wellington Enterprise," 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

“The Old White Church, Built in 1840.” Engraving featured in “The Wellington Enterprise,” 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

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

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

In 1885, when plans were underway to construct the present Town Hall, the wooden structure being used as a town hall was sold at auction to W. R. Santley and Co. for $209 “that being the highest bid received” (Enterprise, 6-3-1885, pg. 5). In 1892, the same year Barton published, a fire broke out at Santley’s lumber company on the evening of August 3rd. The newspaper headline proclaimed, “The old Congregational Church and Town Hall Reduced to Ashes.” The article explained, “The company owned the building, which was once a Congregational church and then served as a town hall until 1885, when it was purchased by the lumber company and removed to the mill yard” on Magyar Street (8-10-1892, pg. 5). This was the Old White Church.

Over the course of the century, the Congregational Church in Wellington experienced at least two schisms, during which members withdrew from the main body and formed other churches. I would refer those interested in a  more comprehensive explanation to read the two published histories of the church and Mr. Fahler’s work. The first group, which called itself the Independent Church, organized in 1843 and eventually reunited with the main body in 1851. It “had no house of worship, but met in the town hall, which even before the division had often been used by the First Church for social meetings” (History of the First Congregational Church, pg. 25).

In 1852, a smaller group of dissenters again broke away from the First Church and called themselves the Free Church of Wellington. The Free Church apparently “received two hundred dollars’ assistance in building its house” (pg. 20) from the Home Missionary Society and put up a frame structure just north of the site of the present church, on the west side of South Main Street. The two factions reunited in 1861.

"The Old Free Church, Built in 1852." Engraving featured in "The Wellington Enterprise," 8-28-1901, pg. 2. Photo by author.

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

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

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

The Lorain County News reported in early 1866 that “a movement is on foot to thoroughly repair the Congregational Church in this place, which has been long needed. The township trustees are repairing, fitting up and thoroughly painting the Town Hall, which will do away with the necessity of using the church for everything, as for some time past” (3-28-1866, pg. 3). By the end of the year, the church had “received a coat of paint on the outside, which adds greatly to its appearance. The thorough repairing lately given it makes it a very pleasant place of worship.” At the same time, “a fine stone walk, and…lamp post” were installed in front of the Town Hall (12-19-1866, pg. 3). It seems that in 1866, the term ‘Town Hall’ referred to the Old Free Church and the Congregational Church was then the Old White Church. In 1892, Barton wrote that the Free Church building “is now used by Christie & Bennett as a wagon shop” (pg. 25). Ten years later, the Enterprise reported that “the old wagon shop that fronts the railroad tracks south of West Main street and now occupied by Mr. Harry Bennett, was once the Congregational church of this place” (8-6-1902, pg. 1). Its ultimate fate is not known.

[UPDATE: For March 2017 speculation on the fate of the Old White Church, click here.]

When the theological and political rifts of the war years were healing, the next major difficulty faced by the congregation was overcrowding. The coming of the railroad and the Cheese Boom had increased both the population and the overall wealth of the community in the years since the construction of the two wood-framed sanctuaries. Many of the town’s most prominent businessmen were members of the Congregational faith. When a subscription was raised to erect a magnificent brick church on the corner of South Main and Magyar Streets in January 1878, contributors included Noah Huckins, John Wilbur, John Artz, Sidney Warner, Watson Wean, Timothy Doland, David Wadsworth, Sereno Bacon, Joseph Turley, Albert Couch, and many more. I have written before about Hiram Allyn receiving the construction contract for the project, which totaled some $25,000.

"First Brick Church--Built 1878-1879, Burned 1895." From "A History of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Wellington, Ohio, 1824-1974," by the Rev. Ronald Boldman.

“First Brick Church–Built 1878-1879, Burned 1895.” From “A History of First Congregational United Church of Christ of Wellington, Ohio, 1824-1974,” by the Rev. Ronald Boldman.

The 1879 building, which Barton called “the finest and best arranged church edifice in the county, and outside the large cities, one of the very best in the state” (pg. 25) does indeed sound impressive in the descriptions of the time. Its heating and lighting systems were the latest technologies, and its interior was sumptuous. Sadly, it caught fire and was totally destroyed in February 1895. It was less than two decades old.

Interior view of the 1879 brick Congregational Church, which burned in 1895. Photo 970465 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Interior view of the 1879 brick Congregational Church, which burned in 1895. Photo 970465 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

The present brick church, shown at the top of the post, was constructed on the site of the burned church. G. Frederick Wright’s A Standard History of Lorain County was published in 1916, but he copied so much content directly from The History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) that he did not even bother to note the destruction of the 1879 church and its later replacement, which occurred almost immediately. The present church was dedicated in September 1896.