Category Archives: Genealogy

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.

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When This You See, Remember Me

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author's collection.

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author’s collection.

One of my earliest posts was a small grouping of images taken by local photographer William F. Sawtell. I have continued to collect samples of his work while writing this blog, and I thought it would be enjoyable to feature a few more portraits in this entry.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author's collection.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author’s collection.

This little beauty has an unknown substance sprinkled across her surface, but I like her both because I think it is a charming composition, and also because she is the only example I have that features the photographer’s identification on the front of the card. Sawtell clearly used at least two variant spellings of his last name during his career.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author's collection.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author’s collection.

Ladies far outnumber gentleman in my small sampling. This is one particularly strong image of an older man.

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author's collection.

Verso of a William F. Sawtell photograph. Author’s collection.

The style of the back of a portrait is sometimes as compelling as the photograph itself. I particularly like the two versos that I have featured here. Both include a camera as well as an artist’s paint palette. While this is likely a visual allusion to the photographer as artist, I like that it also calls to mind Sawtell’s actual talents as a painter.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author's collection.

Undated photograph by William F. Sawtell. Author’s collection.

This young lady is a stunner. The verso of her image is identical to the one shown at the top of the post. Note the similarity in backdrops to the gentleman above.

I wish there was a way to determine the identities of any of these individuals. They might be the relatives of someone reading this blog. As much as I love collecting these old photographs, it also makes me a tiny bit sad. When I visit local antique shops, and search through endless piles of such pictures–keepsakes once so precious to their original owners–I can’t help but think of them as orphans. They are cut adrift in time. Remembrances, without the remembering.

Famous Faces

1865 image of President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train. Used with permission of The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train.

1865 image of President Abraham Lincoln’s funeral train. Used with permission of The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train.

I have been keeping an informal, penciled list on a folder for some months, of all the famous individuals who visited Wellington during the nineteenth century. I thought it might be fun to share as a post. I will add to this compilation if I discover additional names.

The image above shows the funeral train of President Abraham Lincoln, assassinated in 1865. I wrote recently about the replica train now under construction. The original train, carrying the president’s remains, traveled through Wellington on April 29, 1865. Huge crowds turned out at two o’clock in the morning, in a driving rain, to see the slain leader pass.

President Rutherford B.  Hayes (1822-1893). Image from Wikipedia.

President Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893). Image from Wikipedia.

Rutherford B. Hayes was close friends with local businessman Sidney Sardus Warner. Hayes gave a speech in Wellington after taking office as Governor of Ohio in 1868. He and wife Lucy Hayes were frequently mentioned in the local newspaper, particularly after they left the White House in 1881, visiting the village by rail. Some of Warner’s personal papers are now housed at the Hayes Presidential Center in Fremont, Ohio. Warner’s daughter, Orrie Louisa, was a guest of Mrs. Hayes in Washington D. C. during the 1881 inauguration of James Garfield.

President James A. Garfield (1831-1881). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

President James A. Garfield (1831-1881). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

I have written about Garfield’s connections to Wellington. He visited the village at least twice prior to his election to the presidency. In November 1860, he dedicated the Disciples Church, still standing at 123 Union Street. Nearly two decades later he returned, in the autumn of 1879, to give a political speech at the (second) Town Hall.

President William McKinley (1843-1901). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

President William McKinley (1843-1901). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Lincoln and Garfield were the two U. S. presidents murdered in the nineteenth century; William McKinley was the first of two to be assassinated in the twentieth. McKinley had a lengthy political career in Ohio, including serving as governor, prior to being elected to the White House in 1896. He spoke in Wellington while running for Congress in 1884, and made a whistle stop in the village during his successful campaign for a second presidential term in 1900.

Belgian actress Mlle. Rhea, born Hortense-Barbe Loret (1845-1899). From "The Cabinet Card Gallery" Blog.

Belgian actress Mlle. Rhea, born Hortense-Barbe Loret (1845-1899). From The Cabinet Card Gallery.

Mademoiselle Rhea may not be a household name now, but she was quite a famous actress in the late 1800s. I described her performances at the 1886 opening of the Opera House in a previous post.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872). Image from Wikipedia.

Horace Greeley (1811-1872). Image from Wikipedia.

Horace Greeley is the newspaper editor and political activist who famously wrote, “Go West, young man,” in support of America’s territorial expansion, our so-called “Manifest Destiny.” He spoke before the Wellington Lecture Association in February 1861. His topic was “America West of the Mississippi,” and drew a very large audience despite inclement weather.

Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895). Image from Wikipedia.

Frederick Douglass (c. 1818-1895). Image from Wikipedia.

Frederick Douglass was one of the most famous authors and public speakers of nineteenth-century America. He gave a lecture in town in the spring of 1868. “The Colored Orator of world wide reputation” was invited by the Wellington Reading Room Association. “Don’t fail to hear Fred Douglass on Friday,” cautioned The Lorain County News, “We do not often have an opportunity of hearing as distinguished a man as Fred” (3-25-1868, pg. 3).

Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Salmon P. Chase (1808-1873). Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Salmon P. Chase served as a senator and governor of Ohio, U. S. Treasury Secretary, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court during his long career. He passed through Wellington while traveling to Columbus by train in June 1860. Chase had lost the presidential nomination to Abraham Lincoln at the Republican National Convention in Chicago just one month earlier. It was a heavy blow to his pride, particularly since the defection of several Ohio delegates in support of Lincoln began the turn of the overall political tide in his favor. Still, the notice of Chase’s brief visit quotes him as saying that “the administration of Abraham Lincoln would be characterized by its honesty and ability” (The Lorain County News, 6-13-1860, pg. 3). For those interested in a deeper exploration of what Chase privately thought of Lincoln (spoiler alert: not much) I highly recommend Doris Kearns Goodwin’s excellent Team of Rivals.

The Liberty Bell. Image from Wikipedia.

The Liberty Bell. Image from Wikipedia.

Not a person, I realize, but an iconic object nonetheless. The Liberty Bell stopped in Wellington on April 27, 1893, on its way to the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The bell was traveling via train on the Big Four railway line, so Mayor George Couch wrote to the committee organizing the exposition (of which Charles Horr’s brother was conveniently a member) and asked that the train stop here. The village organized a series of celebratory activities, including a parade of student scholars, a welcome address, and a public viewing of the famous visitor. The train depot was decorated patriotically and local photographers H. H. Saunders & Son took an image of the bell that they later offered in print form for $0.25 to $0.50. The visit lasted thirty minutes.

UPDATE: The eagle-eyed among you will note that I have removed the image and text related to Mark Twain. Subsequent research uncovered the fact that the person who arrived in Wellington in June 1868 and introduced himself as the famous author was, in fact, a charlatan. “Twain” agreed to deliver a lecture at the Methodist Church, going so far as to announce it via a letter published in The Wellington Enterprise. But when he was told that a visitor from California was in the village whose husband knew the celebrity, “Twain” caught the next train out of town, leaving behind an unpaid hotel bill “and five cents for a collar at Shrier’s” (The Lorain County News, 6-24-1868, pg. 3). As Mark Twain famously did not observe, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Volume 1, Number 1

Detail of masthead for "The Wellington Enterprise," 9-19-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

Detail of masthead for “The Wellington Enterprise,” 9-19-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

This is a cautionary tale about (mis)trusting source materials when conducting research. For as long as I have been studying the history of Wellington, Ohio, one question I have come back to repeatedly is: when was the town newspaper, The Wellington Enterprise, first published? I have seen so many different dates asserted, and so many detailed and conflicting stories about its origins, that I almost gave up hope that the question was answerable. Recently I thought of a solution simple enough that I am inclined to believe someone else must have thought of it before, ergo it must be incorrect. I decided to lay out my evidence and let you, dear reader, be the judge.

I have pondered how to present this material so it is not hopelessly confusing. The approach I have settled on is to organize the sources for each of the five years that were allegedly the “first” year of publication.

1863

I have an undated photocopy of an Enterprise article (printed after 1939) that reads as follows: “On Jan. 6, 1908, Publisher H. O. Fifield wrote: ‘The Enterprise enters its 45th year of public service today…’ If Fifield was correct in this statement the first issue of the paper would have been dated 1863.” I went looking for the original Fifield piece and discovered two things. First, the issue in which it was printed was actually dated January 6, 1909; the typesetter forgot to change the year dates in each of the paper’s mastheads and the entire issue is misdated. Second, in looking at the papers around this issue I determined that in September 1908, another typographical error was made. The year 1908 had been listed as volume 43, but between the September 2 and September 9 issues, it was erroneously typeset as volume 44 and the error was perpetuated for the rest of the year. If the newspaper was actually entering its forty-fourth year of service as 1909 began, that would put its initial publication date in 1866.

1864

This is the date that is most widely accepted in Wellington. In fact, this year the Enterprise is officially celebrating its 150th birthday. Proudly bearing a special anniversary masthead, the paper is each week reprinting articles and photographs from years past to commemorate being “Lorain County’s oldest published newspaper.”

Front page of "The Wellington Enterprise" featuring 150th anniversary masthead.  1-2-2014, pg. 1. Photo by author.

Front page of “The Wellington Enterprise” featuring 150th anniversary masthead. 1-2-2014, pg. 1. Photo by author.

I believe the 1864 date originated with Ernst Henes, editor and publisher of the periodical for nearly five decades. I do not know his source for it. Henes loved local history and under his management, the Enterprise produced commemorative issues in 1939 (75th anniversary of the paper), 1964 (100th anniversary of the paper) and 1968 (150th anniversary of the settlement of the village). Henes also claimed 1864 as the paper’s start date in his own 1983 book, Historic Wellington Then and Now.

1865

Published in 1879, History of Lorain County, Ohio confidently asserted, “In the summer of 1865, James A. Guthrie of Delaware, Ohio, removed to Wellington and commenced the publication of The Wellington Enterprise. The first issue was dated September 25, 1865…On March 1, 1866, Mr. Guthrie sold the paper to John C. Artz” (pg. 67). The facts are so specific and direct that they seem to defy the reader to question them. G. Frederick Wright was obviously convinced; when he published his own two-volume A Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio in 1916, he copied the entire passage nearly verbatim (pg. 526). And when the Ohio Historical Society crafted a description of the newspaper for its collection records, a narrative later used by the Library of Congress for its digital newspaper repository, it also employed the 1865 date. I am guessing that its sources included these two reference works.

Mrs. W. B. Vischer delivered a paper entitled, “History of Wellington,” to a ladies’ literary society in the village in 1922. Walter Cole was editor of the Enterprise at the time and he was so impressed (“It is a very comprehensive outline…worthy of preservation.”) that he offered it as a special supplement to the June 6th edition. Mrs. Vischer claimed, “James A. Guthrie from Delaware came in 1865 and started the Enterprise. He gave the paper its name ‘Enterprise.’ In 1866 Mr. Guthrie sold the Enterprise to Mr. J. C. Artz, who remained editor until Oct. 1876…” (pg. 10). She did not identify her sources.

1866

In 1892, the Enterprise itself reported, “October 1, 1866, this paper was started, and had two or three owners the first year, after which John C. Artz purchased it and placed it on a good foundation” (10-12-1892, pg. 5). Less than three months later, in January 1893, it proclaimed among the local news items, “Vol. XXVII. of the ENTERPRISE,” which would, in fact, place its birthdate in 1867.

In the undated article I referenced above, the author noted, “In reply to the publisher’s query the Western Reserve Historical Society fixed the beginning year as 1867 which we are positive is wrong since we have on file an issue of 1866.” A few sentences later, the reporter wrote that James A. Guthrie published the paper for only a few months, selling to John C. Artz on March 1, 1866. No source was provided for this statement.

1867

Let me start off with my “weaker” evidence for this year. In 1869, George P. Rowell and Company’s American Newspaper Directory described the Enterprise as “established 1867” (pg. 91).

In 1899, the Enterprise touted the start of its “thirty-third year of existence” and recalled how “in October, 1867, Mr. James M. Guthrie of Delaware, O., came to this place and succeeded in securing from the business men a loan of some $600 to be paid back in advertising. Mr. Guthrie then moved a part of his newspaper plant from Delaware to Wellington, and began the work of establishing the first newspaper here. But lack of capital compelled Mr. Guthrie to sell out to Mr. J. C. Artz, who at the time was foreman of the paper, and who afterwards owned and published the paper until…1877” (1-4-1899, pg. 4).

Undated image of five living editors of "The Wellington Enterprise." John Clippinger Artz is seated on the far left; next to him are Dr. John Houghton and Henry Fifield. Walter Cole (l) and Robert Walden (r) are standing. Photo 970460 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of five living editors of “The Wellington Enterprise.” John Clippinger Artz is seated on the far left; next to him are Dr. John Houghton and Henry Fifield. Walter Cole (l) and Robert Walden (r) are standing. Photo 970460 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

When J. C. Artz died in 1926, his Enterprise obituary recalled that “after working in Philadelphia and Pittsburg he came to Wellington in the fall of 1867 when publication of The Enterprise was commenced by J. M. Guthrie” (12-2-1926, pg. 1).

And now, the “stronger” evidence:

In August and September of 1867, I have found four separate mentions in The Lorain County News of James Guthrie coming to Wellington from Delaware, Ohio “prospecting with a view of starting a newspaper” (8-7-1867, pg. 3). On September 4, it was announced that he would “issue within a few days the initial number of a weekly newspaper” (pg. 3). On the 10th, a description of his printing facilities “over Brainard’s Grocery” was offered (pg. 3). Finally, on September 25th, this: “The ‘Wellington Enterprise’ has made its appearance, and we are all well pleased with so fine a sheet…Mr. Guthrie is a talented young man and will spare no labor to make the ‘Enterprise’ an entertaining sheet for an enterprising town and community” (pg. 3).

I commented at the beginning of the post that a very simple solution presented itself to me recently. In all the months I have been poring over copies of the paper and wondering when it began, it never once occurred to me to check the volume number on the very first extant issue, namely September 19, 1867. It says, “Vol. 1 No. 1.” A two-column introductory essay from “JAS. M. GUTHRIE, Editor.” takes up the entire left side of the issue. In my defense, the newspaper was so darkened and tattered from age and use by the time it was microfilmed that some text adjacent to the left margin is illegible. But I recently transcribed it in its entirety and it reads in part, “Having fully decided to establish a journal in this place, a decision involving a relinquishing of another, we debated for a time the expediency of transferring our paper to this place, continuing here its publication. There were several objections to this plan, and after thinking over the matter, we concluded it best to begin an entirely new one…after due consideration we decided to christen our publication in this place THE WELLINGTON ENTERPRISE” (9-19-1867, pg. 1).

Detail of masthead for "The Wellington Enterprise," 9-19-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

Detail of masthead for “The Wellington Enterprise,” 9-19-1867, pg. 1. Photo by author.

I found one final report in The Lorain County News that seems relevant: “Newspaper swindle. The ‘Home Journal’ recently published here by J. M. Guthrie was suddenly discontinued last week owing to the disappearance of the office and of the proprietor–who had left three or four hundred dollars worth of debts behind him, and many disappointed creditors, who are making uncomplimentary remarks concerning him to the effect that he is a swindler, a rascal, and unworthy the confidence of any community. His present whereabouts are unknown, but it is generally supposed that he is at Granville, O., where he had made arrangements to start another wild cat sheet” (7-15-1868, pg. 3). I say ‘seems’ relevant because two things trouble me about it: it was published on the page featuring news from around the county, but sits directly above the section for Wellington. Also, the fact that it calls the newspaper in question ‘Home Journal’ makes me wonder if that is an oblique reference written by a Wellington correspondent to the Enterprise, or the actual name of another county paper. If it does refer to the Enterprise, it would appear to shed light on the transfer of ownership from Guthrie to his foreman Artz so soon after launch.

Regardless of how Guthrie’s role in the business ended, I now believe The Wellington Enterprise began September 19, 1867. I do not believe that 2014 is its 150th anniversary year.

I am troubled by only one sentence: “In reply to the publisher’s query the Western Reserve Historical Society fixed the beginning year as 1867 which we are positive is wrong since we have on file an issue of 1866.” I cannot account for this statement. Had the reporter actually seen this object, or simply been told that it existed? I have seen many misdated issues of the Enterprise; could the issue in question have been an example of that? Was there an earlier paper with the same name? I find that scenario unlikely given the coverage in the Lorain County News and the introductory essay in the September 19, 1867 issue. But I would dearly love to be proved wrong by someone placing an 1866 issue of the Enterprise in my hands.

UPDATE: For a comprehensive history of The Wellington Enterprise in the nineteenth-century, begin here.

Wellington Milling Company

Wellington Milling Company, ca. 1890. Photo 970601 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Wellington Milling Company, ca. 1890. Photo 970601 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

While I have enjoyed learning about other residents of Wellington during the nineteenth century, the primary focus of my research has remained Canadian émigré Noah Huckins, the man who built my house. I continue to try to understand as much as I can about his life in the village. I haven’t posted everything I have found, however, for fear of boring everyone reading this blog.

I discovered, for example, that Huckins served as township clerk in 1885 and 1886, the period during which our present Town Hall was constructed. He was elected mayor in April of 1872, though he resigned in September of the same year and was succeeded by his former classmate and future neighbor John Houghton. So far as I am able to determine, Huckins was the only Wellington mayor to resign during the 1800s, but I have no idea why.

I have continued to investigate Huckins’ connection to what is now Baldwin Wallace University. Noah’s older brother, George Huckins, was a member of its very first graduating class in 1859 and studied to become a Methodist minister. I recently read a new history of the founding of the school, written by one of its faculty members. Barefoot Millionaire: John Baldwin and the Founding Values of Baldwin Wallace University (2013) by Dr. Indira Falk Gesink, describes an establishment strongly focused on manual labor in its early days. The Baldwin Institute (as it was initially called) “stood out from its competitors because its students continued to work in addition to studying, and because the focus of the institution was not on payment of tuition, but rather on the character of its students” (pg. 80).

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

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

Gesink argues that what set Baldwin University apart was that it “retained its original emphasis on work.” During the period of the late 1850s, when young Noah Huckins would have been enrolled, “all the students engaged in some kind of labor for at least two hours a day, and all the students were expected to complete major projects at the end of the year by which they would publicly demonstrate to the community the skills they had learned” (pgs. 105-106). In keeping with its religious roots, the school also enforced a strict code of student conduct, including banning all tobacco and alcohol usage. It is tempting to suggest a connection between this formative period in Huckins’ life and his later involvement in the temperance movement.

Did Noah Huckins relocate from Canada to Ohio because he was drawn to the curriculum or campus culture of Baldwin University? Did he come because of his older brother? I don’t know, nor do I know why he chose to settle in rural Wellington, though I suspect his friendship with John Houghton may have played some role. I still have unanswered questions about his many business dealings in the village. In addition to Huckins’ hardware partnership with John Watson Wilbur, and his cheese box manufacturing partnership with Charles Horr, he also played a role in at least two other ventures.

“Messrs. Wm. Cushion and Walter Sage have purchased the insurance business of J. H. Dickson and N. Huckins, giving them with those they already had, a very large line of first class companies, and they will devote special attention to this branch of business. The insurance business is now reduced to two agencies, which is certainly enough for a town the size of Wellington” (The Wellington Enterprise, 12-16-1880, pg. 3). So proclaimed the local paper in 1880. Later in the same decade, I found tax records and credit reports listing Noah Huckins as a partner of C. Sage & Company Insurance. Huckins was apparently closely linked to the Sage family, at least in business dealings; his first commercial endeavor in Wellington was as the junior partner in Orrin Sage’s hardware store on Mechanics Street, now East Herrick Avenue.

Huckins and Horr were also among the founding partners of the Wellington Milling Company. While the purchase and renovation of the mill received extensive coverage in The Wellington Enterprise, Huckins’ part in the operation is much less clear. In fact, I have found only two documents that even tie him to the business. An 1883 credit report said of Horr and Huckins, “These parties are also in the firm of the Wellington Milling Co.” The following year, a small notice printed in the Enterprise named, “Charles W. Horr, Noah Huckins, E. F. Webster, O. P. Chapman, E. A. VanCleef, Geo. Lambert, M. W. Lang, Co-partners under the firm name of the Wellington Milling Company” (7-16-1884, pg. 5). I have found no further mention of Huckins in relation to the mill, and I do not know when his involvement ended.

Charles W. Horr. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Charles W. Horr. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

The mill was first acquired by the group (which was essentially Horr, Warner & Co.) in the spring of 1883. All year, the newspaper commented in great detail on the specific costs of new machinery being installed, the names of individual millers being hired, even the fact that the building had been painted red. “‘Wellington Milling Company’ is the title of the firm owning the new flour mill. The name is comspiciously [sic] displayed the whole length of each of the two sides in white letters on black ground. The painting and lettering is being done by Frank Powers” (7-11-1883, pg. 3). The mill began grinding in September and by the spring of 1884 was advertising its own brand called “Health Bread Flour.”

The complex was adjacent to the train tracks on North Main Street, the present day site of the Wagner/POV Products facility. From all published accounts, it seemed to be doing an excellent trade, even exporting flour to customers in Europe. The original owner group sold the company early in 1897; later that same year, the mill was destroyed by fire. But by February of 1898 the Enterprise enthused, “Who says that prosperity has not come to Wellington, when we see the Wellington Milling Co., beginning to erect a mill on the site of the one that burned a short time ago” (2-2-1898, pg. 5).

Detail of Wellington Village map showing the location of Wellington Milling Company. Note that Horr, Warner & Co. headquarters was immediately southwest of the mill. From "Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896." Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map showing the location of Wellington Milling Company. Note that Horr, Warner & Co. headquarters was immediately southwest of the mill. From “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

Was Noah Huckins still a partner in the business when it was sold in 1897? It seems unlikely. When he left Wellington for Oberlin in 1889, corporation tax records show that he transferred all of his land holdings associated with N. Huckins & Co. to Charles Horr in a single day’s transaction. But I have yet to locate any extant corporate records for these companies, or personal papers of the men involved. Perhaps some day the documentary evidence will surface to answer my many remaining questions.

The Chinese Laundry

Detail of an image taken of Public Square, Wellington, Ohio, between  1892 and 1902. Sign over basement entrance to Wells building reads, "WAH SING LAUNDRY." My thanks to Mr. Alan L. Leiby for providing the enlargement.

Detail of an image taken of Public Square, Wellington, Ohio, between 1892 and 1902. Sign over basement entrance to Wells building reads, “WAH SING LAUNDRY.” My thanks to Mr. Alan L. Leiby for providing the enlargement.

A really marvelous development was brought to my attention recently. The Library of Congress has added twenty years of The Wellington Enterprise to its “Chronicling America” digital newspaper repository. The papers–rather confusingly grouped into three separate holdings–date from 1879 to 1899, and include nearly 900 keyword-searchable issues. Many thanks to fellow blogger and Wellington historian Joshua Fahler for alerting me.

As you might imagine, I immediately spent hours compiling search terms, to see if I had missed anything important in my old-school visual scanning of the issues on microfilm. Optical character recognition can be very spotty with nineteenth-century newspaper print, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many things I was able to locate. I still prefer the more immersive experience of reading the issues sequentially, but the search box is undeniably faster for “clean up” checking of proper names, etc.

One of the first names I wanted to search for was Wah Sing. To cover additional possibilities, I also checked terms such as “John Chinaman” and “Chinese laundry,” phrases often used in the reporting of the time. I uncovered a wealth of additional information about the Chinese laundry in Wellington. The dozen notices that I found disproved some of the suppositions I posed in my previous two posts about Wah Sing. I debated whether to remove those posts, but ultimately decided to leave them intact and use this entry to correct some of my mistakes.

By far, the most glaring error that I made was to assume that, given its rural setting, Wellington most likely had only one Chinese resident during the nineteenth-century. I painted Wah Sing as a highly unusual person, even in the context of Wellington’s fifteen percent foreign-born population, which I have noted several times. But this new information, which in turn caused me to reevaluate the materials I already had in hand, now allows me to report that I can record at least nine distinct Chinese individuals connected with the operation of a laundry in Public Square between 1884 and 1899.

In my original post on Wah Sing, I noted that the first published announcement I have found of a Chinese laundry in Wellington was made by Sone and Chong in December 1884.

By the summer of 1890, the newspaper was making reference to “our enterprising, live and let live Chinese laundryman, Col, Chas. Moon” and commented, “Charley is so different from the generality of his countrymen that he enjoys the respect of all who know him” (6-18-1890, pg. 5). Seven months later, a repeating series of notices announced that an unnamed “we” had purchased “the laundry business of Charley Moon” (1-28-1891, pg. 5).

The next time a Chinese individual appears in the Enterprise, it is in connection with the assault that I detailed in my first post on Wah Sing; I recounted the trial and sentencing of William Gulde and Clinton Wadsworth in a second post. The victim of that crime was referred to by multiple names, one of which was Thomas Chinsing. I erroneously assumed that this must actually be Wah Sing, and wrote the discrepancy off as the discriminatory reporting practices of a time when newspapers regularly used names such as “John Chinaman.” But I now know that Wah Sing did not move to Wellington until nearly two years after this attack.

It was therefore Thomas Chinsing, not Wah Sing, who had a cousin in Cleveland and a brother in Painesville. His brother was a telegraph operator who spoke fluent English and served as a translator at the assault trial in April 1891. There were four separate robberies of the laundry in the previous two years; how many proprietors the establishment had in that period remains a mystery.

In September 1892, The Wellington Enterprise noted, “A new John Chinaman arrives in town about every new moon to take charge of the laundry. It must be that the business doesn’t pay very well, or this place has become exceedingly attractive to them and they are all anxious to come and remain a short time” (9-14-1892, pg. 5). And indeed, in that year I find records of at least two other individuals connected to the laundry. In July, a man named Sing Lee apparently returned from Painesville after an absence of three months, as “the celestial that succeeded him in the laundry…failed to pay up and so John [Chinaman, i.e Sing Lee] came back and took possession” (7-20-1892, pg. 5). Was there a connection between Sing Lee and Thomas Chinsing, given that each had some association with Painesville? I don’t know, nor do I know anything about the “non-paying” individual who ran the operation for that three-month interval.

By October of the same year, the proprietor of the laundry was listed as Ham Yuen in a notice asserting that the business would not be relocating to North Main Street, but would remain in Public Square. And readers of the earlier post will recall that local historian Robert Walden also recorded a man named Charley Lee as Wah Sing’s immediate predecessor, but without giving any indication of what time period he lived in the village.

“The latest celestial to arrive has a new sign, which reads, ‘Wah Sing, Laundry'” announced the paper on December 21, 1892. (Astute readers may note that I have adjusted the dating on the photograph at the top of this post accordingly.) Federal census data indicates that Wah Sing emigrated to the United States sometime between 1878 and 1880–just prior to passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act–and made his way inland from the west coast, arriving in Wellington twelve years later. By 1896, he was contemplating a trip home to China “to visit his wife and children” (12-16-1896, pg. 5). He ran into some trouble with money; both the Enterprise and the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported that he loaned $300 to another Chinese individual who was either away without leaving his whereabouts or had deliberately absconded with the stolen funds, depending on which report you believe.

Whatever the truth of that incident, Wah Sing’s financial issues were somehow successfully resolved. In October 1897, he left Wellington to make the six-week journey home to China, with the intention of remaining away for nearly a year. He left the laundry in the care of his cousin, Gin Gim, and returned as he had promised in October 1898.

I cannot verify the accuracy of Robert Walden’s published memories. All of the incidents that I wrote about in my first post, Walden explicitly described as happening to “Waugh Sing.” Whether he was conflating memories of interactions with multiple Chinese laundrymen, I do not know. What I can say is that the few published mentions of Wah Sing in the last decade of the century may paint a very incomplete portrait of his life, but they do not necessarily suggest someone in total isolation and misery. Obviously Wah Sing was able to visit his family in China for nearly a year. He was noted several times traveling to friends in Cleveland, including attending a celebration of Chinese New Year in the city in 1899. There is evidence of community and connectedness for several of these men, despite the scantiness of the extant written record.

I found mentions of other Chinese laundries operating in nearby Oberlin and also in Newark, Ohio, about ninety miles south of Wellington (near the state capital, Columbus). The article about Newark was denouncing a series of attacks against “a couple of respectable Chinese laundrymen” in that town, in which white patrons were actually hiding explosives in their own laundry. The piece is worth quoting at some length: “And now the industrious foreigners can go on rinsing the sweat from white men’s shirts and perspiring over the polishing board as their lazy persecutors would not if they never had a change of clean underclothing. It is a national disgrace that a well-behaved Chinaman cannot walk a square in the streets of our cities without meeting with staring impudence and hooting insult, even from our well educated school children…Because he has not the bullying propensities of the Anglo-Saxon, and is physically weak, and is quiet, peacable, willing to work hard and to do his work well, he is everywhere imposed upon by our ‘superior race,’ and treated with such want of fairness and courtesy that it is no wonder the observing Celestial is not apt to think well of either the civilization or the religion of this country” (7-15-1880, pg. 2).

Did Wah Sing feel that he was treated with a “want of fairness and courtesy” by his Wellington neighbors? My fear is that there is no way to ever truly know. But then I recall that just a few days ago I though there was one man running the Chinese laundry, and now I know that there were many. That gives me hope that other sources of information may still exist that can offer more insight into this part of our history. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” Our collective memory of this small community within our midst may have disappeared, but we can begin to reconstruct the evidence of their presence and thereby deepen our understanding of the true complexity of our shared past.

Murder Most Foul

The Crosier building, located at 203-205 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

The Crosier building, located at 203-205 North Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

“A murder-suicide took place in a grocery store on North Main Street in 1890. S. L. Sage, the proprietor, accused his clerk, David Hoke, of diverting income to his own pocket to which he admitted. Angry words ensued over the amount of the restitution. Only two men were present when the final scene was enacted on December 8. Mr. Sage was found in front of the store, a bullet hole through his head, and in the back room was the body of Hoke, in similar condition” (pg. 10).

This is how Ernst Henes described the deaths of Samuel Sage and David Hoke in his 1983 publication, Historic Wellington Then and Now. What I find curious about this brief passage is that it is specific enough to suggest that Henes had issues of The Wellington Enterprise from the period at hand while writing, yet his description of the motive for the crime–at least as it was reported at the time of the shootings–is incomplete. The Sage/Hoke tragedy was not Wellington’s first murder, nor sadly its last, but it might have been its most salacious.

In late 1890, Samuel L. Sage was the 63-year-old owner of a grocery store operating in the ground floor of the Crosier building, built as a cheese warehouse and still standing on the west side of North Main Street today. Sage led a quiet life; his wife of more than forty years had just died over the summer. His clerk, David Hoke, was also in his 60s and had previously worked for decades in the carriage business, first for Edward Tripp and later with Timothy Doland.

According to a published interview with Wellington’s Marshal Williams, he noticed in early November that Hoke was regularly opening the grocery store as early as 5:30AM. Williams soon observed that the same female customer was shopping at that strange time of day, and leaving “with well-filled baskets.” The marshal decided to tell Samuel Sage that he believed something inappropriate, and likely criminal, was occurring. Sage did not immediately believe the allegations, so they arranged to have the store watched. “[I]t was not only ascertained that [Hoke] donated goods but sold goods for cash and did not account for it to Mr. Sage. What else took place at these morning meetings will not be reported in this paper” (The Wellington Enterprise, 12-10-1890, pg. 5).

I realize that I live in a hyper-sexualized 21st-century culture, but I read this as implying that Hoke was “trading” provisions for some sort of illicit interaction. The woman in question was Emma Gardner, a 28-year-old domestic servant who lived with her husband and child on Kelly Street. Gardner’s husband was a railroad worker and the family had been in town for less than a year. Four decades younger than David Howk, Emma Gardner was described as having light hair and blue eyes, and “previous to this happening, she presented a very fair appearance” (12-17-1890, pg. 8).

Sage and the marshal decided to summon Emma Gardner to appear before Mayor George Couch. She was accused of theft, a charge she denied. She confirmed that she had purchased items at the Sage store, but “supposed that they were charged upon the books to her husband” (12-10-1890, pg. 5).

Sage then confronted Hoke directly. The clerk initially denied wrongdoing, but when presented with evidence of his crimes, eventually confessed. The marshal proposed that Hoke be allowed to make financial restitution, but warned that if he did not fully satisfy Sage in whatever figure the owner demanded, Hoke would be arrested. The men settled these terms on Saturday evening, and Hoke was to be arrested Tuesday morning if he had not complied. Hoke then made the rather extraordinary request that he be allowed to continue working at the grocery store in the interim, so as not to arouse his wife’s suspicions. Sage agreed, an act of kindness which perhaps cost him his life.

Monday afternoon around 3PM, shots rang out in the village. Marshal Williams was on patrol near Doland’s carriage factory, and came running into the grocery store to find Samuel Sage bleeding on the floor, a bullet wound in his temple. David Hoke was in the back room, also with a mortal wound to the head. Both men were still alive. Hoke died within minutes, but Sage was carried to a relative’s house on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue) and expired about three hours later.

Headstone of murder victim Samuel L. Sage (1827-1890), Evergreen Cemetery, Huntington, Ohio. Image from website

Headstone of murder victim Samuel L. Sage (1827-1890), Evergreen Cemetery, Huntington, Ohio. Image from website “Find a Grave.com.”

The coverage in the Enterprise is fascinating in that it does not seem to judge David Hoke at all harshly. The lengthy report of the murder-suicide is followed by obituaries for both men, and Hoke’s reads in part: “There probably was no more prompt man in Ohio to meet his obligations. His credit was gold-tinged, and although he was possessed of some weak points of character, he had many virtues which would not come amiss for the average person to observe.” This is a surprisingly positive assessment of an individual who apparently confessed to theft and possibly sexual misconduct, before pushing down and shooting a man “noted for his honesty and uprightness” (12-10-1890, pg. 5).

David Hoke was interred in Greenwood Cemetery; Samuel Sage was taken to Huntington and buried next to his late wife. Emma Gardner was summoned again to Mayor’s Court. Her trial was set for Monday, December 15th, one week after the shootings. Saturday evening she was seen boarding a southbound train, apparently fleeing town. The Enterprise rather callously printed an account of Gardner’s legal troubles directly above a note from David Hoke’s widow, thanking her friends and neighbors for their sympathy and assistance (12-17-1890, pg. 8).

Headstone of murderer David Hoke (1824-1890), who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of murderer David Hoke (1824-1890), who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

The grocery store became a kind of town curiosity. The paper noted that it was visited daily by numbers of people long after the shootings. In March of 1891, a little notice appeared in the paper: “When the Hoke-Sage tragedy took place in the Crosier building, the contents of one chamber of Hoke’s revolver passed through a cluster of bottles standing on the shelf filled with ink and struck the wall. Three or four bottles were broken and the contents forced upon the wall, leaving an indelible mark of the tragedy for visitors to gaze upon through the window. A mason was called last week to kalsomine the wall to obliterate the marks” (3-11-1891, pg. 5). Kalsomining is better known, of course, as whitewashing.