Category Archives: Historic houses

Kindred Spirits

226 So Main April 1962

April 1962 photograph of 226 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Image courtesy of owners Tim and Leslie Simonson.

There are few homes in Wellington today more readily recognizable than the gorgeous Italianate “painted lady” standing at 226 South Main Street. For nearly a century-and-a-half, the house gazed across the road at a bustling school campus. In 1867, the Union School had first been erected, and evolved over time into McCormick Middle School, which was sadly removed in 2016. By the mid-twentieth century, the once grand residence had fallen into a state of disrepair, and it is therefore fondly recalled by Wellington schoolchildren of that era as “the haunted house.”

The house may or may not be haunted, but its origins are somewhat mysterious, in the sense that they are obscured by the mists of time. The land on which 226 South Main stands is legally defined as block 1, lot 17. In 1852, early Wellington settler Loring Wadsworth first paid taxes on that lot. Wadsworth had been born in Becket, Massachusetts in 1800, emigrating to Ohio in 1821. In later life, he was one of the men charged in connection with the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858, as he was believed to be an operator on the Underground Railroad. Wadsworth served twenty-one days in jail as a result. He served as mayor from April 1859 to April 1861, and died in 1862. (While the 1879 History of Lorain County, Ohio alleges that Wadsworth was first elected mayor in 1860, handwritten village council records clearly show his election one year earlier.)

Loring Wadsworth (R)

Loring Wadsworth (2nd from right), detail of April 1859 photograph depicting Rescuers outside the Cuyahoga County Jail in Cleveland, Ohio.

Wadsworth owned several lots adjacent to what is today 226 South Main. The 1857 Map of Lorain County, Ohio (which features a detailed inset of Wellington) shows that in that year, he owned block 1, lots 16, 17 and 90, with the family residence located on lot 16. The Greek Revival house that still stands today at 222 South Main is likely one of the older residences in town, erected by  Wadsworth and his family as early as the 1830s.

Though Wadsworth died in 1862, his estate continued to be listed as the taxpayer of record on his former land holdings until well into the 1870s. This was not an uncommon practice; I have always assumed that it had something to do with settling the deceased’s estate, though in this instance, a much longer period of time passed than I have seen before. Whatever the financial or legal reasons, Loring Wadsworth was still listed on village tax rolls for block 1, lot 17 in 1871, when the value of the land suddenly jumped–after decades of remaining flat and unchanging–from $42 to $278. This strongly suggests that a house was first erected on the lot sometime in the period of 1870 to 1871.

Loring’s widow, Statira Kingsbury Wadsworth, died in 1871. Even then, the land and property formerly owned by her husband continued to appear in corporation tax records under his name. It was not until 1874–twelve years after Wadsworth died–that the property legally changed hands. In that year, block 1, lot 17, still valued at $278, passed into the ownership of Horace N. Wadsworth, William Gunn and local cheese dealer William D. Minor.

A real estate transfer published in the Oberlin Weekly News showed the sale of lot 17 was made by Benjamin Wadsworth to Horace Wadsworth and William Gunn for $667. Benjamin Wadsworth was the eldest son of Loring Wadsworth. By the end of the nineteenth century, he was known as “the largest landowner among the agriculturalists of Lorain County,” with over one thousand acres and a well-regarded sheep breeding operation. It has been suggested that Benjamin Wadsworth built 226 South Main as a “retirement home” for his own use. Wadsworth was forty-nine years old in 1870, the conjectured date of construction. Wellington tax records from the period show that he owned no property in the village; instead, he maintained a steady holding of 145 acres in lot 24, the southwestern corner of the township. The 1870 federal census shows Benjamin (49), his wife Maria (44), and children Elmer (18) and Jane (12) living in Huntington; in 1880, Benjamin (59) and Maria (54) were still in Huntington, living next door to Elmer and his wife, Mary, both aged 28. While Benjamin Wadsworth was somehow involved in the construction of the house on lot 17, he sold it soon after completion. The three men listed as taxpayers in the 1874 rolls were most likely conducting real estate transactions for profit, rather than purchasing the house for personal use.

Benjamin Wadsworth

Benjamin Wadsworth (1821-1912). Hand-drawn portrait by daughter Jane “Jennie” Wadsworth Eckles. Image from

In 1875, a small addition was put on the house, increasing its value slightly to $300. That same year, the property was sold again. From that point forward, the taxpayer of record was one Hattie McClaran. Harriet “Hattie” Lovett McClaran (ca. 1845-1889) was the wife of local physician Dr. Thomas M. McClaran. Harriet was born in Shreve, Ohio, approximately thirty miles southwest of Wellington. She and Thomas were married in Holmes County on March 20, 1866. Thomas had served as a private in the 4th Regiment, Co. E, Ohio Infantry of the Union Army. Wounded during his military service, he collected a disability pension later in life. After the war, Thomas decided to attend medical school, and graduated from the University of Wooster Medical Department in 1874. McClaran suffered from lifelong ill health and was frequently mentioned in the local newspapers as traveling to more beneficial climates, apparently without his family.

The 1880 federal census showed five adults and one child living together in the household: Thomas McClaran (37); Harriet McClaran (35); Lillian McClaran (11); servant Annie Spicer (24); and a young couple from Maine called Edward (24) and Lena (23) Everett. Edward was a druggist, perhaps boarding with the physician and his family during an apprenticeship, or while he attempted to establish his own business in the village. Maybe the McClarans found their quarters too cramped once they took in boarders. By 1881, they made major renovations to their home. The Wellington Enterprise commented on the ongoing work, and the tax-assessed value of the property skyrocketed from $300 to $1,890. This strongly suggests that the back wing of 226 South Main was added at that time.

WE 4.28.1881, pg. 3

“Wellington Enterprise,” April 28, 1881, page 3.

The McClarans’ tenure in the residence did not end happily. They sold the property to John Britton Smith, owner and editor of the Enterprise, in June 1888. They then traveled to Springfield, Missouri, for a visit with their only child, a married daughter. By October, Hattie McClaran was back in Ohio and committed to the Newburgh State Hospital, an asylum in Cleveland. Dr. McClaran briefly returned as well, moving into the American House hotel during his wife’s committal. Tragically, Hattie died by suicide on a home visit with her sister in Wooster, in January 1889. She was buried in Wooster and Dr. McClaran soon returned to Missouri to live with his daughter. He died June 21, 1890 and is buried in Springfield National Cemetery. When he passed, the Enterprise printed a four-sentence remembrance which noted, “He and his faithful wife toiled here for a number of years and as a result of their labors secured a beautiful place to reside on South Main street, expecting to spend the balance of their days here” (6-25-1890, pg. 5).

John Britton Smith occupied 226 South Main from 1888 until 1897. When the editor sold the Enterprise and left the village, the owner of the local boot and shoe shop, Hugh Comstock Harris, purchased the residence for himself and wife Ada Bacon Harris. The couple had no children, and when Hugh was elected to serve as Lorain County Treasurer, they also left Wellington, relocating to Elyria sometime after 1901.

John Britton Smith d. 1924

John Britton Smith (1845-1924). A native of Cardington, Ohio, Smith is buried in Lakewood Park Cemetery, Rocky River, Ohio. Photo from

As the twentieth century began, the house welcomed its second owner/editor of the Wellington Enterprise. Henry O. Fifield, recently arrived in the village, purchased the property sometime around 1902. Henry and his wife, Emma, lived with their widowed French Canadian daughter-in-law, Alice, and beloved granddaughter, Stella. Stella had been born in Canada and was a talented musician who went on to teach music herself. She was married in the house in 1920, and a front-page article in the Enterprise described the celebrations in great detail. The family home played a starring role: “[T]he bride…advanced through the library to the living room. At the same time the groom…advanced to the living room from the front of the house. The bridal party…then gathered in a bower of evergreens and palms in the large bay window in the living room. This bower was a beautiful creation and the work of Miss Laura Tissot a friend of the bride. After the impressive ceremony, the bridal party was seated in the dining room…They and the guests were served sumptuously by Caterer Gunn of Oberlin” (1-4-1921, pg. 1). Was Stella’s well-publicized nuptials the seed that blossomed into a popular story about 226 South Main being enlarged specifically to accommodate a bride descending the front curving staircase?

Henry Fifield

Proud Union Army veteran Henry O. Fifield on the front steps of his home at 226 South Main Street. Image courtesy of owners Tim and Leslie Simonson.

Henry Fifield lived to see his granddaughter engaged, but died nearly a year before the wedding. The Italianate at 226 South Main remained in the extended Fifield family for the first half of the century, belonging to Stella and her widowed mother, Alice, who later remarried and brought her second husband into the house.

By 1976, the year of America’s bicentennial celebrations, a young local couple who also happened to be deeply committed to preserving Wellington’s past decided that a grand old home that needed love (and a great deal of work!) was exactly where they wanted to spend their married life. Today, 226 South Main Street is haunted no more. Home for more than forty years to beloved residents Tim and Leslie Simonson, its vibrant wine-red color and flower-filled yard are often the backdrop for large gatherings of friends and family. The renovated carriage house at the rear of the property is well-known in the village as the Simonson Clock Shop.

226 South Main 1887 Rear Wing Addition?

226 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio.


Park Place

Village of Wellington 1857

Detail of Archibald Willard’s painting, “Village of Wellington, 1857,” showing the area of town now known as Park Place. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

As you likely know by now, dear reader, 2018 is Wellington’s bicentennial year. There is a whole calendar of events planned in commemoration. One of the upcoming offerings is an historic house tour in the fall. My own 1883 carriage house will be one of the featured properties. Another home that will be on the tour is a white wood-frame beauty that sits at 139 Park Place, right at the center of town. It is owned by a dear friend of mine, Mrs. Linda Hatton, and she asked for my help in tracing its history. The Hatton family also owns the adjacent 135 Park Place–used as a rental property for decades–so we decided that I would research both homes. Mrs. Hatton has generously agreed that I might share with you the fascinating stories I uncovered.

I am often asked how one goes about researching the history of a house. First, start with what you know (or think you know). I asked Linda to provide me, to the best of her recollection, the year her family had acquired each property, and the name of the previous owner. She also told me all the stories she had heard about each house over the years. This creates a jumping off point for research, as you attempt to verify or disprove each story by looking at the existing documentary evidence.

I spent several days tracing each house backward in time via Wellington corporation tax records. The ledger volumes have been digitized and are publicly accessible, free of charge, via the Lorain County Records Retention Center. Depending on the specific locality you are investigating, the records go as far back as the early nineteenth century, and are available through the 1940s. You can look for the name of a specific person (the volumes are alphabetical by taxpayer) or, though it is more labor intensive, you can also search for the block and lot number of each taxable plot of land in the village.


I knew by looking at both contemporary records of the Lorain County Auditor’s office, as well as village maps dating from 1857 and 1874 (shown above, left and right respectively) that the Hatton residence at 139 Park Place sits on block 4, lot 13, while the rental property at 135 Park Place is on block 4, lot 12. The eagle-eyed among you will note that in the nineteenth century, lot 13 was subdivided and had two small buildings on it. Those structures predate the house that exists today, as we shall see.

I next visited the Lorain County Recorder’s office in Elyria, to compile what is called a “chain of deed” or “chain of title.” This is a process by which one traces a house backward in time through the official recording of property transactions. Using the information provided to me by the Hattons, the information I had compiled from tax records, and a few key biographical facts about some of the previous homeowners–principally their dates of death–I was able to craft a pretty clear timeline of ownership for each property.

Wall of Indexes

The wall of indexes at the Lorain County Recorder’s office, Elyria, Ohio. Photo by author.

The Hattons were uncertain when, or by whom, their residence had been constructed. Tax records clearly showed that block 4, lot 13 had been subdivided into two lots prior to 1910, each with a modest structure on it. (Those two structures are very likely the same two small brick buildings depicted on the right of Willard’s 1857 painting, shown at the top of this post.) Each half-lot and building was owned by a different individual. But in 1910, both lots were purchased by a single person, and in 1911, that person was shown as owning a single lot with a single structure, assessed for taxation at the impressive sum of $2,500. My working hypothesis, then, was that 1910 was the year of construction. In order to confirm that, I decided to look through the Wellington Enterprise for that period. Since the newspaper is not digitized after 1900, that meant checking individual issues on reels of microfilm.

I found what I was looking for in February 1910. “Mr. N. G. Hoyt Will Build. Mr. N. G. Hoyt has purchased the two brick houses and lot just south of Mr. George Robishaw’s home [135 Park Place], and will erect a new and modern residence upon the site, utilizing the brick from the two buildings in the foundation. This will add much to the appearance of the town” (2-2-1910, pg. 1). Eight additional notices over the course of the spring and summer charted the progress of construction, by local businessman Norton G. Hoyt and his second wife, Josephine. The final notice announced that the residence would be “ready for occupancy by the 1st of October” (9-14-1910, pg. 5).

139 Park Place

139 Park Place. Official photograph of the property from the Lorain County Auditor’s office.

The Hoyts occupied the house at 139 Park Place for twelve years. In 1922, they sold it to Lawrence G. Stemple. Stemple’s tenure is verified not only by deeds and tax records, but also by Wellington city directories and telephone directories that confirm the house as his family’s primary residence. After Lawrence died in 1961, his son Sidney D. Stemple purchased the house, and Sidney also lived in it until his death in 1992. The Hattons have resided at 139 Park Place ever since, only the fourth owners–and third family–to call it home in more than a century.

The history of the adjacent property is both longer and more complex. It has had at least ten recorded owners since the mid-nineteenth century, some of them not personally residing in the house but rather using it as a rental property–which it remains today. I will highlight just a few of the more interesting stories:

Blanche A. Sutliff was the young widow of local businessman George M. Sutliff, who died suddenly of typhoid fever in 1909. George seems to have left Blanche financially comfortable–he was described as “a man of affairs, a money maker” in one obituary–but also with two small daughters to raise, Marion (8) and Maxine (2). A third daughter, Mildred, died in infancy. Blanche purchased the house at 135 Park Place in 1911, does not appear to have ever remarried, and lived there until she died in 1942.

Ethel Benedict was the brother of Jerusha Benedict Reed, wife of local dry goods merchant John S. Reed. When John Reed drowned while bathing in the Black River in 1855, Ethel Benedict relocated from Connecticut to Wellington to assume responsibility for his sister’s financial affairs. He eventually erected the three-story brick business block at the center of town that bears his name to this day. The Benedict family lived in the house at 135 Park Place from 1872 until 1906, though Ethel himself died in 1893.

Dr. Charles Beach and his wife Ann, or Anna, lived in the house while Archibald Willard created Village of Wellington, 1857. Ann Jackson Beach was from Belleville, Ohio. The family moved to Wellington in 1846, purchasing what we now call 135 Park Place from Isaac Bennett in 1850. They lived in the house for nine years, spending their later life in Pittsfield. Both are buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

1857 Map of Lorain Cty residence key detail

Key to an oversize 1857 hanging map (detail shown above) which lists “Dr. C. H. Beach” as having his residence on “Main Street”–later renamed Park Place–block 4, lot 12.

Just as with 139 Park, the final piece of the puzzle to lock into place was the name of the person who built the house, and the year in which it was built. Though Wellington tax records are available this far into the past, the block and lot numbers were not recorded so precisely prior to 1850, which forces us to make educated guesses using things like property values as tools. Using this method, I hypothesized that Dr. and Mrs. Beach had purchased the house from Isaac Bennett around 1850. One year Bennett owned one of the few houses in the southwest quadrant of the village valued at $546; the next year he did not, but the Beaches now owned a property in the correct location valued at $550. I guessed the properties were one-in-the-same.

On the trip to the Lorain County Recorder’s office, I was able to prove that theory correct, when I located an 1850 deed transferring ownership of the following lot, from Isaac Bennett to Anna Beach for $200: “…Bounded on the West by the Public Square on the South by John H. Wooley Lot [the northern half of block 4, lot 13] on the east by Land owned by Alanson Howk heirs on the north on land owned by me…Being part of Original Lot 22…” This is the correct location for 135 Park Place. The fact that the tax assessment of the property remains relatively unchanged over the entire course of Bennett’s ownership and that of the Beach family (i.e from at least 1847 until 1859), suggests that the Beaches purchased a lot on which a house was already constructed.

135 Park Place

135 Park Place. Official photograph of the property from the Lorain County Auditor’s office.

The house was certainly standing when Willard composed his painting of the village in 1857. A careful comparison of the architectural details of the house today with the white, wood-frame building in the painting (fourth structure from the right in the detail at the top of this post) shows them to be nearly identical. Looking at Isaac Bennett’s tax records, I believe he is the most likely person to have constructed the house, sometime around 1846/47.

Bennett was born in Guildford, Vermont on June 16, 1801. He married Esther Childs (1801/2-1891) of nearby Deerfield, Massachusetts. The couple moved to Wellington in February 1834. Bennett later asserted–in a reminiscence offered on his sixtieth wedding anniversary–that when the family arrived, “there were but eight frame houses in the whole township” (Wellington Enterprise, 12-26-1883, pg. 3). He also claimed to have manufactured the bricks for the first Methodist Church erected in Wellington. He served as township clerk from 1843 to 1845, and again from 1847 to 1849. Isaac and Esther Bennett are recorded as being interred at Greenwood Cemetery, but their graves are unmarked.

Bennett to Beach pg 1

First page of Lorain County deed transferring land in original lot 22 from Isaac Bennett to Anna Beach for $200. Book 5, pg. 446-447 (1850). Photo by author.

I do hope that all of you will attend the historic house tour on October 14th. All proceeds from the event will benefit Main Street Wellington, which keeps our downtown vibrant not only through beautification efforts, but also by promoting the growth of our local businesses. Many thanks to the Hatton family, both for volunteering their home for the tour and also for allowing me to share the histories of their properties with all of you.

The Hotel de Foote

Hotel de Foote built 1881

The Santley house, later the Hotel de Foote. Construction on the house began in 1881, though the Santley family did not move into the property until March 1882. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

Immediately south of Farm and Home Hardware, on the western side of South Main Street, sits a lovely old brick home. Hemmed in as it is today by neighbors and trees, the house might escape the notice of casual visitors to the village. Little might they suspect that this was once Wellington’s foremost luxury hotel, and before that, the broken home at the center of a local scandal.

William R. Santley was born in New London, Ohio in 1839. He attended Baldwin University (as did Noah Huckins, born the same year); it was perhaps during his stay in Berea that he first met Mary McDermott (1842-1921). She was an immigrant whose family had come to Ohio (as had Huckins and John Watson Wilbur) from Whitby, Ontario, Canada. The couple were married on February 27, 1868 in Maumee, Ohio, when William was nearly thirty years old.

The Santleys moved to Wellington around 1870 and William opened a lumber mill and cheese box factory on the western end of Maygar Street in partnership with R.A. Horr. W.R. Santley & Co. was highly successful, soon operating mills in other states including Kentucky and Tennessee, and the mill owner became one of the wealthiest citizens of the village. He served on the Board of Education, the village council, and both William and Mary were prominent and active members of the Methodist Church. Santley pledged $5,000 to the church to construct an addition in the 1880s.

W.R. Santley Sawmill on W end of Magyar St

W. R. Santley & Co. sawmill on Magyar Street, undated image. Photo 970800 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

It was during this period of financial prosperity that the couple began to build a magnificent new house on South Main Street, “one of the most costly residences in town” (Wellington Enterprise, 9-7-1892, pg. 5) just across the street from their church. The newspaper reported on the steady progress of the project, from the family purchasing a new piano from local vendor William Vischer over Christmas 1880; to the installation of the slate roof in September 1881; to the completion of the landscape gardener’s work in summer 1882, which resulted in a “very artistic and beautiful appearance” to the grounds (8-23-1882, pg. 3). The family moved into the house in March 1882, and tax records show that by 1883, the property–listed under Mary Santley’s name, as was customary–was valued at $4,500, a huge sum. Also in 1883, the Santley house was one of the first private residences in the village to have a telephone line installed.

WR Santley ordering card

Printed order card for W.R. Santley & Co. dated for the 1870s. Author’s collection.

But the good times were not to last. Just five years after first occupying the house, Mary sold it to her brother, Michael McDermott. This was likely a protective legal move, intended to keep the house from being lost outright. We do not know precisely what happened to William Santley’s businesses, as there are no remaining issues of The Wellington Enterprise from mid-1886 until 1889. But we know from later writings that he suffered bankruptcy, and had to endure a very public and humiliating default on his pledge to the Methodist Church. Despite their efforts, the family did lose their beautiful home, which was sold in July 1888 to G.D. Foote.

William Santley began again, restarting his lumber business in 1888. The family erected a smaller, “less pretentious” house and William went into partnership with his brother-in-law Michael, under the name Santley Lumber Company (Enterprise, 9-7-1892, pg. 5). That enterprise eventually opened mills in Missouri and Arkansas, and Santley slowly began to rebuild his fortune and restore his reputation in the village.

In the fall of 1892, Wellington was shocked to learn that Mary McDermott Santley had filed for divorce from her husband of twenty-four years, on the grounds of infidelity. The revelation was especially jarring because while Mary Santley was considered “happy and friendly” by her neighbors, William “seems unapproachable and would be picked out by a stranger in a crowd as a clergyman, who looked upon all kinds of worldly amusements as wicked.” The Santleys were apparently already living apart, as Mary filed from her residence in Ashtabula County, while William allegedly committed his transgression at a residence in Cleveland, though he continued to officially reside in Wellington. The newspaper observed, “No one ever had a suspicion of discord in the family” (ibid).

The Santleys had two children, both marked in the 1880 federal census as “adopted.” Daughter Netta, born ca. 1869, married in the family’s “less pretentious” house in 1889. Son Fredrick, born ca. 1874, had several brushes with the law, including dismissed assault charges. Fred was later part of a gang that robbed seven stores in Oberlin in 1896 and spent several years in the Mansfield Reformatory as a result. Mary McDermett Santley attested in her divorce petition that she had no living children, but that is simply because Netta and Fred were not her biological offspring. (She also opted to describe herself as a “widow” on all future federal censuses, rather than the more shameful option of “divorced.”)

In February 1893, a judge dismissed the Santley divorce suit “without prejudice.” But the proceedings must have been finalized soon thereafter, because by the fall of 1894 William Santley remarried Ruth Poer or Poore in Indiana. He brought the new Mrs. Santley back to Wellington in November. (The former Mrs. Santley, meanwhile, moved to Maryland to work for the Women’s College of Baltimore.) Four years later, in 1898, William Santley and his second wife relocated to Columbus, Ohio, where he died and was buried in 1922.

WE, 4-13-1898, pg. 6

Advertisement for the Hotel de Foote. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 4-13-1898, pg. 6.

But what of the beautiful house? We briefly encountered George Dellraine “Dell” Foote (1836-1904) in a previous post. He operated a stable on Liberty Street–today’s West Herrick Avenue–from at least the late 1870s. Dell purchased the Santley house in July 1888, as we have seen. The extended Foote and Santley families had a long history of working in each other businesses and engaging in real estate transactions; in this instance, the relationship may have been even closer, as Dell Foote’s daughter married into the McDermott family. The first mention I have located for Hotel de Foote, the business he opened within the Santley house, is September 1892. The hotel continued to operate under that name until 1910.

The Hotel de Foote was the premier, even luxury, hotel of the bustling village. Its arrivals list was routinely published in the Enterprise, and all visiting dignitaries stayed there. (Remember that the American House was six decades old when Hotel de Foote opened, and reportedly showing every year of its advanced age.) The facility boasted “water and gas supply, although there is neither system in the town–in fact, it is essentially a metropolitan hotel” (Commemorative Biographical Record, pg. 753). It also served as a local function space, hosting banquets, club meetings, and receptions. Numerous traveling physicians advertised when they were visiting Wellington that services could be obtained by application to the Hotel de Foote.

Hotel De Foote

Unmailed postcard, “Wellington, O. Hotel de Foote and Annex.” Printed for A.H. Binder and made in Germany. Author’s collection.

In 1897, a review of the hotel was published in the Enterprise that is worth quoting at length: “I found but one hotel really entitled to rank under the nomenclature of ‘first-class.’ This house is the Hotel De Foote. It is a modern structure fronting the park square, stands removed from the street walk, in the center of pleasant grounds, beautified with grass lawns and flower beds. The prospective to the house is charming. A wide walk and roadway leads up to the front entrances, where a broad flight of steps is the approach to the veranda, which extends from the office door. The lawn and walks are shaded by fine trees and the whole aspect is most inviting and restful. The house is elegantly furnished throughout and is fitted with modern conveniences. The dining room is a well appointed apartment, pleasant to dine in and seating all who come. All the rooms in this house are modern, large, well ventilated and supplied with every convenience. Nothing is lacking which refined and cultured people consider necessary for comfort and correct living. Commercial men who come to Wellington patronize this hotel, for as a rule they are a luxury loving class of men, well dressed and well-bred, and they demand the best hotel accommodations. Nothing less will satisfy them. Said a prominent traveling man to me, whom I met in Cincinnati a short time ago: ‘When you go to Wellington, stop at the ‘Foote.’ Its [sic] the only place–everything the best and right up-to-date.’ Mr. G.D. Foote, the proprietor, is an ideal host, one of the old regime of gentlemen bonifaces” (6-30-1897, pg. 6).

Dell Foote certainly understood his clientele. He maintained a widespread reputation for being a generous and gregarious host, while catering to his guests’ every need. In 1894, for example, he opened a railroad ticket broker’s office inside the hotel, to “buy, sell and exchange tickets…quite an accommodation to the traveling public” (Enterprise, 11-28-1894, pg. 5). As late as the summer of 1897, he continued to personally manage the livery stable while also running the hotel. When he died in 1904, his front-page obituary noted that he “was known far and wide as a genial landlord and an energetic, big hearted fellow citizen. He was an eccentric character and a man of versatile talents” (Enterprise, 1-13-1904).

In 2010, I submitted a nomination to This Old House Magazine and was delighted when they selected Wellington as the Best Old-House Neighborhood in the state of Ohio for that year. Out of the dozens of images I sent, the one they elected to use to represent Wellington was a photograph of the Santley house. Divided into multiple apartments over the course of the twentieth-century, since 1990 it has once again been used as a single-family private residence. Time may have roughened its edges a bit, but its former grandeur is evident even now.

Happy Birthday, Dear House

326 So Main Date Unknown

Undated real photo postcard (addressed but apparently never mailed) showing 326 South Main Street shortly after its completion. Author’s collection.

This month marks the one-hundredth anniversary of my house being occupied. The little brick bungalow was constructed by Fergus and Julia Camp, originally of Homer, Ohio. I detailed the story of their move to Wellington, and the building of their “modern home,” in a post back in 2014. The couple first relocated to the village in 1906, and purchased the adjacent Victorian still standing at 318 South Main Street. After nine years, they sold that house and temporarily rented a property across the road, while planning and erecting their final home. The overall process took nearly two years, with the Camps only able to move into the bungalow in February 1917. Finish work on the interior and exterior continued on through the summer of that year.

Fergus & Julia Camp in front of porch 1923

Four generations of the Camp family in June 1923. Fergus and Julia Camp are in the center. Their daughter, Ruth Camp King, stands to their left. Their granddaughter, Mary King Robinson, stands to their right. Great-grandson David W. Robinson is the child in arms. Author’s collection.

My family has now lived in the house for five years. Remarkably, we are only the fourth owners of the property in a century. The Camps, Schwellers, and Ashbaughs preceded us, and I still hear the house regularly referred to by the two most recent of those names.

Wellington is rich in history, and in addition to our small and personal centennial, a host of significant anniversaries are on the horizon. This year (2017) marks the 150th anniversaries–or sesquicentennials–of The Wellington Enterprise, and the construction of both the First United Methodist Church and the Union School, sadly demolished nearly one year ago. Next year (2018) is the one-hundredth anniversary of the death of painter Archibald Willard (just before the end of World War I), the 150th anniversary of author and activist Frederick Douglass speaking in Wellington, and of course, the bicentennial of the settling of the village by those of European descent. It promises to be an exciting year filled with celebrations.


“Grandma” Julia Camp (visible through the window) photographer with her great-grandchildren, Thanksgiving 1926. Julia Camp would die a decade later in the house, aged 90; her husband of sixty-eight years died just twelve weeks after. Author’s collection.

My blogging time has been limited of late, but that should be changing fairly soon. In addition, I have been asked to contribute an article to Ohio Genealogy News; to offer a public talk this spring about the three Masonic tracing boards painted by Archibald Willard; to give some remarks on Wellington women of the 19th century at an upcoming “Coffee with the Mayor”; and to participate in the bicentennial commemorations. In the meantime, if you have not seen the new feature I added to the blog on the photography of William Sawtell, please check it out. I will post dates and locations for the aforementioned talks as they become available.


The Seminary

Seminary Close Up

Detail of “Map of Lorain Co. Ohio From Actual Surveys by John F. Geil. 1857.” Original object in private collection. Photo by author.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to examine a magnificent hanging school map. The massive, brightly colored object is sixty inches long by fifty inches wide, and depicts all of Lorain County in the mid-nineteenth century. In the upper right corner is a tiny inset, just eight by eight inches at its widest points, showing the young village of Wellington. When I first saw this oversized map, my family owned a house on North Main Street, so my eye was drawn to that area of town. There, in the block just south of my future home, was written in letters less than one-quarter of an inch wide the notation “Semy.”

The first association that came to mind was of course the word “seminary.” But I had never heard of any sort of religious preparatory school in Wellington, no institution dedicated to training future priests, ministers or rabbis, which is the modern usage of that term. What was this mid-century seminary? Whom did it teach? Whom did it employ? What I have come to discover is that the story of the Wellington Seminary is the story of two Wellington women, who founded it and ran it for fifteen years.

Mary Ann Adams was born in Otis, Massachusetts in 1816. She was the youngest of thirteen children; her parents, Amos (1766-1836) and Huldah Wright Adams (1772-1840), celebrated their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary a few months after her birth. The Adams family left western Massachusetts around 1821, and by 1823 had settled in a wilderness area soon to be named Wellington, Ohio. Mary Ann was just seven years old as her father and older brothers set to felling trees and cultivating land for several family farms in what is now the northeast quadrant of the town.

A decade later and ten miles north, the Oberlin Collegiate Institute opened its doors. December 1833 saw the first classes held for what would eventually become Oberlin College. Mary Ann Adams was one of the first females in the new institute; her name appears on an 1834 list of students certifying their views regarding admitting people of color to the school. (Adams, as did more than half the student body, voted against admittance.)

Ladies Hall 1835-1865

Ladies’ Hall, home of the Ladies’ Department of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (after 1850, Oberlin College) from 1835 to 1865. This wood frame structure stood on the south side of College Street, facing Tappan Square. Today that area is an access road between the Oberlin College bookstore and Bibbins Hall, home of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. From “General Catalogue of Oberlin College, 1833-1908,” pg. int. 71.

Though Oberlin did accept both male and female students from its inception, initially only male students could pursue the “classics course” and receive a bachelor’s degree. In its earliest days, Oberlin’s female scholars were expected to follow the “ladies’ course” which did not result in a degree. Adams pursued the ladies’ course, which took five years of study (including preparatory work), and finished in 1839. It was not until 1841 that the first three female students elected to complete the more rigorous classics course, and were awarded bachelor’s degrees. By that time, Adams was serving as Assistant Principal of the Ladies’ Department. She would hold that position for three years, before being named Principal for seven more, beginning in 1842. All told, Mary Ann Adams would be a key figure in the Ladies’ Department of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute for its first, formative fifteen years.

In her history of coeducation at Oberlin, Father Shipherd’s Magna Charta (1937), Frances Juliette Hosford describes the Ladies’ Board, a small group of women who governed the actions of all females admitted to the institute in its earliest days. Hosford points out that there were no college-educated women in the country at that time. The Ladies’ Board was instead comprised of the wives of college officials and prominent Oberlin community members. The group was socially very conservative and operated independently of the faculty, reporting only to Oberlin’s trustees. As a result, Hosford argues, it became “a law unto itself” and operated in “a star chamber atmosphere” (pg. 27).

Adams seems to have come into conflict with the Ladies’ Board repeatedly over her tenure. The precise nature of the conflict is not always clear, but there are tantalizing clues left in letters from students that can still be read in the Oberlin College Archive today. Antoinette Brown, one of Oberlin’s most distinguished alumnae, thought very highly of Miss Adams, and mentioned her frequently in letters to friends. Only once did she ever describe discord between them, when in 1847 Adams arranged for Brown to earn extra money by teaching additional classes, but “the Ladies Board disarranged everything” because they disapproved of Brown wanting to study theology with male students and become a minister (quoted in Lasser, Soul Mates, pg. 22). Brown continued to admire Adams even after the trouble, noting her “firmness & dignity of charac[ter]” in another letter weeks later (ibid., pg. 29).

Years of conflict with the Ladies’ Board and ongoing poor health eventually caused Adams to resign in early 1849. Antoinette Brown opined, “I feel as though I had lost a good friend tried and true” (ibid., pg. 48). Adams returned to Wellington, moving into her older brother Gideon’s brick house on what is today North Main Street. Gideon (1809-1875) and wife Bertia Hull Slocum Adams (1812-1880) had seven children, the youngest of which were then a set of infant twins. Mary Ann Adams, nearing thirty-five years of age and used to an independent life, must have immediately concocted a plan of self-employment. In later published accounts–described in more detail below–1849 is universally agreed upon as the year that Mary Ann Adams, using land and a building belonging to her brother, opened the Wellington Seminary.

Gideon Wright Adams

Gideon Wright Adams (1809-1875), older brother of Mary Ann Adams.

In the mid-nineteenth century, the term “seminary” referred to a private educational facility, often exclusively for women. They began to open across the Midwest in the 1830s, as educationally-minded New Englanders emigrated and settled there (Woody, Women’s Education in the United States, pg. 366-368). These were not schools focused solely on religious education, in the modern sense of the term. Adams did refer to the Oberlin Ladies’ Department as “our Seminary, a Literary & Religious association” (Fletcher Papers, B. 7, F. 3). Certainly in the nineteenth century, religion was a much more pervasive component of morally-focused education. But young women would not have attended the Wellington Seminary to prepare for a life of religious orders. And it is worth pointing out that while Adams was a devout Congregationalist, the woman to whom she eventually turned the seminary over was an equally devout Methodist.

It is curious that Adams’ name remains the one most strongly associated with the Wellington Seminary in all subsequent published histories. She did found the school sometime in 1849, but by September 1850 she relinquished it to marry an Oberlin student seven years her junior, Charles Conkling of Leroy, Illinois. There is evidence of love, or at least attraction. A female student wrote in 1848, “Mis Adams & Conklin are ingaged & they court strongly & act just like fools–they cant be married in less than two years for he is only [a] junior” (Oberlin File, 21/1, II: Letters by Students, F. 8). Indeed, they did wait two more years before marrying at Gideon Adams’ Wellington home “in a most elegant style” described in some detail in yet another student letter (AMA Archives #104941). But whatever happiness the pair found together during their courtship did not last.

Oberlin Evangelist, 1850-09-11, pg. 7

Marriage announcement of Charles Conkling and Mary Ann Adams. “Oberlin Evangelist,” 9-11-1850, pg. 7.

Nine months almost to the day of the wedding, the couple’s first child was born. Alice Cowles Conkling was named in honor of Mary Ann’s predecessor as Principal of the Ladies’ Department, Alice Welch Cowles. Two more children, Charles Grandison (named for minister and Oberlin president Charles Grandison Finney) and Florence Perry, followed by 1859, when Mary Ann was forty-two years old. Husband Charles spent three more years studying theology at Oberlin, graduating in 1853. He began traveling out of state; for example, a newspaper notice directs correspondents to address him in western New York in 1854 (Oberlin Evangelist, 11-22-1854, pg. 7). It is unclear whether Mary Ann and the children accompanied him on these trips.

Then, in 1862, tragedy struck. In January, three-year-old Florence died. Ten weeks later, eight-year-old Charles also passed. Whether Mary Ann’s marriage was already beginning to unravel before this unimaginable loss, or the death of two of his children unhinged Charles Conkling, I do not know. But Mary Ann’s life became a nightmare. Two years later, the Congregational Church in Oberlin brought Conkling in to answer charges of cruelty, violence against his family, verbally abusive and violent actions against his boarders, and borrowing money with no intent to repay. Thirteen testimonies survive in the Oberlin College Archives describing a wife in feeble health, fearful for her surviving daughter’s safety, trying desperately to eke out a living and often “on the point of starving” (Records of the First and Second Congregational Church 31/4/1, B. 6). Conkling was characterized as a lazy ne’er do well who forced his wife to keep boarders, then stole her earnings and caused such regular unpleasantness that no one in Oberlin wanted to live in the household.

I do not know the immediate consequences of the church trial. The 1870 federal census shows only “Mary Conklin,” 55, living with daughter Alice, then nineteen and attending Oberlin College herself; she graduated in 1873. Mary Ann Adams Conkling died in 1871 and is buried in Oberlin’s Westwood Cemetery with her two younger children. Her oldest daughter seems to have left Ohio shortly after graduating, and later documents note her places of residence as including both Oklahoma and Texas. She does not seem to have ever married. Her abusive father, Charles Conkling, died in the Wayne County Infirmary, i.e. the Wooster poorhouse, in 1902. A newspaper report dismissed him as “a peripatetic lecturer and idler” (Western Christian Advocate, 6-4-1902, pg. 30).


Headstone of Mary Ann Adams Conkling (1816-1871), Westwood Cemetery, Oberlin, Ohio. Her two youngest children are buried with her; their names are inscribed on the opposite side of the marker. Photo by author.

I promised that this was the story of two Wellington women, and in fact, the history of the Wellington Seminary lies mostly with the second. When Mary Ann Adams married in 1850, she transferred management of her new school to Elizabeth “Eliza” Hamilton. Eliza was the daughter of Asa (1799-1866) and Lydia Deland Hamilton (1804-1881). Asa was born in Vermont, Lydia in Massachusetts. By the early 1820s, the young couple was living in Sheridan, New York, and it is there that Eliza was born in 1824. Shortly after her birth, the family moved again to recently settled Wellington, Ohio.

Asa Hamilton was an interesting character. He served as a Lorain County Commissioner, postmaster of Wellington, and was an active Mason. (His headstone in Greenwood Cemetery is topped with the symbol of the Royal Arch masons, a triangle with three T’s joined at the base.) The 1850 federal census shows twelve people living in the household, including a number of young men working for Asa’s carpentry and joinery business. Eliza Hamilton, then twenty-five, had no profession listed. But that was soon to change.

Asa Hamilton grave

Headstone of Asa Hamilton (1799-1866), Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. The symbol atop the stone is that of the Royal Arch Masons. Hamilton was an active Mason, serving as Wellington’s representative to the Grand Masonic Lodge of Ohio in Massillon in 1857. Photo by author.

The Hamiltons and the Adams family were neighbors. Their properties in the northeast quadrant of the village abutted, precisely in the area where Adams and Hamilton Streets are today. Eliza and her mother, Lydia, are listed in Wellington Corporation tax records as owning multiple parcels of land, with multiple structures, in the block between what are now Hamilton and Clay Streets. When Mary Ann Adams decided (if the decision was hers) to relinquish control of the newly formed seminary, it may have seemed to Eliza Hamilton like an opportunity too good to be missed. In the 1860 federal census, her profession line was filled: “Supt [Superintendent] Wellington Seminary.”

It appears that Gideon Adams retained ownership of the land and building for some time. Only in 1860, a decade after she began running the school, do Eliza Hamilton’s taxes first include the half-acre in Lot 21 described as “C[orner] Mn & A[dams] St.” The parcel was valued for tax purposes at $260, confirming the presence of a structure. Hamilton owned the lot until 1864, when she sold it to the village to be incorporated into the public school system. It is struck through in her 1864 taxes and annotated “Wellington Union School Not Taxable.”

I have not been able to locate any primary documentation related to the school itself, whether a student roster or any materials related to the school’s curriculum. In every published instance save one that I have found, it is referred to as a seminary. (One 1861 notice, published in an Oberlin paper, called it the “Wellington Academy.”) It is noted as the “Female Seminary” and the “W.F. Seminary” (which I assume to be an abbreviation for “Wellington Female”) in two separate 1863 Lorain County News notices. However, I found a reference in a brief biographical sketch of Wellington resident Lucius E. Finch which noted that he left “the seminary taught by Miss Eliza Hamilton at Wellington” when he was sixteen, circa 1859. Another biographical sketch of Pittsfield resident Robert Merriam mentioned that he “received his education at the common schools and at the Wellington Seminary…” Since Merriam enrolled at Oberlin College in 1854, presumably his time at the Wellington school predated that year. There are newspaper references to another school, taught by Mary H. Ladd, called both the “select school” and once, the Wellington Seminary. But that school seems to post-date Merriam’s attendance by a decade, while Finch clearly indicates that he attended Hamilton’s school.

What are we to make of this? Was the Wellington Seminary exclusively for females under the guidance of Mary Ann Adams, coming as she was from a decade of female education? Did the school begin to accept young men when Hamilton took over? The evidence of the two male biographies would seem to support that theory. Why then was the school continually referred to as the Female Seminary, as late as 1863, shortly before it closed its doors? In the absence of further evidence, we may never know.

Wellington moved to reorganize its public school system during the Civil War. Asa Hamilton actually presented a remonstrance to the Ohio House of Representatives (via Sidney Warner) protesting the passage of a law authorizing the citizens of Wellington “to levy a tax to build a high school house in said village” (Journal of the House of Representatives of the State of Ohio, Vol. 59, pg. 474-475). Whether Hamilton was working to protect his daughter’s economic interests, or just opposed taxation in general, is not clear. Regardless, his efforts failed, the tax levy was passed, and by 1867 the village had a modern, three-story brick Italianate housing its upper grades, the Union School. (Sadly, that very building is being demolished as I write this.)

The village purchased Eliza Hamilton’s land and building in 1864, and renamed it the North Primary School, i.e. what we might today call the elementary and middle school grade levels. (There was also a South Primary School on South Main Street, on the lot adjacent to my family’s current home.) That was the end of the fifteen-year history of the Wellington Seminary. Hamilton continued to teach, offering private classes in her own home. She remained in Wellington until nearly the end of her life, when she briefly moved closer to her brother in Pennsylvania. They died one month apart in 1877. Eliza’s remains were supposedly returned to Wellington and interred next to her father, Asa Hamilton, but there is no stone marking her grave.

Over the course of 1876 and 1877, The Wellington Enterprise published a series of short notices which, taken together, explain the fate of the 1849 seminary structure. Builder Hiram Allyn, who lived directly across from the school, purchased “the old North Primary School building” in April 1876. He moved it across the street onto a lot adjacent to his own house. He then renovated the structure and turned it into a residence. By May 1877, the paper noted, “The old seminary, now the new dwelling house, is further transformed by being painted a light drab, with dark brown trimmings; and blinds have been added. A new fence encloses the yard and lot…” (5-10-1877, pg. 3). I argued in a 2013 post, linked above, that the home which currently sits at 112 Adams Street is, at its core, the 1849 seminary. The village erected a small brick school house to replace the relocated wooden structure, which later became (old) St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, still standing on the lot today.

112 Adams Street

112 Adams Street, Wellington, Ohio. I believe this house contains the structure of the 1849 wood-frame Wellington Seminary, purchased and remodeled by Hiram Allyn in the 1870s.

The opening of Mary Ann Adams’ school in 1849 was first recorded in a published history just three decades later. The History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) credited Gideon Adams with erecting the building, and characterized the operation as “academical” without officially naming it. The passage noted that Adams had experience in female education, without specifying the gender(s) of her Wellington students. In 1896, Adams was heroine-worshipped in Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve, depicted traveling valiantly “back and forth from Wellington to Oberlin on horseback when the mud and water was [sic] up to the stirrups.” It is mentioned in passing that she “taught a private school for young ladies in Wellington” (vol. 2, pg. 310).

In 1922, Mrs. W.B. (Carrie) Vischer restored Eliza Hamilton to her rightful place in the seminary narrative in her lecture and subsequent publication, “History of Wellington.” Interestingly, Vischer referred to the school as “The Academy,” so subsequent modern authors have followed suit and used that inaccurate name. Vischer dated the school to 1849, but erroneously attributed construction of the building to Mary Ann Adams’ father, Deacon Amos Adams, who in fact died in 1836. She described the school as private, but open to “the youth of Wellington” apparently irrespective of gender. Carrie Vischer was born in 1861, so it is possible that she knew Eliza Hamilton, though she would have been a young girl when the latter left Ohio. That having been said, Vischer sketched a charming, albeit simple, portrait: “Miss Hamilton was a very intelligent woman, and to attend her school the road to success was assured. Miss Hamilton was assistant superintendent of the Methodist Sunday school for many years, her father being one of the first members of the Methodist church. Miss Hamilton was unique in appearance, always attired in bloomers. Her reason was ‘she could accomplish her work with more ease and comfort while thus attired'” (pg. 5). Later local history enthusiasts Robert Walden and Ernst Henes clearly borrowed liberally from Vischer’s text, and both highlighted Hamilton’s unorthodox fashion choices.

I find both educators fascinating. They had many similarities beyond the enterprise they shared. Each woman was born in another state but spent her entire life in Lorain County. Adams remained unmarried until much later than her contemporaries; Hamilton chose never to go down the path that ended so disastrously for her neighbor. Both women had a long history of chronic health problems, which they struggled against while working for their own financial support. There is evidence that each assisted other women in her community, providing money and even a place to live within her own household. Mary Ann Adams’ obituary noted, “Her scanty salary was often in great part devoted to assisting struggling young ladies in achieving their education. Many of her pupils will remember her with gratitude, and thank God that they ever came under her influence” (Lorain County News, 4-27-1871, pg. 3). Hamilton’s lengthy tribute in The Wellington Enterprise, very likely written by co-editor Mary Hayes Houghton, suggested that “her sympathy for the helpless and unfortunate prompted her to unreasoning self-sacrifice for those whose lives she sought to make better and brighter. How little she demanded for herself. How generously she planned and unremittingly toiled for others” (11-15-1877, pg. 3)!

As with so many of the topics I have researched, this one only leaves me wanting to know more. What was daily instruction like in the Wellington Seminary and what topics were the young people learning? Were the students, in fact, all females in certain periods of the school’s existence? Did they board in the school building, as Oberlin’s female students boarded and studied in Ladies’ Hall? Does the fact that the school was described as “private” suggest that only the wealthier citizens of the village could afford to have their children attend? And what of Adams and Hamilton–did each woman enjoy teaching, or did she do it simply because it was one of the only occupations open to unmarried women in the mid-nineteenth century? Curiosity is the blessing and curse of the lover of history.

UPDATE: Within one day of publishing this post, I discovered that the Lorain County News (1860-1873) was finally digitized and publicly available. Since this topic was uppermost in my mind, I began searching for additional information about Mary Ann Adams Conkling. I found four notices that furnish new details about the story of her life. The first, dated weeks after her young son Charles died–the second child she had lost that year–announced her opening a private school “at her residence on the corner of Pleasant and Lorain Streets” (6-11-1862, pg. 2). Even in her grief, Mary Ann had to support her surviving daughter. In 1864, the same year her husband was brought before the Congregational Church to answer for his abusive behavior, a “Chas. Conklin” was listed among Oberlin men who volunteered to join a new company of the 41st O.V.I. regiment (4-13-1864, pg. 3). Three years later, “Rev. C. Conkling” was again mentioned in the paper and described as “of Ashland formerly of Oberlin” (3-6-1867, pg. 3). Why was Conkling no longer living with his family? Because his wife was about to divorce him. The divorce was granted in late 1869, with Mary Ann receiving the Oberlin house and lot, as well as $1,000 alimony. Charles Conkling was also ordered to pay all court costs. (1-5-1870, pg. 2). Mary Ann Adams secured her marital freedom after two decades; whether she ever actually received her $1,000 is, though highly unlikely, lost to history.


A Journey to Lee

The Lee Congregational United Church of Christ, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

The Lee Congregational United Church of Christ, Lee, Massachusetts. Built in 1857. Photo by author.

For the past several years, as I made the journey home to Massachusetts from Ohio, I drove right by the town of Lee. Regular readers of the blog well know that many of Wellington’s earliest settlers came from Lee and surrounding communities in the Berkshires. I have long wanted to stop and take a closer look, and this year I was finally able to plan a visit.

I did a bit of preliminary research to try and identify eighteenth-century landmarks in the area. I was interested to see any buildings or structures that might have existed when the Howk family–1818 immigrants to Wellington–lived in Lee. There are not many left. The church at the center of the town was erected in 1857, though there is a marker on the adjacent green indicating where an earlier meeting house was built in 1780.

Marker indicating site of 1780 meeting house, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Marker indicating site of 1780 meeting house, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Illustration of Lee's first church, built in 1780. From "Lee: The Centennial Celebration and Centennial History of the Town of Lee, Mass," opposite pg. 226.

Illustration of Lee’s first church, built in 1780. From “Lee: The Centennial Celebration and Centennial History of the Town of Lee, Mass,” opposite pg. 226.

The church and town green are at the base of Howk’s Hill, and I was able to drive around the golf course that today occupies the 125 acres which once comprised Isaac Howk’s homestead. There is a lovely parsonage on the same road (now West Park Street) that the Howks would have passed on their way to meeting each Sunday. Hyde House was erected in 1792 and is still a private residence today.

Hyde House, Lee, Massachusetts. Built in 1792. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Hyde House, Lee, Massachusetts. Built in 1792. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

I then made my way to Fairmount Cemetery. What a strange experience it was, to wander around this Massachusetts resting place and and see so many familiar Wellington names: DeWolf, Foote, Bradley. I had no precise information on whether any stones stood for the people I have researched, but I was extraordinarily lucky. One of the very first markers I saw after parking belonged to Sarah Foote Sherrill (1808-1885).

Headstone of Sarah Foote Sherrill and her husband, Reverend Edwin J. Sherrill. Photo by author.

Headstone of Sarah Foote Sherrill and her husband, Reverend Edwin J. Sherrill. Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

As I made my way on foot further back into the cemetery, I passed further back in time. By the time I reached the area farthest from the street and main gate, I was in the eighteenth century. I discovered an older back road, now grassed over, that led to the oldest stones on the grounds. At first, I could not find any stones belonging to members of the Howk family. But I did discover a large marker for an Ingersoll relative of my husband’s. When I brought him back to show him the stone, I found to my astonishment that it was just feet from the final resting places of Isaac Howk and his daughter Catherine.

Headstone of Isaac Howk (1757-1805), Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Headstone of Isaac Howk (1757-1805), Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Catherine, called Caty by the family, died of consumption at age seventeen and is interred next to her father. Her stone is not as legible as Isaac’s. I could not help but imagine the rest of the Howk family taking leave of these stones before departing Lee for the Ohio country, never to return.

Headstone of Catherine Howk (1788-1806), Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Headstone of Catherine Howk (1788-1806), Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

It was a too-brief, but nonetheless thrilling, visit. I hope to return again and delve deeper into the historical connections between these two towns.

Disused rear gate that leads to the oldest part of Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Disused rear gate that leads to the oldest part of Fairmount Cemetery, Lee, Massachusetts. Photo by author.

Recent Acquisitions

Postcard image showing the Edward Tripp house, formerly located at 161 East Herrick Avenue. Card is postmarked September 24, 1906. Author's collection.

Postcard image showing the Edward Tripp house, formerly located at 161 East Herrick Avenue. Postmarked September 24, 1906. Author’s collection.

Since I began writing this blog nearly two years ago, I have started a small collection of images and documents relating to individuals I have profiled. I thought it might be fun to write a short post featuring some of my recent acquisitions. The image above of the Edward Tripp house is from an RPPC (real photo postcard), a personal photographic image printed directly on postcard stock, which became immensely popular at the turn of the twentieth century. This card was mailed to Marion, Ohio, in the fall of 1906. The house is no longer standing, having been demolished in the 1970s.

Receipt from Huckins & Wilbur, stove and tinware merchants, to John Whiton. Issued November 21, 1870. Author's collection.

Receipt from Huckins & Wilbur, stove and tinware merchants, to John Whiton. Issued November 21, 1870. Author’s collection.

Anyone who has read this blog from the beginning knows that Noah Huckins has always been a primary focus of my research. He built the Italianate house that my family owned for a decade. I was tickled to find this receipt from his partnership with John W. Wilbur. The two men ran a hardware store on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue) for seven years, from 1868 to 1875. Huckins later went on to found his own company–a cheese box manufacturing facility–with Charles Horr, while Wilbur continued on at the hardware store until his retirement and relocation to California in 1895.

Undated image of Mary Ethel Sutliff, taken by William Sawtelle. Author's collection.

Undated image of Mary Ethel Sutliff, taken by William Sawtell. Author’s collection.

This charming image of a little girl, hand-labelled “Mary Ethel Sutliff” on the reverse, is one of a number of photographs I have amassed taken by William Sawtell. I find Sawtell to be one of the most interesting people I have researched in Wellington’s history. His skill as a photographer is evident in all of his portraits, examples of which can be found here and here. Less well known is the fact that the man was also a talented artist. A few months ago, I came into possession of a small signed and dated oil painting that Sawtell apparently created as a gift. I am having it professionally conserved and framed, and will write a post about that process when it is finished.

Receipt for meat, written by J. M. Crabtree to J. W. Wilbur. Dated September 13, 1882. Author's collection.

Receipt for meat, written by J. M. Crabtree to J. W. Wilbur. Dated September 13, 1882. Author’s collection.

John Wilbur appears a second time, in this instance paying $18.41 to local butcher John Crabtree. Just a few weeks after I started this blog, I stumbled first across Crabtree’s meat market, and then shortly thereafter, the tragic story of his family. Crabtree lost two children and his wife in just a few weeks, during the summer of 1877. After that calamity, the butcher left Wellington for a year, but returned to resume business and remained in the village until his death in 1901.


Detail of mural, attributed to Mr. Lesley Tripp, in the basement of 326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Detail of twentieth-century mural in the basement of 326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

When my family first moved into our home on South Main Street a few years ago, we were constantly asked about the Archibald Willard murals in the house. Some folks had only heard about the murals and wanted to confirm whether they actually existed. Some claimed to have seen the paintings with their own eyes and wanted reassurance that they survived unscathed. The one constant in all these narratives was the attribution: everyone called them “the Willard murals.” It is completely understandable why this should be so. Archibald Willard was, after all, a nationally-known artist with a connection to the town. But while the commonly-held belief may be understandable, it is almost certainly incorrect.

Archibald Willard died in Cleveland in 1918, aged 82, following nearly a decade of ill health. Our bungalow was completed barely a year prior to his passing. Numerous notices in The Wellington Enterprise explicitly named the decorator, interior house painter, even the man who laid the stone walkway from the house to the street in the summer of 1917. Nowhere is there a mention of a famous painter visiting the construction site, let alone executing a massive and time-consuming mural commission.

Detail of mural, attributed to Mr. Lesley Tripp, in the basement of 326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Detail of twentieth-century mural in the basement of 326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Beyond this evidence “by omission” is a stronger clue that Willard was not the responsible party. In 2013, we were paid an impromptu visit by a member of the Schweller family, who occupied the house from the mid-1930s to the mid-1980s. Mr. Robert Schweller informed us that his father, Florian, hired a man called Leslie Tripp from Rochester, Ohio, to beautify three areas of the bungalow: the dining room; another small room on the ground floor; and a basement space that runs the width of the house. (Schweller, Sr. reportedly liked Tripp’s work well enough that he also retained him to decorate two of the family’s downtown businesses.) The dining room frieze of ducks in flight, and the four seasons encircling the walls of another ground-floor room, are now covered over by contemporary paint and wallpaper. Only the basement mural remains. If there is any signature on the work, we have not yet found it.

Does Mr. Schweller’s telling of this story prove that it is absolutely correct? With every respect to the man, it does not. Human memory, of both the short- and long-term varieties, is demonstrably unreliable. But weighing all the evidence currently in hand–Willard’s advanced age and ill health; no timely press coverage of such a notable project; and a first-person account fleshed out with numerous detailed anecdotes–the most reasonable working hypothesis is that local artist Leslie Tripp is our man. The next logical step would be in-depth research to disprove or substantiate that claim.

Why am I relating this story? The Wellington Enterprise recently published a full-page, heavily illustrated feature in which it reported that “the village’s oldest house” at 308 East Herrick Avenue is now for sale, and quite possibly contains three original vignettes by Archibald Willard. I was not intending to offer any public comment on the matter, but I have since been asked on several separate occasions for my opinion of the article’s accuracy, so I decided to write this post in response.

Let me begin by saying that I am not an art historian. I can only assess the available evidence as I understand it. Nineteen-year-old Archibald Willard moved to Wellington with his family in 1855. By 1857, he was capable of producing work that looked like this:

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

“Village of Wellington” (1857) by Archibald Willard. Signed and dated by the artist. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

When the house at 308 East Herrick Avenue first became available for sale, I made an appointment with the realtor and went to see it. It is known in local lore as the “Alanson Howk House” and I was very interested to look at some of the architectural details up close. I took snapshots of the small paintings at that time. Here is an example of one of the panels in question:

Panel in west front room of 308 East Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Undated, unsigned panel in west front room of 308 East Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

If we stipulate that Willard came to Wellington in 1855, and we acknowledge that he was a painter of some technical and aesthetic accomplishment by 1857, then it seems to me that we are left with two possible conclusions about the East Herrick panels. The first is that Archibald Willard painted them after he arrived in town, but before he (rapidly?) developed the talents evident when he painted Village of Wellington. Remember though that Willard did not begin to enjoy commercial success or a measure of renown until fifteen years later, with his Pluck paintings and lithographs. His earlier work is not likely to have been so prized, and therefore protected, prior to that time. The second possible conclusion is that Archibald Willard did not paint the East Herrick panels. They were created by someone with less sophisticated artistic abilities and later incorrectly attributed to the town’s most famous citizen. In the absence of further documentary evidence, I favor the second theory.

Panel in east front room of 308 East Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Undated, unsigned panel in east front room of 308 East Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Regarding the claim that 308 East Herrick Avenue is the village’s oldest house, I can only say that it was not built in 1815, as the article asserts. Alanson Howk is popularly credited as the builder of that house. He was among the first white settlers to arrive in the area we now call Wellington in late 1818, but he continued to live in his older brother’s household until at least 1826. This is shown by census documents and corporation tax records. Howk married Theadocia Clifford in October 1828; it is not improbable that a house was constructed to shelter the new family. Again, until further research can be conducted, I would only be comfortable stating that–if Alanson Howk was indeed the builder–the house was erected prior to his death in 1850. An architectural historian might have been able to offer a significantly tighter date range, but the Enterprise article indicates that major changes have recently been made to the interior of the structure.

Did Archibald Willard paint the three small works inside 308 East Herrick Avenue? Connoisseurship and artistic authentication are not my fields of expertise. But if you are asking for my best guess, I have my doubts.

Odds and Sods

The 1942 Wellington School Board; Winfield McConnell is seated at far left of frame.

The 1942 Wellington Board of Education. Winfield McConnell is seated at far left of frame. According to his obituary, Mr. McConnell served on the board for sixteen years. “The Wellington Hi-Times” (high school yearbook), 1942.

“Odds and sods” is my new favorite phrase. It’s the British equivalent of “odds and ends,” but somehow I find it so much more enjoyable to say. It seemed an appropriate title for this post, which is a bit of a catch-all of brief updates and a few quick announcements.

First, I wanted to write more about something I touched on in a post from early November. I noted that there is another house west of the village that is very similar to our 1917 bungalow on South Main Street, built by Fergus and Julia Camp. In trying to determine if there was a connection between the two properties, and whether they were both kit houses, I spent a lot of time this winter looking at catalogs from early twentieth-century mail-order house companies. Sears, Roebuck is the best known, but other such businesses included Aladdin, Wardway (the Montgomery Ward kit house division), Harris Brothers, and Gordon-Van Tine. You can find contemporary reprints of some of the more famous catalogs available for purchase or though library collections; digitized editions are harder to find, with the notable exception of the Aladdin Company. Nearly fifty years’ worth of its catalogs have been scanned and are freely available through the Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.

I then reached out to three separate experts on kit houses in this region of the country. All three independently asserted that they did not believe the houses in question to be built from kits. And though certain isolated architectural elements of the bungalows are similar to items that could be purchased through house catalogs, I was told that was likely because these companies were intentionally modeling their products after the most popular and fashionable home-building trends of the era.

Interior view of leaded glass windows. 326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Interior view of leaded glass windows. 326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Detail from a reprinted edition of the 1910 Sears, Roebuck Catalog, pg. 51. Leaded glass windows could be purchased for a kit home for just $1.45 per foot. Photo by author.

Detail from reprinted edition of the 1910 Sears, Roebuck Catalog, pg. 51. Leaded glass windows could be purchased for a kit home for just $1.45 per square foot. Photo by author.

In the hopes of learning something more concrete about the bungalow west of Wellington, I manually went through more than two years of The Wellington Enterprise looking for any mention of its construction, or a connection between Fergus Camp and Winfield McConnell. I found only this: “Winfield McConnell is building a new bungalow on his farm northwest of town” (10-20-1925, pg. 5). I discovered nothing further on the status of the construction, nor any announcement of the house being finished. And that is where the matter rests, at least for now.

On to a few quick project updates and announcements: the Wellington Genealogy Group has recently completed the digitization of the Wellington Council Journals and Ordinance Records dating from incorporation of the village in 1855 through 1925. This was a significant undertaking that captured more than 3,300 oversized ledger pages of text. We are currently determining the best method for making all the information publicly available.

I am very close to completing an issue-by-issue inventory of every extant edition of The Wellington Enterprise published in the nineteenth century. I have been recording information on the publishers, subscription prices, printing locations, and title and formatting changes over time. It has been fascinating and I will be providing a copy of the final product to the Herrick Memorial Library should anyone be interested in working with it. The library has asked me to help them inventory and prepare a preservation plan for some historic, non-circulating materials within their collections later this spring. The Spirit of ’76 Museum has asked me to assist them in the spring as well, with an inventory and preservation project to rehouse their nineteenth-century newspaper collection.

Finally, I want to make everyone aware of two special upcoming exhibits. Members of the Wellington Genealogy Group are finalizing displays in honor of both Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) that will be shown at the Herrick Memorial Library. We will also be showcasing some of the content on the group’s Facebook page, so if you enjoy reading this blog and you enjoy Wellington history, please consider “liking” that group. This year, for the first time, I have selected special topics for the blog to coincide with the upcoming history months. I think it is fair to say that I have never done as much research for a single post as I have for my next one. I am very excited to share it with all of you and hope to have it up by early February. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please click the “Leave a reply” option under any post title.


Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in New York's Hudson River Valley. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Kykuit, the Rockefeller estate in New York’s Hudson River Valley. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate in New York, is a National Historic Landmark. Since 1994, it has been open to the public under the auspices of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Thousands of visitors tour its impressive buildings and spectacular grounds every year. It also has a little-known connection to Wellington, Ohio.

Collier Van Buren Hemenway was born in New London in 1837. He moved to Wellington when he was forty years old, and lived in the village for nearly two decades. Hemenway was a brick maker by trade, and a highly successful one at that. He invented a piece of equipment that he called the Quaker Brick Machine, which sold across the United States. At least one found its way to Canada, and is featured in the image below.

Iron Quaker Brick Machine, purchased by the Pittman Brickyard in Newfoundland, Canada. Image from "History of Brick Making and Brickyards in the Area."

Iron Quaker Brick Machine, purchased by the Pittman Brickyard in Newfoundland, Canada. Image from “History of Brick Making and Brickyards in the Area.”

I was familiar with Hemenway’s name because in early 1881, he sold his brick yard to Noah Huckins. I assumed that selling the brick yard must indicate Hemenway was ending his business. What I did not understand was that brick yard sites were selected for their natural resources, which were then consumed over time by the operation. “Mr. C. V. Hemenway having exhausted the clay on his brick yard has purchased of Dr. Johns six acres of land, north of Liberty St. fronting on a street running north from Mill St. west to east line owned by J. S. Case,” The Wellington Enterprise reported in November of that same year. The new land must have been very rich in clay, because the brick yard was still located there in 1896, when the map of Wellington shown below was published.

Detail of Wellington Village map showing the location of the Hemenway brick yard and surrounding Hemenway "additions" of land. The family lived on the southeast corner of Liberty and Mill Streets, just across from the brick yard. 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 the Hemenway brick yard and surrounding Hemenway “additions” of land. The family lived on the southeast corner of West Main (first called Liberty Street, now called West Herrick Avenue) and Mill Streets, just across from the brick yard. From “Atlas and Directory of Lorain County, Ohio. Illustrated. 1896.” Pgs. 100-101. Photo by author.

The business eventually added tile manufacturing to its brick production, and at peak demand times C. V. Hemenway & Co. reportedly employed as many as sixty workers, a large number considering Wellington’s size. In addition to owning a number of buildings on North Main Street and developing several “additions” of land to the village, Hemenway also served on the town council for four terms.

In the late 1880s and early 1890s, business seemed to be booming. Frequent notices were printed in the Enterprise of this flavor: “C. V. Hemenway, manufacturer of brick and tile, has an increased force and increased facilities over previous seasons as he expects to manufacture half a million more brick than ever before in the same length of time” (4-3-1889, pg. 5). Or this: “C. V. Hemenway informs us that he has sold more brick to be consumed in this place within the past three months than he has within the past four years” (11-27-1889, pg. 5). Hemenway tiles were used at the American House and Hemenway bricks built the Horr, Warner & Co. cold storage warehouse.

In 1896, however, a far better opportunity presented itself. Collier Hemenway was offered a job by the richest man in the world. John D. Rockefeller lived nearby in Cleveland–as did a significant percentage of all the world’s millionaires at the time–but his work increasingly drew him to New York. In 1893, Rockefeller had purchased nine contiguous properties on top of Kykuit Hill, overlooking the Hudson River. Kykuit (the historic site uses the pronunciation KY-coot) was an old Dutch name meaning “look out,” due to its commanding views some four hundred feet above the river. Rockefeller wanted to erect a house on the highest point, but the area was described as “a rocky crag–wild, beautiful, and utterly unsuitable for building on” (Kykuit, Ann Rockefeller Roberts, pg. 11). He needed as estate manager.

View of Kykuit grounds today with the Hudson River in the far background. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

View of Kykuit grounds today with the Hudson River in the far background. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

How Rockefeller and Hemenway met, I do not know. The oil magnate was famous for his love of what we would today call “home improvement” and Hemenway was a well-known brick and tile maker in the region, so perhaps the two had collaborated on a project at Rockefeller’s Euclid Avenue mansion. However they met, Rockefeller offered Hemenway the position, and his offer was accepted. In April 1896, Collier and his wife Orlina, together with their youngest daughter Mabel, relocated to Tarrytown, New York. “Mr. Hemenway has been employed by John D. Rockefeller to superintend an estate of over a thousand acres of land which he has recently purchased and which he is fitting up at a great expense for a family home” (Enterprise, 4-29-1896, pg. 5).

Work was soon underway. The Tarrytown Argus reported by December of that year that Kykuit’s “summit and slopes [are] alive with men and teams busy in the work of grading and preparation of the site and immediate surroundings, altogether about one hundred acres, which is to be laid out in a landscape of surpassing beauty. Over one hundred men and upwards of fifty teams are now so employed there, the former entirely of American citizens, residents of this vicinity being given the preference” (reprinted in the Enterprise, 12-23-1896, pg. 5). It is interesting that the article should focus on the ethnicity of the workers as being “American citizens,” since by the time Hemenway retired from the superintendent role in 1907, a local paper called The Sun noted that the estate employed some two hundred men, “mostly Italians,” on a campus that had grown by that time to several thousand acres (4-7-1907, pg. 1).

When Collier V. Hemenway died in 1909, at age 72, his obituary highlighted his responsibilities at Kykuit. “[H]e had charge of all the improvements recently made. He planned and built a great many of the roads, put in the new water system, built the lakes and moved all the trees…He was highly regarded by Mr. Rockefeller who admired his ability and trusted his judgment” (Tarrytown Argus, reprinted in the Enterprise, 6-23-1909, pg. 3). The New York Tribune reported on Hemenway’s funeral, principally the fact that the Rockefellers personally attended. The family was not only present in the Hemenway home for the service, but also went to nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to witness the interment. The article noted how “deeply affected” John D. Rockefeller appeared to be. “[T]ears were in his eyes all during the services. At the cemetery he remained to the last and helped to place flowers on the grave” (6-14-1909, pg. 3). As a mark of respect to their former estate manager, three hundred workers from Kykuit were said to have attended the burial.

Headstone of Collier Van Buren Hemenway at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York. Image from website "Find a"

Headstone of Collier Van Buren Hemenway at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York. Image from website “Find a”

John D. Rockefeller was so notoriously detail-oriented and so intimately involved in planning the construction of the “Big House,” as the family called it, that Kykuit was not finished until 1908. Even then the billionaire was not satisfied, and immediately commenced on a series of renovations that left the house with a completely different facade. That work did not end until 1913. Collier Hemenway never saw the mansion as any member of the public may see it today. Many publications that discuss the history of Kykuit do not even bother to cover the period before construction of the house began, so Hemenway’s name is often omitted, despite his eleven years superintending the grounds of the estate. A single tribute remains. In 1914, the Rockefellers added three lakes to the property to help meet the increasing water needs of estate residents. They called them Hemenway Lakes.