Category Archives: Holidays

Yankee Doodle Killjoy


“July 4th. The Day We Celebrate.” Undated (early twentieth-century) postcard.

On July 3, 1879 (one hundred and thirty-seven years ago today, for those keeping track) The Wellington Enterprise had some things to say about the celebration of Independence Day. The author of the piece was most likely publisher and editor Dr. John Houghton, though it might also have been his co-editor and spouse, journalist Mary Hayes Houghton. Dr. Houghton was a fervent booster of the village and promoter of its economic growth,  so the reader would be forgiven for expecting him to favor community-wide celebrations. But Houghton was also adamant that the town needed a dedicated fire department. He owned a wood-frame three-story building on the west side of South Main Street that housed his own drug and stationery shop on the ground floor, the publishing operation of the Enterprise on the second floor, and the local Masonic Hall on the top floor. The structure had been-and would be again-damaged in more than one conflagration. From that perspective, the 4th of July was a nightmarish experience. It would be January 1881 before Wellington formed its first volunteer fire company, so Houghton must have been crossing his fingers and praying for an uneventful holiday when he penned the following.

The Fourth of July. The day is dreaded by every town property holder as much as it is anticipated by the small boy with his promise of fire-crackers and a toy gun. We trust that in according all suitable liberty to celebrators proper forethought may be used and due care for the safety of an unprotected village exposed to the accident of fire. We remember that last year a great bonfire was permitted on our little public square, a dangerous proceeding whatever the condition of the atmosphere, and twice during the evening burning material was carried by the current to the high roof of our office building, igniting the pine shingles so that a comfortable blaze was started, and but for the forethought of two citizens who climbed to the roof and discovered it in its beginning, thousands of dollars worth of property would have soon been in ashes.

Wellington has no means of promptly putting out fires that start on the roof of a three story building. Our Mayor [A.W. Palmer] has the authority to restrain such recklessness, and the people will expect him to forbid any such foolish demonstration as that of last year. The hooting and yelling about the bonfire, even a long way off, sounded as though the whole Indian reservation had emptied its noisy hordes who were having a war dance in our midst. And the firing of that old cannon to the destruction of costly church windows and frail private property in the stores is another outrage that we hope will not again be allowed within the corporation. We give voice to the feelings of hundreds of our citizens in mentioning this, and for the comfort and security of all who have homes or business interests at stake, and not from any desire to criticize any private citizen or public officer.

It is not the real patriots who care to express their loyalty to and appreciation of the government by dangerous and ear-splitting exhibitions and the burning of barrels and dry goods boxes saturated with coal tar. There is always a painful reaction from the hilarity of the 4th when the returns begin to come in and we must consider how many hearts must always ache with the remembrance of the day, because of lives lost, friends maimed or property burned. Let not all reflection be too late for profit” (pg. 3).

And on that uplifting note, Happy 4th of July! May it be a safe and joyous occasion for everyone.


J. W. Houghton’s drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. The building was demolished in the 1960s and the site is today part of the Farm & Home Hardware parking lot. Photo 970885 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.


Our Great National Feast of Thanksgiving

"A Thanksgiving Toast." Undated holiday card (likely early twentieth century).

“A Thanksgiving Toast.” Undated holiday card (likely early twentieth century).

Thanksgiving is upon us once again. Hard to believe this is my third annual Thankgiving post. I want to start off with a heartfelt, “Thank you!” to all those who attended my recent talk. I was surprised and gratified by how many people attended, and by the kind comments of all who took a moment to speak with me after the program. You have inspired me to get back to work!

Often, when we read about the history of the American Thanksgiving holiday, the year that is offered as the “first” official Thanksgiving (after 1620 in Plymouth, of course) is 1863. We have all heard the story of how President Abraham Lincoln, at least partly in response to a twenty-year-long campaign by author and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, proclaimed a federal holiday of thanks for recent Union victories including the battles of Gettysburg and Vicksburg. What is less often noted, however, is that for decades prior, Thanksgiving had been proclaimed as an annual holiday by the governors of America’s individual states. In 1847, for example, twenty-four of the twenty-nine states celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Thanksgiving was by no means a novel concept in 1863.

The Lorain County News, which was Wellington’s only local newspaper at the time of the Civil War, commented on November 25, 1863 that Thanksgiving was “a venerable day of family reunions, joyous meetings and congratulations, tender reminiscences and emotions, praise and prayer.” The paper reflected on how especially sad this particular Thanksgiving would be in light of the year’s massive loss of human life, but added, “In all the past visitations of this joyous anniversary we have never had greater occasion than now for hearts full to overflowing with gratitude…since last thanksgiving [sic] day the rich prospect has dawned upon us of a redeemed nation, a people loyal and true to the government and a proclamation of freedom to millions of human beings” (pg. 2).

On that federally-appointed Thanksgiving of 1863, all Wellington businesses were closed and the village joined as one for a single religious observance at the Congregational Church in the morning, followed in the evening by a “well-attended thanksgiving [sic] prayer meeting at the M.E. Church.” The townsfolk had previously subscribed $50 to provide Thanksgiving food to soldiers’ families. Each of the twelve that had a young man at the front received “a good wheelbarrow load of edibles” including flour, potatoes, sugar, tea, crackers, beef, and “a pair of dressed chickens.” This admirable donation was valued at more than $4 per family. In addition, Rev. Mrs. Shipherd spearheaded the collection of “greatly needed articles” that had already been forwarded “to the suffering contrabands, the freedmen, women and children of the South” (LCN, 12-2-1863, pg. 3).

A very joyous holiday to you all. May we count our blessings and be truly grateful all the year ’round.

Christmas in July

“The Wellington Enterprise,” 12-21-1898, pg. 1. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

On this day devoted to outdoor celebrations in sunshine and heat, I decided to celebrate something a bit different. I’ve written at some length about the history of The Wellington Enterprise over the course of the nineteenth century. (Posts can be found here, here and here.) A few months ago, when I made a research visit to the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland, one of my purposes was to look at a specific issue of that newspaper dated December 21, 1898. I believe it is the first issue of the Enterprise ever to use color printing.

The December 14th edition announced the special publication: “Our Christmas Number. Next week’s number of the The Enterprise will be the Christmas, and will be issued next Monday. It will consist of eight pages, including a specially designed cover, printed in colors. This as well as the inside pages will be of good quality of book paper, all stitched together on our wire stitcher, and will be by far the handsomest holiday paper ever put out in the city. It will not be a conglomerated mass of advertising daubed on paper, but a neat, distinctive, attractive portrayal of great bargains. Such work as this office takes pride in producing…” (pg. 4).

The owners of the paper at that time, brothers operating under the name French Printing Company, had only run the business since 1897 but had very soon gone into financial receivership. They tried a number of schemes to increase circulation, including reducing the paper from eight pages to four but printing it twice per week. This experimentation with color seems to be have been another such attempt to increase advertising dollars and make the company solvent. The plan failed and the newspaper was sold to a small stock company formed expressly to save it, just after the turn of the century.

Enjoy the sunshine and warmth of this Independence Day, dear readers. Do not give a thought to the cold and snows that will be here before we know it.

“The Wellington Enterprise,” 12-21-1898, pg. 7. Original object held in the collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by author.

The Day Long Anticipated


January 30, 1893 portrait of the choir of Wellington's First Methodist Church. Photo 970567 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

January 30, 1893 portrait of the choir* of Wellington’s First Methodist Church. Photo 970567 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

CHRISTMAS. Making that Sacred Day One of Giving for Everyone. The day long anticipated came tardily enough to little children waiting for luminous Christmas trees or stockings to be filled mysteriously at chimney corners. To those whose heads must plan and hands must execute the day approached with hurrying haste. And it now is all over; processions of children filing into decorated Sunday-school rooms, chanting of hymns in illuminated churches, with the joyous peal and clang calling from belfry and tower; voluntaries sweet, solemn and grand; the gladness of its giving and the happiness of its receiving, all commemorating anew the birth of the child at Bethlehem. Echoing through the centuries, rings the chorus of the angelic hosts, and believers in all nations have caught the glad refrain: ‘Glory to God in the highest! peace on earth, good will toward men.’ God grant that the fresh impulse of love and good will, inspired by the event of Christmas, may not fade and wither, like the holly and evergreen around the pulpit and altar…”

So wrote Mary Hayes Houghton, former co-editor of The Wellington Enterprise, on Christmas Day, 1895. Mrs. Houghton was a noted journalist in her own right, a woman of deep religious faith, and a beautifully accomplished and moving writer. I could find no better words to wish you all a joyous holiday season.

Mary Hayes Houghton (1837-1921). Co-editor of "The Wellington Enterprise" for nine years, though even her husband acknowledged, "She contributed the larger share of copy."

Mary Hayes Houghton (1837-1921). Co-editor of “The Wellington Enterprise” for nine years, though even her husband acknowledged, “She contributed the larger share of copy.”

*Two copies of this image are included in the Herrick Memorial Library’s “Wellington Family Album,” with differing sets of identifying information. I offer each below in its entirety, in case one of these individuals is a member of your family.

(970567) “On the left in the photo foreground is M. W. Franks, choir director and on the right is Rev. E. Hagerman, pastor from 1892-1896. The men are seated on either side of the church pulpit. The choir is identified as: Front row: Grace Roedel, Edith Wickenden, Ann Lessott, Angie Metzger, Miriam Dirlam, Mary Nichols, Emma Lessott, Minnie Cleghorn, sopranos; May Blackburn, Millie Lessot, Bertha Cushion, Hattie West, Eda Zempher, May Pierce. Second row men: Bass: Arthur French, Hugh Allyn, Albert Peirce, Everett Barrick, Father Lissot, Gene McEntere, Peter Eidt, Mr. Cook, Herbert Durand, Will Zempher, Don Stroup, Walter Cole, Don Cushion. Orchestra: Chas. Furz, bass cornet, Gene Cushion, Carl Metzger, Clare Harvey, Win Franks, leader.”

(970470) “Seated in front, William Franks, choir director and Reverend Haggerman, minister. First row; Grace Roedel, Edith Pierce, Ann Tissot, Angie Metzger, Mayme Franks, Millie Tissot, Bea Howk Cushing, Hattie West, Eva Zimpher, Unknowns, May Pierce. Second row; Unknown, Hugh Allen, Albert Pierce, Lyman Barrick, Mr. Tissott, Mr. McIntyre, Pete Eidt, Mr. Cook, Herb Durand, Unknown, Unknown, Don Cushion, George Howk. Third row, orchestra; Charley Furze, Charlie Linder, Eugene Cushing, Claire Metzger, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown. Organist, Louella Hopkins.”

Here Comes Santa Claus

"A Joyous Christmas." Undated holiday card. From the website

“A Joyous Christmas.” Undated holiday card. From the website CardCow.

I have nearly finished my issue-by-issue indexing of all the extant nineteenth-century editions of The Wellington Enterprise. This morning I ran across this charming little notice, nestled in amongst the regular community news items:

“Santa Claus has sent his reindeers into the country to be looked after, this winter, and will use a bicycle, this time, to deliver his presents. This indicates that even Santa is willing to adopt the improvements made” (12-5-1894, pg. 5).

Happy holidays, dear readers! I am presently working on a list of topics to research and write about in the new year. As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Just click on, “Leave a reply,” at the top of any post. Looking forward to hearing from you all!

Now Thank We All Our God

"A Happy Thanksgiving." Undated holiday card.

“A Happy Thanksgiving.” Undated holiday card.

Thanksgiving. Considering how many families were out of town on Thanksgiving day and how many women are detained at home by the extra duties imposed by hospitality, there was a large attendance at church in Wellington. But whether roasting turkey by the kitchen range, looking after the grandchildren or entertaining the little neices [sic] and nephews that could not be taken to church, there is no doubt that many hearts were warmly cognizant of the Divine goodness, who were not numbered with public worshipers that day. Few but would find some quiet half hour in which the mercies of the year were reviewed and recognized. Domestic affection, family ties–every feeling and principle that makes life more sweet and the home stronger–is stimulated by this annual festival” (The Wellington Enterprise, 12-5-1883, pg. 3).

I could not have said it better myself, Dr. Houghton.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

"Good Wishes for Thanksgiving Day." Undated holiday card.

“Good Wishes for Thanksgiving Day.” Undated holiday card.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, 1907, in front of Wellington Town Hall. Photo 970432 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Memorial Day, 1907, in front of Wellington Town Hall. Photo 970432 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Decoration Day was officially established three years after the end of the Civil War, in 1868, by the head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which was the organization dedicated to Union veterans’ affairs. From the beginning, observances have included speeches, processions to cemeteries and the decoration of veteran graves with flowers, and later flags.

Memorial Day commemorations received a great deal of newspaper coverage in nineteenth-century Wellington. Noah Huckins was very active in veterans’ affairs, having served himself in the Civil War, so I have found numerous mentions of him serving on planning committees throughout his life. In 1873, for example, he and E. F. Webster were the Oration Committee “for the observance of Memorial or Dedication Day in Wellington” (The Wellington Enterprise, 5-22-1873, pg. 3). The proposed program outline was as follows:

General procession of Soldiers and Citizens with Band.

To form at town Hall, at 1 o’clock, p. m. and proceed to

the different cemeteries and perform the ceremonies of Decoration.

Huckins would have had no difficulties recognizing the parade of veterans, public service personnel, musicians and children that marched down South Main Street to Greenwood Cemetery at 11 o’clock this morning.

For a listing of Wellington’s GAR membership, complete with images from the ‘Spirit of ’76’ Museum and obituaries from The Wellington Enterprise, please visit this page on the Wellington Genealogy Group website.