Category Archives: Huntington

“A Modern Home In Every Respect”

326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

326 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

“MR. CAMP’S NEW RESIDENCE. Mr. Ferd Camp has his plans ready and is now awaiting the arrival of the brick, when he expects to begin the erection of his new brick residence on grounds fronting South Main street, and directly in front of his large barn. It will be a modern home in every respect, although it will not be so very large, the size being 38×32, one story and a half high, but the building will be extra well built and will cost him at least $6,000 when completed. The old tennis grounds, that have afforded much pleasure to lovers of the game in years agone, will soon be occupied by a handsome home for our good friend. May himself and wife live long to enjoy the same” (The Wellington Enterprise, 5-3-1916, pg. 1).

When Fergus and Julia Camp decided to move from their four-hundred-acre horse farm in Homer to the more urban setting of Wellington in 1906, they purchased the three-story home and grounds belonging to O. P. Chapman. (They left their only son in charge of the farm in Homer, though Fergus made frequent trips back to participate in harvesting and horse sales.) Camp was a wealthy man and even before relocating to the village, he commissioned “quite elaborate” improvements to the South Main Street property, which was then only twenty-five years old. The tennis courts mentioned in the notice above may have been one such addition.

Wellington, Ohio from a postcard cancelled in 1906, the year Fergus and Julia Camp moved to town. Postcard images were often reused for many years, but this picture could have been taken no earlier than 1904 (the year the Reserve Building was completed). Author's collection.

Wellington, Ohio from a postcard cancelled in 1906, when Fergus and Julia Camp moved to town. Postcard images were frequently reprinted, but this picture could have been taken no earlier than 1902, the year the Reserve Building was completed. Author’s collection.

By 1906, the Camps were both in their sixties. Fergus–called “Ferd” by his friends–was a white-bearded, wiry man who had lost a hand in a combine accident. I conducted an oral history with a gentleman who knew Camp at the end of his life, when he himself was a boy. He described Camp as a womanizer, drinker and gambler, though I have been unable (not surprisingly) to find published accounts that substantiate those assertions. He knew that Camp had lost a hand, and recalled that he often wore a hook in its place, and held the reins on his horses with the opposite hand.

Camp’s wealth enabled him to pursue his passion, raising Percherons. I noted in my previous post that the story of O. P. Chapman’s carriage house had become a bit garbled as it was passed down the generations. By the time my family came to own it, we were told that Fergus Camp had built it to house trotter horses, which he raced on a track that was later adapted into the present-day circular driveway. While I am by no means an expert in matters equestrian, my understanding is that Percherons are renowned as draft horses, used both on farms and also to pull earlier forms of public transportation. I do not know if the story about the track is accurate, but I do know that the barn predates Camp’s occupation. He did not build it, though it may have been what convinced him to buy the Chapman property.

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.

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 toddler. Author’s collection.

Fergus Camp was one of the first residents of Wellington to own an automobile, possibly as early as 1906. He seems to have used the car for the routine trips back to Homer. “Mr. Camp handles his auto with ease and grace, and by the way, he has a smart car, with plenty of power,” the paper reported in 1911. That same year, Ferd became one of the founders of the Wellington Motor Club. There were just eleven members in total, of whom three were doctors, which perhaps suggests the socio-economic status required to own and operate such a vehicle at that time. (In 1911, a new Ford cost between $600 and $1,200.) “The principal object of the Club is to obtain the written pledges of candidates and present members of the Board of County Commissioners, that the 4-mile stretch of quagmire and holes, called a ‘main road,’ between Wellington and Pittsfield be ‘piked’ the coming summer” (Enterprise, 11-22-1911, pg. 7). Five years later, Camp’s car was hit by a train at Spencer. “It was smashed some,” a reporter noted dryly, but the seventy-one-year-old driver somehow escaped uninjured.

In 1915, just nine years after the Camps purchased the Chapman residence and moved to Wellington, they decided to build a brand new home. That summer, the family sold 318 South Main Street to Charles Jones of Brighton. But they held onto the adjoining land and carriage house. Their plan was to build a modern, Craftsman-style bungalow on the lot, then occupied by their own tennis courts.

Oddly, the Camps opted to sell their home before construction on the new building had even started. Instead, they moved directly across the street into a small wooden house previously owned by the late Calvin Sage. Sage had been a longtime insurance agent (Noah Huckins was part of his firm in the 1880s), and according to the 1870 federal census, he had lived with Oren and Ella Chapman in Huntington before they all relocated and became neighbors in Wellington. Sage’s home is still known today as the Huntington House, as the Greek Revival structure was supposedly transported from that town sometime after the railroad came through Wellington in the mid-nineteenth century. Fergus and Julia Camp would be tenants in the house for nearly eighteen months.

Calvin Sage. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Calvin Sage. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

409 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. The so-called "Huntington House" once owned by Calvin Sage and temporary home to Fergus and Julia Camp.

409 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. The so-called “Huntington House” once owned by Calvin Sage and temporary home to Fergus and Julia Camp.

Weather during the building season of 1916 was poor, and bricklayers were difficult to employ, because the Union School was erecting a large brick addition that same year. It was almost twelve months after a notice first appeared in print announcing Camp’s intention to build the bungalow that the Enterprise finally reported “the Camp residence begins to look like home” (9-27-1916, pg. 2). Over the course of the following six months, wiring was installed, the grounds were landscaped, and “Mr. Ad. Wadsworth” was employed as the decorator and painter of the house. The last notice I have located pertaining to the construction reported that “Culver” had just finished laying a stone walkway from the porch to the street in July 1917.

Fergus and Julia were finally able to occupy their residence in February 1917. They were both more than seventy years old, which may account for the origin of the “retirement home” story I mentioned in my previous post. All the published notices during the building process stressed the beauty, modernity and costliness of the new structure. The Craftsman style had become very popular in early-twentieth-century America, a clean-lined and elegant response to the clutter and fussiness of Victorian architecture and decor. Though we do not know precisely how much the house cost to build and furnish, the 1930 federal census estimated the value of the Camps’ bungalow at $10,000. By comparison, the much larger house that Camp sold to Charles Jones at 318 South Main Street was estimated to be worth just $6,000. (It is possible that the value of the carriage house accounts for this difference, but the census question does specifically ask for “value of home.”)

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

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

Original basement sink of 326 South Main Street. Possibly made of soapstone and stamped, "F. M. Camp / Wellington, Ohio." Photo by author.

Original cellar sink of 326 South Main Street. Possibly made of soapstone and stamped, “F. M. CAMP / WELLINGTON OHIO.” Photo by author.

Julia Low Camp died in her modern bungalow in 1936. She was ninety and had celebrated her sixty-eighth wedding anniversary a few months before. Fergus Camp survived his wife by just twelve weeks; he was ninety-one when he passed away in the house. The gentleman with whom I conducted the oral history asserted that Camp died heavily in debt. Court papers filed two years before his demise show the estimated value of his personal property–including ninety-four sheep, stock in the First Wellington Bank, the dwelling in Wellington and the farm in Homer–at $23,900. Attorney (and later amateur historian) Robert Walden petitioned the court to sell ninety of the sheep and some miscellaneous farm equipment “for the support and maintenance of his said ward and his family and for the payment of some of his debts,” but made no mention of a necessity of selling the more valuable real estate assets.

Camp’s probate documents include a room-by-room inventory of the contents of the bungalow in 1936. Notable items included a “marbletop” table; a clock and “statue”; a Victrola and records; a piano and bench valued at $15; oil paintings; an ice box in the kitchen; a washing machine in the cellar; and a “Buick car” parked in the barn worth $10. Camp’s Wellington lots were appraised at $8,500 at the time of his death.

According to my oral history subject, the bungalow was then auctioned “by invitation” to local businessmen. The sale was reportedly conducted in the dining room. The winning bidder was a man named Florian Schweller (1898-1976), an immigrant from Austria-Hungary who owned several enterprises in town over the course of his life, including the Wellington Candy Company at 122 West Herrick Avenue. Schweller had known Fergus Camp, but fearing possible prejudice against foreigners, he sent a representative to the auction and bought the house anonymously. The Schweller family occupied the little brick residence for almost fifty years. To this day, three decades later, the house is still known to many people in Wellington as “the old Schweller place.”

Interior view of the Schweller family's candy shop on West Herrick Avenue (present location of Fort's Old Towne Tavern), ca. 1926. Photo 970431 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Interior view of the Schweller family’s candy shop at 122 West Herrick Avenue (present location of Fort’s Old Towne Tavern), dated May 1926. Photo 970431 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I have one final coda to add to my tale of the Camp family’s thoroughly modern home. On State Route 18, just west of the village, is a small brick bungalow that is its mirror-image; the floor plan is identical, but reversed. That house was built for a man called Winfield McConnell, perhaps around 1925. I have spoken with the present owners, as well as members of the McConnell family. Not much is known about the history of that house, though it is believed to have been constructed by Delton Mohrman, McConnell’s nephew. Mohrman was a “jack-of-all-trades,” a farmer, carpenter and builder in the non-growing seasons. I do not know if Win McConnell and Ferd Camp knew one another. It has been suggested to me that the two bungalows were assembled from identical kits, but I am not sure if that makes sense given Camp’s wealth and the emphasis in the written record on how expensive (and slow) his new construction was going to prove. If the first house was not a kit, did McConnell visit and like the look of it? Did he ask Camp to share building plans? Or was Delton Mohrman somehow involved in the construction of Camp’s house and then shared his knowledge with his uncle?

What a wonderful centennial birthday gift to our bungalow it would be if I could learn more.

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De-Camp

318 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

318 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

“One by one, these resourceful neighbors left their Huntington homes and built larger and varied Wellington homes. Practically all of these New England transplants were located on both sides of South Main Street in the southerly section of Wellington” (Frank Chapman Van Cleef, Ninety-Nine Bottles: Recollections and Episodes since 1896 Originating in Lorain County, Ohio, pg. 19.)

Several months back, I made my last post about our former home at 600 North Main Street. I mentioned that my family had purchased a new house, also in Wellington, and that I would eventually tell its story. Before I can do that, I must start by relating the tale of the house next door.

When we moved into our new place, we were told that the same person–a man by the name of Camp–had first built the large Victorian one lot north, then later built our house as a “retirement” property. A bit of research revealed that the truth is both more complicated, and also much more illustrative of the late-nineteenth-century history of the village.

Detail of Wellington Village map showing west side of South Main Street. From "Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874." Pg. 61. Photo by author.

Detail of Wellington Village map showing west side of South Main Street, between South and Fourth Streets. Note the shaded school shown on lot 25; this is the approximate location of 318 South Main Street today. From “Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874.” Pg. 61. Photo by author.

In 1878, Abel Dewey Perkins was a fifty-three-year-old Lorain County Commissioner living in Huntington. That winter, he sold his farm and determined to join the ongoing migration of Huntington residents to Wellington. But, The Wellington Enterprise reported, he was undecided as to whether he ought to build a new house or buy an existing one (2-28-1878, pg. 3). Perkins apparently opted to build, but must have secured interim accommodations for his family because he took his time about it.

Nearly two years later, the Wellington Board of Education auctioned off the South Primary school building and its land, located on the west side of South Main Street. Perkins purchased the property for $800, a figure later reported in the budget for the new addition to the Union School a few blocks north (the older school apparently being sold to finance expansion of the newer). At the same time, several of the lots surrounding the primary school were purchased by a man named O. P. Chapman. Chapman was an early partner in Horr, Warner & Co., a highly successful businessman, and also happened to be Abel Perkins’ only son-in-law. Oren and wife Ella were planning to relocate from Huntington as soon as the new family seat was completed.

Hiram Allyn, builder, finished the house he has been building for A. D. Perkins on South Main street. It is said to be one of the finest specimens of gothic architecture in town,” the Enterprise proclaimed in the spring of 1881. The very next issue informed readers that, “Mr. O. P. Chapman will move into Mr. A. Perkins’ house April 1st, the two families occupying it in common” (3-14-1883, pg. 3).

While the house was under construction, Chapman commissioned an enormous carriage house on his adjoining land. It was finished in May 1883. “O. P. Chapman has the best arranged and finest finished horse and stock barn on his place on South Main St. we ever saw. It will pay any admirer of good things to call and see it. He has also some very fine blooded stock, and is giving special attention to their growth and improvement” (Enterprise, 5-9-1883, pg. 3). The newspaper was not just being polite; the carriage house was so beautifully crafted and elaborately decorated that it had the same tax evaluation as Perkins’ three-story residence, namely $1,205. Even today, passers-by often mistake it for a Victorian home, though it still retains its original horse and cattle stalls.

O. P. Chapman's carriage house, originally built as part of the property for 318 South Main Street (now part of the parcel for 326 South Main Street). Photo by author.

O. P. Chapman’s carriage house. Originally built as part of the property for 318 South Main Street, it is now included in the parcel for 326 South Main Street. Photo by author.

In 1892, Abel Dewey Perkins died in his home of “apoplexy,” very likely what we would today term a stroke. Just five years later, his daughter Ella tragically drowned in a holiday boating accident; she was only forty-six. Abel’s widow, Mary, died in 1901. It is not hard to imagine how empty such a large house must have seemed in the face of so much personal loss. By 1906, Chapman was ready to move on, albeit not very far away. His nephew, Frank Chapman Van Cleef, later wrote, “After Uncle Oren’s tragic loss of Aunt Ella by drowning in his arms when their row boat capsized on a Lake Erie fishing trip, Grandma [Isobel Lindsey Chapman] and my parents spared no effort trying to alleviate his loneliness. When he sold his residential property, he made his headquarters in the second floor apartment Grandma had built directly over her own apartment. As housekeeping became more arduous for her, both she and Uncle Oren eventually prevailed upon my parents [Edward Anson and Josephine Esther Chapman Van Cleef] to move into the large upstairs bedroom” (Ninety-Nine Bottles, pgs. 32-33).

The house Van Cleef describes in that passage, in which he spent part of his own childhood, is a gorgeous brick Italianate that still stands today. It was erected by his maternal grandfather–yet another Huntington émigré–in 1876 and in his honor is still known as the John Austin Chapman house. So Oren Chapman moved from living communally with his wife’s family to living so with his own, by relocating just a hundred yards south.

344 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

344 South Main Street, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

March 14, 1906, an Enterprise front-page headline announced, “The O. P. Chapman Place Sold.” The three-paragraph article noted that Chapman had lived in “his handsome home on South Main street” for “some 23 years.” It described the house as “one of the best properties in town, and has a large and convenient barn, besides two or three acres of land.” F. M. Camp of Homer, Ohio was named as the purchaser, and a “well to do man.” The piece ended, “Rumor says [Chapman] got $9,000 for the property. It is cheap at that price and is the largest amount ever paid for residence property in this city.”

So, local legend notwithstanding, Fergus and Julia Camp did not move to Wellington until 1906, by which time the house at 318 South Main Street was already a quarter-century old. The adjacent carriage house had stood just as long, and was built by Oren Chapman, not by Camp for his racehorses, another myth. In my next post, I will write more about the Camps and about the house they actually did build, a lovely little Craftsman-style bungalow nestled amongst older and grander neighbors.

Sereno and Mary Bacon

"Residence of S. D. Bacon, Wellington, Ohio." From "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), opposite pg. 349. A caption notes that the engraved images are taken from photographs by William F. Sawtell.

“Residence of S. D. Bacon, Wellington, Ohio.” From “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), opposite pg. 349. A caption notes that the engraved images are taken from photographs by William F. Sawtell.

On April 8, 1889–almost exactly 125 years ago–Noah and Ermina Huckins sold their house, barn and two adjoining lots fronting Lincoln Street to local farmer S. D. Bacon for $2,750. Regular readers of the blog will recall that one of my unanswered questions about Huckins is why he chose to sell all his properties and businesses in Wellington to become junior partner in an Oberlin hardware store.

I had always assumed that when Huckins sold the Italianate house he built on family land in 1876, he immediately departed with his wife and children. But I recently discovered notices in The Wellington Enterprise that suggest only Huckins left the village right away. “Mr. N. Huckins who is now engaged in business in Oberlin returns occasionally to visit his family and friends,” the paper reported on April 17, 1889. I took that to mean he was visiting extended family; his wife’s siblings still lived in Wellington.

But nearly three months after the sale of the house, this notice appeared in the Oberlin notes section of the Wellington paper: “N. Huckins, of the firm of Carter & Huckins, has rented the residence of Mrs. Mary Jewett, No. 18 East Lorain street, and will remove his family from Wellington to this place about August 1st” (6-26-1889, pg.5). From what I can determine, the Jewett home stood on the present day site of a park across from the Allen Memorial Art Museum and is no longer standing.

Undated image of East Lorain Street, Oberlin, Ohio. The house at the left of the frame is likely the Jewett home rented by Noah Huckins in 1889. Image courtesy of "Oberlin in the Past" Facebook page.

Undated image of East Lorain Street, Oberlin, Ohio. The house at the left of the frame is likely the Jewett home rented by Noah Huckins in 1889. Image courtesy of “Oberlin in the Past” Facebook page.

Where was Huckins’ family living while he started over in Oberlin? I do not know, but the most likely scenario is that they temporarily moved back into the Adams family homestead, then occupied by Ermina Huckins’ twin brother Erwin and his wife, Mary Emma Mallory Adams. The Adams homestead was just north of the Huckins’ house on Main Street. Why Noah Huckins would sell everything and move less than ten miles away without already having another home in which to settle his family is a mystery. His son Howard was then fifteen; daughter Ibla was eleven. Perhaps Huckins wanted to allow them to complete the school year. I know only that the family did not purchase a home in Oberlin until 1890, when they bought a modest dwelling at 151 Forest Street from Mary Humphrey.

Meanwhile, my Italianate had its second owners. Sereno Dwight Bacon had been born in Vermont in 1825 but emigrated with his family to Lorain County in 1842. He married Mary Ann Bailey in 1846; she was born in New York but was adopted after her mother’s early death and moved to Medina as a child. The Bacons bought a two hundred acre farm in Wellington Township in 1851 and raised three children there.

The 1860 federal agricultural census recorded that Bacon owned eighty-two milch cows and thirty-four sheep, as well as swine and horses. (An 1879 newspaper notice indicates that his sheep flock had grown to more than 260 animals just two decades later.) That year, his farming operation had produced 1,300 pounds of butter and 10,800 pounds of cheese. This is six years before the first cheese factory opened in Huntington, Ohio; the Bacon farm produced five-and-a-half tons of cheese onsite, in addition to all its other crop and livestock management.

(L) Detail of the Bacon farm, from "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), opposite pg. 349. (R) Photo by author of private residence on Pitts Road, 2013.

(L) Detail of the Bacon farm, from “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), opposite pg. 349. (R) Photo by author of private residence on Pitts Road, 2013.

By the time the Bacons purchased my house, it was clearly their retirement home. Sereno Bacon was sixty-four years old and had done very well financially; tax records indicate that he ranked among the wealthiest individuals in Wellington throughout his years of residence in town. One of the things I find most interesting about the Italianate’s first two owners is that both made their fortunes from the so-called Cheese Boom, but in very different ways. Bacon was a dairy farmer, producing the milk that (after the mid-1860s) middlemen made into cheese in a nearby factory. Huckins felled trees and built thousands of wooden boxes to ship that cheese to far-away markets.

The Bacons’ living children were grown and married by the time Sereno and Mary left their farm on Pitts Road and moved three miles to the “Cheese City.” The 1890 census records do not survive, so I do not know the composition of the household when they first moved into town. I do know that their grandson, Aaron Lynn Bacon, born in 1881, moved in with them after his mother’s death. Aaron Lynn was therefore the third child to live in the Italianate, after Howard and Ibla.

The Bacons rarely appeared in the newspaper, in stark contrast to Noah Huckins’ hundreds of mentions. My walk-through of the Italianate with architectural historian Shawn Godwin suggested that the Bacons probably wired the house for electricity soon after moving in, but otherwise changed it very little. (I subsequently learned that electricity was first available in the village in August, 1896.) I am tempted to characterize this as “a quiet life.”

Sereno Bacon died in 1901, shortly after the couple’s fifty-fifth wedding anniversary. Mary Ann Bacon survived until 1909, though tax records continued to record the house as belonging to her deceased husband for those eight remaining years of her life. The Bacons are buried in Greenwood Cemetery with a daughter and infant grandchild who predeceased them. The two surviving Bacon children sold the Italianate shortly after their mother’s death.

Headstone of Sereno and Mary Bacon, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Sereno and Mary Bacon, Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Aaron Lynn Bacon inherited the family farm on Pitts Road and had just finished renovating his grandparents’ 1861 brick homestead (pictured above) when he was tragically killed. The accident occurred only a few years after his grandmother passed away. “KILLED BY INFURIATED BULL,” screamed the Enterprise headline. The young farmer was feeding the animal early on a Sunday morning when it charged him, breaking his legs and ribs. He “suffered much from his injuries” and died the next night, September 3, 1912. He was not yet thirty-one years old. Aaron Lynn Bacon is also interred in Greenwood Cemetery.

Aaron Lynn Bacon. From "Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio, Volume 1" (1916) by G. Frederick Wright, opposite pg. 899.

Aaron Lynn Bacon. From “Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio, Volume 1” (1916) by G. Frederick Wright, opposite pg. 899.

Headstone of Aaron Lynn Bacon at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Bacon is buried with his aunt and uncle, Ada Bacon Harris and Hugh Harris. Hugh owned a shoe store in Wellington and eventually became Lorain County Treasurer. Photo by author.

Headstone of Aaron Lynn Bacon at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Bacon is buried with his aunt and uncle, Ada Bacon Harris and Hugh Harris. Hugh owned a shoe store in Wellington but later moved to Elyria and became Lorain County Treasurer. Photo by author.

While conducting this research into the history of our house and its owners, we made a discovery. The story of Aaron Lynn being trampled by the bull sparked memories of a similar incident in my husband’s family history. It turns out that my husband is related to the Bacons. Since he grew up in the area, it is not terribly surprising to learn that we are connected to a previous occupant of the house. But imagining that other, ill-fated little boy bounding down our floating staircase makes it all the more poignant to watch my own son, his great-great-great nephew, growing up.

Murder Most Foul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Auld Lang Syne

July 4, 1887 image of Wellington's oldest female residents: Mrs. Ruel Lang, Mrs. Isaac Bennett, Mrs. Edward Tripp and Mrs. Chauncey Warner. Photo 970193 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

July 4, 1887 image of Wellington’s oldest female residents: Mrs. Ruel Lang, Mrs. Isaac Bennett, Mrs. Edward Tripp and Mrs. Chauncey Warner. Photo 970193 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

“They succeeded in securing the location [for the first railroad line] through the center of the township, within twenty rods of the stone that marks the center. The credit of this achievement belongs to Dr. Johns more than to any other. It was the turning point to the fortunes of the place. The road on either side would have blasted all village prospects, and where the village now is would have been four farms and nothing more” (History of Lorain County, Ohio, pg. 352).

In the 1880s, Wellington experienced a wave of nostalgia as one-by-one its remaining pioneers passed away. History of Lorain County, Ohio, published in 1879, sketched in vivid detail the first days of the fledgling settlement, now a thriving commercial center of the county. The Wellington Enterprise began to feature reminiscences written by, or captured through oral histories with, those who experienced the town’s founding firsthand. Though there is no photographic evidence of those early days, nor any drawings or etchings of the town from that period that I have found, I thought it might be fun to excerpt some of the descriptions.

In 1883, on the occasion of his sixtieth wedding anniversary, retired brickmaker Isaac Bennett was interviewed by the Enterprise on memories of his youth. He spoke of his birth in Vermont, his marriage to Esther Childs Bennett (b. 11-3-1801) of Deerfield, Massachusetts in 1823, and their subsequent emigration to Wellington. They arrived on February 10, 1834. Bennett continued:

“At that time, the southeast quarter of the township was an unbroken forest, and in the northeast quarter there were but two small clearings. At the time we came to Wellington, there were but eight frame houses in the whole township. The American House was the first brick building erected in the township. The next was the old M. E. church, the brick for which was made by myself…Of the men and boys living now, when we came, there are now, Dec. 23, 1883, but three remaining, Dr. Johns, F. B. Manly and George Battles” (12-26-1883, pg. 3).

This image is labeled, "Dr. Johns and his family, ca. 1850." However, I am somewhat dubious about that attribution, because the style of clothing suggests a date in the 1890s, while Johns died in 1886. Photo 970485 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

This image is labeled, “Dr. Johns and his family, ca. 1850.” However, I am somewhat dubious about that attribution, because the style of clothing suggests a date in the 1890s, while Johns died in 1886. Photo 970485 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Dr. Daniel Jay Johns, mentioned in both the opening quotation and Bennett’s oral history, is something of a Wellington celebrity. Ernst Henes devoted an entire page, complete with photograph, to a profile of “Dr. Johns–Wellington’s One-man Chamber of Commerce” in his 1983 book, Historic Wellington Then and Now. Johns was the only doctor in the region for many years after he arrived in Wellington in 1818. He was reportedly the chief advocate for securing a rail line for the town and sold the right-of-way through his own extensive property to the Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati railroad company for a single dollar, an act that sealed the deal for construction in 1849-50. Johns survived until 1886; he was eighty-eight years old when he died, and was mourned as the last of the village’s “founding fathers.”

Undated image of Dr. Daniel J. Johns published in Ernst Henes' "Historic Wellington Then and Now" (1983), pg. 8.

Undated image of Dr. Daniel J. Johns published in Ernst Henes’ “Historic Wellington Then and Now” (1983), pg. 8.

Johns was also mentioned in the writings of J. B. Lang, whom readers of this blog may recall as the uncle of John Watson Wilbur. He was Wilbur’s first partner in the hardware business, but had many other accomplishments, including serving as Wellington’s mayor from 1870 until 1872. In the 1860s, Lang had acted as the Wellington correspondent to the Oberlin-based Lorain County News; he put his writing talents back to work twenty years later to produce a series of recollections for the Enterprise.

In one piece, Lang described in great detail traveling the “Corduroy roads”–made of unplaned logs laid side by side–from Huntington to Wellington in the 1830s. He noted every house he could remember along the way and recorded who lived there “then” in the 1830s and “now” in the 1880s. Here is an excerpt of the Wellington portion:

“We now come to the ‘city.’ The house known as the ‘Cottage Hotel’ was occupied by Judge Hamlin, who had a store where Dr. Houghton’s store now stand [sic], a large barn where B., L., W. & Co.’s store stands. John S. Reed had just built a house on the Benedict corner. M. DeWolf kept a temperance house on the Mallory, Price & Co.’s corner; a school house near where the American House stands; one house near where Tripp’s shop stands; Dr. John’s house near where the depot stands; an ashery near where A. M. Fitch’s store stands, and we have the ‘city'” (3-5-1884, pg. 4).

To translate that for modern-day residents of the town, Lang is guiding us up from the south, in a roughly clockwise direction around the town center. Judge Fredrick Hamlin’s establishment stood where the parking lot of the Farm & Home Hardware Store is today. Henes describes it as “a log building which he called the Cottage Hotel and which served as a store, home, postoffice, and meeting house” (pg. 7). Hamlin’s barn–then later, dry goods store Baldwin, Laundon, Windecker & Co.–was on the SW corner of the center, where coffee shop Bread & Brew conducts business. John S. Reed’s house was across what is now West Herrick Avenue, on the NW corner of the intersection; a Verizon store occupies the ground floor of the still-extant Benedict Building. DeWolf’s Temperance Tavern–a “dry” public house–was across Main Street, on the NE corner; Dimitri’s Corner Restaurant is in the ground floor of the twentieth-century building now standing there. After 1829, the building that served as the first Town Hall, as well as a church and school, stood on the SE corner lot now home to Herrick Memorial Library.

J. B. Lang’s parents were two of Huntington’s earliest settlers, Ruel Lang (1801-1891) and his wife, Amy Hart Lang (b. 1805). Another of their children, daughter Esther, later married cheese magnate Charles Horr. Hardware store owner John Watson Wilbur was therefore related by marriage to Horr, one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the village’s history. That is particularly interesting to me because of Noah Huckins‘ business associations with both men.

Undated image of Ruel Lang (d. 1891). Photo 970016A of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of Ruel Lang (d. 1891). Photo 970016A of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of Amy Hart Lang. Photo 970016B of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of Amy Hart Lang. Photo 970016B of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

J. B. Lang also wrote about town life at mid-century. He noted that “a large part of the ground now occupied by Union Block, the Bank, Benedict’s Block, Doland’s Block and Roser’s Block was a low, swampy spot partly covered with alders, brakes and water.” Essentially, he is describing the entire northwestern corner of the downtown. John S. Reed was still the owner of that area and Lang claims that he made “a prophecy” around 1850 as follows: “This is a low, wet, forbidding spot, but some of us will live to see it covered with substantial brick buildings and the centre of a prosperous town” (The Wellington Enterprise, 3-12-1884, pg. 4). Lang notes that Reed did not live to see his own prediction come to pass, as he drowned while bathing in the Black River in 1855.

The last mention I have found of J. B. Lang appeared in a 1917 issue of the Enterprise. “We acknowledge a pleasant call from Mr. J. B. Lang on Friday. He is unable to walk and is wheeled about in a chair. Mr. Lang is in the 90’s and very feeble physically, although his mind is still quite clear and active. Mr. L. was born in Huntington township” (6-27-1917, pg. 3). The man who remembered Corduroy roads lived to see the age of flight and America’s entrance into World War I. Perhaps Dr. Johns should not get all the ancestor worship.

The Future Before Him

President William McKinley, photographed ca. 1870-1880. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

President William McKinley, photographed ca. 1870-1880. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

Ohio is sometimes referred to as “Mother of Presidents,” because it has been the birthplace of more presidents than any other state in the union. To date, eight of the forty-four chief executives have hailed from the Buckeye State. What is not spoken of quite as often is the fact that four of those eight died in office, and among them are not one, but two assassinated leaders.

I wrote in a previous post about Ohio-born James A. Garfield and his connections to Wellington. He visited the village on at least two occasions, namely at a church dedication ca. 1860 and a speaking event in 1879. After publishing that post, I located a brief notice describing Garfield’s later visit: “Gen [sic] Garfield was in town a short time Monday morning, on his way to Sullivan, where he addressed the mass meeting. There is a great need of voters hearing these able expositions of the questions at issue in the coming election. Such men as Garfield, Monroe and Blaine do not make random assertions, but know whereof they affirm” (The Wellington Enterprise, 10-2-1879, pg. 3).

Garfield was the second U. S. president to be assassinated, following Abraham Lincoln’s murder in 1865. Both men were shot from behind and suffered lingering and painful deaths. Garfield lasted some eighty days in agony before passing away on September 19, 1881.

Less than three years after that tragic event stunned the nation, another politician visited little Wellington. This “rising young statesman” was running for Congress in 1884 from the Canton, Ohio district. “Major” William McKinley, as the Enterprise called him, spoke at the (second) Town Hall to a large crowd. The reporter observed “patient, eager attention, sympathetic endorsement in many countenances, frequent hearty responses and at times emphatic applause, particularly when tender and appreciative reference was made to the martyred Garfield” (7-23-1884, pg. 8). It was evident, the piece concluded, that McKinley had “a brilliant future before him.”

President William McKinley making a whistle stop in Wellington, Ohio during his 1900 reelection campaign. Photo 970369 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

President William McKinley making a whistle stop in Wellington, Ohio during his 1900 reelection campaign. Photo 970369 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

What the audience that night could not know is that McKinley’s brilliant future would, in fact, carry him into the White House in 1897. Nor could they foresee that just six months into his second term, he would become the third American president to be assassinated, when he was shot in Buffalo, New York on September 6, 1901. McKinley would die eight days later of gangrene associated with his bullet wounds.

There is one final Wellington connection to this story. William McKinley was close personal friends with Huntington-born Myron T. Herrick, later Governor of Ohio and Ambassador to France. Herrick was in Buffalo with the president that tragic afternoon, and the two were scheduled to travel to Herrick’s home in Cleveland the following day.

Senator Mark Hanna arriving at Milburn Mansion, where President McKinley was taken after he was shot. The unidentified man on the right is Myron T. Herrick. Image from Wikipedia Commons; first published in "An historic memento of the nation's loss," by Richard H. Barry (1901), pg. 30.

Senator Mark Hanna arriving at Milburn Mansion, where President McKinley was taken after he was shot. The unidentified man on the right is Myron T. Herrick. Image from Wikipedia Commons; first published in “An historic memento of the nation’s loss,” by Richard H. Barry (1901), pg. 30.

Myron T. Herrick had been considered as a vice-presidential candidate under both William McKinley and his successor, Theodore Roosevelt. Had he secured his party’s nomination to that office, Wellington’s Herrick Memorial Library would have an even more august pedigree.

John Watson Wilbur (1839-1926)

Advertisement for J. W. Wilbur’s stove and tin goods store, which was located on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue), Wellington, Ohio. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 4-20-1876, pg. 4. Photo by author.

In 1839, in a small town on the outskirts of Toronto, Canada, a child was born who would spend most of his adulthood in Wellington. His name was John Watson Wilbur, and his birth came only seven months before–and only twenty miles distant from–that of his future Ohio business partner, Noah Huckins.

The two men had remarkably similar life experiences. Both were born in Canada West in 1839 and emigrated to the United States, where they spent the remainder of their lives. Both attended college but neither graduated. Each went on to become a teacher before buying into a hardware business. Both served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and came home to Ohio to marry immediately after. Both were engaged in a number of successful business partnerships over the course of their careers, and did quite well financially. Each was elected to public office, first as mayor of Wellington, then later as township clerk. Republican in politics, Congregational in religious affiliation, they even had the same number of children–three–though Huckins lost one in infancy.

John Watson and Ann Elizabeth Collins Wilbur married in 1865, the year these images were taken. Private collection.

John Watson and Ann Elizabeth Collins Wilbur married in 1865, the year these images were taken. Private collection.

Wilbur was born to a Canadian mother and a father from New York, who moved the family back to the United States within two years of John’s birth. By 1841, his parents were farming a property in Huntington Township, and stayed there for thirty years before retiring to Wellington in the 1870s. John worked on the farm until he turned eighteen, when he moved to Oberlin to attend the college there. He stayed only seven months, then became a teacher. When war erupted in 1861, he enlisted in the army and served for three years. “He entered the service as a private, and was mustered out as second lieutenant of his company; when he arrived at home he weighed but ninety pounds” (Commemorative Biographical Record, pg. 766). After the war he only stayed in Huntington a few months before moving to Wellington to enter into the hardware business with his uncle, Josiah Bickford (J. B.) Lang.

Lang was also the Wellington correspondent for the Lorain County News, published in Oberlin. In 1865, an advertisement in that paper announced, “NEW FIRM! J. B. LANG, (Late of Huntington,) Would respectfully tender his thanks to his friends and customers, for their patronage in times past, and would take this method to inform them that he has associated with him, as a business partner, J. W. WILBUR, and have [sic] purchased the large and commodious building formerly occupied as a Flour Store, two doors North of E. Benedict’s Hardware Store, in W E L L I N G T O N , Where they intend to keep on hand a good assortment of STOVES AND TIN WARE And every thing usually kept in such an establishment, and will always be prepared to do any kind of Job Work in their line, either in the Town or Country, and will use their best endeavors to give satisfaction to all who may favor them with a call. WANTED IN EXCHANGE FOR WORK: Wrought and Cast Scrap Iron, Old Copper, Brass, Pewter, Lead, Rags, Beeswax &c., &c. LANG AND WILBUR. Wellingon, March 1, ’65” (10-11-1865, pg. 3). Probably because of Lang’s connection to the newspaper, when the first telegraph line between Wellington and Oberlin was erected in 1866, the receiving office was opened inside Lang & Wilbur’s shop (10-3-1866, pg. 3).

That same year after his discharge from the army, John married Ann Elizabeth Collins (1840-1917). The couple eventually had three children: Mabel, Carl, and youngest son, Rollin, who was the only member of the family to remain in Wellington and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Detail of a full-page, illustrated advertisement for Huckins & Wilbur. "The Wellington Enterprise," 5-22-1873, pg. 4. Photo by author.

Detail of a full-page, illustrated advertisement for Huckins & Wilbur. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 5-22-1873, pg. 4. Photo by author.

In 1868, Wilbur left business with his uncle and bought in as the junior partner in the new firm of Huckins & Wilbur. Noah Huckins had only been in the hardware line himself for a year; his former senior partner, Orrin Sage (1830-1874), retired due to ill health just months after Huckins joined his firm. Huckins and Wilbur bought the already-established storefront on Mechanics Street (now 109 East Herrick Avenue) and spent seven years working together. I was able to locate early credit reports for the company and they repeatedly express variations on the sentiment that the partners were “industrious intelligent honest & almost sure to succeed.” The reports estimate that the store was initially worth about $6,000, mainly in real estate; seven years later, that figure had risen to over $10,000. The men did well enough to hire additional staff, as indicated by an 1873 notice in The Wellington Enterprise that a former employee of Huckins & Wilbur had drowned in Medina County (6-19-1873, pg. 3).

Undated image of Mechanics Street, now known as East Herrick Avenue. John Wilbur's hardware store is the second building from the left. In 1879, "The Wellington Enterprise" noted, "J. W. Wilbur has a new sign which eclipses anything of the kind in town" (5-22-1879, pg. 3). Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Undated image of Mechanics Street, now known as East Herrick Avenue. John Wilbur’s hardware store is the second building from the left. In 1879, “The Wellington Enterprise” noted, “J. W. Wilbur has a new sign which eclipses anything of the kind in town” (5-22-1879, pg. 3). Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

I have not been able to find any indication of a prior connection between Huckins and Wilbur, or their families. Wilbur emigrated from Canada as a small child, but was periodically recorded in the newspaper visiting friends and family in that country while he lived in Ohio. I wonder if these two young men talked about their backgrounds while they worked side-by-side, and if they were conscious of how many things they had in common.

Huckins dissolved the partnership in 1875 to start his own firm, N. Huckins & Co., a cheese box manufacturing facility that existed mainly to provide support services to Horr, Warner & Co. Wilbur remained in the same shop on Mechanics Street for two more decades; he owned the building until at least the end of the century. In May 1890, he brought E. P. Collins in to to form Wilbur & Collins. Son Rollin bought out the entire operation at the end of 1893 and renamed it R. A. Wilbur & Co. (Enterprise, 11-15-1893, pg. 5).

Over the course of his career, John Wilbur was regularly included in the Enterprise feature, “Business Interests of Wellington. Our Dealers and What They are Doing.” His June 1876 profile began, “This large Stove and Tin store is one of the oldest and best known firms in Wellington, and the proprietor a thorough business man, keeps his establishment well stocked with first-class goods” (6-15-1876, pg. 3). He not only sold but also manufactured items in-house; in 1880, for example, he won the contract to supply all the iron work for the new Horr, Warner & Co. ice house (11-25-1880, pg. 3). I previously featured a notice about his installation of new street lamps on the corners of the main intersection in the town.

Ann Elizabeth and John Watson Wilbur in images taken in 1915, the year of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Private collection.

Ann Elizabeth and John Watson Wilbur in images taken in 1915, the year of their fiftieth wedding anniversary. Private collection.

Two of the Wilburs’ three children relocated to California as adults. In March 1895, the Wilburs left Wellington and followed them to the west coast. John Watson Wilbur died in 1926, nine years after his wife. He was eighty-six years old. The couple is buried with their daughter, Mabel, at Saint Mary Cemetery in Oakland. While I have been unable to locate any business or personal papers for most of the individuals I have been researching, I did discover that ephemera including “invoices, checks, correspondence, and railroad shipping receipts” from Wilbur’s hardware business, dating from 1869 to 1894, are now held in the special collections department at Winterthur, America’s preeminent early American decorative arts museum.