Category Archives: Material culture

Remembering 1858: The Ladder

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This is the fourth (and final) in a series of posts that will feature the label text from a small exhibit currently on display in Wellington’s downtown, commemorating the capture and rescue of John Price on September 13, 1858. A photo of the display can be seen here.

One hundred and sixty years have passed since John Price was abducted in Oberlin and subsequently liberated in Wellington. In that time, the story of his rescue has been embellished by a persistent myth, namely that Price was spirited away from Wadsworth’s hotel via a ladder raised to the attic fanlight window from a second-story balcony.

It is easy to see how such a myth arose. The 1859 trial transcripts are filled with references to ladders being raised against the hotel, as tense and disorderly members of the crowd (some of whom had come to town only to observe the fire, and were intoxicated) tried to learn what was happening inside the garret where Price was being held. At least one witness inside the room testified that he thought the window had been opened during the final rush to free Price, but defense attorneys—and all the other hotel witnesses—countered that while the window may have been broken that day by a ladder laid against it, no person actually ascended and entered the room by that route.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that the slave catchers had moved Price to a remote third-floor area of the hotel, accessible only by a wooden staircase so narrow and minimal in construction that it resembled a ladder. The Spirit of ’76 Museum acquired what was purported to be the original staircase in 1970, and displayed it for many years.

Regardless, it is altogether fitting that a ladder should figure so prominently in the story of John Price and his struggle for freedom. One of the most powerful African-American spirituals ever developed in the antebellum United States is We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder, a yearning anthem of rising to God and escaping the chains of bondage. Its call-and-response lyrics are simple yet haunting.

We are (We are)
Climbing (Climbing)
Jacob’s ladder
We are (We are)
Climbing (Climbing)
Jacob’s ladder
We are (We are)
Climbing (Climbing)
Jacob’s ladder
Soldiers (soldiers)
of the cross

Ladder Henes pg. 31

Ernst Henes, “Historic Wellington Then and Now,” pg. 31.

The Bee Hive

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Verso of trade card, printed ca. 1880, for the Bee Hive, Wellington, Ohio. Author’s collection.

Greetings, dear readers! On this, the sixth anniversary weekend of the blog, I was determined to put up a post. Life has made research and writing more difficult of late, as the lack of activity this year clearly shows. But I recently acquired a charming trade card for a nineteenth-century Wellington business, so I wanted to share it and the history of the store that it promotes.

In April 1880, F. T. Smith advertised in the Wellington Enterprise that he was opening a new venture on the southwestern corner of Liberty Street, today called West Herrick Avenue. His premises was known as “the old Bakery Stand,” but he was taking a partner, Mr. Jordan, and starting a shop that they would name the Bee Hive. (This may have been a reference to the popular Bee Line that operated on the nearby train tracks, an east-west excursion line with stops in places as far-flung as Denver, Colorado and Toronto, Canada.) In a separate notice, the newspaper reported that Mr. Jordan had for many years been connected to the wholesale houses of Cleveland. Whether Jordan was actually living in Wellington while the Bee Hive was open is not clear.

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“Wellington Enterprise,” 4-8-1880, pg. 3.

The owners of the Bee Hive demonstrated a sort of frenetic energy for growing their business. They pioneered a novel method of publicity in the Enterprise; rather than simply paying for a one-column block, they sprinkled single sentence promotions of individual products throughout the local news page. They announced that they would have two wagons loaded with merchandise circulating throughout the area during harvest time, for the benefit of “country customers” who could not then spare the time to travel into the village (Enterprise, 6-10-1880, pg. 3). In the spring of 1881, they announced a promotional giveaway of an unspecified prize to every customer who purchased a pound of tea, and appear to have continued the offer through the end of the year. They crafted exhibits of sale goods for the Wellington fair, and hosted parties and musical entertainments in their building. Though the Bee Hive was mentioned hundreds of times in the Enterprise during its brief existence, and the owners clearly wanted to convey that they were doing a booming business, the notices begin to smack of desperation; one gimmick they employed was to repeatedly run an advertisement that read, in multiple variations, that they were just too busy to write new ad copy.

Each year, the Bee Hive had a Friday evening holiday grand opening in which they debuted their new Christmas merchandise. For the 1880 holiday season, they installed a steam engine to “help them grind coffee and spices and do up parcels” (Enterprise, 12-23-1880, pg. 2). The array of items on offer was impressive: toys, china, tea sets, dinner sets, chamber and toilet sets, silver-plated dinnerware, lamps, and vases.  In season they added flower pots, garden vases, hanging baskets and window boxes. They carried groceries including ground coffee, tea, canned fruit, sliced beef, Sandusky hams, cigars and oysters, butter, fresh eggs and fish. The Bee Hive also did copper, tin, iron and brass repair, and would complete roofing and spouting work by request.

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Recto of trade card, printed ca. 1880, for the Bee Hive, Wellington, Ohio. Rather than purchasing generic trade cards and stamp inking their shop name, as many Wellington businesses did, the proprietors of the Bee Hive had their trade cards printed, perhaps at the offices of the “Wellington Enterprise.” Author’s collection.

In July 1880, Smith and Jordan announced that they were soon to erect a new brick building on the vacant space immediately west of their Liberty Street shop. They offered “close out” sales to rid themselves of heavy merchandise like stoves, that they did not wish to move. By early August, they broke ground on a “double store,” but continued to do business by temporarily locating one door west, into the furniture establishment of Hoyt and Woolley, who were also the local undertakers.

The construction plans were ambitious. “The foundation of the addition to Smith & Jordan’s building is nearly complete. It will be joined to the old store-room as one building, having an entrance to the upper story between the old and the new. When finished there will be three [shop] fronts–two of 20 feet each and another small triangular room on the extreme south-west, which will be for rent. The ceiling of the present room will be raised to make a 13 foot story, and the second will be 11 feet. An arched way will connect the two rooms so they can be used as one store. The front rooms in the second story will be finished for offices. An addition will be built on the rear end, of 20 feet, for storage purposes” (Enterprise, 8-19-1880, pg. 3).

Remarkably, interior touches were completed just two months later. Corporation tax records show that block 1, lot 75 was owned by Anson Smith. I believe Anson was the stepfather of F. T. Smith, as I will explain below. The lot was valued at just $370 in 1880 (prior to construction), but by 1881 jumped to $1,380. By 1882, that assessment had increased to $1,980. Likewise, an 1874 map of the village shows a small square in the center of lot 75, to later be replaced by a roughly triangular structure that filled the entire plot of land.

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Post-1904 image of West Main or Liberty Street, at its intersection with Rail Road Street. The brick two-story building in the foreground is the Bee Hive block, completed in 1880. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

But for Smith and Jordan, time was up. In January 1882, John Houghton published a scathing editorial in the Wellington Enterprise in which he laid out the failure of their partnership in excruciating detail. Smith apparently owed Houghton money, perhaps for the excessive advertising services he had furnished the store, or the custom printed trade cards they had distributed. His revenge, as he himself wrote, was to tell the entire village precisely what had happened. Houghton noted that the failure was not a surprise to the “wise and observing,” whom he claimed had been predicting the event for more than a year. Smith’s stepfather had “furnished the larger portion of the capital,” and had decided the partners must relinquish the Bee Hive “to secure himself from further loss.” I believe this to be Anson Smith, owner and taxpayer on the Bee Hive block.

The younger Smith, Houghton wrote, “is reported to have ruined the trade and squandered the capital by his intemperance and immoralities and by his reckless business management. Our personal knowledge extends far enough to know that we [co-editors and spouses John and Mary Hayes Houghton] have salted down a considerable sum which he appropriated to his personal uses, and we do him no injustice when we say that by his vices and dishonesty he has thrown away a golden opportunity . . . [he] has nothing to show for his investment but failure, shame and disgrace” (Enterprise, 1-25-1880, pg. 2). The editor acknowledged that Jordan shared equally in the blame, if only for being so blind to Smith’s actions. The partners were said to owe in excess of $6,000–an enormous sum when considering that the entire brand-new business block was tax assessed at less than one-third that amount. Houghton pronounced the entire affair “one of the most inexcusable failures ever known in Wellington.”

The Bee Hive store was not yet two years old when Smith and Jordan dissolved their partnership. Anson Smith continued to own what was now called the Bee Hive block. Another set of proprietors purchased the contents of the store, and operated in the same location for about a year. They maintained the customs of hosting dinners and musical entertainments on the upper floor, and even held the annual holiday grand opening. In February 1883, the Bee Hive installed the eighth telephone in the village, and soon began to advertise that customers should call orders in. In lieu of owning one’s own phone, one could use a neighbor’s line or even send a child down to the shop. All goods would be promptly delivered, regardless of order method.

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Sanborn Map from October 1884, showing the Bee Hive block on block 1, lot 75.

In April 1883, the new proprietors vacated the Bee Hive block and relocated the still-named Bee Hive store to the west side of South Main Street, next door to Mallory, Jopp & Co., on the village square. The new location did not improve their profits, however, and by January 1884, the Bee Hive shop closed for good. The Bee Hive block, meanwhile, was now home to three separate businesses: a drug and grocery shop, a news and cigar store, and the boot and shoe repair shop housed in the triangular space occupied by cobbler David Snyder since the building was completed in the fall of 1880.

The Bee Hive block still stands on West Herrick Avenue today, rapidly approaching its one hundred and fortieth birthday. The ground floor of the building is now home to two small businesses, the Painting Factory and Happy Tails Dog Grooming. The second story contains apartments. Not long after I moved to Wellington, as recently as 2005, a local resident giving me directions identified the landmark to me as “the old Bee Hive.” I find it fascinating how many old names linger on, long after their origins have faded away.

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149-151 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Image from GoogleMaps.

The Gift of Time

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The 1908 Wellington High School football team. Image measures 6 3/4″ L x 4 3/4″ W, mounted to black backing board.

I know, I know. In my recent fifth anniversary commemoration I cautioned that I would not be making as many blog entries moving forward. Yet here I am, with my third post in as many weeks. But I simply had to share this with all of you. This week, I received in the mail an enormous box of history. Descendants of the Vischer and Tripp families, who now live outside of Ohio, decided that some of their family keepsakes needed to come home to Wellington. The package was an absolute treasure trove of books, photographs and small objects. Many items pertain directly to the Tripp and Vischer families in the early twentieth century, and so are outside the immediate scope of my historical knowledge. But the images are so wonderful and unique that I include them here regardless.

Vischers behind 210 So Main

Undated image of “Vischer family & horses back of 210 South Main.” Image measures 3 1/2″ L x 4 1/2″ W, mounted to tan backing board.

William Bentley Vischer (1863-1948) owned a piano and organ store on the south side of Liberty Street, what we now call West Herrick Avenue. The ghostly remnants of his painted advertisement are still visible on the west side of the mansard roof. William was married to Carrie Anne Tripp Vischer (1861-1940). Carrie’s father was well-known carriage manufacturer and early Wellington mayor Edward S. Tripp. But she is known in her own right as the author of “History of Wellington,” delivered as a public address and later printed as a special insert in the Wellington Enterprise in 1922.

Carrie Vischer

Carrie Ann Tripp Vischer. Oval portrait measures 3 1/2″ L x 2 1/2″ W, mounted to black backing board.

Some of the most wonderful objects in the collection are five ferrotypes, also known as tintypes. Ferrotypes are a kind of photographic image created without the use of a negative. A thin sheet of metal was coated with a chemical emulsion layer, and an image was then exposed directly onto the metal. All of these examples have rough, uneven edges and no cases. Two are inscribed that they were taken at the “Wellington Fair,” and given their overall similarities, I have to wonder if all five were.

Carrie W.B. Vischer at Fair ferrotype

Undated ferrotype etched on reverse, “Carrie T. Vischer | W. B. Vischer | Wellington Fair.” Object measures approximately 5″ L x 7″ W.

Carriage scene ferrotype

Undated, unidentified ferrotype, possibly taken at the Wellington Fair. Object measures approximately 2 1/2″ L x 3 1/2″ W.

Mary Vischer Margarete Hall 1909 at fair ferrotype

Ferrotype enclosed in paper sleeve. Marked “Mary Vischer & Margarete Hall abt 1909. Wellington Fair.” Object measures approximately 3 1/2″ L x 2 1/2″ W.

Geo Foot & Cet ferrotype

Undated ferrotype etched on reverse, “Geo. Foot & Cet.” Object measures approximately 4″ L x 2″ W.

Two women unknown ferrotype

Undated, unidentified ferrotype. Object measures approximately 2 1/4″ L x 1 3/4″ W.

The next object is also metal, though not a photograph. I have never seen anything like it. It is a small metal card, in a paper envelope addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. S. D. Terry.” Sidney D. Terry (1849-1922) and his wife, Mary E. Terry (1849-1940) are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The card itself is a metal invitation to a party, a tenth wedding anniversary party to be precise. The tenth is the “tin” anniversary in popular tradition, and the metal card fits that theme. Though the reflective metal is difficult to scan or photograph, it reads: “1868. 1878. Mr. & Mrs. F. W. Bennett, Request Your Presence At the Tenth Anniversary of their Wedding, Friday, October 4, 1878, at Eight O’Clock.”

Bennett Anniversary

Metal party invitation, 1878. Object measures 3″ L x 5″ W.

These last two images are both of children. One is a photograph of Sadie Vischer by William Sawtell, the other an unidentified toddler taken by someone called Saunders. I find them both unusual–and terribly sweet. Sadie Vischer has a lovely dog in her image, which must have been very well behaved to sit perfectly still for the exposure time of the portrait. The toddler (possibly named George) is digging into a waste paper basket and surrounded by a floor of crumpled sheets, a perfectly ordinary daily scene that I have never seen reproduced in a nineteenth-century photograph.

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Undated William Sawtell photograph of “Sadie Vischer” and her dog. Object measures 6 1/2″ L x 4 1/4″ W.

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Undated image by Saunders of Wellington. Inscribed on reverse, “From George to Moma.” Object measures 6 1/2″ L x 4 1/4″ W.

I am so grateful to the family custodians who have preserved these marvelous glimpses into the past. I hope you have enjoyed looking at them as much as I have. I will be donating the materials to the local history collection of the Herrick Memorial Library, so that the family’s generosity may be shared by all.

Depth Perception

Union School Stereoview 1870-79

Stereograph, “UNION SCHOOL, WELLINGTON, O.,” [1870-1879] measuring 3 7/8″ L x 7″ W.

I recently acquired this marvelous black and white stereograph depicting the Union School in the nineteenth century. Stereographs were created for use in stereoscopes. If you ever played with a View-Master as a child, you have used a modern stereoscope. The stereograph features two copies of the same image mounted side-by-side on heavy card stock, and gazing at it through the lenses of the stereoscope gives the viewer a three-dimensional perception of the scene.

Though this card is undated, it notes that the image was produced while Watson R. Wean (1843-1927) was superintendent of the Wellington school system. Wean served from September 1870 until June 1879. The Union School was completed in 1868, making this one of the earlier images ever captured of it. It is also unique among initial depictions of the school in that it includes the students and staff, lined up outside the building and also sitting in all the windows of both the first and second floors.

In addition to his career in education, Watson Wean served as mayor of the village in the 1880s. It was during his tenure that our present Town Hall was built. He was involved in several profitable ventures, including becoming a partner in cheese (and later vegetable) export firm Horr-Warner in 1887, at which point his name was added to make it Wean, Horr, Warner & Company. Wean lived on South Main Street, next door to business associate Sidney Warner, having erected a magnificent residence there in 1878. In 1899, the widowed Wean married Warner’s daughter, popular local teacher Orrie Louisa Warner. She was forty-five at the time of her marriage, and had led a fascinating life of her own, including being the personal guest of First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes during the 1881 inauguration of her husband’s successor, President James A. Garfield. The Weans and the Warners remain side-by-side to this day in Greenwood Cemetery.

Given the possible date range of the image, I found myself wondering whether William Sawtell was its photographer. That thought tickled a memory of having read something connecting Sawtell to exterior photography of buildings. After searching my files, I located this notice in the Wellington Enterprise: “–Mr. Sawtell has engaged A. K. A. Liebich a Cleveland artist to visit Wellington the coming spring and make stereoscopic views of some of our residences, public buildings and principal points of interest in and about our village. He will also make large size photographs of dwellings suitable for framing. He is an artist of acknowledged ability and has done much of the finest work in that line in the city of Cleveland. Specimens may be seen by calling at Mr. Sawtell’s room and orders left for work. It will pay you to examine the work [even] if you do not want any done and Mr. Sawtell will take pleasure in showing any one who may call for that purpose” (12-19-1878, pg. 3). I was not able to find any confirmation that Liebich–whose work is now held in such notable collections as the Getty Museum–visited Wellington in the spring of 1879. The stereograph itself is marked “Smith & Co.’s | Oberlin, O.” It seems clear that stereographic photography was considered a separate skill set from studio portrait photography, and William Sawtell did not create this image.

The stereograph seems to me a poetic visual metaphor for historical research. At first glance, it seems simple, perhaps almost to the point of being unknowable. But it provokes questions in us, encouraging us to look more deeply into its subject. The more we probe and the deeper we sink, the wider the world we perceive and the more sharply everything comes into focus.

Boxed In

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In my last post, I mentioned that I had been preparing to undertake a small project and that I would share images here once the work was complete. Back in July, I wrote about seven textile swatches from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that are one component of a small collection of objects. I conjectured that the core of that collection was assembled during Wellington’s American centennial celebrations in 1876. The project I finished yesterday was the construction of a customized archival storage box to house the entire grouping of materials.

I purchased a standard archival storage box from a known preservation supply company. I then laid out all the objects and decided that in order to fit them comfortably inside the box, I would need to construct a two-layer support structure inside of it. The larger, more three-dimensional objects would rest on a removable tray in the bottom of the box, while the flatter textiles would be elevated on a second removable tray above.

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After laying out the objects on two trays (cut from acid free, corrugated board), I cut out eighteen one-inch strips of a chemically stable corrugated plastic sheeting called coroplast. The strips were then adhesed together into two columns of nine strips each. These columns were secured inside the archival box, to provide the support structure for the upper tray.

IMG_1595The image above shows the lower tray placed inside the box. The coroplast supports are visible at the top and bottom. The upper tray, holding the textiles, will sit on top of these supports once it is placed in the box. You can see that I have put tabs, made of an inert plastic called mylar, on either end of tray for easy removal.

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When thinking about how to build the box, I knew that I wanted to devise a method of displaying all the objects that would minimize the need to handle them individually. Pulling objects in and out of overly tight enclosures sometimes causes more damage than if they had been left unsecured. I settled on using transparent mylar strips to attach all but one of the items to the blue board. They can be easily removed if necessary, but as they are, all the information on the identifying cards can be read without any touching being required.

To secure each textile, I cut small slits on either side of it, then ran a strip of mylar through the slits and fastened both ends on the back of the board. With just that minimal amount of intervention, the textiles are immobilized, even if the board is turned upside down. In the image above, all but one of the textiles have already been secured with mylar; the slits for the final and largest of the fragments are still visible.

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Here we see both trays completed, with tabs attached to each, ready for final assembly inside the archival box. Also visible in this image is the tallest of all the objects in the collection, a small round keepsake box housed on the bottom tray. In that instance, rather than trying to secure the keepsake box with mylar, I decided instead to make three small “bumpers” out of scrap coroplast, which I wrapped in a soft Tyvek tape so that they would not scratch the object, should the archival box ever be unexpectedly jostled.

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Finally, tray one sits securely on top of tray two, with all objects having plenty of space and air circulation. I intentionally purchased an archival box that had passed the P.A.T., or Photographic Activity Test, meaning that once the lid is closed, these objects are protected from future damage caused by light exposure. They are also protected from dust and other atmospheric pollutants. With any luck, they should still be around for Wellington’s quadricentennial!

Threads of History

On January 27, 1876, the Wellington Enterprise reported on the village’s American centennial celebrations: “A goodly number of antique relics and curiosities have already been promised for the Museum, and it is thought that enough will be gathered to make this department a decided success” (pg. 3). I was recently offered the opportunity to examine a small box containing an absolute treasure trove. Inside, more than a dozen paper labels each have an item attached, with a hand-written description that provides us insight as to its connection to Wellington’s history. The owners of the box believe that most of these items were assembled for that very centennial display.

Just as we are now commemorating our own town bicentennial with speakers and events, Wellington’s plans for the country’s one hundredth birthday were elaborate. Noah Huckins, the Canadian businessman who built my former home, was in charge of both historic characters (what we might today call “reenactors”) and an art gallery. W. F. Herrick was chairman of the above-mentioned museum. There was a musical committee, headed by W. H. Fisher, a decoration committee run by J. H. Hood, and a group managing “Rooms,” led by H. Wadsworth. Two groups were headed by women; Mrs. L. B. Lane was responsible for “Tables, &c.” while Mrs. R. Craddock was in charge of quilting-related activities. There was even a plan to stage something called the “New England Kitchen,” in which visitors could experience “the old style furniture, and ladies in frocks and caps–such as were worn so long ago–busy, ‘a carding and spinning, and quilting,’ and in various occupations of this kind.”

Americans of the late nineteenth century were particularly fascinated by the textiles and textile production techniques of the colonial period. A spinning wheel was usually featured in historic tableaux such as the “New England Kitchen” or in prints or illustrations depicting the earlier period, even when they were not historically accurate. There were no spinning wheels on the Mayflower, for example, nor were they present during the first decades of Plymouth Colony, but in the 1800s they were almost always included in representations of the so-called Pilgrims. Most of the items in the box are textiles.

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The first piece is a checked linen. The card reads, “Spun and woven by Betsey Manly in 1822. Flax grown by her husband, Butler Manly, one of the first settlers of Wellington. Presented by Ann Hoke.” Josiah Butler Manly, who went by his middle name, was the first person to die in Wellington. He has two headstones, one in the Pioneer Cemetery on West Herrick Avenue, and one in Greenwood Cemetery. It is unclear whether his body was moved upon the death of his wife, Betsey, or if she simply wished his name included on her stone. Josiah died in 1824, apparently of malarial fever, when he was still a young man; Betsey much later remarried local temperance crusader Mathew DeWolf.

The checks on this cloth may have originally been red, and have only faded to brown over the centuries. It is also important to note that although the donor, Ann Hoke, had reason to believe (see below) that Betsey Manly manufactured this cloth herself, all sorts of cloth was readily available for purchase in Wellington at least as early as the 1830s, as surviving store inventories demonstrate.

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Ann Hoke also donated this second piece of cloth, attributed to Hannah Post Webster and her daughter, Betsey. Hoke believed the piece to have been woven in 1812 at Bethlehem, “now Otis, Mass.” Regular readers of this blog will remember that many of Wellington’s earliest residents emigrated from the Berkshire region of Massachusetts during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Ann Eliza Manly Hoke was the wife of David Hoke, who murdered his employer and committed suicide in the year 1890. She was born in 1824, the same year her father, Josiah Manly, died in Wellington. Hannah Post Webster was therefore Ann’s maternal grandmother, and “daughter Betsey” was Ann’s own mother. Betsey died in 1879. If these cards were indeed prepared in 1876, Betsey may have personally verified the information about these fabrics that Ann Hoke chose to include on their cards.

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I do not know who Mrs. Kate Bitner of Milwaukee, Wisconsin was, nor the nature of her connection to Wellington. I also have no idea how she came to be in possession of a piece of President John Quincy Adams’s floral print bed hangings. I do know that I grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts and the Adams mansion, Peace field (now part of the National Park Service), was a place I frequently visited in my youth.

UPDATE: With the incredible sleuthing assistance of Wellington Genealogy Group president Marilyn Wainio, we were able to untangle the life history of Mrs. Kate Bitner, née Kate M. Ladd. She was the daughter of George Ladd, born in Illinois in 1856. In 1878, she married Thomas Frederick Bitner. The family lived in Illinois until at least 1894, but were residents of Milwaukee, Wisconsin by the time of the 1900 census. They remained in Milwaukee for at least twelve years, before relocating to Arizona sometime before 1920. Kate died in 1952 and is buried in Prescott, Arizona.

Kate Ladd Bitner visited Wellington at least once. The Enterprise reported that “Mrs. Thos. Bitner and daughter Lora, of Englewood, Ill., are visiting at E. Benedict’s and other relatives here” (7-27-1892, pg. 5). What the research into Kate further reveals is that Arminda Ladd Benedict, Flora Ladd Webster, and Mary Harvey Ladd (see below) were all sisters, and Kate Bitner was their niece. Kate’s contribution to the collection of fabric samples must have been made sometime between the late 1890s and the nineteen-teens, when her family left Milwaukee for the southwestern United States.

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The card attached to this piece reads, “Home-spun and woven. Belonged to Mrs. Grosvenor. Date earlier than 1794. L. C. Ladd.” I do not presently know the identity of L. C. Ladd. There are a number of Ladds that populate Wellington history. Arminda Ladd was born in Vermont and later married businessman Ethel Benedict and settled in the village in the early 1860s. In that same period, Mary H. Ladd taught a school in Wellington. Flora Ladd married Edward F. Webster, future head of Horr-Warner, in 1870. Elizabeth Alberta Ladd was a compositor, or type setter, for the Wellington Enterprise for two years in the early 1880s. (During her tenure, other employees included printing foreman Frank Ladd–probably her father–and his nephew, John Ladd.) Perhaps cloth donor L. C. is a relative of one of these women.

UPDATE: As noted in the update above, Arminda Ladd Benedict, Flora Ladd Webster, and Mary Harvey Ladd were all sisters. L.C. Ladd was their sister-in-law (wife of their brother, William). Her given name was Lewellen Clapp, born in Massachusetts in 1840. In the fall of 1881, the Enterprise reported that Mrs. Benedict, Mrs. Webster, and Mrs. William Ladd were all setting out on a tour of the New England states together, presumably to visit the places of their births and perhaps visit relatives.

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Flora Ladd Webster. Photo 970679 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

In 1897, Mary Harvey Ladd was declared “a lunatic” and her brother-in-law, Edward Webster, was appointed her guardian. Edward had also been named guardian of photographer William Sawtell, overseeing the family finances after Sawtell committed himself to an asylum in Cleveland. Webster and Sawtell served together in the Civil War and remained lifelong friends; a little painting I own by Sawtell was painted for Flora Ladd Webster.

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This vibrant red fabric feels like velvet, but I think it may be somewhat tattered broadcloth, or plain-woven wool. Red wool cloaks were very popular working-class garments in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but more finely tailored cuts were also worn by the upper classes. (Note the cover of this clothing reference book published by Colonial Williamsburg.) The construction of this particular cloak coincidentally dates to the time of American independence and it is said to have belonged to Ella Wadsworth’s great-great-grandmother. Ella served as Wellington’s librarian in the 1870s.

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This checked linen swatch was said to have been taken from a “sheet made by slaves” confiscated during the Civil War at a house in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. Many Wellington men served during the war. Archibald Willard enlisted in the 86th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in June 1863; his tour of duty took him to Cumberland Gap, which he painted around 1864.

“G. Hemenway” was likely George Hemenway, whose family came from a tiny farming community in the Berkshires called Florida, Massachusetts.

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This small square, which measures approximately 8 1/2″ by 9″, was cut from a larger plain woven piece of “ticking.” A straw tick was a heavy, course linen mattress bag meant to be stuffed with straw (or corn husks, or more labor-intensive feathers, etc.) before being slept on. The contents of the mattress could be replaced as necessary, and the bag infrequently laundered. This souvenir square has been hemmed with a pale blue thread around all four edges. It was contributed by William F. Sawtell (or “Sawtelle,” as he spelled it later in life) local photographer and amateur artist.

The last item of interest is a tiny piece of jewelry contained in a lightweight paper box. I believe that the pendent is a piece of mourning jewelry, likely woven of human hair from a deceased loved one. The owner wore it in remembrance of the person lost. This pendent is engraved on the back. It is very small, less than 3/4″ in length overall, and the tiny initials have somewhat softened with time and wearing, making them difficult to read. I believe it is inscribed “M. H. H.” Could this have belonged to Mary Hayes Houghton, co-editor of the Wellington Enterprise for nearly a decade? Mary’s step-daughter, Flora, died in 1879 at the tender age of fourteen.

There are a few other miscellaneous articles in the box. Two buttons are recorded as being part of the “Justice Collection,” likely referring to local antiquarian Alex Justice. A piece of olive wood allegedly from Jerusalem–this card is actually annotated “Centennial 1876”–was donated by Mrs. E. F. W., perhaps the same Flora Ladd who married Edward Webster, mentioned above. One card is pierced by a small knife and heavy metal pin.

A final, tantalizing card has no object attached, but claims to have once held “wood from building erected by R. B. Webster [Russell Bidwell Webster, brother of Betsey Webster Manly] in 1824, the first frame house in Wellington, now standing on the farm of H. B. Manly.” Betsey’s obituary in the Wellington Enterprise describes this earliest frame house at some length: “Russell Webster, a brother of Mrs. Manly, had a log cabin nearly completed, which was to be the future home of this family.…The cabin had some extra furnishings which had been brought from the East. There was one chair, a small stand, some sheep skin mats spread upon the white puncheon [i.e. split log] floors, a candle stick, with snuffers and tray, and a tallow candle burning in the socket, an article the other settlers had not seen in use since leaving their homes in the East” (5-15-1879, pg. 3).

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Frederick B. Manley, from “Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio” (1894), opposite pg. 694.

The bottom corner of the empty card is initialed “F. B. M.” and dated 1899. Frederick B. Manley–as he sometimes styled the family name–was the son of Betsey Manly, and older brother of Ann Manly Hoke. He died in 1900. His entry in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio lamented, “Ofttimes he ruminates upon the changes that have taken place, in his midst, since the days of the stick chimney and puncheon floor, and the twang of the thread as the good mother faithfully plied her needle, by the dim light of a tallow candle…” (697). The Manly family is clearly the common denominator between many of these objects, though it is curious that they were apparently gathered together over such a long period of time–at least twenty-three years.

I am so grateful to the owners of this marvelous little cabinet of curiosities, for allowing me to have a peak inside, and for permitting me to share with all of you the wonders contained within it.

An Unexpected Gift

American House postcard

Unmailed postcard with image depicting the American House hotel in Wellington, Ohio. Author’s collection.

I received the loveliest piece of mail this week. A person whom I have never met, who does not even live in Wellington, sent me a beautiful handwritten letter and enclosed a gift: an unmailed postcard depicting the American House hotel. The sender explained that he had very much enjoyed reading the recent bicentennial insert published by the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram, particularly the article on the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858, one hundred and sixty years ago this September. He enclosed the postcard as a thank you for my work on preserving local history.

The hotel was first built around 1833, owned and operated by the Wadsworth family. It had numerous proprietors and was known by multiple names over the years, most famously as the American House in the late nineteenth century. It closed its doors for good and was quickly demolished in April 1902. Purchased by soon-to-be governor of Ohio, Myron T. Herrick, the hotel was removed to make way for a new town library, which was dedicated and opened to the public on the same site in January 1904. Initial plans for the construction of the library called for the reuse of some 150,000 bricks from the hotel; perhaps there is yet some part of the American House still standing in Wellington’s Public Square to this day.