Category Archives: Medical

Death of a Stranger

Cleveland Daily Leader, 2-27-1866, pg. 4.

Cleveland Daily Leader, 2-27-1866, pg. 4.

There once was a girl called Lepha. She was born into a farming family in a small, rural settlement in western Massachusetts. Like every other human being, she must have had hopes, dreams, and wishes for her future. I can tell you nothing about these. Sadly, the event that I can tell you about in the most detail is Lepha’s tragic death. I could tell you a great deal, too, about the man whose actions ended her life, his family history, his accomplishments in the thirty years that he went on to enjoy, years she did not have. But I am not going to do that. This is Lepha’s story, and out of respect for her, that is where my focus will remain.

Lepha Irene Sherman entered the world in 1843. She was born to Kelley and Susan Sherman, farmers in the tiny northern Berkshire County community of Florida, Massachusetts. Lepha appears to have been the youngest of eight children. The details of her early life are lost to us. Like another woman I once wrote about, even her name has not come down to us clearly. She appeared in birth, marriage and census records as: Leafy, Liefa, Leapha and Lepha. After her life was cut short, she appeared in print as Sepha, Aletha and Alepha; one paper claimed that she was “familiarly called LENA” (Elyria Democrat, 1-10-1866, pg. 2).

Massachusetts conducted a state census every decade on the five-year mark, i. e. between federal census decades. We can therefore see that sometime between 1850 and 1855, Lepha’s uncle and paternal aunt, William Towner and Phebe L. Sherman Houghton, moved from Pownal, Vermont to Florida, Massachusetts. They took up residence very close, possibly next door, to the Sherman family. They brought two sons. The eldest, Isaac, was five years older than his cousin, Lepha. By the Fourth of July, 1861, Isaac and Lepha were married. She had just turned eighteen.

Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915; Town of Clarksburg, 1862, pg. 38.

October 10, 1862 entry recording the birth of Carlton L. Houghton to Isaac R. and Lepha I. Houghton, nee Sherman. Massachusetts, Birth Records, 1840-1915; Town of Clarksburg, 1862, pg. 38.

Fifteen months later, Carlton L. Houghton was born. The baby survived only ten months. The Pittsfield Sun reported that the death of the “son of Isaac Houghton” occurred August 20th, 1863. In the documentation bookending his boy’s brief existence, Isaac was identified as both a farmer and carpenter. (In 1855, there were fourteen saw mills in Florida, a good option for employment during the off-season.) I can find no record of Isaac serving in the Civil War, though The History of Berkshire County, Volume One noted that forty-five local men served and of those, eleven did not come back (pg. 700).

By the 1865 Massachusetts census, both Lepha and Isaac disappear from the rolls. Their respective families continued to farm side-by-side in Florida, but I can find no mention of either of them in all of Berkshire County. According to testimony offered after Lepha’s death, she relocated to Ohio early that year “for the purpose of procuring a divorce from her husband” (Elyria Democrat, 1-10-1866, pg. 2). If this statement is accurate, it obviously suggests that Isaac remained alive. But I can locate no further trace of him in the historical record.

Why did Lepha leave her husband? It is impossible to say. We can conjecture about her youth–she was barely twenty-two–and whether she had ever wanted to be married to her first cousin. Perhaps she did not wish to be a farmer’s wife. Her choice of comparatively urban Wellington as a new home is an interesting one. I was very curious to learn how she came to settle so far from her birthplace. Regular readers of the blog will no doubt be thinking of the many other families who emigrated from Berkshire to Lorain County. Given that Lepha’s married name was Houghton, I initially suspected she was related to the Houghtons of Wellington. But research revealed what I believe to be the more likely scenario, namely familial networks on her mother’s side.

Two clues survive in the testimony offered after Lepha’s death. Elyria papers reported that her body was taken to New London “by a relative” for interment. The Cleveland Daily Leader wrote, “The evidence given by Charles Hannenway, cousin of deceased, revealed no new facts” (2-27-1866, pg. 4). I could find no evidence of such a person as Charles Hannenway. It then struck me that the name in the testimony was reminiscent of ‘Hemenway,’ a family I have written about before. The Hemenways came from New London, and one of brothers was, in fact, called Charles. Further digging revealed that they originally emigrated from Berkshire County and at least two of the Hemenway siblings were born in Florida. Lepha’s mother’s maiden name is recorded in her marriage documents as “Hemingway.” Susan Hemenway Sherman died in October 1863, just weeks after her infant grandson, Carlton. Perhaps the loss of both her mother and child drove Lepha to leave Massachusetts behind and start over in Ohio with help from her maternal cousins.

Advertisement for Levi Bowman's clothing shop, still in operation nearly twenty years after Lepha Sherman Houghton's death. "The Wellington Enterprise," 5-21-1884, pg. 4.

Advertisement for Levi Bowman’s clothing shop, still in operation nearly two decades after Lepha Sherman Houghton’s death. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 5-21-1884, pg. 4.

Lepha boarded in Wellington and “ran a sewing machine” in Levi Bowman’s clothing shop on the west side of South Main Street. She lived in the village for a year, as the Civil War drew to a close. Did she attend the memorial service when President Lincoln was assassinated in April? Did she get up in the middle of the night to watch his funeral train pass by the depot in a driving rain? Did she stroll through the fairgrounds with friends that September? We have no way of knowing. The obliquest of mentions appeared in the Lorain County News, in a description of her workplace: “A look through the clothing establishment of L. Bowman, of this place, will satisfy any one that some things can be done in Wellington, as well as others. Mr. B. is manufacturing all his own clothing, and at the present time giving employment to four men and eight or ten women. He has a very large stock of clothes and gentlemen’s furnishing goods, which will be sold as low as similar goods can be bought in the state. Give him a call, and satisfy yourselves” (8-30-1865, pg. 3).

Among those “four men and eight or ten women” employed at Bowman’s were both Lepha and A. J. Brown. He is referred to as “Asa” and “Andrew” Brown in later reports, while the Lorain County News dismissed him as “one ‘Jack’ Brown” (1-10-1866, pg. 3). Jack was allegedly separated from his own wife by 1865. In examining the 1860 federal census for Wellington, I found three J. Browns. Two were named John, a thirty-eight-year-old unmarried shoemaker and a forty-six-year-old laborer with a wife and five children. The third man, Jackson Brown of New York, was a twenty-four-year-old tailor with a young wife (Marion, 22) and small daughter (Emma, 3). His name, age and profession lead me to believe that he is the person at the center of the calamity that followed.

1860 Federal Census for Wellington, Ohio showing Jackson Brown, tailor, and his family. Pg. 102, family #794.

1860 federal census for Wellington, Ohio showing Jackson Brown, tailor, and his dependents. Pg. 102, #794.

The two co-workers began a relationship and by early winter, Lepha was pregnant. Was the affair secret? The woman with whom Lepha boarded, Mrs. Amelia R. Herrick, claimed that she knew Lepha was expecting as she “had had morning sickness and had symptoms of approaching maternity” (Cleveland Daily Leader, 2-27-1866, pg. 4). As a side-note, I have been unable to find Amelia R. Herrick in Wellington records. There was an unmarried educator in town named Armenia Herrick; she was sister to Charlotte Herrick Howk. In 1860, Armenia was sixty years old and fostering a nine-year-old niece. By 1870, she had moved in with another sister and nieces–five unmarried women in a single household. Widely respected in the community, Herrick was the subject of a lengthy 1879 obituary in The Wellington Enterprise by co-editor Mary Hayes Houghton; not surprisingly, it says nothing about Armenia keeping boarders, nor hints at any connection to the 1866 scandal.

Trial documents tell the rest of the story. Jack approached Mary Mason, who resided in Wellington more-or-less continuously from 1853 until her death in 1903, but had moved for a brief period to Elyria that September. She later testified that she had known Lepha for nearly a year prior to the latter’s death. Did the girl send her lover to Mrs. Mason to ask for help or did he know, and apparently trust, Mrs. Mason on his own? There is a vague reference in the court transcript which suggests that Mary Mason had visited the same doctor on several previous occasions; it may be that she was known as an individual who would discreetly assist women “in trouble.” Regardless, it was eventually arranged that Mrs. Mason would meet Lepha in Cleveland after Christmas and escort her to a clandestine, illegal abortion.

On December 30th, the two women went to the office of “Doctor” Hosea W. Libbey. I will spare you, dear reader, the gruesome details included in the subsequent indictment. Suffice to say that Libbey had no degree nor formal medical training of any kind, and was a charlatan even by the standards of his own century. The injuries he inflicted on Lepha in a locked office, away from Mary Mason’s eyes, led to the younger woman suffering severe internal hemorrhaging on the return train to Elyria. Mary brought Lepha to her house, where the girl was put to bed and never recovered. She died on January 4th, 1866. As mentioned, her body was taken to New London for interment. I have not been able to locate her grave, but I suspect she is resting among her Hemenway relations in the Grove Street Cemetery.

Ironically, the only person for whom this story’s ending is clear is the one who encountered Lepha Sherman Houghton for just ten minutes of her entire life. Jack Brown, father of the child, and Mary Mason, the woman who risked her own reputation to help, were both arrested for their complicity in the crime. I do not know anything further about Jack Brown’s fate; if I am correct in believing him to be “Jackson Brown” from the 1860 federal census, I also know nothing of what happened to the spurned Marion Brown or their daughter, Emma. Mary Mason continued on in Wellington until her death in 1903 and is buried with her husband in Greenwood Cemetery. What impact the scandal had on her interactions with her neighbors, we can only guess. (It is interesting to note that all mentions of the trial featured in the Lorain County News were submitted by the Elyria correspondent; not a single line was ever printed in the Wellington column, as if the village were trying to disavow any association with the shameful episode.) Hosea W. Libbey, just thirty-two years old at the time, was tried and convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to eight years of hard labor; later documents show he served six weeks of that sentence before being released by the Pardon Board. He went right back to medicine. Though he periodically resurfaced in newspaper accounts of lawsuits, arrests for theft, and even the auction of his home and goods to settle debts, he continued with what seem to have been profitable practices in Cleveland and Boston. He secured patents and produced several publications. When he died in 1900, it was covered in both Ohio and Massachusetts newspapers; no allusion was made to his manslaughter conviction.

Hosea Wait Libbey (1834-1900). From "The Libby Family in America, 1602-1881," B. Thurston & Co: Portland, ME (1882), opposite pg. 254.

Hosea Wait Libbey (1834-1900). From “The Libby Family in America, 1602-1881,” B. Thurston & Co: Portland, ME (1882), opposite pg. 254.

How unjust that we should have a portrait of Libbey, but not of Lepha. She was “of attractive form and features, and…deported herself in a manner that indicated a good character and industrious habits,” we are told. Her landlady, even after Lepha’s public disgrace, characterized her as “steady, industrious, healthy, robust.” Whatever her sins, if sins they were, surely she did not deserve the excruciating, isolated death she received, surrounded only by acquaintances terrified that her end meant the beginning of their legal troubles. It is unclear whether even Jack was present when she passed. An editorial decried “the almost inhuman neglect of her body after life was extinct,” and indeed, we can only speculate as to where her body ended its journey.

That editorial, in the Elyria Democrat, delivered this scathing summation of the affair: “In all such cases, when woman yields to the more powerful influences of men, there is abundant cause for the exercise of two eminent virtues–pity, and contempt. Pity for the weaker and fallen one, and loathing and contempt for him who compassed her ruin by artful wiles, and then with cowardly instinct, seeks to hide his own shame by urging his victim to pursue a course that puts her life in peril” (1-10-1866, pg. 2). The assumption that Lepha was “weak” and seduced or coerced by Brown belittles her and negates her agency as a thinking, feeling person. In reality, we can have no idea of the true nature of the relationship between the two. Were they in love or lust, both or neither? Did they hope to marry or was the intimacy of a more casual nature? Did Lepha prefer to be independent, free of a father and husband’s control for the first time, or was she perchance hoping that sex would bind Brown more closely to her? It is possible she was entirely relieved to learn that an abortion was available in nearby Cleveland; but maybe, instead, she remembered little Carlton on the long train ride north and mourned the loss of a second, unmet baby. “Well-behaved women seldom make history,” the saying goes. Equally important to remember is that the simplified history we think we know rarely bears any resemblance to the complex and confused experience of actually living it.



Memento Mori

Memorial card. "IN MEMORY OF Mrs. A. W. Scranton, Who died at her home in Wellington, Ohio, Tuesday, the 15th day of December, 1885, AGED 50 YEARS." Author's collection.

Memorial card. “IN MEMORY OF Mrs. A. W. Scranton, Who died at her home in Wellington, Ohio, Tuesday, the 15th day of December, 1885, AGED 50 YEARS.” Author’s collection.

I love the idea of every object being the gateway to a story. At first glance, this small card is unassuming in every way. It is small, just three by five inches. The paper is not very sturdy, the edges having darkened and creased with age. The verso is blank. The black borders convey, perhaps even before one’s eyes reach the text, that this is a memorial card, a remembrance distributed to friends and family members after the passing of a loved one. This ephemeral article is a tangible reminder of a Wellington woman who died nearly thirteen decades ago.

Who was she? The card tells us only that she was the wife of a man called A. W. Scranton. I have found her recorded as Terissia (1880 federal census); Teressee (marriage record); Terressee (family genealogy); Terisa (obituary); and Terissa (nearly illegible headstone). I believe if she were alive today, she would most likely sign her given name, “Theresa.”

She must have been born in 1835, since she died at aged 50. The federal census of 1880 listed her age at the time as 45, and her place of birth as New York. Abel W. Scranton must have been at least her second husband, and the census household enumeration included a nineteen-year-old girl called Jennie Gardner, named as Abel’s stepdaughter. Jennie would have been born around 1861, when her mother was twenty-six. If Terissa Gardner Scranton had other husbands or other children, their names have not yet come down to us.

Terissa had married Abel in Lucas, Ohio on November 16, 1873. According to corporation tax records and a few newspaper notices, the Scrantons lived on a farm about a mile north of Wellington, on the west side of the main road to Oberlin, today called State Route 58. Two months after Terissa died, Abel held a public sale of “one mare, one pony, one Jersey Heifer, two wagons, double carriage, phaeton, double harness, Norwalk tanning mill, corn sheller, reaper and mower and other articles too numerous to mention” (The Wellington Enterprise, 2-17-1886, pg. 4). A few weeks later, he sold his farm to S. K. Laundon and moved to a property on Magyar Street formerly occupied by Caroline Wales Woodworth, longtime owner of the American House hotel.

I have been able to discover very little else about Terissa’s life. An unpublished Scranton family genealogy records that Abel had three wives and a child out of wedlock by a fourth woman (perhaps a contributing factor to his first marriage ending in divorce in 1866). His third wife was a widow named Eliza Kester from Chicago; the couple was married at her home in that city and Abel Scranton relocated there for some period of time, before returning to Ohio. He died in Dover in 1905 but his remains were carried to Wellington for burial next to Terissa.

Headstones of Abel W. and Terissa Scranton at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstones of Abel W. and Terissa Scranton at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Terissa’s daughter, Jennie Gardner, had an even briefer life than that of her mother. Jennie apparently continued to live with her stepfather in his new house on Magyar Street, until she moved to Cleveland and married Dr. Clinton E. Leland in 1888. (She visited Wellington frequently after her marriage and was often noted as being a guest of her friends, Peter and Minnie Eidt.) The Lelands had one child, a boy who lived only three days. Clinton died after just three years of marriage, aged thirty-five. Jennie then moved to Chicago, at the same time that Abel Scranton moved there, and remarried a man called Rotter. She died in 1895 at thirty-four years of age, and is buried with her first husband and infant son at Riverside Cemetery, in Cleveland, Ohio.

But what of Terissa? I’ve spent weeks trying to learn more about her. We have no known copies of the Enterprise from the period of her death. I have tried to determine her maiden name, in order to trace other census or marriage records, but to no avail. It began to feel as though the tiny card might truly be all that was left of her. Then I stumbled on a citation for an obituary that was printed in the New London Record. In the basement of the New London Public Library, I found this:

In Memoriam. Mrs. Terisa, wife of Mr. A. W. Scranton, died at her home in Wellington, Ohio, Dec. 15th, 1885, in the fiftieth year of her age. Her illness was occasioned by dropsy, resulting in blood poisoning. During the five months continuance of her fatal sickness she suffered severely. But she endured her distress with patience, not a murmur or complaint passed her lips. She possessed the affectionate esteem of the numerous friends with whom she became connected by marriage, and was beloved by her neighbors and associates. She was buried from the family residence on Thursday, Dec. 17th, the funeral services being conducted by the Rev. Mr. Brown of the Methodist Episcopal church” (12-23-1885, pg. 3).

Dropsy is today known as edema, a swelling of the soft tissues caused by an accumulation of excess water within the body. It is often related to congestive heart failure, but can also be caused by a severe sepsis of the blood (i.e. blood poisoning caused by an infection). In a pulmonary edema, the lungs begin to fill with fluid causing extreme difficulty breathing. If the fluids are not removed, the patient can literally drown in her own bed. Prolonged as Terissa’s sickness was, it would have been a highly unpleasant way to die.

Notice on the illness of Mrs. Abel Scranton. "The Elyria Republican," 9-17-1885, pg. 1.

Notice of the illness of Mrs. Abel Scranton. “The Elyria Republican,” 9-17-1885, pg. 1.

To which of her “numerous friends…neighbors and associates” was this little memorial card given after the funeral? How did it come to survive for more than a century? I’ll never know the answers to those questions. Regardless, the card has done its job beautifully. It inspired me–and through me, all of you–to once again honor the memory of Terissa Gardner Scranton.

Poison in the Blood

Advertisement for Ayer's Sarsaparilla, a purported cure for the disease known as scrofula. "The Wellington Enterprise," 7-1-1885, pg. 7.

Advertisement for Ayer’s Sarsaparilla, a purported cure for the disease known as scrofula. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 7-1-1885, pg. 7. Photo by author.

Regular readers of the blog will recall that one of the principal focuses of my research has been the life of Noah Huckins, a Canadian who moved to Wellington after the Civil War and built an Italianate on the north side of town once owned by my family. Huckins had some type of illness that forced him to resign as mayor of the village in September 1872. He lost two children in infancy and his two surviving children were plagued with lifelong health issues; his daughter died of complications from a corrective surgery when she was only in her twenties.

I recently obtained a transcription of a diary kept by Noah Huckins’ older brother, George, while both men were students at Baldwin University. (Many thanks to former Baldwin Wallace University archivist, Jeremy Feador, for sharing the document with me.) Over the course of sixty-three manuscript pages, George mentions his younger brother in only three sentences. But one of those lines may hold the key to revealing Noah Huckins’ mysterious lifelong illness.

Advertisement for Hood's Sarsaparilla, a purported cure for the disease known as scrofula. "The Wellington Enterprise," 10-29-1890, pg. 8.

Advertisement for Hood’s Sarsaparilla, a purported cure for the disease known as scrofula. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 10-29-1890, pg. 8. Photo by author.

On January 25, 1859, George wrote: “Noah is sick today with lung disease.” In the nineteenth century, the most popular name for that particular ailment was consumption; today we know it as tuberculosis. It is a wasting disease that attacks the lungs and can be fatal without proper treatment.

I began to think about Noah’s children, Howard and Ibla, with their strange neck growths. More research revealed that TB is intimately connected with another archaic-sounding sickness, scrofula. Scrofula is most infamously known as a medieval scourge that was once thought to be curable by a royal touch, hence its nickname, “the king’s evil.” The full medical term for the disease is actually Mycobacterial cervical lymphadenitisit is a tubercular infection of the lymph nodes that causes chronic, persistent, painless masses in the neck that grow over time.

Huckins’ children, who may have already been born with a genetic susceptibility to the condition, probably contracted it at very young ages from their father and the infection manifested itself in them as cysts which both had surgically removed in their twenties. Unfortunately, surgery is not an effective treatment against scrofula, because the underlying bacterial cause simply reasserts itself through new growths. Surgery can also spread the bacteria to other parts of the body, and is always inherently risky even when it appears to be a straightforward procedure, as Ibla Huckins’ death demonstrates.

Advertisement for Hood's Sarsaparilla, a purported cure for the disease known as scrofula. "The Wellington Enterprise," 11-25-1891, pg. 4.

Advertisement for Hood’s Sarsaparilla, a purported cure for the disease known as scrofula. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 11-25-1891, pg. 4. Photo by author.

I came across hundreds of advertisements in The Wellington Enterprise for products marketed as cures for the disease. Sarsaparilla, a beverage not unlike root beer, was particularly popular. Many companies chose to sell their inventory through druggists, and even to characterize a serving size as a “dose.” The beverage was made from the root of a sarsaparilla plant, which is believed even today to have minor medicinal properties. The plant actually has a WebMD page, which reports that, “Chemicals in sarsaparilla might help decrease joint pain and itching, and might also reduce bacteria. Other chemicals might combat pain and swelling (inflammation), and also protect the liver against toxins.” Sufferers from scrofula possibly experienced a measure of genuine relief by taking what is today considered a soft drink.

I find myself imagining Howard and Ibla’s uncle, Wellington druggist Erwin Adams, carrying the children bottles of sarsaparilla to enjoy as he walks home up North Main Street on a summer evening…

Show and Tell

Glass pharmaceutical bottle labelled, "Wooster & Adams. Wellington, O." Author's collection.

Glass pharmaceutical bottle labeled, “Wooster & Adams. Wellington, O.” Likely manufactured in the early 1880s. Author’s collection.

My little one began pre-school last week. As we were scrambling around looking for a “show and tell” item, I was inspired to write this post. The glass bottle pictured above stands just three inches high. It has seams running down its sides, indicating that it was blown in a mold, most likely in the late nineteenth century. The embossed lettering on the front of the vessel reads, “Wooster & Adams. Wellington, O.” This fragile object is a tiny memento of a businessman who worked on Liberty Street (later West Herrick Avenue) for nearly four decades.

Erwin Wright Adams was born October 1, 1849. He was the only boy among Gideon and Bertia Adams’ seven children, twin brother to Ermina Fowler Adams. He was, therefore, brother-in-law to Noah Huckins twice over, as Huckins married Erwin’s older sister, Ellen Victorine Adams, in 1866; after the sudden death of Ellen and their infant daughter, Maud, Huckins later married Ermina. She was a decade his junior.

Erwin Wright Adams (1849-1929).

Erwin Wright Adams (1849-1929).

According to a family genealogy I discovered, Erwin allegedly studied medicine under Dr. John Houghton. In 1879, he entered into a partnership with Arthur Wooster to operate a pharmacy on Liberty Street called Wooster & Adams. (The storefront is today occupied by a chiropractor’s office.) The Wellington Enterprise was filled with promotional announcements and advertisements as the store opened in October of that year. “We ask the attention of our readers this week to the following new advertisement. Wooster & Adams, druggists and dealers in fancy goods, notions, etc. New store. New goods, and every thing [sic] in No. 1 order. Keep watch of their space each week,” the paper encouraged (10-30-1879, pg. 3).

Advertisement for Wooster & Adams. "The Wellington Enterprise," 11-6-1879, pg. 2. Photo by author.

Advertisement for Wooster & Adams. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 11-6-1879, pg. 2.

Local historian Robert Walden knew the druggist and his wife, Mary Emma Mallory Adams. Walden described one of his early jobs purchasing tickets on behalf of other residents for performances at the Opera House, which were sold through Adams’ drug store for many years. I have also referred previously to Walden’s writings about the Adams homestead on North Main Street, a very early brick residence that remained in the family for over a century. Erwin and Mary Emma married in 1876 and lived in the house for more than fifty years. Mrs. Adams sold the property ten years after her husband’s death in 1929. It was sadly demolished in 2012.

Mary Emma Mallory Adams (1855-1943), photographed ca. 1913.

Mary Emma Mallory Adams (1855-1943), photographed ca. 1913.

Walden noted that “Mr. Wooster disposed of his interest to Mr. Adams and moved to California. This drug store, since the erection of the Vischer block, has always been located there, passing to the ownership of Eldo Lehman upon Mr. Adams’ death” (Notebook, #A69). The pharmacy did pass into Lehman’s ownership, but the transfer occurred twelve years before Erwin Adams died. The front page of the newspaper proclaimed: “Mr. E. R. Lehman has purchased the drug business conducted by Mr. E. W. Adams on West Main street for the past 30 years. Mr. Lehman has been in Mr. Adams’ employ for a long time, and is a very thorough and active druggist. THE ENTERPRISE is pleased to hear of his purchase and wishes him the best of luck” (9-12-1917). Lehman later served as mayor of Wellington.

There is at least one more remnant of the shop still remaining in the village. On the second floor of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum, is a gorgeous carved wooden wall cabinet that was reportedly salvaged from the Adams drug store. If you are in Wellington, you should visit the museum and have a look at it. It is one of thousands of objects in the collection with fascinating stories to show and tell.

Wooden wall cabinet, reportedly from Erwin Adams' drug store, held in the collection of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum. Photo by author.

Wooden wall cabinet, reportedly from Erwin Adams’ drug store, held in the collection of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum. Photo by author.

Dr. Harriet E. Warren (1842-1894)

Advertisement for Dr. H. E. Warren. "The Wellington Enterprise," 2-12-1890, pg. 1.

Advertisement for Dr. H. E. Warren. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 2-12-1890, pg. 1.

“The first woman doctor in Lorain County was Dr. Harriet Warner who opened up an office on Herrick Ave. in Wellington. She had qualified as a doctor in a medical college, but because she was a woman a certificate to practice medicine in Ohio was denied her. Undaunted (and in fact illegally) she ‘hung out her shingle’ and started practice in the village. By bulldog persistence she did finally persuade the state to grant the certificate due her” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A214).

This brief biographical sketch was written by local amateur historian Robert Walden sometime around 1961. At that time, Walden was ninety-three years old and within a year of his own death. Even if he had known Dr. Harriet E. Warren personally, she had been dead for over sixty-five years. I have no way of knowing at present how many details of his story are correct, but I do know that several particulars–not least of which is the doctor’s name–are inaccurate.

Harriet E. Warren was born in Wellington in 1842. She was very bright and apparently teaching school by a young age. I have no notion of what made Harriet Warren want to become a professional healer in nineteenth-century Ohio, but by the 1870s she was studying medicine with local physician and druggist Dr. James Rust. She graduated from his alma mater, the Cleveland Homeopathic Medical College, in 1877; the school had begun accepting female students just six years earlier.

Headstone of Dr. James Rust and his wife, Sophia Goss Rust, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Dr. James Rust and his wife, Sophia Goss Rust, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

After a decade of practicing in Elyria, during which time she was active in both the Lorain County Medical Association and a public advocate of prohibition, Warren returned home to Wellington. In the little I have found published about her, I find no mention of the “illegal” nature of her work that Walden alleged. John Houghton, another local doctor and druggist, wrote of Harriet Warren: “Notwithstanding social and professional prejudices necessarily encountered in the practice of medicine by a woman, she built up a respectable and lucrative practice and had the confidence and esteem of her patrons and friends” (The Wellington Enterprise, 8-22-1894, pg. 4).

According to an advertisement that appeared in the Enterprise nearly one hundred times (see above), Dr. Warren lived and kept an office in the post office building, which was then located on South Main Street. Though run for many years out of John Houghton’s drug, book and stationery shop, in 1879 the post office had relocated four doors north, to a small, two-story brick building adjacent to Baldwin, Laundon and Company’s enormous corner dry-goods store. It continued to appear in that location on Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for both 1889 and 1893.

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Wellington, Ohio dated April, 1889. Shows the "P.O." or post office, located on South Main Street. Also noted in that building is a "Confecy" or confectionary (i.e. candy) shop. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 5-19-2014.

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance map for Wellington, Ohio dated April, 1889. Shows the “P.O.” or post office, located on South Main Street. Also noted in that building is a “Confecy” or confectionery (i.e. sweet) shop. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 5-19-2014.

Early-twentieth-century image of the west side of South Main Street. The building on the left side of the frame once housed Houghton's drug, book and stationery shop. The building on the right  side of the frame was home to the post office and once held the residence and medical office of Dr. Harriet Warren. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Early-twentieth-century image of the west side of South Main Street. The three-story building on the left side of the frame once housed Houghton’s drug, book and stationery shop. The two-story building on the right side of the frame was home to the post office (the sign is visible over the doorway) and once held the residence and medical office of Dr. Harriet Warren. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

In August 1894, when she was fifty-two years old, Dr. Harriet Warren was killed in a tragic accident. While driving a buggy to visit a patient north of town, Warren was thrown out of the vehicle and trampled when her horse took a fright. Another female passenger was unharmed, but the doctor was badly injured and unable to move. She was taken to the home of her brother, F. D. Warren. Drs. Rust and Houghton both came to offer medical assistance, but she died in the early hours of the following morning.

John Houghton delivered a lengthy and moving eulogy at her funeral, which was reprinted in the Enterprise. Her family had asked him to perform the task, he said, because “professional tastes and common sympathies, social, political and otherwise, conspired to bring us frequently in each other’s society and I may have come to know her more intimately than most others, save her near relatives” (8-22-1894, pg. 4). There were resolutions of sympathy from the Wellington Grange, and the Bible studies group of the Methodist Sunday School cancelled their lesson in favor of a memorial service attended by more than sixty people (9-5-1894, pg. 5). According to a description of the memorial service, “A picture of Dr. Warren was tastefully draped and the room decorated with flowers.” I have been unable to locate any such photograph. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in the Warren family plot.

Headstone of Warren family, including Dr. Harriet E. Warren, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone of Warren family, including Dr. Harriet E. Warren, at Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

I do not know if Robert Walden was correct in naming Harriet Warren the first female physician in Lorain County. In examining a forty-page publication called “Medicine in Lorain County’s First Century” (1960) by C. Ruth Zealley, I found no mention of her, though I did note the inclusion of Wellington doctors Daniel Johns and John Houghton. (A single paragraph discusses female practitioners, and mentions only Dr. Lydia Chapin Jump by name; she graduated from the same school as Warren, though seven years later, and worked in Oberlin.) I am so curious to know more about Warren’s life and professional career. Perhaps someone reading this is a relative and could shed some light through family papers or stories.

I will give the last word to her friend and colleague, John Houghton: “Modest and unpretentious, she yet had a vigorous intellect, a good memory, was an extensive reader and thoroughly in touch with all the progressive ideas and movements of the day. She had for her grievance the woes and misfortunes of the afflicted and oppressed, and in her efforts to compass their release knew no shrinking, no selfishness . . . Her wisdom, her good sense and womanliness, the brightness and strength of her intellect, her cheerful, charitable spirit, her modest yet dignified bearing, her intense love of nature and her appreciation of and tenderness for all God’s creatures were known to all who knew her. The spontaneous expression of sorrow from families who had known her professionally is a worthy tribute of her character.”

UPDATE: Wellington Genealogy Group president Marilyn Wainio generously shared some of her own research findings about Dr. Warren with me. She uncovered seven articles published about Warren in Elyria and Cleveland newspapers. The notices confirm her participation in the Lorain County Medical Association, as well as her being an active member of the Elyria Woman Suffrage Association. There is a passing reference to a Harriet E. Warren who was a published author; if this is the same person, I have not been able to learn what title(s) she wrote. Perhaps most interestingly, there are two pieces about Dr. Warren’s work as the “Dispensary physician” of the Women and Children’s Free Dispensary in Cleveland. The clinic, “organized by lady physicians of this city,” operated out of Cleveland’s Homeopathic Hospital College, where Warren had completed her medical training only two years before. “In addition to the resident dispensary physician, Dr. Harriet E. Warren, who is a most accomplished lady, and thoroughly fitted for her position and duties, there is a very efficient corps of attendant physicians, composed of six well-known lady physicians” (The Cleveland Leader, 1-31-1879, pg. 3). Leaving aside the question of whether Harriet Warren was the first female physician in Lorain County, it certainly seems that women doctors in northeast Ohio were not as scarce as one might have initially supposed by the 1870s.

“Mr. Crabtree, I suppose it makes you almost think that God has forgotten you.”

Headstone of John M. Crabtree (1828-1901). Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio.

Headstone of John M. Crabtree (1828-1901). Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio.

“The desolation of that home could hardly be more complete, and tenderest sympathy with those stricken hearts could not be more universal throughout this entire community” (The Wellington Enterprise, 8-9-1877, pg. 3).

I wrote earlier about stumbling upon a description of John Crabtree’s butcher shop in downtown Wellington, and then finding the location of the building a few days later. Yesterday I was walking through Greenwood Cemetery and out of the corner of my eye, I saw the name “Crabtree” on a large marker. I wanted to determine if it was the same man, and indeed the first plaque I read was for John M. Crabtree, though there were no accompanying dates to further confirm his identity. Looking at the remaining plaques, I realized something startling: three of the other four people named on the memorial died within weeks of each other.

My first thought was that there must have been some kind of epidemic in Wellington at that time. I located obituaries for the Crabtree family, and found that the reality was even more distressing. But it also threw unexpected light on how people came to emigrate to this tiny rural town in the 1800s.

John M. Crabtree was born in 1828 in Nottinghamshire, England, just nineteen days after the birth of Ann Guy Wells, his future wife, in the neighboring town. A few weeks later, Edward F. Wells, Ann’s cousin, was born in nearby Willoughby; the three would be lifelong friends. John learned the trade of being a butcher from his uncle and was a well-respected businessman in his local community by the time Edward Wells decided to leave England for America in 1852. Wells returned home for a visit in 1868, and spoke so positively of the new place he called home–Wellington, Ohio–that the Crabtrees decided to cross the ocean themselves.

They arrived in Wellington in 1870. In the fall of that year, the couple’s eighth and final child, Eddie Wells Crabtree, was born but sadly died at age two and a half. Then, in June of 1877, tragedy struck the family again. This time, it was eighteen-year-old daughter Mary who died of “spinal fever.” The Enterprise reported, “She was severely ill less than a week, being at the tea-table on the Monday evening previous to her death” (7-5-1877, pg. 3).

Headstone of John (1854-1877) and Mary (1859-1877) Crabtree. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio.

Headstone of John (1854-1877) and Mary (1859-1877) Crabtree. Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio.

Just three weeks later, twenty-three-year-old son John, who was living in Cleveland, contracted “dysentery of a typhoid character” and was dead within two weeks. The same issue of the Enterprise that carried his obituary also noted in a separate announcement, “Mrs. John Crabtree is dangerously sick with the same disease of which her son died, and the physicians regard her case as hopeless” (8-2-1877, pg. 3). Ann Wells Crabtree had been attending to her sick son in Cleveland, and accompanied his body home for burial; she took to her bed upon her return to Wellington, “never to rise again.” She died on August 6, 1877 at age forty-nine. “In the short period of six weeks, a daughter, son, and wife have been laid in the grave” (8-9-1877, pg. 3).

Headstone of Ann Guy Wells Crabtree (1828-1877). Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio.

Headstone of Ann Guy Wells Crabtree (1828-1877). Greenwood Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio.

The description of Crabtree’s butcher shop, which I included in my previous post, was written in 1879. It indicates that “about two years ago he removed his market to Shelby, but after one year returned to Wellington, again locating on North Main St” (2-6-1879, pg. 3). Perhaps John Crabtree needed a change of scenery after such a devastating blow to his family, but eventually returned to the town in which his friend Edward Wells still resided. In 1890, his only living daughter died of consumption. Hattie Crabtree Murdock was just twenty-nine, and her brief obituary noted that “the end found her ready for the summons, and anxious to meet the sainted mother, brother and sister who have gone before” (4-2-1890, pg. 5).

John Crabtree seems to have tried a fresh start of sorts. In 1893, he married the widow Mary Ann Laundon of Elryia. He was then sixty-five years old. Two years later, he appears for the first time as a property owner and taxpayer in the Wellington Corporation tax records, a quarter-century after moving to the town. (Presumably he rented both his family residence on North Main Street and his shop on Liberty Street, now called West Herrick Avenue.) But when he died in 1901 at age seventy-three, his obituary focused at great length on his old sorrow, and on his struggle to retain religious faith in the face of such overwhelming loss. The remembrance delivered at Crabtree’s funeral by Reverend H. D. Sheldon was reprinted in full in The Wellington Enterprise. Sheldon recalled a conversation he had with the butcher in which he posed the very indelicate question I used as the title of this post; Crabtree’s response was that at times it did feel as if he had been forsaken. “In all his afflictions he was patient, although at times his faith was tried to the point of breaking. His was a Gethsemane experience” (3-27-1901, pg. 4).

Little did I suspect when I came across an amusing description of a butcher shop that I would uncover this life of deep sadness. Nor that I would find another family from England, moving like Joseph and Hannah Turley to a new world of economic opportunity in America. A trip to the cemetery is now like a visit with old friends, but also reminds me of how little I know about Wellington’s past, and how many more friends there are still to meet in the pages of its history.