Category Archives: Oberlin

The Chinese Laundry

Detail of an image taken of Public Square, Wellington, Ohio, between  1892 and 1902. Sign over basement entrance to Wells building reads, "WAH SING LAUNDRY." My thanks to Mr. Alan L. Leiby for providing the enlargement.

Detail of an image taken of Public Square, Wellington, Ohio, between 1892 and 1902. Sign over basement entrance to Wells building reads, “WAH SING LAUNDRY.” My thanks to Mr. Alan L. Leiby for providing the enlargement.

A really marvelous development was brought to my attention recently. The Library of Congress has added twenty years of The Wellington Enterprise to its “Chronicling America” digital newspaper repository. The papers–rather confusingly grouped into three separate holdings–date from 1879 to 1899, and include nearly 900 keyword-searchable issues. Many thanks to fellow blogger and Wellington historian Joshua Fahler for alerting me.

As you might imagine, I immediately spent hours compiling search terms, to see if I had missed anything important in my old-school visual scanning of the issues on microfilm. Optical character recognition can be very spotty with nineteenth-century newspaper print, but I was pleasantly surprised by how many things I was able to locate. I still prefer the more immersive experience of reading the issues sequentially, but the search box is undeniably faster for “clean up” checking of proper names, etc.

One of the first names I wanted to search for was Wah Sing. To cover additional possibilities, I also checked terms such as “John Chinaman” and “Chinese laundry,” phrases often used in the reporting of the time. I uncovered a wealth of additional information about the Chinese laundry in Wellington. The dozen notices that I found disproved some of the suppositions I posed in my previous two posts about Wah Sing. I debated whether to remove those posts, but ultimately decided to leave them intact and use this entry to correct some of my mistakes.

By far, the most glaring error that I made was to assume that, given its rural setting, Wellington most likely had only one Chinese resident during the nineteenth-century. I painted Wah Sing as a highly unusual person, even in the context of Wellington’s fifteen percent foreign-born population, which I have noted several times. But this new information, which in turn caused me to reevaluate the materials I already had in hand, now allows me to report that I can record at least nine distinct Chinese individuals connected with the operation of a laundry in Public Square between 1884 and 1899.

In my original post on Wah Sing, I noted that the first published announcement I have found of a Chinese laundry in Wellington was made by Sone and Chong in December 1884.

By the summer of 1890, the newspaper was making reference to “our enterprising, live and let live Chinese laundryman, Col, Chas. Moon” and commented, “Charley is so different from the generality of his countrymen that he enjoys the respect of all who know him” (6-18-1890, pg. 5). Seven months later, a repeating series of notices announced that an unnamed “we” had purchased “the laundry business of Charley Moon” (1-28-1891, pg. 5).

The next time a Chinese individual appears in the Enterprise, it is in connection with the assault that I detailed in my first post on Wah Sing; I recounted the trial and sentencing of William Gulde and Clinton Wadsworth in a second post. The victim of that crime was referred to by multiple names, one of which was Thomas Chinsing. I erroneously assumed that this must actually be Wah Sing, and wrote the discrepancy off as the discriminatory reporting practices of a time when newspapers regularly used names such as “John Chinaman.” But I now know that Wah Sing did not move to Wellington until nearly two years after this attack.

It was therefore Thomas Chinsing, not Wah Sing, who had a cousin in Cleveland and a brother in Painesville. His brother was a telegraph operator who spoke fluent English and served as a translator at the assault trial in April 1891. There were four separate robberies of the laundry in the previous two years; how many proprietors the establishment had in that period remains a mystery.

In September 1892, The Wellington Enterprise noted, “A new John Chinaman arrives in town about every new moon to take charge of the laundry. It must be that the business doesn’t pay very well, or this place has become exceedingly attractive to them and they are all anxious to come and remain a short time” (9-14-1892, pg. 5). And indeed, in that year I find records of at least two other individuals connected to the laundry. In July, a man named Sing Lee apparently returned from Painesville after an absence of three months, as “the celestial that succeeded him in the laundry…failed to pay up and so John [Chinaman, i.e Sing Lee] came back and took possession” (7-20-1892, pg. 5). Was there a connection between Sing Lee and Thomas Chinsing, given that each had some association with Painesville? I don’t know, nor do I know anything about the “non-paying” individual who ran the operation for that three-month interval.

By October of the same year, the proprietor of the laundry was listed as Ham Yuen in a notice asserting that the business would not be relocating to North Main Street, but would remain in Public Square. And readers of the earlier post will recall that local historian Robert Walden also recorded a man named Charley Lee as Wah Sing’s immediate predecessor, but without giving any indication of what time period he lived in the village.

“The latest celestial to arrive has a new sign, which reads, ‘Wah Sing, Laundry'” announced the paper on December 21, 1892. (Astute readers may note that I have adjusted the dating on the photograph at the top of this post accordingly.) Federal census data indicates that Wah Sing emigrated to the United States sometime between 1878 and 1880–just prior to passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act–and made his way inland from the west coast, arriving in Wellington twelve years later. By 1896, he was contemplating a trip home to China “to visit his wife and children” (12-16-1896, pg. 5). He ran into some trouble with money; both the Enterprise and the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported that he loaned $300 to another Chinese individual who was either away without leaving his whereabouts or had deliberately absconded with the stolen funds, depending on which report you believe.

Whatever the truth of that incident, Wah Sing’s financial issues were somehow successfully resolved. In October 1897, he left Wellington to make the six-week journey home to China, with the intention of remaining away for nearly a year. He left the laundry in the care of his cousin, Gin Gim, and returned as he had promised in October 1898.

I cannot verify the accuracy of Robert Walden’s published memories. All of the incidents that I wrote about in my first post, Walden explicitly described as happening to “Waugh Sing.” Whether he was conflating memories of interactions with multiple Chinese laundrymen, I do not know. What I can say is that the few published mentions of Wah Sing in the last decade of the century may paint a very incomplete portrait of his life, but they do not necessarily suggest someone in total isolation and misery. Obviously Wah Sing was able to visit his family in China for nearly a year. He was noted several times traveling to friends in Cleveland, including attending a celebration of Chinese New Year in the city in 1899. There is evidence of community and connectedness for several of these men, despite the scantiness of the extant written record.

I found mentions of other Chinese laundries operating in nearby Oberlin and also in Newark, Ohio, about ninety miles south of Wellington (near the state capital, Columbus). The article about Newark was denouncing a series of attacks against “a couple of respectable Chinese laundrymen” in that town, in which white patrons were actually hiding explosives in their own laundry. The piece is worth quoting at some length: “And now the industrious foreigners can go on rinsing the sweat from white men’s shirts and perspiring over the polishing board as their lazy persecutors would not if they never had a change of clean underclothing. It is a national disgrace that a well-behaved Chinaman cannot walk a square in the streets of our cities without meeting with staring impudence and hooting insult, even from our well educated school children…Because he has not the bullying propensities of the Anglo-Saxon, and is physically weak, and is quiet, peacable, willing to work hard and to do his work well, he is everywhere imposed upon by our ‘superior race,’ and treated with such want of fairness and courtesy that it is no wonder the observing Celestial is not apt to think well of either the civilization or the religion of this country” (7-15-1880, pg. 2).

Did Wah Sing feel that he was treated with a “want of fairness and courtesy” by his Wellington neighbors? My fear is that there is no way to ever truly know. But then I recall that just a few days ago I though there was one man running the Chinese laundry, and now I know that there were many. That gives me hope that other sources of information may still exist that can offer more insight into this part of our history. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” Our collective memory of this small community within our midst may have disappeared, but we can begin to reconstruct the evidence of their presence and thereby deepen our understanding of the true complexity of our shared past.

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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.

The American House

Undated image of The American House, Wellington, Ohio. From "Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio, Volume 1" (1916) by G. Frederick Wright, pg. 527.

Undated image of the American House, Wellington, Ohio. From “Standard History of Lorain County, Ohio, Volume 1” (1916) by G. Frederick Wright, pg. 527.

For seventy years, the anchor of Wellington’s downtown business district was a three-story brick building that served as an hotel, a tavern, and a meeting spot for the community. It was called several names over the course of its existence, but is most commonly known as the American House. I have written about the hotel before, in connection with its most famous incident, the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. In this post, I will give a more complete history of one of the town’s lost landmarks.

A hotel was first erected on Public Square in the 1830s. Local historians Robert Walden and Ernst Henes both put the precise date at 1833, and Walden goes so far as to name it the first brick building constructed for commercial purposes in the village (Notebook, #A59). It was built by the Wadsworth family and operated by them for at least a quarter-century. The patriarch of the family was Lawton Wadsworth (1785-1876). He and wife Nancy (1785-1873) had seven sons, at least two of whom are recorded as innkeepers of the hotel in its early years. By 1844, the establishment was apparently called the Wellington House and was operated by son Jabez Lorenzo Wadsworth (1813-1869). At the time of the Rescue, son Oliver Sardine Wadsworth (1809-1877) was running what was then-known as Wadsworth’s Hotel or Wadsworth’s Tavern. And we have met son David Lawton Wadsworth (1825-1892), both at the hotel on the day of the Rescue and in later life.

Lawton and Nancy Wadsworth. From "History of Lorain County, Ohio" (1879), insert between pgs. 358-359.

Lawton and Nancy Wadsworth. From “History of Lorain County, Ohio” (1879), insert between pgs. 358-359.

Headstone for Lawton and Nancy Wadsworth, and one of their seven sons, Jabez Lorenzo Wadsworth, who committed suicide in 1869. The family built a hotel on Public Square and managed it for twenty-five years. "Pioneer" Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

Headstone for Lawton and Nancy Wadsworth, and one of their seven sons, Jabez Lorenzo Wadsworth, who committed suicide in 1869. The family built a hotel on Public Square and managed it for twenty-five years. “Pioneer” Cemetery, Wellington, Ohio. Photo by author.

The testimony associated with the Rescue provides a fascinating glimpse inside the walls of the hotel. Reading through the eyewitness accounts, one develops a feel for the layout and daily uses of the building. Nat Brandt provides an excellent summary in his book, The Town That Started the Civil War: “A rambling wooden [sic] building with some pretensions toward architectural elegance, it was a favorite stopping place for traveling salesmen and had a sample room where they could display their goods…The building was on a rise in the ground and had a lower floor in back, where the kitchen, barroom, and dining room were located; a sloping pathway by the hotel’s north side led to their entranceway and to several outbuildings–a feed barn where guests could leave their horses for the night, an icehouse, a woodshed, and a chicken coop. A garden in the rear supplied vegetables for the hotel’s dining room” (pg. 66).

View of The American House, most likely taken from the window of the William Sawtell photography studio on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue). Image must have been taken after the studio opened ca. 1875 and before erection of the current Wellington Town Hall in 1885. Note the monuments business operating in the level below-grade. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

View of the American House, most likely taken from the window of the William Sawtell photography studio on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue). Image must have been taken after the studio opened ca. 1875 and before erection of the current Wellington Town Hall in 1885. Note the monuments business operating in the level below-grade. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

The hotel had a veranda (likely not added until 1868) that was a popular gathering spot for locals in warm weather months. There were three retail spaces in the below-grade level fronting Mechanics Street–now East Herrick Avenue–that changed hands numerous times over the decades. Walden wrote that he remembered a barbershop and a butcher shop operating out of the storefronts in his youth (#A24). Perhaps he was familiar with the barbershop opened by black businessman Eugene T. Robinson “under” the building in 1881; Robinson also owned the O.K. Shaving Saloon on Liberty Street–now West Herrick Avenue–and in 1883 he opened a bath house in connection with one of the two locations, though I don’t know which. One of the best-known images of the hotel, most likely taken by photographer William Sawtell in the 1870s or early 1880s, shows a monuments shop labeled “Marble Works,” with a winged figure visible in its display window.

The hotel appears so frequently in The Wellington Enterprise that it would be impossible to include all the notices in full. Announcements about changes in ownership, renovations or expansions of the facilities, and any noticeable change in visitation all received lengthy coverage. The hotel was often profiled in a recurring feature called, “Business Interests of Wellington. Our Dealers and What They are Doing.” Here is a brief sample of typical mentions.

1876: Mr. Wilcox, current innkeeper, decides to retire. A committee of some twenty prominent citizens (including Sidney Warner, John Houghton, and David Wadsworth) is formed to plan a “farewell benefit” (3-16-1876, pg. 3). W. A. Woodworth takes over administration of the hotel.

1877: Woodworth is still hotel landlord. “This house under his charge, has been thoroughly renovated and newly furnished; and its rooms are made inviting by clean, sweet beds, and snowy linen. Its table is attractively spread with all the delicacies of the season, and with attentive waiters to serve, one always feels at home while stopping at this house…” (10-11-1877, pg. 3).

1878: By May, a renovation has transformed a former billard room into two spacious sleeping rooms. A “large and well lighted sample room” has been added to the front of the hotel. At the end of the month, it is announced that seven more rooms have been added “being the east half of the lower and all the second story of the Boutwell building, which has been rented and fitted up to accommodate the increasing business” (5-30-1878, pg. 3). By the end of the year, Stanley Wilcox is the proprietor. The hotel now has seventy rooms and can house as many as one hundred guests (12-19-1878, pg. 3).

1879: The hotel is expanded again during the summer, with the addition of a new wing on its east side.

1880: The hotel register shows an increase in both the amount of travel and overall numbers of guests, “especially the large proportion of wholesale traveling men that are visiting us” (12-12-1880, pg. 3).

Undated image of The American House, Wellington, Ohio. Photo 970226 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of the American House, Wellington, Ohio. Photo 970226 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the hotel was showing its age. But the town was still surprised to learn in 1902 that Myron T. Herrick (soon to be elected Governor of Ohio, later Ambassador to France) had purchased the building with the intention of removing it. The American House was demolished and in its place was constructed the Herrick Memorial Library, dedicated and presented to the village on New Year’s Day, 1904. According to a special centennial edition published by The Wellington Enterprise in 1964, lumber salvaged from the hotel was used to construct a barn then standing on “the Beckman property” on State Route 58 North.

UPDATE: Since publishing this post, I found the following notice in the December 5, 1883 edition of The Wellington Enterprise: “–Wm. Wadsworth second son of Sardine Wadsworth, stopped here for a brief visit on his way to visit his mother and sisters, from Gunnison Valley Col., where he has been four years. His father kept the American House here in 1834, being with his brother Lorenzo first proprietor of that hotel. It was built by the Wadsworths” (pg. 3).

Taking the Hack

Undated image of a Wellington Transfer Co. horse-drawn coach, also known as a "hack." Photo 970300 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Undated image of a Wellington Transfer Co. horse-drawn coach, also known as a “hack.” Photo 970300 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I wrote yesterday about some of the transportation options available to people in nineteenth-century Wellington, and I mentioned the Wellington hack. “Hack” was a shortening of the word “hackney,” a type of sturdy, horse-drawn coach that served as a taxi and mail delivery vehicle in that period. Anyone who has read a Jane Austen novel is likely familiar with the term.

Today as I was conducting research I ran across this wonderful notice in The Wellington Enterprise. It had apparently been a hard winter in early 1880, and the ground was deeply rutted and frozen solid, making travel difficult. The newspaper wryly observed, “The Oberlin Hack, with four horses came toiling in at a toirtoise [sic] pace, at 11 a. m., Monday, the horses wearing a martyr-like expression, as though they wished a mail route had never been thought of.”

A nearby timetable helpfully indicates that the hack line from Oberlin and Pittsfield was supposed to arrive at nine o’clock in the morning on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, returning at one o’clock the same afternoon. Why this particular hack arrived on a Monday is not recorded, but perhaps the weather conditions necessitated a change of schedule.

The paper also noted, “The rain on Thursday night softened up the mud and made the going much better, as the increased number of teams in town Friday indicated.” Another mention in the same edition described the “mud embargo” on goods in the town, in other words, a slight reduction in the variety and selection of materials for sale because of the temporarily impassable roads (3-11-1880, pg. 3).

The American House and Wellington Town Hall. Note the hack waiting at the hotel steps. Image was taken between 1885 (when Town Hall was built) and end of the century (when Interurban street cars on tracks were introduced). Photo 970386 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

The American House and Wellington Town Hall. Note the hack waiting at the hotel steps. Image was taken between 1886 (when Town Hall was completed) and end of the century (when Interurban street cars on tracks were introduced). Photo 970386 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

City Living

Intersection of South Main Street and Liberty Street (now West Herrick Avenue), Wellington, Ohio. Image must have been taken between 1887 (when firm was renamed Laundon, Windecker & Co.) and 1901 (when fire destroyed the building). Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Intersection of South Main Street and Liberty Street (now West Herrick Avenue), Wellington, Ohio. Image must have been taken between 1887 (when firm was renamed Laundon, Windecker & Co.) and 1900 (when fire destroyed the building). Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

It might seem amusing today to refer to Wellington as a city, but by the late nineteenth century, its residents and its newspaper were calling it just that. And indeed, compared to the farmlands surrounding the town, Wellington must have appeared quite bustling and industrial by the end of the 1800s. In this post, I want to describe some of the features of that urban landscape that gave it a modern feel even more than a century ago.

Streetlights were introduced to Wellington in late 1863. The Lorain County News crowed, “LIGHT! MORE LIGHT! The literal darkness that has prevailed around the centre of our beautiful village ever since its creation, (i. e., on dark nights) has at last given way before the erection of four lamp posts, from the top of which, light, brilliant light streams out upon the darkness, imparting a cheerfulness hitherto unknown” (12-2-1863, pg. 3).

These first lights burned kerosene, called “coal oil” at the time, and they were manually lit and extinguished by the town’s street lamp lighter. He filled the reservoir, trimmed the wick, and scrubbed the accumulated soot off of each lamp daily; a wheelbarrow containing a can of kerosene and a step stool were the tools of his trade. By order of the town council, street lamps were not lit on nights with full moons (Robert Walden Notebook, #A154, #A156, #A169).

In 1877, The Wellington Enterprise reported that local hardware salesman John Watson Wilbur (former business partner of Noah Huckins) had “placed on trial street lamps on Mr. Rininger’s, and Baldwin, Laundon & Co’s corners. They are made on the same principle as the tubular lantern, each of the four corners having a hollow tube, with which air is furnished to the burner, which is twice the usual width and is without chimney. It gives a very bright light, and is claimed to be economical by reason of the saving of chimneys” (12-13-1877, pg. 3).

View of South Main Street showing an early street lamp in Wellington, Ohio. Photograph must have been taken between 1869 (year the First National Bank was completed) and 1882 (year Baldwin, Laundon & Co. became Baldwin, Laundon, Windecker & Co.). Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

View of South Main Street showing an early street lamp in Wellington, Ohio. Photograph must have been taken between 1869 (year the First National Bank was completed) and 1882 (year Baldwin, Laundon & Co. became Baldwin, Laundon, Windecker & Co.). Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

Street lamps made foot traffic possible at all hours of the day. In the nineteenth century, the sidewalks in the commercial area were pine planks nailed together to form a floating walkway. There was ongoing commentary about their state of repair, which actually provides evidence that residents expected a safe, clean and relatively attractive public arena. In 1865, the Wellington correspondent to the Lorain County News reported, “We would call the attention of our Town Council to the very bad condition of the side walks on both sides of North Main Street. The one on the east side, past the site of the old store of Foot & Barnard, is particularly in need of attention, as the planks are badly charred and black, and many of them are burned through, making it not only dirty but dangerous for those who pass over it. The one on the west side is also badly out of repair” (8-16-1865, pg. 3).

Nearly fifteen years later, the Enterprise was still making similar protests: “The walk on the East side of North Main Street ought to be replaced with a new one and the walk on the north side of Taylor St., also needs repairs. Many other places are badly out of order and we have waited long and patiently expecting to see them fixed up, and still we wait” (3-27-1879, pg. 3). In 1882, the paper reported that a little boy had “crawled under” the sidewalk on Mechanics Street, now East Herrick Avenue, in front of grocers Bowlby & Hall. He was trying to retrieve a tin whistle, but became trapped under the planks. “He could not move and scarcely breathe, and was nearly suffocated when he was taken out by tearing up the walk” (3-22-1882, pg. 3).

Advertisement for Wellington Lumber Company. "The Wellington Enterprise," 4-22-1896, pg. 4.

Advertisement for Wellington Lumber Company. “The Wellington Enterprise,” 4-22-1896, pg. 4.

The sidewalks may have been costly and problematic for business owners to maintain, but they were essential in encouraging patrons to visit the shops lining Wellington’s two main streets. Most of the businesses also provided exterior wooden canopies for protection from the elements, and some enhanced their canopies by installing fabric shades that could be lowered during the brightest, hottest times of the day. The striped awnings in front of dry goods store Laundon, Windecker & Co. are clearly visible in the image at the top of the post. Today, only a single building in downtown Wellington still possesses an extant wooden canopy.

130 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Image shows extant wooden canopy, once a common feature of downtown businesses. Photo by author.

130 West Herrick Avenue, Wellington, Ohio. Image shows extant wooden canopy, once a common feature of downtown businesses. Photo by author.

Paving was a technological development not brought to Wellington until well into the 1900s. Initially roads were simply packed earth, later faced with large stones toward the end of the nineteenth century. The heavy traffic of carriages and wagons pulled by teams of animals could create a great deal of dust. Beginning in 1880, the town employed a street sprinkler to keep air pollution to a minimum. The vehicle was comprised of “21 barrels, mounted on a two-horse wagon, and fitted up with a sprinkler procured in Cleveland.” The cost of this state-of-the-art machine was $40.50, the equivalent of about a year’s rent for the average skilled craftsman. For the first decade of the sprinkler’s use, a man named Charles Currier was its operator and paid $15 per week for his efforts (The Wellington Enterprise, 6-3-1880, pg. 3). Again, the fact that local business people–who subscribed to a fund to cover the cost of the endeavor–felt this was a justifiable expense speaks to the community’s desire for comfortable living and working conditions.

An automobile was not introduced into the town until about 1902. I have already mentioned that bicycles were in use in the business district, to the consternation of the shop owners. People most frequently traveled on foot, or if longer trips were necessary, they might use a personal carriage or wagon. There were two major carriage factories in town, Doland’s and Tripp’s, where customers could procure both new and used vehicles. Those financially able would have a barn or carriage house constructed on their property.

Advertisement for Doland's Carriage Works,  published in "The Wellington Enterprise," 2-26-1890, pg. 7. Photo by author.

Advertisement for Doland’s Carriage Works, published in “The Wellington Enterprise,” 2-26-1890, pg. 7. Photo by author.

To secure animals and vehicles, businesses provided stables and hitching posts on their properties. The newspaper noted that builder Hiram Allyn had at his residence “the most substantial hitching-post and horse block in one to be found anywhere in the town. It was originally designed and cut for the capstone of one of the [Congregational] church gables, but they concluded to use one of lighter material. It is in no danger of toppling over, decaying, being run against and broken off, and boys will not play Hallowe’en with it or embellish it with the work of their jack-knives” (The Wellington Enterprise, 12-5-1878, pg. 3). If one looks carefully today, there are still large stone blocks sprinkled around the tree lawns of the village, once used for mounting carriages and work carts.

People could also hire vehicles or buy a ticket on any one of several public conveyances. In 1877, the Enterprise reported, “The Stage on its trips from Wellington to Oberlin, is of late well loaded with trunks and students returning to school. A year ago so heavy with mud were the wheels, the spokes were scarcely visible, and the contrast is agreeable to travelers” (3-1-1877, pg. 3). The journey between the two towns, which today takes approximately ten minutes by car, could take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours, depending on weather and road conditions and how eager the traveler was to arrive.

In 1883, Enterprise readers were informed, “The Wellington hack is out again for business this week, having been laid up for repairs and a new coat of paint, which makes it look as good as new. It will meet all trains and carry passengers to and from all points in the village” (5-9-1883, pg. 3). Smith’s Omnibus and Transfer Line offered passenger service, as well as package delivery. In 1890, Smith reported carrying nearly 5,000 passengers in the preceding twelve months (4-9-1890, pg. 5).

Advertisement for Smith's Omnibus and Transfer Line, published in "The Wellington Enterprise," 2-19-1890, pg. 8. Note the instruction to "leave orders or telephone American House," as well as mention of service to "any part of city." Photo by author.

Advertisement for Smith’s Omnibus and Transfer Line, published in “The Wellington Enterprise,” 2-19-1890, pg. 8. Note the instruction to “leave orders or telephone American House,” as well as mention of service to “any part of city.” Photo by author.

The ultimate purpose of all of these civic improvements–building a reliable transportation infrastructure and creating a welcoming environment of clean and safe public spaces–was to encourage commerce and thereby grow the town. In 1876, the newspaper tallied all the businesses operating in Wellington and reported 157 different enterprises. The categories included: bank; bakery and grocery; barber-shops; billiards; boarding-houses; confectionery and fruits; carpenters; dentist; doctors’ offices; dress-makers; green-houses; ice-dealers; jewelers; milliners; marble works; painters; photograph galleries; restaurants; tailor; and wood tinker (5-25-1876, pg. 3). I have written about several manufacturers in this period, but will be looking more closely at some of the downtown shops and their proprietors in upcoming posts. Suffice to say, there was a lot more going on in Wellington, and of perhaps more modern a nature, than we might expect.

I have mentioned before what outspoken advocates of the community were Enterprise editors John and Mary Hayes Houghton. Here is a typical editorial comment: “Every cool day which suggests the need of winter clothing and supplies brings to Wellington a crowd of people, and it is coming to be well-known that this is an excellent place to trade. With three large well-filled dry goods stores, two where new stoves can be selected, plenty of clothing, boot and shoe, and millinery establishments, drug and grocery stores, harness and carriage shops, and places where everything from a diamond ring to a sewing machine can be bought, there is no need of going elsewhere for supplying either the luxuries or the necessaries of life. And now consult our advertising columns to learn where to find these” (10-25-1882, pg. 3).

The town had a substantial international population, adding to its cosmopolitan aura. There were groups of immigrants from Ireland and Italy living in Wellington to work on the railroad. By the 1890s, a community of Swedes was farming just west of the village. I have already profiled residents who came from England, the Turleys and the Crabtrees. Canada was well represented by men like Noah Huckins and John Wilbur. There were multiple individuals from China making their home in the village, including a man called Wah Sing who ran a laundry operation in the basement of the building next to The American House. The newspaper advertised private foreign language instruction, and there was even a recreational group called the Deutscher Schueler Verein, i.e. German Student Club, which met monthly at private residences for “music, declamation and conversation all in German” (Wellington Enterprise, 4-18-1883, pg. 3).

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Wellington, Ohio dated October, 1884. Shows "skating rink" on land later occupied by 1886 Town Hall and Opera House. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 1-26-2014.

Detail of a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for Wellington, Ohio dated October, 1884. Shows “skating rink” on land later occupied by 1886 Town Hall and Opera House. OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons. Accessed 1-26-2014.

I have not yet touched on the cultural activities, which were many. Musical recitals, lecture series, and theater performances were routinely offered, and on occasion traveling entertainments such as circuses came to town. I hope to write about Wellington’s Opera House in a future installment. Less highbrow amusements included billiard halls, several bars, and even a skating rink. And churches and civic organizations frequently organized member “socials” and public celebrations of many types.

Perhaps it is less far-fetched to call the Wellington of the 1800s a city than it would be to speak of it that way today.

The Town Next to the Town That Started the Civil War

View of The American House, most likely taken from the window of the William Sawtell photography studio on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue). Image must have been taken after the studio opened ca. 1875 and before erection of the current Wellington Town Hall in 1885. This would have been the part of town seen by Huckins & Wilbur from their hardware store windows. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

View of the American House, most likely taken from the window of William Sawtell’s photography studio on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue). Image must have been taken after the studio opened ca. 1875 and before the erection of the current Wellington Town Hall in 1885/86. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

This month marks the 155th anniversary of the famous Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Anyone interested in nineteenth-century Lorain County history, who has not read Nat Brandt’s The Town that Started the Civil War, should immediately head for the nearest public library. It is a marvelous account, and for someone like me who wants to understand what daily life in Wellington was like during the 1800s, it is a vivid snapshot in time.

I resolved when I began this blog to stay away from the “known” elements of town history, such as biographies of painter Archibald Willard or Governor Myron T. Herrick, or the Slave Rescue. Those narratives really fall outside of the project that I have been doing, and I did not feel that I had anything new to contribute to the scholarship on Wellington’s past in those areas. That having been said, I have been rereading Brandt’s book as the anniversary of the Rescue approached, and finding fascinating connections to individuals I have already profiled in this blog.

Readers may be asking, “What is the ‘famous’ Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue? I’ve never heard of it.” In the 1850s, the most controversial law in the United States was the Fugitive Slave Act. It stipulated that slave owners had a right to pursue runaway slaves even into states where slavery was not legal and bring them back by whatever means necessary; it further stated that any citizen was forbidden from assisting a runaway slave, and in fact, could be pressed into the service of a slaveholder to secure a slave’s capture and return. By mid-century, northeast Ohio was one of the most ardently anti-slavery regions of the nation, and no municipality was more passionately committed to abolition than Oberlin. Needless to say, the vast majority of Oberlin citizens found the Act repugnant, and refused to comply with it. Consequently, many freeborn and formerly-enslaved people came to the town to build a life for themselves; between 1850 and 1860, the black population of Lorain County increased over 100%, settling mainly around Oberlin (Brandt, pg. 45). Knowing this, slave catchers trolled the town–in the face of open hostility and, in some cases, armed resistance by the population–looking for runaways.

In 1858, a group of men from Kentucky crossed into Ohio looking for an escaped slave. They located the man living and working in Oberlin, calling himself John Price. They paid a local teenager to lure Price away from town and abducted him, moving south to Wellington by horse-drawn carriage. Their plan was to wait at a hotel called the Wadsworth House (later the American House) until the evening train to Columbus arrived. Word of Price’s kidnapping reached Oberlin, and a crowd of residents, including students and professors from the college, rushed to stop the men from getting on the train.

Coincidentally, there had been a large fire in the businesses on the west side of Wellington’s South Main Street that morning, directly across from the hotel. Scores of people were gathered watching the aftermath of the fire. These Oberlin and Wellington crowds converged and demanded Price’s release. After many tense hours and attempts at negotiation, a group of men rushed the hotel room and forcibly removed Price, spiriting him away to Oberlin, where he was hidden until he was smuggled to Canada and freedom.

Interfering in the capture and return of a runaway slave was a federal crime in 1858. Thirty-seven men from Oberlin and Wellington, thereafter referred to as “the Rescuers,” were indicted for their roles in the day’s events or simply for being a known abolitionist or conductor on the Underground Railroad. Months of trials followed and I strongly encourage everyone to read Brandt’s very thorough treatment of the legal proceedings and their historical consequences.

1896 image of The American House, the hotel made famous by the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Photo 970095 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

1896 image of the American House, the hotel made famous by the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858. Photo 970095 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

The innkeepers that day were Oliver Wadsworth and his wife, Alma. Oliver was the older brother of David Wadsworth, whom we met in my last post. Oliver was a Democrat, at a time when both Wellington and Oberlin were overwhelmingly Republican. He seems to have taken pains to protect the group of Kentucky slave catchers staying in his hotel, though in his later testimony he stated only his desire to avoid having his public house “ransacked by a mob” and that “there was a legal way to get at it without having a riot” (History of the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, 1859, pg. 34). Yet when the Kentucky men were arrested on kidnapping charges after the Rescue, Oliver was part of a group of county Democrats that put up the bail money to free them from jail (Brandt, pg. 222), so perhaps his actions were also motivated by political leanings or racial attitudes.

William Howk, whom we met previously, appeared briefly at the hotel that afternoon. He was called in his capacity as a justice of the peace to come and review the legal documents held by the Kentucky group. He had such a bad cold that he could not speak, and realized when he arrived at the hotel that he had forgotten his eye glasses, preventing him from reading anything. He later testified that he saw David Wadsworth in the hotel room with the Kentucky group and John Price (History, pg. 39); perhaps Oliver placed his brother in this key security position. Once Howk talked to the men and assured himself that their actions were technically legal, however distasteful–the ugly distinction between a federally-protected “return” of a slave and the illegal kidnapping of a free person of color–he left the premises quickly.

David Wadsworth, as mentioned, was present in his brother’s hotel that day. His specific actions are unclear, but Oliver Wadsworth had “closed off the hotel and stationed employees and friends at its entrances and on the stairways” to keep the angry and unpredictable crowd at bay (Brandt, pg. 90). In Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894), David’s entry notes, “Mr. Wadsworth’s political faith dated from the famous ‘Rescue Case’ of 1858, after which time he was a Democrat. In 1861 he became an ardent, zealous and enthusiastic War Democrat…Although the district in which Mr. Wadsworth lived has always been Republican, yet he received many political honors” (pg. 707).

Reading that David Wadsworth was a Democrat, and possibly a supporter of the enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, reminded me of a public political dispute Wadsworth had with Noah Huckins twenty years later. Huckins was elected the president of the Republican Club of Wellington in 1879. There was an election for state senate held that year, and David Wadsworth ran as the Democratic candidate against Rollin Albert Horr, brother of cheese magnate Charles W. Horr, and twin of Roswell Gilbert Horr, who had worked for the legal defense of the Rescuers in the 1850s.

Rescuer ally Roswell G. Horr, twin brother of Rollin A. Horr, who defeated David L. Wadsworth in a state senatorial election in 1879. Image from Nat Brandt's "The Town That Started the Civil War," pg. 226.

Rescuer ally Roswell G. Horr, twin brother of Rollin A. Horr, who defeated David L. Wadsworth in a state senatorial election in 1879. Image from Nat Brandt’s “The Town That Started the Civil War,” pg. 226.

On September 25, 1879, Noah Huckins published a lengthy article in the Wellington Enterprise, in which he claimed to reproduce documents written by others “to show to Republicans and Democrats of this district the spirit and manner with which Mr. Wadsworth conducts the campaign” (pg. 2). The documents accused David Wadsworth of slandering Horr, Warner & Co.–and by extension, N. Huckins & Co.–by spreading false rumors that they overcharged farmers for cheese boxes; of inflating his own political credentials; and of lying to the press about his campaign-related actions. One of the documents includes the indignant and hilarious assertion, “Mr. Wadsworth, at quite a liberal outlay of money, procured the insertion of a picture of his residence in the Lorain county history.” Wadsworth responded in print the following week, writing in part, “I shall not now, or at any future time, stoop to reply to such a conglomerate botch of trash…” (10-2-1879, pg. 2). He was defeated by Horr, nonetheless. This seemingly personal conflict between the two men makes the 1881 sale of his cheese box factory by Wadsworth to Huckins, and then its return sale two years later, all the more curious.

As a sidebar, I have been wondering lately if Noah Huckins was an abolitionist, and if perhaps that was part of his motivation for moving from Canada to Lorain County. Brandt writes that “according to conservative estimates, at least twenty thousand black men and women [fugitive slaves] crossed into British North America–mostly in the area around Ontario known as Canada West–in the decade between 1850 and 1860” (pgs. 17-18). Canada West is where Noah Huckins was born. His brother, George Huckins, kept a diary now held by Duke University, in which he wrote, “[M]ay God speed the day when the sin of Slavery may be washed from our garments as a nation–if necessary with blood” (12-7-1859). Both brothers volunteered to fight a war in a country to which they were relatively recent arrivals, and Noah Huckins joined Company C of the 7th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the so-called Monroe Rifles. This company was formed by one hundred Oberlin College students and named after Oberlin professor and noted abolitionist James Monroe.

Noah Huckins, Part II

Main Street, Oberlin, Ohio, ca. 1890. Image courtesy of "Oberlin in the Past" Facebook page.

Main Street, Oberlin, Ohio, ca. 1890. Image courtesy of “Oberlin in the Past” Facebook page.

Perhaps Noah Huckins left Wellington because he anticipated that the “Cheese Boom” would soon end. Maybe he preferred selling hardware to traveling across the country seeking new sources of lumber. Possibly some other factor was at play that we can know nothing about: his son’s educational prospects; his daughter’s health; his business relationship with Charles Horr. Whatever the reasons, in 1889 he sold the Italianate house on North Main Street to local farmer Sereno D. Bacon. He transferred extensive real estate holdings around the village to Horr in a single day’s transactions. And he moved his family ten miles north to begin a new chapter in Oberlin, Ohio.

Huckins once again bought in as the junior partner in an established hardware business, at age 50. He joined Oren Franklin Carter in an operation then known as Carter & Huckins. Carter had only opened his store seven years earlier, with a partner named Wood. According to the 1998 Ohio Historic Inventory report on the building, located at 13 South Main Street, “When Carter and Wood opened their hardware store in November 1882 it was a celebrated community event. The building had the town’s first elevator which could take customers from the basement to the third floor.” The store is visible in the ca. 1890 image of downtown Oberlin at the top of the post; it occupied the building on the far right of the photograph.

Carter & Huckins Catalogue of Stock of Hardwares, undated. Part of Oberlin College Library circulating collection.

Carter & Huckins Catalogue of Stock of Hardwares, undated. Part of Oberlin College Library circulating collection.

When they arrived in town, the Huckins family initially occupied a modest house at 151 Forest Street that still stands today. It is referred to in its 2003 Ohio Historic Inventory report as the “Huckins-Hall House.” Noah’s son Howard entered the Oberlin Preparatory Academy for a year prior to matriculating at Oberlin College, from which he graduated in 1894. Daughter Ibla attended the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 1895 to 1899, then from 1900 to 1902. Perhaps her health issues caused the hiatus in her attendance.

After six years of partnership, Noah Huckins bought out Oren Carter and brought Howard into the hardware business to form Huckins & Huckins. Howard married in 1898 and moved with his wife to a house at 263 Elm Street, also still standing. Howard and Jennie Thomas Huckins rented the property and the federal census for 1900 shows them living with three adult males all labeled “lodger–at school.” Then Noah suffered two terrible losses. His wife of almost 33 years, Ermina Adams Huckins, died in 1903 at only 54 years old; less than two years later, his beloved Ibla died at just 27 years old. What made the events more terrible was their similarity; in both cases doctors told the family that a surgery was necessary but not dangerous, and assured them that the patient would most likely make a full recovery.

Undated postcard image of "Burroughs Cottage," 117 Elm Street, Oberlin, Ohio. Image courtesy of Oberlin Heritage Center.

Undated postcard image of “Burroughs Cottage,” 117 Elm Street, Oberlin, Ohio. Image courtesy of Oberlin Heritage Center.

Huckins & Huckins seems to have done quite well financially. Howard and Jennie soon purchased a large Italianate house at 117 Elm Street, subsequently named “Burroughs Cottage” and then “Elmwood Cottage.” The house no longer survives, having been demolished in 1962 to accommodate construction of college dormitories. Noah Huckins moved to 117 Elm Street after his wife and daughter died. It also served as a boarding house for female Oberlin College students. Both the Wellington and Oberlin newspapers ran regular reports on social events Jennie Huckins hosted at her elegant home. A front-page feature published in The Wellington Enterprise in February 1916 called the house “one of the handsomest residences in the village, having been remodeled and refurbished at considerable expense.” On July 4, 1917, the paper noted, “The recent enlargement of the Huckins home includes a sun-parlor, a music room in which is a grand piano, which the mistress plays with taste and skill, and a suite of rooms ideal in appointments for private use. The ample lawn bordered with a great variety of shrub and flowering plants, and with sufficient shade, is very attractive to student girls who find a home in this privileged place, and have lawn parties there” (pg. 1).

Erwin Wright Adams, Mary Emma Mallory Adams and granddaughter, with brother-in-law Noah Huckins. Date unknown.

Erwin Wright Adams, Mary Emma Mallory Adams and granddaughter, with brother-in-law Noah Huckins. Date unknown.

Noah Huckins continued to be as active in the community of Oberlin as he had been in Wellington. In 1909, he was appointed by the Oberlin Board of Commerce to secure the paving of East College Street, and promptly set off door-to-door to collect the signatures of every resident on a petition to that effect; he was then 70 years old. He regularly visited his former hometown, and was welcomed in The Wellington Enterprise as “an oldtime citizen and highly respected” (3-8-1916, pg. 7). When he died September 12, 1921, obituaries appeared in several local publications. The Oberlin Tribune ran a front-page remembrance that concluded, “The citizens of Oberlin early recognized in Mr. Huckins his sterling traits of character and appreciated his advice and the frank manner in which he expressed an opinion. He had a ready wit and his stories and anecdotes were always the light of a banquet or party. He made hosts of friends and he will be missed by the entire community.”