Category Archives: Penfield

Remembering 1858: The Wellington Indicted


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

Eli Boies
Eli Boies was born in Massachusetts in 1800, making him fifty-eight years old at the time of the Rescue. He emigrated to Ohio in 1842 and practiced medicine with Dr. Daniel Johns, the man credited with bringing the railroad to Wellington in 1850. Boies was also the proprietor of the short-lived Wellington Journal (1852) with his friend, merchant John Reed. Both men were dedicated members of the abolitionist Free Congregational Church.

Boies is mentioned in one only instance in the transcripts of the Rescue trials. Justice of the Peace William Howk testified that he “heard Doctor Boies advising [the crowd outside the hotel] to quiet.” Boies was one of four Wellington men who served time in the county jail, twenty-one days in total. He was released on $500 bail. His wife, Lydia, later wrote a letter about her life in Wellington, in which she noted, “[T]he Fugitive Slave Law was enacted, which awakened great indignation, and also sympathy for the fleeing slave, who found no rest or safty until safe in Canada, though destitute of every thing…”

Eli Boies served in multiple public offices, including being appointed village supervisor while he was completing his jail term. He died in 1863 and is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery. He is the only Wellington rescuer for whom a studio portrait is known to survive, and also appears in the famous 1859 jail yard portrait.

Robert L. Cummings
Little is known about Robert Cummings. He is mentioned in only one instance in the transcripts of the Rescue trials. James Bonney, an employee of Wadsworth’s hotel, testified that around 4PM, he was approached “in the hall up the first flight of stairs” by school teacher Charles Langston and “Cummins,” who offered him $5 to get the key to the locked front door of the hall. Bonney refused.

Cummings is notable mainly for his absences. He was the only Wellington rescuer not to enter a plea at the December 1858 arraignment hearings; he did not appear for the first time in the Cleveland courtroom until the following spring. He was also the only indicted man from Wellington/Pittsfield who did not attend the so-called “Felon’s Feast” in Oberlin, in January 1859. Cummings was one of four Wellington men who pleaded nolo contendere (no contest) on May 6, 1859. He was ordered to pay $20 plus court costs, and serve one day in jail. He spent the night in a Cleveland hotel.

Matthew DeWolf
Matthew DeWolf was born in Massachusetts in 1792. He and his family emigrated to Ohio in 1827. (DeWolf’s sister, Pamelia, was married to Abner Loveland, making the two rescuers brothers-in-law.) While his first occupation in Wellington was as a school teacher, DeWolf soon opened a temperance tavern at the center of the village, which also served as its first Congregational Church. An 1834 psalter with his inscription still survives.

On the day of John Price’s abduction, Matthew DeWolf was assisting with battling a large fire in Wellington. Abner Loveland and Loring Wadsworth were standing with him in the town square as events came to a head at Wadsworth’s hotel. The three men urged Constable Barnabas Meacham to enter the building and serve a warrant for kidnapping on the slave catchers holding Price. Meacham was concerned about his financial liability under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act; if he helped John Price to escape in what was later found to be an unlawful arrest, Meacham could be subject to severe financial penalties and even jail time. Matthew DeWolf’s only recorded action that afternoon was to help circulate an indemnity bond—essentially asking people in the crowd to make pledges against any financial loss Meacham might suffer—but few people were willing to sign.

DeWolf, Loveland and Loring Wadsworth pled nolo contendere (no contest) to the charges against them. All were fined $20 plus court costs and sentenced to one day in jail. The Cleveland Leader published a passionate condemnation of their convictions and noted, “No fugitive from slavery ever went unfed from their hospitable homes,” suggesting the involvement of all three men with the Underground Railroad. Matthew DeWolf died in 1865 and is buried in Pioneer Cemetery.

Matthew Gillett
“Father” Gillett, the most venerated of the Wellington indicted, was born in Connecticut in 1785, making him seventy-two years old at the time of the Rescue. Gillett was a farmer with more than sixty acres producing crops and supporting cattle and sheep herds. His role on the day of John Price’s abduction was relatively minor. Like all of the oldest Wellington rescuers, he never entered Wadsworth’s hotel on September 13th. Instead, he approached keeper Oliver Wadsworth and encouraged him to allow other people to enter the building, to verify whether John Price was being held legally. When Wadsworth objected that a large group of people would likely damage his facilities, Gillett suggested a smaller delegation and the keeper eventually agreed.

What Gillett became justly famous for was his fortitude. Sent to the country jail with twenty other rescuers on April 15th, Gillett of all the Wellington men refused to cut a deal with prosecutors to secure his own release. He remained in custody for nearly a month, so long that federal authorities became concerned for his health. It was not until officials threatened to turn him out in the street, and explicitly told him that their focus was on making an example of the men from Oberlin, that Gillett agreed to return home. He left jail on May 13th and was driven to Wellington in a carriage by a federal marshal.

Gillett seems to have become a beloved figure in Oberlin. He led an Oberlin group that marched in a May 24th Cleveland rally, holding an American flag inscribed “1776.” He also attended a celebration held in Oberlin for the final rescuers released from jail in July, and he was one of the evening’s featured speakers. He was quoted as saying, in part, “Never made a speech in my life; don’t know how to make a speech, and I ain’t going to make a speech; but I’ll just say that every thing under the heavens that I was taken down to jail for was just for being ketched down at Wellington; and that aint all. I havn’t confessed it all yet. I am ashamed that I didn’t do more than just be ketched down there; and if there is ever another such a time I am going to have more to be accused of, and if other folks are cowards, I’ll rescue the fugitive myself. I used to think Oberlin was a pretty bad kind of a place, but I’ve changed my mind about it now.” Matthew Gillett died in 1863 and is interred in Greenwood Cemetery. He is also immortalized in the famous 1859 jail yard portrait.

Lewis Hunt Hines
Lewis Hines was born in Ohio around 1831, making him twenty-seven years old at the time of the Rescue. A farmer by profession, he married Harriet Elizabeth Wells of Wellington in 1853. The couple had at least three children over the course of their marriage, the eldest of which, Hiram, was just six months old when John Price was captured. Lewis Hines later served as a private in the 23rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company C, during the Civil War.

There is a single oblique reference to his possible presence in Wellington in the Rescue testimony. Witness Jacob Wheeler, postmaster of Rochester, testified that he saw a group of men, including one otherwise unnamed “Hines,” enter the attic room where John Price was being held. Lewis Hines appeared in Cleveland for his preliminary arraignment in December 1857, but did not return to face judgement the following spring. He died in 1904 and is buried in Saranac, Michigan.

Abner Loveland
Abner Loveland was born in Massachusetts in 1796, making him sixty-one years old at the time of the Rescue. He had emigrated to Ohio in 1819, but did not settle permanently in Wellington until 1855. He was a farmer, and brother-in-law to fellow rescuer Mathew DeWolf. On September 13th, Loveland was standing in the center of town with DeWolf and Loring Wadsworth. All three men had been assisting with the fire that raged on South Main Street that morning. Loveland’s only recorded action in connection with day’s other events was to urge Constable Meacham to go into Wadsworth’s hotel and serve a warrant on the slave catchers for kidnapping John Price unlawfully.

On May 12, 1859, a plea of nolo contendere (no contest) was entered for all three men. Their attorney made a lengthy statement about their venerable ages and high status in the community, and their absolute commitment to being law abiding citizens. Loveland later wrote a letter to the editor of a Cleveland newspaper in which he disavowed the entire statement: “I did not intend to authorize my counsel yesterday to give my views on government, to the Court; and disclaim holding to many of the doctrines expressed by him…I am not guilty of violating any law.” Nevertheless, Loveland was sentenced to pay a $20 fine plus court costs, and to serve one day in jail.

Abner Loveland died in 1879. He is buried in Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery. In 1895, a family genealogy was published which read in part, “He was a firm friend of the bondsman…His house was a well known station on the underground railroad. All trains passing that way stopped there, and the passengers received the needed rest and refreshment and assistance to proceed towards freedom.”

John Mandeville
John Mandeville was a fifty-one-year-old brickmaker in 1858. He was born in New York and in 1843 married Hester Northrup, eventually fathering seven children. The History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) named him as one of two men who went up a ladder to retrieve John Price from Wadsworth’s hotel, but this claim is not supported by hundreds of pages of testimony offered at the Rescue trials.

In fact, John Mandeville was standing in the crowd outside the hotel, when he was asked by Constable Barnabas Meacham to accompany him up to the garret where Price was imprisoned. William Sciples and Walter Soules were also asked to join the group. Mandeville was “in liquor,” and author Nat Brandt identified him as the man described in testimony as “purty reckless,” taunting the crowds outside by shouting through the garret window. When he pled nolo contendere (no contest) on May 6, 1859, his intoxication was possibly the reason Mandeville reiterated to the court that he was “not guilty in manner and form as he is charged.” He was ordered to pay $20 plus court costs and serve one day in jail. He passed the night in a Cleveland hotel.

John Mandeville moved his family to Penfield after the trials, before permanently settling in Camden Township in 1878. He died in 1900, at ninety-two years old, and is interred in the Camden Cemetery, Kipton.

Henry D. Niles
Henry Niles was thirty-one years old at the time of John Price’s abduction. A lawyer by profession, Niles had five children by his first wife, Lucena Barker, who died shortly after the conclusion of the Rescue trials. He married second wife Elizabeth Phelps in 1862. The couple added two more children to their family. Elizabeth would go on to survive Henry, when he passed away in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1895.

Niles was born in Wellington and was a resident of the village at the time of the 1860 census. His role in the events of September 13th, 1858 go completely unrecorded in the trial transcripts. He is only mentioned in connection with his own court proceedings. Niles, Robert Cummings, John Mandeville, and Daniel Williams all pled nolo contendere (no contest) on May 6, 1859. They were ordered to pay a $20 fine plus court costs and serve one day in prison. They each spent the night in a Cleveland hotel.

At his death in 1895, the Cedar Rapids Evening Gazette published a lengthy obituary in which Niles’s connections to Wellington were detailed. The piece mentioned Niles’s distinguished military service in the Civil War (“Elder Niles was familiarly known in Ohio as Colonel Niles.”), his ordination to the clergy in 1874, and his memberships in the Odd Fellow Society, the G.A.R., and the Freemasons. No mention was made of his involvement in the famous events of 1858. 

William Sciples
Of all the men indicted in connection with the Rescue, perhaps the most enigmatic is William Sciples. Born in New York, he was living in Summit County, Ohio when he married Canadian émigré Laura Ann Elliot in 1843. The couple do not appear to have had any children. Legal documents and census records suggest a fifteen- to twenty-year age difference. They were living and farming in Penfield in the early 1850s.

Sciples was one of three men pulled from the crowd by Constable Barnabas Meacham to accompany him into the hotel on September 13th, 1858. He spent much of the afternoon running errands on behalf of the slave catchers, and later guarding areas of the hotel against the crowd, at the request of keeper Oliver Wadsworth. At trial, Sciples turned state’s evidence and testified against mixed-race school teacher Charles Langston. Constable Meacham, Justice of the Peace Isaac Bennett, and fellow rescuers Matthew Gillett and Loring Wadsworth each took the stand to testify that they had known Sciples for seven to ten years, and that it was “generally believed he is not a man of truth.” After the proceedings, Sciples seems to have been released without bail, presumably in exchange for his damaging testimony. Langston was convicted.

By the time the 1860 federal census was compiled—just one year after the trial—William and Laura Sciples had relocated to Torrey, New York where he was employed as an innkeeper. Perhaps they wished to allow any public controversy surrounding his role in the Rescue to die down. By 1870, the couple returned to farming in Wellington. A decade later they were living in retirement on Mill Street. Laura Sciples is interred in Greenwood Cemetery in an unmarked grave, her husband presumably at her side.

Walter Soules
Walter Soules’s indictment is also somewhat puzzling. Born in Massachusetts around 1827, Soules was a young farmer with a wife, Phoebe Eliza Stanard, in 1858. The couple had seven children over the course of their marriage. Soules fought for the Union during the Civil War and was later a member of the GAR. The family lived in Wellington for at least a decade, then moved to Lagrange and finally settled in Kansas, where Phoebe died in 1885.

Like Sciples, Soules was asked to leave the crowd and accompany Constable Barnabas Meacham into Wadsworth’s hotel on September 13th. When the slave catchers presented Meacham with legal documentation to support their imprisonment of John Price, Soules left the hotel. He never appeared again in court after the initial arraignment proceedings in December 1857. Walter Soules died in 1903 and is buried in Colony, Kansas.

Loring Wadsworth
Loring Wadsworth was born in Massachusetts in 1800, making him fifty-eight years old at the time of John Price’s abduction. Wadsworth had emigrated to Ohio at aged twenty-one, walking the entire distance. He and wife Statira Kingsbury built a Greek Revival house that still stands at 222 South Main Street today. A farmer by trade, Wadsworth and his family had hundreds of acres under cultivation south of the village.

On the day of the Rescue, Wadsworth was standing in the village square with brothers-in-law Matthew DeWolf and Abner Loveland, surveying fire damage and clean up. He does not seem to have played any major part in the day’s other events, beyond urging Constable Meacham to enter the hotel—owned and operated by his cousin, Oliver—and serve a warrant on the slave catchers for unlawful kidnapping. After his arraignment, however, Wadsworth found a larger role to fill. He and Matthew DeWolf were named as Wellington representatives to a self-appointed committee for the thirty-seven rescuers, to coordinate their legal and public relations strategies. Wadsworth then found himself in jail for twenty-one days, and was only released on $500 bail. He later pled nolo contendere (no contest) to the charges against him, and was fined an additional $20 plus court costs, and sentenced to an additional night of confinement.

Wadsworth held a number of political offices. He was elected mayor of Wellington on April 4th, 1859, just days before he began his jail term. He was also a township trustee and village supervisor, often serving alongside other rescuers including Eli Boies, DeWolf, and Loveland. Loring Wadsworth died in 1862. Neither his multiple obituaries in the Lorain County News nor his later mention in Commemorative Biographical Record of the Counties of Huron and Lorain, Ohio (1894) note his participation in the events of 1858. He is preserved for posterity, however, in the famous 1859 jail yard photograph.

Daniel Williams
Daniel Williams was born in Vermont in 1815. After emigrating to Ohio at age fourteen, he eventually became a farmer with substantial land holdings in Pittsfield. The house he erected on Webster Road is still standing today. Later in life, the family relocated to a home on Courtland Avenue, where Daniel died in 1889.

Williams was one of four Wellington men who served time in the county jail, some twenty-one days total; as a consequence, he appears in the famous 1859 jail yard photograph. He was later released on $500 bail. But his actions on the day of the Rescue go unrecorded in hundreds of pages of trial transcripts. He later pled nolo contendere (no contest) to the charges against him, and was ordered to pay a $20 fine plus court costs and spend one additional day in jail. He passed the night in a Cleveland hotel.

When he died, Williams’s obituary in the Wellington Enterprise read in part, “He was public-spirited and encouraged all measures that promised good to the community. He was a man of strong convictions; a Republican, an abolitionist…always advocating principles which have forced their way through great opposition. He was conscientious. A frequent expression with him was, ‘My conscience wouldn’t let me do that.’” Williams is buried beneath an impressive granite obelisk in Greenwood Cemetery.



Contrabands, i.e. liberated slaves, farming Edisto Island, South Carolina, in 1862. From James M. McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" (illustrated edition, 2003) pg. 305. Original image in the collection of the U.S. Army Military History Institute.

Contrabands farming Edisto Island, South Carolina, in 1862. From James M. McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom” (illustrated edition, 2003) pg. 305. Original image in the collection of the U.S. Army Military History Institute.

WELLINGTON. CONTRABANDS.–One of our young men having purchased a lot of timbered land, and made a large contract to furnish wood for the C.C. & C.R.R., finding it difficult to obtain the needed help, went in search of it, first to Canada, where he could find help–but the pay must be in Canada money. That wouldn’t do. So he went to St. Louis and there made arrangements for Contraband help. To perfect the arrangement he was obliged to make a contract with the Government Agent, binding himself and the contrabands to a faithful performance of specified duties. When it was announced, on the arrival of the Saturday night train, that ‘Col Stark and his black brigade were coming,’ the four corners of the Centre were thronged with those who were curious to see the freshly arrived contrabands from Missouri. They were eight in number; five able-bodied men, one woman, and two children, the youngest a little girl say seven years old. They marched up, rank and file, (carrying their beds and baggage,) and took up their quarters over the Sabbath at the popular Wellington House, and thence have removed to a comfortable log cabin on Mr. Stark’s land, and commenced labor as freedmen for very liberal wages and a comfortable support” (Lorain County News, 4-15-1863, pg. 3).

The term “contraband” was first applied to human beings in 1861. According to James McPherson’s seminal study of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom, General Benjamin Butler declared three slaves who escaped to his lines to be “contraband of war” and therefore not subject to return under the Fugitive Slave Act. It was a decision that infuriated both the South and also Democrats in the North who were not in favor of black emancipation. But the Lincoln administration allowed Butler to proceed with the policy and slaves were soon pouring into Union positions, pleading for a kind of asylum. Their legal status remained extremely murky; General Butler himself wrote to the War Department asking for clarification as to whether such people were, in fact, free (pgs. 291-292).

There were nearly four million souls living in bondage in the United States in 1860. Historians do not agree on how many eventually liberated themselves and became known as contrabands; certainly anecdotal information and estimates from several urban areas suggest a number in the many tens of thousands. As the war progressed, the army struggled with the question of how best to support and employ the swelling numbers. In 1863, the Freedman’s Inquiry Commission was established to address the most pressing issues. The army began to create “home farms” to employ former slaves, and then to relocate large groups around the country to work, including cotton harvesting for the benefit of Northern and British textile mills. McPherson wrote, “The quality of supervision of contraband labor ranged from the benign to a brutal paternalism, prefiguring the spectrum of labor relations after the war. Part of the freedmen’s wages was often withheld until the end of the season to ensure that they stayed on the job, and most of the rest was deducted for food and shelter. Many contrabands, understandably, could see little difference between this system of ‘free’ labor and the bondage they had endured all their lives” (pg. 619).

And so back to our 1863 notice. The mental image it conjured, of eight weary travelers carrying all their worldly possessions through a gawking throng of strangers, haunted me and made me yearn to know more. The most obvious path forward was to investigate the named employer, Mr. Stark. He was described as a young local man who had just purchased a tract of forested land. I looked at corporation tax records for Wellington for the years 1863 and 1864 and found nothing. I then broadened my search to include the seven Lorain County townships that border Wellington. I found a single taxpayer called Stark: Julius P. Stark purchased one-hundred-fourteen acres of land in Penfield in 1863, then sold the parcel off in 1865.

Detail from "Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio" (1874), pg. 43. The circled lot belonged to Julius P. Stark in 1863. It was bordered on the north by what is today Route 71, on the west by Route 48, and the south by Route 45. Photo by author.

Detail from “Atlas of Lorain County, Ohio. 1874.” Pg. 43. The circled lot belonged to Julius P. Stark from 1863 to 1865. It was bordered on the north by what is today Route 71 and on the west by modern Route 48. Photo by author.

I had already examined the Lorain County News, looking at all Wellington notices for a year after the publication date of Stark’s mention. Now I returned to the newspaper and searched all issues from 1863 to the end of 1865 for any mention of Penfield. I soon stumbled on this: “A GOOD WOMAN IN TROUBLE.–A poor and worthy colored woman lost, near Penfield’s shop, on Monday of last week, a purse containing about three dollars.–The money had just come from her husband who is at work in a distant State and was about to be used in the purchase of winter stores, which the family sorely needs. The loss was a great one and cost the distressed family many tears. Will not the finder of the purse leave it at Fitch’s Bookstore and lest the money should not be recovered, will not those who have generous hearts hand to the post master, as they call for their mails, a contribution, in behalf of the suffering family, of a few pennies to each person” (Lorain County News, 9-30-1863, pg. 3).

Admittedly, Penfield was a family surname in the area. It is unclear from the article whether it refers to a shop in the village of Penfield, or simply a shop owned elsewhere by someone called Penfield. (The placement of the notice is also ambiguous; its nearest column heading is ‘Oberlin,’ but the piece immediately above it describes an incident that occurred in Amherst.) I decided to check federal census records to see if the Penfield post-war enumerations contained any reference to black residents.

In 1860, there was not a single person of color included in the twenty-two page listing of Penfield’s citizens. But by 1870, that had changed. Five years after the Civil War ended, there were two separate black households in Penfield, in which ten people lived. The first household was home to William Brown and his wife, Sarah, both aged thirty. Their daughter, Mary Ann, was listed as fifteen years old and the only non-white student in the township. William and Sarah were both born in Kentucky, their child in Mississippi. Though William owned no land, his personal estate had an estimated worth of $350. He was by no means the wealthiest man in his neighborhood, but neither was he the poorest.

The second household was larger and less well-off, with two families cohabitating. Jacob Brown, 68, and his wife Rena, 66, were originally from Georgia and North Carolina respectively. George Taylor, 29, was from Tennessee. His wife, Lucinda, 27, was from Georgia; two of her children, Betsy (3) and William (2) had also been born in Georgia. Baby Sarah Ann, just two months old when the census was taken on July 7, 1870, had been born in Ohio. No one in this household owned any real estate or personal property of note. Each of the three adult black men included in the census was listed as a “farm laborer.”

1870 Federal Census for Penfield, Ohio showing William Brown, farm laborer, and his family. Pg. 12, household #89.

1870 Federal Census for Penfield, Ohio showing William Brown, farm laborer, and his family. Pg. 12, household #89.

1870 Federal Census for Penfield, Ohio showing Jacob Brown, farm laborer, and his family. Pg. 16, household #117.

1870 Federal Census for Penfield, Ohio showing Jacob Brown, farm laborer, and his extended household. Pg. 16, household #117.

Were any of these people part of the group that traveled to Ohio from Missouri in 1863? It is tempting to note that the Lorain County News highlighted a “little girl say seven years old.” Seven years later, Mary Ann Brown was recorded as fifteen years of age in the Penfield census. Of course, that proves nothing. In the absence of further documentary evidence, there is no way to know what happened to the contrabands. Indeed, by 1880 Penfield again had zero residents of color. What became of the William Brown family, the Jacob Brown family, and the Taylors? Further research is clearly needed.

There is at least one more contraband connection to Wellington. In 1899, The Wellington Enterprise published a two-column obituary for David “Davy” Jackson, born into slavery ca. 1840 in Virginia. Jackson fled to General Philip Sheridan’s army as it moved through the Shenandoah Valley in the fall of 1864. Eventually, he fell into the service of then-Captain Albert C. Houghton (1841-1931), who later wrote Jackson’s obituary. When Houghton was severely injured at the Battle of Five Forks in 1865, Jackson nursed him back to health and returned with him to Wellington Township, living on the Houghton family farm for a decade. He attended the District No. 4 school one winter and Albert’s younger sister, Edith, attempted to teach him to read. “He took great pride and dignity in ”spounding the scriptures’ to the few colored boys in the village who had come from slavery land with their heritage of ignorance” (10-11-1899, pg. 4). David was not the only African-American man living in Wellington in the postbellum years; the 1870 federal census shows nine black residents and seven more classified as “mulatto,” i.e. persons of mixed racial ancestry.

1870 Federal Census for Wellington, Ohio showing David Jackson, farm laborer, living with the Houghton family. Pg. 14, household #108.

1870 Federal Census for Wellington, Ohio showing David Jackson (second line from bottom) , farm laborer, living with the Houghton family. Pg. 14, household #108.

1880 Federal Census for Wellington, Ohio showing David Jackson, laborer, living with the Vischer family. Pg. 30, household #359.

1880 Federal Census for Wellington, Ohio showing David Jackson (bottom line) , laborer, living with the Vischer family. Pg. 30, household #359.

Jackson saved enough money from his wages to both support family in Virginia and start a business (of lumbering, coincidentally). The business failed and David went to work as a coachman for Wellington organ and piano merchant William Vischer (1838-1914). For seven years, he lived in a small red house behind the Vischer residence, which once stood at 216 South Main Street but was demolished in 2009. All told, Jackson remained in Wellington for nearly two decades before relocating to Detroit, where he died as a result of an industrial accident at the age of fifty-nine.

Though Albert Houghton clearly felt affection enough for Jackson to write and publish such a lengthy tribute, his racial attitudes could hardly be characterized as enlightened. The obituary concluded, “To those who knew Davy Jackson thoroughly it was noticeable that his face, although black, his heart was white as his spirit that shone through it.” Contrabands may have escaped the institution of slavery during the war, but the movement to achieve true equality under the law, and end discrimination based on the color of a person’s skin, would sadly continue for many generations to come.

ETA: I have been informed by a knowledgeable local historian that there was a Fitch’s Bookstore in Oberlin in the 1860s. That suggests the notice about a woman losing her purse and money did occur in Oberlin, rather than Penfield.

“A Rare Chance for the Girls”

I have been doing a great deal of research into the earliest settlers in Wellington of late, which by necessity leads me back to Massachusetts in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I happened to run across the following letter to the editor, which was purportedly first directed to the Newburyport [MA] Herald in 1836. It then “went viral” and was republished in multiple other newspapers, including the Barre [MA] Gazette and the Newark [NJ] Daily Advertiser.

Letter from Luther W. Day of Wellington, Ohio published in the "Barre [MA] Gazette," 2-12-1836, pg. 4.

Letter allegedly from Luther W. Day of Wellington, Ohio published in the “Barre [MA] Gazette,” 2-12-1836, pg. 4.

Was Luther Day a real person? An (admittedly cursory) examination did not turn up any evidence of him in the 1830 or 1840 Wellington censuses. In 1830, Day would supposedly have been just sixteen years old. The census that year listed only the name of the male head of household; no one named Day is included, but it is theoretically possible that the teenager could have been living in another man’s home. By 1840, four years had passed since the letter was published. Day could have relocated, or died. He does not appear in the extant burial records of Wellington’s Pioneer Cemetery, nor those of Greenwood Cemetery.

Assuming for a moment that he was not the creation of an imaginative eastern newspaper editor, I love the idea that Day was living in rural Ohio, reading a Kentucky newspaper, and apparently saw a reprinted article from a Massachusetts periodical that inspired him to begin a quest for a mail-order bride. Also fascinating is his assertion that “there are no girls in this place.” Did Luther have any inkling of how widely published his earnest entreaty became? Did it lead to his finding “a good girl, not over 25 years of age” to marry? It seems unlikely, but I hope for his sake that it did.

UPDATE: I have been unable to locate anyone called Day in the Wellington corporation tax records for the years 1834, 1835 or 1836. I went so far as to spot check the surrounding communities. John Day of Pittsfield paid taxes on three head of cattle in 1836, but apparently owned no land. Someone who seems to be called Lucy Day owned more than 1,800 acres in Penfield. I found no Luther W., from Huntington to Camden to Brighton to Rochester. I think Farmer Day may be an amusing hoax.

An Entertaining Sheet for an Enterprising Town, Part II

"Campbell's Country Press, with rack and screw and table distribution, tympan nipper, and reel rods in the cylinder." From an illustrated catalog of the Campbell Printing Press and Manufacturing Company, printed ca. 1873. Reprinted in "A Catalogue of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses," by Harold E. Sterne. Oak Knoll Press and the British Library (2001), pg. 31.

“Campbell’s Country Press, with rack and screw and table distribution, tympan nipper, and reel rods in the cylinder.” From an illustrated catalog of the Campbell Printing Press and Manufacturing Company, printed ca. 1873. Reprinted in “A Catalogue of Nineteenth Century Printing Presses,” by Harold E. Sterne. Oak Knoll Press and the British Library (2001), pg. 31.

The October 5, 1876 issue of The Wellington Enterprise contained the first masthead to bear the name “Houghton.” In my personal opinion, the nine years that followed represented a kind of golden age for the newspaper, a period of attractive design, engaging written content, and–luckily for John and Mary Hayes Houghton–exciting events in the history of the town. Those elements combined to produce a periodical that is a joy to read.

Initially, Dr. John Houghton purchased the paper with a partner, D. A. Smith. Smith had worked for the Enterprise, under John Clippinger Artz’s management, several years prior to buying it. He was a “practical printer” responsible for the mechanical department of the paper, i.e. the compositors (typesetters) and press operators. Houghton had editorial duties while also continuing to run his drug and stationary shop. The first major change effected by the two men was to relocate the Enterprise office from the Rininger building on Mechanics Street (now East Herrick Avenue) to the second floor of Houghton’s building on South Main Street, allowing him daily oversight of both his businesses.

J. W. Houghton's drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. Photo 970885 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

J. W. Houghton’s drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. Photo 970885 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Houghton and Smith’s partnership was fairly short-lived. In January 1878, Houghton wrote an editorial explaining that due to “impaired health,” Smith had been advised by his doctor to “seek some more congenial clime.” He had therefore sold his interest in the Enterprise to Houghton, who changed the editorial masthead to reflect his status as sole publisher of the paper. He also took the opportunity to add a co-editor to the banner: M. H. Houghton, his wife. “This will make no change in the editorial department of the paper,” his announcement stated, suggesting that Mary had been involved from the moment of purchase. Mary was a respected journalist in her own right, who had a biographical sketch included in the 1897 encyclopedia, American Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century. Though she was characterized in that volume as an “editorial assistant” to her husband, he later wrote in a family history that she was his “assistant editor” and “contributed the larger share of copy” (Houghton Genealogy, pg. 187).

One of the delights of reading the Enterprise in this period is that there are numerous glimpses into the day-to-day mechanics of running the operation. For example, the community news columns often included notices about the young men and women working as compositors for the paper. We know that C. W. Votaw, son of a Congregational pastor from Berea, set type in 1880. James F. Stephenson stayed at the paper for only four months in 1881 before returning to his hometown of Leesville, Ohio. E. Alberta Ladd lasted longer than her co-worker James; she had been at the Enterprise for a year before leaving to be married on Christmas Eve of 1881. Andy Thompson spent ten months composing pages before departing for Iowa in the fall of 1883.

Another unexpected window into the workings of the Enterprise office occurred on the night of January 30, 1881, when fire broke out in the block of buildings lining the west side of South Main Street. Several were destroyed or heavily damaged and Houghton’s building was in ongoing danger of burning. In their haste to empty the threatened structures of their contents, local residents did unintentional damage to type already set and paper carried out into the cold and wet of a winter night. “[E]verything but presses and boiler were scattered and in the street, it did not look as though there would be any ENTERPRISE this week. Not a line of copy was ready for Monday…Our printers made every step and every moment count in making it possible to publish a paper this week, and, with one pencil free to begin scribbling, by afternoon of Monday a beginning was made…” (2-3-1881, pg. 3). The newspaper was available on its normal day, Thursday.

Like virtually all proprietors of small-town newspapers, the Houghtons struggled with subscribers who did not pay and local business people who sent job printing work out of town. But their responses to such challenges were often couched in gentle humor. Compare the following notices. The first was written by John Houghton: “Will some of our subscribers who expect to pay their subscriptions in wood bring us some 18inch [sic], seasoned, finely split stove wood and oblige the impecunious editor who hasn’t a solitary stick left” (9-21-1881, pg. 3).  The second was written by Enterprise editor E. L. French in 1897: “Pay up your subscription, we can’t run a newspaper on wind and promises. You have had the paper and we want the money” (9-22-1897, pg. 5). Houghton appears to have followed the old adage about catching more flies with honey than with vinegar.

The Houghtons made substantial financial investments in the Enterprise, including the purchase of a Campbell Country Press in 1883 (see illustration above). This higher-capacity machine, powered by steam, enabled the transition of the paper from a “folio”–one large piece of paper printed with four pages of text and folded in the center to produce a four-page newssheet–to an eight-page weekly. Given that the paper probably had fewer than three hundred subscribers in the 1880s, the new press was as much an investment in the job printing and advertising side of the business as in the production of the newspaper itself.

A Paragon paper cutter. Image curtesy of Paper Lovely.

A nineteenth-century Paragon paper cutter, still in working order today. Image courtesy of letterpress shop Paper Lovely.

John Houghton’s health was always precarious. In 1885, he and Mary made the decision to sell the Enterprise. They ran the same advertisement in every issue of the paper through the months of April and May that year. It offers a wonderfully detailed inventory of the office equipment at the time of transition. “For Sale. The Wellington ENTERPRISE office, with all its machinery, type, fixtures, stock, circulation, good will, etc., etc. The presses are nearly new and capable of doing first class work. The office is well stocked with job type; has a good outfit of wood and metal type for poster work; new Paragon paper cutter; plow paper cutter, card cutter and many things necessary to a well equipped newspaper and job office…The office is heated by steam and run by steam power; is conveniently fitted and located…” (pg. 4).

By his own recollection, John Britton Smith assumed control of the Enterprise on June 8, 1885. He continued to print the newspaper from the second story offices of John Houghton’s building. To my mind, Smith has less of a personal presence within the text of the newspaper; there are also fewer notices that reveal a behind-the-scenes view of the operation. In 1893, Britton wrote that he had no reason to find fault with any of his subscribers so far as payment was concerned, but that Penfield readers were especially prompt in paying; if true, that would make Britton unusually lucky among rural editors of the period. It was also during Britton’s ownership that Charles Horr died, resulting in the sale of an apparently impressive three hundred copies of his obituary issue.

John Britton Smith (1845-1924). A native of Cardington, Ohio, Smith is buried in Lakewood Park Cemetery, Rocky River, Ohio. Photo from

John Britton Smith (1845-1924). A native of Cardington, Ohio, Smith is buried in Lakewood Park Cemetery, Rocky River, Ohio. Photo from

On January 20, 1897, Britton published his “Valedictory” editorial, in the same issue in which the French Printing Company first appeared on the masthead as proprietors of the newspaper. Britton indicated that his reason for leaving was a desire to locate elsewhere, though he added, “Having spent the time in Wellington very pleasantly, it is with extreme regret that I sever my connection with this place” (1-20-1897, pg. 4). Just below, a separate notice announced that subscribers to the Courier would now be receiving The Wellington Enterprise instead, because the new owners were consolidating both papers into one. The adjacent community notice page featured a reprint of a piece from the Norwalk Chronicle; it also announced the consolidation but added, “Editor French while a novice in the business, seems to know how to get up a good readable paper” (pg. 5). Like Enterprise founder James Guthrie, E. L. French’s ultimate problem would not be starting up with a paper, but sustaining it long-term.

The French Printing Company, comprised of two brothers, began in 1894. Two years later, E. L. and A. E. French bought a Wellington paper called the Courier. (I suspect this is The Cheese-City Courier.) In 1897, they purchased the Enterprise and merged the two publications, while also expanding the advertising and job printing capabilities of the operation. They seem to have expended a great deal of money very quickly, relocating the offices of the paper to the ground floor of the Sheldon building at 201 North Main Street (currently home to the local historical society) four months after acquiring the Enterprise. “We now have three large, well-ventilated and well lighted rooms, conveniently arranged and easily accessible from the street…we have four presses and a three horse power gas engine. Two of the presses are cylinders on one of which we print the newspaper and the other is used for book and large poster printing. The other two presses are used for small commercial work. To the rear of these rooms is the large composing room…We have in this room one of the largest and best assortments of book and job type and material in this part of the state…” (5-26-1897, pg. 4).

But the company quickly ran into serious financial trouble. By this point, the subscription price of the paper had fallen to just $1.00 per year, though few people seem to have paid even that. Angry editorial comments pepper the columns during the French ownership period, including the one I quoted above. The new owners must have know they were in difficulties from the start; they even tried a short-lived plan that first summer to print the paper twice each week, as a folio edition once again. The experiment failed and the Enterprise passed into receivership–that is to say, corporate bankruptcy–by September, just nine months after the French brothers took over. Wellington mayor George Couch was appointed receiver, and his name appeared in that capacity in the paper until the end of the century.

Boston Power Wire Stitcher. From "American Printer and Lithographer," vol. 65 (1917), pg. 11.

Boston Power Wire Stitcher. From “American Printer and Lithographer,” vol. 65 (1917), pg. 11.

The struggling publishers placed the blame squarely on their reading public. “[W]e have become thoroughly convinced that a newspaper cannot be operated without money. It is no wonder that the paper was obliged to pass into the hands of a receiver, with such a large number of delinquent subscribers, many of whom are from one to three years in arrears…” (12-22-1897, pg. 4). They offered special discounts for those who brought their accounts up to date, as well as so-called “clubbing” rates for those who took the Enterprise and another paper of their choosing from virtually anywhere in the country. And they heavily promoted their job printing capabilities: “[A] large quantity of new and modern type and fixtures were added with a new engine, power wire stitcher, perforator, paper cutters, etc., so at this time, the Enterprise plant is one of the most thoroughly equipped of any country newspaper in the state, and is well prepared to do job and catalogue work in a workman-like manner…” (1-4-1899, pg. 4). It was all to no avail. By the start of the twentieth century, a small stock company was formed to purchase the Enterprise from the failing French brothers; a young attorney by the name of Robert Walden was briefly employed as the paper’s interim editor.

In a back corner of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society–the very rooms once occupied by the French Printing Company and Enterprise offices–is a small Chandler & Price press and some miscellaneous printing plates. The manufacturing company was founded in Cleveland in 1881, but the press appears to be a “New Series” hand-fed jobbing platen, meaning it was made sometime after 1911. Though this particular object dates to the twentieth century, its size and heft gives a tiny sense of what the rooms might have been like in the late nineteenth century. It must have created a bustling, noisy, industrial workplace when two large cylinder presses and two smaller job presses such as this were all running at the same time.

Chandler & Price "New Series" jobbing press. Photo by author, used courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, "The Spirit of '76" Museum.

Chandler & Price “New Series” jobbing press. Photo by author, used courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

The linotype machine revolutionized production of newspapers when it was first used by the New York Tribune in 1886. No daily newspaper in the world had more than eight pages before its introduction, due to the constraints of setting type by hand. Interestingly, John Houghton’s son, Elmer Seymour Houghton, began his own newspaper career as a “printer’s devil,” or apprentice in his father’s composing room, but ended it after many decades as a linotype operator at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Just forty miles southwest, the Enterprise was still hand-set until Walter Cole took over as its owner and editor in November 1918. Despite all the changes of the preceding half-century, the same basic production process used by James Guthrie when he began the newspaper shortly after the Civil War was still being employed in Wellington as World War I drew to a close.

John and Mary Houghton

J. W. Houghton's drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. Photo 970885 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

J. W. Houghton’s drug, book and stationery store, formerly located on the west side of South Main Street. Photo 970885 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

I have already written about John and Mary Houghton as members of a North Main Street community of neighbors. But they were integrally connected to the daily life of nineteenth-century Wellington in numerous other ways.

John Wesley Houghton was born in Batavia, New York in 1834. He graduated from what is now Baldwin Wallace University in Berea, Ohio in 1860 and settled in Wellington soon after. (He received his Master’s degree from the same school in 1863, and in later life served it as a trustee.) His first wife, Mary E. Seymour, mother of three surviving children–a fourth lived only eleven days–died young. Robert Walden writes that she passed away in 1861, while her tombstone in Greenwood Cemetery reads September 6, 1873. The 1873 date must be the correct one, because even Walden records the birth of the couple’s third child as occurring in 1872 (Robert Walden Notebooks, #A18). The middle daughter, Flora, died as a teenager in 1879, and is interred with her mother.

Houghton received his M.D. and for fifteen years “he practiced medicine when it was necessary to travel on horseback, and continued to do so until his failing health compelled him to give up his practice” (The Wellington Enterprise, 2-26-1924, pg. 1). On October 22, 1874–a little over one year after his first wife’s death–he married another Mary. Mary Hayes was the oldest daughter of a large family from Penfield, Ohio. She was born in 1837 and though fragile health interrupted her formal education, she was a voracious reader and was considered highly intellectual by everyone who knew her. By the end of her life she was known as a journalist in her own right, and has an entry in the 1897 publication, American Women: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of the Lives and Achievements of American Women During the Nineteenth Century‬.

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

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

From 1876 until 1885, the Houghtons owned and co-published The Wellington Enterprise. As I mentioned in an earlier post, they lived across North Main Street from Noah Huckins’ Italianate house. During the period in which they were the owners and editors of the paper, Huckins or one of his companies was mentioned at least one-hundred-and-thirteen times. The Houghtons also ran a drug, book and stationery shop on South Main Street, which further served as the town post office until 1879. Noah Huckins would have walked right past it on his way to work at his cheese box factory on Magyar Street each day. I imagine Huckins and the Houghtons strolling down Main Street together, chatting about items of personal interest that sometimes found their way into print.

I find two examples particularly charming. On December 14, 1876, the following notice appeared in the paper. “Mr. Huckins, walking on the railroad track between his business and home last Wednesday, slipped and fell through a culvert, striking the rail in his fall cutting a deep gash above the right eye. He came into Houghton’s drug store and his wound was strapped. It was very fortunate that he was not rendered unconscious by the blow and fall, as the day was bitter cold and the bottom of a culvert does not readily come under observation” (pg. 3).

And on May 10, 1877, another: “The little son of N. Huckins [Howard, just shy of his third birthday] has had only partial use of one foot for nearly three weeks, and it could not be determined just what was the matter. A few days since a small speck indicated that something had entered the flesh which nature was making some endeavor to expel. By probing, a needle was found, which was removed entire. It had entered head first when stepped upon, after his feet were undressed for the night; and at the time no evidence of it could be found” (pg. 3). When I first read these accounts, I was so curious as to how they came to be in the newspaper. Had Noah Huckins presented himself at the printing office, asking that these stories be published? I love the idea that his neighbors knew the details of his personal life and used some of the more interesting anecdotes to fill empty column space.

Five editors of "The Wellington Enterprise" are shown in this undated photo. Walter Cole and Robert L. Walden are standing. J. C. Artz, Dr. J. W. Houghton and Henry O. Fifield are seated.  Photo 970460 of "Wellington Family Album" Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

Five living editors of “The Wellington Enterprise” are shown in this undated (ca. 1919) photo. Walter Cole and Robert L. Walden are standing. J. C. Artz, Dr. J. W. Houghton and Henry O. Fifield are seated. Photo 970460 of “Wellington Family Album” Collection, Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

While running the paper, the Houghtons were strong editorial advocates of modernizing and expanding the town. They encouraged real estate development to increase the permanent population and argued in favor of introducing telephone service. (Once telephones were installed in 1883, Houghton’s Drug Store helpfully sold printed cards with the telephone subscriber list for ten cents.) John served as mayor and president of the school board, while Mary was very active in the Methodist Church and was the president of a local women’s club. In addition, she was also a member of the Ohio Woman’s Press Club and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, and a founding member of both the Woman’s Home and the Foreign Missionary Societies. It was William’s frail health that eventually forced them to sell the Enterprise.

Mary Hayes Houghton died in November 1921. Her husband passed away a little more than two years later, in February 1924. Houghton’s Drug Store, in operation on South Main Street from 1865 until 1909, later become the A & P Grocery. The building was demolished in 1976 to make way for the parking lot of the Sparkle Market grocery store, which is today Farm & Home Hardware Store. The Houghtons are interred together in the mausoleum in Wellington’s Greenwood Cemetery. When Mary died, the Enterprise noted, “She was a lady of unusual refinements and attainments, and made a place in the life of the community that will be hard to fill” (11-15-1921, pg. 5).