Category Archives: Research

Sacred Cow

ca. 1880

“HOLSTEIN HEIFER, 2 years old.” Hand-colored engraving printed ca. 1880.

I recently received an inquiry from a longtime reader of the blog. What did I know about Wellington’s most famous bovine citizen, the nineteenth-century Holstein cow called Molly Bawn? I had to confess that I did not know much. A quick Google search uncovered a parcel of self-described “legends” about the animal. Local cheese dealer Charles Horr went on a trip to Europe, where he discovered that Holstein cows produce much higher volumes of milk than their American counterparts. Impressed, he bought a two-year-old specimen called Molly Bawn (or Mollie Baun, or any combination of variant spellings) and brought her back across the ocean. Horr thereby introduced Holstein cows to America/Ohio/Lorain County…you get the idea. Molly went on to produce record-breaking amounts of milk, perhaps the most milk ever produced by a cow, and that is why Wellington became famous for cheese production–and why we still remember Molly to this day. The trouble is, existing historical documentation does not support any of those assertions.

Holstein Friesian cows (rather confusingly known as Holsteins in America, but Friesians in Europe) are the highest-production dairy animals in the world. The breed originated in the northern provinces of what we today call the Netherlands, namely North Holland and Friesland. The enormous black-and-white or red-and-white animals were being shipped to America as early as the 1600s, when Dutch settlers in New York brought or sent for “Dutch cows” to fill their pastures. The Holstein Herd Book, first published in 1872, noted that the initial import of “pureblood” breeding stock occurred with the shipment of a single cow to Massachusetts in 1852 (pg. 19).

Map of Holland province

Map of the northern provinces of the Netherlands, showing Holland and Friesland. Holstein Friesian cows originated as a breed in this region, and Molly Bawn was born here.

The first eight volumes of the Holstein Herd Book are available digitally, spanning the years from 1872 until 1885. Every breeding-stock Holstein cow or bull that was registered by its owner is found in the Herd Book, described in great detail and assigned a unique and sequential identifying number. Examining the first two volumes, I was able to determine that by 1875, there were nationally-registered Holstein cows in fourteen of the thirty-seven states then in existence. They grazed from Maine to California, though admittedly were predominantly concentrated in the northeastern quadrant of the nation. So Molly Bawn was certainly not America’s first Holstein, by two centuries or more. What about Ohio, then? I’m afraid not. The same series of volumes shows that by 1880, these overachieving milch cows could be found in at least fifteen different communities across the state, including Wooster, Franklin, Xenia, Toledo, Canton, Painesville and Hudson.

Charles Horr was a very successful businessman who made his fortune selling other people’s cheese and butter after the Civil War. His company, which had multiple names over the years but is most often referred to as Horr-Warner, at its high-water mark managed thirty cheese and butter factories in the region. The most visible signs of Horr’s status were luxurious offices in the busy commercial district of the village and an enormous estate on its still-rural outskirts. Horr visited Europe in 1877 and “made permanent arrangements for an export trade” of Ohio cheeses to foreign shores (Wellington Enterprise, 10/10/1894, pg. 1). While he certainly already knew about Holstein cows and their reputation for stupendous and reliable milk production, it is possible that Horr took a side-trip to Holland to see a few in person. As we have already established, though, there were multiple specimens a great deal closer to home.

One thing is certain: Charles Horr did not see Molly Bawn on this 1877 European trip, nor did he purchase her there or bring her back to Ohio. Molly was not “calved,” or born, until February 24, 1880. This is reflected in both her official Herd Book entry, and in another volume called the Holstein-Friesian Advanced Registry.

Holstein Herd Book v5 1881

Holstein Friesian Register 1886

Though Molly did enter the world in North Holland, six months later she was on her way across the ocean, courtesy of a breeding operation called Smiths & Powell, based in Syracuse, New York. It was from Smiths & Powell that Charles Horr purchased Molly, along with two of the three other animals that made up his initial Holstein herd. The fourth cow, graced with the lyrical name Lady Ethelind, was purchased in Painesville, Ohio.

The name “Molly Bawn,” incidentally, probably originated from an Irish folk song–alternatively sung “Polly Vaughn”–commonly known since the late eighteenth century. A popular novel had also been published under that title in 1878, by Irish writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford. (The novel was later made into a silent film in 1916.) Charles Horr christened his opulent home Bawndale–or Baundale–and while we know that construction on the house was completed in late 1872, we do not know if Horr named the house after the cow, or vice versa.

Barn cropped

This magnificent wood-frame barn, possibly once home to Molly Bawn, stood behind the Horr residence at 563 South Main Street. It was dismantled in the mid-twentieth century and relocated to the Hayden family farm, 1.5 miles north of the village. Photo courtesy of the Southern Lorain County Historical Society, “The Spirit of ’76” Museum.

In 1883, the Wellington Enterprise published an editorial about getting the maximum return on investment possible from cattle purchases. Choose the breed best suited to the task at hand, the paper advised. Holsteins were well understood to be superior milch cows. The Enterprise offered as an example C. W. Horr’s three-year-old “Mollie Bawn” who had birthed a calf of her own that winter and was reliably yielding more than sixty pounds of milk per day. In the following week’s edition, “to answer the many questions” that resulted from the previous report, a table was printed showing Molly’s production tallies for the first ten days of May. It was nearly seven hundred pounds of milk.

I believe this editorial and follow-up piece may be where Molly’s fame was born, not necessarily in the nineteenth century but perhaps in the twentieth. Ernst Henes, the editor of the Enterprise in the mid-1900s, liked to scan old issues of the newspaper and write about what he found, both in special commemorative issues and in print publications. I would hazard a guess that it was Henes’ work that ensured Molly Bawn a place in the current memory of the town. (She also served as de facto mascot of the now-defunct Wellington Cheese Festival for nearly two decades.) Charles Horr gave a lengthy speech to the Ohio State Board of Agriculture in 1891, describing how he had built a herd of 130 exceptional Holsteins over a decade. He mentioned several animals by name, but Molly was not one of them. When he wished to advertise the sale of cattle from his “Bawndale Herd,” it was not Molly’s image Horr published in the paper, but instead a cow called Nundine. In another advertisement, Molly’s name was one among many “celebrated” breeders including Aaggie, Lady Netherland, Sadie Vale and Saapke.

So Molly was not America’s first Holstein. Nor Ohio’s. Nor even Lorain County’s. Oberlin’s Ohio Weekly News is filled with early 1880s notices and advertisements referencing Holsteins with thoroughbred status and the Herd Book numbers to prove it. But surely Molly must have been Wellington’s first Holstein? Charles Horr must have been the first person from Wellington to import the breed? In fact, he was not. According to the 1881 Herd Book, O. P. Chapman, a breeders association member, was the first Wellington resident to register a Holstein. His bull, Captain John, was purchased in Painesville, Ohio sometime after its birth in 1880 and was the 619th registered in the country. (Horr’s first Holstein bull, Syracuse, was 822nd on the list.) Chapman’s cow, Queen Anne, was born in North Holland in 1880 but bought from the same operation in New York patronized by Horr. Queen Anne was the 1,256th female Holstein registered in America. The 1,292nd spot belonged to Chapman’s cow Mildred. Horr’s Molly Bawn occupied slot 1,298.

The most wonderful thing about this, at least from my perspective, is that O. P. Chapman spent a quarter-century living in the house next door to my current home. He built the carriage house that is now part of my property. When it was completed in the spring of 1883, the Enterprise noted, “O. P. Chapman has the best arranged and finest finished horse and stock barn on his place on South Main St. we ever saw. It will pay any admirer of good things to call and see it. He has also some very fine blooded stock, and is giving special attention to their growth and improvement” (5-9-1883, pg. 3). I never realized that our cattle stalls once housed Wellington’s first Holsteins. Queen Anne, Mildred and Captain John may well have lived out their lives in my backyard.

Carriage House

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

Charles Horr spent nearly fifteen years building up a renowned collection of what he termed “deep milkers.” Initially he imported animals from locations in North Holland and Friesland with names like Purmer, Hoorn, Bovencarspel, Westwoud, Beemster, Wieringerwaard, Schermerhorn and Harwerd. But soon he felt that the quality of his stock was advanced enough that he no longer required outside blood. While in volume one of the Holstein Advanced Register, for the year 1886, he imported eleven of the fourteen cows listed, by volume two (1887 to 1889) he “owned and bred” twelve of the nineteen submissions.

He entered members of his herds (Horr also raised Ayrshires, Durhams, Herefords and Aberdeens) in cattle shows and agricultural fairs; served as president of the Holstein-Friesian Association of America; and was an organizer of the National Dairy Union. After Horr’s untimely death in 1894, the Enterprise commented on the speed with which his Holsteins were being purchased and shipped around the country. But the Bawndale Stock Farm endured under the leadership of his son, also called Charles, who continued to breed, sell, and host annual visits of faculty and students from the agricultural department at Purdue University in Indiana.

I suspect Charles Horr would be amused by the mythology that has grown up around the humble animal known as Molly Bawn. It was Horr’s considered opinion, after all, that “a dairy cow should be regarded as a machine designed for the conversion of food, air and water into milk” (Enterprise, 1/21/1891, pg. 4).  Whatever else may be said about Molly, the milk-producing machine discharged her duties exceptionally well.

UPDATE: I just finished rereading Frank Chapman Van Cleef’s excellent article, “The Rise and Decline of the Cheese Industry in Lorain County,” published in 1960. Van Cleef’s father was a longtime employee of Charles Horr, and the author himself also worked in the local cheese industry. In his twenty-five page examination of what made Wellington a national hub of cheese production, Van Cleef never mentions Holstein cows. In fact, he argues persuasively that the industry peaked in the late 1870s, and was already in decline by the time Molly Bawn and her herdmates came to town. Van Cleef also mentions Charles Horr’s 1877 trip to Europe. As the result of a visit to Wellington by a provisions dealer from Glasgow, Scotland, Horr-Warner agreed to produce five to eight hundred boxes of cheese for weekly or semi-weekly shipment overseas. Later that year, Horr made a reciprocal visit, to Glasgow and Liverpool. No day trips to the Netherlands to shop for cattle are mentioned.

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Nearing the Finish Line

22540112_1462986340416558_4120680513426473012_nRegular readers of the blog may have noticed that it has been fairly quiet of late. That is because I have been spending a great deal of time on finishing up the manuscript and publication process for my forthcoming book! I received the first proof this week and have been busy copy editing.

The book was due to be shipped to those who pre-ordered a copy in December. We are currently running ahead of schedule and it looks as if copies may be mailed out in November. Fingers crossed!

Success!

Screen Shot 2017-09-16 at 1.20.48 PMGreat news! The Kickstarter pre-order campaign for my forthcoming book Fully Equal to the Situation: Nineteenth-Century Women of Wellington, Ohio successfully concluded this morning. We reached 160% funding, or more than half-again over our first goal. The completion of the stretch goal means that we will be able to add more content than originally planned. Nearly forty books were pre-ordered. If you would like to purchase a copy, never fear! Once the book is published, it will be available in Wellington, and online via a link which I will add to this site at that time. Thank you to everyone who has supported the blog and book!

Another Year Has Gone By…

Mock Up Cover
Hard to believe, but another year has come and gone. Today is the fourth anniversary of this blog. Many exciting things have happened in the past twelve months, not least of which has been the upcoming publication of my book. (At left is a mock up of the cover.) There are just about three weeks left to pre-order a copy, which you can do here. I have already submitted the manuscript to the publisher and we will soon be working on finalizing illustration choices, etc. I am proud of the work that has gone into this little volume and I hope those of you interested in reading it will find it compelling and informative. Many thanks to everyone who has already ordered a copy, and to those of you still following this blog as we enter our fifth year together.

Exciting News!

Logo RSP Inc.

 

Railway Station Press, a local history publishing house based in Alexandria, Virginia, has invited me to write a small volume of stories about the women of nineteenth-century Wellington. Initial publication expenses will be defrayed via a Kickstarter campaign. If you have enjoyed reading this blog and would like to pre-order a copy, please click here. The campaign is active through mid-September. Copies are expected to ship in December. Many thanks for your support!

Housekeeping

Wellington 1857

Wellington, one-hundred-and-sixty summers ago. “Village of Wellington” (1857) by Archibald Willard. Original painting owned by Herrick Memorial Library. Permission to display generously granted by the library.

A quick update on some changes to the blog: I have added a few new pages of late. Static links to all of these pages can be found in the main menu.

Census Data will be the page on which I post updates to my ongoing transcriptions of federal censuses for Wellington in the nineteenth century. Thus far (July 2017) I have posted full transcriptions for 1820, 1830 and 1840, with some preliminary population counts for the remaining decades–excepting 1890, which was destroyed in a fire.

In the Press is a place to note mentions of the blog in the media. Most recently, I was profiled in the summer 2017 issue of Ohio Genealogy News.

Online Resources is a page created to aggregate links to free online resources for Wellington research. This includes tax records, digitized newspaper content, interment listings, and more. I have allowed comments on that page, so if you know of another resource that is publicly available, leave a message and I will add it to the list.

Upcoming Talks, as the name suggests, is a calendar of presentations. 2018 is Wellington’s bicentennial commemoration, so check back for future events.

William Sawtell, Photographer is not a new page, but I have continued to add images in the seven months since I created it.

I hope everyone is enjoying summer. Next month marks the fourth anniversary of the blog. I am celebrating by working on a book manuscript!

The Ledger of Foote & Locke

IMG_0933

A business ledger belonging to Wellington dry goods merchants Foote & Locke, dating from October 3, 1837 to September 7, 1839. The original object is held in the Oberlin College Archives. Photo by author.

Within the archives of Oberlin College, in their miscellaneous local business records, is a leather-bound ledger volume. It is large, more than fifteen inches long and twelve inches across when opened. And at a whopping 517 pages, it is packed with information. This object (and two smaller accompanying pieces) is all that remains of a dry goods store that operated in Wellington in the late 1830s and early 1840s, called Foote & Locke.

There is very little extant documentation from this period in Wellington’s history. Settlement had happened so recently–just twenty years before–that the urge to document the village’s past had not yet seized its residents. Publication of The Lorain County News and The Wellington Enterprise was decades in the future. I have never even seen a map of the community that dates before mid-century. So this ledger is a glorious window into everyday life, if we look carefully at its contents.

On their surface, those contents may seem fairly dry. The ledger is filled with line after line of individual purchases, from items as small as a single pencil to much larger-scale orders, like all the lumber necessary to construct a barn. But examining the pages closely reveals more subtle detail, which give color and texture to our imagining of what the town was truly like in its earliest years.

I spent three days this summer at the Oberlin College Archives, poring over the ledger. At first, I could see only lists of names, and all names I would have expected to find in this era: Adams, Clifford, DeWolfe, Herrick, Hamilton, Howk, Johns, Wadsworth and Wells, to name just a few. Foote & Locke were not the only dry goods merchants in Wellington; John Reed had moved his family to the village in 1835 and opened a store on the northwest corner of what is today Main Street and Herrick Avenue. It operated for at least twenty years, until Reed’s untimely drowning in the Black River in June 1855. John Reed is one prominent citizen whose name is therefore conspicuously absent from this, the records of his business competitors.

Henry Martin Bradley wrote in his 1907 autobiography that when his family emigrated to the village in 1835, “[W]e found the roads hardly passable because of the swamps and the clouds of mosquitoes which seemed to be waiting to greet us as new comers.” This shop ledger adds some nuance to that characterization. Foote & Locke were procuring resale goods from merchants in larger urban markets. A second, smaller volume lists at least five vendors from New York City–including Weed & Co., Trask & Marvin, and L.H. Bennet–as well as one from Albany. These bulk orders would have shipped via the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, and arrived in Wellington within just a few weeks.

Wm Howk spelling book

An entry for William Howk, dated November 15, 1838 (pg. 431), showing the purchase of a spelling book. The book was presumably intended for William and Charlotte Howk’s only child, a daughter called Emma who would have been five at this time. Emma died in 1853, just twenty years old. Photo by author.

In the month of October 1837, residents purchased a diverse array of food items from Foote & Locke: tea, sugar and maple sugar, cinnamon, saleratus [sodium bicarbonate, a main ingredient of baking powder], alum, tobacco and snuff, beef, spice, raisins, butter, madder [a medicinal root], ginger, bushels of corn and onions, coffee, and eggs. Elsewhere in the ledger I found listings for purchases of pepper, cloves, rice, pork, oats, wine and port, bushels of dried apples and crab apples, bushels of beans, cheese, gallons of molasses, fish, nutmeg, jam, mutton, oil and tomatoes.

Tea was far and away more popular than coffee. Cheese was rarely mentioned, probably because many farmers had cheese-making operations at home. Perishable items were clearly seasonal, and in some instances it appears that the shop came into possession of a limited quantity of a particular item, perhaps in trade or accepted as payment from a customer. For example, fish appears in the volume only in May 1838, when a string of a dozen purchases are recorded over a period of days, then it vanishes from the inventory.

Prefabricated clothing and prepared foods were not yet available for sale. Instead, fabric purchases are among the most common in the ledger, so that clothes could be manufactured domestically. Even bread was not for sale; instead, the component ingredients for baked goods, such as saleratus and alum, were purchased regularly.

It was not only the essential materials for survival that were on offer at Foote & Locke. There are transactions for letter paper, pearl buttons, dress handkerchiefs, satinette [a cotton fabric finished to resemble satin], silk cravats, velvet, ivory combs, lace, looking glasses, strings of beads, cashmere, watch chains and even a “Geography Atlas” (pg. 201). One would need to do a careful comparative study of the prices of these items to get a sense of whether they were, in fact, luxury goods. But it is clear that even in its earliest days, Wellington’s residents had expectations of maintaining a similar standard of living to that which they had known in the eastern states of their birth. (Remember that many of the village’s earliest arrivals were coming from the rural counties of Massachusetts’ Berkshire region.)

Champain Bottles

A ledger entry dated November 1, 1837 (pg. 33) showing Oliver Sardine Wadsworth and his brother, Jabez Lorenzo Wadsworth, making multiple purchases including “6 Champain Bottles.” The Wadsworth brothers were keepers of the local hotel in Wellington, opened around 1833. It was known first as The Wellington House, then Wadsworth’s Hotel, before finally settling on the name by which it is best known, The American House. Photo by author.

We can also see evidence of townspeople buying the materials they required for their professions. John Case, the local tanner and cobbler, could be found purchasing supplemental pieces of leather and small cords. Dr. Daniel Johns stocked up on madder root, a medicinal plant. The Wadsworth brothers, Oliver and Jabez, bought fabrics, dishes, plated spoons and even “Champain Bottles,” presumably for use in their hotel (see above). Asa Hamilton, a carpenter and joiner, replaced tools such as hand saws. The only woman who shows up regularly in the ledger, Lucinda Smith, was presumably a dressmaker and/or milliner, based on her repeated orders for large quantities of fabrics and traditionally feminine-associated items including ornamental hair combs, pearl buttons, and lace (see below).

Smith is the exception to an otherwise overwhelmingly male list of names. When I first began to examine the ledger, I conjured a mental image of a shop peopled entirely with men. Then I began to notice entries that were written in this fashion: “Ephraim Herrick pr Evaline,” or “William Bradley per Lady [i.e. his wife].” I initially took this to mean that the man was making a purchase on behalf of his spouse or daughter at home. But I soon realized that I was completely backward in my thinking. “John Case per Girl” is very likely a servant running to the local shop to buy something on behalf of her employer, or more precisely, to charge something to his account. Suddenly my imaginary shop was filled with women and children–Evaline Herrick, Sarah Wilcox, Mehitable Fox Couch Howk and her daughter, all patronizing the store and having their transactions recorded under the family’s male “breadwinner.” Thirteen-year-old Henry Martin Bradley, or his older brother Charles, visited Foote & Locke, as well; there is at least one purchase of a ball of wicking [the cord of a candle] being charged to “William Bradley pr Son” (pg. 126).

Lucinda Smith 2

A July 17, 1838 (pg. 282) entry for Lucinda Smith, one of only two women–the other being widow Sarah Wilcox–who had her own account at Foote & Locke. Smith made regular purchases of fabrics, ribbon, lace, etc., leading me to believe that she made her living as a dressmaker and/or milliner. Smith does not appear under her own name in either the 1830 or 1840 federal censuses of Wellington, which may mean that she became a widow and/or she relocated or died between decades. Photo by author.

Many of these purchases were paid for in trade, either in labor or material. The smaller invoice book that accompanies the ledger, which lists New York and Albany merchants from whom Foote & Locke were obtaining resale goods, also includes extensive accounts for grain, cheese, wheat and potash turned in to the store for credit by residents. (Henry Martin Bradley wrote at length in his autobiography about cutting and burning trees to extract lye and “black salts,” which he then exchanged in the village for flour and other groceries.) There are multiple entries that suggest one-off non-cash transactions, such as Isaac Humaston’s son buying fabric and lighting materials, marked “pay in sugar,” or David Pucket receiving a $0.25 credit “By Work on Wheelbarrows.” And residents including Gideon Adams, Sandford Humphrey and John Howk obtained substantial amounts of purchasing power in exchange for farm animals such as hogs or “1 English Cow” (pgs. 308-9, 381-2).

According to the federal censuses of 1830 and 1840, the population of Wellington climbed in ten years from 224 residents living in 47 households, to 781 residents living in 134 households. The town was expanding rapidly. It would be only ten years until a busy railroad line connected Wellington to the urban environments of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and beyond. This set the stage for a late-century expansion in both population and economic prosperity fueled, in large part, by the exportation of cheese. But the explosive commercial successes of the 1870s and ’80s–which resulted in private fortunes and grand houses still standing on South Main and Courtland Streets today–were rooted in the backbreaking work of families carving farms out of forest, trading ashes and hogs for spools of thread and spelling books.