Monday, July 6, 2015

A History of History Hall Part II - The 'Rest of the Story'

1876 marked the United States centennial and celebrations were underway in all corners of the country.  Philadelphia held a world's exhibition and local communities held activities looking back at their own histories.  The early settlers of Lake County were no different.  Some had fought in the Revolution, others helped in the founding of the country, some settled the west and some were now the children and second generation residents of Lake County.

On September 20, 1876 a Pioneer Picnic was held at Alfred Morley's grove in Kirtland.  Well attended and offering recollections of the past, both oral and artifact curiosities - the picnic would become an annual event.  The picnic sites rotated to Perkins Camp in Concord and Capt. Burridge's grove in Mentor.  Attendance swelled to nearly five thousand.  In 1887 the picnic moved to the newly formed Lake County Fairgrounds on Bank Street in Painesville.  As mentioned in part I, an economic panic took place in 1893 and an ensuing depression a year later ended the era of the fair.  Pioneer Picnics continued but struggled as a central location failed to materialize and attendance bottomed out.  Also of note- the original pioneers were aging and by 1910 a final picnic was held in the park in Fairport.

While the Log Cabin was the main topic in part I of this series, it is interesting to mention that around 1910 the arrival of the summer estates and Cleveland Industrialists led to the rebirth of the Fairgrounds and all its history.  Some of the prominent names of this era of rebirth included William P. Murray of Murray Stock Farm, Henry A. Everett of Leo Doro Farm, Liberty Holden of Gold Horn Farm, Samuel Runner of Cherry Farm and James Corrigan of Nagirroc Farm.  These gentleman farmers desired a place to showcase their livestock and products.  Within a year or so and at a cost of $40,000 the 65 acres of land once belonging to Benaiah Jones and his son-in-law Jonathan Goldsmith became the new and current site of Lake County's Fairgrounds.

Part I highlights the building of the Log Cabin and its history.  Both part I and II are short synopses.  One may read the entire story of History Hall and the early pioneer families in the anthology that was released in July 2014.

source - article - A History of History Hall by Carl Thomas Engel

Monday, June 29, 2015

History Hall...A Biographical Anthology -- Part I

A paperback book was released on July 23, 2014.  Titled 'History Hall of Lake County, Ohio Fairgrounds A Biographical Anthology', it contains 180 portraits, photos and illustrations recounting an important era in our county's early history.  The Lake County Fair and Fairgrounds had its genesis in 1840, the same year as our county's formation.  Located on Bank Street it was an early epicenter for the area until 1894.  Hard times resulted in an eighteen year window of inactivity before a new site was chosen.  From 1912 until an opening witnessed by more than 28,000 visitors in 1915, the current 65 acres that comprise the Lake County Fairgrounds remains to this day a vital link to our past.  From Cleveland's Industrialist 'Gentlemen Farmers' who made Lake County their summer estates to the early pioneers who settled our region, the one constant is a log cabin, often overlooked - that is located on the fairgrounds property.

In 1913 the Pioneer Monumental Association was organized and charged with erecting a log cabin monument on the Fairgrounds property.  This cabin would be named History Hall and would pay tribute to the pioneers of Lake County and the Western Reserve.  On February 9, 1914 a site was chosen just west and south of the Goldsmith cottage on Mentor Avenue.  Logs were soon delivered from the lands and estates of our early pioneers.  The first log to arrive was drawn from the early pioneer Benjamin Blish Farm, then a part of the Old Orchard Farm.  Additional logs arrived from the Samuel Huntington lands in Fairport and Painesville Township. Other logs followed.  Isaac Annala was the master builder of the cabin.  He and his 11 Finnish house carpenters used over 200 logs to complete the project at a cost of about $3000.

The book - History Hall...recounts the stories of the names found in a small booklet published for the dedication of the memorial log cabin in 1914.  More than a century has passed and the cabin still stands as a tribute to the pioneers who founded our 43rd county.  The book is a must read and another hidden gem in our genealogical history.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Small, but Not Insignificant

A visit to a museum or exhibit usually means viewing a targeted artifact or meaningful display.  Visitors may examine this piece of interest quite intently and may even read in detail any document or text associated with it.  Singular archival documents are often not as fortunate.  A singular or random archival document on display usually will illicit nothing more than a cursory glance or a big yawn from many visitors. These items are often overlooked in favor of the 'wow' item.  The museums and collections in Lake County are no exception.  Today we examine a sampling of significant archival items often overlooked or perhaps not known to most visitors at that site.

The Kirtland Temple -  An 1835 edition of the First Church Hymnal is on display.  Emma Hale Smith chose the hymns.  The original Finial was replaced in 1993.  Today the first vane and temple finial is on exhibit in the main visitor center.

Indian Museum - Petroglyphs highlight this downtown Willoughby museum.  A museum library includes over 1000 books and periodicals about Native America culture and its impact on our county.

Wickliffe Historical Society -  Housed in a room in the former Coulby Mansion and current City Hall, this collection includes attire, photos and more from Cleveland's Guilded Age.  Other featured displays are a replica painting of The Spirit of '76, Mayor Coulby's ship and artifacts from the First Fire Station.  Hours are limited but contact for public hours or tours by appointment of the Czar of the Great Lakes former mansion.

Eastlake Historical Society -  Also housed in City Hall, this society collection includes the Evans map, the story of Lost Nation Road, the story of David Abbot and a Schooner Cuyahoga Packet.

Willoughby Welcome Center -  Two items of interest stand out in this Public Square house.  First is a Medical History Display that spans our county's earliest years.  Secondly, one can view the Willoughby Viaduct plaque that dates back to 1920.  Photos and books also recall Willoughby's vibrant past.

Lake County History Center - Located in Painesville Township the former county poorhouse has two significant collections worth knowing about.  First is the 1907 Lake County Courthouse Time Capsule.  Second and perhaps more important is a 3000 family database or Genealogy Surname file.

Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum -  Celebrating over 100 years of lighthouse history, this museum now in its 70th season features a Francis Life Car dating back to 1876, a Third Order fixed white Fresnel Lens in its entirety, an 1843 Mast-the first of its kind and much more.  Visit for more information.  July 11-12, 2015 will see the return of a Tall Ship - the Madeline which was originally built in Fairport in 1845.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Step Back in Time this Weekend at 475 Railroad Street in Painesville

Whether you know it as the current  Painesville Railroad Museum, the Painesville Depot or by its earlier station names C.P.A., Lake Shore & Michigan Southern or N.Y. Central, attendees this weekend can tour the full-size replica of the Lincoln Funeral Train.  This steam engine and tender transported  Abraham Lincoln from D.C. to Springfield, Illinois to his final resting site.  Attendees will be able to actually tour the car as well as visit the depot that has a history dating back to 1851.

1851 saw the incorporation of the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad Companies and the first C.P.A. depot in Painesville.  Another consolidation and new name occurred in 1869 with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern lines.  The current depot had its groundbreaking in July 1892 and by February 1893 the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Station opened.  Its final name change came on April 29, 1914 when the N.Y. Central formed as part of a 10 railroad line consolidation.  The Painesville Depot served as the departure site for WWI draftees and as a canteen stop for those serving in WWII.  Passenger service ended in May 1971.  From '71-88 the site served as a Greyhound Bus stop.  Nearly a decade passed before the depot was saved by the newly formed Western Reserve Railroad Association in 1997.  A non-profit group, they have been working to restore and preserve the railway history that ran thru Lake County.  The Painesville Depot features Richardson Romanesque Style architecture with sandstone walls and a slate roof on the exterior.  The inside features red oak and marble alongwith hanging chandeliers.  A caboose was donated by Lubrizol in 2000 (suffered damage in a 2006 fire).  In 2002 a historical marker #18-43 was dedicated by the State of Ohio.    The depot was granted 'Historic District' status in 2005 by the City of Painesville.

As mentioned earlier the Lincoln Funeral Train will be making a stop on June 6 and 7.  Hours will be 10.m. to 6 p.m. both days.  A fee is charged allowing attendees access to the Smithsonian blueprint verified and exact replica of the death car.  As President-Elect, Lincoln visited this depot on February 16, 1861 on his William Case locomotive and tender.  The Lincoln train next passed thru Painesville that fateful morning of Friday, April 28, 1865.  This weekend on the 150th year anniversary of this tragic moment in history you can step back in time and witness history again.  As a bonus it is rumored Abraham Lincoln a.k.a. John King and even Mary Todd will be on site sharing their life stories.

For more information- visit

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Upcoming June 5th Tour features the History of Two Lake County Lighthouses only .8 miles apart

In 1807 a proposal for a canal system was made.  Ten years later construction officially began.  On October 26, 1825 a 363 mile-36 lock Erie Canal opened connecting New York-the Atlantic Ocean-and the Great Lakes.  New York eclipsed Philadelphia as the largest seaport on the east coast.  The Erie Canal is said to be the most extraordinary feat of engineering of the 19th century.  The impact of the canal had an even greater footprint in what was soon to be Lake County.  The opening of the canal now allowed commercial shipping into the Great Lakes and made Lake Erie an important hub in history.  The ports of Madison and Fairport became key sites in early shipping history.  The removal of the need to portage allowed both communities to rise up during the mid-to-late 1800's.

The Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport (Harbor was added in 1959) was commissioned in 1825.  Under the auspices of the United States Lifesaving Service its light shone for nearly a hundred years.  Reknowed Western Reserve architect Jonathon Goldsmith was charged with its build.  Samuel Butler was its first keeper.  Its history included fourteen keepers,  participating in the UGRR and the Mormon Migration, being rebuilt in 1871 as well as witnessing maritime events on the Great Lakes.  A third order Fresnel Lens, 1876 Life Car, famous ship's mast from 1843 and 1904 Oil House are just some of the many stories that will be shared on a tour Friday night June 5th.

The Fairport Westbreakwater Lighthouse's story dates back to approximately 1907.  A wall was under construction on the west side of the Grand River.  The original 1825 lighthouse was nearing its end as a navigational aid and Cleveland was now the hub of Lake Erie shipping commerce.  Prefabricated steel shell lighthouses were soon to be in place in Ashtabula (1904) and Lorain (1916) replacing older original generation versions.  On June 21, 1921 the steamer Wotan delivered the shell of a new lighthouse to Fairport.  Four years later it was commissioned and to this day remains an active aid to navigation.  Tended by the USCG its last live-in-crew was around 1948.  In 2012 the keeper's dwelling was sold to a private owner who is currently renovating and preserving the 42' structure.  2015 marks the Westbreakwater Lighthouse's 90th anniversary.  The owner will be on hand on June 5th to share her summer residence and lighthouse's history.

Sign-up for the tour at or call 440-354-4825 for more information.  The deadline is June 1st.



SAMUEL BUTLER                  1825-1833

ELIJAH DIXON                        1833-1839

JEREMIAH O. BALCH             1839

NEHEMIA MERRITT              1839-1841

THOMAS GREER                    1845-1846

ISAAC SPEAR                           1846-1849

HENDRICK E. PAINE              1849-1853

OLMSTED BAKER                  1853-1856

HALSEY H. BAKER                1856-1861

JAMES McADAMS                 1861-1865

GEORGE F. RODGERS          1865-1871

JOSEPH C. BABCOCK          1871-1881

GEORGE L. RIKER                 1881-1900

DANIEL BABCOCK                 1919-1925


Thursday, May 14, 2015

UGRR Bus Tour Highlights County's Role in important era of American History

The UGRR is one of the best known chapters in American history yet in many ways it is the least examined.  The facts and documents/primary sources often do not match. This is true in Lake County.  Some known facts are 40% of all slaves passed thru Ohio.  Another is The Fugitive Slave Law, enacted in 1850 was already a hotbed issue some 40 years earlier in Ohio.  Another includes locals Samuel Butler, Phineas Root, Seth Marshall, Eber Howe and Uri Seeley who were active abolitionists of the day.  All resided in what was to become Lake County.  Four principal UGRR routes led to Fairport and Madison.  Research also reveals that Harvey Johnson was not the first slave to pass thru and return to settle in the county.  Over 40 blacks were living in Lake County before the Civil War though their stories remain relatively obscure.  These are just a few of the UGRR stories to be examined later this month.

The upcoming bus tour sponsored by Lake Metroparks on May 28th will look at our rich past and the history of runaway slaves and their journey thru portions of Lake County.  Many crossed over and arrived in Canada either by way of Lake Erie or by crossing over the Detroit River.  In our county many attained freedom via the commercial docks of Fairport or Madison.  One final destination was Chatham, Ontario - a mecca for black society. Other Canadian communities included Dresden, Port Stanley, Port Burwell and Port Royal

A Local Self Driving Tour -
Start at Big Creek at Liberty Hollow ( A Lake Metroparks property and one home of Eber Howe)
Uri Seeley House - 969 Riverside Road
Moodey House - 208 S. State St.
Judge Hitchcock site - 254 S. State St.
House Home-311 S. South St.
Seth Marshall site - 375 Bank St.
Mathews House - moved to Lake Erie Campus since 1949
Eber Howe's other home - corner of N. State & Jackson St.
Morley House - 231 N. State St.
Sidley House - 463 Casement Rd.
First Congregational Church - 22 Liberty St.
Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport Harbor -129 Second St.
Dock Rd & Arcola Creek - Madison
Unionville Tavern - 7935 S. Ridge Rd.

 Need more tour information - contact Lake Metroparks @ 440-639-7275 or visit

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lake County, Ohio - Iron Industry Began Here

Lake County does not come immediately to mind when one mentions 'iron'.  The names Youngstown, Cleveland and Warren would be the better guess.  However long before these cities came into play, it was Lake County that had a thriving iron industry, specifically the Madison area.  The era was the early to mid-1800's.

Bog iron was discovered by surveyors attempting to lay the course for a 70' wide road from Cleveland to Erie, Pa. The year was 1812.  The ore was scattered throughout the Madison area from Middle Ridge to Lake Erie over acres of land.  Early furnaces appeared in Mentor as cast iron plows and iron bells were cast.  In 1824 an iron works was established on the banks of the Grand River for the production of cooking and potash kettles.  The first furnace to refine iron was built in 1826 by Erie Furnace Company.  Samuel Wheller and Cyrus Cunningham bought 52 acres that had bog ore on it.  Soon an industry developed extending from Hubbard Road to County Line Road as well as from Middle Ridge to the Lake.

By 1825 three additional furnaces were built.  Another four were added in 1833.  Natural resources made the area well suited for manufacturing.  Resources and a Lake for transportation were ideal for the early businessmen.  A small furnace was renamed Arcole in 1831 and sold to Samuel Wilkerson and Uri Seeley.  Today this area is Arcola Road.  Their furnace was in its day the largest industry in Ohio.  Production totals hit 1500 tons annually.  Twenty years of prosperity resulted and Madison was second to Painesville in population- both larger than nearby Cleveland. Ore production and agriculture were the leading exports in the late '40s.  A port located on Dock Road became the shipping hub of the era alongwith the neighboring Grand River-Fairport location.

The mid-1800's saw the demise of the iron industry in the county.  Bog iron was running out and newly found sites elsewhere yielded a better quality ore.  Charcoal necessary for the furnaces were harder and more expensive to obtain. Arcole Iron Co. was sold and other furnaces simply abandoned.  The Dock Road / Madison Port was a ghost town by 1850.  Hundreds of settlers and homesteads transitioned to farming.  Remnants of the industrial era of Madison are few.  Cunningham's 1825 home is still in use and the one furnace building remains as a moment frozen in time.  The blue rocks or slag still can be found in the gardens of the locals.

source - articles from the Western Reserve and Lake County Historical Societies