Thursday, September 29, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - Men at Work Part I

The decades after the Civil War saw many rapid changes in the pattern of American life.  Lake County, Ohio was no exception to this change.  While the great fortunes rocketed, major cities industrialized, and immigrants joined the fabric of local communities, Lake County's accomplishments were almost hidden.  Agriculture remained the primary focus and the small town shopkeepers founded the seeds of progress.

A.E. Vrooman -  Raised on Dock Road in Madison, he developed an onion topper.  Manufactured in Painesville by he and his father, this topper was the first machine of its type.  Patented and marketed throughout the northeast, Lake County became the first area in the state to produce onions for shipment.

Jesse Storrs -  In 1854, Jesse Storrs left Courtland County, New York and settled in Painesville Township, Ohio.  He purchased eighty acres and planted trees.  Storrs' business grew to be the largest departmental nursery in the U.S.  Fruit trees, ornamental shrubs and vines, evergreens, roses, annual flower and vegetable seeds were all sold by Storrs and his partner James J. Harrison.  Many of Storrs' apprentices became the county nurserymen still known today.

J.W. Penfield and Son -  Penfield arrived in 1834 as a young boy to Willoughby, Ohio.  Their family farm is the current site of the Pine Ridge Country Club in Wickliffe.  His interest in drainage led him to build the first machine to make drain tiles (1854).  His machine was exhibited at several fairs and soon garnered considerable interest.  His business grew and by 1872, the J.W. Penfield factory stood on the east end of the Pelton Street bridge in Willoughby.  Penfield sold not only the simple product (tile) but the machinery to make the product.  His modern factory was a decisive improvement on the mill system.

Charles Ruggles -  In the spring of 1869 Charles Ruggles introduced 'net fishing' at Fairport.  In his first season he caught 1500 sturgeon.  Although no market existed for sturgeon at the time, he sold them to local nuserymen Storrs and Harrison.  This became the impetus for the first commercial fertilizer in the country.

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