Friday, May 27, 2011

Community Landmarks: A tribute to The Morley Public Library et al.

Did You Know:
  • A subscription only library existed in Mentor in 1819.  The public library began in 1903. It was located on Center and Nowlen Streets.
  • A reading room in Fairport existed as early as 1895.  Anne of Green Gables and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm were two of the collection's six books.  The Fairport Public Library began in 1922.
  • Willoughby-Eastlake had two book stations as early as 1900, one in Eastlake, the other in Willowick.
  • A public library came to Wickliffe in 1936.  Kirtland began its public library in 1937.
  • Kindle began in 2007
  • Nook began in 2009
  • iPad began in 2010
  • Borders in Mentor closed as of April 2011.
  • In May 2011, Amazon reported that for the first time ever, they sold more Kindle e-books than print books.
It is that last fact that really caught my eye.  "App's", Facebook, Twitter, and Android are all recent technologies less than a decade old on average.  Social Media has exploded onto the scene.  This year's senior class might be the last group ever to even remember a time before computers or the internet. I browsed history once, sorted in order by publication date, author's name, or a Dewey decimal number.  As a child, I acquired my Funk and Wagnall's encyclopedia set one volume at a time each week my mother went shopping at Fazio's.  A dictionary was a gift in my senior year.  I used it often throughout my Hiram College years.  As a Euclid school teacher, I remembered our library (school and community) as the one place where equality existed, gender, social class and age mattered not, possibilities were limitless, and 'free' was the operative word.  Librarians were people you knew by name.  The building itself was a community cornerstone. The Euclid Public Library had an annex at Central JHS into the mid 80's. In my later years of teaching, encyclopedias were online only.  Computers usurped collection spaces.  School librarians much like the school nurses replaced by an aide.  Some elementary libraries were even closed. That Amazon fact still resonates in my mind.  A library by definition is a building or room containing collections of books...  As newer technologies prevail, free television programming effectively ended two years ago, landlines for phone communication decreased, and free radio programming dwindled.  The library, once the social media place of all generations, is adapting and embracing change.  It is my hope that the community library continues to be the one constant in the annals of history the binds the past (books) with the future (e-books).  LP's gave way to CD's in the early 80's.  Typewriters and ditto machines ran their course by the 90's.  Will books become museum pieces only? Will hard cover books only become collectables or an endangered item??  In today's blog, let's pay tribute to the history that is our community libraries.

                                        The Morley Public Library
                                        184 Phelps Street
                                        Painesville, Ohio

The early origins of the Morley Public Library can be traced back to the local Woman's Christian Temperance Union.  As early as 1878, a reading room and library existed.  The first librarian Mary Dean died in 1898.  Friends of Mary pushed her dream, which was a free public library.  Groups donated books.  The Village of Painesville provided tax refunds.  Businessman Jesse Healy Morley bought the land and erected the library building. Named for his parents, the Morley Public Library opened in 1899.  Julia Erwin served as the first librarian.  Additions came in 1937, 1978 and again recently.  From 1957-2009, a bookmobile service was offered. Its collection includes a community obituary index from the News-Herald and Painesville Telegraph dating back to 1822.  Last year 342,870 visitors stopped in.  Including books, CD's, DVD's and publications, over 689,694 items were circulated.  On your next trip to a library, pause and reflect as you enter. Your visit is a part of the living history, the ties that bind days past with the present and future.

Monday, May 23, 2011

General Jack Casement to visit Willoughby Hills Historical Society on May 25, 2011

The year 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War and it is being celebrated across the state of Ohio.  In keeping with that, the Willoughby Hills Historical Society will be hosting a public program.  Their program will be "General John S. Casement" as portrayed by Larry Disbro of The Lake County Historical Society.  Casement will describe his experiences in the Civil War and also with the Transcontinental Railroad.

This Willoughby Hills Historical Society Meeting and Program will take place on Wednesday, May 25th at 7pm.  Their address is 35400 Chardon Road (Willoughby Hills Community Center), Willoughby Hills.  The meeting room is located on the lower level and is handicapped accessible.  For additional information please check or call Frank or Mary Cihula at 440-946-5557.

Lake County Profile:  General 'Jack' Casement  1829-1909

John S. Casement arrived in Lake County in his early twenties and by the time of his death had become one of early American history's notable figures.  He was a major/general/brigade commander for the Union Army during the Civil War and a noted railroad contractor throughout the country.  While working on railroad construction in Lake County, he met his future wife Francis Jennings (married 1857) and established his permanent resident on Casement Drive in Painesville. 

Casement began his Civil War career in 1861 as a major and participated in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign against Stonewall Jackson and the Confederacy.  Campaigns in Knoxville (1863) and Atlanta (1864) followed.  Promoted to General and Brigade Commander by 1865, Casement ended his military career after the Carolinas Campaign.  His Postbellum Career saw him accept a construction job with the Transcontinental Railroad project.  He and his brother led Union Pacific work crews in laying track from Fremont, Nebraska to the completion of the transcontinental project in Promentary, Utah.  Casement finished out his life residing in Painesville, Ohio.  He is interned at Evergreen Cemetery in Painesville and his home on Casement Avenue, also in Painesville still stands today.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spring / Summer of History-Civil War 150-Lake County, Ohio- Monuments and Heros

As early as October 1862, a Painesville Telegraph editorial called for a country war memorial because " this terrible rebellion is touching the heart of every household in the land."  In April 1861 when the Civil War began, over 320,000 Ohioans answered President Lincoln's call.  In 1865 when the war had ended, over ten percent of the Ohio men who enlisted never returned home.  Monuments arose in Willoughby's cemetery and Mentor's cemetery.   Painesville's War Monument and those in all other Lake County communities eloquently remind us of the full sacrifice made by our native sons and daughters.  On July 3, 1880 a dedication took place at the Soldiers Monument in Painesville, Ohio.  General James A. Garfield was the dedication speaker.  Below is an excerpt from that speech.

General Garfield began his speech with two questions to the crowd that day.  ' What does the monument mean?' and the other, ' What will the monument teach?'

" Let me put the question to you.  For a moment suppose your country...should stand above you and say, " I want your life.  Come up here on the platform and offer it."  How many would walk up before that majestic presence and say,   " Here I am.  Take this life and use it for your great needs."  And yet almost two millions of men, made that answer and a monument stands yonder to commemorate their answer...

" Now what does it teach? What will it teach?  Why I remember the story of one of the old conquerors of Greece who, when he had traveled his boyhood over the battlefields where Miltiades had won victories and set up trophies returning, said, " These trophies of Miltiades will never let me sleep."...

"And fellow citizens, that silent sentinel, that crowned granite column will look down upon you boys that will walk these streets for generations to come and will not let them sleep when their country calls them.  More than from a bugler on the field, from his dead lips will go out a call that the children of Lake County will hear after the grave has covered us and our immediate children.  That is the the teaching of your monument.

" That is its lesson.  And it is the lesson of endurance for what we believe and it is the lesson of sacrifices for what we think, the lesson of heroism for what we mean to sustain...  General Garfield concluded his speech with the hope that time would heal and bring peace to both sides and preserve the union of the Stars and Stripes forever.  Among the names on Lake County's monuments are the plain soldiers who fought to preserve the Union.  Among the names also are some ( Casement, Babcock, Howe, Jennings, Johnson, Garfield, et al.) who came out of the battle between the states to rise to even greater heights in service to their community and nation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring / Summer of History - Civil War 150-Lake County, Ohio - USS Michigan and Fairport Harbor

A little known relic from the American Civil War stands on a hill next to a lighthouse in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  It is the foremast of the USS Michigan, the first of the ironclads for the U. S. Navy.  The iron castings were made in Pittsburgh and transported via oxcart to Erie, Pennsylvania.  The ship was assembled in 1843, launched that November and began a career that spanned 107 years.  The US Michigan (renamed the Wolverine in 1905) was an iron paddlewheel gun-boat that operated on the Upper Great Lakes continuously through 1923.  The USS Michigan / Wolverine was a vessel that weighed in at 685 tons.  It was 163' in length.  Its beam was 27' and its draft was 9'.  The crew at full complement numbered 88 and its Civil War armaments included a 30 pounder(1), 20 pounder(5), 24 pounder(6) and 12 pounder(2).

Early Career:
The USS Michigan, homeport Erie, Pa., had its first recorded incident in 1850 when timber pirates rammed the ship in an attempt to avoid capture.  1851 marked another notable event when the ship was involved in the capture of James Jesse Strang, a dissident from the Mormon colony, near the Straits of Mackinac.

The Civil War:
Although the USS Michigan cruised the Upper Great Lakes for most of the war without incident, its presence did deter four Confederate induced panics.  In 1863, Lt. William Henry Murdaugh, CSN did plan a Confederate attack from Canada.  Stonewall Jackson eventually gave up the idea and the mission was never realized.  In July 1863, a series of NYC riots erupted causing a series of Civil War panics to arise.  The USS Michigan cruised the Detroit region and one month later cruised the Buffalo region to quell public unrest.  Autumn 1864 marked the USS Michigan's most important mission.  While laying off Johnson's Island in Ohio, the home to a Confederate POW camp, the crew was able to capture a spy and thwart a Confederate covert action.  Twenty Rebels had seized the vessel Philo Parsons.  Soon thereafter, they seized and burned the Island Queen.  Their mission was to gain control of the Great Lakes. The Rebels had hoped to contact their spy at Johnson's Island after he had wrestled control from the Michigan's crew thus eliminating the Union Naval presence there.  With the spy's capture, the Confederates on board the Parsons left the Great Lakes enroute to Canada never to return.

Later U.S. Navy Service:
1866 saw the Michigan involved in the ending the Fenian Brotherhood invasion of Canada. In 1905, the name USS Wolverine was assigned to the Michigan to free up the state name for another ship.  The Wolverine was decommissioned in 1912 but returned to active status during WWI.  It was also used by the Pennsylvania Militia for 11 years.  It towed the Brig Niagara during the centennial celebration of the War of 1812.  A broken cylinder rod ended her active career in 1923. She was grounded at Misery Bay.  In 1927, The USS Wolverine was pushed to Presque Isle Bay as a relic.  By 1949 failed restoration funding attempts led to her being scrapped.  Her prow became a monument at Wolverine Park in Erie, Pa.  In 1988, the prow moved to its current location in the Erie Maritime Museum.

The USS Wolverine and Fairport Harbor:
The Wolverine did visit Fairport when it towed the Brig Niagara into the harbor on its War of 1812 centennial ports visit.  However it was the effort of the Fairport Harbor Historical Society that brought the foremast permanently to Fairport.  It seems that the late USLSS Station Fairport Capt. Niels M. Rasmussen served as a boatswain on the USS Michigan in the 1880's.  He transferred into the life-saving service, served in Erie and finished his career in Fairport in 1916. The Rasmussens continued to live in Fairport. His son, a Lake County sheriff had once desired to enlist on the Michigan.  Almost every part of the USS Michigan / Wolverine was sought for museum collections.  The head boards are in a museum in Newport News.  Carroll Mitchell, FHHS president, Austin Headland, Congressman Francis P. Bolton and members of the FHHS were able to secure the mast.  On July 4, 1950 with the aid of the Fairport Mardi Gras committee, the mast of America's first ironclad warship found its permanent resting place next to the keeper's dwelling at the Grand River Lighthouse in Fairport Harbor, Ohio.  The Museum, located on 129 Second Street, opens on Memorial Day Weekend and offers visitors many historical and maritime insights into the days past of Lake County, Ohio.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Spring / Summer of History-Civil War 150-Lake County, Ohio- "Liberty Hollow" and Eber D. Howe

Eber D. Howe (1798-1885)  emigrated from New York , by way of Erie, Pa. to Cleveland in 1819.  A participant in the War of 1812, his early post war years saw him become a journalist for the Buffalo Gazette and Erie Gazette. In 1819 and only 21, he started the Cleveland Herald, a newspaper he himself delivered weekly to Painesville.  His inaugural edition denounced American slavery and became a lasting platform for his editorial career and beyond.  In 1822, Howe moved east to Painesville, Ohio, had a friend Jonathan Goldsmith design him a home, and founded the Painesville Telegraph.  It was the fourth newspaper to be established in the Western Reserve and had 150 subscribers.  Howe, a staunch Whig, railed continuously against Slavery, Masons, and Mormonism. Howe also used his paper to promote road, canal, and railroad growth in Lake County.  Howe continued to expand the Telegraph until 1836, when he sold it to his brother Asahel.  The Painesville Telegraph which began in 1822 ended its daily run in 1986.

Eber D. Howe lived in a home on Mentor Avenue in Painesville.  While there, he began to harbor refugee slaves.  In 1838, he moved his family to the 'Hollow' in Concord.  Again, the runaway slaves were sent to Howe.  Throughout the 1840's and 50's, "Howe's Hollow" became known as "Liberty Hollow" and history has recognized it as a stop on the Underground Railroad.  Howe moved away in 1856, but the 'Hollow' continued to operate under the auspices of Hawley Drake.

"Liberty Hollow" and the Eber Howe House in the Big Creek Valley continued to play a part in Lake County industrial and social history for generations.  Many notable Lake County residents owned the 30'x50' house after the Drakes (1907). Some changes and additions were made by the Zorn's and Judge Hayer.   Since 1998 the home and surrounding 19+ acres have become a part of the Lake Metroparks holdings.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A May 15th Celebration in Fairport - Finn Hollow and Tom Kastle

Finn Hollow or "alanko" is an interesting bit of history in Fairport Harbor.  On Sunday, May 15th at 2pm a celebration and concert will be held at the Fairport Harding High auditorium for the village residents and Lake County Community at large.  Sponsored jointly by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Finnish Heritage Museum, and Fairport Tourism Council, the ninety minute program will provide a brief overview of the mayoral designated village day (Finn Hollow) as well as a maritime concert by noted storyteller Tom Kastle.

The coming of the Finns to Ohio can be traced with some precision.  The first Finns, mostly from the Vaasa Province of western Finland entered northeast Ohio in 1872. 1868 letters from Aksel Sjoberg of Titusville, Pa. to his friends encouraged them "to try their luck" in the developing railroad and iron ore industries in America.  With the law of primogeniture prevailing in Finland, the voluntary migration began.  The first group of immigrants secured employment and followed the New Central Railroad lines to Chardon, Ohio.  A brief depression in the 1870's slowed NE Ohio immigration.  However, the 1880 development of the iron ore trade and a demand for shovelers at the Lake Erie ports of Ashtabula, Conneaut and Fairport signaled a new wave of Finnish workers.  Voluntary migration from the ice bound ports to Youngstown occurred too.  By 1886 the permanent establishment of the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Dock facilities in Fairport led to a year-round return of many Finns to the area.  These Finns and those who had arrived to lay track in 1873 in Fairport under project foreman Charles Hilston led to a population numbering 200 plus.

Finn Hollow or "alanko" was the land once owned by the Pennsylvania and Lake Erie Dock Company.  It was the general site of 10 "Finn Hollow homes" built by the Finns.  Alex Sironen, Henry Hirvi, Jacob Rantilla and the other early homeowners built on land loaned on the condition that the P.L.E. Dock company could reclaim the property.  In the 1900's the land was reclaimed and the homes, built for a possible move, were in fact, relocated to Eagle, Fourth, fifth, high and Marine streets in the village.  Mayor Frank Sarosy designated May 15th as Finn Hollow Day and the Finnish Heritage Museum spearheaded a project to have plaques affixed to these historic homes.

As part of the May 15, 2011 celebration of this event, singer, songwriter, tall ship captain, and storyteller Tom Kastle will perform.  Tom combines his original songs and teller of tales abilities to share with his audiences Great Lakes maritime music.  This shanty singer is a licensed US Coast Guard captain who has traveled the U.S., Canada, the Pacific and beyond.  He is a recorded PBS artist and his performance at 2pm on May 15th will highlight another bit of local lore as you travel the roadways of Lake County's past.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Spring / Summer of History-Civil War 150-Lake County, Ohio - Historic Marker #25-43

Historic Marker #25-43 is located in front of a residential home at 969 Riverside Drive in Painesville Twp.  This 1819 Greek Revival constructed home by noted architect Jonathon Goldsmith was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  The home belonged to Uri Seeley and is still today referred to as the 'Uri Seeley House' in Lake County history.  Uri Seeley was one of the most widely known of the earliest settlers to Lake County and used his residence as a stop for Underground Railroad travelers.

Uri Seeley left his family's rural home in the East in 1815.  Seeking his own land and career, he traveled the Western Reserve and came to Painesville in 1817.  He purchased land in Painesville Twp., built a home two years later, became a successful farmer, and remained at this location for the rest of his life.  He became Sheriff of the County of Geauga from 1824-1828, achieving mixed results.  Uri became a staunch supporter of the anti-slavery movement in Ohio.  Teaming with Wade and Giddings, Seeley was a member of the first Anti-Slavery Convention.  Next, he became a delegate for the Free Soil Convention. Finally, he became the first representative of the Abolition element in the State Legislature.  The Abolitionist Movement became his passion and the Lake / Ashtabula County areas were a hotbed of activity.

In Painesville, Uri Seeley made his most important contribution to American and Lake County history.  Seeley became an officer in the Underground Railroad.  He used his home at 969 Riverside Drive as a stop for the fugitive travelers.  Hundreds of slaves passed through his home on their way to freedom via the docks in Fairport and Ashtabula.  After the Civil War, Seeley continued to be a leading statesman in the county.  He was also an active member of the Presbyterian (Congregational) Church of Painesville.  Uri Seeley died in 1877 aged 86.  Today, you may drive past his home and marker #25-43 and experience another tid-bit of history in Lake County's past.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring / Summer of History-Civil War 150-Lake County, Ohio - Samuel Butler: Fairport Harbor's First Lighthouse Keeper and an Underground Railroad Operator

In the fall of 1825 a lighthouse came into service on the banks of the Grand River.  One of eight lighthouses on the Great Lakes at that time, it quickly attracted a growing number of vessels to the port of Fairport.  But Fairport wasn't only a hub of commerce and a gateway to the Western Reserve; it's lighthouse soon became a final stop on the Underground Railroad.  Samuel Butler was the first keeper of the Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport.  His lighthouse served as a beacon to freedom to escaped slaves and the townsfolk made Fairport a safe haven for the important 'cargo' that passed through.

Around the time of the lighthouse's early history (1825), eight significant Underground Railroad terminals were in place in Ohio.  Three routes came came through Painesville, and before that Concord, where several routes converged.  Conductors from Painesville were Joseph H. Pepoon.  A former millright, he hid runaways in his hayloft.  James H. Paine, a lawyer also hid slaves in his home.  Seth Marshall was a local Painesville merchant.  His hardware shop on Main Street was used as a safe haven.  Locals Eber Howe and Frank Rodgers were other  abolitionists who assisted runaway slaves.

Fairport located between Cleveland and Ashtabula became another major point of departure for fugitive slaves.  Samuel Butler was appointed the first keeper of the lighthouse (1825).  Early on, he became a noted supporter of the abolitionist movement.  By 1844, Butler and Phineas Root ( Fairport's Steamboat Hotel owner) were actively involved in the cause of freedom.  Both he and Phineas hid some slaves in the warehouses near the harbor.  1850 saw Butler, now a local tavern owner become chairman of a citizen's group to repeal the Slave Act.  His Eagle Tavern became a haven for slaves and a headquarters for the citizen's movement.  Butler often hid slaves in the garret of his tavern.  Butler himself sometimes transported groups of fugitive slaves across the lake in his scow while slave hunters roamed the dock areas. 

Samuel Butler ( 1794-1881) is just one Civil War era story being told in Fairport this summer at the lighthouse.  Come visit the Fairport Lighthouse and Marine Museum any Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday beginning May 28th. Once there you'll learn some more about the hidden gems and primary sources that are  Lake County's history.