Monday, October 31, 2011

Our First School Teacher(s)

Education is a cornerstone of all eras in history.  Our early pioneers knew this.  Moses Cleaveland was a Yale graduate.  David Abbott had an advanced education.  John Walworth and Samuel Huntington were educated men.  Roads such as Girdled, Chillicothe, and Corduroy connected early townships and villages. This drew our first settlers together.  Educated professionals came to serve our new communities.  The pioneers agreed a little learning could come in handy at market.  Learning to read from a family Bible was a start, but formal schools, the Three R's and more were on the horizon.

Abraham Tappan came to the Western Reserve in 1801.  A member of John Walworth's supply party, he served as an agent for the Connecticut Land Company.  His early years here in the county saw him survey areas west of the Cuyahoga and assist with the layout of Chillicothe Road.  He also served as a postmaster at Unionville and Associate Judge of Geauga County ( Common Pleas).  Tappan is best remembered for being our first county school teacher.  In the winter of his first year in the county, he taught in a small log cabin on the bank of the Grand River.  A dozen pupils were collected for that first class.

Ten years passed after Tappen's class before further formal classrooms reappeared.  In 1811 Miss Kate Smith of Euclid taught in a Mentor log cabin.  In 1812 Franklin Paine became the first schoolmaster of a two story frame building on the square in Painesville.  Mary Crary of Kirtland taught her first class in Madison in 1813.  Aaron Wheeler served as a teacher in Unionville's school in its first year (1814).  Estelle Crary held her first classes in Kirtland in that same year.  1814 also saw Lovinia Hulbert become the first teacher for the Leroy- Thompson joint school district.  Schools in Perry and Concord followed the very next year.  A nephew of Governor Samuel Huntington arrived in 1816 and served three generations of learners.  His name was Flavius Josephus Huntington.

The list of our first school teachers are familiar pioneer names:  Crary, Huntington, Paine, and Tappen.  Their early efforts led to the first high school in 1823 ( Painesville Academy).  A medical college came to Willoughby in 1834.  A teacher's seminary in Kirtland followed in 1838.  The public schools ( 500 students, 10 teachers) of Painesville were established in 1852.  From these pioneer beginnings our modern school system had begun.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lost Stories: Yesterday and Today - The Lake Shore Resorts

The annals of Lake County history are filled with the works accomplished by our first pioneers.  Since the late eighteenth century , many rapid changes in the pattern of life occurred during the hundred years that followed.  An Industrial Revolution mushroomed.  Lake County cities grew accordingly.  Agriculture remained a staple of our lake shore region.  One significant change was almost hidden amid the quiet and comfortable life of our county's growing prosperity.  It was the realization of the leisure and recreational possibilities of our greatest resource - Lake Erie.

On Hardy Road, a lake resort called Linden Beach was founded in 1870.  Situated on what had been Governor Huntington's farm, the dining room and tent colonies flourished for the next quarter century.  To the west of Linden Beach, the Shore Club was established in 1898.  The Shore Club sat on the farm properties of the Lathrop and Smart families.  The Club House was a two story frame structure with porches.  Cottages were built adjacent to the Club House and Clevelanders came to vacation there through 1921.  The Club House sat on what became the Diamond Alkali Company property.

Mentor-on-the-Lake was flourishing during the 1890's.  A summer hotel at Salida Beach on Lake Drive was popular.  The resort hotel was three stories with wide porches.  Managed by R. A. Parks, the hotel was later sold to a church for use as a girl's society ( Holiday House).  Mentor Headlands was another lake resort.  Willoughbeach Park ( opposite the present Shoregate Shopping Center in Willowick) was in many ways the most famous resort in its day.  Located alongside the Interurban railroad line, by 1898 an amusement park was added to the site that already included cottages, bathing areas and dance pavillions.

Other famous Lake County resorts included the Little Mountain House, the Little Mountain Eagle and the Stocking House.  1831 saw Simeon Reynolds build a large hotel known as the Little Mountain House.  Although the topography made it a beauty spot and desired destination, Reynolds use of recreational activities cemented its allure to those who sojourned.  1850 saw D.W. Stocking of Chardon build the 'colossal' hotel resort of the era.  Lasting over 25 years, it served as the Little Mountain Club to Cleveland's millionaires.  Dr. H. R. Gatchell and Dr. Storm Rosa combined with William S. Gardiner in 1855 to operate their Little Mountain Eagle House. It began as a  treatment site for invalids but also served as a boarding house for some years after.  Charles Avery bought the Little Mountain House in 1868,  Renamed the Lakeview House, Avery prospered.  He added cottages to the hotel footprint.  Every amenity and every recreational amusement of the day was present.

The Little Mountain and Lake Shore memories may be waning in 2011.  Today few houses remain.  Little Mountain is mostly private property.  Lake Cottages were razed.  Clubs lost their members.  Former summer home visitors like James A. Garfield, George Hopper, and Harry Coulby bought their own residences. The growing Cleveland auto industry allowed for new vacation spots to emerge.  Only pictures recall what once was.   However, for nearly a century the pattern of  social life made Lake County a destination.  The new 'branding' from the Lake County's Visitors Bureau is " Think Lake County".  It seems that Lake County never has lost its appeal.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Northeast Ohio Museums - Discover Two Hidden Gems in Lake County

Museums come in all sizes.  Some museums dominate the landscape.  A lighthouse in Fairport is one example.  A historic church in Kirtland is another.  Some museums are famous homes.  The Presidential Home of James A. Garfield on Mentor Avenue is one such site.  The Mathews Home on the campus of Lake Erie College is yet another.  Some communities have unique structures that tell a story.  Painesville's Rider's Inn, Unionville's Old Tavern, and Wickliffe's Coulby Mansion are examples that come to mind.  Properties can be a living museum.  Holden Arboretum and Lake Farmpark are two local sites that bear mentioning.  History surrounds and often when not large in size can be missed.  Today, we look at two museums often missed by visitors and students of history.  Both are one room school houses, hidden gems in Lake County's history.

Old Stone School House -  Located at 7125 Ravenna Road in Concord Township, this school house dates back 171 years.  Built in 1840, it served as a one room school house until 1923.  It became a private residence for many years afterwards.  In time, it became the business office of a local builder.  The site was purchased in 2001 by Concord Township and history was revisited.  Three years of renovations and volunteer efforts were rewarded on May 31, 2004 when the Old Stone School House reopened.  On the second and fourth Wednesday of each month from 4-7pm visitors may enter the old schoolhouse and view education in its earliest setting.  The Old Stone School House also serves as the History Center for Concord Township.

Riverside School #2  -  Situated at the bottom of a small hill in Kirtland, this old school house is located at 9045 Baldwin Road.  Currently a Lake Metroparks maintained property, the school house still serves its original purpose.  The school house first opened in 1894.  Grades 1-8 were served and thirty students were in the inaugural class.  The school's motto was 'Learn and You Will Know'.  The school remained open through 1921.  It became a private residence in the years that followed.  In 1988, Anthony S. Ocepek donated his residence to the park system with the sole intent of making it an educational center.  His desire has been realized as the School House serves as a nature center to this day.  The Center is open to visitors and school field trips. Advance notice is required.  Programs may be found on the Lake Metroparks website.

Webster defines a museum as a building in which objects of historical, artistic, or cultural interest are stored or exhibited.  Both one room sites meet the criteria and remain yet another example of Lake County's hidden history.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - Women at Work

Earlier this month, we examined some of the Lake County contributions in the decades following the Civil War. The men who affected these changes in the patterns of American life were not alone. The Industrial Revolution changed agriculture and industry.  New nationalities came to Lake County. These changes soon affected women's roles in society.  The Painesville Steam Laundry opened in 1887.  Homes could now afford a hired girl.  In turn, women of privilege began to have leisure time to devote to their communities.

Women's Temperance Union  - There had been a few early attempts to encourage temperance.  Early pioneer settlers to the Western Reserve had little to offer but whiskey.  However after the Civil War, women began to unite to work for prohibition.  Painesville's branch of the Women's Temperance Union began in 1874.  The group opened a public reading room as an alternative to the numerous area saloons.  For the next twenty-five years the reading rooms operated until the public libraries came into being.

Equal Rights Association - H. C. Gray of Willoughby was the first advocate of women's suffrage in Lake County.  His 1851 advocacy at the state level garnered little support.  G. W. Clement revisited the cause in 1880 as he sought the right for women to vote for local school boards.  Support increased but no changes came.  In 1883, Mrs. Frances J. Casement undertook the leadership role in Lake County's Equal Rights Association.  An inveterate letter writer and dogged chapter president of the cause, she made inroads into a fundamental shift in women's rights.  Martha H. Elwell of Willoughby carried on the crusade and by 1895 women received the right to vote for local school board members.  Two women were elected that year to the Painesville Board of Education.

Lake Erie Female Seminary -  Opened in September, 1859 this Painesville institution weathered the storm of the Civil War and under the leadership of Principal Lydia A. Sessions became a community cornerstone.  The 1868 appointments of Mary A. Evans and Luella Bentley as Principal and Assistant Principal proved wise.  They led the school for the next forty years.  Lake Erie Female Seminary grew.  In time it changed its name as college level studies were  being offered in 1897.  By 1898, a new name Lake Erie College had been chosen.

The Mathews School -  Mrs. Samuel Mathews, daughter-in-law of Painesville's pioneer doctor, started her school in her home circa 1870.  Her  preparatory school for Lake Erie Seminary took in both day pupils and out-of-state boarding pupils until it closed in 1900.

These early pioneering women from the last half of the nineteenth century affected changes that carried over into the next century.  Their contributions provided a growing awareness of Lake County's most enduring resource - its citizens.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Fairport Harbor Historical Society presents 'Reflections of the Sole Survivor' ... An Evening with Dennis Hale

On November 29, 1966, gale-force winds ripped the freighter Daniel J. Morrell in two and sunk the vessel in Lake Huron.  The Morrell was a 603' lake freighter built in 1906.  It had left Buffalo, N.Y. and was on its way to Taconite Harbor, Minnesota when the witch of November struck.  Around 2am, the freighter was in its death throes.  Of the twenty-eight crew members only watchman Dennis Hale and three others made it to a life raft. Facing thirty foot waves and frigid waters, Dennis persevered two nights clad only in a life jacket, peacoat and underwear to become the sole survivor.

Mr. Hale will share his lake experiences and this unbelievable true story of survival.  Author of Sole Survivor (1966), his new autobiographical book Shipwrecked ( 2010) will be available for sale after the program.  This free program will begin at 7pm on Thursday, October 20th.  It will be held in the community room of the Fairport Public Library.  The library is part of Fairport Harding High School located at 329 Vine Street.  The event is sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society and Friends of the Library.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Lake County Profiles: Ann C. Whitman, Confidential Secretary

Ann C. Cook was born in 1908 in Perry, Ohio.  At the time of her death in 1991, Ann C. Whitman's career had become the subject of Robert Donovan's 1988 best selling biography 'Confidential Secretary'.  What had began as an Antioch College work study program to N.Y., led her to secretarial career stops that included not only Mrs. David Levy, whose husband was a founder of Sears, Roebuck and Company, but also the 34th U.S. President, and a N.Y. Governor / U.S. Vice President.

In 1929, Ann C. Cook left for N.Y.C. to assume a secretarial internship for the wife of Sears, Roebuck and Company founder David Levy.  Ann never returned to Antioch College in Ohio.  She remained in the position of secretary for Mrs. Levy for the next 16 years.  Married in 1941, her next career step presented itself during her position with Radio Free Europe after WWII.  Ann was recruited by Dwight D. Eisenhower's Campaign Staff to be his personal campaign secretary.  This led to her appointment as his White House secretary for the next eight years when Eisenhower became the 34th U. S. President. She managed all his correspondence and was responsible for his personal files and letters kept in his White House office.  This amounted to thousands of letters monthly.  In 1961, she followed Eisenhower to his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  She remained in his employ through the establishment of his farm as a National Historic Site.

A second marriage and a brief return to the corporate world led her to her final secretarial position.  She was hired to be the personal secretary to N.Y. Governor Nelson Rockefeller.  Later, she followed him to Washington D.C. when he became the U.S. Vice President under Gerald Ford.  Ann C. Whitman retired in 1977.  As mentioned earlier, journalist Robert Donovan sought Ann out in 1988 and released a biography titled Confidential Secretary in the same year.  Ann C. Cook of Perry, Ohio may have left Lake County in 1929, but her life's story has become yet another hidden gem in the ever increasing history of Ohio's smallest county.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lake County Mini Profiles - Men at Work Part II

As mentioned earlier, the decades after the Civil War saw many rapid changes in the patterns of American life.  Know-how developed.  Specialized agriculture grew. Nurseries expanded. Improved soil management led to new markets.  Lake County played a major role as the twentieth century loomed.  Today we look at some other contributors whose ideas led to the new technologies of the day.

Coe-Wilkes -  In 1851 H.H. Coe and Leonard Anderson of Painesville formed a partnership to make steam engines and sawmill machinery.  They built their factory at Jackson and St. Clair Streets.  After the Civil War, Coe joined his new business partner Frederick Wilkes and the company expanded.  Wilkes had experience with Arcole and owned Geauga Furnace.  Together, they added new markets to their portfolios.  With gas streetlights on the horizon, they designed lamplighter machinery that could cut thin stock from giant logs and a clipper machine.  The rotary lathe, a roller drier and other fine precision machinery became a company benchmark.  After Wilkes retired in 1891, Coe's son Henry joined the Rt. 84  business and renamed the company Coe Manufacturing.  Travel down Rt. 84 and you will find that Coe still exists today.

Frank Burrelle - Born in Painesville in 1856, Frank Burrelle began his career as a NYC law clerk.  It was what he overheard two businessmen say in 1888 that led to his continuing fame today.  The businessmen were worried that they could not keep abreast of all the media and trends of the beginning industrial era.  From this concern, Frank and his wife founded Burrelle's Press Clipping Service.  They ran their business from their home until a fire nearly ended the company permanently.  Today known as BurrelleLuce, the company specializes in media and measurement services for major corporations.

George Henry Hopper -  Born in England, Hopper emigrated to the U.S. in 1841 at age 4 and settled in Cleveland.  He learned a trade and became a cooper. In time he started a business that manufactured product for the newly formed Standard Oil Company.  In 1879, he moved to Madison Twp. and settled in a home located on County Line Road.  Legend has it, that Hopper amassed a fortune perfecting a traveling tramp's formula to seal barrels of oil.  Hopper, remaineda Madison resident until his death in 1898.

J.H. King, C.M.Wheeler and H. Hinkley -  In the decade of the 1860's, Fairport Harbor's chief industry had nothing to do with imports, exports, or the port at all.  The chief industry was a nitroglycerine factory in two warehouses on the east  pier.  Owners King, Wheeler and Hinkley built storage facilities on the west bank and shipped explosives to the ore mines on Lake Superior and to the oil fields in Pennsylvania.  A terrific explosion wrecked the factory on November 1, 1870.  Village homes were ruined and every window in town was shattered.  The three owners made good on the damages but the nitro plant was never rebuilt.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rail Fanning Day comes to the Painesville Depot

Rail Fanning Day is this Sunday at the Painesville Depot located at 475 Railroad Street in Painesville.  What is Rail Fanning Day?  Webster, does not define it, but in a nutshell: It is the art of watching railroads in action.  Nearly four trains per hour pass by the depot.  The last passenger train left the Painesville station in 1971.  However, the historic depot is currently on the CSX Waterfront Main Line and the depot, at the moment under restoration,  will be open for visitors from 10am thru 5pm. 

On February 8, 1848, the Ohio Legislature incorporated the Cleveland, Painesville and Ashtabula Railroad Company.  The railroad reached Painesville by 1851 and over a hundred year history had begun.  The Lake Shore Railroad Company took control of the line in March, 1869.  By June, 1869, it had consolidated with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway.  The Painesville Depot opened in 1893 for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Line.  Built by the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge of Boston, Massachusetts, it was a crown jewel in the Ohio railroad era. The depot cost $18,075 to construct.   Richardsonian Romanesque in design, the depot featured sandstone walls, a slate roof, and a red oak interior.  The New York Central was formed in 1914 and consolidated with the Lake Shore and Michigan Line.  The NY Central and the Painesville Depot continued on for the next 57 years.  The last passenger train left the depot in 1971 and the station remained dormant for the next few decades.

The Depot attained Ohio Historic Marker ( #18-43) status in 2002.  The Painesville Depot Organization (a non-profit) acquired the site and its volunteers have been in the process of restoring the railroad depot as well as taking inventory of its artifacts for the depot museum to follow. Their mission is to maintain the sentiment and history that is railroading.  Sunday, October 9th is Rail Fanning Day at the Painesville Depot.  So come relax and enjoy the ride!

For more information, visit

Monday, October 3, 2011

Celebrate a part of a 'Bygone Era' this weekend - Ashtabula County's Covered Bridge Festival

Some Covered Bridge Festival Facts:
  • 18 covered bridges dot Ashtabula County, more than any other Ohio county.
  • The Mechanicsville Road Bridge is the second longest single span covered bridge in Ashtabula County.
  • The Smolen-Gulf Bridge measures 613' and is the longest in the U.S., also the fourth longest in the world.  The bridge was named after former county engineer John Smolen.
  • Covered bridges can last in excess of 150 years.
  • Guided or drive-it-yourself tours are available.
October 8 and 9 marks the 28th annual covered bridge festival at the Ashtabula County Fairgrounds in Jefferson Township.  It is an event I have experienced twice in recent years.  The festival began in 1983 when a dedication of the State Road Bridge took place.  Nearly 2,000 people showed up that first time.  The event grew and the ambiance and Norman Rockwell experience continues today.  Pancake breakfasts, parades, antique engine displays, crafts, tractor rides, a farmer's market and more add to this slice of Americana.  The guided or drive-it-yourself tour offers a chance to follow two distinct courses, one short, the other longer.  Both allow you the opportunity to view spectacular fall foliage and immerse yourself as you travel across the early transportation routes of the Western Reserve.  The road names Girdled, Chillicothe, and Old State recall this bygone transportation history.  A highlight of this weekend's festival will be the dedication of the shortest bridge.  At 18' and constructed of white oak, poplar. spruce and pine, the West Liberty Street Bridge adds to the local lore that is just a few miles beyond the borders of Lake County.  If you are looking for an event that is laid back, non-commercial, and generational family based, I suggest you experience the bridges of Ashtabula County sometime soon.

For more information, visit