Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: A Fairport Hometown Sketch - Early Educators

As the month of March comes to a close, we end our bicentennial chapter on school history and notable athletic moments with today's blog. Our topic today is a brief and thoroughly incomplete look back at some well known village educators in Fairport school history.  Fairport has had many school teachers, pioneering men and women whose names are documented in Fairport Harbor's History Book (1976) and other local accounts.  Here are but a few of the notable educators as we travel through time.

Miss Lena Brennan
In 1936's Hometown Sketches one teacher, more than any other, was remembered in print.  According to the its author Miss Brennan taught in Fairport for nearly a half-century.  Entries in her class registers dated September 4, 1895 and September 7, 1896 list the 16 boys and 31 girls who resided in Fairport that year.  Even the author Saul Olila was in her class in 1919.

Katherine McCrone O'Brien
Mrs. O'Brien taught in the Fairport school system from 1900, the year she graduated from HS, until her retirement in 1940.  Mrs. O'Brien again came back to teaching, to fill an administrative vacancy at McKinley School.

R. A. Grieg
Another notable local educator, Mr. Grieg served the school system as a teacher, principal, and superintendent for 20 years.  He came to Fairport in 1924 and ended his career in June 1946.  Visible evidence of the community affection for him came when the football field was dedicated to him that year.

Mrs. Addie Owen Nelson
Addie Owen Nelson was one of the first school teachers in Fairport.  She taught at the old grammar school on Third Street from 1886-1888.  Mrs. Nelson taught the primary grades.  The only other colleague in her day was Edward Alvord.

Hezekiah Cole
A local newspaper obituary in 1893  mentioned Mr. Cole as a Fairport teacher in 1832.  He taught in the village at the age of 19 but little else is known of his career.

Memorable Educators continued
Other memorable educator names from the past include  Miss Julia Strong (Espy), Mary Lynch Monahan, Elijah H. Brown, Helen Lakso Kasari, Mary Luoma, Helen Kovach, Ken Babb, Matt Ivary et al.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Legendary Women of Lake County Program comes to WHHS on March 28th

Wednesday, March 28, 2012 is a day to mark on your calendars.  Barb Whidden, Adult Education Director of the LCHS will be presenting an informative program titled 'Legendary Women of Lake County'.  The program begins at 7pm and is hosted by the Willoughby Hills Historical Society ( 35400 Chardon Road, Willoughby Hills - Community Room).

Some Legendary Women at a Glance:

Dr. Amy Kaukonen - Ohio's First Women Mayor and one of the first in the United States, she served in Fairport from 1921-1923.  Elected at age 21, she was also the youngest woman to graduate from the Women's Medical College in Pennsylvania.

Mrs. Frances Casement -  An influential woman in her own right, she formed a local branch of the Equal Rights Association.

Martha H. Elwell - A Willoughby crusader who followed in the footsteps of Frances Casement, Martha was able to secure equality in areas of business matters and was instrumental in getting the first two  women in local history elected to the Painesville Board of Education.

Mary A. Evans & Luella Bentley - In 1868 these two women became Principal and Asst. Principal of the Lake Erie Female Seminary.  Their 40 years of guidance allowed the Seminary to grow into Lake Erie College.

Mrs. Samuel Mathews - Daughter-in-law of Painesville's pioneer doctor, she started the Mathews School, a preparatory school for Lake Erie Seminary.  The school closed in 1900 after nearly 30 years of educating both day and boarding students.

Cora Gaines Carrel - A schoolteacher in her younger years, Cora was the first elected councilwomen in Ohio History. She served from 1921-1924 in Willoughby and pioneered zoning and local ordinances still used today.

This list is short and incomplete when one considers that we are the smallest county in Ohio with the most history.  Legendary Women is a program this Wednesday that will certainly illustrate this point.  Questions regarding this program or any WHHS offerings may be directed to Frank or Mary Cihula @ 440-946-5557.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Evening Bicentennial Program Highlights Fairport Schools & Athletes

Tonight at 7pm will be the third in a series of Bicentennial Programs celebrating the rich history of Fairport Harbor.  The topic will be school and athletic history and will be held in the Harding High auditorium ( 329 Vine Street) .  Mike Thomas and Tom Fazekas, both Harding alumni will be presenting.  John Ollila, Fairport Harbor Historical Society historian, will be sharing old athletic scrapbook histories prior to the program.  The Program is free and open to all community members.

Did You Know?  
These are some little known 'gems' from Fairport School history.  All appeared in the 1976 edition of the Fairport Harbor, Ohio book.
  • The Superintendent was called 'Professor' by townspeople.
  • Children newly arrived from Europe were called 'Steamer Children'.
  • Teachers wore tea aprons to protect clothing from chalk dust.
  • It was customary for children to give oranges and apple rolls for the teachers.  At a signal, down the aisles rolled the fruit.  An occasional potato or onion was rolled.
  • Emily (Emma) Ritari was the first Fairport High School (1904) graduate to obtain a college degree - Lake Erie, Class of 1908.
  • Eighth Grade Commencements were held at the Congregational Church with one exception (1919).
  • Classes at Plum Street School marched four abreast at dismissal time to the music of student pianists.
  • Teachers took classes on hikes to Painesville or had USCG members row them across the river.
  • Fourth grade teacher, Miss Julia Strong, passed out Yucatan Chewing Gum to students when beginning a Central American unit.
  • Musical operettas with entire student body casts in crepe paper costumes were popular.
  • Classes in the 1920's had daily inspections of neckties and handkerchiefs.
  • Teachers came to school in horse drawn carriages.  Two concrete steps remained after the 1910 fire to show where they stepped down.
  • In the 1920's, book rentals were in effect - for $3 per year.  Prior to that parents had to pay for all student books and supplies.  Items were purchased at the High and Second Street shops of Len Henry or Charlie Irwin.
  • Reports to parents used to be in three languages - English, Finnish and Hungarian.
  • Fairport often won the Lake Shore Track Meet.
  • Saul Olin, Albert Katila, and Reuben Pohto were members of the first school football team (1921).
  • The Fairport -Painesville football rivalry continues to exist today.  A 'sore point' still exists today as debate continues about that 1921 final score.  Fairport had 'zero'.  Painesville tallied 135, 137, or 150.
  • George Gedeon, Larry Cooper and Shirley Sholtis were outstanding skaters for the village.
 Fairport may be one of Lake County's smallest school districts but it has offered much to our county  history.  Share in its journey tonight at 7pm --- Harding High Auditorium.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lake County Mini Profiles - Willoughby Hills' Carl Gaertner

Carl Gaertner (1898-1952) was a 20th century 'Realist' painter whose artworks provided a unique glimpse of the early Cleveland Industrial landscape.  Carl studied at the Cleveland School of Art from 1920-1923.  He also taught at the School of Art since renamed The Cleveland Institute of Art from 1925 until the time of his death in 1952.  His themes included industrial subjects with Cleveland as the backdrop, Provincetown , Massachusetts, West Virginia (watercolors and oils), and Chagrin Valley paintings.  Gaertner purchased a farm in the Chagrin Valley in 1935 and created many of his famous drawings, paintings, sculptures, and prints while there.

Three of his paintings are on display in the Akron Museum of Art.  One is titled 'Riverside Plant' from 1928.  It was featured that year at the Cleveland Museum of Art.  A second piece on display is 'Summer Kitchen' done in 1947.  The third work in the collection was a 1945 piece called ' Commuter'.

Gaertner was featured in gallery exhibitions.  His works were displayed in many famous museum venues including ones in Washington D.C., Chicago, New York, and Pennsylvania.  'Flying Ponies', a painting of the carousel from the famous Cleveland landmark Euclid Beach Park and 'Popcorn Man' were two celebrated works appearing at those exhibitions.

Lake County may be Ohio's smallest county, but once again it proves to be large in history.   Carl Gaertner is just another hidden gem in the history that is Lake County.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: 'Traveling Through Time' Fairport Athletic Sketches

Fairport Athletic Trivia:
  • The Maloney Sheriffs(local team) beat the Globetrotters in professional basketball in 1942 in the Fairport gym.
  • Esco Sarkkinen played guard on the 1934 Fairport team, was an All-American End for OSU, and coached linemen from 1946-1978 for legendary Buckeye coach Woody Hayes.
  • Despite not having a track, Skipper Mike Thomas set a state meet record of 14.3 seconds in the high hurdles in 1965.
  • Two other Fairport Hurdlers, Mike Lipscomb and Dave Urban competed in the state meet that same year.
  • Fairport was the first of only three Lake County boys basketball teams to reach the state tournament since its inception in 1923.  That team was the 1941-42 squad.
  • Tom Orosz '77 punted for the NFL Dolphins & 49'ers in the 1980's.
  • Fairport has produced state championship teams in baseball, track, basketball and football dating back to the early 1900's.
  • Hali Butler earned All-Ohio honors in football and girls basketball in 2011-2012.  She is also a member of the track team. 
Elmer 'Yatch' O'Janpa - Class of 1937 This Hall of Famer worked at Harding High as a custodian until 1980.  He coached championship football in Fairport as well as in the Cleveland Muni League.  His nephew Alan ('50) was quarterback and a part of the Class B championship team that year.  Elmer was a self taught basketball player and was a member of the team that beat the Globetrotters in 1941.

Baseball in 1907 - Fairport had a championship baseball team in 1907 and 1908.  Games were played on the field at the corner of East and Second.  Many members of that team went on to professional success.  John Cooper later played with the White Sox. Arthur McCrone played with Duluth and the Red Sox.

Chet Rojeck - Spent ten years at Fairport beginning in 1956. He was a football and track coach and led the Skippers to three state championships in his tenure.  He also taught at Orange and Euclid before retiring in 1979.  As a retiree, he took a job with Mini-gym and designed his own workout machine - the pull-up trainer.  Chet is also a member of the Harding Hall of Fame.

Esko Sarkkinen - Class of 1934  A Harding Hall of Famer, 'Sark' was an All-Ohio guard at Fairport, All-American end at OSU, and coached linemen for legendary Buckeye Coach Woody Hayes from 1946-1978.

First Professional Ball Team -  Fairport's first Trolley League entry, 1904, played on the south shore of Lake Erie from Buffalo to Toledo.   The team played on Sunday afternoons and were once even arrested for violating Sunday Blue Laws.

Paul Kapostasy - Class of 1966  This multiple sport Hall of Famer earned a scholarship to Ohio University and was a member of the 1969 Tangerine Bowl squad.  He coached, taught, and served as an administrator for 38 years in Euclid and Perry.

Cecile M. Hazen - The first girl's basketball coach at Harding High.  The team went 13-4 in its inaugural year and won a championship in 1923.  Some members of that team included Mary Royal, Martha Braski and Margaret Chanfordy.

Colgrove's Marinettes -  Sponsored by the local Drugstore owner, Colgrove's community girls basketball team was formed in 1925.  The team traveled throughout the counties and earned several championships.

The 'Skippies' -  This bantam weight football team was formed in 1956.  Mel Fundermark '49 was the first coach.  Other coaches included Paul Locotosh, Elmer O'Janpa, Bob Myers and Denny Steinback.  The team won a national championship in New Jersey in 1960.

Today's blog is but a brief sampling of Fairport's athletic history.  Its success is lengthy and this little town of approximately 3000 residents has a history of being at the forefront of athletic excellence.  A Bicentennial Program will be presented on March 22nd at 7pm in the Harding High Auditorium.  School History and Athletic Profiles will be the topic.  Alum Mike Thomas will be a featured presenter.  All are invited.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mail Routes, Inns, Taverns and the Tale of a Runaway Stagecoach

The early settlements of Lake County were scattered but communication gradually improved as the roads and bridges were built.  Mail service began in 1803.  Routes from Warren north to Austinburg, and west to Unionville, Painesville and on to Cleveland both ways came to be.  A Mr. McIlvain walked the 180 mile route on foot each week.  McIlvain made the trip on horseback when Detroit was added to his sojourn.   In 1811 service was begun between Buffalo and Cleveland and Asher Bigelow was the mailman.  By 1818 stagecoaches became the new mail delivery modes and Painesville became a stop every Thursday and Friday.  Ashtabula was added as a regular stop just two years later.

Mail and passenger coach lines allowed for the growth of new businesses in the area.  Stabling, feed, and innkeepers became cottage industries.  Two of these old stops still remain in the county today.  In 1805 Ira Blanchard built a log cabin at the Unionville crossroads.  The present structure there was built in 1818.  Joseph Rider built a log cabin in Painesville in 1810.  He replaced it in 1818. Enlarged in 1822, Rider even cut a new road (Walnut) at his own expense to bring South Ridge Road traffic to his location.  Other area taverns reported in the annals of early county history are also well documented.  They included Lutz's Inn in Painesville, Captain Eaton's place on the corner of Johnny Cake Ridge and Chardon Road, as well as  Hezikiah King's tavern and the Franklin House nearby.  From 1815 to 1860 some other notable inns flourished.  These included Jesse Ladd's Tavern in Madison Township, and Lloyd's Tavern in Wickliffe.  Ladd's on South Ridge Road became a home.  Lloyd's was the first stop outside Cleveland and featured a brick exterior and handcarved wooden interior.  It too became a family home before being razed in 1949 to make room for stores opposite Wickliffe JHS.

A popular tale reported in the Painesville Republican told the story of a runaway stagecoach.  The tale was reported as this.  Frank Bryant, the well known driver of the day, was on his route with two lady passengers heading to Cleveland.  At the Rider Tavern a stop was made.  While inside taking the edge off of his thirst, the horses bolted.  Bryant came outside to find no coach at the doorway.  Heading off on horseback, the newspaper article reported Bryant chased his stagecoach at top speed.  It was not until Willoughby that he caught up to the coach when the horses stopped at the doorway of the Willoughby Tavern.  The lady passengers still inside were none the wiser.  The alleged tavern ( Daniel Christy's place on Pelton Street) existed until 1962.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: Burning of the Plum Street School House - February 1910

On February 10, 1910, Fairport suffered the total loss of its school building on Plum Street.  Built in 1904 at a cost of nearly $18,000, the building housed the high school, as well as the grade school.  Four brick walls, two chimneys, and a remaining debt of $9,000 were all that remained the next day.  The loss to the pupils and teachers in books and school supplies was equally significant.

According to the front page story appearing in the Painesville Telegraph on February 11, 1910,  Matt Sundol was passing by the building at 11 p.m. and detected an odor of smoke.  Chief Mike Locotosh was informed and the FHFD responded.  Their two lines proved insufficient and the raging inferno grew.  A call to the Painesville Fire Department was made but no action resulted as time and distance negated any steamer  benefit.  The fire raged through the morning hours as the extreme cold weather left icicles on the firemen and icebergs on the gutted school house.

Superintendent G.P. Hoffman and Board President E.E. Lawrence took immediate action and arranged for desks and supplies from Cleveland based sources to be delivered to the village.  Efforts were made to rent the Lamar House, the Lutheran Church, and some empty village buildings as temporary quarters in an effort to resume high school studies within the week.  It was reported that primary grade students, nearly 400, would be dismissed for the balance of the calendar school year.  The exact cause of the fire was never known.

Information Sources:
Hometown Sketches - 1936
The Story of Fairport, Ohio -1946

Monday, March 5, 2012

A 'Hike' into the Past - Historic Marker #43-1 Indian Point Fort

It is well known that Lake County had a significant role in the early chapters of the Western Reserve and American history.  What is not as well known is a little piece of history found on 12951 Seeley Road just east of  Painesville.  A marker #43-1 officially designates it as Indian Point Fort.  It is the site of the Prehistoric Erie and it is the earliest architectural works site found in Ohio.  The fortification was built sometime after 1200 A.D.  The Erie Indians, also known as the Whittlesey Culture (geologist-archeologist Charles Whittlesey) had a presence in the area through 1653.  It is generally reported that the Erie Indians demise came  at the hands of the Iroquois.  Their fortification is along a 100' ridge at Paine Creek and the Grand River.  Two parallel mounds of earthworks are still present.  Today, visitors may view both sites as they hike the trails of this 408 acre Lake Metroparks property.

The history of this park property doesn't end with the Indian Point Fort.  It seems prior to Lake Metroparks acquiring the property in 1964, some additional back story is known.  The property was owned by John Phelps whose parents had it deeded to them in 1802 by the Connecticut Land Company.  In 1901, Charles Lyman bought some of this property and before WWI held military camps for high school age boys there.  Totem Stone carvings remain and list names from the past.  A Finnish camp known as the Kaleva Lodge also occupied this site too.  Its hiking trails and a stone hut sauna, dismantled in the 1970's were popular features at the lodge site.

Lake County may be Ohio's smallest county but it is remarkable when it comes to history.  Lake County, Ohio  has 27 historic markers to date.  Indian Point Fort was the first to receive county marker designation.  The year was 1964.  This hidden gem is just another 'hike' into our past.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Bicentennial Moment: A Retrospect of Fairport Harbor School History

The first school in Lake County was a log cabin on the state of John Walworth (circa 1800-1806).  Abraham Tappan, who lived at the Walworth home, was the first schoolmaster.  This was the pattern for much of the early nineteenth century pioneer families.  A 1893 Painesville Telegraph obituary mentions Hezekiah Cole who taught in Fairport in 1832.  However, the earliest confirmed date for a Fairport proper school appeared to be 1842.  District School #1 belonging to the County Board of Education / Painesville Township was located on Third Street, east of The First Congregational Church.  Accounts mention it was a one teacher, one iron bell, one stove classroom.  Much of the history of this era of wooden building schools remains difficult to procure.

The first school building constructed in Fairport was a four room brick veneer structure in 1876.  It is the current site of the Village Hall and Fire Department. For the next twenty years, the Third Street School was the primary educational site in the Village.  Community pressure swelled by 1899 to construct a new school in Fairport and a vote led to the 1903 opening of The Plum Street School.  Vine Street became the site of the first high school. It was opened in 1921.  A Board of Education Resolution in 1924 renamed the three schools for famous dead U.S. Presidents.  The High School became known as Harding High.  The old Third Street school was named Garfield.  Plum Street School was renamed McKinley.  The year was 1921.  The stadium, which was originally planned as a garden, was dedicated on October 3, 1931.  A 13-6 win over rival Painesville made the day a success.  It was named R.A. Greig Field in 1946 to honor the long-time Fairport educator and superintendent.  The Public Library, first organized in 1921 was built in 1934 as part of the Civil Works Project.  Kindergarten classes came to the schools in 1935.  Fairport broke away from county affiliation in 1936 and became an exempted school district, which it remains today.  1954 saw the addition of a gymnasium-auditorium to McKinley and a nurse's clinic.  Harding High added a gymnasium, band room and shop area named in honor of Elijah H. Brown.

Fairport Harbor is a small village of approximately 3000 residents.  From its early beginnings education became a building block of the community.  The names, Tappan, Addie Owen Nelson, M.C. Helm, Catherine Mulcrone O'Brien, Evangeline Dann, Helen Kasari combine with the efforts of the Diamond Alkali, Fairport Mardi Gras and other local organizations to provide a rich history of the school system and many significant contributions by its alumni.  A Bicentennial Program highlighting school history is planned for March 22nd, 7pm at the high school auditorium.

Information sources came from-
The Story of Fairport  - Yesterday,Today, Tomorrow   1946 edition
Fairport History Book   1976 edition
Hometown Sketches   1936 edition

Future March Topics:
  • March 8 -- Plum Street School Fire 1910
  • March 15 -- School Sketches - Sports
  • March 22 -- Did you Know ?  - Little Known School History Gems
  • March 29 -- Early School Teacher Profiles - A Potpourri