Monday, March 25, 2013

Then and Now -- A Tale of A Solitary Gravestone on Hart Road

The Smith Farm Cemetery is located near the intersection of Hart and Baldwin Roads in Kirtland, Ohio.  It is situated opposite of the Leonard Hannah Estate and near the old Schoolhouse, both of which are well known landmarks in county history.  Unlike Evergreen Cemetery, Old North Cemetery, Mentor Cemetery, Concord Twp. Cemetery and most other cemeteries, the Smith Farm Cemetery consists of a singular marker.  While other cemeteries have stories to tell and are a literal walk in time, the Levi Smith gravestone is every bit as important in the annals of county history.

Levi Smith is one of the earliest settlers to Kirtland.  He migrated in the early 1800's with his wife Ruth (Holbrook) Smith from Derby, Connecticut.  Derby was one of the first towns established in the American colonies in the 1600's.  Arriving in Kirtland, circa 1814, Levi was one of the original twelve whose influence helped establish the Mormon roots in the area.  He organized the First Congregational Society in his home.  In time it became the Old South Church.

His wife died at a young age in 1819 leaving behind four children.  Levi remarried and lived out the remainder of his years at the farm homestead.  Their grave was maintained into the 1940's by family members.  The original headstone of Levi and his wife Ruth is now in the collection of the Lake County Historical Society.  The current headstone surrounded by stone was placed on the site in 1988.

Smith's gravesite while unique for its solitary setting has become somewhat of an urban legend.  It seems Derby, Connecticut was home to some of early American History and Western Reserve witchcraft lore.  Smith's tombstone has been tagged a 'Witch's Grave' by some.  Its mythology has even been associated with Kirtland's other famous ghost story - the Melonheads.

Urban legend or not, the solitary marker of Levi and Ruth Smith is worth viewing the next time you travel down Hart Road.  The Smith Farm Cemetery is just another hidden gem in our county's history.

Information sources -  1920 inscriptions book @ Morley Public Library and Janet Murfey document of Kirtland Hills History-1988

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mentor at 50 -- 'No Dust on These Shelves'

Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writers Group wrote an editorial earlier in the year lamenting the passing of print.  Dust to Dust; paper to digital; printosaurs becoming extinct once and for-all.  Despite her mourning the soon-to-be loss of this historically rich medium, books and the old ways are still alive and well in Mentor.  In fact, Ben Franklin would be proud to celebrate the history of books and libraries when one examines the history of Mentor, Ohio.

February 22, 1819 began the rich history of books in what eventually became the City of Mentor. The Mentor Library Company was formed.  Six shareholders paid $2.50 a share to embrace the 79 volumes that comprised the first collection.  Each share purchased  allowed the owner the right to take out one book for a period of three months.  Popular books went to the highest bidder.  In 1875, the Mentor Library Association was formed and replaced the original enterprise.  Members paid $1.50 annually for the right to check out one of the 50 books for a fortnight.

Change occurred in 1890 as James R. Garfield became chairman of the library association, a post he held thru 1927.  The library, now housed in Mentor Village Hall grew from 298 books to 800 within a year.  Loans of two weeks became the norm.  A .50 mill levy in 1895 generated $160 annually and a free public library became a reality.  1899 became a pivotal year in the library history annals as a former Mentor Township resident Addison Goodall pledged $2000 for a building.  President Garfield's other son Abram Garfield lent his architectural hand to the project and the first library was built on the corner of Center and Nowlen Street.

Frances Cleveland was named librarian in 1906.  Continued growth became the norm in the years that followed.  In 1926 the Mentor School Board took over operation of the library (still in effect today) to take advantage of favorable laws and monetary support possibilities.  The library was named the Garfield Public Library, in honor of both men's contributions.  The current name of the library was chosen in 1950.  Since 1959 expansion and acquisition have been the norm.  The Headlands Branch of the Mentor Public Library was acquired in '59 from the Fairport Public Library holdings.  The Mentor-on-the-Lake Branch at Salida School occurred in 1966.  Expansion on the Headlands site took place in '85.  In 1991 the new main branch campus became a reality and in 2009 the 'Read House' (January blog) was acquired.

The passing of books and the imminent death of libraries forewarned by Parker have not placed their icy fingers on this Lake County landmark.  As Mentor celebrates its 50th in 2013, do drive down Center Street and witness the first book superstore or B&N in our county's early history.

Partial Sources - Washington Post and

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mentor at 50 - Vexillology circa April, 1988

Charles Parker, a surveyor for the Connecticut Land Company arrived in the Mentor marsh area in 1797.  His visit and the subsequent settlement of the area became a key moment in the history of the Western Reserve.  The name Mentor was borrowed from ancient history.  Mentor was the tutor of Telemachus, son of Odysseus.  Mentor became one of the original six townships.  From these humble beginnings Mentor began its storied history.  More than one hundred years of gradual growth merged in 1963 when the City of Mentor became a reality.

Vexillology is the study of flags.  Dr. Whitney Smith is recognized as the leading pioneer in this field.  He founded the field in 1957 and within two years his scholarly studies were recognized and sought after.  Flags are ubiquitous.  Land, maritime, country, state, city are but a few recognized places where flags are utilized.  Providing information or serving as a denotation is the norm.

In April of 1988, the Mentor flag was adopted as the official city icon.  Designed by Brad Frost, it was chosen from the entries submitted to the Mentor Headlands Amvets Post #40, Ladies Auxiliary.
The officially adopted flag maintains the burgee or swallowtail design.  A blue triangle represents Ohio's terrain and the stripes represent the historic modes of transportation.  The cardinal, the official bird of state and city sits in the 'O' which is Ohio.  Six stars representing the six original townships of the Western Reserve complete the winning design.

As Mentor celebrates its fiftieth anniversary, this little hidden gem is but one small heading in the larger chapter that is Mentor's History.  Programs begin next month that will explore various interesting facts about the City of Mentor.  Lectures and guest speakers remembrances will be held at Wildwood.  Visit the city website for more details.  Program flyers are now available at the Mentor Public Library and other city sites.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Hashtag, Willoughby - No Dust to Dust for this book!

Did You Know these Willoughby facts?
  •  Harvey Sharpe was elected the first mayor in 1853.
  • The Civil War Monument was erected in 1884-1885 and paid tribute to the 160 who enlisted in the Grand Army of the Republic.
  • The first terminal of the C.P.& E railroad line was located in Willoughby in 1896.
  • The Penfield Mahon House dates back to 1900.
  • Roy Kirby's Emporium on Erie Street dates back to 1900 and was the site that introduced Heinz 57 to Lake County residents.
  • The dam at Daniels Park was constructed in 1912.
  • Cook Cleland, a 1940 naval aviator set speed records at the 1947 and 1949 National Air Races held in Cleveland.  He also helped establish the airport that once dotted the Willoughby landscape.
  • The Marshall Doug Fire of 1950
  • The Van Gorder House, circa 1901-03 was part of Andrews School in the early years.

Dust to Dust; paper to digital?  Print's longtime passing has become a topic of discussion in recent years.  Editorials, media sources, and yes even us boomers and beyond lament the Death of Print.  We mourn the passing of old ways.  We shop online, order out, e-mail rather than dial, use gadgets and social media to replace small talk and personal relationships.  The last print edition of Newsweek has joined the dinosaurs and become extinct.  Borders, a box store repository of the printed word closed in 2011, a victim of recent technologies.  Newspapers throughout the country are folding and daily papers once like Monday-Saturday mail delivery might morph into a lesser desired reality.

Yes the words are the same, whether perceived on paper or on a small illuminated screen.  One can read Old Man and the Sea on a Kindle or an iPad, but one cannot experience the sights, sounds, or smells of the printed word.  Print is uniquely sublime.  Napping with a gadget, noticing a blinking light as your nook powers down, or nuzzling an electronic gizmo doesn't hold the same appeal as a printed book.  That photograph, caption, and text in your book is a full-on sensory experience.  It is an experience that future generations may never know, nor, likely miss.

In 2012 Christina L. Wilkenson released a history book through Arcadia Press.  The simple working title is Willoughby.  The facts shared above are but a few that appear in the book.  The photographs within trace the history of this Lake County town.  The photos and text depict the human gatherings, the history that is us.  It celebrates the accomplishments of our community and pays tribute to those who came before us.  It reassures us that no matter what the future holds, human beings did deliver newspapers, provide organic connections to our natural world, and exchange pleasantries with fellow human beings.

Wilkenson's book tracing the history of Willoughby, Ohio is a must for the Lake County printosaurs.  It celebrates a love affair with your hometown, creating sensory ties that bind all generations - something no childhood laptop will replicate.