Welcome to the Firelands History Website

norwalk-high-school-commencement-1907

Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Front Row: Ruth Jenkins, Irene Eline, Irene Bragdon, Myrtle Woodruff. Second Row: Lillian Smith, Eugene Bloxham, Arthur Young, Carrie Spurrier, Harriott Wickham, Robert Venus, Ruby Hoyt. Third Row: Sarah Barnett, Fred Osborne, Nina Humiston, Earl Sinclair, Florence Davidson, Inez Adams, Stephen Young, Fred French. Fourth Row: Homer Beattie, Florence Bascom, Alice McCammon, Sheldon Laning, Edna West, Harry Holiday, Cleo Collins.

How many times have you come across an old family photo, but have no idea of the identity of the people in it? Unfortunately, too often our ancestors neglected to scrawl identifying information on the backs of their photos. Fortunately for me, my grandmother Harriott Wickham (second row, third from left in the photo above) understood how important it is to record names of people in her photos for future generations. She not only preserved this photo of her graduating class, she also recorded her classmates’ names on an accompanying scrap of paper.

The members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 are no more. But in their day, at the beginning of their adult lives, they were full of enthusiasm and hope for the future. As I gazed at their faces, so serious, yet so full of life, I wondered who they were and how they lived their lives? I decided to find out.

Not only had my grandmother recorded the names of her classmates, she kept diaries during those years that describe many of them and tell of her interactions with them. Unfortunately, the diary for her senior year is missing, but she did preserve one for May 1908 to May 1909. From it, and from information I gleaned from research, I began to form a picture of these young people and their families; of where they came from and how they spent their senior year–and the rest of their lives.

What did they do? In small town America of the early 20th Century, young people went to balls, hung out at the library, formed societies, performed in plays and concerts, and played basketball (both boys and girls). They had séances and house parties and spent their summers in cottages on Lake Erie, lazing away the days and dancing at “The Grove” at Ruggles Beach at night.

Who were they and their families? What stock did they come from and how did they spend their lives after graduation? Because I have their names, I’ve answered some of those questions. One of the young men in the photo became a U.S. Senator, but the rest of the class led ordinary lives: some did not do well, some of them had successful careers. But each one of them has a story I want to tell.

Using my grandma’s diaries and research on the internet, I’m continuing to flesh out the stories behind these faces. Over the next year, I’ll post what I’ve learned–and what I don’t know. I ask your help as I take this journey: to correct my mistakes, and to add your stories to the tale of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907.

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About The Firelands History Website

“Sufferers’ Land.”
“Firelands.”

These evocative and descriptive phrases refer to a region in northern Ohio set aside by the state of Connecticut for “Sufferers” burned out of their homes by the British during the American Revolution. Part of the Western Reserve, it covered present-day Huron and Erie counties.

After the War of 1812, a flood of emigration erupted out of crowded New England, the result of a pent up desire for new land that had been held in check by the threat of Native Americans defending their homes, and the spur of economic hardship engendered by the catastrophic “Year without Summer” of 1816. Most of these pioneers were bound for the Firelands.

Thus began one of the great migrations of American history; a flood of humanity that poured out of New England and settled lands stretching along the southern shores of the Great Lakes from upstate New York to Illinois and across the Mississippi River into Iowa.

These settlers greatly impacted the history of the United States. In the 1850’s, some of them entered Kansas and clashed with the leading edge of another great migration that had settled the South — a tragic foreshadowing of the Civil War. The grandchildren of the settlers of the Old Northwest formed the backbone of the Union Army of the West during that war and made possible the Republican majority that ruled the nation the remainder of the century.

This website presents histories of the Firelands and genealogies of families that settled there.

  1. “Sufferers’ Land” is a history of the settlement of the Firelands from the founding of the town of Norwalk in 1817 by Platt Benedict to the final Pioneers Reunion and founding of The Firelands Historical Society in 1857. This story may be read by selecting any of the 53 episodes in the Sufferers’ Land Index of Posts.
  2. Genealogical information of families who settled in the Firelands is also included on this website. These include the Benedict, Wickham, Preston, Taylor, BuckinghamDeForest, Deaver, and Lockwood families.
  3. Little Doctor on the Black Horse is a memoir of Doctor David DeForest Benedict of Norwalk, Ohio, a Union Surgeon during the Civil War. It was written by his granddaughter Harriott Benedict Wickham, who included in the story excerpts of letters he wrote to his wife from the field and from Libby Prison, where he was a prisoner of war. See the Little Doctor on the Black Horse Index of Posts to read the entire memoir.
  4. The Norwalk High School Class of 1907: Ninety years after Platt Benedict founded Norwalk, Ohio, his descendant Harriott Benedict Wickham, graduated from Norwalk High School. Now, one hundred ten years after the latter event, we follow the Class of 1907 through their senior year.

I would appreciate comments about this website. Please click on the comments button below and let me know what you think. Thank you.

The Firelands History Website had a great 2015. Thanks to all who visited the site this past year. Please see the stats at the 2015 in Review post.

© 2011 by David W. Barton. All rights reserved

Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 Ends War Scare with Japan

In my February 4 post, Pearl Harbor Harbinger, we saw that a 1907 dispute about discrimination against Japanese immigrants in California had brought the U.S. and Japan to the brink of war. On this day, one-hundred and ten years ago, the two countries concluded the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907, averting the crisis.

The U.S. government promised not to restrict Japanese immigration, and the Japanese said they would not allow emigration. It seems like a face-saving exercise for Japan to me, as it effectively halted immigration.

Compared to the hysterical articles reporting of impending war back at the beginning of the month, there was little coverage in either Norwalk newspaper of the end of the tension between the two countries. The Norwalk Evening Herald carried nothing on this day, or the following. The Norwalk Daily Reflector had a short article on the day following the agreement that the agreement had been sent to the Senate for ratification.

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In fact, the agreement was never ratified, and it was eventually ended by the Immigration Act of 1924.

 

Source: “Japanese Question up to the Senate,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 16, 1907, page 1, column 7

 

Minnie Cleghorn – Norwalk High School Girls’ Basketball Coach

As I reported in my last post, the gym teacher and girls’ basketball coach at Norwalk High School in 1907 was Miss Minnie Cleghorn.

Who was Miss Cleghorn?

A decade ago, I found at my mother’s home a box of photos, genealogies, diaries, and other documents that had belonged to Harriott Wickham (my grandmother). This treasure trove set me on a path of genealogical discovery.

In this box I found the photo displayed below of the Norwalk High School girls’ gym class in 1906.

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On the back of this photo, my grandmother had inscribed the following:

old-norwalk-high-school0001

Old Norwalk High School

Norwalk, Ohio – 1906 – N.H.S. Girls’ Gym Class – in gymnasium – Auditorium, on third floor of Old High School Bldg. – Miss Minnie Cleghorn, (2nd row – 3rd from left), was gym teacher and coached girls’ basketball teams, which played other H.S. teams. She was also H.S. English teacher – very good one.

Well, that sure piqued my curiosity! I wanted to find out more about this beloved teacher. As I investigated, I learned not only about her, but also about the “athletic girl” movement of the time, which explained why there was a girls’ basketball program at Norwalk High School in 1907. More about that, and about Miss Minnie Cleghorn in future posts.

 

 

Another Away Game Loss to Clyde by the Norwalk High School Senior Girls – 1909

girls-basketballYesterday’s post described how the Norwalk High School Senior Girls team was defeated in an away game against Clyde High School due to a mistake by the Clyde referees–at least that’s how the Norwalk Daily Reflector reported it.

Harriott Wickham, who played on that Norwalk team, described in her diary another game in a 1909 against Clyde High School–with a different excuse for losing.

Friday, Mar. 5 – ‘09. We went to Clyde to play basketball tonight, and we got beat, – of course. We don’t stand any sort of chance on their floor, which is waxed for dancing. Not being used to it, we slide all around, and can’t get the ball or play team work. The score was 18 to 5. Afterwards, we danced, which of course, we good Episcopalians should not have done. Mr Bregheimer went with us to referee. I think he is a peach, only he didn’t dance with us, which of course wasn’t nice. [1]

Excuses! Excuses!

In 1907, the Norwalk team attributed their loss to a bad call by the umpire, in 1909, it was a waxed floor. Funny that didn’t affect the play of the Clyde team.

As in 1907, the Norwalk team in 1909 was treated to an after-game dance by their hosts. Girls’ sports in this era seemed to be as much social events as they were competitive athletic contests. The 1907 team was chaperoned by the mothers of two of the players. In a game in 1906, however, that responsibility was taken on by a Norwalk High School English and Physical Education teacher: Miss Minnie Cleghorn. In my next post, we’ll see who she was, and introduce a series of posts about the “athletic girl” movement of the time.

 

Sources:

Unpublished Diary by Harriott Wickham, 1908-1909.

“Basket Ball School Hall,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, 2/9/1907, page 1, column 7.

“Boys Won But Girls Lost,” Norwalk Evening Herald, February 9, 2017, page 1, column 6.

 

Away Game in Clyde for Norwalk High School Girls’ Basketball Squad

clyde-maidensWhile back in Norwalk, the freshmen girls defeated the sophomores, and the boys’ senior team bested Elyria High School, the girls team traveled to Clyde High School to take on what the Norwalk Evening Herald called “the Clyde Maidens.” Unfortunately, the girls’ team did not echo the boys victory back in Norwalk, but left Clyde with a narrow loss, only their second in four years.

The Norwalk girls were ahead almost the entire game, but in the waning moments of the second half, the Clyde team spurted to a 9 to 8 lead. Then came a controversial call, at least according to the Norwalk papers. A foul shot with seconds remaining on the clock missed, and the Norwalk girls’ protested interference–but to no avail. The referees were from Clyde, and they ruled that no foul had been committed.

Good feeling must have been quickly restored, however. The Norwalk Daily Reflector reported that the visitors were entertained with a dinner and dance and had an enjoyable time.

Players on the Norwalk side were Florence Bascom, Harriott Wickham, Florence Davidson, Gladys Young, Edna Goodhue, Ruth Jenkins, and Ruby Hoyt traveled by train to Clyde, chaperoned by Harriott’s and Ruby’s mothers. Young women 0f their class in that day and age were not allowed to travel on their own.

Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Girls’ Basketball Team

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Florence Bascom

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Harriott Wickham

 

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Florence Davidson

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Ruth Jenkins

 

ruby-hoyt-commencement-photo-1907

Ruby Hoyt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

“Basket Ball School Hall,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, 2/9/1907, page 1, column 7.

“Boys Won But Girls Lost,” Norwalk Evening Herald, February 9, 2017, page 1, column 6.

 

 

Basketball: Two Games at Norwalk High School

Friday evening, February 8, 1907, a night of basketball at the School Hall of the Norwalk High School began with a game between girls’ freshman and sophomore teams. According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, the six to one score in favor of the freshmen team, did not reflect the excellent play on both sides. The newspaper opined that the high level of play bode well for the future of the junior/senior girls’ team in the coming years.

One exciting game was followed by another. A boys’ team from Elyria High School had come to School Hall to play the Norwalk Squad. The game began in a rush and the high pace was sustained throughout the contest. At the half, Norwalk led 9 to 5, and they continued to lead the rest of the game, winning at the final whistle 14 to 11.

The Norwalk squad was represented by two seniors and three juniors: Captain Arthur Young, and Clifford Williams as forwards, Leonard Delameter at center, and guards Ross Culp and Sheldon Laning. (The seniors of the Class of 1907 are indicated by links to their WeRelate pages).

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Arthur Young

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Sheldon Laning

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Lucy Rule, Harriott Wickham, Sarah Barnett, Sophie Harkness, Walter Evans, Leonard Delamater

The Norwalk High School girl’s team did not play in Norwalk that evening. They had traveled to Clyde, for a game against the “Clyde Maidens.” More about that in my next post.

 

Sources:

“Basket Ball School Hall,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, 2/9/1907, page 1, column 7.

“Boys Won But Girls Lost,” Norwalk Evening Herald, February 9, 2017, page 1, column 6.

A Close Call

terrified-spectatorsThe Norwalk Daily Reflector reported on this day, Thursday, February 7, 1907, on a near tragedy at the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway station in the city the previous evening. A middle-aged man dressed in working clothes, apparently not a Norwalk resident, fell off the platform onto the tracks in the path of a train to the horror of onlookers. Fortunately, the stranger managed to scramble out of danger, then hurried down the platform and disappeared.

Because this man seemed to have been heading toward the baggage car when he slipped and fell off the platform, the author of the article conjectured that he might have been “excess baggage,” in other words, attempting to ride the rails. In any event, in those days when fatal accidents were all too common, he was a very lucky man.

 

Source: “Terrified Spectators,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 7, 1907, page 2, column 4.

Comics: What was Funny in 1907

Growing up, I loved the comics pages of the daily newspaper–and I still do. There were comics in 1907 Norwalk, at least in the Norwalk Daily Reflector. Like the Gray Old Lady (The New York Times), the Norwalk Evening Herald did not stoop to such low-brow entertainment. They ran serialized novels instead.

So what comics was the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 enjoying one hundred and ten years ago today? Here’s a sample. What do you think of 1907 era humor?

a-bachelors-query

“A Bachelor’s Query,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 6, 1907, page 4, column 4

nonsense

“Nonsense,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, February 6, 1907, page 4, column 5