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.

.

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

Basketball – And Something Dark

One day you’re a hero, the next you’re a bum.

I’m sure that’s not how Norwalk, Ohio felt about their High School Basketball team, but one might be excused for thinking so from the way the newspapers covered their games.

On Friday, January 11, 1907, the boy’s team beat the Berlin Heights team decisively, for the second time. The Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald both reported both victories exuberantly and extensively.

But 110 years ago today, which was a Saturday, it was the Norwalk teams turn to face defeat. They traveled to Cleveland and went down big: 26 to 7 to the University School, a private high school.

The Evening Herald did not bother to cover the defeat, and the Daily Reflector did insert an article on the front page of the following Monday issue, but it was short and below the fold.

basketball-game

#

While looking for mention of this game, I stumbled across an article about an organization I’d never heard of: White Cappers:

white-cappers

Whitecapping was a vigilante movement at the end of the 19th Century and the first decade of the 20th Century. Secret societies of white males enforced moral codes on the community. Targets were, as in this case, men who abused their wives, but also included men who would not support their families and women with illegitimate children. In the south, this movement also targeted African-Americans.

Like the Klu Klux Klan, Whitecappers dressed in white sheets and visited their victim’s homes at night in gangs of fifteen or twenty, dragging them out for punishment which included whippings, drownings, shootings and hangings. Local authorities turned a blind eye to these groups, and often were members themselves.

Cards were left on the doors of potential victims warning them to change their ways or suffer the consequences, but in this case, the whitecappers were so bold they took out an ad in the local newspaper. And that newspaper thought it appropriate to publish the warning!

 

Young Folks to Dance

January 18, 1907 fell on a Friday in 1907. That day, the Norwalk Evening Herald had a short article for the next day, announcing a dance would be held Saturday evening for certain young people of the town, sponsored by the Omicon Pi Club of Sandusky.

young-folks-to-dance

Here’s a mystery! Who were the Omicron Pi Club. A Google search turned up no club of that name in Sandusky. I found several fraternities and sororities with those two Greek characters in their names, but nothing that matched.

Several members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 were invited to this dance: Florence Bascom, Ruby Hoyt, and Steve Young.

florence-bascom-commencement-photo-1907Florence Bascom lived at 90 Linwood Avenue, southwest of downtown, with her father William, a blacksmith, her mother, and her brother Harry, two years her elder, already a high school graduate and probably employed as a clerk at the coal office of the Cleveland Railroad. Not a wealthy family, but their life must have been comfortable at that time.

ruby-hoyt-commencement-photo-1907The Hoyt family lived at 55 Linwood, only a few houses north of the Bascoms. Ruby Hoyt’s father had died in 1901, so in 1907, she was living with her mother Emma and her elder brother Leon and sister Charlotte. Her siblings both worked: Charlotte was a teacher, and Leon a Marine Officer (which makes me think he did not live at home).

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907Stephen Young came from a different class than his two classmates invited to this dance. His father was a lawyer with his own private practice. The Young family lived at 64 West Main Street, not far from downtown. His father was well respected and a leading member of the community. What is the connection with the other two members of the class.

So why were these three young people invited to this dance and why were other members of the Class of 1907 not invited? I do not know.

 

 

 

Circus on the Frontier

ringling-bros

Over the weekend, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that they will close after 146 years in business due to declining attendance and higher costs, coupled with protests by animal rights groups. Circuses have been around since Roman days, and these traveling shows were popular in America long before 1875, when P.T. Barnum began his “greatest show on earth.”

Unbelievable as it may seem, circuses were even popular on the frontier in the early 1800s. One such show stopped by Norwalk in late 1826 or early 1827, and when they left, they took with them Daniel Benedict, son of Platt and Sarah Benedict. In April, he wrote home.

 

Paris, Kentucky, April 24th, 1827

Dear Father,

I have not heard from you since I left “Cincinnati.” I have written to you several times since then. I wrote to you from Harrodsburg and from Lexington. My health is better than it was when I wrote last and I am in hopes that I shall get well again. You need not give yourself any uneasiness about me for I shall be well taken care of by the company if I am confined. I am able to travel now and it does not hurt me at all to travel.

camelThe camel is dead that was at Norwalk and it made a great hole in the Exhibition. It was worth two thousand dollars to the company, and some of the monkeys are dead. In all we are doing good business. At every place we stop at, the question is are you for Adams or for Jackson. As for myself, I say Adams and the rest of our company say the same. Adams will get as many friends in Kentucky as Jackson in my opinion.

The first thing we meet when we stop at a public house in this state is a negro with a boot jack and a pair of slips and wants to brush our boots and we are brushed from head to foot, and you insult a Kentuckian, he will draw his knife the first thing. There has been three men hanged and four more sentenced to the gallows since I’ve been in this state. They hang more in this state than any in the Union.

Pleased write to me and direct the letter to Maysville, Kentucky or to Lexington, for I shall be in Maysville in four or five weeks from this time, and in Lexington a few days.

                                      From your son, D. B. Benedict

When I shall be in Norwalk, I cannot tell. [1]

I find this letter fascinating–and poignant. Fascinating to imagine the menagerie of a circus, in those days before railroads in the west, traversing the rough roads of the time. Poignant because I know Daniel never made it home to Norwalk. He died of malaria in New Orleans on September 9 that same year.

[1] The original of this letter is in the collection of the Firelands Historical Society, Norwalk, Ohio.

The Temperance Movement in Norwalk, Ohio, 1907

temperance_poster

In this post, we’ll continue our discussion of the temperance movement in 1907. Norwalk, Ohio was perhaps not a hotbed of probationary activism, but it did enjoy widespread support in the city. Here’s what my grandmother, Harriott Wickham, alumnus of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, wrote in her diary on Monday, November 15, 1910, several years after her high school graduation, when she was a sophomore at Wooster College.

Felt so sleepy after lunch, that I cut art and took a nap. When I woke up, wasn’t I sick. Joy got me some whiskey from Mother Walker and I am all right now, only pretty shaky. That settles it anyway, you’ll never catch me without my little flask again — that is until Norwalk goes dry, and I have to have a doctor’s prescription. [1]

Obviously, prohibition was a real possibility in Norwalk in 1910–and, I assume in the surrounding area as well.

The earliest record I have found of a temperance society in the Firelands was in 1830 in Lyme Township, located twelve miles west of Norwalk. [2] The next oldest record I could find, is of a temperance society organized on New Year’s Day, 1831 in Portland Township, which is now Sandusky. In the beginning, “in the spirit of the day,” this society only sought prohibition of “distilled spirits.” But within two years, in May, 1833, the society’s constitution was amended to prohibit the “excessive use of wine or any fermented liquors.” The following year, they adopted the principle of total abstinence. [3]

I would imagine that Norwalk also formed a temperance society about this time, but the earliest record I have of one is the formation of The Sons of Temperance in 1847. [4] This group got off to a good start, and by the time of the Civil War had over seven hundred members. But that war, coupled with a financial crisis that followed, caused interest to flag. In 1876, The Sons of Temperance gave up their meeting hall and suspended weekly meetings. A few members did not give up the fight, though, and continued to gather monthly in private homes. There persistence paid off, and over the next few years their numbers again began to increase.

wtcu-logoA renewal in interest in the temperance movement was also taking place around the country in the 1870s, and Ohio was among those states in the forefront of the movement. In 1873, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U) was founded in Hillsboro, Ohio, and quickly grew to be an international organization. The goals of the W.C.T.U were not limited to the prohibition of alcohol, but also included women’s suffrage, and other progressive movements of the time.

At the close of the 19th Century, a new movement was established that anti-saloon_league_logo-211x96had the narrow goal of prohibition, the Anti-Saloon League. Organized in 1894, they soon became the most powerful prohibition lobby in America, eclipsing other groups such as the W.C.TU. They focused on legislation, using pressure politics, and the power of the pulpit, as they did in three churches on Sunday, January 14, 1907, to push their agenda.

So, when Harriott Wickham predicted that Norwalk would go dry–she was most likely thinking of the efforts of the Anti-Saloon League.

 

 

 

Notes:

[1] This diary entry is from the unpublished 1910 to 1913 diary of Harriott Wickham which i have in my possession. The phrase “maybe I wasn’t,” was apparently slang meant to ironic. Harriott used it several times in this diary.

[2] “Memoirs of Townships – Lyme,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume II, Number 1, pages 24-25.

[3] “Memoirs of Townships – Portland,” The Firelands Pioneer, Old Series, Volume I, Number 3, pages 24-25.

[4] W.W. Williams, History of the Firelands, page 149-

Anti Saloon League

In yesterday’s post, we looked at what the citizens of Norwalk were up to on Sunday, 110 years before. According to the Norwalk Reflector issue for Saturday, January 13, 1907, many of them would be in church. And at the Presbyterian Church, parishioners would receive an address from a representative of the Anti-Saloon League.

What I failed to mention in yesterday’s post was that representatives of the Anti-Saloon League also were scheduled to speak to two other churches, Baptist and Congregationalist. The following Monday, January 14, the Daily Reflector ran an article describing all three addresses in glowing terms.

Anti Saloon League Headline.jpg

In the light of the abject failure of Prohibition, it is common these days to portray the leaders of the temperance movement as a collection of sanctimonious hypocrites. But in 1907, the movement was considered to be progressive, and was a reaction to the horrible abuses of alcohol in the previous century.

To understand what I mean, we need to look back to the root cause of the temperance movement. In Colonial America, it was common for farmers to drink cider, beer and other low-alcohol beverages “from dawn to dusk.” Agricultural was backbreaking in those days, and maintaining a buzz helped numb the continuous aches and pains brought on by these hard labors. Alcohol also helped relieve the tedium of the work, and the boredom of long winters with nothing to do.

However, after the Revolutionary War, lands further west of the original colonies opened for settlement. The pioneers who cleared these fertile forests soon were producing more grain, especially corn, than they could consume. In those days before the railroad, inland transportation was too expensive to transport this bounty. But corn could be fed to hogs, which then could be driven to market. And it also could be distilled into whiskey, which could be shipped more cheaply than bulk corn.

Herein lay the problem. Farmers, and the incipient laboring class did not change their drinking habits, they just switched to hard liquor. Alcoholism became epidemic. The children of those men witnessed firsthand the consequences of their father’s addiction: how it ruined their health and lives, and spawned abuse of loved ones.

These children of those pioneers, as they grew to adulthood, were primed for the arguments of the temperance movement. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at how this movement evolved to become the force it was in 1907.

What to do on a Sunday in 1907?

Today is Friday the 13th.

Boo!

One hundred and ten years ago, this date fell on a Sunday. No newspapers were published in Norwalk, Ohio on Sunday, January 13, 1907. It wasn’t a bad luck day. It was a holy day. So, what did the citizens of Norwalk do?

Why, they went to church.

norwalk-church-announcements

The Norwalk Daily Reflector on the previous day, Saturday, January 12, 1907, ran an article announcing fifteen Sunday church services around town. In today’s post, we’ll look at a few of these announcements, with comments from you faithful reporter (blogger).

First on the list of announcements in the Daily Reflector were “Evangelistic Services” on Cline Street for the American Methodist Episcopalian Church.

ame-services

Now I must say, I was surprised to see this announcement. I lived in Charleston, South Carolina for many years, so I am familiar with the A.M.E., and I passed many times the Emanuael A.M.E. church where that horrific mass shooting occurred last year. What surprises me, is that there were enough African-American’s in Norwalk, Ohio in 1907 to support a church. I’m also a bit proud that the Daily Reflector reported their services, especially since my great-grandfather, Frank Wickham, was city editor for the paper.

Next up: the Presbyterians.

presbyterian-servicses

I am not a Presbyterian, nor have I ever been one. But my great-great grandmother, Lucy Wickham was. I mentioned her often in the Sufferers’ Land series of posts on this site. Lucy was a staunch churchgoer, and insistent that her twelve children (my great-grandfather Frank Wickham, mentioned above, was her youngest) attend Sunday School “and that they went properly attired. They each carried two handkerchiefs, one a “shower” and the other a “blower.” [1]

Also notice the address by Reverend Doctor Sanford of the Anti-Saloon league. Lucy Wickham was definitely “anti-saloon.” According to family lore, one day, Lucy was passing a saloon when a drunkard stumbled out the door and collapsed at her feet. She marched into the establishment, and informed the proprietor, “your sign just fell down.”

Two other another announcements for church services evoke my ancestry: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and the Universalist Church.

episcopal-and-universalist-services

I was baptized in St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. My god-mother was Eleanor Wickham, daughter of Frank and Agnes Wickham. It also was the first church established in Norwalk, in 1818, when Platt and Sarah Benedict (also my ancestors), held the first services in their cabin.

I also have connections to the “Universalist” church. Lucy Wickham’s husband Fredrick, was brought up an Episcopalian, but fell away from that church at an early age. He never could bring himself to join his wife as a Presbyterian, instead becoming a Universalist. As he later explained it to his granddaughter, Harriott Wickham (member of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907), he “could not condemn one of his children to Hell, and he didn’t believe the Lord could either.”

[1] See Sufferers’ Land Post #47 – The Wickhams in the 1850s

 

A Strange Coincidence

I had almost given up writing a post today–it has been a long one–but a prominent headline in a January 12, 1907 article of the  Norwalk Daily Reflector caught my eye: “Uprising of Indians Feared: If Government Carries Out Abandonment of Fort Washakie.”

Where is Fort Washakie?” I wondered.

So, I looked it up on Google Maps and learned that it is in Wyoming. Interesting: I am in Wyoming today, on business for the Census Bureau. So I looked to see where in Wyoming it is. Surprise! It is a forty minute drive from my hotel. If I have time tomorrow. I just might drive over to see it.

It has been a long day for me, so I will finish here.

Goodnight from frigid Riverton, Wyoming.