Today we belatedly celebrate the birthday of Norwalk High School Class of 1907 member Cleo Collins, who, if she were alive today, would be 128 years old. But even if I would have posted in her honor last month, I would have hit the correct day only by chance. Although I know from the 1900 Census that Cleo was born in September 1888, I don’t have found no source that tells me the date—and precious little evidence about her or her family.
Cleo first appears in the 1900 Census when she and her family were living on a farm in Boston Township of Summit County, Ohio, an incredibly rugged piece of real estate. Today, Boston Township occupies the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Sometime before the 1906/07, when Cleo Collins appears in the photo of the Junior/Senior study hall for Norwalk High School, the family moved to Norwalk, and lived at 8 Huron Street, which seems to have been a farm in 1906. In the 1910 Census, Cleo’s father, William Collins, is identified as a farmer, which makes sense. I don’t know where he was born: his parents came from England, but again I do not know who they were. Cleo’s mother, Ida Collins, nee Malhalm, was born in the U.S., but her parents had immigrated from Prussia.
So what I do know about her family in 1906 is this: Cleo probably lived on a farm on the outskirts of Norwalk with her mother and father, her younger brother Jay Collins and her younger sister Dorothy Collins. Her elder brother, Ray Collins, had probably left home by then, or perhaps he had never come to Norwalk when the family moved there from Boston Township.
There is another detail that Cleo’s classmate, my grandmother Harriott Wickham, wrote in her diary on June 7, 1908:
“I simply couldn’t stand Norman. Why? He said ‘Yes ma’am’ to me. Just think of it. And Cleo says he wears girls’ stockings. That’s the limit. I get a lot from Cleo, via Irene. I learned recently that poor N. sits up in the clubrooms nights when the rest are off with their ‘Lady friends,’ all alone, with the lights turned out. I am sorry for him, but – he wears girls’ stockings!”
Was it Cleo Collins my grandmother referred to here? I don’t know. There was also a Cleo Price in the Norwalk HS study hall photo.
So here is the second mystery in this series of posts. Do you know more about Cleo and her family? If so, post a comment below and let’s investigate together.