During October of 1906 three members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 celebrated their birthdays. On October 9, which fell on a Friday, Eugene Bloxham and Sheldon Laning turned seventeen, followed by Myrtle Woodruff, who had her fifteenth birthday on Thursday of the following week: October 18.
The families of two of these classmates all lived in the better part of Norwalk, and the other lived on a prosperous farm south of town, but only two were descended from the early pioneers of the Firelands. Stephen’s and Myrtle’s great-grandparents had settled in the area at the same time as Platt Benedict, founder of Norwalk–or before. But Eugene’s parents had not moved to the area until the 1880s.
In posts over the next two months, we’ll explore in detail the lives of these three young people and their families, along with their heritage. For now, here is a snapshot of who they were, where they came from, and what they were up to their senior year at Norwalk High School.
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Eugene Bloxham lived at 256 East Main Street about a mile east of the high school, with his parents, Edwin and Lovinia, sisters Maria and Edna, and his Grandmother Seamans (on his mother’s side). His father owned a shoe store, Bloxham and Meyers, with a man named Aloysius Meyers. Eugene’s elder sister, Maria, age eighteen, was a clerk in her father’s store. His mother was a homemaker (as we say these days) and his younger sister Edna, twelve years old, was a student.
Although his parents were not wealthy or leaders in the community, they were not poor. This was not Edwin’s first marriage. His first wife had died soon after marrying him, apparently before they had children. Eugene’s grandparents had come to Norwalk around the time of the Civil War, so they were not among the early pioneers. From what I’ve been able to glean from the newspaper articles and my grandmother’s papers, Eugene was a popular student. He was a member of the basketball team (more about Norwalk High School basketball in later posts), and was involved in other school and civic activities.
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Sheldon Laning lived at 120 East Main Street, only a few blocks from the high school and the center of downtown. His father, Jay Laning, was a leading member of the Norwalk community. In addition to his father, the Laning household included his mother Caroline, and elder sister Joanna, age 26 and younger sister Elizabeth, age 10. As in the Bloxham household, a grandmother also lived with the Laning family: Caroline’s mother Mary Sheldon, age 90. Like Eugene Bloxham, Sheldon was active in sports and many other activities at school. He also was a member of the Laning Glee Club, with his brother, John Laning, a cousin and two other men. The group performed at civic and political events.
Jay and Caroline had moved to Norwalk in 1882 from New London, where he had been a successful attorney in 1882. He established a printing company and was involved in many civic activities. The Laning family had been in America since 1698, but did not arrive in the Firelands until Stephen’s grandfather, John Laning moved to New London in 1843. However, his wife Caroline, whom John married in 1849, was the daughter of Gilbert Wood, one of the first pioneers of the Firelands.
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Myrtle Woodruff’s family did not live in Norwalk, but on a farm in Fairfield township, ten miles south of town. Although a streetcar line ran out to Fairfield Township from Norwalk, it is likely that Myrtle stayed in town during school weeks. I have no confirmation of this, however. I also do not know how many of her family were at home in 1906. According to the 1900 Census, in addition to Myrtle, her father Lewis and mother Addie, three of Myrtle’s brothers, a sister, and two female “boarders” lived on the farm. But by the 1910 Census, only Myrtle remained home with her parents. I do not know when Myrtle’s siblings left the farm. That is something we’ll explore in future posts. Myrtle must have been at the farm often during her school days. According to a Norwalk Reflector article, she was elected secretary of the North Fairfield Congregational Society in April of 1907.
The Woodruff family were among the earliest pioneers to the Firelands. Myrtle’s great, great grandfather, Chauncey Woodruff, settled in Huron County in 1815, two years before Platt Benedict founded Norwalk. He and his sons, grandsons, and great grandsons all had farmed the area down to Myrtle’s day.
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That’s what I have so far. There were no birthdays for the Class of 1907 in November or December of 1906, so during the next two months, I’ll post more information about the Bloxham, Laning and Woodruff families. Stay tuned!
Sources: I gleaned most of this information from census, birth and death records, newspaper articles and from The Firelands Pioneer, the journal of the Firelands Historical Society. For specific sources, click on the links for Eugene Bloxham, Sheldon Laning, and Myrtle Woodruff to visit their person pages on the WeRelate Wiki.
Filed under: Eugene Bloxham, Myrtle Woodruff, Norwalk HS Class of 1907, Sheldon Laning, Uncategorized | Tagged: Bloxham Genealogy, Laning Genealogy, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, Norwalk Ohio History, Norwalk Reflector, Woodruff Genealogy |