Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Those Who Stayed

 

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Norwalk High School, Norwalk, Ohio 1907

 

 

In the ninety years from the founding of Norwalk, Ohio by Platt and Sally Benedict to the graduation of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, a large proportion of those who settled in the town had stayed, especially those of the social status of the graduates of the class. That was about to change. The stress of World War I and the continued industrialization of America tore at the fabric of small towns like Norwalk. The lure of the big city and the rapid settlement of the west beckoned. Within ten years of graduation, three-quarters of the class of 1907 would leave Norwalk. We’ll see where they went in my next post. In this one, we’ll look at the few who stayed behind

Only seven of the twenty-seven graduates of the class stayed in Norealk and its surrounding townships. Four — Sheldon Laning, Homer Beattie, Irene Bragdon, and Irene Eline — lived in Norwalk. The two men went away to college, and lived elsewhere for a time. But they both returned to Norwalk, and spent most of their careers in the town.

Sheldon Laning and Homer Beattie

Irene Bragdon never married and lived her entire life in her parent’s house, and taught in the Norwalk school district. Irene Eline married a clerk in a Norwalk dry goods store and raised a family with him in the city.

 

Irene Bragdon and Irene Eline

 

The remaining three classmates who stayed in the area spent their lives in the farming townships around Norwalk where they were born. Earl Sinclair became a carpenter and farmed in Clarksfield Township. He never married. Gertrude Ryerson and Alice McCammon married farmers, and raised families with them on farms in Steuben and Bronson Townships.

 

Earl Sinclair, Gertrude Ryerson, and Alice McCammon

 

These seven young people of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 decided to stay close to home. Most of their classmates, however, did not. In my next few posts, we’ll see where they went, beginning with the three graduates who settled in Cleveland, Ohio.

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Military Service

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According to the 1940 U.S. Census, the same percentage of men in the Class of 1907 served in the military as went to college, Arthur Young and Fred French being the only two who never served. A quick look at both men’s World War I draft registration cards tell us why.

Arthur Young claimed an exemption because he had two dependents: a wife and an eighteen month old child. Fred French, as we saw in my last post, was caring for a “crippled” wife.

I was surprised to find that so many men of the class of 1907 served in the armed forces. Were all eight called up for World War I? When the U.S. entered that war in 1917, the majority of them were twenty-nine years old, and a few were in their thirties. Most had already started families and were well on in their careers. When I look at all the draft registration cards, I find that, like Arthur and Fred, most had claimed an exemption. To further confuse the issue, I only found evidence for three of those eight actually serving in that war: Robert Venus, Homer Beattie, and Stephen Young. Of those three, only one, Stephen Young, was married at the time.

Robert Venus, Homer Beattie, Stephen Young

 

If the majority of the class did not serve during World War I, why did the 1940 Census records say that eighty percent served in the military. Perhaps they served in the National Guard when they were younger, right out of college. I do not know the answer to this mystery. I’ll ponder and investigate further, and try to provide answers when I post each graduates’ biography.

 

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Education After Graduation – The Men

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In my last post, we saw that only two women out of seventeen in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 went on to college, and only one of those two graduated. With the men of the class, however, the story was totally different . Eight of the ten male students in the class went on to college. That disparity tells volumes about the roles of women and men in society, doesn’t it?

Today, we’ll see where these eight men went to college and what they did with their education in their careers.

 

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First up: Sheldon Laning – and here we solve the mystery of who in the class received the scholarship to Ohio Wesleyan University that Arthur Young turned down. It was Sheldon. According to the 1940 Census, he completed four years of college. Not all four years, however, were spent at Ohio Wesleyan. He graduated from Cleveland Law School, now the Cleveland– Marshall College of Law, in 1913. After graduation, he worked in Cleveland, He married in 1915, and moved back to Norwalk in the 1920s to work in the publishing business like his father. [1]

Three graduates attended Western Reserve University, now Case Western Reserve, in Cleveland: Stephen Young, Robert Venus, and Arthur Young.

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907Stephen Young went first to Kenyon College, then on to Western Reserve where he graduated in 1911 with a law degree. According to the 1940 U.S. Census, he spent five years in college. He is the most accomplished graduate of the class of 1907. In addition to a successful law career, as a soldier, he served in three armed conflicts: the expedition against Pancho Villa in Mexico and both world wars. He also was elected to many political offices, including the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. [2]

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Robert Venus started at Western Reserve University a year after graduation and according to the 1940 Census, studied there for four years, graduating in 1914. His is an interesting tale. After graduation, he worked as a clerk in Cleveland before serving in World War I. After the war, he moved to Chicago and had a career as an interior decorator. He never married. He returned to Norwalk after retirement, where he again became a clerk, this time at a hotel. [3]

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Because Arthur Young led the Class of 1907 academically, he had a choice of scholarships at Ohio Wesleyan and Buchtel College, now part of the University of Akron. Instead, he decided to attend Western Reserve, where he studied for six years. In 1911, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, magna cum laude, and went on to study law for two more years. After leaving Western Reserve, he married and went to work at the National Bank of Cleveland in the legal department, where he rose to the position of Vice President. Sadly, his career was cut short. In 1943 he suffered a fatal cerebral hemorrhage, becoming the first male graduate to pass away. [4]

Two members of the class of 1907 studied for four years at the University of Michigan: Homer Beattie and Eugene Bloxham.

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At the Class of 1907 commencement ceremony at Norwalk High School, Homer Beattie gave an oration on “The Call of the Wild.” Obviously an outdoorsman, he followed his love of nature at the University of Michigan, where he studied forestry. In World War I, he served as a forester in France, then spent much of his career after the war in the Federal Forestry Service. Like Robert Venus, he never married, and also like that classmate, he returned after retirement to the Firelands, where he died of a heart attack in 1950. [5]

eugene-bloxham

Eugene Bloxham studied for four years at the University of Michigan, but did not graduate. He married and lived most of his life in Sandusky, Ohio at an insurance agent. Later in life, he drove a taxi, a step down economically that perhaps was a result of the Great Depression. If that is the case, he would be the only male graduate of the Class of 1907 to have suffered loss from that calamity. [6]

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After a year of preparation, Harry Holiday took and passed the entrance exam for Carnegie Technical School, now Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The school had been founded by Industrialist Andrew Carnegie to promote the education of manufacturing and research. After he graduated, Harry stayed in Pennsylvania and had a career in management with ARMCO Steel Company, now AK Steel Holding. He retired early, in the mid-1940s, due to a heart condition, and moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he died of a heart attack in 1949. [7]

Fred French Commencement Photo 1907

Finally, Fred French, and another mystery. According to the 1940 Census, Fred had two years of college. I’ve searched every source I can think of, but have not been able to find where he went to school. He married and went to work for Ford Motor Company as an engineer, but his subsequent life was shaped by tragedy. According to his World War I Draft Registration card, by 1917 his wife was crippled, why I do not know. She died sometime after the 1920 Census, and Fred never remarried. He ended his life back in Norwalk, living in his father’s house. [8]

 

Footnotes:

[1] Sheldon Laning Dies; Prominent City Publisher,” Norwalk Reflector, September 25, 1967, page 2, column 1; U.S. Census Records from 1910, 1920, and 1930.

[2] “Stephen Young” article in Wikipedia.

[3] Western Reserve School Directory of 1909, 1910, 1913; Cleveland City Directory, 1916; U.S. Adjutant General Military Records, 1631-1976, Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918; “Obituaries – Robert Venus,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, November 27, 1956, page 16, column 2.

[4] Western Reserve University Yearbook, 1911; “Arthur Young, 53, Born Here, Dies at Cleveland,” The Norwalk Reflector Herald, March 26, 1943, page 8, column 3.

[5] The Michiganensian 1913; Ohio Soldiers in WWI, 1917-1918; “Homer Beattie Passes Away,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, December 13, 1950, page 1, column 5.

[6] Catalogue of Graduates, Non-Graduates, Officers, and Members of the Faculties, 1837-1921. University of Michigan, 1923; U.S. Census: Sandusky, Ohio, 1920, 1930, 1940.

[7] “Candidates for Carnegie School,” Norwalk Evening Herald, June 17, 1908, page 4, column 5; “Harry Holiday, Former Armco Official, Dies,” The Middleton Ohio Journal, April 22, 1949, page 19, column 6.

[8] Records for Fred French are sparse, especially in newspaper archives. What I know about him I’ve gleaned from U.S. World War I and II Draft Registration Card and the U.S. Census for 1920, 1930, and 1940.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Chosen by Faculty

In my last post, we saw that Nina Humiston and Sheldon Laning were popular with their fellow students in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. The last two of the eight speakers at Commencement on June 14, 1907, Homer Beattie and Carrie Spurrier, were probably popular with their classmates as well, but what got them speakers slots was the esteem of the faculty. So, were they were the teachers’ pets of the class?

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Homer Beattie

Homer Beattie’s oration was about the “Call of the Wild,” by which he meant the pioneer spirit that had led to the rapid settlement of the country. “With the coming of the springtime,” he proclaimed, “also comes the wild, restless longing to leave civilization behind and to plunge into the woods or to fish or hunt.” But, he continued, this draw to wide open places led to “war upon the wilderness.” I must say, his views do not sound like those of an environmentalist to me. They seem to be of those who love the outdoors, but also want to exploit it.

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Carrie Spurrier

“Veneering” was the subject of Carrie Spurrier’s essay, which according to the newspapers’ reports, she read in a fine manner. “The object of veneering,” she said, “is to make things seem better than it seems.” Like other speakers before her, she blamed the pursuit of wealth as the problem. People who spend their lives accumulating wealth seek to “buy their way into society.” That, she stated firmly, is not a good thing. [1]

So how did these two young people’s lives turn out? Homer Beattie went on to college, then answered the “Call of the Wild,” by becoming a forester for Huron County. He never married, and lived and died in his family home in Norwalk. [2] After graduating, Carrie Spurrier went to work in her father’s crockery and home furnishing store on Main Street. But she did not remain independent, like Irene Bragdon, who had a career as a stenographer. She followed Nina Humiston’s path. In 1915, she married a banker, and lived a comfortable, may we say wealthy, life in Lakewood as the wife of a successful man. [3]

Next up: Musical Interludes.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Homer and Carrie’s presentations are from “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3; “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6; and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[2] From the Carrie Spurrier person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[3] From the Homer Beattie person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

 

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Norwalk High School Commencement, 1907

On Friday, June 14, 1907, one-hundred and ten years ago today, the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 walked across the stage at the Gilmer Theater to receive their diplomas.

What did those young people experience that memorable evening? Well the Norwalk Daily Reflector and the Evening Herald reported extensively in their issues the next day, giving us a blow-by-blow description of the pomp and ceremony.

How did they look that night — these young people about to “join those who are fighting life’s battles,” as the Daily Reflector put it. How were they dressed? We don’t need to imagine. We have a photo taken that very evening at the Gilger. [1] Aren’t they are good looking crew?

 

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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.

 

The audience arrived at the Gilger to find the auditorium decorated with the school colors of black and gold and Stewart’s Orchestra playing “Slavery Days.” The Norwalk High School Classes of 1904 and 1906 occupied boxes decorated with their class colors. After all had settled into their seats, the curtain rose to reveal the Class of 1907, dressed as captured in the photo above, the women holding a single stemmed American rose. Above them hung a banner in black and gold, with the class slogan “Immer Siegend,” (always victorious). Accompanied by the orchestra, the class sang the chorus of the hymn, “A Dream of Paradise.”

Father in heaven above,
Glorious and mighty;
Send forth Thy Light of Love,
O King most mighty!
Father, Glorious and mighty;
Send forth Thy Light of Love.
Thy Light of Love. [2]

To great applause, the curtain lowered, and when it again raised, the class were seated in wicker chairs set in a semi-circle on the stage. With them were School Superintendent A. D. Beechy, the school faculty, and members of the board of education.

This graduation ceremony was not like what we experience today. There was no Valedictorian and Salutatorian, nor did a respected member of the community address the graduates. Instead, this ceremony focused on the graduates, with orations and essays by speakers selected for academic excellence, interspersed by musical performances by others in the class. [3]

Who were the speakers, and why were they chosen? The newspapers are handy references for this as well. Eight young men and women were honored in four categories: Arthur Young and Irene Bragdon for best grades in regular school work. Inez Adams and Alice McCammon for best grades in literary work; Sheldon Laning and Nina Humiston were chosen by the class; and Homer Beattie and Carrie Spurrier were chosen by the faculty. [4]

What did they talk about, these speakers? The subjects may surprise you. We’ll see what they said, and who they were, in subsequent posts, beginning with Mr. Young and Miss Bragdon.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The commencement photo is from the papers of Harriott Wickham, my grandmother,

Gertrude Ryerson 1

who kindly wrote the names on the back. As I reported in my post, Mystery Girl, missing from this photo is Gertrude Ryerson. Newspaper accounts tell us that twenty-six graduates were at the ceremony, so I do not know why she is not in the commencement photo. It is a mystery. I clipped this image of her from a photo of the Senior / Junior study hall that I also found in my grandmother’s papers.

[2] “A Dream of Paradise,” by Claude Littleton, 1900. Full text of the lyrics and an audio file of the tune are at Hymnary. org.

[3] Lengthy descriptions of the ceremony and fulsome praise for the graduates are in “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6, and “Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1,4.

[4] “Forty Seventh Annual,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 13, 1907, page 1, column 3.“Get Their Diplomas,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, pages 1 and 4.

 

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Class Day 1907 – Bachelor Hall

In my last post, Class Day 1907 – A Witty Speech by a Future U.S. Senator, we saw that Wednesday, June 5, 1907 was Class Day for the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. The evening began with a farewell speech to the Class of 1908 by future U.S. Senator, Stephen M. Young, Jr. [1] Following that “witty, well-worded, and well-delivered” address, the Class of 1907 presented Bachelor Hall, a comedy in three acts. [2] According to newspaper accounts of the evening, the performance was well received by a large audience, [3] An even larger crowd attended a repeat performance the following night, June 6. [4]

 

Bachelor Hall

Bachelor Hall is a parlor-play, designed to be performed by amateurs. Written and published by Rachel Baker Gale and her father George Melville Baker in 1898, it was performed frequently by schools and in homes over the next decade.

Reviews in both the Norwalk Daily Reflector and the Norwalk Evening Herald gushed their praise. To do otherwise, of course, would have invited the wrath of angry parents, but from the accounts, it seems the class did put on a solid performance. Both newspapers, in addition to praise, diligently recorded the names of the cast members and descriptions of the parts they played. So, here, in one of the longest posts I have ever published, is the cast of the Norwalk High School’s performance of Bachelor Hall over a century ago.

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The romantic leads in this farce were Robert Venus, as Ensign Jack Meredith, acting under sealed orders, and Florence Bascom, as Betty Vance, the ward of the Honorable Geoffrey Myrtleton, “congressman from the Ninth District,” and played by Arthur Young.

 

The Norwalk Evening Herald reviewer of the play was generous in his praise of the leads. “For legitimate work the honors belong to Robert Venus and Florence Bascom,” he wrote. “The naturalness with which they played the sentimental scenes could not have been improved on.” His assessment of Arthur Young’s performance as the Honorable Geoffrey Myrtleton was favorable, also, although he was bold enough to criticize the young man’s choice of costume as not being appropriate for a congressman. Everyone’s a critic, it seems.

Harry Holiday and Stephen Young, Jr. played Silas Jervis and Elisha Bassett, Deacons who are Congressman Myrtleton’s constituents from Rambleton.

 

The plot of Bachelor Hall, such as it is, involves the presentation in the home of Congressman Myrtleton of The Fatal Shot, a play written by amateur actor Vera Lee, played by Fred French. In addition to Mr. Lee, the cast of The Fatal Shot include Lotta Sand, leading soubrette of The Fatal Shot, played by Ruby Hoyt, and an amateur actress named Polly Reynolds, played by Sara Joslin (Sarah Barnett). Irene Eline played Mrs. Van Styne, who has dramatic aspirations and Nina Humiston is Claire, Mrs. Van Styne’s daughter, who does not.

 

Clockwise from top left: Fred French, Ruby Hoyt, Sarah Barnett (Sara Joslin), Irene Eline, and Nina Humiston.

In what would be awkward to modern sensibilities, Sheldon Laning played Jasper, an African-American butler at “Bachelor Hall”and Edna West his wife and fellow servant. Both, I assume, performed in black-face.

Rounding out the cast were O’Rourke, a policeman, played by Eugene Bloxham, and Pinkerton Case, an amateur detective, played by Homer Beattie.

 

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What is the plot of this comedy? I’ve tried to read the script, but did not get very far. Here’s what the Norwalk Daily Reflector had to say about it:

Act I: An evening in the living room of Congressman Myrtleton at “Bachelor Hall,” in Washington D.C. Myrtleton has opened his home for the production of The Fatal Shot. The untimely arrival of his constituents, the Deacons, who are deeply set against theatricals, and the disappearance at the same time of one hundred thousand dollars in bonds entrusted to him by them, puts Myrtleton in a bad position.

Act II: Myrtleton seeks to keep from the deacons the fact that a theatrical performance is in progress, and his prevarications are amusing and cause many peculiar situations.

Act III: The following morning — The newspapers make a sensation of The Fatal Shot, thereby causing Congressman Myrtleton to lose a wager with Rear Admiral March that the affair would be kept from the papers. The mystery of the bonds is cleared up satisfactorily.

Not very illuminating, is it? What about the romance between Ensign Meredith and Betty Vance? And who is Admiral March? The author of this article was not a trained critic, apparently. However, seeing that most readers were probably at the performance, this synopsis was probably not necessary to begin with.

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After the final curtain, the Class of 1907 sang their class song, written by Harriott Wickham to the tune of “Down the Field.”

 

We are the seniors of Old Norwalk High

And out into the world we go,

Prepared to win or die;

Conquering now, and still to conquer then

When ‘neath the Black and Gold we march

On to the glorious end.

Our banner fair we bravely bear

All hail the Black and Gold.

The evening concluded with ice cream and cake served in the Philomathean Hall.

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That’s it for two evenings of entertainment over one-hundred years ago. Except for one thing: the Chorus Girls of Bachelor Hall. More about them in my next post.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The links for each cast member of Bachelor Hall lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

[2] Bachelor Hall is a play published in  by . The script can be read online on Google Books. A warning: what was hilarious in 1907 may not appear as witty to modern readers.

[3] “Brilliant Success,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 6, 1907 – page 1, column 3, and “Bachelor Hall a Big Hit,” Norwalk Evening Herald, 6/6/1907, page 1, column 6.

[4] “Another Crowd Sees Bachelor Hall,” Norwalk Evening Herald, 6/7/1907, page 4, column 3.

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Class Day 1907 – A Witty Speech by a Future U.S. Senator

At 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 1907 — one-hundred and ten years ago today — school hall on the third floor of Norwalk High School was crowded with students, parents, and friends. The occasion? Class Day of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907.

 

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Norwalk High School

 

The evening began with a “witty, well-worded, and well-delivered farewell speech to the Juniors” by future United States Senator Stephen M. Young, Jr.

The Junior Class responded with their class yell. What was the class yell? Unfortunately, the article in the Norwalk Daily Reflector did not say. [1]

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Stephen M. Young

As we saw a few weeks ago in the post Oratorical Contest for a Future U.S. Senator, Stephen M. Young’s public speaking skills had earned him fourth place at an oratorical contest in Bowling Green, Ohio the previous month. Now it had given him the honor of keynote speaker at Class Day. That talent for public speaking would lead to a life as a lawyer, soldier, and politician, a career more illustrious than any of his classmates.

Stephen also knew where he would be going after graduation: he was headed to Case University in Cleveland. These days, it is not unusual for high schools of the caliber of Norwalk High School in 1907 to see the majority of their students pursue higher education. But only four of Stephen Young’s classmates were heading to university that fall. [2]

Harriott Wickham Commencement Photo

Harriott Wickham

Some students would continue studying at Norwalk High School: Harriott Wickham (my grandmother) for instance. In diary of 1908-09, she wrote: Graduated in 1907, but took 2 courses with class of 1908 — History & chemistry — botany 1/2 year. Harriott also prepared to take an examination to become a teacher, which led to her teaching in a one-room school house 1908-1909. Then she got her big break: her great uncle Louis Severance sent her to Wooster College, where she graduated in 1914. She was the only girl in her class afforded that opportunity; in those days young women rarely were allowed to pursue higher education. [3]

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Enough of that. Back to Class Day at Norwalk High School! The Class of 1907 had a treat for their audience: A play. We’ll see how well they pulled that off in my next post: Bachelor Hall.

 

Footnotes:

[1] “Brilliant Success,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 6, 1907, page 1, column 3.

[2] Stephen Young’s classmates that attended college that fall were Arthur Young, Harry Holiday, Homer Beattie and Robert Venus.

[3] Oil Magnate Louis Severance married Fanny Benedict, sister of Harriott’s grandfather David Benedict. After Doctor Benedict’s death, Louis established a trust fund for his nieces and paid for the college educations of many of their children.

 

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