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 – Matrimony

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When I began researching the lives after graduation of the members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, I expected to find that a higher percentage of the men of the class had married than women. A prejudiced assumption, of course, which almost guarantees it will be wrong. In fact, only sixty percent of men married compared to over seventy percent of women [1]

The grouping of men and women by ages is even more interesting, and unexpected (for me, at least). The six men who married did so between the ages of twenty-one and twenty five, with Stephen Young marrying first, at the age of twenty-one, on January 11, 1911, the same year he graduated from Western Reserve University with a law degree. On the other end of the spectrum, Sheldon Laning and Arthur Young waited until 1915 before they wed, when they were twenty-five and had started their careers.

 

 

Stephen Young, Sheldon Laning, and Arthur Young

 

Twelve women of the class married, with a much wider spread in years and ages than the men: from age nineteen to thirty-four and as early 1907 and as late as 1924.

Gertrude Ryerson married first, in 1907, the same year she graduated. I haven’t been able to learn the exact date she wed, so it’s possible she married prior to graduation. That may be why she does not appear in the graduation photo. Gertrude was twenty-one when she wed, so she was not the youngest of the class to marry. That was Nina Humiston, who married at the age of nineteen, almost exactly one year after graduating from Norwalk High School.

The woman who married last, and at the oldest age, was Harriott Wickham, who waited until 1924 to marry at the age of thirty-four. This was after graduating from Wooster College (the only woman in the class of 1907 to graduate from college), teaching high school in the west for over a decade, and homesteading in Wyoming.

 

Gertrude Ryerson, Nina Humiston, and Harriott Wickham

 

Many women worked before marrying, mainly as teachers in one-room schools around Norwalk. But, unlike their male classmates, none had a career after they wed. The remainder of their lives were dedicated to their husbands and families.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The percentage of women married may be higher than 70%. As I reported in a previous post, Florence Davidson disappears from the records after the 1910 Census. She was still single then, but may have married afterwards.

 

 

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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.

 

sheldon-laning

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]

robert-venus-commencement-photo-1907

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]

arthur-young-commencement-photo-1907

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.

homer-beattie-commencement-photo

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]

harry-holiday-commencement-photo-1907

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

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As we saw in my last post, only two women out of seventeen in the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 went on to a degree-producing college, Florence Davidson and Harriott Wickham.

Florence Davidson

Florence Davidson

Florence Davidson attended Oberlin College beginning in the fall of 1907, just after graduation, and studied there for at least two years. [1] Her story is an interesting one, and frustrating. As we’ll see when I get around to publishing her biography, she was adopted after her father died by her mother’s new husband, Charles Davidson. [2] By 1909, the Davidson family moved to Massillon, Ohio, [3] and by 1910 were living in San Bernardino, California, where her adoptive father was a machinist in a railroad roundhouse, and Florence was a music teacher. [4] Then, she disappears. I cannot find any record of her at all after the 1910 Census.

All of this raises more questions than answers. How did Charles Davidson afford to send Florence to college on a machinist’s pay? Because Florence was a music teacher in California, I assume that she studied music at Oberlin, but have not found proof of that. I like to imagine that she had a part in the beginning of the movie industry in California and changed her name. But that is only a fantasy. Her life is a mystery I would love to solve.

Harriott Wickham Commencement Photo

Harriott Wickham

Harriott Wickham studied one additional year at Norwalk High School and then taught in a one-room school in Peru Township, just outside of town. Not long after the end of the 1908-1909 school year, she received startling news, Her uncle, oil magnate and philanthropist Louis Severance (brother-in-law of Harriott’s grandfather, David Benedict), had decided to pay her way at Wooster College. It was a dream come true. Years later, she wrote about her school experience:

That fall [1909] I entered Wooster College – and spent 4 “school years” there – very good years! – that prepared me for teaching in high schools of S. Dakota & Wyoming – the years that made a “westerner” of me, & years in Deer Creek Canyon, with Angus & the children. [5]

And that’s all the women in the class who went on to college: two out of seventeen female students in the Class of 1907. Three other women attended a technical school after graduation: Lillian Smith went to a teaching school in Toledo and Chicago. [6] Florence Bascom attended nursing training at a hospital in Lakewood, Ohio. [7] Irene Bragdon went to a “normal school” for teachers in Ypsilani, Michigan. [8] Lillian and Florence married soon after completing their schooling. Irene Bragdon never married, and had a career teaching in Minneapolis.

 

Higher education was beyond the reach of most women graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. That was not the case for the men of the class, however. In my next post, we’ll see where they went to college, and how that opportunity shaped their lives.

Footnotes:

[1] The only evidence I have that Florence attended Oberlin are from short newspaper accounts reporting that she returned to Norwalk for a visit from attending school there. For example: “Personal Mention,” Norwalk Daily Reflector, May 9, 1908, page 3, column 5.

[2] Cuyahoga County Archive; Cleveland, Ohio; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1810-1973; Volume: Vol 56; Page: 109; Year Range: 1903 May – Oct.

[3] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Massillon, Ohio, City Directory, 1909.

[4] U.S. Census: 1910: San Bernardino Ward 3, San Bernardino, California; Roll: T624_94; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0120; FHL microfilm: 1374107.

[5] The story of Harriott Wickham’s education at Wooster College are mostly from her diaries, 1908 to 1914.

[6] “Personal Mention,” Norwalk Daily Reflector, January 6, 1908, page 3, column 5 and “Personal Items,” Norwalk Evening Herald, August 14, 1911, page 4, column 4.

[7] US Census 1910; Cleveland Ward 10, Cuyahoga, Ohio; Roll: T624 1169; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0175; FHL microfilm: 1375182

[8] “Deaths and Funerals: Irene Bragdon,” Norwalk Reflector Herald, November 17, 1944, page 8, column 4.

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Education After High School

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Norwalk High School

If the curriculum at Norwalk High School in 1907 was what these days we would call college-prep (and I think that it was), then we should expect that many graduates went on to college. And a good number did, although not all. Who of the Class of 1907 pursued higher education? The answer, in the main, depends on the gender of the graduate.

Of the seventeen women graduates, only two attended a degree-producing college. Another three women studied teaching or nursing at what today we would call technical schools (I realize that today these schools would be colleges, but not then). Women back then were expected to marry and raise families. The glass ceiling was set pretty low when it came to careers in 1907.

On the other hand, a full eighty percent of the ten men who graduated from Norwalk High School that year attended college. Did education guarantee success in life for these men? It seems so. The eight went on to careers in banking, law, industry and government, and all achieved at least some measure of success in their fields. They were the fortunate sons of Norwalk.

In my next two posts, we’ll look at the “who, what, when and where” of the education and lives of these five women and eight men.

But before I close today, I would like to explain how I discovered who went to college, and who did not.

The 1940 Census has been out since 2012, but I have not paid much attention to it, my research nose being firmly planted in the early twentieth century. Frustrated by lack of information from other sources, I had about given up learning who in the Class of 1907 went to college.

Then, while looking for something else (isn’t that always the case), I stumbled across a column for education on a 1940 Census form. There it was: the level of education achieved. How did I miss that all these years? Also on the form is a column for military service, something else I’ve had problems researching.

The answers to our questions are often right under our noses.

 

US Census 1940 - Wyoming - Barton.jpg

 

I couldn’t find a record of the 1940 Census for several of the graduates, and one died in 1936. But those few exceptions were a breeze to research, compared to tackling the entire class. I turned to Newspaper Archive, and in short order ferretted out the answers.

 

 

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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Social Stratum

Before I address who in the class of 1907 went on to college after graduation, I would like to expand on the subject of the exclusive nature of high school attendance in 1907. Below is a photo of the Senior (class of 1906) and Junior (class of 1907) study hall at Norwalk High School in the spring of 1906: sixty-five students in all. There were twenty-six graduates in 1907. [1] The Class of 1906 had thirty-one graduates, [2] for a total of fifty-seven graduates over two years.

Eighty-eight percent of the students in this photo would graduate within the next two years. But this must have been just a fraction of the number of young people in their mid to late teens living in Norwalk, Oho at that time. Where were the rest?

Working is my guess.

Norwalk High School - Junior, Senior Study Hall

Junior, Senior Study Hall, Norwalk High School, 1906.

My grandmother listed the names of all the students in the class, and the faculty members behind them. But one person she did not name: the young African-American standing in the back. Did she know his name, I wonder?

 

Footnotes:

[1] “School Life is Ended,” The Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 15, 1907, page 1-2, column 6.

[2] “High School Commencement,” Norwalk Daily Reflector, June 7, 1906, page 3, column 3.

 

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