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 – 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]

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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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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Age and Gender

It’s been a couple weeks since my last post about the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 – Out Into the World. I return today with a series of posts about demographics of the class in 1907 and during their lives after graduation. I know demographics may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they are fascinating. They provide the only way to truly understand what’s going on in a population – or in this case what went on over one hundred years ago.

I start with a breakdown of the class by gender and age. The graduates of the Class of 1907 were almost twice as likely to be female: seventeen women to ten men. Why was that? I would imagine that more young men of that era had to start work early to help support their families. In that more agrarian age, boys often were needed in the fields.

There was also a striking difference by gender in the ages of the class. The women were on average older at graduation than the men. Fred Osborne was the only boy twenty years old at graduation, but five girls had reached that age: Alice McCammon, Edna West, Carrie Spurrier, Gertrude Ryerson, and Myrtle Woodruff. Interestingly, these young women all were born in the townships around Norwalk.

 

Norwalk High School Class of 1907 graduates who were twenty years old at commencement (clockwise from top left): Fred Osborne, Alice McCammon, Edna West, Carrie Spurrier, Myrtle Woodruff, and Gertrude Ryerson.

 

Fred Osborne was not only the oldest male graduate, but was the oldest in the class overall. He and Myrtle Woodruff were the only graduates born in 1886. If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember Myrtle from the series, It Was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run. If you don’t remember, it’s worth checking it out.

Harriott Wickham Commencement PhotoThe baby of the class was Harriott Wickham (my grandma), who was the only graduate born in 1890. On the first page of her 1909-1910 diary, she wrote that she had started school early, two months before her fifth birthday. I remember her mentioning that to me because I also began school when I was four, although I only had to wait two weeks before my birthday. That wait did not mean much to me back when I was very young. Where my early start really made an impact on me was when I went to college. I was one of the few in my dorm who could not legally drink — at that time in Ohio, you could purchase 3.2% beer at eighteen.

Finally, two graduates of the class had the same birthday: Sheldon Laning and Eugene Bloxham were both born on November 9, 1889. Was that considered remarkable by them and their classmates?

Sheldon Laning and Eugene Bloxham shared the same birthday.

 

That’s all I have for now on this subject. Starting with my next post, we’ll look past graduation, and see how the Class of 1907 fared in life.

 

 

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Commencement 1907 – Musical Interludes

Eight graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 spoke at the Commencement Ceremony on June 14, 1907 — two each chosen in four categories: for best grades for regular work, and best grades for literary work, and those chosen by their fellow students and by the faculty.

Those were not the only graduate contributions to the program, however. Musical performances also shone. As The Norwalk Evening Herald reported, “All the speeches were fine, and the choruses and other musical numbers correspondingly good.”

After Homer Beattie’s oration, “The Call of the Wild,” Florence Bascom and Lillian Smith sang a ballad, “Oh, That We Two Were Maying,” with the young ladies’ voices “blending well, making the number most pleasing.”

Oh! that we two were Maying,
Down the stream of the soft spring breeze;
Like children with violets playing
In the shade of the whisp’ring trees.

Oh! that we two sat dreaming
On the sward of the sheep-trimm’d down,
Watching the white mist streaming
O’er river, and mead, and town.

Oh! that we two lay sleeping,
In our nest in the churchyard sod,
With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth’s breast,
And our souls at home with God. [1]

 

Nina Humiston’s recitation of the poem, “Bud’s Fairy Tale” was followed by “Come Where the Lillies Bloom,” sung by Ruby Hoyt, Lillian Smith, class president Arthur Young and Sheldon Laning.

Come where the lilies.
The sweet fragrant lilies;
Oh, come where the lilies bloom so fair;
Down in the meadows,
The green verdant meadows,
Oh, come where sweet fragrance tills the air. [2]

 

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Between Alice McCammon’s essay, “Fashion Rules the World,” and Carrie Spurrier’s “Vennering,” the Girl’s Glee Club sang two ballads, “Carmena Waltz,” and “There Little Girl Don’t Cry.”

Miss Spurrier was followed by “The Jolly Blacksmith’s Lay,” [3] sung by the high school quartet: Robert Venus, Sheldon Laning, Arthur Young, and underclassman, Carlton McCague.

 

 

Just before Superintendent Beechy’s final remarks and presentation of diplomas, a Mrs. O. M. Harter sang “Slumber Song,” written by Minnie Cleghorn, who had contributed so much to the education of the Class of 1907, especially the young women of the class.

 

Footnotes

[1] Lyrics are from The LiederNet Archive. Check out this YouTube video for a performance by “Belle and two Beaux” as part of their Victorian evening. Janet Shell, mezzo-soprano. Mark Oldfield, baritone. John Flinders, piano.

[2] Lyrics are from American Old Time Song Lyrics.

[3] Find the lyrics to “The Jolly Blacksmith’s Lay” in the 1910 edition of a trade journal The Master Printer, page 687 on Google Books.

 

Other Sources

Descriptions of musical performances during the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 commencement program 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.

The links for the performers of musical numbers during commencement are to their person pages on the WeRelate wiki.

 

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Commencement Speakers – Chosen by the Class

Unlike the speakers described in my previous two posts, who were chosen for best grades in regular work and best grades in literary work, the other four speakers at Norwalk High School’s Class of 1907 Commencement were not selected for academic performance. Today, we look at Sheldon Laning and Nina Humiston, who were chosen by the class – a popularity contest, it seems.

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Sheldon Laning

As the son of a U.S. Congressman, Sheldon Laning would be expected to talk about politics, and he did not disappoint. His oration was titled “Our National Peril and How to Avoid It.” The national peril, in his view, was the system of political bosses, who selected candidates for office in “smoke-filled rooms.” His solution to this problem, was to adopt primaries, and allow voters to decide who would represent their parties in general elections. These days, of course, primaries are used by parties to select candidates in most states, so Mr. Laning was prescient in that regard. That his father was selected in by the party is ironic.

Nina Humiston Commencement Photo 1907

Nina Humiston

Like Irene Bragdon, Nina Humiston broke the norm for female students, although, unlike Irene, she did not risk tackling an oration. She instead opted for a recitation of the poem Bud’s Fairy Tale. According to newspaper accounts, “Miss Humiston’s imitation of a small child telling a highly imaginary stories was almost perfect, and was greeted by the audience with laughter and applause.” [1] Although she did not sing at the commencement ceremony, Nina was quite the musical performer as well. Like Ora Tuttle, subject of the Serendipity post on this site, Nina was active in the Methodist Church and performed at services and at church and social events. [2]

So how did these two young people fare in life? Sheldon Laning did not venture into politics, like his father. He did follow in his dad’s footsteps when it came to  business, though. After obtaining a law degree, he moved to Chicago where he worked in the automotive industry. In 1915, he married fellow Norwalk High School graduate Mildred Monnett (Class of 1908), then returned to Norwalk and took over the family publishing business, where he spent the remainder of his working life. [3]

Like many of the other young women in her class, Nina Humiston married soon after graduation. In 1908, she wed Henry Ronk, a fellow Norwalk graduate who had also been active in the Methodist Church. Henry was seven years her senior and had already graduated from college. They set up house in Shaker Heights where Henry established a successful accounting practice. [4]

That’s it for the two speakers who were selected for this honor by their classmates. Next up: the two speakers chosen by the faculty.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Descriptions of Sheldon and Nina’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] “Good Meeting,” The Norwalk Evening Herald, March 30, 1903, page 4, column 4.

[3] From the Stephen Laning person page in the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] From the Nina Humiston person page in 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?

 

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.

 

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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