2017 Most Viewed Posts – Top 10 List

Norwalk Hitchhiking Map

2018 has been a good year for the Firelands History Website. Today, we’ll take stock of the year’s most viewed posts. With apologies to David Letterman, here is my top 10 list.

#10 – Sufferers’ Land – Post 10 – Women’s Life on the FrontierFrontier women endured a life of constant work, with no respite from dawn to dusk — and usually continuing after dark.

Cup and Spoon#9 – Battle of Chickamauga III – A Cup and a SpoonSomewhere on the fought-over ground, David found and carried away with him a coin silver spoon and a gracefully shaped pewter cup, lightly engraved with the Masonic emblem. On the back of the spoon is “Dr. Wm. R. Lemon, 82nd Regt., Ind. Vol.”

#8 – Norwalk Basketball Champions 1907: Who Were They? Who were these boys? Was the bespectacled young man sitting center front row a player, or the coach. And what’s with the teddy bear sitting on the basketball in his lap?

#7- A Wasted LifeI confess that my image of reformatory schools in the early 19th century was Dickensian: miserable inmates enduring harsh treatment inflicted by cruel guards and matrons.

#6 – Norwalk, Ohio in the Civil WarDavid Benedict had been with the Union army since the beginning of the war. Captured at Chickamauga, he was held prisoner at Libby Prison for a few months before being exchanged. He returned to his regiment before the Battle of Atlanta, then, after the fall of that city, participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea.

#5 – Temporary DerangementLaura’s mother dangled from the rafter, a noose tight around her neck.

#4 – Battle of Chickamauga I – Muskets and MedicineSuddenly, from beyond the road sounded the blood-curdling Rebel yell, and a group of horsemen burst from the woods. Hyde seized the sheet from the amputating table and waved a bloody flag of truce.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

Nathan Bedford Forrest

#3 – Battle of Chickamauga II – General Nathan Bedford Forrest Comes to BreakfastAt sunrise on Monday, two Confederate generals, Forrest and Cheatham, rode into camp, tied their horses and remarked casually that they had come to breakfast.

#2 – A Home in the Wilderness RevisitedTwo hundred years ago today, September 9, 1817, Platt and Sally Benedict and their family arrived in the Sufferers’ Land of northern Ohio, ending a two month trek from their home in Connecticut.

#1 – One Night in Norwalk, Ohio – A Hitchhiker’s TaleTo my knowledge I have spent only one night in Norwalk, Ohio: Thursday, September 27, 1973, forty-four years ago today. How do I know that, you may ask? I’ll tell you. 


That’s it. Thanks to everyone who visited this past year. Please return often in 2018 to learn more about the Firelands of northern Ohio.


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One Night in Norwalk, Ohio – A Hitchhiker’s Tale

With all I have written about the history of Norwalk, Ohio, you might think that I grew up in that city and the Firelands. But I did not. I was born in Amherst, Ohio, and raised in Lorain and Avon Lake, all in the county east of the Firelands. In fact, to my knowledge I have spent only one night in Norwalk, Ohio: Thursday, September 27, 1973, forty-four years ago today. How do I know that, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

I had just begun my Junior year at Bowling Green State University, south of Toledo, and after two years in the dorms, had moved to an apartment on Napoleon Road, across the railroad tracks from a hog slaughter house.

I needed a car. A neighbor of my parents back in Avon Lake had a car for sale. I decided to hitchhike home and buy it. After all, it was only a hundred miles or so. No problem. So I walked to Wooster Street, hung out my thumb, and headed east. [1]Norwalk Hitchhiking Map

Rides were scarce that day, and those who picked me up did not take me very far. As dusk settled in, I found myself standing at the U.S. Route 250 exit of the U.S. 20 Norwalk Bypass. Continuing to hitchhike in the dark did not appeal to me (wisely, I think).

But, Grandma Barton lived in Norwalk. [2] She’d take me in. I abandoned my plans of getting home that night, and hiked north along Benedict Avenue toward town.

I arrived at Grandma’s home on Hester Street after dark. The lights were on. I knocked. She opened the door and stared at me with surprise.

What did she think of me showing up at her door after dark? I’ll let her tell you.


Thursday, September 27, 1973

Another warm day, but not as hot as yesterday. Late in the p.m. a knock at the door and there stood David. He had hitch-hiked this far on his way home, but did not want to try his luck farther, as it would soon be getting dark. I did not think he should either, so he called home to tell them he was staying here over night. Nice to have him for a little visit.

Friday, September 28, 1973

Just after we had eaten breakfast this a.m. Carrie [my mom] arrived to take Dave on to Avon Lake, where he is to finish his deal to buy a car there. Somehow it did not occur to me to lend him my car to go on to A.L.! But perhaps that would have been just as much trouble, as they would have felt it should be brought back.

Harriott Barton Christmas 1973 - Avon Lake Ohio (2)

Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton, Christmas 1973

That’s it, my one night in Norwalk, Ohio. And breakfast, too!

I had wondered over the years what Grandma thought about my little adventure. (I had learned my mom’s opinion of my “antics” on the ride from Norwalk to Avon Lake that morning). Finding these entries in Grandma’s diaries a decade ago was a blessing. I’m glad she was not upset with me. But what else could I expect from someone who had homesteaded in Wyoming as single young woman, married a rancher, and raised a family on the edge of the Dust Bowl during the Great Depression.

Grandma was not the timid sort.


Diaries from our ancestors are such a treasure. In my next post, I’ll tell you how I make the transcription of these gems into a deeply personal experience.



[1] To any children (in the unlikely event any children actually read this post), do as I say, not as I did: don’t hitchhike!

[2] Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton, Norwalk High School Class of 1907, whose stories of her life, our family’s heritage, and of the Firelands inspired me to publish the Firelands History Website. After my grandfather’s death, she had sold their farm south of Norwalk and moved into town.


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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Where They Went – Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights, Ohio (and the Bobbsey Twins)


The Bobbsey Twins

The Bobbsey Twins book cover, circa 1908 (from Wikipedia Commons)


Were you once hooked on the Bobbsey Twins? I was. The lives and adventures of Nan and Bert, Freddie and Flossie, and their family fascinated me, perhaps because their lives were so different from mine.

I had not thought about the Bobbsey Twins for years, but they came to mind as I was researching the lives of the three graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 who are the subjects of this post. Not the twins, actually, but their parents: Richard, owner of a lumber yard and Mary, his stay-at-home mom. As I recall, Richard was rarely seen, taking the morning train into the city for his job. Mary stayed home, caring for their lovely suburban home and two sets of twins, with help from the servants, of course. As I imagine it, the lives of the three Norwalk, Ohio natives who settled in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights must have been very much like theirs [1]

From the time John D. Rockefeller purchased land in what is now Cleveland Heights, the area has been a known for its affluence. Founded as a village in 1903, it had grown to 5,000 residents by 1910, and in 1920 it exceeded 15,000. One of the “streetcar suburbs,” it became home to many managers and other office workers in the city. [2]

stephen-young-commencement-photo-1907Stephen Young and Ruby Hoyt had homes in Cleveland Heights most of their lives. Stephen did not spend much of his life in the town, however. He was overseas during both two world wars, and between those conflicts, and after, he spent much of his time either in Columbus, Ohio, serving in the state legislature, and in Washington D.C. during his career in the House and Senate. He did practice law in Cleveland from time to time, and I imagine him commuting into the city from his home on Edgehill Road in Cleveland Heights. [3]

Ruby Hoyt married Hugh McAllister, a salesman in the publishing industry. Hugh must have been a good salesman, because he and Ruby had a live in maid at their comfortable home on Queenston Road in Cleveland Heights. They had three children, two girls and a boy. [4]



Ruby Hoyt and Nina Humiston

Nina Humiston also married a successful businessman: Henry Ronk, who worked in finance in the oil industry. At first they lived in Cleveland, but after Henry started a public accounting firm, they moved first to a home in Cleveland Heights, then, as his practice grew, to Shaker Heights, where Nina stayed at home to raise three children, with the help of a couple of servants. [5]

Ruby Hoyt, and Nina Humiston married well and probably lived the dream portrayed in the fictional world of the Bobbsey Twins. Certainly, they had their ups and downs in life: but overall they enjoyed a life of privilege and comfort. To these advantages, Stephen Young added power and prestige through his military and political careers. Any way you look at it, these members of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907 took full advantage of their place in society.

Next up, Lakewood, Ohio, where two graduates enjoyed similar lives of prosperity and marriage – and one who had the former, while forgoing the latter.


[1] From The Bobbsey Twins article in Wikipedia.

[2] The history of Cleveland Heights in the several decades of the twentieth century are from the Cleveland Heights history webpages in Wikipedia and of the Cleveland Heights Historical Society.

[3] For source material about Stephen Young, see his Wikipedia article, and the Stephen Young person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[4] For source material about Hugh and Ruby McAllister, see the Ruby Hoyt person page on the WeRelate Wiki.

[5] For source material about Henry and Nina Ronk, see the Nina Humiston person page on the WeRelate Wiki. The history of Shaker Heights can be found on Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.


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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Where They Went – Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland 1930

Cleveland, Ohio – 1930 [1]


By far, Cleveland and its suburbs was the primary destination for the graduates of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Why Cleveland? Today – although it is experiencing a renaissance – the city is a shadow of the metropolis that lured young people from around the world to work in its factories. In 1907, Cleveland was already an industrial powerhouse, by 1920, it became the fifth largest city in the nation. And it was not only jobs that made it a destination of choice for many in the early twentieth century. Philanthropy by titans of industry like John D. Rockefeller and Louis Severance brought culture to the city. [1]

Nine of the twenty-seven graduates of the Class of 1907 spent most of their lives in Cleveland or its suburbs, but only three lived in the city limits of Cleveland, and none of them ever married.

Fred Osborne Commencement Photo 1907

Fred Osborne came from a working class family, his father was a housepainter and paperhanger, and he became a working class man. After graduating from Norwalk High School, he went into farming, and became a beekeeper. Around 1920, he moved to Cleveland, and for over twenty years lived in an apartment at 1482 East 84th Street with his sisters, while working as a mail carrier out of the University Post Office at 1950 E 101st Street, Cleveland. After retirement, he moved to Pinellas, Florida, where he died in 1972.


University Post Office Cleveland Ohio

University Post Office 2017 [3]


Myrtle Woodruff

How important is it to check source documents and not rely on transcriptions? Very important. But sometimes we goof, as I did in my post on education when I reported that Myrtle Woodruff had not pursued an education after high school. That despite finding her obituary, which reported that she had graduated from Ohio University. While drafting this post, I checked her obituary and realized my mistake. I went to the original 1940 Census record for confirmation, and there it was: Myrtle Woodruff had completed five years of college. How stupid of me! Oh, well! Lesson learned (I hope), and now I have the chance to set the record straight.

What did Myrtle do with her education? She taught at West Technical High School in Cleveland. [4] In 1928, she lived on Prospect Avenue in Cleveland. Later she moved to the suburb of Lakewood. After retiring in 1946, she returned to live with a sister in their hometown of Fairfield Township, where she died in 1951.

West Technical High School

West Technical High School, Cleveland, Ohio [5]

Edna West Commencement Photo 1907

Edna West spent most of her short life (she died in 1936) living in boarding houses. After graduation, she moved to Trenton, Michigan, where she taught school, living in a home with fourteen other boarders, most who were teachers. By 1920, she had returned to Ohio and was working as a clerk in Cleveland, boarding at 3848 Prospect Avenue (now a parking lot). But in the end she returned to teaching. According to the 1930 Census, she was a governess at the Cleveland Christian Home for Children located at 11401 Lorain Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio. [6] She was the first of the class of 1907 to die, passing away on April 6, 1936 in Toledo, Ohio.

That’s it for the tales of those graduates of the class who lived in Cleveland, Ohio. Next up, the suburbs, beginning with Cleveland Heights.



[1] Image from Pinterest, downloaded August 6, 2017

[2] From the Cleveland Wikipedia article. An excellent source of information about Cleveland is the Case Western Reserve Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

[3] Google Maps Image downloaded August 6, 2017.

[4] West Technical School was a highly rated high school in Cleveland. Established in 1912, it closed in 1995 and was converted to apartments. For more information, visit the West Tech Alumni Association website.

[5] Image from West Technical High School Class of 1967 Reunion Website. on Classmates.com.

[6] The Cleveland Christian Home for Children is an orphanage founded in 1900, and is still operates today. A history of this institution is at the Cleveland Christian Home Website.

Note: For timelines and sources, click on these links: Fred Osborne, Myrtle Woodruff, and Edna West. I will fill in the gaps with individual biographies for these three in later posts.


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Norwalk High School Class of 1907 Demographics – Those Who Stayed



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


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.



[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


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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