Researching the Norwalk High School Class of 1907: Newspapers

Huron Reflector 1st Issue

February 2, 1830 issue of the Huron Reflector, the forefather of the present day Norwalk Reflector.

In my last post, I discussed the sources I’ve drawn on to write about the history of the Sufferers’ Land and the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. One source I did not discuss was newspaper archives. There are many free sites out there: my current home state of Colorado has a wonderful collection at the Colorado Historical Newspaper Collection. But not all states and localities have these online archives. Which brings us to the two big pay websites: Newspapers.com and NewspaperArchive.com.

Now, I do not want to get into a debate of which of these are better. They appear similar in ease of use, and subscription price. What makes the difference, to me, is coverage. I subscribe to NewspaperArchive.com simply because its archives cover Norwalk, Ohio history – where I focus my research – for 149 years, starting on February 2, 1830 with the first issue of the Huron Reflector. I describe the founding of this newspaper (by my ancestors) in my Sufferers’ Land post, The Norwalk Reflector.

Here’s a list of what newspapers are available on NewspaperArchive.com:

 

Huron Reflector: 1830-1862

Norwalk Daily Reflector: 1882-1913

Norwalk Evening Herald: 1902-1913

Norwalk Experiment: 1841-1844

Huron County Democrat: 1913 (May 22)

Norwalk Huron Reflector: 1830-1853 (same as Huron Reflector).

Norwalk Reflector: 1862-1863; 1964-1979

Norwalk Reflector Herald: 1913-1964

Norwalk Reporter & Huron Advertiser: 1827-1830.

How do I use newspapers? After exhausting all other resources available to me (including the gems in my grandmother’s papers), I search in NewspaperArchive.com by surname to fill in the blanks, and browse issues on, before and after important dates in my ancestors’ lives (birth, marriage, death, etc.). This latter tactic has been especially helpful in finding obituaries.

Newspaper archives are a great, and relatively new, resource. If you are not using them in your research, you are really missing out.

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With all my writing about the Firelands and Norwalk, Ohio. You might think that I was born and grew up there. But you’d be wrong. My birthplace is Amherst, Ohio, and I grew up in Lorain and Avon Lake; all in three are Lorain County, to the east of the Firelands. Although I spent many Sunday afternoons with my family visiting my great-aunt Eleanor Wickham at the old Benedict mansion on Seminary Street in Norwalk, I never lived there.

In fact, to my knowledge, I have only slept one night in the city: Thursday, September 27, 1973. How do I know that exact date, you may ask? Well, I’ll tell you that story in my next post: One Night in Norwalk – A Hitchhiker’s Tale.

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A Home in the Wilderness Revisited

Two 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. Over the next days and weeks, Platt and Sally would become the first permanent residents and founders of Norwalk, Ohio. To celebrate this event, I am republishing A Home in the Wilderness, the sixth post in my series Sufferers’ Land, which tells the story of the settlement of Norwalk from 1817 to 1857.

Happy Bicentennial, Norwalk!

 

Platt and Sally Benedict

Platt and Sally Benedict

 

A Home in the Wilderness

A day or so from their destination, Platt and Sally received bad news. Their cabin had burned down.

Mr. Stewart, whom Platt had hired to clear and fence four acres of land on the flats south of the sand ridge, had gone out of the cabin one morning, leaving a fire to dry his clothes. When he returned at noon for dinner, he found the cabin ablaze. He immediately left the area, not forgetting to take the provisions Platt had bought for him. [1]

The news devastated Platt and Sally. Footsore and weary, soaked and depressed by constant rain, they knew that they would have to get their family under shelter quickly before winter set in. They decided to stop at the home of the Gibbs and Lockwood families, located a mile and a half northeast of their land on the sand ridge; at the corner of what are now East Main Street and Old State Road. At four o’clock, Tuesday afternoon, the ninth of September, they came upon a cleared area in the forest where they found the Gibbs and Lockwood’s cabin and ramshackle barn. [2]

The two families lived in two one-room structures with a common roof and separated by a breezeway, one family in each cabin. David and Elizabeth Gibbs and their family had arrived in Ohio the previous year, accompanied by Elizabeth’s brother Henry Lockwood and his wife Fanny. The two families had a harder trip than the Benedicts and Keelers and each lost a child on the road. Looking at her own children, Sally must have been thankful that they had all made the trip safely.

John and Ruth Boalt and their eleven children had arrived several weeks previously. Ruth Boalt was the sister of Henry Lockwood and Elizabeth Gibbs. The Boalts were sick with malaria, or ague as the settlers called it. They lay in the Lockwood cabin, burning with fever, Fanny nursing them as best she could. [3]

The travelers crowded into the Gibbs cabin for supper. After eating, the unmarried men went to the barn to sleep and the families settled down in the cabin as best they could. As she lay in a makeshift bed on the floor of the crowded little cabin, Sally must have thought of her home in Connecticut and wished she were back there, safe and warm. During the night, a big storm blew through the clearing, rain and wind rattling the “shakes” that covered the roof of the cabin.

Dawn finally came, and the single men dragged into the cabin, exhausted. The barn had provided scant protection against the storm. Rain came through the roof as if it was a sieve, soaking their beds and making for a miserable and sleepless night.

After breakfast, the men shouldered axes and saws and trudged down the trail along the sand ridge to where the Benedict cabin had burned down. Sally helped Elizabeth take care of the children and prepare dinner for the men. Around noon, the women followed the men’s tracks along the sand ridge with their dinner. They found the work progressing well. Men had come in from the surrounding farms to help. Sally could see that by the end of the day they would finish erecting her new home.

log-cabin-imageThe log house was only twenty feet square, with no doors, windows or fireplace, but it was good enough to provide shelter. The next day, Platt moved in and Sally cooked breakfast for the men by a log next to the cabin. [4]

Over the next few days, the men continued to improve the cabin, building a fireplace and chimney with clay and sticks, chinking and mudding the cracks and cutting holes in the walls for two doors and two windows. They accomplished all this without a single nail or other ironwork. Platt had brought two sashes for the windows from Connecticut, but had no glass, so they used greased paper instead. They finished five days later, and Sally and the children moved in. Conditions were primitive. There was no furniture and no floor.

Mud spoiled the mattresses Sally had brought from Connecticut, so Platt made two bedsteads, one for him and Sally and the other for their daughters. They were primitive — frames attached to the walls of the cabin and webbed with basswood bark instead of cords. However, according to Platt, they were very comfortable, and after almost two months on the road, Sally probably agreed that they were a welcome relief from sleeping on the ground. [5]

With the Benedict cabin finished, the men moved on to the land John Boalt had purchased from Platt on Old State Highway, south-east of the Benedict’s cabin. They built a double cabin there and the Boalts moved down from the Gibbs and Lockwood homestead as soon as they recovered their health. [6]

Sally and Platt had established a new home on the frontier. Now they had to make it through their first winter.

 

Footnotes:
[1] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk,” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, pp. 17-18.
[2] The description of the arrival at the Gibbs and Lockwood cabin is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[3] “Incidents in the Life of Mrs. Elizabeth L. Gibbs,” The Firelands Pioneer, October 1874, pp. 83-84.
[4] The description of the first night at the Gibbs and Lockwood cabin and the raising of the Benedict cabin is from “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, March 1860, p. 16.
[5] “Memoirs of Townships – Norwalk” by Platt Benedict, The Firelands Pioneer, May 1859, p. 18.
[6] “Personal Memoirs” by Seth Jennings, The Firelands Pioneer, p. 17.

 

Click Here to read all fifty-three of the Sufferers’ Land series of posts.

 

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Nothing New Under the Sun

Great fire of 1908

Scene of the Devastation of the Michigan Fire of 1908 [1]

This year, it seems that the entire western U.S. is in flames. Although in Colorado, where I live, we have mostly been spared the fires, we have suffered through weeks of heavy smoke from conflagrations in Canada, Oregon and Montana that obscure the sky, burn our eyes, and weigh heavily on our spirits.

I hiked in the hills near my home south of Denver this morning. Normally, Pikes Peak, fifty miles to the south, stands out boldly against a blue sky. But this morning, I could barely make out the foothills of the Front Range, a little over ten miles to the west.

Fires like these are not new, however. One-hundred nine years ago, my grandmother, Harriott Wickham, wrote in her diary about smoke from faraway fires that blanketed Norwalk, Ohio. Here’s what she had to say:

 

Saturday, Sept 11, – The air is so full of smoke from the Canadian & Michigan forest fires that it is like a thick fog. The air is close & muggy, and the sun doesn’t even cast a shadow. It is only about four o’clock now, but you can scarcely see the sun although there is not a cloud in the sky, at least as far as I can see, which isn’t far, for I can hardly see across the valley. My, I’m glad we don’t have forests around here. It’s bad enough clear across the Lake. [2]

There is nothing new under the sun, according to the prophet. [3] And sometimes, there is no sun.

Something is different today, however – coverage of these events. These days, national and local news sources extensively cover wild fires, and cautions us of the health risks. But on September 11, 1908, the dense smoke Harriott Wickham described in her diary merited not even a mention from the Norwalk Daily Reflector or the Evening Herald. An article in the latter paper did report about a forest fire in Minnesota, but only because it threatened a town. [4] Property loss was news. The environment was not.

Footnotes:

[1] From “MAJOR POST-LOGGING FIRES IN MICHIGAN: the 1900’s.”

[2] From the unpublished diary of Harriott Wickham, Norwalk High School Class of 1907 covering May 1908 to May 1909 in the possession of the author of this blog. As it is today, there were no real forests around Norwalk in 1908. Pioneers like Harriett Wickham’s ancestors had cut them down over the previous century.

[3] Ecclesiastes, 1:9.

[4] “Forest Fires Do Great Damage,” Norwalk Evening Herald, page 3, column 5.

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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 – Those Who Stayed

 

old-norwalk-high-school0001

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 – Education After Graduation – The Men

old-norwalk-high-school0001

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 High School

old-norwalk-high-school0001

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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