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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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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Class Day 1907 – Who’s Missing – And Why?

In my last two posts about Class Day 1907, Bachelor Hall and The Chorus Girls Who Are They, I identified all members of the cast of the play Bachelor Hall that was performed at the Norwalk High School on June 5 and 6, 1907. The cast, however, did not include the entire Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Six students did not perform those two nights: Myrtle WoodruffAlice McCammon, Gertrude Ryerson, Inez Adams, Earl Sinclair, and Fred Osborne. [1]

 

Clockwise from upper left: Myrtle Woodruff, Alice McCammon, Gertrude Ryerson, Fred Osborne, Earl Sinclair and Inez Adams.

Were these six young people working backstage? According to the Norwalk Daily Reflector, [2] the actors’ “makeups were true to life, [and] the stage settings were in excellent taste.” Someone had to apply the “makeups” and someone was needed to manufacture the stage settings and change them between scenes.

But then again, perhaps these six were not involved at all; age and place of residence may be the reason they did not participate in these follies.

Three of the young women lived outside Norwalk, and were older than their classmates: Myrtle was twenty years old and lived in Fairfield Township, [3] Alice was the same age and lived in Greenfield Township, [4], Gertrude was a year younger and hailed from Bronson Township. [5] Inez and Fred lived in Norwalk, but she was nineteen [6] and he was one month shy of his twenty-first birthday. [7] Earl Sinclair was nineteen and lived on a farm outside of Norwalk. [8]

Bottom line, it seems that older students did not participate in school activities as much as their younger classmates, most of whom were seventeen or eighteen years old. Location also seemed to be a factor. Those who participated in extra curricular activities were more likely to live in Norwalk.

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In high school, I enjoyed performing in theatrical productions. But I and my fellow cast members were not the most popular in our class. In 1907, however, all the younger members of the Norwalk senior class were involved in the class play, and many other activities. Class spirit in my high school in 1972 can only be characterized as dismal. In 1907, however, with the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, it was everything.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The links for each student lead to that person’s WeRelate person page.

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

[3] Fairfield, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0020; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[4] Greenfield, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 0022; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[5] Bronson, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, ; Roll: 1288; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[6] Kenton Ward 2, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 13A&B; Enumeration District: 0031; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[7] Kenton Ward 3, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 0032; FHL microfilm: 1241288.

[8] Norwalk, in Huron County, Ohio. 1900 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Roll: 1288; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0029; FHL microfilm: 1241288.,

 

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The Heritage of Myrtle Woodruff – Final Chapter

After his father Chauncey died in 1818, George Woodruff continued to clear the land they had settled, and in the following years, established a prosperous farm. He and his wife Hannah started a family.

Hannah died in 1830, and over the years, his children left home, starting their own families around the Firelands. His eldest son Chauncey, named for his father, settled in Peru Township, and served in the Mexican and Civil Wars. Chauncey’s son Lewis was the father of Myrtle Woodruff, alumnus of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907. Here is her family tree, tracing her ancestry back to those first pioneers of Norwich Township in the Firelands.

myrtle-woodruff-family-tree

We now end the story of Myrtle’s heritage. Here are the posts that made up this series:

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll return to 1907 Norwalk, and see how the Class of 1907 fared in the new year, starting with the events of Wednesday, January 9, 1907.

Sources for this post were John Niles article “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-46, and W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

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Litany of Death in the Sufferers Land

In my last post, It was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run, I wrote about two baby boys, who in 1817 were buried in the forest on the banks of Mud Run north of Village House where the Woodruff and Lawrence families had taken up residence. The remains of these two infants were soon joined by the Dickinson twins: two boys who were the first children born to settlers in Norwich Township. They came into the world on October 24, 1817. One boy was stillborn, the other lived but a few hours. Both were buried on the banks of Mud Run.

gravestone-in-forestThe final burial in that place, according to the records, was in the fall of 1819, Richard Moon, a widower, left his children in New York and came to Norwich Township. He was taken ill with “the lung fever” and died soon after he arrived. His was the first funeral in the township. Richard Moon and the four little boys are not recorded as being interred in Boughton Cemetery, so it is likely that their remains are still buried along the banks of Mud Run. [1]

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Clearing the land in the Firelands was a generational task. Often, the first generation did not live to see the fruits of their labor. Such was the case with Chauncey Woodruff.

In order to make ends meet until they cleared enough acres on their land to be profitable, the first pioneers had to find work elsewhere. As I described in Sufferers’ Land Post #7 on this site, Platt Benedict, in his first winter on the frontier, earned sixty  dollars working on a crew that cut a road from Norwalk to Milan to buy enough pork to feed his family until spring.

snowy-woodsChauncey Woodruff faced the same dilemma. In 1818, he took a job grinding grain at a grist mill located between Sandusky and Venice and owned by a Doctor Carpenter. While there, he fell ill and was taken home to Norwich Township. His condition worsened, and he was moved to the more established community of New Haven Township, [2] where presumably, he could receive better care. But he was too far gone, and died a few days later. Were his remains brought home and buried along the banks of Mud Run, or was he buried in New Haven? I have found not found the answer to this question. [3]

Now George Woodruff had to shoulder the entire burden of supporting his family. We’ll continue his story, and of his descendants down to his great granddaughter Myrtle Woodruff, of the Norwalk High School Class of 1907, in my next post.

Notes

[1]  The three sources I consulted for information about these deaths were: John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-39; Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions, by the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 1997, page 714;  W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

[2] New Haven Township was one of the oldest in the Firelands. Although the township was not established until 1815, it was first settled in 1811 by Caleb Palmer and was a place of refuge during the War of 1812 for settlers along the shores of Lake Erie. Reference: A.G. Stewart, Esq., “Memoirs of Townships – New Haven,” The Firelands Pioneer, Volume I, Number 3, March 1859, The Firelands Historical Society; page 8-16; and W.W. Williams, History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 295-308.

[3] Story of the death of Chauney Woodruff is from “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, page 38.

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It was Buried on the Banks of Mud Run

The first death in the township was that of ——, son of Wilder Lawrence, Feb. 19th, 1817, only 9 days after their arrival. It was buried on the bank of Mud Run, some twenty rods northeast of the present burying ground. Soon after, Chauncey Woodruff buried a son at the same place. These two children were both born in Trumbull County, while the parents were on their way from the State of New York. [1]

How chilling! Not only that these boys died so young-that is heartbreaking enough-but that the writer did not know the names of these children, and even more, the phrase “It was buried on the banks of Mud Run.”

As I wondered about the location of “Village House” in a previous post, I  wonder now about where these children were buried. The passage above provided my first clue: it says that “It” was buried “some twenty rods northeast of the present burying ground.” I jumped on Google Earth and searched the wooded area north of Village House. Lo and behold, here is what I found.

cemetary-along-mud-run

A cemetery! This could be the “present burying ground” described in the passage above. An internet search turned up a 1997 publication of the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, where I found this: “Boughton Cemetery, also called North Norwich Cemetery, is located on the east side of Section Line Road 30, just north of Boughton Road and about six miles north of US224 in Norwich Twp.” [2]

boughton-cemetery-photo

Boughton Cemetery in summer (from Find a Grave)

boughton-cemetery-photo-winter

Boughton Cemetery in winter (from Find a Grave)

I wondered if perhaps the remains of the Lawrence and Woodruff boys had been moved to the “present burying ground” when it was established. The Huron County Genealogical Society publication has gravestone inscriptions for the cemetery, and no newborns who died in 1817 are listed. So are the infants graves in the woods northeast of the present cemetery? On the last page of the Huron County Genealogical Society publication we find this:

Rev. Norman Bowen searched the area [northeast of Boughton Cemetery] in 1992 and 1993 for this book and believes he found a spot on a bluff well above Mud Run that juts out quite a bit, and is a likely site for this cemetery, although no stone remains were found, if these ever were there.

It is most likely, then, that the remains of those two infants still lie in unmarked graves on the banks of Mud Run.  A rod is five-and-a-half yards, so according to John Niles article in The Firelands Pioneer, those graves would be a little over the length of a football field from Boughton Cemetery. Look at the map of Boughton Cemetery above and imagine where those boys were laid to rest two hundred years ago, and remain, unremarked today.

But if they are at that place, they are not alone. Others were buried beside them at a later date. Who might they be? We’ll learn that in the next post.

Notes:

[1] John Niles, “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 38-39.

[2] Huron County, Ohio Cemetery Inscriptions, by the Huron Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society, 1997, page 714

[3] Further narrative about this story is in W.W. Williams’ book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

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Hardship and Tragedy

George Woodruff and the other men started work the day after they arrived at Village House, clearing enough land to plant corn that spring. The soil in the area was a clay loam “well suited for agriculture, but before they could take advantage of its fertility, they needed to clear away the trees.

snowy-woodsThis was no easy matter. The forests were heavily timbered with enormous white oaks, whitewood and black walnut, generally eighty to one-hundred feet in height and three feet in diameter. Some were as much as six foot in diameter, and as they began to cut them down, George and the others found by their rings that those giants were upwards of three-hundred years old.

Game was abundant; deer and wild turkey, especially, and provided them with much needed food to supplement what they had brought with them. Wolves were also numerous, and their howling kept George and the rest of the party awake many nights.

Hardships on the trek west, and the privations of their new home took a toll on the settlers, especially the children. During the families’ sojourn in Trumbull, Roxanna Lawrence had had a baby boy, and she carried the infant at her breast all the way to “Village House.” But the harsh conditions of travel and the primitive conditions in their new home took a toll on this delicate creature. Nine days after they arrived, the infant died.

gravestone-in-forestThey buried him on the banks of Mud Run, just north of Village House. People in those days were accustomed to death, it visited often, even in the relatively civilized east. But accustomed as they might be, they could never become immune to the grief of the loss of a loved one–especially the loss of a child so young.

More deaths were to follow; which is the subject of my next post.

This story is based on accounts by John Niles in “Memoirs of Norwich Township,” The Firelands  Pioneer; Volume II, number 2; The Firelands Historical Society; March, 1860, pages 32-46, and by W.W. Williams in his book History of the Fire-Lands Comprising Huron and Erie Counties, Ohio, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of the Prominent Men and Pioneers, Press of Leader Printing Company, Cleveland Ohio, 1897, pages 417-425.

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