Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sophronia Jefferson, Former Slave


An article in the November 15, 1924 Sandusky Star Journal gives an account of local resident Sophronia Jefferson. Sophronia was born in Kentucky in 1842 “under the bonds of slavery.” She and her family moved to Indiana after the Civil War, where she worked for the Patterson family. (Mrs. Patterson’s daughter married into the Van Camp family, which was well known for its canning business.) In 1868, Mrs. Jefferson moved to Margaretta Township where she was employed by a Dr. Gideon. Eventually she relocated to Sandusky with her daughter Ella Miller. The writer of the newspaper article reports that when Sophronia first came to Erie County, “Sandusky at that time seemed to her a big pen for poultry and hogs, for whenever she came to town the first thing that she had to do was to chase the hogs from the ford at Mills Creek and then make her way through flocks of chickens, ducks and turkeys.” At that time, Sandusky consisted mostly of small shacks and buildings.

Mrs. Jefferson discussed how during the Civil War slaves barely knew any of the events which were taking place in the free Northern states. News and rumors of news were brought by peddlers, mail carriers, and travelers. Sophronia states that Lincoln’s name was forbidden to be spoken to anyone of color. She said that the biggest event in her life was news of the emancipation in 1862. The second big event in her life was the news of Lee’s surrender in 1865. The picture (shown above) which appeared in the Star Journal was taken from a daguerreotype taken on Christmas Day in 1865 in Indianapolis, when she was about 13 years old.

Sophronia was widowed as a young woman. In 1910, she was living in Sandusky with her daughter, granddaughter, and her uncle Harrison Bartlett, who had fought in the Civil War with the Massachusetts 55th Infantry. She was active in the Second Baptist Church on Decatur Street. At the 1919 “May Festival” sponsored by the Autumn Leaf Sewing Circle of the Second Baptist Church, Sophronia’s daughter Ella Miller displayed a log cabin silk quilt which had been made by her grandmother on a plantation in Kentucky in the 1800’s. The Star Journal article ends with an account of Sophronia voting in the November 4 election, and add that she had been driven to her voting place in an automobile. On August 24, 1927, Sophronia Jefferson died in Good Samaritan Hospital. Her funeral was held at her residence on Tyler Street, and she was buried in the Castalia Cemetery. She had lived a rich life, having overcome incredible challenges.

Although the Sandusky Library does not have primary sources relating to Mrs. Jefferson or other former slaves, you can find several items in our book collections on the history of slavery in America and recollections of former slaves, including the book, Remembering Slavery, and its companion audio tapes, with recordings of oral histories of former slaves.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Letters to Santa Claus

In the early twentieth century, both of Sandusky's major newspapers (the Register and the Star-Journal) published children's letters to Santa Claus during December. It might be interesting to note the differences between what children asked for then and what they do now.

Based on the small sample of letters reviewed, in newspapers published between 1912 and 1920, among the most popular gifts children asked for were dolls, bicycles, oranges, candy and nuts. Few brand names were mentioned by the letter-writers. It might be a little different today. Most letters were concise requests for presents, but some included brief descriptions of family members and requests on behalf of others. For example, in 1912, Ottomer Schiefly told Santa "Don't forget my little brother as he would like a few things." Miriam Edith Reinheimer, in 1920, spent a significant portion of her letter asking for gifts for others:

"Dear Santa:

If you please Sir I wish mother a box of candy, Papa a shirt, John a neck tie, Jean a doll, Ruth a box of writing paper and please bring me a big doll with real hair, a stove which I can cook on, a ring; my neckless [sic] fixed, and if you please sir I would like a new dress and a ribbon to match it, a kimona [sic].
If you bring me all that I will thank you ever so much. From Miriam Edith Reinheimer.
Please remember my school mates and teacher."

Some letters suggest the hardships children endured -- Margaret Lody Slegman, from Huron, wrote (in 1912): "My papa and aunt and uncle is all right. My mamma is dead and I stay with my auntie." Mary Hanick from Kelleys Island reminded Santa (in 1920), "There is a lot of us in a family. We are poor." Several children -- including Norma Yager from Oak Harbor (1916), Thomas Krafty from Venice (1912), and Geneva Pigersch (1916) -- reminded Santa, "don't forget the poor children."

One letter, published in 1912, was written in German. The letter is the first in the image below. I don't know German, but I think Agnes Patz wanted a doll and a buggie, and she was a good girl.

Microfilm copies of the Sandusky Register and the Star-Journal are available in the Archives Research Center, in the lower level of the library.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Built Upon the Rock

Sitting on top of bedrock of solid limestone, the city of Sandusky has the largest number of limestone buildings in Ohio. One such building is the Follett House, a Greek Revival mansion that was once home to prominent publisher Oran Follett. The Follett House was built with stone quarried from a lot across the street, between Adams Street and Huron Avenue.

With a ready supply of limestone, quarrying became an early industry in Sandusky. Many German and Irish immigrants were stone cutters, and they found work building homes, schools, churches, and businesses in Sandusky. Helen Hansen noted in her 1975 book, AT HOME IN EARLY SANDUSKY, that “the name of Feick has been associated with building in Sandusky for over 100 years.” The Erie County Jail (pictured above), now part of the Sandusky Library, was constructed by Philip, Adam, and George Feick in 1883. You can read about the Feick family in the book BUILDING AMERICA: A HISTORY OF THE FAMILY FEICK, located in the Family History collection of the Sandusky Library.

The original Third National Bank of Sandusky was built in 1914 on West Market Street. Henry Millott was the architect, and the contractors were "G. Wm. Doerzbach and Brother." G. William Doerzbach is pictured below.
The exact location of the building below is unknown. Notes from the original photograph indicate that carpenters were working on the “Lake View House” in Sandusky. (Note the limestone bricks around the foundation.)

For more information about the architects, builders, and contractors of Sandusky, visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. Among the sources available on this topic is an excellent architectural history of Sandusky entitled TREASURE BY THE BAY, by Ellie Damm.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sandusky High School Class of 1884

Through the generous donation of local donors, the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library has a complete set of photographs of the Sandusky High School graduating class of 1884. The students’ photographs were taken by the studio of Bishop & Veitch. Willard A. Bishop and James H. Veitch had a photography studio opposite the Post Office in the Stone Block.


Charles F. Selkirk was the son of Clerk of Courts George O. Selkirk. When Charles passed away April 1931, his obituary was headlined with the words “Poet and Friend of Poets.” Charles F. Selkirk wrote many poems, some of which were published in the Sandusky Register by the pen name of “Solkirke.” You can read more about Charles F. Selkirk in Helen Hansen’s book AT HOME IN EARLY SANDUSKY, available at the Sandusky Library.


Sarah Howard was the first African American female graduate of Sandusky High School. She was born in Perkins Township to John and Abby Howard. Sarah taught school in Kentucky and Texas for seventeen years. She married Thomas Lawson and they moved to Ontario, Canada. Sarah died in Windsor at the age of 54, survived by her husband Thomas and son Clarence. You can read Sarah Lawson’s obituary in the Sandusky Star Journal of September 26, 1917.


Evelina Ball was the daughter of Katharine Follett Ball and Flamen Ball III, and the granddaughter of Oran and Eliza Follett. She married George Walbridge Perkins, a partner of J. P. Morgan. In 1903 G. W. Perkins purchased the Wave Hill House, a former summer home of the Theodore Roosevelt family. Wave Hill House is now part of a botanical garden in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx. Evelina was born at The Follett House in 1865, and lived in Sandusky while she attended Sandusky High School. When Katharine Follett Ball was dying in 1909, news of Evelina rushing to be near her mother’s side was printed in the New York Times.


James M. French was a very successful businessman in Sandusky, active in the insurance business, real estate, the local Red Cross, and many other civic activities. Mr. French’s obituary is found in the 1922 Obituary Notebook, located in the Archives Research Center. The community was greatly saddened at the death of James M. French. Classmate Charles F. Selkirk was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral, as was Congressman James T. Begg. There were so many attendees at the funeral that the First Congregational Church could not hold them all. The African American Boy Scout troop, which Mr. French helped to organize, stood at attention as the casket was taken to the hearse.

These are just a few profiles of the many graduates of Sandusky High School. Visit the Sandusky Library to learn more about early residents of our community.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Finding Aids for Old Collections

I know this is coming a little late (the work was finished in August), but I would like to recognize and publicize some new resources produced by our summer intern this year. He created several new finding aids for materials that had been "buried" in the archives, because they had not been fully described as distinct collections. We're hopeful that these new information sources will bring increased attention to some interesting historical items, and provide more information of value to researchers. Although none of these collections is very big, there will certainly be some bits of information useful to genealogists, local historians, and others with an interest in history and culture.

Many of these new finding aids describe collections of papers and artifacts produced and gathered by local families and individuals. The Stubig Family Collection (1852-1926) contains materials relating to the life and times of Christian Stubig, a German immigrant to Sandusky, and his son Carl Stubig, a newspaper reporter and local political figure. Among the items in this collection are letters written in German between family members and Stubig's Weekly, a political newspaper published by Carl Stubig, 1915-1918.

The Wilbor & Wilcox Family Collections (bulk 1848-1873) provide insight into business and personal activities in 19th-century Sandusky. The collection contains records of dry goods business transactions and personal correspondence among family members.

The Cable Family Collection (bulk 1895-1916) offers a description of the business activities of Laurence Cable and his sons Edward and Frank, including legal documents and correspondence, some relating to the Cable Park residential development in Sandusky.

The John F. McCrystal, Sr. Papers (bulk 1893-1925) include approximately 175 items relating to Mr. McCrystal's participation in legal and civic issues, particularly during his time as chairman of Sandusky's Legal Advisory Board in the World War I period.

The Frohman Family Collection (1891-1990) is a small collection of memorabilia relating to the Sandusky family, beginning with brothers David and Henry, who arrived in the 1850s, to Charles Frohman, the businessman and local historian who died in 1976.

The Chapman and Pendleton Family Correspondence consists of 120 letters sent between family members between 1843 and 1870. They offer a rich description of life of that time, including reports of travel and migration, diseases, death and other hardships, as well as other personal matters that help to describe the era.

Also, the library holds several small collections relating to local businesses. Although none of these collections represent the complete records of a company (or even a significant portion), they offer perpectives of various local industries. Included are: the Hinde and Dauch Company Collection (1894-1995), consisting primarily of advertisements and other business ephemera; the American Crayon - Prang Collection (1878-1980), containing advertising, some correspondence, catalogs, and secondary articles relating to the company's activities; and the M. Hommel Winery Collection (bulk 1897-1915), including records of the company relating to competitions at international expositions and fairs, some business records, and advertising materials.

For more information about these collections, or any other collections in the Archives Research Center, please contact the Sandusky Library, via phone (419-625-3834) or email, or come in and visit the library.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Oheb Shalom Cemetery

The Oheb Shalom Cemetery is located south of the Erie County Fairgrounds, at the intersection of Columbus and Dewitt Avenues, in Perkins Township (near the Ohio Veterans Home). The land for this cemetery was purchased in 1854, according to an article in the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register, October 4, 1854.The first burial at this Jewish cemetery was Max Teshner, a Civil War veteran who died December 9, 1864. Although his name is given as Max Teshner in the cemetery records, he is probably the person recorded in the Ancestry Library Edition database (a Clevnet database) as Michael Tashner, who enlisted December 4, 1861 as a private at age 18. He eventually was promoted to Full Principal Musician of Company G, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. On December 9, 1864, he died from wounds suffered in a battle at Nashville, Tennessee. He is buried in the cemetery with several other members of the Teshner family (sometimes spelled Teschner).

David and Rachael Frohman, along with some of their children, are also buried in the Oheb Shalom Cemetery. David was an uncle to the theatrical Frohmans, Charles and Daniel.

Moses Lebensberger, a native of Bavaria, Germany, migrated to Sandusky in 1857. He was involved in the clothing business in Sandusky for many years, first with a Mr. Minott, then with his son. The business, on Columbus Avenue in downtown Sandusky, is shown in the image below (from 1908). He is buried in the Oheb Shalom Cemetery with members of his family.
A booklet entitled The 100th Year History of Reform Judaism in Sandusky, Ohio is part of the Churches Collections in the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. The interment records for the burials at the Oheb Shalom Cemetery are available on microfilm in the Archives Research Center.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

German Newspapers in Sandusky

Some of you may not know that there once was a large, active German community in Sandusky, one large enough to support German-language newspapers. Many native Germans migrated to the United States in the nineteenth century; some chose Sandusky (and many other midwestern towns) as their point of settlement. Ernst von Schulenberg's book about the German influence in Sandusky (written in German, and translated into English as Sandusky: Then and Now) claims that there were about 300 German-speaking people in Sandusky by the 1830s -- out of a total population of about 1000.






In 1851, the first German-language newspaper in Sandusky began publication. The Intelligenz-Blatt was founded by Herman Ruess (left) and August Ruemmele (right). By 1860, the newspaper had ceased publication.
Another German newspaper began publication in Sandusky in 1856. Founded as the Baystadt Demokrat ("Bay City Democrat"), the newspaper later called the Sandusky Demokrat operated until 1919, when anti-German pressure as a result of World War I forced the paper out of business. (During the war, German-language publications were required to seek a government permit to publish; additionally, popular sentiment made it difficult to support German heritage at that time.)

These newspapers help us to understand a part of our culture that no longer exists. Unfortunately, the Sandusky Library has very few copies of these newspapers, and there does not appear to be a complete run of these newspapers in any public institution. Could there be copies of these newspapers in your attic, or in some other storage place? If you find any of these newspapers, please consider donating them to the Sandusky Library, or loaning them for microfilming, so that we might preserve our city's heritage.


Monday, November 26, 2007

Three Aspiring Entertainers

Nettie Baumeister Buder, Heenan Elliott, and Helen Fisher are pictured below in front of a stage backdrop from a play in which they were performing at Cedar Point, around 1918.
Sadly, Helen Fisher, who later married George Reynolds, died in 1922 at the age of 25.

Nettie Baumeister married Edwin Buder, and was the mother of Dr. Joseph and Thomas Buder. She was a lifetime resident of Sandusky, and was involved in many local musicals and civic affairs. She was a 50-year member of Grace Junior League, volunteered at the Grace Church Thrift Shop, and was a member of the former Memorial Hospital Guild. Nettie lived until the age of 97.

Heenan Elliott was the husband of Freda Black Jenkins, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Black. Heenan Elliott appeared on television shows, and was in several movies. He also traveled as a speaker with the Chautauqua Circuit. In 1926 Heenan Elliott was the secretary of the Catawba Candy Co., where his father-in-law, Leslie Black, served as company president. Heenan and Freda eventually moved to California, where Heenan served as president of the San Fernando Valley Real Estate Board. The Elliotts lived in California until their deaths in the 1970s.
Above is a photograph of a man driving a wagon from the Catawba Candy Company, which operated in Sandusky from 1905 until 1933.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Program Announcement -- Travelogues & Scrapbooks: Records of 19th & Early 20th Century World Travel by Sanduskians

Today it is relatively easy (for those who can afford it) to buy an airplane ticket and be in another part of the world in a few hours. Before the days of high-speed travel, taking a trip was a major event in one's life and was treated accordingly.

On Saturday, December 1, at 2:00 p.m. Archives Librarian Ron Davidson will present some examples from the Library's archival collections of past Sanduskians' scrapbooks, letters, and souvenirs describing their trips around the world, around the country, or just around the lakes. Among other sights, we will see views of Egypt in the 19th Century, take a trip around the Great Lakes during the Great Depression, and read accounts of people's journeys.

Registration is requested. To register, call 419-625-3834 and press 0 to speak with a switchboard operator (9-5, Monday-Friday) or press Option 6 to leave a message.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Aline Stem’s “First Book of Essays”

Before Aline Stem graduated from Sandusky High School in 1862, she kept a notebook of essays, beginning September 14, 1859. Aline was the daughter of Jesse Stem, a Seneca County lawyer, and his wife Matilda Pittenger Stem. She was the niece of Anna Pittenger McMeens, wife of Dr. Robert R. McMeens. After Jesse Stem was tragically killed in Texas in 1854, Mrs. Stem and her four daughters moved in Sandusky.

Here is an essay written by Aline Stem on Nov. 9, 1859:

Transcription:

“The Woods”

How pleasant it is in the woods in summer, when every thing is bright and green around!

It is such a grand place for picnics, berrying parties, or any thing of that kind; and here we find thousands of beautifull [sic] flowers scattered all around us; daisies, butterups, violets, forgetmenots, spring-beauties, sweet Williams and many others.

And if we go out some bright morning in Autumn after a shower, we may find a basket of truffles, or mushrooms as some call them, which make a very nice dish for breakfast.

Sandusky City
Nov. 9th, 1859
Composition No. 5

Opposite Aline’s essay on “The Woods,” are two conundrums.

Why is Frank Parish like a learned man?
Ans. Because he knows (nose) so much.

Why is Dr. McMeens like a rich man?
Ans. Because he is a man of “Meens”

In 1881, Aline Stem was married to Christian Hornung, a math professor at Heidelberg College in Tiffin. After Professor Hornung died in 1918, Aline often spent time with her sister Sarah Stem in Sandusky. It is at her sister’s home where she passed away in 1934.
Mr. and Mrs. Hornung are buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Tiffin, Ohio.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Veterans Day, Nov. 11: George Schiller, Last Spanish-American War Veteran in Erie County

At the time of his death in September 1977 at age 99, George S. Schiller was the last surviving Spanish-American War veteran in Erie County. In his own words: "I enlisted April 25, 1898, right after the sinking of the Maine." He served in Company B of the 16th Ohio Militia, which was renamed the 6th Volunteer Infantry after becoming part of the national army. Schiller and his unit were shipped off to Cuba on December 22, 1898, but by then the worst of the battles were over, with Spanish defeat following soon after. Company B returned home to Sandusky in May 1899, receiving a welcoming parade on Columbus Avenue, as seen below.
George Schiller lived a long and fruitful life, using his experience as an Army cook in a restaurant and catering career. He was an active member in several veterans organizations, including being elected National Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief of the United Spanish-American War Veterans at age 97. A lifelong resident of Sandusky, he is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Veterans Day, Nov. 11: Reinhardt Ausmus Inducted into Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame

In this year's class of inductees to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame is a long-time resident of Sandusky and an aviation pioneer. Through the efforts of Sandusky resident Bob Daniel, Reinhardt Ausmus is being recognized for his "distinctive contribution to the progress of early aviation" as well as for his services contributing "to the well being of veterans and other citizens of the Sandusky area."

He was born in Cleveland in 1896, and raised in an orphanage. Interested in aviation since childhood, in 1912, at age 16, he built and flew his first airplane. By age 18, he had built and flown a second airplane, a biplane. In 1915, he moved to Sandusky to work with another Sandusky aviation pioneer, Thomas Benoist. "Reiny" (as he was known to his friends) worked as both a production assistant and flight instructor, until Benoist's tragic death in 1917.

In 1918, during the First World War, Ausmus joined the U.S. Army as a flight instructor, and taught combat pilots in Wichita Falls, Texas for the duration of the war and after. He left active duty in the Army in 1919, after a plane crash (shown below) that killed his passenger and nearly killed him; he received multiple broken bones, and suffered from the effects of the crash for many years.
He was an advocate for veterans' welfare from his early days until his death in 1970. Beginning as the Veterans Service Officer for American Legion Post 83 in 1922, he was appointed the first Erie County Veterans Service Officer in 1949, serving in that position until 1969.
Our thanks to Bob Daniel for gathering the information about "Reiny" Ausmus (seen here in his later years, with his famous checkered cap) and for sponsoring his nomination to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Veterans Day, Nov. 11: Leonard J. Thom, Naval Hero

Leonard J. Thom was the oldest of eight children, born to Walter and Maye Thom. Walter Thom worked as a blacksmith. Walter’s father J. J. Thom, pictured below, had a blacksmith shop on Hayes Avenue, next to the American Crayon plant.
In 1936, Leonard J. Thom graduated from Sandusky High School, where he was a standout football player. He went on to play football at Heidelberg College, and Ohio State University. Thom was a guard for the Buckeyes. After playing semi-pro football for the Columbus Bulls, he coached high school football for a year in Columbus.

During World War Two, Leonard J. Thom, became an Ensign in the Navy, and was an Executive Officer of the PT-109, serving under John F. Kennedy. When the torpedo boat was cut in half in August of 1943, Leonard Thom and Jack Kennedy both assisted in the rescue of the men aboard ship. Both men were awarded the Purple Heart.

In 1944, Leonard Thom married Kate Holway in Youngstown, Ohio. He was working at an insurance agency and commuting to Columbus for college classes when he was tragically killed in an automobile accident in October of 1946, at the age of 29. The “Leonard J. Thom Memorial Scholarship Fund” at Sandusky High School helps to keep his memory alive.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Mystery Photo, and International Drum Month

According to my "Simpsons" calendar, today begins International Drum Month. In commemoration, I thought I'd use this as an opportunity to reintroduce the "Mystery Photos" feature of the blog. Here is a mystery photo, with drums:
All we know for certain (or more accurately, what we can safely assume from appearance) is that the photo was taken by the W.A. Bishop studio in Sandusky, probably in the 1880s or 1890s. Willard Bishop was a prominent local photographer, who arrived in Sandusky from his native Indianapolis as a young man in 1880. During his long career in Sandusky (he died in 1940), he was perhaps best known as the photographer of "society" and the prominent people within it.

The men in the photo apparently are from a drum section of a marching band -- with the drum major holding the baton, and the rest with their drums. Marching bands were a popular form of entertainment in American culture before the advent of the phonograph and the radio.

Do you recognize anything that could help identify this photo? Do you think you could make up a reasonable story for this picture?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

McMeens Post of the G.A.R.


The McMeens Post, No. 19, of the Department of Ohio’s Grand Army of the Republic was named for Dr. Robert R. McMeens, who served in both the Mexican War and the Civil War. The G.A.R. was founded by Benjamin F. Stephenson on April 6, 1866 in Decatur, Illinois. The main object of this organization of Civil War veterans was to continue the friendships of the soldiers, to assist needy comrades, to care for war orphans and widows, and to promote patriotism. The three principles of the G.A.R. were fraternity, charity, and loyalty. The G.A.R. was divided into “Departments” at the state level, and by “Posts” at the community level. Membership peaked in 1890 when over 400,000 members were reported.

In 1892 I.F. Mack, a Sandusky newspaper editor and founder of the Ohio Veterans Home, was elected Commander of the Ohio Department of the Grand Army of the Republic. (You can read more about the colorful I.F. Mack in SANDUSKY’S EDITOR, by Charles E. Frohman, located in the Reference Services section of Sandusky Library.) Henry Dehnel was the Commander of the McMeens Post of the G.A.R. in 1892. You can view the 1892 roster of the local G.A.R. Post in the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. Names are listed alphabetically, and the soldier’s Company and Civil War regiment are also noted.

The annual meetings of the G.A.R. were called “encampments.” Here veterans would have campfires, tell stories, and sing war songs that they recalled from their days as a soldier. In June, 1895, the 29th annual encampment of the Department of Ohio, G.A.R. was held at Cedar Point. You can read about the many parades, dinners, tributes and other activities of the encampment in the June 11, June 12, and June 13 issues of the 1895 “Sandusky Register,” available on microfilm in the Archives Research Center.

You can still find evidence of the G.A.R. all across the United States. Thousands of Civil War Veterans’ graves are marked with a G.A.R. star. U.S. Highway 6, which runs through Erie County, is known as the “Grand Army of the Republic Highway” its entire length.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The "Trackless Train" Makes a Stop in Sandusky


On June 23, 1925 the “World’s First Trackless Transcontinental Highway Train” made a stop in front of the Schade Theater in Sandusky. Funded by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and the U.S. Tire Company, the Trackless Train operated like a truck, but outwardly looked like a locomotive train. It featured an engine, cab, and a combination dining and sleeping car.

The trackless train made a cross-country trip from New York City to Los Angeles from March 1925 through March 1926, in order to promote the development of a national highway system as advocated by Herbert Hoover. In Dayton the National Cash Register Company allowed its 6500 employees time off to view the train. The Sandusky Register, June 24, 1925, reported that the rubber tires on the novel vehicle had been driven for 5850 miles without going flat.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Letters from the Front

In the age of instant communication, it is easy to forget about the fading art of letter writing. Letters sent home from the Civil War reveal the musings of a young man. The Sandusky Library Archive holds copies of letters written by young Horace Harper Bill. Bill was born April 4, 1842, in Sandusky, the son of Earl Bill Jr. and his wife Roxy. He died in the battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862. He was a Sergeant-Major in 1861, but he voluntarily surrendered his position and went back into the ranks as a Private so as to be in the line of promotion and was promoted to 2nd lieutenant company K.

In a letter written to his father from Camp Chase at Pawpaw VA, Feb. 15, 1862, he detailed his sheer exhaustion: “We returned here about ten to twelve o’clock last night, tired, worn out and half frozen; and a bed never felt so good to me as my blankets did after I swallowed a couple of eggs and a cup of coffee and jerked my boots off.”

In another letter to his father written in April, he wrote home simply so his family would know he was still alive, although his many near misses likely did little to quell his family’s concerns:

I have no other excuse for violating a military order from Genl. McClellan, prohibiting the writing of letters by the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac than this—that I know you and the family are all anxious to hear that I am alive and unwounded after the Strasburg Reconnaissance and the battle of Winchester. The particulars of these two important engagements will be known to you before you receive this and I will not render myself liable to a military punishment by dwelling upon them or stating details of our army. Suffice it to say that our officers and men behaved like heroes and fought like demons. Our regiment was in advance Saturday evening, all day Sunday and until noon Monday and elicited the praise of our generals by their coolness and bravery. The eight won golden opinions and showed themselves inferior to no other regiment in the field in the elements of good soldiers. We won the name of the “bloody eight” at the expense of the dead, forty wounded and three prisoners—one of which escaped from Mt. Jackson and has just arrived in camp. Col. Carroll was brave as a lion and cool and collected as a veteran on the right wing he jumped off his horse, snatched a “Mississippi Yager” from the hands of a wounded Secesh, and led his wing afoot to the bloodiest charge of the day. He had one bullet hole through his overcoat and Col. Carroll had ten through his coat and one ball glanced on his sword belt. I had many narrow escapes during the Winchester fight and the Strasburg skirmish last week. My hair was clipped twice by musket balls and one spent ball struck the leg of my boot, in the skirmish on the left flank, Sunday morning, and several times during the day shells struck and exploded within a few yards of where I stood. But, it seems almost miraculously, I escaped unhurt. The left wing skirmish Sunday morning was the only one I was in during the day. The right wing did all the fighting in the afternoon.
I am a little under the weather today and am excused from duty. My feet are very sore from marching and I feel worn out “intirely” but I think it is only fatigue. Within eight days we (the eighth) have marched nearly one hundred miles and fought more than our share of two battles one of which takes rank as one of the hardest fights on record during this century—and I think I have a perfect right to be tired.



On June 12, 1862, he wrote to his sister Rose:
The roads, during the time of our marching, have been pretty good, and we had no trouble about getting our knapsacks hauled by the wagons, so that our burden was not so heavy as it might have been—and now that we have rested a day, I feel as well as ever. You would hardly imagine what we become accustomed to in these marches. One day on the march between Front Royal and here, the sun shone most beautifully in the morning and it was very warm—in fact uncomfortably so—but we marched on cheerily and after making eight miles stopped for dinner by a beautiful stream. We had our coffee and hard bread and started on—but the sky became overcast with clouds and the remainder of the day we marched under the most sever rain and hail I ever experienced. Our wagon stuck in the mud, and after fording three creeks, one nearly waist deep, we had to sleep without tents—but I found my way into a little outbuilding that had been a spring house and took a position on a barrel in a corner, drew up my feet and wrapped my rubber poncho about me, put my musket in the corner and went to sleep with my head leaning against the stone wall and slept as sweetly as ever I did at home. In the morning I made a cup of coffee and breakfasted on that and a piece of bacon toasted before the fire on a bayonet, marched back two miles to the teams and helped them out of the mud, and made my ten miles to Luray at the head of the Company, and thought nothing at all of it for it is a very common occurrence.

The following is excerpted from a letter to his sister written September 7, 1862, ten days before he died at the battle of Antietam:

I will give you what idea I can of your brother’s quarters. Imprimis. A piece of canvas 5 feet by 4, supported at one side by a couple of pieces rail driven into the ground, and held down at the other side by a couple of pegs, forms my house, castle, tent or whatever you choose to call it, containing bedroom, kitchen, dining room, pantry, grret, cellar and parlor. Secundis: a rubber blanket spread upon the ground composeth the furniture of said elegant and extensive mansion, answering the purpose of chairs, table, bed, bureau and provision chest. Tertus. My baggage is at Alexandria and nary clean shirt or socks has [been] seen since he left there, ten days ago and he has been marching over dusty or through muddy roads all the time. But I will begin to complain if I don’t stop thinking of such things, or will dry up.

Earl Bill Jr., Horace Harper Bill’s father, received a letter from Lieutenant Colonel Sawyer giving the particulars of his son’s death:

I sent a dispatch to be telegraphed you conveying the sad intelligence of your son’s death on the 17th, and now avail myself of the earliest opportunity to write you more particularly of the facts.
French’s Division, in which is our Brigade, forded Antietam Creek early on the morning of the 17th and engaged the enemy about quarter before nine, when one of the most sanguinary battles of the world was fought, lasting, in our front, for over four hours.
Lieutenant Horace H. Bill was in command of company K, of the 8th regiment, it’s captain being absent, sick, and most gallantly led his company upon the enemy, and fell early in the engagement, pierced with three balls—one in the head, one in the body, passing through his sword belt, and one in the leg. He was not conscious after this, but life was not entirely extinct until near night. I made every effort to have the body sent to the rear, and to procure a coffin for it, but this was impossible. Capt. James. E. Gregg superintended his burial, on the field, and marked his grave, and has his memorandum book, and perhaps other things. He had no sword of his own yet, but wore Capt. Pierce’s (his Captain).
I can not refrain from mentioning to you the general esteem for Harper by all. With me he had always been a favorite. As Sergeant-Major, he was one of our field’s staff family for over a year, and his uniform good conduct, kind heart, cheerful spirits, and constant attention to his duties, won the affections of all. Since his promotion to the Lieutenancy he has been the only officer with his Company, the Captain being absent, sick, and there being no other lieutenant. During this period we have been in active service constantly; and, although he was assigned to a command in which he was comparatively a stranger yet he had won the good will of all his men. During this march it was the turn for his company to go on picket in face of the enemy’s pickets. He took his company forward, and when I visited them, found he had selected excellent positions and made the best possible use of his men.
It would seem from a memorandum, written the morning of the battle, that he had a presentment that he would not survive the day, and requested that the event be telegraphed to you. I saw him but once that morning to speak to him, and that, just as we were priming our pieces, and amid a storm of balls he said, “Colonel, our men are in fine spirits this morning, and will show a big fight.” Just then we were ordered forward and I did not see him again except as he marched up at the head of his company.
Thus early in life has passed away one of our brave and promising youth. I can not, I presume, fully appreciate the sorrow and grief of his father and family in their sad affliction, but sincerely extend my sympathies to all his bereaved friends.


Horace Harper Bill is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Archives Month: 50th Anniversary Reunion of Quien Sabe Club

On an August day in 1953, forty-three men with roots in Sandusky met at the Log Cabin Inn (now the Angry Trout), in Bay View -- the 50th anniversary reunion of the members of the Quien Sabe club.

Quien Sabe was formed in Sandusky in 1903 as a social group for young business and professional men. (Quien Sabe means "who knows?" in Spanish.) At first, they met in office space in the Kingsbury Block, but eventually they established their own club space in the James building on Market Street. The group disbanded in 1916. In its 13 years of operation, about 150 men of Sandusky were members.

The Golden Jubilee Reunion in 1953 brought back a number of former Sanduskians to their old home town. Among the more notable visitors was Fred Kelsey, who achieved success as an actor and director in Hollywood, and Dr. Walter Rittman, a well-known chemical engineer.

Archives Month: Reunions -- Homecoming Week, 1914

In commemoration of Archives Month in Ohio and its theme of "Reunions," let's remember Sandusky Homecoming Week, first held in 1914. Former Sanduskians were encouraged to visit the city during the week of July 13-19, to take part in festivities and to feel nostalgic for their old home. Among the highlights of the week were parades (including a parade of motorboats), exhibits of local industry, concerts, fireworks, and "free automobile rides." Pioneer aviator Tony Jannus was scheduled to perform exhibition flights, although it appears that wind and rain may have kept him grounded.

The Sandusky Register reported that nearly 1500 former residents (from at least 27 states) registered their attendance during the week, with most registrants given a souvenir "key" by the Ad Club. Attendance was so good that the celebration, originally planned to end on Saturday, was extended to Sunday, July 19, with boat races and a concert performance by Ackley's Band concluding the events.

Apparently, Homecoming Week was so popular it was held again the following year, as well as during the city's centennial year, 1924. You can see the button for that event in the poster in the post below.

Monday, October 01, 2007

October is Archives Month

October is Archives Month, a time when we recognize the importance of the role of archives and historical collections in society. Archives serve to preserve the past, to teach us in the present, and inspire us for the future. (The poster above was produced by the Society of Ohio Archivists, and includes artifacts from the collections of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center.)

This year's theme for Archives Month in Ohio is "Reunions" -- occasions where people get together to remember their past, and to experience the present together. The photo below shows a group of men in Nauheim, Germany, reunited from their days as schoolmates. One of the men (perhaps the one standing in the back) is probably Christian Stubig, a resident of Sandusky at the time of this photo, and a veteran of the U.S. Civil War (Co. B, 128th O.V.I.). He was the father of Carl Stubig, a journalist active in Sandusky city politics in the early 1900s.

To learn more about archives and our collections, visit the Sandusky Library.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Horse Races in Sandusky


Although we have not had horse races in Sandusky for quite a while, the trotters were popular in town for many years, beginning about 150 years ago.

When the Ohio State Fair was held in Sandusky in 1858 the new fairgrounds (off Wayne Street, where Cable Park is today) included a state-of the-art race track. The Sandusky Register previewed the racecourse in its August 7, 1858 edition, declaring that it "will be one of the finest courses in the state." It was a mile-long oval, fifty feet wide, "with a 'home-stretch' of 100 rods" (2.5 furlongs, or 550 yards). Its inaugural races were held on September 2, 1858, with races all during the state fair in September. Entrants in those early races appear to have been mostly residents of nearby communities who wanted to show off the quality of their horses and their racing carts. Winners at the fair's races received purses of $50.


By 1874, the Sandusky Trotting Association was established to manage the races. The first meet sponsored by the Trotting Association began at 10:30 AM on Wednesday, August 1, with eight horse races, and human foot races in between. (Foot races were frequently held on the track.) The highly popular Great Western Band performed throughout the day. (You can see the band marching in an 1876 parade on the track in the image above.) Each race was run as a best-three-of-five, or two-of-three, series of heats. One of the races was a match race between Gottlieb Epple's double team and Clark Center and his horse, Silversmith Maid -- a race the Register said was run as a "side bet." After losing the first heat, Silversmith Maid won the next two races to take the prize. (Sadly, there was no indication as to how much was bet.)

Additional newspaper articles show that the races were still popular into the 1920s, with a track record $5000 purse (worth about $50,000 today) offered on July 30, 1924.

Monday, September 17, 2007

J. Leroy Weier

J. Leroy Weier, known as Leroy, is pictured here driving his automobile with 1911 license plates. (We don’t know the names of his passengers.) Leroy’s father, John Weier, along with Leroy’s uncle, Henry Weier, operated a scrapyard business at 1024 Hancock St., which had been started by their father. When the two Weier brothers died in the 1920’s, Leroy continued the family business until shortly before his death in 1971.

Leroy Weier was also the co-owner of the Lake Shore Tire Company. His business partner was Fred Brost. The company operated from about 1915 to 1931. It began as a tire company, but by 1927 it became a sporting goods store.
Leroy married Laura Lechler in 1921. They had no children. Around the beginning of World War II, the Weiers began buying property in Middle Harbor and West Harbor in Ottawa County. Leroy was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. An excerpt from a 1969 letter by Leroy Weier appeared in the April 22, 1974 Sandusky Register. Leroy wrote: “The marshes I have known have been the greatest source of pleasure and relaxation and hobby, that have filled my entire life; one must love the feel of cold wind in the face and hear the ripple of freezing water lapping the side of the hunting boat to absorb all the ingredients that nature puts into the thrill we call wildfowling…:”

Before their deaths, the Weiers sold their Ottawa County property to the State of Ohio, and the land now is part of East Harbor State Park. Seven local organizations benefited from the Estate of J. Leroy and Laura J. Weier. The $600,000 was distributed to three area hospitals, the Firelands Council of Boy Scouts, Firelands Council of Camp Fire Girls, and the Sandusky Y.M.C.A.

An early scene from the Weier Brothers Scrapyard is pictured below:

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Daniel Hoffman and Family Businesses

Beginning as Hoffman Coal and Milling Co., the Hoffman Coal Company served the Sandusky area for sixty-five years. In the 1890 city directory, Daniel Hoffman advertised as a dealer in coal and wood at the corner of Scott and Hancock Streets. Later he also sold feed and grain. Daniel’s sons Charles J. and William H. Hoffman took over the business when Daniel retired. Brothers Fred and Daniel Hoffman, Jr. were also associated with the family coal business through the years. Charles and William Hoffman also owned the Electric Glass Cleaner Company in Sandusky.

Below, we see Daniel Hoffman, Sr. with his five sons, at their Masonic induction ceremony.
Charles J. Hoffman obtained a patent in 1901 for an elevating truck. The Sandusky Evening Star of August 31, 1903 stated that the handy combination truck is said to be a fine device, “combining all the requirements of elevator, store, mill and warehouse trucks.” This truck is featured prominently in an advertisement for his company, in the 1903 publication What (which also features stereotypes of the era).
The patent for this truck can be viewed online at the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

The Hoffman family was well known in the Sandusky area. Charles J. Hoffman ran an ice cream and sandwich shop on Scott Street in the 1920’s and 1930’s. The figure “Puck” was located at this site. (You can see views of the shop with Puck on the roof, along with images of the Hoffman Coal Company, at a site operated by a private collector here.) Carlyle Hoffman grandson of Daniel Hoffman, Sr, was a lawyer with the Veterans Administration in Cleveland for many years, and granddaughter Dr. Kathryn E. Hoffman was a physician and surgeon in Cleveland.

Visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library to learn more about early area residents.