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.