Sunday, May 31, 2009

Opening of the Social Turners’ Hall, May 31, 1883

On May 31, 1883 the Sandusky Register announced the opening of the Social Turners’s Hall. The Singing Societies Harmonie and Froshinn and Company B of the 16th Regiment of the Ohio National Guard were to appear at the grand opening. Company B of the 16th O.N.G. was commonly referred to as the Sandusky Light Guard.
Roughly translated, the announcement reads:



Social Turn Hall


Thursday Evening May 31, 1883

with one


Drill, Gymnastics and Dance

under cooperation of

Singing Societies Harmonie and Froshinn

and Company B, Ohio National Guard

Floor managers for the event were: Charles Unckrich, John Holzaepfel, John Doerflinger, Henry Neumeyer, August Fettel, and A. P . Lange. These men served on the committee of arrangements: F.J. Holzaepfel, Jacob Deitz, Dan Mishler, C. Schlenk, Ph. Linder, Wm. Allendorf, and F .Beihl. The 1884-1885 Sandusky City Directory states that the “Social Turn Verein,” a variation on the name of the Social Turners Society, was organized in September, 1882. The club met at their hall at 823 Water Street. In 1884, August Fettel was the president of the organization.
The Turner movement was started in Germany in 1811 by Fredrich Ludwig Jahn, who believed in promoting both physical and mental health. The activities of the various Turner societies in Sandusky are discussed on pages 94, 165, and 171-173 of Sandusky Then and Now.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sanduskians Honor Deceased Veterans in 1911

During the last week of May in 1911, Sanduskians honored their deceased soldiers and sailors with several services. On Sunday evening, May 28, the Rev. C. Argyle Keller of the First Presbyterian gave a Memorial address at the Presbyterian Church. The seats in the front pews of the church were reserved for Veterans.

The May 31, 1911, Sandusky Register reported that as many of the seventeen hundred members of the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home as were able “fell in line behind Ackley’s band and proceeded to the little cemetery outlying the institution grounds, where they decorated the graves of fallen comrades.” The Civil War veterans were in advanced years by this time, and Josh B. Davis, chairman of the general committee for Memorial Day arrangements, said that the members of the McMeens Post of the G.A.R. would be riding in street cars instead of marching in the Memorial Day parade, as they had in the past.
Memorial Day services were also held at Oakland Cemetery. Over four hundred wreaths had been obtained for placing on the graves of soldiers who had lost their lives. Sandusky Boy Scouts, under the leadership of Charles E. Stroud, performed the actual decorating of the graves. Oakland Cemetery’s Superintendent, Christ Schlenk, had given the Scouts the names and locations of each grave to be decorated. Charles E. Stroud led a group of Sandusky Boy Scouts for many years.
Benjamin Deeley, pictured below, was the chairman of the decorating committee. Mr. Deeley had served in both the Ohio 123rd Infantry and Ohio 8th Infantry, and he was an active member of the McMeens Post of the G.A.R.
Veterans arrived in street cars at Oakland Cemetery, and were met by comrades from the Soldiers Home. They marched forward together at the start of the ceremony. Ackley’s Band played patriotic selections, and Rev. Ross W. Sanderson gave the invocation. The main address was given by I. F. Mack, Past Commander of the Department of Ohio G.A.R. The Woman’s Relief Corps also conducted services. Mr. Mack later stated that “I never saw so many flowers there,” after his return from Oakland Cemetery.

To honor the sailors who had lost their lives, the steamer Arrow traveled out into Sandusky Bay, midway between Sandusky and Johnson’s Island. There, hymns were sung, and flowers were strewn upon the water. The Woman’s Relief Corps were in charge of the services on the Arrow, with Rev. Ross W. Sanderson saying the prayer.

The Sandusky Register carried several articles about Sandusky’s Memorial Day celebrations in 1911, including front page articles on Tuesday, May 30, 1911, and Wednesday, May 17, 1911. These articles can be accessed on microfilm at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Sergeant Josh B. Davis, Chaplain of the G.A.R.

Josh B. Davis was born in New York in 1842. By 1860, he was a resident of Sandusky, along with his brothers Ira T. Davis and John R. Davis. Josh B. Davis was an insurance agent in the city of Sandusky for many years. During the Civil War, he was a Corporal in Company B of the 101st Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Later he was a Sergeant in the First United States Veterans Infantry. Mr. Davis was discharged from the military service on June 30, 1865. He served as a Chaplain in the McMeens Post of the G.A.R.

By 1920, Josh B. Davis and his wife Sarah moved to Medford, Oregon, where they resided with their daughter’s family. He died in Medford, Oregon on February 15, 1921. His remains were brought back to Ohio for burial. An obituary for Josh B. Davis appears in the February 25, 1921 Sandusky Register. Rev. C. H. Small of the Congregational Church held the funeral services, which were largely attended. Active pallbearers were members of the Perry Post of the American Legion. Taps were sounded by Harold Mertz. Josh B. Davis is buried in Oakland Cemetery with his wife Sarah, who died in 1925.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Artist Charles L. Sallee, Jr.

Charles L. Sallee, Jr., the oldest child of Charles and Coranell Collier Sallee was born in 1911 in Oberlin, Ohio, where Charles, Sr. worked as a plasterer. By 1915, the Sallee family moved to Sandusky, Ohio. There were fourteen children in all, though only seven survived to adulthood. Charles, Jr. graduated from Sandusky High School in 1931. He was actively involved in art while enrolled in Sandusky City Schools, drawing cartoons, posters, and designing scenery for school plays. Charles contributed illustrations for the book Heart of Democracy, written by James Ross in 1930. During an Art Club display in 1931, Charles sketched pictures of all his high school teachers.

Below is a print created by Charles L. Sallee, Jr. for the 1931 Sandusky High School Fram:

In 1934, Sallee was the first African American to be admitted to Cleveland School of Art, now the Cleveland Institute of Art. From 1935 to 1941, Sallee was an artist for the Works Progress Administration, creating prints and murals. One mural painted by Sallee was for the Outhwaite Home, one of the first federally funded housing projects. After graduating from the Cleveland School of Art, he earned an Art Education degree from Case Western Reserve University. Sallee taught art at Kennard Junior High and Outhwaite Elementary School.

According to Mr. Sallee’s obituary which appeared in the Plain Dealer on February 25, 2006, he did much of his early important work with the Playhouse Settlement, which became the Karamu House. Before serving in the Army Corps of Engineers, Sallee was a civilian employee with the Army Map Service. After being drafted into the Army, he was a supervising draftsman, and later a cartographer in England. While in France, he helped design roads and escape routes, and made signs for Red Ball Express supply truck drivers. He also spent time in the Philippines.

Charles L. Sallee, Jr. enjoyed a long career as an interior designer. One his most well known designs is the ballroom at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland. Other projects included the clubhouse of the Cleveland Indians stadium, the Stouffer Hotel, and Cleveland Trust. In 1957, Sallee returned to Sandusky to place oil paintings at the Second Baptist Church, where he had been baptized. The paintings were placed in ornamental plaster frames that had been created by Charles Sallee, Sr. These paintings are still located in the church sanctuary at 315 Decatur Street. Several prints by Charles L. Sallee, Jr. can be retrieved at the digital exhibits of the Case Western Reserve Kelvin Smith Library. A video from WVIZ television which discusses Charles L. Sallee, Jr. is available at YouTube. An etching by Sallee entitled “Swingtime” appears in a selection from American art at the website of Howard University.

Charles L. Sallee, Jr. died on February 15, 2006,, at the age of 94. He was survived by two daughters, a stepson, four grandchildren, and four sisters. A biographical sketch of Charles L. Sallee, Jr. is found in the database Contemporary Black Biography, available through the ClevNet database Biography Resource Center. An article in which Mr. and Mrs. Charles Sallee, Sr. discuss their family appeared in the October 13, 1958 Sandusky Register, on microfilm at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Alice Porter, Artist

This oil painting of a young woman was painted by Alice Porter, a young artist whose father was once the owner of Cedar Point. David Lindsey wrote in his book Ohio's Western Reserve, that in 1839 A. M. Porter, proprietor of the Steamboat Hotel in Sandusky, bought Cedar Point for 66 cents an acre. Of course the land was later bought by other owners, with G. A. Boeckling taking over Cedar Point in 1897. (See Cedar Point: The Queen of American Watering Places, by David Francis for a thorough history of Cedar Point.)

Alice Porter was the daughter of Alexander M. and Charlotte Austin Porter. Following her parents’ deaths, Alice moved to California. She wrote an article entitled “Sketches from Nature,” in the August 15, 1889 issue of the Sandusky Register. Alice called her life the “Bohemian tramp life,” one in which she tried to get along with few worldly possessions, but carrying with her a portable trunk filled with paint boxes, easels, and other equipment necessary to making sketches. Alice described the Mojave Desert as causing nearby objects to look absurdly fantastic. She was amazed at the variety of shapes of the cacti. To Alice, the settings she saw in southern California were similar to Paradise, with all its roses, fruit, and perfect climate. Alice carried with her a small picture of Cedar Point, to remind her of her former home. Alice signed her article with only her initials A.P., but Charles E. Frohman, in his index to the Sandusky Register, credits Alice Porter with writing the piece.

In August, 1894, Alice Porter died in California. Her obituary, in the August 5, 1894 Sandusky Register, stated that her last years were “ones of struggle with feeble health and limited means.” The article indicated that Alice was a painter of considerable talent, and she had conducted studios in both San Francisco and Portland. Alice Porter was buried in the North Ridge section of Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery. She was survived by two brothers, Austin Porter and Clay Porter.

Monday, May 18, 2009

London Gant, Sandusky High School Star Athlete

London Gant was born to Abe and Ida Sherman Gant in 1912 in South Carolina. According to an article in the May 31, 1962 Sandusky Register, London’s grandparents, Lucas and Ida Gant moved to Sandusky in 1917, after their family home was mysteriously burned one night. Mrs. Ida Gant had been born into slavery in Oconee County, South Carolina, and her age was given as 101 years old when she died in 1962 in Sandusky. Many of the men in the Gant family worked at Farrell Cheek, a company which recruited workers from the Southern U.S. states.

In 1933, London Gant graduated from Sandusky High School. A charter member of the Sandusky High School Athletic Hall of Fame, London earned twelve letters, having lettered for four years in three different sports, football, basketball, and track. Butch Wagner wrote in London Gant’s Hall of Fame Profile, which appeared in the April 14, 1990 Sandusky Register that “Gant was a powerhouse fullback in football, an all-league guard on the basketball team and a record-setting field event performer on the track team.” One of London’s teammates, John Weis, was quoted in the Register article, “London Gant was strictly power and he ran the ball from long punt formation quite a bit. When he picked up steam nobody was going to take him down unless it was around the ankles.” In the October 1929 football game between Findlay and Sandusky, the Blue Streaks won 19-7. London Gant scored all three touchdowns.
The New York Times carried an article about London Gant on December 11, 1930. It seems that an opponent of the Sandusky Blue Streaks football team doubted whether London was young enough to be eligible to play high school football. While we do not know if an X-ray was actually taken, Dr. T. Wingate Todd of Western Reserve University suggested that an X-ray measuring bone density could confirm London’s age. An article in the Elyria Chronicle Telegram on September 18, 1931 stated that London Gant of Sandusky High School was “easily one of the most feared backs on any scholastic team in the state.” London’s name appears right above the name of Jesse Owens on a web site which features Ohio high school athletic records from the Chicago National Interscholastic Championships. In 1932, London Gant threw the javelin 186’ 6.00.,” while Jesse Owens set records in 1933 for the 100 yard dash, 220 yard dash, and the long jump.

Following graduation from Sandusky High School, London Gant attended the University of Cincinnati, where he was only the second African American athlete to compete at that school. An injury cut his football career short in Cincinnati. On December 19, 1964, London Gant passed away following a battle with cancer. Butch Wagner wrote in April, 1990 about London Gant, “His memories and feats continue to live on in the archives of Sandusky High School annals.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

William Henry Mills, Vintner

Pictured below is the former home of William Henry Mills. The home was located on the south side of Melville Street, between Camp and Pearl Streets. An article in the December 21, 1922 Sandusky Register featured an article about the home. The house was built for William H. Mills in the 1820’s, when he was a college student. William H. Mills graduated from Yale University in 1825. William T. West and R. B. Hubbard attended parties in the two large parlors on the second floor. Later the home was owned by Mrs. Daniel Newton. (The home no longer stands.)

William Henry Mills was the son of Isaac L. Mills and Abigail Phelps Mills. Isaac L. Mills was one of the proprietors of Sandusky, and was one its earliest settlers. According to Helen Hansen’s At Home in Early Sandusky, the Mills family was closely associated with the development of the Firelands and Sandusky. Mills Street and Mills School are both named for the Mills family. Most of the land holdings of the Mills family were in the Western Liberties section of town. William Henry Mills married Caroline Hurd, the daughter of James C. Hurd, who died in a shipwreck in 1829. They had a large family, and lived in a house on Washington Row, where the Mahala Block later stood.

The June 1937 Firelands Pioneer reported that when ground was broken for the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad in 1835, a procession was formed in from of the Verandah Hotel, with General William H. Mills as marshall, assisted by Major White and Captain Kenney. General William Henry Harrison came to Sandusky for the great occasion.

In 1861, William Henry Mills began raising grapes for wine. According to History of Erie County, Ohio, ed. by Lewis Cass Aldrich, the first wine from the Mills vineyard was pressed in 1865, and “since which time he has produced an average of 15,000 gallons per year.” Brands of champagne produced by William H. Mills were Sans Pareil and LeDiamont. The following entry appeared in the “Reports and Awards” listings for the United States Centennial Commission’s International Exhibition of 1876. Exhibits of Group IV, which included animal and vegetable products, were on display in the Agricultural Hall.
The wine cellars of William H. Mills were located on the north side of Monroe Street, adjacent to Sandusky Bay, as pictured below in the 1886 Sanborn Map.

William Henry Mills died on March 8, 1897. His obituary appeared in the March 9, 1897 issue of the Sandusky Register. He is buried in the Family Plot in Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery. You can read about the son of William H. Mills, Judge Grayson Mills, in Patty Pascoe’s book, Elected to Serve Erie County, found at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. A biography of Sallie Mills Johnson, the daughter of William H. Mills, is found in the book, American Women: Fifteen Hundred Biographies, which is accessible on Google Books.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mrs. Pitt Cooke, Wife and Mother

Mary Elizabeth Townsend was the oldest child of William Townsend and his wife Maria (Lamson) Townsend. William Townsend was Sandusky’s first Recorder, and he had many business interests in Sandusky. He was the owner of the Townsend House, operated a line of steamers, and was president of the first bank in Sandusky in 1834. During the cholera epidemic of 1849, both of Mary’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Townsend, died of cholera, along with Mary’s sister and aunt.
Pitt Cooke and Mary E. Townsend were married in 1844. (Pitt was the brother of Civil War financier Jay Cooke.) At the time of the cholera epidemic, Mr. and Mrs. Pitt Cooke were already the parents of two children, Townsend Pitt Cooke and Eleutheros Jay Cooke. In 1849 Pitt and Mary took in Mary’s orphaned siblings, and raised them along with their own growing family.

Pitt Cooke practiced law with Lucas Beecher, but had also worked for a time with Mary’s father, and later assisted his brother Jay Cooke in the banking business. The Pitt Cooke family lived in New York from 1866 to 1873, but kept their Sandusky residence at 515 West Washington Street as a summer home.

Helen Hansen wrote about the Townsend and Cooke families in Article 13 of At Home in Early Sandusky. In the article, Helen tells of the marriages of the children of both Mr. and Mrs. William Townsend and Mr. and Mrs. Pitt Cooke. The home at 515 West Washington Street, which was first occupied by the Townsend family and later the Cooke family, is now an apartment building.
This home is also described in Ellie Damm’s book Treasure by the Bay, available at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

International Museum Day, May 16

International Museum Day is Saturday, May 16, 2009 and nine local organizations are working together to mark the occasion. The Edison Birthplace, Eleutheros Cooke House, Erie County Historical Society, Follett House Museum, Maritime Museum of Sandusky, Merry-Go-Round Museum, Milan Historical Museum, Ohio Veterans Home Museum, and Sandusky Underground Railroad Education Center will celebrate from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and offer free admission, along with arts, crafts, and activities at each museum. International Museum Day is made possibly by a grant from the Sandusky/Erie County Community Foundation.

The Cooke House will entertain with children’s Victorian lawn games, while visitors to the Maritime Museum of Sandusky can make a model paddleboat and take a free boat ride aboard THE SAWMILL EXPLORER on Saturday at 12:00 p.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. The rides depart from the Meigs Street Pier at Battery Park Marina. The Sandusky Power Squadron's safe boating mascot COASTIE will be at the Maritime Museum from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Merry-Go-Round Museum will offer the opportunity for budding artists to create an original craft.

At the Follett House Museum, guests are invited to select a reproduction outfit, pose for a photograph, and create a keepsake photo folder. The Ohio Veterans Home Museum will screen vintage war movies. The Sandusky Underground Railroad Education Center will offer a trolley tour at 11:00 a.m. Reservations are required for the trolley tour, which departs from the Maritime Museum of Sandusky. Please call 419-624-0274 to make a reservation. The Milan Historical Museum will have a children's art activity table and a period photo area where kids can dress up and have their picture taken, along with free admission for the day. Free tours will be available at the Edison Birthplace. The Erie County Historical Society will provide maps of Erie County Historical Markers, which will be available at each of the participating organizations. You may visit any or all of the museums in any order. For your convenience, the Erie County Senior Center Bus will run between the four downtown Sandusky museums from 11:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Annette Fitch Brewer Nelson, Historian and Author

Annette Fitch Brewer was born in Ashtabula, Ohio in 1870 to a pioneer Ashtabula County family. She was widely known as an author and historian and was considered an authority on the early history of the Western Reserve. In the late 1930’s Annette broadcast historical radio programs on Radio Station WICA. She was a founding member of the Martha Pitkin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Washington. Later she was active in the Mary Stanley Chapter of the D.A.R. in Ashtabula.

After graduating from Lake Erie Seminary in 1890, Annette Fitch was active in the women’s suffrage movement. In 1893 Annette Fitch married I. C. Brewer, a prosperous Sandusky business man. In April 1903, Annette Fitch Brewer played “Mrs. Josephine Dulaney” in the local production of the play “The New Dominion.” The play was given at the Nielsen Theater, and received favorable reviews in the local newspaper. Cast members included local photographer W. A. Bishop, as well as. A.J. Peters, J.W. Andrews, E.L. Marsh, G.E. Wilder, Leontine Woolsey and Adah C. Kunz. Annette is pictured below with W. A. Bishop. (A set of photographs of the entire cast of “The New Dominion” is held by the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library.)
In 1905, following her divorce from I. C. Brewer, Annette Fitch Brewer fled Sandusky with her young son, I. C. Brewer, Jr. They went to Canada and the western United States using aliases to avoid being found by Mr. Brewer. Annette wrote a book entitled The Story of a Mother-Love chronicling her adventures. Newspaper editor I. F. Mack carried a serialized version of Annette’s book in the Sandusky Register. In April of 1910, Annette Fitch Brewer and her son were located in Washington, under assumed names. I.C. Brewer, Jr. was returned to the custody of his father, though his mother received visitation privileges.

Later both Annette Fitch Brewer and I. C. Brewer each married again. Annette Fitch Brewer married Adolph Nelson. She continued writing historical feature articles in the Jefferson Gazette. Annette Fitch Brewer Nelson lived in Ashtabula County until she died in 1960 at the age of 90.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Orville James Victor, Author and Editor

A four volume set of books by Orville J. Victor, entitled The Civil, Political & Military History of the Southern Rebellion is found in the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. Charles E. Frohman wrote in his book Sandusky Potpourri, that Orville J. Victor spent five years of his life devoted to writing this set of books, and in 1866 it was pronounced “one of the ablest treatises on the war that has ever been published.” Orville James Victor was born in Sandusky, Ohio on October 23, 1827. His parents were Henry Clay Victor and Gertrude Nash Victor. Henry Clay Victor moved to Sandusky in 1823, where he operated a hotel, then known as the Mansion House, on the northwest corner of Decatur and Market Streets. Hewson Peeke wrote in his 1916 book A Standard History of Erie County, that Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clay Victor were the parents of eight children. Henry Clay Victor died in 1848, after having moved to Seneca County and then to Huron County. Mrs. Gertrude Victor lived in Sandusky in the later years of her life. She died in 1882, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery.

From 1851 to 1856, Orville J. Victor was an associate editor of the Sandusky Daily Register. He married Metta Victoria Fuller in 1856. In 1857, the Victors moved to New York City, where Orville was in charge of the Cosmopolitan Art Journal, which ceased publication at the outbreak of the Civil War. Orville J. Victor became well known as an author and editor of “dime novels.” The 2000 edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defines dime novels as: “a melodramatic novel of romance or adventure, usually in paperback.” Victor was the main editor for the House of Beadle and Adams, publisher of dime novels from 1861 through 1897. Hewson Peeke wrote an article entitled “The Dime Novel and the Firelands,” which is found in the June 1937 issue of the Firelands Pioneer.

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor had a long, very successful career as an author. Writing under the name “Seeley Regester,” Metta published The Dead Letter in 1866, which is often considered one of the first American detective novels. An online exhibit from the library of Northern Illinois University features Metta Victoria Fuller. Poems written by Metta Fuller Victor and her sister Frances Fuller Victor appear in the article “Early Authors of the Firelands,” in the June 1899 issue of the Firelands Pioneer.

Metta Fuller Victor died on June 26, 1885. Orville James Victor died in 1910. His obituary was carried in the March 18, 1910 New York Times. Mr. and Mrs. Orville Victor are buried in the family plot of the Valleau Cemetery in Hohokus, New Jersey.