Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Miss Jessie Wilcox, Cultural Leader

Jessie Martha Wilcox was born in Sandusky, Ohio in April of 1861, the same week that the Civil War broke out in the United States. Her parents were Rollin M. Wilcox and the former Martha Ellen Newton. For many years, Jessie’s father was a partner in the R.M. and C.B. Wilcox Company, a popular department store in downtown Sandusky. 

When Jessie was just a toddler, her mother Martha passed away at age 28. 

Jessie graduated from Sandusky High School on June 27, 1879; her niece, Esther Sloane Curtis, donated her aunt's high school diploma to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. 

In 1884, she graduated from Wellesley College in Massachusetts. After graduation, she taught school in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, before moving back to her hometown of Sandusky, where she also taught school. 

From 1904 to 1937, Miss Wilcox was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Sandusky Library, serving for a time as President of the Board. She was also a member of the Nineteenth Century Club, the Martha Pitkin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and Trinity United Methodist Church. 

On August 12, 1937, Jessie Wilcox died suddenly at her home on Franklin Street in Sandusky. Funeral services were held at the home of Jessie’s niece, Mrs. Worth Curtis, with the Rev. Roy Smith of Trinity Methodist Church officiating. Burial was at Oakland Cemetery. An obituary in the August 12, 1937 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal reported that Jessie had been one of the area’s most prominent women, and she had been a leader in the cultural life of Sandusky. The Sandusky Library closed from 2:30 to 3:30 on Saturday, August 14, 1937, during the funeral service, in honor of her many years of service to the Library.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Pearl of the Sea by Karl Merz

In 1878 Karl Merz wrote the sheet music for a waltz entitled Pearl of the Sea. It was published by S. Brainard & Sons in Cleveland, Ohio. The sheet music was sold in Sandusky in the late 1870s at Hammond’s Music Store on Columbus Avenue. 

Karl Merz had been born in Germany in the 1830s. He learned how to play the organ and violin while quite young. In 1854, he emigrated to the United States, and by 1861 was was on the faculty of the Oxford Female College in Oxford, Ohio (later incorporated into Miami University). In 1882, he was asked to organize the music department at the College of Wooster. While at Wooster, he also wrote a column for Brainard’s Musical World. Eventually he became the editor of this publication. 

As a prolific composer, many of his musical pieces are preserved at the Library of Congress. During the summer of 1888, when Mrs. P.A. Follett operated a Summer Musical Institute, she arranged for  Merz to give a series of lectures at the Sandusky High School. Merz often visited Sandusky to pay a visit to his son, Dr. Charles Merz, and family. Dr. Merz was a leading Sandusky physician, and he was also an expert on Masonic history. 

Karl Merz's grandson, who was also named Charles Merz, was the editor of the New York Times from 1938 to 1961. 

Karl Merz died from pneumonia on January 30, 1890. The March 1890 issue of Brainard’s Musical World was dedicated to the memory of its former editor. An obituary honoring the memory of Karl Merz appeared in the February 1, 1890 issue of the Sandusky Register

Karl Merz was greatly missed by the musical community. A beautiful monument honoring the memory of Karl Merz was unveiled at the Wooster Cemetery on Memorial Day in 1894.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

The Sloane House Annex in 1969

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center collections have several pictures of the Sloane House Annex from June of 1969. The Annex was a building on West Washington Row adjacent to the Sloane House hotel for several years. In 1949 the LaSalle store opened next door, on the site of the former Sloane House hotel. The Parkview Barber Shop and the Kubach and Buderer pharmacy were at the street level of the Sloane House Annex  in 1969. You can see a portion of the Beecher House on the left side of the picture below. In the 1960s, the Beecher House was the home of the American Legion. (The small structure between the Sloane House Annex and the Beecher House was unoccupied at the time this picture was taken.)

On the east wall of the building was a sign advertising free downtown parking. Note the classic Volkswagen beetle parked on the street. 

Today the Erie County building is at the corner of West Washington Row and Columbus Avenue, where the Sloane House hotel once stood. First Federal Savings-Lorain is at the site of the former Sloane House Annex, and two businesses are in operation at the Beecher House. Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to see these and hundreds of other historic images of Sandusky and Erie County.

Monday, March 22, 2021

E.W. Altstaetter, Mayor of Sandusky

After having served as City Commissioner of Sandusky during the early 1920s, Edward W. Altstaetter was Sandusky’s Mayor from 1926 to 1930. Mr. Altstaetter issued several proclamations during his years as Mayor. In 1926, He made a Proclamation of Art Week from April 11 to 18, which was published in the Sandusky Star Journal on April 10, 1926. 

The proclamation indicated that an appreciation of art would result in “better and more artistic homes, more harmonious and attractive dress, and a more beautiful city and community.” An article in the Sandusky Register of November 9, 1927 printed an Armistice Day issued by Mayor Altstaetter. A portion of the Armistice Day read: 

An interesting proclamation issued by Mayor Altstaeter on January 30, 1929, was his endorsement of “Brake Test Week.” In this proclamation, the Mayor called on the citizens of Sandusky to test the brake equipment of their automobiles, and have faulty brakes adjusted or repaired, to reduce the number of traffic accidents in the city. The Mayor also issued a proclamation urging local citizens to attend the ceremony of the opening of the Sandusky Bay Bridge, which was a huge accomplishment at the time. This proclamation appeared in the Sandusky Star Journal on January 30, 1929. During Mayor Altstaetter’s term as Mayor, the Jackson Junior High School was opened, as well as the Post Office, which for many years stood at the intersection of Central Avenue, Washington Street, and Jackson Street.

Of course E.W. Altstaetter was also Mayor when the Stock Market crashed in October of 1929. When Mr. Altstaetter passed away in 1970 at the age of 91, he was the oldest insurance agent in the city of Sandusky. His concern for the well being of the citizens of Sandusky was definitely evident by the words of his many proclamations during his tenure as Mayor.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Charles W. and Alberta Walker French, a Family Tragedy, and Questionable Business Practices

Portraits of Charles Walker French and his wife, the former Miss Alberta Walker, were donated to the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center by a relative of Mrs. French. The photos were taken in Mansfield about 1902.

Charles W. French was born near Wakeman, Ohio in 1862. A lengthy biography of Mr. French appeared in the book A Centennial Biographical History of Richland County, edited by A. J. Baughman in 1901. In 1888, Mr. French worked in Sandusky, with an excavation contracting business. Alberta Walker was private secretary and bookkeeper for the business, which was operating in an upstairs floor of a building on Columbus Avenue. 

Tragedy struck the family on Thanksgiving morning, November 29, 1888, when Alberta’s father, Albert Walker, was killed in an explosion. Mr. French’s firm had been given a contract to excavate the cellar of the Odd Fellows building under construction on Washington Row. 

Mr. Walker was the foreman for the job. Albert had picked up six sticks of dynamite from Mr. French’s dynamite storage house on Perkins Avenue, and placed them on the stove of the office to thaw out. When the paper on the outside of the sticks of dynamite caught fire, Albert Walker rushed four of the sticks to the washstand to try to put out the caps. In the process, the dynamite exploded and Albert Walker was fatally injured. Mr. Walker died while on the way to the hospital.

On June 27, 1889, Charles W. French married Alberta Walker. By 1900, Mr. and Mrs. French were living in the Mansfield area, where he worked with several short line railroads (many of which failed), as well as serving as president of the Baker Stone Company; Mrs. French was the secretary of the company. 

About 1902, Charles and Alberta French moved to California, where Charles promoted a steel company and a railroad. He was involved with several schemes that did not come to fruition.  A New York Times article from August 25, 1921 reported that he was being investigated for securities fraud, and the September 3, 1921 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that he was arrested for fraud as a result of his failed schemes. He had been implicated in a widespread mail fraud scheme.

Mrs. Alberta French passed away in California in 1929, but to date we do not know when Charles W. French died. An article from the Los Angeles Times on August 31, 1921 stated that “Charles W. French is a financial hypnotist, wielding a strange, compelling power over a wealthy man, able to talk thousands of dollars out of a man against his own better judgment.”

Thursday, March 18, 2021

The Lamb Brothers and Their Many Businesses

The business ventures of three Lamb brothers graced the cover of the 1880-81 Sandusky City Directory. G.W. C. Lamb stated that he was a consulting engineer and a mechanical expert. He was proprietor of the Lamb Steam Plow and Company. A Lamb mower took first premium at the Sandusky County Fair in 1877, according to an article in the Ohio Practical Farmer from October, 1877. In the late 1890s, G.W. C. was instrumental in designing several steam canal boats for use on the Miami Canal, between Cincinnati and Toledo. 

Brothers Anson C. Lamb and Virgil M. Lamb advertised their sign painting and decorating business, also on the cover of the 1880-81 Sandusky City Directory. The ad stated that the Lamb brothers were sign writers and fresco artists. They also did house painting and paper hanging. 

Anson C. Lamb saved several thousand dollars that he earned while working as a painter and decorator in Sandusky, and eventually became a successful stock broker. Embarking on yet a third career, he served as President of the Federal Casket Company. One of his patents was for a casket that looked like a couch, but when closed, became a fully functional casket. 

He hoped to “avoid, insofar as is reasonably possible, the usual background associated with the presence of death, and to retain with appropriate dignity the normal atmosphere of the household.” 

Anson C. Lamb lived to the age of 93, dying in 1949; he was buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cuyahoga County. Virgil M. Lamb had passed away at the age of 73 in 1933. Though the Lamb brothers did not in Sandusky their entire lives, they were quite productive when did live here. Below you can see the listings for the Lamb surname on page 62 of the 1880- 1881 Sandusky City Directory.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Bay Shore Manufacturing Company

This receipt from the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company in Sandusky, dated March 31, 1908, indicates that John Feick purchased 1452 feet of select poplar 4 x 4s from the company at a cost of $72.60. According to an annual report from the Ohio Secretary of State, the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company filed articles of incorporation on April 2, 1909. A brief notice in volume 31 of the American Bottler stated that the Brewers’ Bottle Case Association had purchased the Sandusky business of the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company, and was moving its operations to Cincinnati, Ohio. The company made cases for all kinds of bottles.

Another reference to a company known as the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company was mentioned in the December 30. 1914 issue of the Sandusky Register

The article explained that the “Always Full Grocery Cabinet” was going to soon be put on the market by the company. The Sandusky Sash, Door and Lumber Company had a contract to make the cabinets that Bay Shore designed. The “Always Full Grocery Cabinet” was patented by former Sandusky residents George W. Maley and Fred Schweinfurth. Below is a page from their patent:

Though these two companies existed and evidence of that fact is found in books and newspapers, there is no listing for the Bay Shore Manufacturing Company in any Sandusky City Directories dated between 1908 and 1914. Perhaps they were not in business long enough to appear in local directories. Many aviation and automobile companies also failed in the early twentieth century, as technology was changing so rapidly.

Friday, March 12, 2021

The Rengalle Family: From France to Sandusky (and Back - to a Convent)

On October 20, 1894, Gustave Camille Rengalle, his wife Clara, and their daughter Helena (sometimes shortened to Hena) arrived in New York City from their former home in France on the ship La Touraine.  A portion of the Rengalle family’s passenger record, available free from the Ellis Island website, is shown below. Their final destination was shown to be Sandusky, Ohio.

In the 1898 Sandusky City Directory, G. C. Rengalle and Hena’s occupation was listed as watchmaker, while Mrs. Clara L. Rengalle was a French teacher. Both the home and the business address of the Rengalle family was 511 Market Street (between Hancock and Wayne Streets).

One summer night in 1901, Hena told her parents that she was going for a walk, but she did not come back. She had left Sandusky to go back to France to join a convent. Her parents were heartbroken. A story about Hena Rengalle’s running away even appeared in the New York Times, which reported that Mme. Clara Rengalle planned to go across the ocean to try to find her daughter, and persuade her not to join the convent.

According to Clara Rengalle’s obituary, which appeared in the May 14, 1913 Sandusky Register, Madame Rengalle and her daughter did reconcile, though Clara was always sad that her daughter Hena had joined the convent.

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

The Useful 1915 Sandusky City Directory

 The 1915 Sandusky City Directory was published by W.M. Lawrence & Co., located in Norwalk, Ohio.

This directory features five pages of rosters of government officials at the federal, state, county and local level. A roster of incorporated companies gives key officials of locally owned businesses. Under the roster of religious organizations, several lines are devoted to each of the churches in Sandusky. Many details are provided, which could prove helpful to researchers of local history and genealogy.

For example, under the listing for Grace Church, we can learn that Mrs. Lida Amolsch was president of the St. John’s Guild, Rev. E. G. Mapes was the Scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts, and Mary Lyman was the branch secretary of the Girls’ Friendly Society. Under the listing for the A.M.E. Church, Mrs. Frank Smith was the president of the Sunlight Club, and the church stewards were Moses Thompson, George R. Thomas, and John Adams. If you know which church your ancestors attended, browse through pages 11-14 of the City Directory to see if they were in leadership roles at their local church. On pages 14 and 15 are listed the officers of local organizations such as the Art Study Club, Masonic Lodges, the Plattdeutsche Verein, and several unions and other organized groups in Sandusky.

The bulk of the 1915 Sandusky City Directory is an alphabetical listing of residents, including their address, telephone number, and often information about employment. A particularly helpful feature of the 1915 directory and subsequent directories is the Census of Streets on pages 245-415. Streets are listed alphabetically in this section, with listings of the head of the household, spouse, and children at each individual address. Names in italics indicate the person is the owner of the property. A name following a colon indicates this person is the wife of the previous person named; names following a semicolon indicate these are children. Names following a cross are people under 21 years of age, while names following two vertical lines are individuals under the age of 16.

Another feature of the Census of Streets that is helpful for researchers is the breakdown of tenants in Sandusky’s many office buildings. On page 271, we see that at 244 Columbus Avenue, which was part of the Sloane Block, C. Webb Sadler was a real estate agent in Room 15 and Claude J. Minor was an attorney in Room 4. Dr. Henry Graefe, Jr. and Dr. William Graefe, and dentists Dr. F. J. Maher and Dr. D. D. Smith all had offices in this building, as did C. J. Pascoe, photographer.

The 1915 Sandusky City Directory appears to be a straightforward city directory, but it is actually a valuable tool for local history research. If you have ancestors who lived or worked in Sandusky in 1915, visit the Sandusky Library to browse through the directory. While there some gaps, the Sandusky Library has Sandusky City Directories spanning the years 1855 through the present.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Lyman Scott and the Underground Railroad

Lyman Scott was born on March 6, 1797 at Middlebury, Vermont. In the spring of 1818, at around 21 years old, Lyman packed all his worldly goods into a knapsack and traveled by foot to Ohio, finding work in a tannery business in Norwalk. A couple years after arriving in Ohio, he purchased farmland north of Milan. In 1824 Lyman Scott married Mary McKinney, and they had a large family of eight children.

For thirty years prior to 1860, Lyman Scott was an active agent of the Underground Railroad. At times he hid up to thirteen fugitives from slavery in his barn. Mr. Scott undertook this activity at his own expense, even though it was at times quite dangerous. In an article in the January, 1866 issue of the Firelands Pioneer, G.R. Walker wrote that Lyman Scott’s activities in the Underground Railroad were “acts of heroism and humanity which should live in history…” One particular incident was quite exciting. Mr. Scott was hiding eleven fugitives in the hay mow in his barn. Several men from the south were searching for runaway slaves. For more than two weeks, armed men looked in the windows of the house and around the property owned Mr. Scott. They came onto the property at all hours of the day and night. Mr. Scott had contracted with the captain of a vessel to take the fugitives across the lake to Canada. In the middle of the night, the fugitives walked through the woods from Scott’s farm to a boat waiting for them on the Huron River. The ship captain, unbeknownst to Mr. Scott, had arranged for the runaway slaves to be given over to the slave catchers once they got to Huron. Just as the vessel made its way down the river to Huron, a violent storm sprang up, and the captain was unable to keep his contract with the slave catchers. The boat was driven far out into the lake near the Canadian shore before the storm let up. Mr. Walker wrote that many other stirring incidents took place in the life of Lyman Scott. In 1874 Mr. Scott sold his farm, and moved to Norwalk, where he lived until his death on November 7, 1885.

Though the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center does not have any photographs of Lyman Scott, in our holdings are two pictures of the former Scott residence on Huron-Avery Road. To read more about Lyman Scott’s life, see G. R. Walker’s article about Mr. Scott on page 113 of the January, 1886 issue of the Firelands Pioneer. Several articles about the Underground Railroad of the Firelands is found in the July, 1888 issue.

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Early Wineries in Sandusky

Early settlers along the southern shore of Lake Erie as well as in the Lake Erie Islands area noticed that there was a similarity in the weather and soil conditions in this area similar to the grape growing regions of Europe. Growing grapes and making wine soon became a profitable business.

Several Sandusky wineries were featured in the 1888 publication, Sandusky of To-Day, including Engels & Krudwig, Sandusky Wine Cellars, John G. Dorn, Link’s Wine Cellars, Moos’ Pure Ohio Wine Cellars, and M. Hommel. Hommel’s prize winning champagnes won awards at the St. Louis Exposition, the World’s Columbian Exposition, and the Pan-American Exposition.

The 1898 Sandusky City Directory had nineteen listings for wine wholesalers, as well as four businesses that sold wines and liquors. Two companies, the Sandusky Machine & Agricultural Works and the Klotz & Kromer Machine Co., manufactured presses for making wine and cider.

The Duroy & Haines Company was located on Columbus Avenue near Boalt Street, from about 1890 to 1915.

The sign for Dorn’s Fine Ohio Wines could be seen on Water Street in downtown Sandusky for many years.

The Steuk winery was located at the southwest corner of Market and Decatur Streets in the late 1800’s. Steuk’s winery was begun by William Steuk, and continued by Edward L .Steuk. Later, during Prohibition, Steuk’s turned to planting apple orchards, and the making of apple cider.

Visit the Sandusky Library to learn more about early businesses in Sandusky and Erie County. In the business collections of the Sandusky Library Archive Research Center is a journal article from the Spring 1981 issue of Northwest Ohio Quarterly contains an article by John F. Polacsek. The article, entitled “Pop-Pop – Fizz Fizz: A Glimpse at the Northwest Ohio Industry in Years Gone By,” discusses the history wine making in northwest Ohio. Inquire at the Reference Services desk for assistance.