The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula – 1901 – Part I

Darrell E. Hamilton
       In 1901 there were 239 deaths in Ashtabula City and Township. It is not so unusual for people to die. However, what is unusual was the way people died. As compared to 2003, there were 315 deaths in the city compared to 218 in the city in 1901. Of the 315 who died in the city in 2003, at least 88 of them died of some type of heart trouble.
       The leading cause of death in 1901 was pneumonia with 36. Heart trouble at the thirty deaths was on the rise and had greatly increased over the previous years. Death from cancer had eight deaths listed. In my opinion there were a lot more deaths from cancer but were listed in other causes of death because the doctors weren’t sure.
       Fifteen people died of old age. Eighteen people died of consumption and 29 died as a result from accident. Four babies died of teething and two women died from childbirth.
       Fourteen people died of lack of vitality. Since diabetes was not listed as a cause of death, it would be a good bet that most of the fourteen people died of diabetes.
       What is surprising is that the health department only listed three deaths by suicide. Normally I would take that statement at face value if I didn’t had at least twelve articles on hand where people committed suicide in 1901. When a man lays his head down on the tracks and allows a train to decapitate him in front of a dozen witnesses, I would have to say it was suicide. The incident actually happened near where the depot stands now. The only reasonable explanation that I can come up with is that a lot of the articles I have on suicides, most of the people had a terminal illness. Maybe the doctors figured that the terminal illness caused the suicide.
       In 1901, the new century was ushered in. The streets were filled and the church and fire bells rang. There were shouts and shots that could be all over Ashtabula. If anyone was asleep at midnight, by one minute after midnight they were wide awake.
       On January 5, 1901, the Geneva Automobile & Manufacturing Co. was incorporated with a $100,000 capital stock. The shop of the American Bicycle Company in Geneva was transformed into an automobile plant where the Geneva Automobile would be built. J. A. Carter was the president of the company. He was also president of the former bicycle company. A complete article on the history of the Geneva Automobile Company will printed in a few weeks. The short history of the Geneva Automobile can not be told in one or two paragraphs.
       In February of 1901, Henry J. Topky died. He had been a member of the city council and was acting mayor for a time. Henry Topkey left his hardware business on Bridge Street to his son, Oliver C. Topkey. He is buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery.
       Also on Bridge Street, H. T. Carlisle took his son, L. T. Carlisle into his firm as a partner. The firm was to be known afterwards as Carlisle and Son. However most advertising after that date was printed as H. T. & L. T. Carlisle.
       The Razor Tannery which had been in operation since 1896, was sold to Edwin Goddard, cahier of the Farmers National Bank and others. Six weeks later, George Razor the founder of the Razor Tannery died. He is buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery.
       In March of 1901, Andrew Carnegie gave notice that he would donate $15,000 provided that the City Council voted ten percent of the amount to support the Library.
       After the Library Board had picked a site for the new library, a cemetery on which it sits now known then as Memorial Park, would prove quite controversial even while the library was being built. The matter would be taken to court before the construction site would be settled. A complete story on the building of the library will be printed in a few weeks.

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1901 – Part 2


Darrell E. Hamilton

       In March of 1901 the Ashtabula City School Board met to decide what to do with the present school building that sat on Park Avenue across from North Park. They had originally decided to pay a contractor $250 to move the school to the rear of where the new high school would be built. The work was to be completed during the week of the school spring vacation in April. The school, which was a three story building, would be eventually purchased and moved to the location of the Carlisle building on Main Avenue.
       In April of 1901, Ashtabula High School located where Ball Gymnasium sits now became the first school house to be connected to the city sewer. It is a shame I didn’t know this in 2001. Maybe I could have had better attendance and support of that event then the Ohio and Ashtabula Bicentennial Celebration.
       In April of 1901, the last remaining child of  Amos and Mary Hubbard Fisk died. Edward W. Fisk followed in his father’s footsteps and became a well known area businessman. The Fisk family, which settled in Ashtabula in 1810, at one time owned all the land from the Ashtabula River to West Ave and from West 48th Street to West 44th Street. West 48th Street at one time was known as Fisk Street.
       Edward Fisk donated the land the First Baptist Church is built on. His father had given the land next to the First Baptist Church to be used as a cemetery and to be known as Memorial Park. Amos and Mary Fisk were and are still probably buried there. However, that is another story.
       In April 1901 the oldest citizen in Ashtabula died at age 96. Moses Dickinson was the oldest Master Mason. He was an Ashtabula businessman that established many firsts for Ashtabula County and the surrounding areas. Even at age 96, he did not out live his father. His father had outlived him by a year. As with most early settlers that lived on the west side of the Ashtabula River, he is buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery.
       In the spring of 1901, at a regular meeting, the Tri-County Medical society read a letter from the Rev. Father Smith of Our Mother of Sorrows Church. Rev. Father Smith proposed to the physicians of the city and county that if they agreed to certain conditions, he would take up the project of establishing in Ashtabula a hospital. The medical society appointed a committee to take the proposition under considera-tion. A complete history on the building of the first hospital in Ashtabula will be printed at a later date.
       Also in the spring of 1901 bicycle path tags went on sale throughout the County. The tags were a dollar. The money raised from the sale of the tags was to be used to build bicycle paths throughout the county. The purchase of the tag would allow a person to ride on the paths.
       In May of 1901, the residents of North Main Street (West 44th Street to the Ashtabula River) presented a petition to the Ashtabula City Council to pave their section of Main Street.
       In 1901 the only part of Main Street that was paved was from Division Street (West 44th St.) to Fisk Street (West 48th Street). Since the section of Main Street where the petition signers lived was entirely a residential section at the time, the petition was turned owing to the cost of paving that section of Main Street. The $5,000 cost would have been accessed to the property owners of North Main St. The council did not feel that the some of property owners on North Main Street could afford the additional taxes on their property. The council agreed to put more cinders at that section of the street.
       On May 28, 1901 Henry Theodore Carlisle passed away at the age of 61. His parents were early settlers of Ashtabula. He was a businessman and was a director of the People’s Building & Loan since its organization. Besides his wife, Elizabeth Tyler Carlisle, he was survived by two daughters, Bessie and Katharine and a son, Lorenzo T. Carlisle. All the business places on Main Street were closed during the funeral.

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1901 – Part 3

Darrell E. Hamilton
       Death in 1901 was just as common with the young as the elderly. Unexpected death was not an uncommon occurrence. Alice May Gleason who was a sophomore at Ashtabula High School in 1901 became ill on a Saturday morning.
       Since there was no hospital in Ashtabula in 1901, most people stayed home when they were seriously ill. Even when a crude operation would have to be performed on a person, the doctor’s usually operated on his or her patient in the patient’s home on the kitchen or dining room table. Only serious operations were performed at the small emergency hospital in Ashtabula which in reality was only a small emergency room. Most of the patients that were taken to the emergency hospital were transients without homes or men who worked for the railroads or on a ship away from their home. Some of the people in Ashtabula who were “better to do”, often were sent to a Cleveland hospital. Some of them would often die in a Cleveland hospital also.
       As with Alice, who was having an attack of appendicitis, a doctor would often try to cure an attack of appendicitis through other means instead of a crude operation. Her attack of appendicitis was thought not to be very serious. Without warning her appendicitis became serious and she died on a Tuesday morning before the doctor could reach her home. With modern medicine I’m quite sure she would have lived.
       Stories like this were a common occurrence at the turn of the century. Young people died frequently. Through my research of Ashtabula history, I have read thousand of obituaries. Reading an obituary ofan older person is like reading a novel. You have your good novels and your bad novels. Reading an obituary of a young person such as Alice is like reading the first few chapters of a really good novel and finding the rest of the pages in the book are blank. It takes your breath away. You wonder, what if?
       Alice was an accomplished pianist and singer who attended the First Congregational Church. She was also a beautiful girl who was very, very well liked by her fellow students. Interment was made in Jefferson. What if?
       In 1901 there were fifty-three salons and eleven houses of ill-repute. This was not the total for Ashtabula. This was the total just for Bridge Street. Two policeman were on duty just in the Bridge Street area. Today we have two sometimes three patrolmen on duty for the entire city of Ashtabula on any given shift. Today I know there are not fifty three solons and eleven brothels on Bridge Street. They are scattered all over Ashtabula. So, how come we have fewer policemen now than in 1901 when we have more people now? Think about it!
       In 1901, 1,600 feet of iron fencing was bought from the Crosby Hardware of Ashtabula for Edgewood Cemetery. Part of that fence still remains today in Edgewood Cemetery.
       In June of 1901, a man was sentenced to sixty days in the Canfield workhouse and to pay $258.75  in fine and costs for cruelty to his horse. That was quite a sum in those days. I suppose today most judges think that animals are not as valuable as they used to be so the cruelty to animals law should not betaken so seriously. (My e-mail address is Hamiltonenterprises@alltel for any judge that wants to e-mail me!)
       In 1901 the city of Ashtabula had 575 horses in the city limits. Ashtabula Township had but 232. There were 9,027 horses in the county. There were 426 carriages in Ashtabula City in 1901. There were only three automobiles in Ashtabula in 1901 not counting the two McNutt automobiles for sale on Center Street but that is another story.
       On Monday, July 15, 1901, the long awaited new depot was opened on Depot Street ( West 32d Street). It was billed as the finest depot on the Lake Shore Railroad line. The building was built of the finest stone and had copper spouting and gutters. The roof of the building was lined with a copper ridge and at each end of the ridge of the building there was a fancy copper ornaments. The interior of the station had beautiful doors and panel work. It had a beautiful waiting room which was richly furnished which included  rocking chairs. The depot also contained one of the finer restaurants in the area which contained a circular marble counter. At one time the depot contained a beautiful brick driveway in which remnants of the driveway can still be seen today.

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1901 – Part 4

Darrell E. Hamilton