The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1902 – Part 1


Darrell E. Hamilton

       On January 1, 1902 the Ashtabula Telephone Company stepped into the twentieth century. With anew building completed, the new exchange was finally installed and on January first the new system was in operation.
       Previously the telephone was equal to the Hooterville exchange you see on the old television show “Green Acres”. There were no lights on the switchboard to tell the operator that someone was still on the line. Most of the time an operator would cut in on a line and ask, “Still talking?” Sometimes if a line was needed an operator would just unplug a line while the parties were still talking. I can just imagine the madness of all the ladies when this would happen. Business lines usually received a little more consideration.
       The telephones were also primitive up to 1902. Previously a phone had to have a storage battery to transmit a signal. By January first everyone with a telephone was to have been given a new telephone.
       Also on January first 1902 a telephone book as we know today was introduced and was available to all subscribers. Before the turn of the century (1900), telephone numbers were published periodically in the Beacon. The Beacon continued this practice into the twentieth century especially with a new subscriber or when someone received a new phone number.
        Shortly after the opening of the new exchange, the manager of the telephone company resigned. Miss Cora Strubbe who was the chief operator took over as treasure-manager of the local telephone company.
       In January of 1902, William S. McKinnon of Ashtabula was nominated Speaker of the House in Columbus. William S. McKinnon owned McKinnon Iron Works of Ashtabula. He was a very popular man at the turn of the century in Ashtabula and Ohio. His name can still be seen all over Northeastern Ohio. Chances are you have a storm drain somewhere at the curb of your street. The next time you are out walking and you come across one of his storm drains, you will remember William S. McKinnon.
       On January 5, 1902, John Harmon died at his home in the East Village. Mr. Harmon’s ancestors  were very early settlers in Ashtabula. He was the president of the Farmer’s National Bank and served various other posts in Ashtabula County.
       On January 5, 1902, John Harmon died at his home in the East Village. Mr. Harmon’s ancestors were very early settlers in Ashtabula. He was the president of the Farmer’s National Bank and served in January of 1902, the United States Post Office issued regulation on private post cards as we know today. The regulation contained the size weight, color and how the post card was to be printed on the addressed side of the card. The very first post card made by the United States Post Office under the new regulation was one cent and had a picture of the late President McKinley on it.
       For the first time in the city of Ashtabula, the city hall had two additional jail cells for the lockup of women and boys. Before that they were housed in the same department. The news article never said anything about young girls. The girls were probably locked up with the women. Or, could it have been that the girls in 1902 were too sweet to be locked up? I liked to think so anyway. Wouldn’t you?
       In 1902 the new high school was being completed. Experimental blackboards were being installed. The blackboards were green. They weren’t very popular and were taken down shortly afterwards. If I am not mistaken, it was the fifties or sixties before green blackboards were introduced in the schools again. This would have to mean one of two things. Either the green blackboards were improved on or today’s officials don’t have much common sense as they had in 1902.
       In February of 1902, the Prospect Presbyterian Church extended a formal call to Rev, S. B. Groves to become their permanent minister. The Rev. Groves had been the interim minister for the past six months. He was to be paid $800 a year with $300 a year of that amount was to be contributed from the Presbytery.
       On March 5, 1902, two thousand people were on hand at the depot to see the Prince of Prussia. The train stopped about five minutes long enough to get a glimpse of him and Admiral Evans. They were surrounded by the secret service agents of the United States.
        In March of 1902, Conneaut abolished the office of marshal and substituted the office of chief of police.
        In March of 1902 Professor Thomas H. Hopkins died at his home at the age of seventy, Professor Hopkins was a noted musician all over northeastern Ohio. He had came to Ashtabula County when he was only a baby.
       At the age of seven he was using his pocket knife to cut the wrist band of his shirt as he was preparing to go in swimming in the Grand River. The knife blade slipped and pierced his right eye. While an operation was being performed on his right eye in Cleveland, the surgeon slipped and the sight of his left eye was also lost.
       He was sent to the blind school in Columbus where he became an accomplished musician on the piano, violin and brass instruments.
       Professor Hopkins was a great lover of nature and knew every bird by song, every flower by its odor and every friend by voice. He was survived by six children and was buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery.
       I would like to thank Wal-Mart and Jerry Fleming, the manager of Wal-Mart for their kind donation of flowers for North Park and the little park on the east side of  South Main Avenue.

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula – 1902 Part 2

Darrell E. Hamilton
       In 1902 women did not have the right to vote at least at the federal and state level. However, women were allowed to vote in certain school districts for directors of the school board. In many places across the northern states women actually were allowed to hold local public offices especially for a school board office.
       In 1902 there were four major political parties in Ashtabula. The Democrat, Republican, Union Labor and the Socialist parties would all field candidates in Ashtabula and Conneaut. However the Socialist and Union Labor parties would field more candidates than the Democrat party.
       The Union Labor party got its start through the railroad and the docks of Ashtabula. The Union Labor party was exactly what the name implied. You had to belong to the union in order to become a candidate for public office for their party. The Union Labor party fielded a candidate for every elected office in the city of Ashtabula.
       The Socialist party wasn’t quit as particular. They would take anyone as long they had the numbers. The Socialist party believed that the council should be all powerful and the council should appoint all officials of the government. The Socialist party would run a candidate for all elected offices in the city of Ashtabula including all seven wards with exception of ward one. Less than fourteen years later, the Socialist party would convince the voters of Ashtabula to adopt a socialist charter. This was obtained by a low voter turnout and a very slim margin of victory. Today, we still have the same charter. However, that is another story that I will deal with later.
       On April third 1902, a new school Building for Ashtabula High School was formally dedicated. The building was the first school in Ashtabula to have forced air heat. The school later became known as the Park Street School. It sat across from North Park on Park Ave next to the First Baptist Church. The Ashtabula City school system would become one of the best school systems in the United States. Not only was Ashtabula the oldest continuing high school in Ohio, it was one of the oldest in the United States. Official records were kept in the United States on school systems beginning in 1860. Ashtabula High School was started in 1856. In 1860 there were only forty high schools in the United States. Ashtabula was one of these high schools. Someday I will research to see how many of these high schools actually still existed when Ashtabula High School was unmercifully killed in 2001. Ashtabula High School could have been the oldest continuing high school in the United States.
       Yes boys and girls, the killing of the oldest high school in Ohio and possibly the United States still sticks in my craw and probably will until the day I lose consciousness forever. Ashtabula voters were not given a choice. The high school is not for the students, it is supposed to be for the whole community. A new high, yes, the name, no. However, I suppose that is water underneath the bridge. I suppose I have just too much PANTHER PRIDE!
       In April of 1902 the voters of Ashtabula elected John T. McMillan mayor of Ashtabula. He did not run as a Republican, Democrat or a Socialist but a member of the Union Labor party. McMillan beat the favored Republican candidate by a 150 votes. McMillan was actually a Republican who was persuaded to run as a Union Labor candidate. McMillan was also a railroad employee. A railroad employee had been elected Mayor of Ashtabula for the past fifteen years. This was the first time a republican candidate was not elected mayor of Ashtabula since Abraham Lincoln was elected. Up to this time, no Democrat had ever been elected Mayor of Ashtabula. Mayor McMillan ended up being one of the best and best liked mayors in Ashtabula history,
       In Conneaut there was an entirely different outcome for their mayor. The very first Democrat to be elected Mayor of Conneaut was elected by fourteen votes. His name was E. J. Parrish. However with a fourteen vote margin, there were to be accusations. T. W. Kellogg contested the election stating that more than seventeen votes were cast illegally. Court papers were filled to stop Parrish from being sworn in. However for some strange reason, Sheriff Parker arrived too late with the restraining order to stop Parrish from being sworn in. Thus, Parrish became the first Democrat to become Mayor of Conneaut.

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula – 1902 Part 3


Darrell E. Hamilton

       The fastest means of travel in 1902, if you were traveling any distance at all was by railroad. Locomotives traveling through Ashtabula would often obtain speeds of seventy miles an hour or more. The fastest locomotive on record at the time was the locomotive Burlington. The Burlington pulled nine cars at the speed of one hundred miles an hour for fourteen miles after it left Akron to Denver thirty minutes late trying to make up lost time. The Burlington easily made up the lost time and then some.
       In 1902 travel was by horseback, streetcar, buggy, wagon, bicycle or by foot. Over half the people did not own a horse if they lived in the city. Everything was at their disposal whether you lived near Bridge Street or Main Street. If anyone needed transportation to anyplace in the county a person could always obtain a taxi.
       A taxi in 1902 was a horse and buggy that were usually obtained from the local livery stable. For an additional fee a driver could also be obtained. Wagons were also available.
       The reason most people did not own a horse that lived in the city was because they had no place to keep them. It was cheaper to rent a horse or taxi from the local livery stable then to board a horse. Even at that there were still a lot of horses in Ashtabula.
       Ever wonder what happened to horses that died in 1902? Yes some of them would end up as soapor at the tannery. However a lot of family horses were given proper burials. The major burial ground for horses at the turn of the century and before was located on Station Avenue where the Thurgood Marshall school sits today. So, students of Thurgood Marshall elementary school, the next time you are in school think about all the horses buried around your school. Then children think about what great horses they must have been and what they meant to their families to bury them in a cemetery just for horses.
       An automobile in Ashtabula in 1902 was still considered a toy more or less. In June of 1902 the first Automobile ad from a local dealer was ran in the Beacon by the Scrivens’ Cycle Store. The automobile had to be ordered and a savings of two hundred dollars would be had if ordered at once. The ad never mentioned the name of the automobile. However two weeks later the first automobile purchased in Ashtabula was a Milwaukee steam carriage. The buyer of the automobile was C. L. Scrivens.
       C. O. Tinker became the second man to purchase an automobile. He purchased a White automobile that was manufactured in Cleveland.
       Seeing an automobile in Ashtabula created quite a stir 1902. When an automobile was seen traveling through Ashtabula, the event usually made it into the Beacon. When a local owner of an automobile took his horseless carriage out, the event would certainly make the newspaper and often make front page news. The July 9, 1902 Beacon stated that C. L. Scrivens, accompanied by H. Bieder, made a trip to Geneva in his auto Tuesday afternoon.
       In 1902 the city of Ashtabula owned its own electric company. The power plant was located near where the hospital sits now. There were 750 subscribers in July of 1902. Before 1902 electricity in the home was very seldom used for anything else but lighting. In 1897 the gas company made its introduction to Ashtabula. By 1902 the gas company had 1,400 consumers. The city officials feared their customers would switch to gas to light their house. With the introduction of electric motors, consumers found other uses for electricity.
       In 1902 there were numerous parks in Ashtabula. A lot more parks were in Ashtabula than we have today. Everyone wanted a park near their home. In 1902 the citizens of the West End started a movement to create a park. Even though Flatiron Park was located less than a mile from many of them at the corner of Prospect and Center Streets, most neighborhoods wanted their own park. Neighborhoods in 1902 were very close knit. Neighborhoods in 1902 had their own societies, numerous clubs including culture clubs. The West End even had a neighborhood picnic every summer. This was one of the reasons the Prospect Presbyterian Church was built at the corner of Prospect and Samuel Avenues. The people of that neighborhood wanted their own church.
       The West Enders in 1902 started a movement in 1902 to purchase a large vacant lot at the corner of Prospect and Fort Streets owned by the trustees of Oberlin College to create a park. The trustees of Oberlin College were contacted and a petition was sent to the city council. Apparently the west enders never received the help they sought as there is no park there today.

Flatiron Park - (Intersection of Prospect and Center Streets)


The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula – 1902 Part 4


Darrell E. Hamilton


       In July of 1903 Socialist Max Hayes of Cleveland was making a speech at the corner of Bowery and Main Streets in Conneaut. Arguments, altercations and later on all out fist fights broke out between the Socialists and two Conneaut councilmen, Tom Cherry and Charles Chadman. The policeman broke up the fight only to have the fight continued down the street at a saloon on Main Street. Accusations, threats and name calling went even further at the saloon. The Mayor and other city officials including an off duty policeman got into the fight also with the Socialists. In the saloon, one man was supposed to have bitten off a piece of another man’s ear and had to be taken to the doctor to get patched up. I suppose they were kicking and a gouging in the mud, the blood and the beer so to speak. News of the fight made it in other Northeastern Ohio newspapers. To make a long story short, councilmen and Socialists were both arrested. I suppose the “Gay Nineties” turned into the “Awful Oughts”.

       In Ashtabula, an ordinance governing the speed of an automobile was prepared and was to be submitted to the city council at their next meeting. It would be many years before an ordinance would be agreed on by the city council. However, I don’t believe there were any fist fights over the issue. Then again I haven’t finished my research. A very well respected businessman would be the first person in Ashtabula to receive a speeding ticket. Stay tuned.
       In August of 1902, with the event of rural delivery, East Plymouth lost their post office.
       Through my research of Ashtabula history, I have found many notable Ashtabulans. Space does not permit me to name and write about every one of them. However, they will be mentioned in book form someday in the not to far distant future. Sometimes a person stands out above the rest from time to time.

       One of those persons was an Ashtabula policeman. He reminded of a policeman in a old movie that took place about the turn of the century. He was very active in the community and worked very closely with the children. Some of the information I share can not be found just in an obituary but through research through many years of newspapers. This policeman accomplished quite a bit in his short forty three year life. His name was Alexander Hamill.            

Alexander Hamill

       Alex was born in Holley, New York and came to Ashtabula when he was thirteen years old. When he first came to Ashtabula he was employed in the shop of F. D Flickinger and learned the trade of carriageironer. Most of his adult life was spent on the city police force. For sixteen consecutive years Alex was the the town marshal before Ashtabula went to a police chief. He solved many crimes through his detective work and many criminals were captured directly by him or results of his detective work. He was instrumental in capturing a notorious bank robber. He had been beaten and shot while on duty with the Ashtabula Police Department.
       Alex wore police badge number three. He was very well liked by the citizens of Ashtabula. Alex was survived three sons, John, Robert and Alexander Hamill. He died on August 17, 1902 of a heart aliment and was buried in St. Joseph Cemetery after a very large funeral procession. Are there any descendants of Alex Hamill still in Ashtabula? If so, could you please get in contact with me?
       The first automobile in the Morrison family was purchased by Willard H. Morrison of H. L. Morrison’s and Sons. He became the third person in Ashtabula to own an automobile. The automobile was a 1902 Winton. 
       In Painesville Franklin Breed died at the age of eighty. Breed was the man who got John D. Rockefeller interested in oil. He sold Rockefeller his first carload of oil. Rockefeller also tried to locate his Company, Standard Oil in Ashtabula in vain. However that is a story that I’ve already written about.
       The first story printed in an Ashtabula area newspaper on someone losing their life in an automobile crash was printed on September 15, 1902. The automobile accident took place just outside of San Francisco. The lady who died was married to Senator William Stewart from Nevada. The reason the story made it into the Beacon was because both Senator and Mrs. Stewart were from Ashtabula. When they lived here they lived in house that sat at the corner of West and Prospects Streets where Burger King sits now. The lady’s first name was never mentioned. It would be in the not to distant future before Ashtabula County would claim her first automobile fatality.

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula – 1902 Part 5


Darrell E. Hamilton

       In September of 1902, school started for almost 2,500 students in the city schools district. Thistotal did not include the Harbor Special school district. Ashtabula High School which at the time sat where Ball Gymnasium sits now had 550 students.
       The old Academy building which sat on Park Street across from North Park and was the very first Ashtabula High School was not used for school purposes any more after 1902. Previously the building was used as a primary building.
       A Professor Clark brought up the idea of turning the building into a manual training annex for thehigh school. I would suppose this was the first mention of a vocational school as we know today.
       Two interesting notes is that the school system furnished all stationary supplies to all the studentsand the truant officer was paid twenty cents per hour. The average salary in 1902 was about seventy to eighty dollars a month. You do the math. Needless to say, the truant had another job. George Corlette was the truant officer in 1902.
       The reason for hiring George Corlette as the truant officer was because a compulsory education law was passed by the state. The law stated that parents had to send their children to school if they were between the ages of eight and fourteen. If the parents failed to do this, the parents would be fined notless than five dollars nor more than twenty dollars. They also could be imprisoned for not less than ten days nor more than thirty. 
       Rabbi Freedman of Sheffield, Pennsylvania located to Ashtabula and became the Rabbi for the Jewish People of Ashtabula in September of 1902.
       Also in September of 1902, The water company extended their water mains down Adams Avenue. Just think people of Adams Avenue, you could have had a big celebration in 2002 if you had known this fact!
       In September of 1902, Charles Garlick of Jefferson released his small book which was printed in pamphlet form which he wrote on his life. Charlie’s real name was Abel Bogguess who was an escaped slave from Virginia (now West Virginia). He came to Ashtabula County in 1843. He used the money from the small books he sold to support himself in his old age.  The former law office of Joshua Giddings in Jefferson was his last home. He lived there for over thirty years. Charlie is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

Charles Garlick

       In September of 1902, after making many trips to Cleveland in his new automobile, J. L. Scrivens who was the first person to purchase an automobile in Ashtabula, moved to Cleveland.
       On September 30, 1902 the village of Geneva passed the Beal law by 91 votes. The Beal law made the city dry. All the saloons would have to close in thirty days. More and more cities would adopt the Beal Law across the country until alcohol beverages would be outlawed across the United States.
       When I moved to Morehead, Kentucky I was told that the county was dry. I looked around and said, “The grass looks pretty green to me.” To my surprise the person meant no alcoholic beverages were sold in the county at least not legally. I found it difficult to believe that a university town with about eight thousand students would be dry! Since then the city finally went wet in about 1986 but the rest of the county remained dry. However bars were still not allowed and if you took your beer (the only liquor allowed to be sold) out of the city limits, you were arrested. Many small towns across the United States especially in the South are still dry today believe it or not.
       In the classifieds someone wanted a Swede girl at once at the new Commercial Hotel. If you ran that ad today you’d probably be arrested.
       Also in the classifieds for sale were two McNutt automobiles (which were manufactured in Kingsville) on Center Street.
       On October 15, 1902 the Court House in Jefferson finally was equipped with electric and gas for lighting purposes. Before when the lighting became dark in the court house during the winter months, coal oil lamps had to be brought up from the basement.
       The corner stone of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was laid on Sunday, October 26, 1902.
       Clarence Darrow, America’s most famous attorney and former Ashtabula City Solicitor was in Ashtabula for a short visit in October of 1902.   
       The first automobile accident in the county occurred in Geneva on South Ridge Road when the automobile left the road and struck a pole. All the occupants were thrown from the automobile however no one was seriously hurt. The occupants were from  Cleveland.
       In October of 1902, the State of Ohio passed a bill called the Municipal Code. This was a new system under which villages and cities would be governed. The new code took affect on November 16, 1902. Under this bill, the only system the State would be recognized is villages and cities. Hamlets boroughs and other such names of villages and cities would no longer be recognized by the State of Ohio. Also new wards would be drawn up so the number of wards would be reduced to four or five.
       The very first automobile accident in the city of Ashtabula happened on Station Street by the third person in Ashtabula to own an automobile. Mr. and Mrs. Willard H. Morrison and their dog Bruiserwere going down the Station Street hill when Mr. Morrison observed a dog lying in the path of the automobile. Mr. Morrison yelled at the dog in the road to get out of the way. The Morrison dog “Bruiser”being an intelligent dog thought his master was talking to him. Bruiser jumped over the dash in front of the automobile. Mrs. Morrison reached out to grab the dog from jumping out. At the same time Mr. Morrison swerved to the right to keep from hitting the dog in the road. Mrs. Morrison was thrown from the automobile and landed on her side. She suffered a dislocated shoulder. The automobile suffered a broken drive chain and had to be towed away by a horse.  In case you were wondering, Mr. Morrison and both dogs were uninjured.
       In closing I would like to reanimate a humorous story from the December 12, 1902 Beacon.
       A girl in Ashtabula played  post office at a party the other night and yelled and shrieked and howled and ran behind the door and scratched the young man’s face when he tried to kiss her. She upset a lamp, kicked over the piano stool, and when he finally kissed her on the tip of the ear she fainted dead away. Afterwards she said she could never look anybody in the face again. They led the bashful, modest and gentle sobbing creature home. The next day she ran away with a married lightning rod peddler who had a hair lip and ten children.
       Well parents, you’d better keep a careful eye on your daughter the next time a lightning rod salesman comes to town.