The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1904 – Part 1

By

Darrell E. Hamilton

 
       Train wrecks at the turn of the century were not an uncommon occurrence. Two possibly three times the amount of trains passed through, to and from Ashtabula in the early part of the twentieth century then does today. The trucking industry had not been invented for long  distance hauling nor had buses for long distance transportation of people.
       Train wrecks were not usually recorded in local history books unless there were numerous lives lost. Trains at the turn of the century usually traveled between sixty and seventy miles an hour and sometimes faster even with a lot a cars attached to them. This was the case with Limited Train No. 22 on December 31, 1903.
       With a lot of snow on the ground, the towerman had opened the switch to let an east-bound freight train in on the coaling track. After the train had passed over, he found that he could not close the switch by the automatic device because the switch was clogged with snow. He went from the tower down on to the tracks to clear the snow out of the switch and at once observed the fast train coming. The fact that the switch was not closed made it impossible for the signals to work.
       The towerman immediately stepped to the center of the tracks and gave a stop signal with his lantern. He was either ignored or not seen as the towerman jumped out of the way and ran to safety as the train take the switch and derail. The train was traveling about sixty-five miles an hour. Both engineers in both locomotives were killed immediately as both were crushed underneath their locomotives. They were only identified by their clothing and ID only. One fireman was also killed. The other fireman escaped death because he was thrown out the window of the locomotive onto the ground clear of the wreckage.
       In the beginning it was thought that there were four men killed in the train wreck until it was realized that one of the bodies was being transported was already a corpse being shipped to another city for burial.
       An interesting note is that one of the locomotives was still running on its side at a high rate of speed and had to be shut off manually.
       1903 was probably the greatest growth in Ashtabula’s history up to that time. Almost two hundred  dwellings were built. Over seventy-five percent of the homes in Ashtabula were owner occupied.
       In January an obituary of a man a man who died in Erie was printed in the local newspaper. According to the Beacon William W. Reed was born in Ashtabula in 1824. What made this obituary interesting was the fact that his father, William W. Reed Sr., was the first non-native American Indian born in Erie, Pennsylvania.
       William W. Reed Sr. had moved to Ashtabula and had become a very successful merchant in Ashtabula. His business failed in the panic of 1837 and moved back to Erie and became the secretary and treasure of the Erie Canal Company.
       The following is an excerpt from the Beacon on January 22, 1904.
       “The grade crossing talk under the Lake Shore tracks on Lake Street has died out again. A Depot Street business man remarked on Friday that undoubtedly nothing would be done until a street car loading with citizens was demolished and a dozen people killed.”
              Little did the Depot Street businessman know how close his prediction would come to the Center Street disaster in less than twenty years.
 

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1904 – Part 2

By

Darrell E. Hamilton

 
       There were 228 deaths in Ashtabula in 1903 excluding still births compared to 205 for 1902. There were 312 deaths in Ashtabula City in 2003. Ashtabula had a population of 15,206 and was the largest city between Cleveland and Erie. Today Ashtabula has a population of 20,962.
       On January 28, 1904 Lucy Ann McNutt died at her home in Saybrook on North Ridge West after sustaining injures from a fall in her bedroom three days early. Lucy was born in Massachusetts on May 1, 1812. On October 2, 1830 she was married to John C. McNutt in Blanford, Massachusetts. After a couple years of marriage the couple moved to Ashtabula.
       Lucy had twelve children in which eight children survived and her husband.
       The McNutts were known at the time for having the largest family reunion in the area at the time. It is truly doubtful that any family reunions since then has been larger. Today most people would not know some of their own first cousins if they saw them on the street which probably includes me. Families just don’t seem to be as close as they once were. My wife’s family the Mongenels went to having their reunions at Lake Shore Park because of all the relatives in attendance to a reunion in a relative’s back yard. Well at least they still have a reunion.
       Getting back to Lucy and John, the couple were very well liked and known all over Northeastern Ohio.
       In the 1850’s the people of Ashtabula conceived an idea of paying their compliments to Queen Victoria in the form of a present which was to consist of a mammoth American made cheese. Lucy McNutt was the principal worker in the construction of the cheese which measured seven feet in diameter.
       The McNutts also held a Northeastern Ohio record at the time for longest marriage. At the time of Lucy’s death, the couple had been marries for over seventy–three years. That record would stand for another forty years before another Ashtabula couple would break their record.
       John and Lucy McNutt are buried in Saybrook Cemetery.
       If you know someone who was married seventy years or more in the past or present from Ashtabula County, please get in contact with me at 992-0817 or e-mail at Hamiltonenterprises@alltel.net.
       Probably the one of the largest controversies in the city of Ashtabula in 1904 was the sewers. Some things never change. However then it was the lack a sewers and not the size.
       Warren A. Post ordered a new car and became one of the first people in Ashtabula to own an automobile. Mr. Post became about the fourteenth person in Ashtabula to own an automobile.
       In February of 1904 the Ashtabula Township School Board planned to adopt the centralized plan for their schools. The seven schools in the district, East Village, North Ridge, Middle Road, South Ridge, two on Lake Road East and one on Bunker Hill, would be closed. The plan was to build a large central school building in East Village near Sweet Park. The idea behind this plan was that someday the school district would be able offer the higher grades including high school. Before Edgewood High School was created, any pupils attending high school in that district usually attended Ashtabula High School.
       In February of 1904 a woman was arrested and served jail time for cheating on her husband. She was also arrested for intoxication, disorderly contact, keeping a disorderly house with several men at one time. She had five children ages three to eleven. This was not the first time she had been arrested for those offenses. Her husband later filed for divorce and received custody of the children.
       Repeated offenses as mentioned above especially by a woman at the turn of the century could mean a woman could be sent to the “funny farm” and sometimes were.
       At the turn of the century some people worked until they died. There were no retirement benefits as we know today. What benefits there were might come from being in the Armed Services or a railroad pension. Usually these pensions were not enough to sustain life as we know it today. There were originally only as a supplemental income. Usually people chose to work forty, fifty or even sixty years or more.
       This was the case of Orimel Haywood. Mr. Haywood worked for the railroad for fifty years. Forty seven of those years he was a foreman. He worked six days a week and most of that time he worked twelve hours a day. Mr. Haywood was seventy-five years old when he died. He was married for fifty-three years and had one son and two daughters. He is buried in Edgewood Cemetery.
 

The Twentieth Century of Ashtabula 1904 – Part 3 & 4

By
Darrell E. Hamilton
 
       On February 18, 1904 the biggest fire in Ashtabula up to that time occurred at the Morrison Block on Main Street in zero degree weather. The stores of H. L. Morison and Sons and the store of David Loeb (Globe Clothing) along with fourteen other business and offices were destroyed in the three store building.
       The fire had started in the boiler room and quickly spread though out the building. The only business which was able to get any stock out of the building was the Globe Clothing Store. David Loeb and his force of clerks were able to remove a considerable amount of stock before the fire overtook the clothing store as well.
       The Morrison building collapsed just an hour and three minutes after the fire alarm was sounded. Businesses on the second and third floors were unable to get very little out if anything. Neighboring buildings were also damaged. Some of them had to temporally relocate until their building was repaired. One of these businesses was the Post Office which had to temporally relocate in a building across from South Park. The loss was $110,000 which was a considerable sum in 1904. The Morrison Block was just twelve years old when it was destroyed by fire. A new Morrison Block would be built.
       The C. A. Williams Bicycle Shop ran the first advertisement for a motorcycle in Ashtabula County. The ad was for a Rambler Motorcycle. The Williams Bicycle Shop was also an agency Rambler, Ford and Royal Tourist Automobiles.  The agency was the first Ford Dealership in Ashtabula County.
       In Painesville a sixty two year old man was seized with a sudden fit of coughing. During the coughing fit the man’s false teeth slipped down into his throat and logged there. The man began chocking and before a doctor could arrive, the man chocked to death.
       On May 6, 1904 the Children’s Home celebrated its eighteenth anniversary. During that time 605 children passed through the Children’s Home.
       Not all the children in the home were orphans. Sometimes the parent or parents got in the position that they could not afford to care for the children. The Children’s Home would often take in the children until the parents could better afford to take care of their children. Careful records were kept on the children and what became of them once they left the home. Some of the children had lived most of their lives at the Children’s Home.
       According to the records kept at the time by the home, all the children that came through the home and were now grown, had turned out to be good citizens and self supporting.
       Today we have welfare, HUD Housing, Medicaid and a host of other benefits that weren’t available in 1904. However today kids find the time to run the streets, shoot people’s windows out, kill children’s pets, steal what isn’t locked down and with all that still find time to cuss like truck drivers right in front of LSD High school!
       Do you think we should bring back the Children’s Home? How about a home for the parents? I’m sorry. We call that jail!
       In July of 1904 John Ducro retired from an active business career of nearly fifty years. John Ducro was  Ashtabula’s pioneer furniture dealer and undertaker. He turned the business over to his two sons, John P. and George Ducro.
       After less than five months of retirement, John Ducro passed away at his home on Prospect on December 4, 1904. John Ducro was born in Germany in 1824. He had moved from Jefferson to Ashtabula in 1862. He is buried in Chestnut Grove Cemetery. An in depth article on the Ducro Family will hopefully be published at a later date.
       On August 25, 1904 the McNutt family held their thirty-first reunion in Eagleville. The secretary reported that that there had been four births, six deaths and six marriages since the reunion last year. For the first time since the reunions started, Lucy McNutt was not among the guests. Lucy had died the previous January. Her husband John at 94 years of age was the honored guest. The couple at the time of Lucy’s death held the record for the longest recorded marriage in Northeastern Ohio at over 73 years.
       However this would be John McNutt’s last reunion. Less than a month after the reunion John was trying to climb over a fence in a field while going on a walk. He fell off the fence onto a rock and broke his leg. At his advance age of 94, the injury was too severe to recover. John Chester McNutt died on September 22, 1904 less than eight months after his wife died of the same injuries.
        For the first time in 1904 Conneaut beat out Ashtabula for Ore receipts for 1904 with 4,083,655 tons.
       Every single male member of the class of 1904 of Ashtabula High School went to college. Even though there were only twenty-six graduates in the class, do you think that all the boys from the class of the 2004 went to college? One interesting note is that Carey Sheldon Jr. was member of the class of 1904.
       In December of 1904 the Conneaut National Bank failed. The president of the bank and cashier were arrested by Federal officers. They somehow misplaced $15,000 of the bank’s money. The bank was to be reorganized.

       An interesting want ad in the December 31, 1904 Beacon read as follows:                                                      Wanted – Persons needing men to do manual labor at a low price, to inquire of Joe Peet, 24  Griswold Street.                                                                                                                                                                            This ad sort of makes you wonder how many men actually applied for this job.