Oberlin Heritage Center Blog


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A Visit to the Norfolk Waterfront

Sunday, May 27th, 2018

By Melva Tolbert, Oberlin Heritage Center Volunteer

In keeping with the theme of freedom and the Underground Railroad, I recently visited Norfolk, Virginia which is rich in history and stories of freedom. After a stop at the Norfolk Visitors Bureau, I set out to find the Norfolk Waterfront. I ventured a couple of blocks to the Elizabeth River and found an Underground Railroad historic marker which denotes the place where many enslaved blacks sought freedom along the waterfront.

Prior to the Civil War, the waterways along the east coast served as a transportation mode that brought enslaved Africans and free blacks to the east coast. It also was the site for a busy commercial activity. This historic marker highlighted the story of George Latimer, an enslaved black man seeking freedom like thousands like him in the North. George and his wife Rebecca escaped by the waterways to Boston and he did not return to his owner.

George_Latimer_lithograph

George Latimer 
Thayer & Co. (Boston, Mass.)–Lithographer
New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Because such a large number of blacks were employed in the shipping industry (shipyards, boats, and steamships) they were able to quietly assist African Americans with securing transportation heading North. Additionally, whites, either for a fee or by aiding the efforts of the Underground Railroad movement, transported enslaved men and women out of the Virginia and North Carolina area. It is believed that thousands of people were able to reach northern cities and Canada through these heroic efforts. Much like the abolitionist of Oberlin, you could find men and women in another part of the country who were committed to the message of freedom and the network of the Underground Railroad (on water).

Link to Waterways to Freedom interactive map and historical information

It Happened in Oberlin

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

by Officer Bashshar Wiley,Oberlin Police Department

For the past 5 1/2 years I’ve been a police officer with the Oberlin Police Department. Prior to being employed by the city, I lived in Oberlin until the age of 11 when I moved to the Village of Grafton. Growing up, I became enamored with history due to an exceptional teacher I had while attending Open Door Christian School in Elyria. At the same time, I had a strong interest in law enforcement and investigations due to the fact my father worked as a detective after retiring at the rank of sergeant.

Wiley Photograph

Officer Bashshar Wiley (Right) and his father, retired Oberlin Police Sergeant and current Oberlin Municipal Court Deputy Bailiff, Bill Wiley.

 

My father, Bill Wiley, has seen just about everything there is during his law enforcement career which spans decades. This includes murders, arsons, sexual assaults, robberies, shootings and suicides. What is surprising about this fact is that my dad didn’t work for a police department in Cleveland, Akron, Lorain or Elyria. My dad spent 27 years as a police officer in Oberlin, Ohio from 1968-1995.

The quote “it happened in Oberlin” is something I heard many times over the years when my dad would share stories from his career. It’s important to note that while Oberlin is a very safe community, there have been incidents where some dangerous and even deadly occurrences have taken place. Although some of these incidents have been forgotten over time, it’s important to remember there is no such thing as a “crime free” community. In fact, cities and villages, no matter the size, do not have the ability to commit crimes. The unfortunate act of committing a crime is left to the resident or individual “passing through” the city or village to commit such an act.

As a 29 year-old man with interest in history and law enforcement, imagine my surprise when my father emailed me a month ago about an officer who was shot and killed in the line of duty way back in 1881 and completely forgotten about over time. This officer was Constable Franklin Stone, and he was shot and killed in Oberlin, Ohio.

The information provided to me by my dad began when retired Elyria Police Detective Alan Leiby was having a conversation with Oberlin author, Don Hilton, about police officers in Lorain County who had lost their lives in the line of duty. One of these officers, Constable Franklin Stone, was believed to be from Oberlin. Constable Stone’s name was not engraved on any memorial walls, nor was he acknowledged at any police memorials for fallen officers. There were no streets named after him or buildings constructed in his memory. In fact, there was no information at all about Constable Stone. At that point, the three of us were “all in” with conducting our own investigation into the life and unfortunate death of Constable Stone.

From three separate locations, my father, Alan Leiby and I each conducted our own investigation into the Constable Stone case. I don’t know how many times his name was typed into the “Google machine”, in a variety of ways, but anytime information was located, it was shared within our group. Although never in the same room together, we each found clues leading to just what took place back in 1881 on the streets of the “Village of Oberlin” with only a population of 3,242 according to the U.S. Census of 1880.

These “clues” consisted of old newspaper articles from The Oberlin Weekly News, book articles, Lorain County court records, gravesite information and even a map of Oberlin dated from 1876. Nothing was more exciting or rewarding than finding an old newspaper article describing the event. In fact, investigations are my favorite part of my job. Using the information we collected over the course of a two-week investigation, we were able to determine just what exactly took place.

Franklin Stone was born in Pittsfield Township on August 15, 1835. Stone lived there until 1866, when he moved to Iowa, where he remained for three years until relocating to Oberlin on South Professor Street. Stone worked as an agent for the United States Express Company and also owned/operated a carriage and transfer line. In the spring of 1881, Stone was elected marshal (constable) of Oberlin and New Russia Township.

Constable Franklin Stone succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained on May 12th, 1881, after a foot pursuit of a subject whom he was attempting to arrest at approximately 7:00 pm. Stone had arrested a man the previous day in an attempt to serve an assault warrant. The man initially cooperated with Constable Stone and agreed to accompany him to the police station, but then hesitated as they passed a blacksmith shop where his father and brother were working. The family members exited the shop and attacked Constable Stone, allowing the prisoner to escape. Constable Stone swore out warrants for the father and brother and then attempted to serve them the following day. As he attempted to arrest the brother, the man fled on foot with Constable Stone firing at him as he ran southbound on South Main Street. One of the rounds wounded the man, who ran to his home on Mechanic Street (modern day Locust Street). As Constable Stone reached the home, the man’s father stood in the doorway and shot him in the chest with a rifle, causing a serious wound. Constable Stone was taken to his home where he remained until passing away on June 4th, 1881. The man who shot Constable Stone was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. He was pardoned in 1891 due to his old age and frail condition. Franklin Stone is buried with his family at Westwood Cemetery.

Constable Stone is one of two Oberlin officers to lose their life in the line of duty. The other being Patrol Officer Robert Woodwall who died in a motor vehicle crash on March 10, 1971 when his patrol vehicle slid off the icy roadway and crashed into a tree on East Hamilton Street. Constable Franklin Stone will now be added to the Lorain County Police Memorial, Greater Cleveland Peace Officers Memorial and his name will be engraved at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

Unfortunately, Constable Stone’s memory could’ve been lost over the course of time if it wasn’t for the dedication and research of those involved. This includes the work of Maren McKee from the Oberlin Heritage Center who was able to provide me with additional articles describing the incident and even locating Constable Stone’s obituary.

Not only is this incident important to the history of Oberlin, but also Lorain County as Constable Stone is now the first recorded law enforcement death in the history of Lorain County.

I am very proud of the work which led to the rediscovery of Constable Stone and it will be one of the highlights of my career here in Oberlin. Although Constable Stone’s story was “lost” for 136 years, he can now be remembered and his life celebrated for his dedication to the safety of the citizens of Oberlin. Please share the story of Constable Stone, and when people ask, you can tell them “it happened in Oberlin.”

Constable Franklin Stone

1835-1881

Gone…but NOT FORGOTTEN

My SHA Experience

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

By Liz Schultz, Museum Education and Tour Coordinator

I wish to thank the staff, board, and supporters of the Oberlin Heritage Center for encouraging and supporting my participation in the three week workshop “Developing History Leaders @ Seminar for Historic Administration,” which ran from November 1 to November 22, 2014 in Indianapolis. Organized by the American Association for State and Local History, “SHA” is widely regarded as an exceptional training experience for individuals in the history museum field. For me, the experience was both informative and inspirational. I returned to the Heritage Center with a better understanding of the wider history museum field, the Heritage Center’s capacity to have a meaningful impact on individuals and the community at large, and my own abilities and responsibilities within the organization.

Black and White Group Shot

SHA Class of 2014

There were twenty-one participants in the seminar who came from varied history institutions, large and small, independent and government supported. It was a unique opportunity for me to share ideas and discuss challenges among peers. Daily morning and afternoon sessions were led by over 30 visiting leaders in the field, including CEOs of museums and managers of national organizations, such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Council on Public History. It was amazing to meet so many passionate, experienced leaders. To a person, they were approachable and more than willing to answer questions and teach from their own past successes and failures.

The sessions were varied and intense. I include a quick list, although it does not do justice to the depth of our discussions:
Week 1: History Relevance Campaign, Changing Demography of America and Museum Visitation, Technology Trends, Models of Leadership, Strategic Thinking and Managing Change, Object-Based Experiences
Week 2: Exhibitions and Community, Fundraising and Boards, Earned Revenue and Entrepreneurship, Advocacy, Evaluation, Live Interpretation
Week 3: Engaging Communities, Financial Sustainability, Leadership & Followership, International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, Historic Preservation, Service to the Field

As much as I learned from the classroom sessions, I have to admit that the occasional evening dinners with the speakers and the few field trips we took were a welcome change of pace. (After all, I do work in an informal education setting). Either through the seminar or on our own time, I visited the Indiana Historical Society, Indiana State Museum, Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Indiana Children’s Museum, Indiana Landmarks, Indiana Medical History Museum, Indiana War Memorial, and Conner Prairie Interactive History Park’s Follow the North Star UGRR program. (Okay, I also visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.)

I came back with Powerpoint copies, journal articles, and a notebook full of notes, but what I really came back with is less obvious. I return with new understanding gained from the materials, talking with peers, and discussing multiple case studies. My professional network increased exponentially and I now know that whatever challenge I am facing, someone out there has the know-how to help out. I have color-coded lists of ideas – things I need to do, things I would like to see the Heritage Center try, ways I can improve my work habits and project planning, and lists of books I should read.

I also returned with a new frame of mind. I particularly enjoyed our sessions discussing the necessity of organizational flexibility and change, balancing different leadership strengths, and the need to step back and look at larger goals. I think it was great that I was able to participate in this just as the Heritage Center prepares to review its five-year strategic plan and launch into development of a new plan. I especially hope to weave in my new thinking about reaching new audiences and re-examining our interpretive goals and what exactly we want visitors to leave with.

The experience also gave me new perspective on the impact of historical organizations, and the Heritage Center in particular. There were many moments I was able to think to myself, “Ha! We’re already doing that.” Of course we’re not supposed to rest on our laurels, but it was still very encouraging knowing that we are already an organization that plans for long-term stability, tries new projects, realizes the importance of professional development, collaborates with community partners, shares significant stories, strives to be transparent, and is driven by community-minded, caring people.

Thank you to everyone who supported my participation in this program, whether through financial support, allowing me work time to go, taking on my daily duties, supervising projects, and leading tours in my absence.

I hope you are all able to attend my public program on December 17, 2014 (7:15 p.m., at Kendal at Oberlin) about my SHA experience and highlights of what I learned. I also had the opportunity to be a guest blogger during the SHA experience and you can read my post, “Ready for Change,” as well as other posts about the seminar.

Oberlin’s Business Growth As Seen In Oberlin High School Annuals

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

by Linda Gates, Front Office Employee

Hello everyone!  My name is Linda Gates. I work at OHC through the Mature Services program. Mature Services helps people 55 years old and over find jobs where we can learn new skills and get back into the working world. We are placed in non-profits. I have learned many new skills at OHC. So far I have learned new computer programs, GIANT MAIL PROJECTS, research, and oral history transcription. And I am still learning.

I have been working on an ongoing project for the Museum Education and Tour Coordinator for a year now. The project is this: documenting the advertisements in the O-High annuals (year books from Oberlin High School). The oldest annual in our collection is from 1900 and I have worked my way up through 1945. The spread sheet has this information: name of annual, year, the business name, description of the business, address and phone numbers, and slogans. It is interesting how the advertisements become more sophisticated through the years. Many businesses had their business phone and their home phones listed. It is interesting to see the growth of this area in the phone numbers. The numbers begin with just two digits, then three and four digits by 1945.

Here are a few that I have selected to share with you. Some are straight forward, some are funny, and some patriotic. I hope you enjoy them.

1900 Oberlin Coal and Lumber Co.
Leading Dealers in the best of all grades of hard and soft coal
Interior finish, doors, sash, blinds, shingles, lath, plaster, hair, etc.
Office Mills and Yard 271 S. Main St., Phone 52

1900 Lee, The Hack and Liveryman
Carriages, phaetons, buggies or traps for driving
“It is the season now to go, about the country high and low, and bring back pleasant time to show, ’tis well Lee’s Livery to know.”
32 E. College Street, Phone 77

1924 Jackson Broadwell Co.
Canfield Gasoline, Wm. Penn Motor Oils
N. Main Street (On the square)

1925 Dalton Bootery
“Tis a Feat to Fit Feet”

1925 Mary E. Vanderlip, Fireside Industries
Home-woven linen and wool in sport skirts, bags, scarfs, runners, table covers, luncheon sets and pillow covers
Berea, KY

1925 Gibson Brothers
Lunch, candy, ice cream, baked goods made daily

1925 Rent a Ford Car Rental
(first car rental ad in the annuals)

1925 Ford Ad-04

1925 Ford Advertisement
Source: oldcaradvertising.com

1925 Ohly’s Corner Drug Store
“The best in drugs. Phone us your wants. We deliver.”

1925 Weiss, The Tailor
“nuff said”

1925 The Yocom Brothers Company
Men’s and women’s clothing for vacation days: knickers, khaki blouses, corduroy and suede-like jackets, “Bradley Bathing Suits” new model, reasonable prices

Bradley Bathing Suit

 

Vintage Ad for Bradley Bathing Suits
Source: Vintage Ads, a Livejournal community

1925 Severy & Sage
“The Home of the Richelieu”
(Richelieu Foods is a private label food manufacturing company founded in 1862, headquartered in Randolph, Massachusetts.)

1927 J.V. Hill
Straw Hats in all the styles, knickers, dutch trousers, sport sweaters
“Watch our windows.”

1928 Henry G. Klermund
Authorized Ford, Lincoln, Fordson Agent

1929 Pfaff & Morris
“Sell Society Brand Clothes, Florsheim and Bostonian Shoes”

Society_Brand_Clothes_Colliers_1913_Oct_4_advertisement

1913 Advertisement for Society Brand Clothes
Source: Colliers Oct. 4, 1913 / Wikipedia

1929 Haislet’s Billiard Room
All leading brands of cigars, cigarettes, tobacco and pipes

1930 C. G. Hallauer E. E. West
This is a “Dairy Service Company”
Watch for”the Cap with the Red Tab”, Pasteurized Milk and Cream
135 S. Main Street. Call 284 for Daily Service. Quality-Courtesy Satisfaction

1930 Dalton & Crowell Bootery
Shoes Fitted by X-Ray
Fluoroscopes consist of an X-ray generating tube and a fluorescent screen. In use, the patient stands between the two, and an image of the patient’s body appears on the screen. Unlike still X-ray images made on photographic film, fluoroscopes allow doctors to observe a moving body in real time.
33 W. College Street

1938 Miles J. Watson
“See the New Frigidaire with the Meter-Miser”

1938 The Ben Franklin Store
Variety Store
(1st ad appearing in annuals)

1938 Oberlin Food Store
Authorized Birdseye Dealers – Groceries

1939 The Gas Company
Servel Electrolux, Gas Refrigerator, Silent – Economical – Permanent

1939 The Oberlin Printing Co.
“Anything in printing, from a card to a book.”

1939 Sprunger’s Hatchery and Poultry Farm
“Quality chicks from blood-tested matings”

1940 Apollo Theatre
“Always a Good Show”

1942 Glenn’s Tower Lunch
Glenn Butch Bahr
“Our Coke supply is limited, And sugar’s rationed, too; Best wishes, tho, are free, and “Here’s Luck” from us to you!”

1942 Locke’s
“Good Food – Your Best Defense”
(image of a soldier)

1943 The Oberlin Savings Bank Company
“Send a Letter to Hitler… You don’t have to write anything. All you have to do is sign your name and BUY A WAR BOND. Every War Bond you buy is bad news to him. Sent this message Regularly and Frequently. Member–Federal Deposit”

1944 The O-High 1944
This 1944 annual has an airplane on the cover.  The inside has two pages with O-High written out in stars and strips and also a war plane.  The whole yearbook is very patriotic and beautiful. Pictures of men in uniform introduce a new chapter.

Words of Wisdom for the Incoming Class

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

by Jen Graham, 2013-2014 Local History Corps AmeriCorps Member

I work in a basement. Don’t worry, though! It’s not nearly as dismal as it sounds. There is plenty of light, and I’m surrounded by objects and photographs older than my grandparents. But when you’re in a basement, surrounded by so much history, it can be difficult to keep up with what’s going on in the present. That’s why, yesterday, as I was leading a walking tour through Oberlin, I was shocked to be overtaken by what seemed like thousands of new faces.

My penchant for exaggerating numbers aside, the fact remains that summer is ending. Whether we like to admit it or not, it’s time for a new school year. A new school year means new college freshman and parents wandering aimlessly and asking questions. I’ve heard some complaints, but I love it. When you live somewhere full-time, it can be easy to take it for granted. Oberlin is a beautiful city and full of a rich, dynamic history.  Seeing the excitement of the new students and their families as they take in the sights and sounds of Oberlin reminds me that I’m pretty lucky to live here.

I wanted to give the new students some words of encouragement, but felt unqualified. After all, less than a decade ago, I was one of them. I wore a lanyard; I forgot my umbrella; I asked where the Conservatory was while standing inside the Conservatory… But! If the two years since my graduation have given me anything, they’ve given me unrestricted access to some of Oberlin College’s early documents. So, naturally, I turned to history to find the words.

In the Oberlin Heritage Center resource library, we have a small, yellow book. In crimson text, it reads: Students’ Handbook, Oberlin College, 1929-1930. The information inside is charming, if mostly irrelevant to today’s college experience. If you do not find it helpful, I hope you will at least find it funny, because, if I learned anything in college, it was the value of a shared laugh.

Without further ado, I present: College Advice from the Thirties.

They even included a helpful, fold-out map in the back!

They even included a helpful, fold-out map in the back!

“To the Class of 1933:

You will graduate in the very year in which Oberlin is to celebrate its one hundredth anniversary. That puts it up to us to give you the benefit of a hundred years of teaching experience; and it puts it up to you to prove worthy of a rich opportunity.

Oberlin is recognized nationally as one of the great colleges of the country: we count on you, giving as well as getting, to help us to maintain its high standard.

The best of luck to you, and, more than that, the best of planned and earned success!

Ernest H. Wilkins
President.”

“Whether or not you will be happy in your freshman year, and the years to follow, depends on the way in which you handle yourself. At the risk of seeming to give unrequested advice the following constructive suggestions are made:

  • Keep well physically; get plenty of sleep and enjoyable physical recreation; eat regularly and sanely.

  • Cultivate cheerful acquaintances; develop a few true friendships.

  • Be active in group social affairs; develop buoyant liking for people. Live in the world of people; learn to adapt yourself to people rather than avoid them.

  • Be thoughtful of other people, rather than thinking about yourself and your possible troubles. Project your thoughts outward—concerning other people and other situations—rather than inward, concerning yourself and your worries.

  • Live in the world of reality; face facts as they are rather than build pleasant air castles which will later bring you unhappiness…

  • Cultivate confidence in yourself without developing self-conceit.

  • Exercise your mind; stretch it for all you are worth. Hard work will not injure your mind.

  • Think for yourself; have your own opinions, but avoid obstinacy.

  • Remember…the upperclassmen will have greater respect for you if you act like grown men and women…People old enough for college are too old for childish antics.”

“Customs and Traditions:

  • Chapel services are held in Finney Chapel from 12:00 noon to 12:20 week days, except Monday and Saturday…It is traditional that the student body rise as the President enters and remain seated until he has left the platform. These meetings serve as a most effective means of achieving college unity. One carries away genuine inspiration and a sense of peace and quiet.

  • All freshman men count it a privilege to be graced with the traditional Frosh cap. Buy one early, for it must be worn every day except Sunday until spring.

  • An excellent chance is afforded first-year men to settle any minor differences with their 1932 superiors in the Annual Frosh-Soph Scrap early in the fall. Ropes are provided all men and after thrilling cat-calls from opposite sides of the football field, the men rush towards one another. The object is to tie their antagonists’ hands and feet and carry them off. Wear old clothes!

  • Early each fall freshman and sophomore women vie with one another in a good-natured “scrap” or contest to determine whether the Frosh women shall wear their distinctions until Thanksgiving or Christmas.

  • Beware of the fireplace in Peters Hall! Only juniors and seniors may stand on its sacred tiles…

  • Rallies or “pep meetings” are held before important football games. The speeches are rare and the singing boisterous.

  • Masculine vitality runs free and numerous stags given at the M.B. [Men’s Building]. Donuts and coffee, worked off by boxing and wrestling, make one sleep blissfully.

  • Senior distinctions and caps and gowns appear after spring vacation. From then on the Seniors rule the Campus with their dignity.

  • Since no autos are used by students, bicycles and roller skates have become a common means of travel.”