Thursday, June 30, 2016

William "Bill" Frazier: the Medina Legend You Have Never Heard Of...

William "Bill" Frazier was born on 16 April 1848 in Holmes County, Ohio to Squire Frazier and
Bill Frazier in a 1954 Gazette article.
Margaret Asire. He died on 24 December 1926 of Arterial sclerosis in Medina at the age of 78. But it is how he spent the years in between that made "Uncle Bill" a Medina character and legend .

The family moved to Medina in the 1860's when Squire Frazier was off fighting the Civil War. Squire survived being taken prisoner by the Confederates and the explosion of the boat Sultana and came home to Medina to be with his family.

William didn't make much of a mark in the history books of the day. He isn't listed in the 1874 or 1897 atlases, nor is he mentioned in the 1881 History of Medina County and Ohio. But he was already well known in the community. Luckily, Joann King's book, Medina County Coming of Age 1810-1900 has numerous mentions of Frazier.

William Frazier started his run with fame in the 1870's. He already had a reputation for being a speedy fellow when he decided to challenge Benny Diesenberg of Akron. Diesenberg had walked from Akron to Medina in just five hours. William bet $100 that he could do it in four. The Gazette article estimated the distance to be 20 miles and would require walking a mile every 12 minutes. Described as "26 years of age, weighs 162 pounds...muscular and used to hardy out-doors work", William was confident that he could do it. A mason, William was already married (twice!) and the father of young children when he took on this challenge. The June 19, 1874 Gazette article is titled "Pedestrianism Extraordinary". The day was cool and cloudy, it "could not have been more favorable". Hundreds of people, in Medina and in Akron, came out to watch his attempt. Many followed him in their carriages. The Akron crowd greeted him with shouts and cheers.  He made it in three hours and forty minutes! That's an average of a mile every 11 minutes. He said he could have easily gone another 10 miles.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Frazier was elected town Marshal in 1874.

In 1875, Bill pitched for Medina's winning baseball team.

In 1877, William devised a string and can "telephone" that worked well for a distance of 100 feet.

1878 saw William Frazier serving on the committee to dedicate the new Town Hall and Engine House.
Medina Town Hall and Engine House Museum

In 1879, Frazier again competed in a walking contest, this time against Harry Allwright of Massillon. They were to walk 80 hours. But the contest was stopped just an hour shy of the mark when both men were arrested for violating the Sabbath. Frazier was in the lead, but there was no winner. The newspaper article did wonder "If the arrests were made for violating the Sabbath, it seems strange that they were not made in the morning, instead of waiting till almost the last minute."

A September 1880 newspaper article mentions a race in which William Frazier "got left in the usual manner".  He lost!

Also in 1880 Bill challenged anyone in Medina, Wayne or Cuyahoga county to walk 100 miles, the winner to take home $100. But there were no takers.

1881 saw William catching a black bass that weighed 6.5 pounds.

In 1882, he organized a "big hunt" like the famous one in Hinckley in 1818. But instead of taking bears and wolves, they killed rabbits and squirrels. Just for the fun of it.

In 1885, Frazier took over the Hook & Ladder Company of the fledgling fire department.

However, in 1890, Bill resigned from the Company because of criticism from the town council. The newspaper editor praised him as "the best man for the job" and they reinstated him.
Bill pictured walking down a Medina Street
after a blizzard in 1913.
Medina Gazette
 23 July 1976 p. 11

William lost his parents in 1896 and 1898.

One of the feats that Frazier was best known for was his hunting skills. He would hunt foxes. Not too extraordinary in itself. Until you learn that what he did, was run down the fox until it was exhausted! He once ran for 50 miles to catch his prey. Another time, he went to a friendly farmers barn to sleep for the evening and took up the hunt the next day. And caught his quarry!

In 1917 profile of Frazier in the Medina Sentinel, he was favorably compared to Buffalo Bill, Davey Crocket and Daniel Boone for his hunting skills. At the age of 70, he claimed that he could still "trot" for 10 miles and that a horse tried to follow him on his 1879 20 mile run to Akron, but the horse died along the way because "he wasn't as young as I."
Medina Sentinel, 26 Oct 1917 p. 4

After the end of World War I, Bill danced the can-can to celebrate.

At the age of 71, he was described as the "despair of doctors" because of his excellent physical condition.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, he is still working and listed as a carpenter.

But no man is immortal and Bill Frazier died on 24 December 1926. His death certificate lists Arterial Sclerosis as the cause of death. But his obituary states that he had suffered two paralytic strokes in the last weeks of his life. It also exaggerates some of his exploits: he pitched a baseball game in which his side scored 130 runs, his 20 mile run was accomplished in 2.5 hours instead of 3.75; he once hit a baseball from the area of A.I. Root Company all the way to the railroad embankment on West Smith Road.

His life is remembered in two later Medina Gazette  articles. In 1949 he was compared to Paul Bunyan, Mike Fink and Buffalo Bill. It relates how he would travel to Canada in order to hunt bigger game. Many of his relatives' homes sported the moose heads that Bill had bagged.

In 1954, Charles Bohley, writing from Detroit, remembered many of Bill's exploits in hunting down foxes. It was estimated that he had killed over 400 foxes in his lifetime.*

*Please remember that during this time period, foxes were considered nuisance animals, as they would break into chicken coops and kill most of the chickens. Rural people relied on their chickens not only for the eggs, but also for their own meals.

Ancestry Library Edition - accessed through the Medina County District Library
Family Search
History of Medina County and Ohio (1881)
King, Joann G., Medina County Coming of Age: 1810-1900
Medina County Gazette
      12 June 1874, p. 3
      19 June 1874, p. 3
      26 January 1877, p. 5
      22 November, 1878 p. 2
      3 October 1879, p. 7
      3 September 1880, p. 7
      18 Feb 1881, p. 5
      9 December 1881, p. 7
      28 December 1926, p. 1
      6 September, 1949, p.1
      6 July 1949, p. 1
      23 July 1976 p. 1
Medina County Sentinel
     8 August, 1919, p. 1 & 12
     26 October, 1917, p. 4

P.S. - As often happens, life events interfered with my pursuit of genealogy. Because of inactivity on the Genealogy Course I was taking through Gale Courses, I was removed from the class list. I have signed up for the next one and let you know how that goes.
P.S.S. - I did miss a question on the first quiz. But that was due to a difference of opinion on what the best source was for particular information, not ignorance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Genealogy Databases at Your Library

Medina County District Library, as part of the CLEVNET consortia, provides access to a number of genealogical databases: Ancestry Library Edition (ALE), Heritage Quest Online and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps are the major ones.

  1. Ancestry Library Edition (ALE) is the library subscription version of the popular commercial database whose TV ads you have probably seen. Lisa blogged a great tutorial on it here

  2. Heritage Quest Online - now owned by the folks at, Heritage Quest feels a lot like Ancestry's little brother. It concentrates on U.S. Census information, The Freedman's Bank Records, PERSI (index to genealogy magazines) and Revolutionary War Pension records. (Subject of a future blog post.)
  3. Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps - Sanborn was a publisher of historical maps of Ohio cities and towns. Originally created to estimate fire insurance risks, the  maps are frequently used for historical and genealogical research, and for preservation and restoration efforts. As nearly all my ancestors have been farmers, I have not used Sanborn.

These databases are found on the library's website ( under the "Online Resources" link and the "History and Genealogy" tab.

Recently, I discovered another genealogical resource that is available through the Medina County District Library's purchase of a separate database: Gale Courses. 

Also found on the "Online Resources" link, Gale Courses offers free online courses on hundreds of topics, including.... GENEALOGY!

The instructor led course does get good reviews from its students, but the only way to really tell... is to take the course myself!  It is free with my library card number and should be fairly easy. The course lasts for six weeks and has 2 classes each week. I'll let you know. Or better yet,take the class with me!

Friday, June 10, 2016

And the Answers Are...

How well did you do on matching the archaic medical terms to their modern equivalent?

1.     Apoplexy                           a. Stroke

2.     Bad Blood                         b. Syphilis

3.     Chilblain                            c. Exremities swollen due to cold       

4.     Cholera                              d. Severe Contagious Diarrhea

5.     Consumption                    e. Tuberculosis                        

6.     Diptheria                            f.  Contagious Disease of the Throat

7.     Dropsy                                g. Congestive Heart Failure

8.     Dyspepsia                          h. Indigestion, Heartburn

9.     Flux                                     i. Excessive discharge, like diarrhea

10. Grippe                                 j. Influenza

11. Infantile Paralysis             k. Polio

12. Jail Fever                            l. Typhus

13. Lock Jaw                             m. Tetanus

14. Lumbago                             n. Back Pain

15. Podagra                               o. Gout

16. Quinsy                                 p. Streptococcal Tonsillitis

17. Scrofula                               q. Tuberculosis in neck lymph nodes

18. Variola                                 r. Smallpox

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Outdated Medical Terms

Whether it is in a personal diary, a death record, or a county history, as genealogists we encounter medical terms that are puzzling.

Would you know what these newspaper clippings are referring to?:


Can you match the terms in the first column with their definitions in the second column?

You can post your answers in the comment field at the bottom of the page.

1. Apoplexy                            A. Gout

2. Bad Blood                          B. Back Pain

3. Chilblain                            C. Typhus

4. Cholera                               D. Indigestion, Heartburn

5. Consumption                     E. Smallpox

6. Diptheria                            F. Influenza

7. Dropsy                                G. Polio

8. Dyspepsia                          H. Syphilis

9. Flux                                     I. Stroke

10. Grippe                               J. Extremities swollen due to cold

11. Infantile Paralysis            K. Severe Contagious Diarrhea

12. Jail Fever                          L. Tuberculosis

13. Lock Jaw                          M. Contagious Disease of the Throat

14. Lumbago                          N. Streptococcal Tonsillitis

15. Podagra                            O. Excessive discharge, like Diarrhea

16. Quinsy                              P. Congestive Heart Failure

17. Scrofula                            Q. Tetanus

18. Variola                              R. Tuberculosis in neck lymph nodes

Check back later in the week for the answers.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Guest Blogger - Tom Hilberg

Hello this is Tom Hilberg, one of the volunteers in the research room at the Medina County District Library.  I recently attended the National Genealogical Society(NGS) 2016 Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Kathy suggested that I report on it.

The conference was held at the Fort Lauderdale Convention Center, and in an area with several hotels for attendees to stay.  I picked the Hilton which was just across the street and a short five-minute walk.  I’m not sure how many of the 1,915 participates were at my hotel, but judging from the traffic in the morning and after the end each afternoon, there were many.  The hotel also served as the site of the NGS Banquet on Friday evening.  Of course the conference was hosted by the NGS, but also by local host society, Florida State Genealogical Society, who hosted a very loud get together around the pool one evening.  Many other groups held gatherings during the four-day conference.

Sessions started at 8 a.m. each morning and ended at 5 p.m., so one could keep up a very busy schedule.  The first morning started with an opening session of announcements, presentation of awards by the NGS, and a keynote address by Connie Lester. Associate Professor in History, University of Central Florida.  Her expertise is the rural south 1870 to 1940, and see gave a very insightful look at the early settlement of southern Florida.  The end of her remarks marked the opening of the Exhibit Hall and I think all 1,900 people were there.  There were many national and regional vendors present with the hall being dominated by Ancestry, Family Search, Find My Past, My Heritage and Pro Quest.  Other vendors, big and small, were busy each day with mini presentations, book signings and helping researchers.  I visited the booth for the New York (state) Genealogical and Biographical Society, as this is one of my main interests at present, trying to get more information on my wife’s “Daniels” line going back so far to 1780.  I also attended on Thursday, four of the five presentations in the New York Research track put on by the society.

Presentations are the main reason for attending a national conference.  I have enjoyed going to the OGS conference since the late 1980’s.  There is always something to be learned, old friends and great speakers.  A national conference gives one the same experience only larger.  One is given the opportunity to hear more speakers from across the country who are knowledgeable and experienced in their fields.  One drawback, not all sessions live up to what is written in the conference program.

After the first day, each morning was divided into three sessions, a two and a half hour break for lunch, and two sessions in the afternoon.  The lunch break each day had at least two to three organizations holding luncheons.  Of course these were by reservation and at a cost.  I took advantage of the New York Societies luncheon and was seated next to two friends on my right and a very interesting gentleman from Canada on my left.  He had one parent English and one American and was attempting to learn more on researching in the US.

Most days I purchased lunch from a vendor at the conference center and ate and read in the park across from the center.  This was nice and except for one day of heavy rain, it was sunny and warm.  Which brings we to the worst part of the conference, the rooms were COLD.  I know the reason, to keep us from being too warm and falling asleep during the presentations.  But when I say cold, I mean COLD!

Each day the time slots were divided into tracks, that changed daily.  One could attend sessions on Wednesday for: Land Records, Starting Off, Coast and Caribbean, Cemeteries, Court House Research, Contest, Tips and Techniques, Florida Military, Research and Repositories.

Other days one would find tracks on Land Records, Organizing and Planning, Sharing Your Research Stories, DNA, Jewish Research, Internet and Technology, Women African-American Research, Across the Pond, Methods for Success and British Isles.

For myself, besides the New York sessions, where I learned about “New York Research Repositories, Part 1 and 2,” the “Essential (NY) Home Reference Shelf,” and the “New York State Archives and Library.”  Other sessions attended were on “Resolving Conflicts in Genealogical Records,” by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist.  Judy is one of my favorite speakers, along with Dick Eastman.  I attended a session on using “Social History and Historical Fiction to further my research” and another on the use of Probate records.  The session on “Your Immigrants’ Germany: Microstates and Microbreweries,” was a disappointment – No Beer, but helpful otherwise as was the session on “Death and Dying: Changes in Medical Care in the 19th Century.”  Interesting how as horrible the Civil War was for the country, how beneficial it was to the advancement of medical science.
Session and luncheon photos are by Scott Stewart Photography LLC and are from the NGS website.

My favorite session was the last one of the day...

 Thanks Tom for a glimpse of the National Genealogical Society Conference!