Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A Fond Farewell...

This is my good friend, Liz Nelson.

My mentor, my co-worker, and my sometime co-conspirator, Elizabeth Nelson is retiring at the end of the year, after 31 years of assisting thousands of members at the Medina Library.

Many of you know her. Many of you have been helped by her. Many of you were befriended by her. Even if you didn’t know her by name, if you have visited the Medina Library you have been blessed by her presence. For Liz is one of those very special people who continually strive to make the world a better place. 

Words have failed me in trying to describe Liz. Here is a partial list of her many, many wonderful attributes:

  • Liz is consummate storyteller. To her, everything is a story. Books are stories. History is stories. Genealogy is stories. Related to that is the wonderful eulogies she does. Seriously. After one eulogy I left with the feeling "I am SO lucky I knew that person!" Perfection. I want her to do my eulogy.
  • Liz makes connections wherever she goes. Try going somewhere with Liz without her running into someone she knows. Because she knows everyone. James Garner,yes. Captain Kangaroo, yes. She and Michael Feldman bonded over Naugas. And if you don't know who Michael Feldman is, shame on you!*
It's a real thing. Yah. I don't get it either.
  • Liz is a wonderful tour guide. Try traveling through Akron with her. She knows the history and people of Akron like... well, like the back of her hand. She has lived in the Akron area almost all of her life. She and her husband Charlie are well known among the theater, music, and education crowds. She KNOWS and loves everything Akron.
  • Liz is a compassionate person. The world's indifference to suffering is physically painful to Liz. Hence she is always donating and helping with numerable charitable groups. 
  • I nicknamed her “Houdini” for her ability to find any arcane piece of information. Not because she is a magician, but because her deep knowledge of our collection and her incredible memory.
  • She is funny. Maybe not slapstick funny. But very funny.
  • She is spiritual. It goes along with being compassionate and kind. But goes deeper. Much deeper.

  • While this photo was taken for a department calendar,
    it definitely illustrates her spiritual side.

But most of all, Liz has been my friend. Just has she has befriended many of you, she befriended me. She has been a shoulder to cry on and a shoulder to lean on. She has seen me at my worst and celebrated the highs with me. She makes me be a better version of myself. And she laughs with me and sometimes she laughs at me. But more importantly, she makes me laugh at myself. And while we have vowed to stay in touch, I will deeply, deeply miss the near daily contact with her.

For Liz, I wish her happiness and peace. And the knowledge that she is appreciated and loved.

From one of her book club members:
Forever it seems you have been our mother, sister, friend, and confidential ear. You have taken us to new places and revisited the old with new vision. At Christmas you brought us hand crafted stars and there were simple paper hearts on Valentine's Day to mark that day. But there are legions of lovely people waiting to meet you on your life after MCDL. Be ready!

*Michael Feldman

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Books

This week, the Franklin Sylvester Genealogy and Local History Room (F/S Room) has received several important new books, thanks to donations.

In November, The Society of Mayflower Descendants in Ohio installed a display outside the history room in honor of the Pilgrims celebrating a day of thanksgiving. I  hope you saw this display because it was splendid!

The members  noticed that our collection of books on the Mayflower Families is incomplete. We had Volumes 1-8, 12, 15-16 and 22, but are missing the rest. They are rectifying the problem by donating the missing volumes. Volumes 10-11 have arrived.

If you can trace an ancestor to someone listed in one of these books, you have a Mayflower ancestor! Congratulations!

That would make you eligible to join the Society of Mayflower Descendants. They left some of their applications behind and you can pick one up in the F/|S Room.

Or you can contact the Society directly:

Terry (Nelson) and Marcia Hart have been compiling lists of U.S. veterans buried in Medina County. They published the first volume on Revolutionary War veterans in 2009.

Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Medina County.

The second volume covering War of 1812 veterans buried in Medina County came out in 2012, in time for the bicentennial of the War.

War of 1812 Veterans buried in Medina County.

Their latest volume has just been released and again, they were generous and donated a copy to the F/S Room collection. It covers the Mexican-American War. The war was fought from 1846 to 1848. The United States won the conflict and obtained the territories of (Alta) California and New Mexico. The U.S. had already annexed Texas in 1845 and that was part of what led to the war.

Mexican-American War Soldiers buried in Medina County.

For each of the 61 soldiers listed you get a map of the location of cemetery, a picture of the tombstone, if there is one and basic information on the soldier, as shown below:

Entry for John Layton McFadden

The photos of the tombstones can be hard to read, just like the tombstones themselves.
This is a great jumping off place for anyone researching their ancestors who served in the military.

Stop by and browse these new books, after the New Year!

Happy Holidays and see you in 2017!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Beyond the Storefronts

A web site dedicated to the history of Medina County

If you haven't already discovered it, I would like to introduce you to a new web site dedicated to the history of Medina County, Beyond the Storefronts

The site is the brain child of local historian, Robert Hyde. Bob is a life-long Medina resident and has Medina ancestors going back to the 1830's. Retired now, Bob was also the long-time president of the Medina County Genealogical Society and for many years, was the editor of their newsletter.

Bob was concerned that the history of Medina, as he knew it growing up and raising his family here, was disappearing. Wanting to preserve it and being a man of action, Bob started researching each of the buildings on Medina's Square.

He is ably assisted by Rebekah Knaggs, a student at the University of Cincinnati.

The web site is a work in progress. Not all the features are functional yet.Some of photos still need to be uploaded and some of the locations are still being researched.

Once you click on the enter button  you are taken to a new page that has some of the inspiration and history for the site. It also includes some sepia tone photos of Medina Square from around 1900.

After reading the history you will want to click on the Menu symbol in the upper right corner. Bob has broken the buildings down according to their locale in relationship to Public Square:

  • Westside of the Square
  • Southside of the Square
  • Southwest of the Square
  • Southeast of the Square
  • Eastside of the Square
  • Northside of the Square
  • Northwest of the Square
  • Northeast of the Square
The only sections with no entries yet are the Southeast and Northeast of the Square. Bob and Rebekah assure me that they are working on them!

Each occupant of a location is listed in Bold type and beneath the listing is the supporting information. If Bob has been able to find any pictures or newspaper clippings those are included.

Let's see what information is available using one of my favorite locations for an example, #2 Public Square on the Westside of the Square, 

2 Public Square is where the old Whitey's Army Navy Surplus store was and is the current location
Picture of building when Whitey's was there.
From the web site Beyond the Storefronts
of Courthouse Pizza. But the site starts with the past. The WAY past! This was the location of the first courthouse in Medina County and the reason that Court Street is so named. In 1841, a "new" courthouse was built on the opposite side of the square.  Didn't you ever wonder why none of the Medina courts are located on Court Street? Now you know!

Over the last 200 years the building has hosted these types of business:
  • Six different grocery stores
  • Three clothing stores
  • Three Five and Dime stores
  • Two Restaurants
  • Two Tin Shops
It was also once the Depot for the Electric Cars that connected Medina to Cleveland and Wooster. From 1916 to 1926, it was the Post Office for Medina. But its longest resident was Whitey's Army and Navy Store which occupied the site from 1959-2014. Whitey's was a family Christmas shopping tradition in our household. Now the delicious Courthouse Pizza occupies that spot.

As I said, the site is still a work in progress. The "Contact" link isn't working yet and what I would like to see is an index by address.

Bob himself has this to add about the site:

Thank you Kathy for the excellent introduction and instructions to my historical project of the Medina Public Square and Historic District titled "Beyond the Storefronts”.
This research project was started in 1995 and is now in near completion.  The uploading of historical data to the web-site,, is a complex operation and will continue to be a "work-in-progress" for several months.  When completed it will contain over 1500 Medina Square Proprietors and Occupants in over 100 storefront locations with over 300 photos and advertisements from 1852 to 2016. Enjoy what is currently available, but be patient!
I hope interested former or present residents that access web-site will offer to contribute additional photos and data for inclusion by contacting Robert Hyde at 330-725-4467 or
Thanks again, Kathy for your interest and help in "getting the ball rolling".

In recognition of all the contributions that Bob Hyde has made to the Medina community, The Medina County Historical Society has awarded him the Northrup Heritage Award for "genealogy and historical contributions to Medina County. "

Way to go Bob and all the Honorees!

Bob Hyde, on the left, accepting his Northrup Heritage
Award with fellow honorees, Nancy Sprowls, and Mace Hallock.

The Northrup Heritage Award is named for Nira B. Northrup
who wrote the first comprehensive history of Medina County in 1861.
It is titled The Pioneer History of Medina County.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Letha E. House

Letha's story is a true rags-to-riches tale.

Later in her life, Letha inherited money from her family. Before her death she donated money for the Medina County Parks system. At her death, she left a trust that has distributed money to worthy causes since the 1970's.

Letha was born June 12, 1880 in Ontario, Canada; her parents were John Brewster and Margaret Corrigan Brewster. Probably. We say "Probably" because we cannot find a birth record for Letha. The Canadian records are available on and on Ancestry, but there is no listing for Letha. Was it just an oversight, which happened a lot during this time period? Or was it deliberate?

 The information on her birth comes from later records. Her marriage record lists John Brewster as her father and her mother as "unknown to informant." The informant was her husband-to-be, William House. Her obituary in the July 4, 1968 Medina Gazette lists her birth date and place, but not her parents. The information for her obituary most likely would have been provided by her  cousins, who would have relied on what Letha herself had told them.

So why so much mystery?

Joann G. King wrote a very compelling and easy to read biography of Letha, Letha E. House: From Foundling to Philanthropist, that attempts to solve some of the mystery. Piecing together clues from many diverse sources, she discloses that John Brewster and Margaret Corrigan married in Cleveland, on February 14, 1880.

Marriage record of John Brewster and Margaret
Corrigan found on Ancestry Library Edition
 So already we can see a possible issue with Letha's birth. Margaret was already 5 months pregnant when the couple married in Cleveland.

And why did Margaret give birth in Canada, if she was married in Cleveland? Margaret was born in Ontario, Canada, and her parents were still living there. She had followed her brothers to Cleveland. But by 1880, her brothers were in Austria working to develop petroleum refining there. They didn't return to Cleveland until 1883.  But why wasn't she living with her husband?

After the marriage, John Brewster disappears from the scene. The issue is complicated by the fact that there were several John Brewster's living in Cleveland around this time.

In the 1870 Census there is a John Brewster in Cleveland. He was 45 years old, married and was a carpenter. In the 1880 census, the only John Brewster listed was a 10  year living with his parents.

In the Cleveland City Directories (from Ancestry Library Edition) from 1867 to 1880, there are John Brewsters who are variously listed as a: blacksmith (1867); mason (1869, 1871, 1872, 1873, 1874); and a laborer (1878, 1880). 

A possible solution to his disappearance is below:

Death Record for John Brewster (second line)dated February 29, 1880,
only 2 weeks after Margaret Corrigan's marriage.
In this record, his age is given as 84, which may be a mistake
Interment Record for John Brewster. In this record his age is given as 34.
 In both records, cause of death is pericarditis, confirming that is the same man.

IF the John Brewster who married Margaret Corrigan was the mason/laborer, he could have died within two weeks of the marriage, causing Margaret to return to Canada. And IF he was her husband, did Margaret marry an already ailing man to give her daughter a name? These are unanswered questions.

But how did Letha come to live in Medina?

According to Joann's book, Margaret gave Letha up. Somehow, she was whisked away to the George Morse family in Lafayette. They  raised the baby Letha. But they did not adopt Letha and in the 1900 Census, she is listed as "Foster Daughter".

1900 Census for Lafayette Township, Medina County, Ohio
George Morse is listed on the previous page.
From Ancestry Library Edition.

Letha must have known she was a foster child or her father's name would not have appeared on her marriage record. But shortly after her marriage, her life would take a bizarre twist.

Remember Margaret Corrigan's brothers that she followed to Cleveland? They had become incredibly wealthy and also suffered incredible tragedies.

James Corrigan Sr., Margaret's brother and Letha's uncle, started humbly in life. But through his own hard work and business accumen he amassed a fortune in oil refining and lake shipping. But in July of 1900, just weeks before Letha married William House, James Corrigan's wife and daughter were killed in a boating accident on the lake.

Medina County Gazette
July 4, 1901

In 1901, Letha learned of her connection to the wealthy Cleveland family.

But it was 48 years later, when the wife of James Corrigan Jr., Laura Mae, died that the incredible happened. (James Corrigan Jr. had died in 1928) Letha was named as an heir to  part of the Corrigan fortune.

This excerpt from a January 24, 1948 first page article in the Plain Dealer detailing the heirs of the estate is very revealing:

Cleveland Plain Dealer 24 January 1948, p. 1
ONE SIXTEENTH EACH -  Charles F. Ripley, 15132 Euclid Avenue, East Cleveland: James R. Corrigan, 2144 Reveley Avenue, Lakewood: Mrs. Letha House of Medina: the late Johnson Corrigan of Pasadena, Cal. and Grace Parker Bassett, address not known. .... All of those to get one sixteenth each are first cousins of Corrigan, with the exception of Mrs. Bassett.

This is the most direct evidence that Letha was a Corrigan, as the relationship is not mentioned in the will.

From all accounts, Letha was a very unassuming woman. Her name doesn't appear in the local newspapers as a young woman except to mention that she was visiting friends. Even after she married, her name only appears in articles on various women's and charity groups.

Letha died in 1968 and that was when the county learned how wealthy and how generous she was. The trust she set up has benefited the citizens of Medina County ever since. The list of beneficiaries is five pages long in her biography and includes such organizations as area school districts and historical societies, and the Medina Community Design Committee.

To learn more of Letha's rags-to-riches story, order Joann King's book from the library HERE.