Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Adoption Records



Adoption records can easily be some of the most emotionally charged records that genealogists hunt for. Searching for them can be quite tricky.

In the U.S., before 1850, when Massachusetts passed the first adoption legislation, there weren't any official adoption procedures. The laws vary from state to state about access to the records, with some states not allowing any access. Also, the laws have evolved over time. Here is a helpful timeline:

  • 1851, Massachusetts was the first state to pass legislation for the adoption process. Prior to this, check in the records for guardianship, apprenticeship and indenture records. Most likely, no legal documentation exists.
  • 1917 Minnesota is the first state to make the records confidential - open to the adoptee and the birth parents, but closed to everyone else.
  • Starting in the 1940's, states made the records secret; not even open to the adoptee or birth parents. An amended birth certificate was issued.
  • More recently, states are moving to opening up records, particularly for medical purposes,  if everyone involved agrees to it & registers on a database.

These would be the type of records to search for:
  • Adoption petitions and orders
  • Agency records
  • Bastardy bonds
  • Birth certificate
  • Census records enumerating institutions
  • Church records including baptisms
  • Guardianships
  • Hospital and medical records
  • Legislative records
  • Name changes
  • Newspapers
  • Orphanage records
  • Overseers of the Poor records
  • Probate records
The American Adoption Congress supports adult access to adoption records. Here is their state-by-state breakdown of access to adoption records:




The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has adoption information on their Child Welfare Gateway. They have a 60 page PDF file that has more detailed information about adoption records. Here are the two pages that cover Ohio:




These, and other resources are listed below:

     Access to Adoption Records - PDF file - A state by state listing

Find My Past - Adoption Research

The Legal Genealogist - Chasing Adoption Records

The Source: a Guidebook to American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs

These two books cover the women and children placed out from the New York City area from 1911 to 1972. They were not necessarily orphans, but were neglected or their parents couldn't care for them:

Orphan Train Riders A Brief History of the Orphan Train Era by Tom Riley

Orphan Train Riders :  Entrance Records from the American Female Guardian Society's Home for the Friendless in New York by Tom Riley

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Rufus Ferris - a Medina Pioneer



Log cabin similar to the ones erected by early Medina pioneers.






 
Rufus was one of the earliest settlers in Medina Village. He was the land agent for Elijah Boardman, a wealthy land speculator in Connecticut (CT).  Here are the basic facts of Rufus' life:
  • Born 21 March 1780, New Milford, Litchfield County, CT, son of Zachariah Ferris & Phebe Gaylord.
  • 1790-1800 census - He is probably enumerated with his father, Zachariah in CT.
  • Married Hannah Platt on 7 May 1801 in Vermont (VT). 
  • 1810 listed in Ferrisburg, Addison County, VT. 
  • Children: (all born in VT.)
    • Harriet Ada – 1802
    • Hiram Platt – 1805
    • Cornelia M. – 1807
    • Daniel A. – 1810
    • Rufus B.D – 1813
  • 1817 had first frame barn built in Medina.
  • Original Member of St. Paul’s Parish in Medina, He was the clerk and a vestryman.
  • Was voted “overseer” of the poor along with Lathrop Seymour. Also was Fence Viewer.
  • 1818 he become Medina's first postmaster. The "post office" was his home.
  • 1820 census, he was in Medina County, Ohio.
  • 1821 Appointed Treasurer of Medina Village, continued until 1832
  • 1830 census, he was again. in Medina County, Ohio.
  • Died 7 Sep 1833, in Wooster returning from Columbus where he had taken a remedy for the cholera epidemic.
  • He is buried in the Old Town Cemetery in Medina.

Those are the facts. But they don't tell the whole story of the man that was Rufus Ferris.

In Northrup's Pioneer History of Medina County, the Ferris family's arrival is described as follows:

     "On the 11th day of June, 1816, Rufus Ferris, Esq., arrived with his family; and, having a number of hands in his employ, soon erected a shanty for their things, and did their working by the side of a fallen tree. Mrs. Ferris had to bake every day, rain or shine out of doors. He soon erected a log house, half a mile north of the Public Square in Medina. He was agent for Mr. Boardman, and his house was open and free for all who came to purchase land in the township. He, with his men, pushed forward the chopping and clearing as fast as they could, and soon had corn and wheat growing on the ground so recently an entire wilderness."

From this, we learn that although it was very rough living for the family, Rufus had the means to hire men to help clear the land. Or rather,  Elijah Boardman provided him "with abundant means for operating expenses."

During the barn raising in 1817, men came from Liverpool and Brunswick and needed stay overnight to finish the next day. Ferris, being a genial host and a fun-loving man, provided two large pails of milk-punch. Described as "sweet, but strong with whiskey", it was quite potent. It soon debilitated the men and several who "drank most freely were on their backs feeling upwards for terra firma."

After the rafter and ridge-pole were in place, "Uncle John Hickox" went up and walked the ridge-pole from one end to the other. This was quite daring in a time when there were no ambulances, x-ray machines or even doctors around. The barn was used as the first court house in Medina.

In 1820 he became a charter member of the Medina Masonic Lodge, and of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, where he was the clerk.

His home became a regular stop on the stagecoach run from Cleveland to Wooster and continued in operation until 1845.

Also in 1820, Rufus wrote a letter to Boardman in Connecticut. Parts of the letter were reprinted in 1979 article in the Medina Gazette. Instead of talking about the progress being made in Medina or land sales, Rufus was complaining about the weather and his rheumatism!

Portrait of Elijah Boardman at the Metropolitan
Museum in New York.
"From the middle of June to July, it was the most gloomy time I ever saw. The south branch of the Rocky River on Smith Road ceased to run. Our fields ceased to look green and we should be at this time but a little better if it was not for the very heavy dews that fall every night....



Was you to see the position that I am this moment compelled to put myself in, in order to write to you, my friend, you would say, 'Curse the rheumatism. Let Ferris along." Here I am... stretched full length on the floor face downwards with my pen, ink and paper in my reach and thus compelled to write."


Described as " Of a genial nature and of a fairly well-to-do family" he was a "popular and much respected citizen." He "devoted himself to entertaining strangers who would be likely to buy Boardman land."


In Joann King's book, Reverend Clark described Rufus as "large for his time -- six feet tall, lean and spare." No portrait of Ferris has survived. Clark also thought Rufus had limited education but was "a man of strong intellect and a smart man, well suited for his frontier responsibilities."

Later in that book Rufus called himself a "Hickory Quaker." This means he was flexible, but strong and tough, like a hickory tree. Many of the FERRIS families were Quakers. He "wore his Quaker hat proudly." But was flexible enough to be a founding member of the Episcopalian church, St. Paul's!

His wife, Hannah, willing fed anyone who came to their door and gave them a bed for their tired heads. When the first family with women and children showed up at her door, she "spatted her hands" for joy. Clark remarked "In the name of every pioneer... I would say of this model of benevolence, Mrs. Ferris, her memory is blessed, may her rest be glorious!"

In 1825, he built a larger brick house to replace the cabin. It had ten rooms and eight fireplaces. The house still exists and is at 325 North Broadway. It has been renovated extensively and Rufus would not recognize it today.

Rufus Ferris house in 1952 as pictured in the book Building a Firm Foundation.
It had already had many renovations, including a squared roof instead of gable.
This picture would be from before its latest renovation.
The house as it stands today at 325 North Broadway. It is law offices
The historic marker next to the house.



















































In 1833, when cholera broke out at the Columbus penitentiary, Rufus traveled there with a remedy. On his return trip, he contracted the disease and died in Wooster.


Rufus Ferris' tombstone from the Old Town Cemetery.
No stone for Hannah, but son Hiram's stone is to the right.



I would like to know more about Rufus' life. What did he do for a living before working for Boardman? What was his relationship with Elijah Boardman? Why did Elijah chose Rufus to be his land agent?

Perhaps future research will answer these questions.

SOURCES:
Medina County Gazette January 24, 1879, p.4
Medina County Gazette March 2, 1951, p. 2
Medina County Gazette June 24, 1968, p. 14
Medina County Gazette Nov 17, 1979

Metropolitan Museum of Art - Portrait of Elijah Boardman

Building a Firm Foundation by Susan McKiernan and Joann G. King
Historical Highlights of Medina,  Eleanor Iler Schapiro, editor.
History of Medina County and Ohio Baskin & Beatty
Medina Coming of Age 1810-1900 by Joann G. King
Memoir of the Life and Character of Mrs. Mary Anna Boardman
Pioneer History of Medina County  N. B. Northrup

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Voters' Records























In the U.S., you have to be citizen to vote. Before the 1820's you had to own property to vote. It wasn't until the 15th Amendment in 1870 that African American males could vote, and the 19th Amendment extended voting rights to women in 1920. There were a few states that had given women the right to vote in local elections prior to the 19th Amendment, but those were the exceptions. Natives Americans' voting rights varied according to time period, location, and tribal status.


Voter registration records are among the most under-utilized by family historians. They aren't discussed in most basic genealogy books. They can be the hardest records to locate. Perhaps that is why they are under-utilized.

So why go to the trouble of searching for voter registrations? They can help fill in the blanks in your family's history. Information found in the records can include:
  1. Name, including middle names.
  2. Date of Birth
  3. Place of Residence
  4. Occupation
  5. Signature
  6. Further tract your ancestor's residences between census years.
  7. Find a spouse. If two adults are registered at the same location with the same surname, a familial relationship can be surmised.
  8. Place of birth. During the 1800's place of birth is listed.
  9. Find naturalization information if your ancestor wasn't born a citizen.
  10. Estimate the year of immigration.
  11. Physical description.
  12. Political affiliation. Usually, Democratic or Republican, but other parties can be listed as well.
  13. Migration - Some registrations include how long they lived in the state, county & precinct.
  14. Find other family members.
1940 California Voter Registration showing Ronald Reagan as a DEMOCRAT!
Notice that it includes his address and his occupation.











This 1954 list still shows Reagan as a Democrat, but now he is listed with his wife, Nancy.
Reagan did not become a Republican until 1962.

Where you will find voter registration lists:
  1. Some are available on Ancestry.com and Ancestry Library Edition. That is where I discovered the Reagan listings above. California in particular has most of their lists up to 1968 online.
  2. FamilySearch.org web site or through their microfilm lending program. That is where I located several of my TAGG family members. Ohio had quadrennial censuses every 4 years from 1803-1911. Look on the site's link to the catalog of microfilm holdings.
  3. Cyndi's List: http://www.cyndislist.com/voters/locality/ As always, Cyndi does an incredible job of locating THE best web sites. Her site includes a lot of foreign voter's lists.
  4. County court house records for the Board of Elections in the locality your ancestor's lived.
  5. Try your favorite search engine. Use the locality and "voting records" and see what turns up.
  6. A GenWeb site with links to voting and tax records:  http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~tqpeiffer/Documents/Free%20Gen%20Records%20&%20Databases/TAX%20&%20VOTER%20Records.htm 

So the next time you hit one of those inevitable brick walls, why not try researching voter registration lists for a break through?

SOURCES:



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Social Media & Genealogy

Amie Bowswer Tennant


About a month ago at the Ohio Genealogical Society annual conference, Amie Bowser Tennant talked about using Social Media & Genealogy.



She is a very dynamic speaker and she inspired me to explore all the ways that social media can benefit genealogy research.






Immediately, I joined several new groups on Facebook, including one for a surname group for a family name that I have researched thoroughly. I have been in contact with new cousins and we have been exchanging LOTS of photos of our common ancestors. Several of my new-found cousins want a copy of the book I wrote on the family.

She also recommended joining the groups for all the localities you are researching and for any genealogy software or websites. I already belonged to the groups in the areas where my ancestors lived and have found them interesting.



More tentatively, I joined Twitter. Twitter never appealed to me before. It seems geared towards news junkies and people who want to share every thought they have with the world.

But my eyes have been opened!

Twitter limits your "tweets" to 140 characters, so you have to be concise. Most often, tweets include a link to a web site or to a blog post. Often they include pictures. Amie recommended "following" genealogists that you admire or who lecture.

The ones I follow are:
Amie Bowser Tennant
Judy Russell (aka The Legal Genealogist)
Amy Johnson Crow
Joshua Taylor (from the Genealogy RoadShow and current president of the New York Genealogical & Biographical Society)
Lisa Louise Cooke (blogger and podcaster)
Medina County District Library (of course!)
David Allen Lambert

Here are some recent screen shots from my Twitter feed:



I purchased Amy Johnson Crow's book 31 Days to Better Genealogy and am making my way through it. It is only available as a Kindle book. Maybe that will be a topic for a future post.




Notice how all the tweets have hashtags # in them? The # symbol combines with a descriptive word and that becomes a "thread" that people can follow and contribute to. It is also used for searching Twitter.

The @ symbol combined with a name, is your "handle" or how you are identified on Twitter.

The links to web sites, or more often, to blog posts, have been shortened at sites like Bitly so they will fit within the 140 character limitations.

Joining Twitter has exposed me to all sorts of genealogical data that I might not have seen otherwise. And by seeing who your favorite genealogist follows, you learn about other important genealogists that you might never have heard of before.

Example: 
David Allen Lambert. I decided to follow him because Judy Russell follows him. I had NO IDEA who he was. But he has very interesting tweets, like the one that led me to this article on Viking incursions into western Britain from Ancient Origins. Fascinating stuff!

David Allen Lambert
But I had no idea who he was until I googled him a few minutes ago.  He is the Chief Genealogist (wouldn't you love to have that title?) at the New England Historic Genealogical Society. Who knew? Not me!  But now I do.

I am sure there are other great features that will be discovered over the next weeks and months. And there is still Pinterest and Instagram to explore.

Meantime, why not try Twitter for yourself? Or please share your experiences with it in the comments below.

Oh, and if you would like to follow me, my handle is @KathJean55. You can join my other two followers!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dandelion Drive

No, this blog is not about my front yard. (Though we are using fewer weed killers because
dandelions are among the first blossoms that bees visit every spring. Did you know that?)

On May 21st., the second annual Medina County History tour will be taking place. Last year's tour tried to fit in as many of the historical societies who wanted to participate. This year the council wanted to focus on a section of Medina County, like how the Fall Foliage Tour does.

And the focus will be on the city of Medina.




And the map:








And for more details check out their  - Facebook page

On the 20th, the Lodi Railroad Museum is having a work day to spruce up the museum. If you are interested in helping out contact:
Lodi Railroad Museum
By Phone:
Joanne Slorgie - (330) 948-2482
Paul Bayus - (330) 887-5325

It is a great weekend for historians in Medina!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Ray MELLERT

On Medina's northwest side is a nice park, Ray Mellert Park.  On North Huntington, it has been then for as long as we have lived in Medina, the late 1980's. Only recently did I begin to wonder who was Ray Mellert and why did Medina name a park after him?

Ray Mellert was a life-long Medina resident, born to George & Edith Mellert in 1919. He graduated from Medina High School in 1936.

Ray Mellert's Senior picture from the 1936 Medina High School Yearbook
From his nickname and his quote from the caption, and several other incidents listed in the yearbooks, Ray was a well-liked, happy fellow who enjoyed a good escapade.



U.S.S. Wyoming from 1944-45 (Wikipedia)
Ray joined the U.S. Navy even before World War II broke out. He served all his time aboard the U.S. S. Wyoming, a training ship based out of Chesapeake MD. The Wyoming was built as a battleship for WWI, but had been re-purposed as a training facility for anti-aircraft gunners. He was a supply officer.


After he returned from the service, Ray joined his dad at Free Oil. George Mellert was a founding member of the enterprise, and Ray took over the reins of the company in 1957 when his father died.

Medina Gazette 25 May 1956 p. 4.


Ray was a big supporter of youth sports and was instrumental in keeping youth baseball alive in Medina. He also supported wrestling, basketball and music programs at the high school. He didn't just write a check, he rolled up his sleeves and pitched in wherever it was needed.

He was a stellar boss. Several employees stated they "never worked for a better man." He insisted that all company outings include families, with wives and children taking part.

Ray also was very active in the community joining these civic groups:
Al Koran Shrine
  • 32 degree Masons of Cleveland
  • Medina Methodist Church
  • Medina Chamber of Commerce
  • F & A.M. Mason Lodge
  • Baseball Federation & Hot Stove Leagues of Medina
  • Medina Booster Club



Before & after pictures of Medina


When the Community Design Committee took issue with all the garish signs that populated downtown Medina in the 60's and 70's, Ray decided to take action. He tore down the offensive sign and put one up that fit the bill.




Medina Gazette 25 Feb 1971 p. 2
In the early 1970's, the city of Medina bought 15 acres of land from the Pythian Sisters for a new park on the city's northwest side. They applied for a Federal grant and hired a grant coordinator and architects.

Ray Mellert died suddenly in March of 1974, just weeks before the opening of the park.

Medina Gazette 18 Mar., 1974, p.1

Medina City council voted to name the park after him.

Medina Gazette, 31 May 1975 , p.1


When the park opened it had:
  • Two tennis courts
  • A handball court
  • A picnic pavilion
  • Playground equipment
  • Basketball court
  • Two ball fields
  • A large brick restroom
The park has since had its ups and downs, sometimes being associated with criminal activity.

But it has also been a setting for positive activity.


The above plaque recognizes the efforts of two neighborhood volunteers who strive for positive influence and mentoring.

So, now you know!


Oh, and I have just been reminded that the Ray Mellert Park is the site of a Pokemon Go Gym!




SOURCES:
Medina High School Yearbook, 1936, from Ancestry Library Edition
Medina County Gazette
US Navy History

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Ohio Genealogical Conference 2017

The Ohio Genealogical Conference was 26-29 April at the Kalahari Resort outside of Sandusky, Ohio. While it is too late for you to attend this year's conference, there is always next year!

This is an incredible opportunity for genealogists to augment or refresh their research skills. The conference always includes nationally renowned speakers on a vast array of topics.

I attended one day of the three day event on Friday, the 28th. There are six sessions each day and the biggest problem is that there are so many really great programs, that it is nearly impossible to choose which one to go to. But choose we must.

Pictures and recordings are not allowed during the session but I did steal a couple of fuzzy opening screen shots.

1. The first session of the day started at 8 a.m.. Since I was attending for only a single day, that meant leaving Medina very early in the morning. I arrived at 7:45 and got my registration packet and made it with time to spare to listen to Peggy Clemens Lauritzen's presentation on West Virginia genealogy.
The statues in the corridors were adorable.

Peggy stressed the importance of knowing the historical timeline for Virginia and West Virginia's history. She also emphasized the importance of knowing the migration trails, so you can better understand WHY your ancestors moved into an area. She recommended the Wiki at FamilySearch.org to learn more about migration trails. That is available HERE. The third topic that Peggy spoke about was knowing the ethnic background of your ancestors. The English, Germans and Scots-Irish tended to settle in separate areas and followed different customs.

                ENGLISH               SCOTS-IRISH           GERMAN
Settled -  E. Shenandoah         W. Shenandoah             E. Shenandoah 
Religion - Anglican/Baptist     Presbyterians                Lutheran/Protestant
Built first - Church                     Tavern                          Barn   

Finally, Peggy talked about two important online resources when researching West Virginia ancestors:
FamilySearch.org
West Virginia Archives and History



2. Chris Staats is  a well known speaker in the Ohio genealogy sphere, so I was really looking forward to his presentation on Blogging. He specifically covered blogging with WordPress. I don't use WordPress, so it was very informative to me. It seems like an easy and versatile software to use.

He was specifically talking about blogging on your family history. You can use a blog to get help with a research problem or to post about a solution to a problem. Some of the blogs that he recommends are Lisa Also's and Randy Seaver. He also mentioned several other  tricks, such as using draw.io for making graphics and using a chart generator from Kid Zone.

3.  The next session I attended was about tracking your ancestors who liked to move around a lot. Titled "Tracking Your Spinning Ancestors Without Getting Dizzy" by Tina Lyons.

Sometimes, your ancestors weren't really moving from place to place, but the county's, state's or country's borders changed around them. The research techniques to solve the issue is the same in either case.

4. This was my favorite session of the day! Using Social Media for genealogy. Amie Browser Tennant was an energetic and entertaining speaker. When you have hit a snag in your research, consider turning to social media for FREE HELP when the resources you need are too far away or you just don't know what is out there.

She covered Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

On Facebook, she recommends using the FB groups for the state or county where you're researching and for Special Interest Groups (SIG) like for DNA and genealogy. I immediately tried this on my smart phone and found a group for one of my surnames in southern Ohio, the TAGGs.

Twitter is text based and she recommended following relevant people, experts and groups. Each tweet is limited to 140 characters, so you quickly learn to be concise. I may tiptoe into these waters over the next several months.

Pinterest is driven by pictures whose captions are hyperlinks to more information. By "pining" the ones you like, Pinterest "learns" to feed you more of the same.

She would be a perfect speaker for here in Medina!

5. OneNote software comes with the Microsoft Office Suite. Kelli Bergheimer covered its features. Basically, OneNote is:

  • A Digital Notebook
  • Structured place for random notes & ideas
  • An area for collections
  • Is SEARCHABLE
She prefers OneNote to Evernote because  your files are always under  your control. Evernote stores your information on the "cloud" which I think makes it more accessible.

If your favorite history book has been digitized and is available as a downloadable PDF, you can save it to OneNote and access it anywhere you can access your OneNote folders.

For genealogical purposes you can:
  • Track your DNA matches
  • Take notes
  • Keep track of cousins
  • Have folders for each surname where you store your research.
  • Save your lists of IDs and passwords for all your different digital accounts.
  • Can be password protected.


Adorable hippos
6.  Dr. Michael Lacopo covered researching your ancestors in Pennsylvania. He started by emphasizing following the Genealogical Proof Standard. He covered all the different resources:

  • Check out the Family Search Wiki on Pennsylvania
  • Church records, unlike other records, your ancestors didn't have to have money to go to church.
  • Tax Records - for anyone who lived in Pennsylvania after 1750
  • Court Records
    • Court of Common Pleas
    • Court of Quarter Sessions
    • Court of Oyer & Terminer
  • Business Records
  • ArchiveGrid - the new endeavor from the folks at WorldCat that describes and directs you to historical collections in archives around the world.

All in all, it was a very educational, exciting and exhausting day!

That evening, I was inducted into the First Families of Ohio lineage society.


 


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

H.G. Blake

Harrison Gray Otis Blake
Who was H.G. Blake and why is there a Medina Elementary School named after him?


Harrison Gray Otis Blake was born 17 March 1818 in Newfane, Vermont. Shortly thereafter, his family moved to Salem, Washington County, New York.

On 19 December 1821, his father, Harrison Gray Blake, and mother, Lucy (Goodell) decided to visit family in Vermont. They took their youngest child, a 14 month old little girl named Rebecca with them.

Before crossing the Green Mountains into Vermont, they queried a local landlord and was told the way was snow covered but good for travel and that they should be able to make the trip in 3 hours.

After traveling for about 3 miles, they found that the snow deepened to 3 feet. Not long after that, their horse became tired and they disconnected the sleigh, and putting Mrs. Blake and the baby on the horse, continued onward. Finally, the horse refused to budge and they decided to try to find shelter on foot. They didn't make it very far before the cold and frostbite halted them. By now it was quite dark.

A search party was sent out the next day looking for someone else that was delayed on the road. Mr. Blake was found first and helped to shelter. The rescue party went back for Mrs. Blake and the baby who were found a mere 100 yards from where Mr. Blake was found.

Lucy Blake's tombstone from Findagrave.com




Mrs. Blake had wrapped the baby in her cloak. The baby was snug among her blankets and her parents' cloaks.  Lucy Blake died shortly after being found. Mr. Blake lost all the toes on his left foot. He survived and lived for many years after, not dying until 1868, in Cleveland, Ohio.







Their story became known as the Stratton Mountain Tragedy and was turned into a ballad:

The Snow Storm, a poem penned by Seba Smith

Cold swept the mountains high, 
Dreary was the pathless wild.
 Amid the cheerless hours of night 
A mother wandered with her child. 
As through the drifts of snow she pressed 
The babe was sleeping neath her breast. 
Bitter blew the chilly wind. 
Darker hours of night came on. 
Deeper grew the drifts of snow, 
Her limbs were chilled, her strength was gone. 
“O God,” she cried in accents wild, 
“If I must perish, save my child.” 
She took the mantle from her breast 
And bared her bosom to the storm. 
As round the child she wrapped the vest, 
She smiled to think that it was warm. 
One cold kiss, one tear she shed 
And sank upon the snowy bed. 
A traveler passing by next morn 
Saw her neath the snowy veil. 
The frost of death was in her eye 
Her cheek was hard, cold and pale. 
He took the robe from off the child. 
The babe looked up and sweetly smiled.

Rebecca Blake, the baby who "sweetly smiled" and her father, Harrison Gray Blake.

The baby, Rebecca, was raised by her grandparents in Marlboro, Vermont.

The Blakes' had left two of their children home that day, Lucy and Harrison G.O Blake.

Mr. Blake became crippled by the ordeal and other people raised his children. Harrison G.O. Blake  was taken in by Jesse Rhoades. Lucy married and lived in Marlboro the rest of her days.

Harrison Jr. traveled west with the Rhoades family in 1830 when they moved to Guilford Township, Medina County, Ohio.

H.G., as he was called, went to public school and that is where he met his future wife, Elizabeth Bell.

In 1840, the young couple married. His father-in-law, James Bell, probably helped H.G. succeed over the next few years. He went from being a clerk in a mercantile house to owning the store. In his spare time, he studied law and became a lawyer in 1847.

He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives as a Whig in 1846 and 1847.  In 1848 he was elected to the Ohio Senate and temporarily became its Speaker. He served in the Senate until 1855 when he returned to Medina.

In the 1850 Census, H.G is listed as a Merchant with real estate worth $8,000. Not too shabby for a man who was a store clerk just 10  years before!

In 1853, he became the first editor of the newly named Medina County Gazette. 

 The family moved into the Greek Revival home that still stands at the corner of East Washington and Jefferson Streets.

The Blake Home on the southeast corner of East Washington
and Jefferson Streets in Medina.


H.G. was a strong abolitionist and his home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. In later years his daughters reminisced about being kept home from school whenever fugitive slaves were hiding in the barn or house.

Plaque on the Blake Home denoting that it was a stop on the
Underground Railroad before the Civil War.
In 1857, he founded the Old Phoenix Bank, Medina's hometown bank until 1995.


In 1859, Blake was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He was known as a strong speaker and spoke ardently against slavery or compromise with the southern states.

In June of 1860, he spoke about a resolution he had put before Congress to introduce a bill "giving freedom to every human being and interdicting slavery, wherever Congress has the constitutional power to legislate on the subject." Full text HERE. The speech was considered quite daring and "incendiary" at the time.

In the 1860 census, H.G. listed himself as an attorney and his real estate was worth $11,000.

One of his most celebrated speeches was titled "Freedom Takes No Step Backwards" and was delivered on 19 February 1861 in the U.S. House of Representatives. In this speech, H.G. came out strongly against any compromise that maintained slavery. The full text can be read HERE.

In April of 1861, Confederate forced fired on Fort Sumter and the Civil War commenced.

In 1863, Harrison Blake registered for the draft even though as a member of Congress he would have been exempt.

1863 Draft Registration for Medina and Wayne Counties
Line 14 of the Draft Registration showing Harrison G. Blake's name

Lieutenant Colonel H. G. Blake
In February of 1864, Abraham Lincoln called for 200,000 more soldiers. H.G. Blake busily enrolled volunteers in the Ninth Independent Battery.  When they reported for duty they became the 166th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with Lieutenant Colonel H.G. Blake at the head. They did not experience battle, but guarded Union property in Virginia.

After the war, veterans united in fellowship and formed chapters. The Grand Army of the Republic, or GAR. Medina's chapter was named in honor of H.G. Blake

In the 1870 census, his real estate was worth $9,000, maybe in part because of an economic depression. But perhaps also by then he had set up his daughter's households after their marriages in 1863 and 1866. (Daughter Elizabeth and husband, R.M. McDowell, built the McDowell house that sits at the far west end of Washington Street in 1890.)

In 1870, the downtown area of Medina experienced a devastating fire. H. G. led the drive to rebuild, this time, in brick! One of the first to rebuild was the Phoenix Block, home of the Old Phoenix Bank for many years.

The Phoenix Block on the Medina Square
when First Merit Bank

H.G. was mayor of Medina from 1870-1872.


By 1875, there was much talk about H.G. running for governor, but he refused his friends support.








In April of 1876, Harrison Gray Otis Blake died of pneumonia. His obituary in the Medina Gazette is lost to us, as no newspaper survives from most of that year. But this snippet survives from the Sandusky Register:

The Sandusky Register 18 April 1876, page 1.



In 2001, on the 134 anniversary of his death, the newest Medina elementary school was named in his honor.

H.G. Blake Elementary School in Montville Township










SOURCES:
History of Medina County and Ohio (1881)

Medina County Coming of Age 1810-1900 by Joann G. King, 2016.

Historical Highlights of Medina (1966)

Wikipedia

Freedom Takes No Step Backwards

History of Stratton Vermont

Findagrave.com

Equality of Rights in theTerritories

http://www.huntington150years.com/timeline/