PORTAGE PATHWAYS: Basket factory tragedy stunned Atwater community 100 years ago
By Roger J. Di Paolo | Record-Courier Editor
Paul Hamilton was a young businessman who, in the words of the Ravenna Republican, “abhorred idleness in all of its forms.”
He had gone into business in Atwater as an undertaker in 1906, but when he wasn’t engaged in that trade he found work elsewhere. “It mattered not what, as long as it was useful and honorable,” the Republican observed.
The afternoon of Sept. 26, 1912, found the 35-year-old businessman at work at the Atwater Basket and Veneering Co., which produced banana and fruit crates and potato baskets.
The basket factory had opened three years earlier. Located along the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, north of the depot at Atwater Station, it shipped baskets by the carload.
“Having nothing to engage him in the line of his regular calling that day, Mr. Hamilton accommodatingly consented to assist in some work at the basket factory in the afternoon as he had done on several former occasions,” the Republican reported.
His decision to work there that afternoon was a fateful one that cost him his life.
The factory had a large soaking pit, about six feet deep, where logs were placed in water and steamed at a high temperature to prepare the wood used to make baskets. The pit was covered with six trap doors separated by wooden walkways.
Paul Hamilton and another worker, Peter Miller, were pulling logs from the vat. Hamilton had lowered one trap door and was going to attend to another when he lost his footing. Missing the walkway, he tumbled backward through an open trap door into the vat of scalding water.
He was immersed above his waist, a log in the vat saving him from tumbling to the bottom.
Hamilton cried out to Miller, who was in the log yard near the factory. His co-worker was able to lift him from the vat, but he lost his grip and Hamilton plunged into the water again. Another co-worker joined in the rescue and the two were able to pull him out of the vat.
Despite his burns, he was able to walk to a buggy that had been summoned to take him to his home. “By seemingly incredible will power, he also walked from the conveyance to the door steps where he sat down and pulled off his shoes … and then walked into the house,” according to the Republican.
A doctor was summoned and a decision was made to send Hamilton to White Hospital in Ravenna. Accompanied by his wife, Hattie, he boarded the C & P train at about 4:30 p.m. — about two hours after the accident — and was taken to the hospital.
“Although suffering great agony, (he) … remained conscious until about an hour before his death. During most of his conscious hours he was hopeful and did not give up the battle until shortly before lapsing into final oblivion,” the Republican reported.
He died at about 2:30 p.m. on Sept. 27, about 24 hours after the accident.
The death of Paul Hamilton stunned the Atwater community where, despite his relatively short time there, he had become one of its best-known residents. His relative youth, as well as the fact that he left three children, ranging in age from 3 to 11, added to the tragedy.
The Republican reported that not since 1872, when 10 men lost their lives in a coal mining disaster in Atwater, had “the horror of sudden tragedy” had such a profound effect there.
Paul Hamilton’s funeral was held at his home on Sunday, Sept. 30. It was one of the largest that the Atwater community had seen, drawing 1,000 mourners.
Among those in attendance there 100 years ago today were 100 Knights of Pythias lodge members from Atwater, Alliance and Ravenna, as well as a contingent from Kent, who traveled to Atwater in four automobiles, making the trip over country roads. Hamilton was an active member of the Atwater lodge, which conducted a ritual at his funeral.
“He was generous, obliging and charitable in his relations with his fellowmen who esteemed him for his qualities and appreciated the worth of his citizenship,” the Republican observed.
His inability to remain idle, however, proved to be a fatal character trait.
Published Record Courier September 30, 2012
ATWATER WAS ONE OF THE FIVE TOWNSHIPS IN WHICH A SETTLEMENT WAS MADE AS EARLY AS JUNE 1799, AND IS SECOND ONLY TO MANTUA-WAY, WHICH WAS SETTLED SIX MONTHS EARLIER.
IN APRIL 1799 CAPTAIN CALEB ATWATER IN COMPANY WITH FIVE OTHERS LEFT WALLINGFORD, CONN. –AFTER A LONG AND TEDIOUS JOURNEY ARRIVED IN WHAT IS NOW THE TOWNSHIP OF ATWATER. AS SOON AS THEY ARRIVED THEY BEGAN SURVEYING THE TOWNSHIP INTO LOTS AND LAYING OUT ROADS ENDURING THE MANY HARDSHIPS ENCOUNTERED.
SHORTLY AFTER THEIR ARRIVAL THE HORSES OF THE PARTY BROKE LOOSE AND RAN OFF INTO THE DENSE FOREST. JONATHAN MERRICK STARTED AFTER THEM IN THE MORNING, BUT SOON BECAME LOST IN THE WOODS, AND WANDERED AROUND TILL EVENING, WHEN HE FOUND HIMSELF ON THE BANKS OF THE MAHONING RIVER, NEAR THE SOUTHEAST CORNER OF THE TOWNSHIP.
THE NEXT DAY HE CONTINUED HIS SEARCH, BUT WITH NO LUCK, BUT ON THE THIRD DAY HAD BETTER SUCCESS, REACHING CAMP IN THE AFTERNOON.
HE WAS ALMOST EXHAUSTED WITH FATIGUE AND HUNGER, AND HAD BEEN GIVEN UP BY HIS COMPANIONS, WHO THOUGHT HE MUST HAVE BEEN DEVOURED BY WILD BEASTS OR KILLED BY SOME ROVING BAND OF INDIANS. AT THIS TIME ONLY SIX OR SEVEN OTHER SETTLERS LIVED IN THE ENTIRE COUNTY, ONE IN MANTUA, ONE IN RAVENNA, ONE IN AURORA, ONE OR TWO IN DEERFIELD AND ONE IN PALMYRA.
THE ENTIRE PARTY REMAINED UNTIL THE FOLLOWING FALL WHEN FOUR OF THE SIX LEFT LEAVING ONLY ASA HALL AND HIS WIFE WHO CAME FOR PERMANENT SETTLEMENT. A CABIN WAS BUILT DURING THE SPRING AND FROM THAT TIME UNTIL THE SPRING OF 1801 THEY WERE THE ONLY WHITE PERSONS LIVING IN THE TOWNSHIP. THEY SETTLED DOWN TO MAKE THEMSELVES AS COMFORTABLE AS THE CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD ADMIT.
AN EVENT OCCURRED EARLY IN 1800, A SON WAS BORN IN THE HALL HOUSE-HOLD AND WAS NAMED ATWATER HALL AFTER THE SETTLEMENT’S FOUNDER. THIS WAS THE FIRST BIRTH IN THE COUNTY. CAPTAIN CALEB ATWATER GAVE THE ENTIRE TOWNSHIP TO HIS ONLY SON, JOSHUA ATWATER WHO MADE HIS FIRST TRIP TO ATWATER IN 1805.
ON NOVEMBER 1, 1804 AFTER A JOURNEY OF NEARLY SIX WEEKS FROM CONNECTICUT A PARTY OF FOUR ARRIVED. ONE SETTLED IN THE SOUTHERN PART OF THE TOWNSHIP AND CLEARED UP A FINE FARM, USING HIS FIRST PLOW WHICH HE BOUGHT IN SUFFIELD AND CARRIED HOME ON HIS BACK.
THE YEAR 1807 SAW QUITE A NUMBER OF NEW SETTLERS. THE FIRST SHEEP BROUGHT TO THE TOWNSHIP WERE PROCURED AT GEORGETOWN BY JOHN WHITTLESEY, BUT WHILE TRAVELING THROUGH THE DENSE FOREST, CAME UPON AN IMMENSE BEAR TO WHICH THEY GOT CLOSE ENOUGH TO CLUB HIM ON THE NOSE. THEY BROUGHT TWELVE SHEEP AND THE BEAR BACK WITH THEM, BUT WERE IN A DILEMMA HOW TO KEEP THE SHEEP FROM THE WOLVES, UNTIL MR. WHITTLESEY THOUGHT OF FENCING OFF PART OF HIS KITCHEN.
AROUND 1812 “THE QUEEN OF THE HAREM”, AMELIA FOLSOME, THE TALK OF THE TOWN, ONE OF THE WIVES OF BRIGHAM YOUNG WHO WAS BORN IN BUFFALO AND SETTLED AT ATWATER STATION WITH HER PARENTS, WHO WERE MORMONS, PREVIOUS TO LEAVING FOR ILLINOIS.
ATWATER WAS SELECTED AS THE SITE FOR THE RAILROAD, DUE TO THE STROUP FAMILY’S DONATION OF A SECTION OF FARM LAND FOR THE RIGHT OF WAY. ATWATER BECAME THE BUSIEST STOP ALONG THE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD BETWEEN CLEVELAND AND PITTSBURGH.
FARMERS AND GROWERS IN THE ATWATER AREA HAULED ALL OF THEIR PRODUCE AND LIVESTOCK TO ATWATER STATION FOR SHIPMENT BY RAIL. AT TIMES 40 WAGONS LOADED WITH POTATOES HEADED FOR THE HEADQUARTERS OF LOCAL COMMISSION BUYERS. BESIDES THE BUSY TRAIN DEPOT WITH FREIGHT AND PASSENGERS WERE THE BUSINESS’S WHICH CONTRIBUTED THEIR WORTH.
ATWATER BASKET COMPANY, 3 POTTERIES AND STONE WARE WORKS, MARBLE SHOP, MERCANTILE BUSINESSES, HARDWARE, FURNITURE STORE, DRUG STORE, AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WAREHOUSE, COAL COMPANIES, WAGON SHOP, CARRIAGE SHOP, BLACKSMITHS SHOP, DOCTORS, DENTAL SURGEON, POST OFFICE, BANK, FUNERAL HOME, SAW MILLS AND GRIST MILLS WHICH WERE RUN BY CATTLE-POWER AND STEAM, LIVERY STABLES. LODGINGS COULD BE BOOKED AT THE HOTEL COLONADE LATER CALLED THE ATWATER HOUSE OR AT THE AMERICAN HOUSE AT THE STATION OR THE HILLYER HOTEL AT ATWATER CENTER WHICH WAS ALSO A STAGE COACH STOP.
ON SUNDAY YOU COULD ATTEND ONE OF THE FOLLOWING CHURCHES – CONGREGATIONAL, METHODIST EPISCOPAL OR THE HOLY DUTCH REFORMED LUTHERAN.
ONE DEVELOPER IN TOWN CIRCULATED BROCHURES IN PITTSBURGH TO ENTICE PEOPLE TO MOVE TO ATWATER. COULD LEAVE PITTSBURGH UNION STATION AT 6:30 AM AND 2:00 PM AND RETURN FROM ATWATER STATION AT 3:00 AND 8:00 PM.
A NEWSPAPER “THE SHARP SICKLE” IN 1879 AND THE “ATWATER NEWS” IN 1884 WAS AVAILABLE.
FARMING WAS AN IMPORTANT PART OF ATWATER’S ECONOMY. IN FACT WHEN FARMERS WERE APPROACHED BY A MAN NAMED ORVILLE NELSON HARTSHORN TO SELL HIM ENOUGH LAND TO BUILD A COLLEGE THEY TURNED HIM DOWN. HE LATER FOUND LAND IN ALLIANCE AND BUILT MOUNT UNION COLLEGE.
THE FIRST SCHOOL WAS AT ATWATER CENTER STARTED IN 1806 – 1807 LATER THE TOWNSHIP HAD TEN DISTRICTS AND A RURAL SCHOOL WAS BUILT FOR EACH ONE. A TWO STORY GRADE SCHOOL WAS BUILT BETWEEN THE CENTER AND THE STATION IN 1904. IN 1917 A NEW BRICK SHOOL WAS BUILT NEAR THE CENTER, ANDALL THE DISTRICTS JOINED IN CONSOLIDATION. THE MONTHLY PAY FOR A MALE TEACHER WAS $39.00 AND A FEMALE TEACHER WAS $21.00.
ATWATER WAS ALSO A STOP ALONG THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD WHICH HELPED BLACK SLAVES TO EXCAPE TO FREEDOM IN CANADA. A STORY IS TOLD OF A QUAKER WOMAN WHO TOOK A SLAVE IN AND LOANED HIM A DRESS AND BONNET TO WEAR UNTIL HE REACHED THE NEXT UNDERGROUND STOP. IN THE 1800′S IF A HOME HAD A BLACK “LAWN JOCKEY” STATUE IN THE FRONT YARD WITH A LIGHTED LANTERN AND A BANDANA AROUND ONE ARM, THAT MEANT THE HOUSE WAS A STOP ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.
BEGINNING IN 1913 THE INTERRUBAN STREET CARS MADE ATWATER A BUSY PLACE WITH A LINE THAT RAN NORTH FROM ALLIANCE TO RAVENNA TO WARREN. THESE RAN FOR 15 YEARS.
THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS COAL MINES IN THE ATWATER AREA BECAUSE OF THE LARGE AREA UNDERLAID WITH COAL. ONE ENDED IN TRAGEDY THE MORNING OF JULY 3, 1872 AT THE ATWATER COAL COMPANY. IN THE EARLY MORNING 16 MEN FILED TO WORK IN THE MINE. SHORTLY AFTER NOON THE VENTILATING FURNACE WHICH STOOD AT THE END OF THE SLOPE TO EXHAUSE7″ ANY ACCUMULATION OF GASSES EXPLODED, SPEWING FLAMES ON THE DRY WOODEN SUPPORTS. ON THE SURFACE YOUNG GEORGE HOFFORD, NINE YEARS OF AGE, SAW BILLOWS OF SMOKE BOILING FROM THE MOUTH OF THE MINE. HEEDLESS OF DANGER, HE SPED DOWN THE SLOPE TO ALERT THE MEN. SHORTLY AFTERWARD SEVEN MINERS STUMBLED FROM THE ENTRANCE OF THE MINE. THEY WERE SCORCHED AND ALMOST SUFFOCATED, BUT ALIVE. ALL DAY THE FIRE RAGED AND ALL ATTEMPTS TO ENTER THE MINE IMPOSSIBLE. THE NEXT MORNING JULY 4TH AN APPEAL FOR HELP WAS TELEGRAPHED TO THE RAVENNA FIRE DEPARTMENT. IN MID-MORNING A LOCOMOTIVE STEAMED INTO ATWATER, BRINGING ONE HUNDRED FIRE FIGHTERS AND A FLATCAR LOADED WITH A STEAM-FIRED PUMPER, TOW HOSE CARTS AND OTHER EQUIPMENT. BY 10:00PM THE MINE WAS DEEMED SAFE FOR ENTRY. AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SLOPE SIX BODIES WERE FOUND, AMONG THEM ALL MANGLED AND CHARRED AND DUG OUT OF THE MUD AND SLIME WAS THE BODY OF LITTLE GEORGE HOFFORD. ON SUNDAY MORNING, TWO DAYS LATER, THE BODIES OF THE LAST THREE VICTIMS OF THE TRAGIC FIRE. A TOTAL OF NINE MEN AND ONE BOY LOST THEIR LIVES ON THAT FATEFUL DAY.
ATWATER’S FAMOUS CITIZEN WAS JOHN HENRY GRATE, A CIVIL WAR VETERAN. HE WAS BORN AUGUST 1, 1845 AND DIES 104 YEARS LATER ON JUNE 7 1949, THE COUNTY’S LAST SURVIVING VETERAN OF THE CIVIL WAR. HE WAS 18 YEARS OLD WHEN HE JOING THE UNION FORCES. IN CIVILIAN LIFE HE WAS A SKILLED WOOD WORKER AND BUGGY MAKER AT NEARBY YALE AND ALSO OPERATED AN EVAPORATION PLANT FOR A DRIED CORN PRODUCT. LATE IN LIFE HE BECAME NATIONAL COMMANDER OF THE GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC.
ARRIVAL OF ATWATER AND OTHERS – EARLY PRIVATIONS – BIRTH OF FIRST CHILD – ANOTHER LONE SETTLER – ORGANIZATION – MARRIAGES AND DEATHS – SOME OLD AND NEW THINGS – AN ANCIENT MUSKET – EARLY CHURCHES AND PREACHERS – SCHOOLS -NEWSPAPERS – INDUSTRIES, ETC. – OFFICERS AND STATISTICS.
Atwater is one of the five townships in which a settlement was made as early as June, 1799, and is second only to Mantua, which antedated Atwater only about 6 months. The township was laid off in the surveys as Town 1, Range 7, which fell to the lot, as well as two or three other townships and parts of townships, of Capt. Caleb Atwater, one of the original proprietors of the Western Reserve. He gave this township to his only son, Joshua Atwater, who, however, did not visit his land till 1805.
In April, 1799, Capt. Caleb Atwater, in company with Jonathan Merrick, Peter Bunnell, Asahel Blakesley and Asa Hall and his wife, left Wallingford, Conn., and after a long and tedious journey arrived in what is now the township of Atwater. The entire party remained till the following fall, when they all returned to the East with the exception of Asa Hall and wife, who came for permanent settlement, and having put up a cabin during the spring, settled down to make themselves as comfortable as the circumstances would admit, and from that time till the spring of 1801 they were the only white persons living in the township; in fact, there were only six or seven other settlers in the entire county, there being one in Mantua, one in Ravenna, one in Aurora, one or two in Deerfield, and one in Palmyra; his nearest neighbor being Lewis Ely, in Deerfield.
As soon as the party of Capt. Atwater arrived they began surveying the township into lots and laying out roads and many were the hardships encountered by those hardy old adventurers, but they were made of the material and had the wills to withstand all the privations with which they came in contact. Shortly after their arrival, the horses of the party broke loose and ran off into the dense forest, Jonathan Merrick started after them in the morning, but soon became lost in the woods, and wandered around till evening, when he found himself on the banks of the Mahoning, near the southeast corner of the township. The next day he continued his search, but with no luck, and still not knowing exactly where he was, but on the third day had better success, reaching camp in the afternoon, He was almost exhausted with fatigue and hunger, and had been given up by his companions, who thought he must have been devoured by wild beasts, or killed by some roving band of Indians.
An event occurred early in 1800 that enlivened matters considerably in the Hall household. A child was born and this first little visitor was named Atwater, in honor of the proprietor. This was the first birth in the county.
About the time Hall moved away from the Center, David Baldwin, Jr., came in and settled two miles south of the Center. He came on the 20th of June, 1801, and was from Wallingford, Conn., where his father had removed from Massachusetts. For the next three years Baldwin and Hall and their families were the only persons in the township, and they lived five miles apart. During the first few years flour, or rather meal, and provisions were extremely hard to get. They had to go to Smith’s Ferry, forty-five miles, to a gristmill, and as for shoes, the children of those times in this locality never had a pair on their feet till they were nearly grown. Baldwin was the agent of Capt. Atwater, and was a man highly respected by all who came in contact with him. In 1802 a child was born to David Baldwin, and this child is now the hald and hearty old gentleman of eighty-two years, Maj. Ransom Baldwin, he being the second born in the township, and the oldest and only person near his age now living inside the county upon the spot where born. The Major is well preserved in all his faculties, and has filled several honorable positions during his long life, notably that of Major of the Independent Rifles.
After a journey of nearly six weeks from Connecticut, there arrived, November 1, 1804, a party consisting of David Baldwin, Sr., Moses Baldwin, his son, and Theophilus Anthony, Capt. Joseph Hart, arriving soon after. Anthony settled in the southern part of the township, and cleared up a fine farm, the first plow he used being brought from Suffield on his back. Hart settled at the Center, and raised the first frame barn, which was the first frame erected in the township. A frame saw-mill was erected about the same time.
In 1805 the then proprietor of the township, Deacon Joshus Atwater, with Josiah Mix., Jr., came to the township from Connecticut, having ridden all the way on horseback. This was the first visit of Deacon Atwater to the township. Mix returned in the fall to his home in the East, but in the spring following came out again on foot, in company with Jeremiah Jones, the latter gentleman afterward becoming a Magistrate, and the best commentary on whose official course in the fact that but one appeal was taken from his decisions to the county Court.
The year 1806 brought several persons into the township who very materially helped to shape the future of the community. In addition to Jeremiah Jones and Josia Mix, came John H. Whittlesey, Asahel Blakesley, Calbe Mattoon and Ira and Amos Morse. Balkesley, who was one of the party who came out in 1799, was the only one to return to the West, but having married in the meantime, brought his wife and three children.
The year 1807 saw quite a number of new settlers, as at that time came William Strong and family from Durham, Conn., who erected the first frame house in Atwater. He enlisted in the war of 1812, and died at Balck Rock. Also came Capt. James Webber, who is now ninety years of age, being brought out when a boy of about twelve years, Jared Scranton and one or two others from the East. At this time a number came in from South Carolina, who settled in the southwest part of the township, including Enos Davis, who brought a son about ten years old, Issac Davis, who is now living at the advanced age of eighty-nine years, William Marshall, John Hutton, John Campbell and some others. William Marshall was a stone mason, and had helped to build Fort Sumter; he brought two masons’ picks with him used in that work.
In 1810, the township being attached to Deerfield,, which had been organized several years before, David Baldwin, Jr. was elected justice of the Peace, receiving his commission from Gov. Huntington. The first entry on the docket of the Squire was April 1, 1811, in a case of debt and damage, being Lewis Day vs. Lewis Ely, which was, however, settled by arbitration. The first trial before him occurred the following fall. Petition having been made and granted, the township was organized, and the first election held April 3, 1815, at the store of Elkanah Morse, which resulted in the election of Ira Morse, Justice of the Peace; Jeremiah Jones, Town Clerk; Gideon Chittenden, Joseph Marshall, Amos Morse, Trustees; David Baldwin, Jr., Caleb Mattoon, Overseers of the Poor; Ira Mansfield, Charles Chittenden, Fence Viewers; John H. Whittlesey, Josiah Mix, David Baldwin, Jr., Supervisors; Almon Chittenden, Constable; David Baldwin, Jr., Treasurer, which office the latter held for twenty-one years; he died on the 23rd of December, 1837, after a long and useful life.
The first marriage that occurred in the township was solemnized January 28, 1807, the parties being Josiah Mix, Jr., and Sally Mattoon; Lewis, Day of Deerfield, officiated. On the 23rd of April Jared Scranton and Phoebe Mattoon united their fortunes, and Day also officiated. The next fall Moses Baldwin and Nancy Burnes were Married. In the spring of 1808 Maria Strong, daughter of William Strong, died, at the age of seven years, and her grave was the first in the little cemetery at the southwest corner of the Center. In the fall following, on September 1, 1808, David Baldwin died.
The first sheep brought to the township were procured at the Georgetown by John H. Whittlesey and Jeremiah Jones, who on their trip to the point named, while traveling through the dense forest, came upon the captured an immense bear, to which they got close enough to stricke with a club on the nose. They brought twelve sheep and the bear back with them, but were in a dilemma how to keep the sheep from the wolves, until Mr. Whittlesey thought of fencing off part of his kitchen.
The first mill was put up by Asa Hall, on Yellow Creek, in the northeast part of the township, which was, possibly, the greatest acquisition then made to the township.
John Norton, who lives one mile and one-fourth north of the Center, and whose father, Jerry Norton, came from Durham, Conn., in 1812, has in his possession a musket that no doubt has the history that its possessor gives of it. Mr. Norton says that it belonged to his father’s great-grandfather, and that it came over in the Mayflower in 1620. It was five feet, six and one-half inches in length, but has had four or five inches cut from it. No gun of the character of this one has been made later than 250 years, and it is precisely like one or two others that came over in the Mayflower, now owned by New England families, who possess indisputable evidence in regard to them.
Maj. Ransom Baldwin has a powder horn that was carried through the Revolutionary struggle. The first Postmaster in the township was Caleb Atwater, a grandson of the original proprietor. Charles Bradley, Sr., who is ninety-two years of age, is the oldest man in the township.
“The Queen of the Harem,” Amelia Folsome, one of the wives of Brigham Young, was born in Buffalo,, and settled at Atwater Station with her parents, who were Mormons, previous to leaving for Nauvoo, Ill.
Mrs. Susan Carter (widow of James Carter, who is supposed to have been murdered and his body subsequently placed on the track,) was killed by a passing train in December, 1884, near Atwater.
On January 3, 1885; Dr. Bevington, of Freedom, was killed and Miss Eva Elliott nearly killed by a train on this road just north at Atwater Station.
Early Churches and Preachers. –The first sermon preached by a Presbyterian minister in the township is supposed to have been one delivered by Rev. Leslie, at the house of Maj. Mansfield, in 1808, which may have been in the spring or summer, as Rev. Mr. Scott, a Presbyterian minister, preached the funeral sermon of David Baldwin, Sr., in September of the year named. In 1806 a Rev. Mr. Ely visited the settlement and preached regularly that year. A number of ministers visited the township at different times, until 1812, when Deacon Ozias Norton came in and began holding services in a small log-house at the Center. About this time an event occurred that gave evidence that those early worshipers had not lost their patriotism, for on one Saturday they received notice that nearly all the able-bodied men would be required to march to the seat of war on Monday, so the son of Deacon Norton mended all their shoes, and the women made their knapsacks on the Sabbath. In 1813 Deacon Norton left, and from that time till 1816, when his place was filled by Deacon Jonathan Baldwin, the spiritual wants of the settlers were supplied by missionaries who would visit occasionally. No regular services were held, however, till 1818, when, according to previous notice, on the 20th of March a little band assembled at the house of Sylvester Baldwin, which was organized into a church, Revs. Caleb Pitkin, William Hanford and Joseph Treat officiating. After a sermon by Rev. Treat, eleven persons were formed into a church, namely: Deacon Jonathan Baldwin, and wife, Aaron Baldwin and wife, Joseph C. Baldwin and wife, Sylvester Baldwin and wife, John H. Whittlesey and wife, and Mrs. Rachel Norton. Meetings were held in various houses and in a log-schoolhouse until 1822, when a small brick church was erected a few rods from where the present church now stands, which was used till the elegant and commodious edifice that now adorns the Center was dedicated, that event occurring November 7, 1841, Prof. Hickox preaching the dedicatory sermon. Rev. E. C. Sharp became the regular pastor June 1, 1842, and for upward of a quarter of a century continued in charge of the church, dying in 1867. Rev. John Field preached one year as stated supply in the little brick church about 1824.
The old Methodist Church of the Center, built in 1821 near the Center Square, is now used as a barn by J. M. White, one mile and a fourth south of the Center. The first preaching of the Methodist Episcopal Church was at the Josiah Mix homestead. The next house of worship at the Center was a schoolhouse purchased by the society. Then the building now used as a town hall was erected and used until sold for $800 to the town. With this $800 and subscriptions a new building was erected at Atwater Station, fourteen years ago, and dedicate by Rev. Moses Hill. The preachers since that time were B. F. Wade, Rev. John Brown, George Elliott, Sherwood, James Axell, Mark McCaslin, C. H. Merchant, and Moore, the present pastor. There are about fifty members. The land on which the church stands was donated by J. H. Whittlesey, and Mr. Hillyer donated about $3,000. This building, when finished, was apdi for and dedicated.
Holy Teinne Dutch Reformed Lutheran Church, of Atwater, was organized as a society, under State Law, December 7, 1850, and elected Michael Jasier, C. Reichke, and James Miller, Trustees, and Jacob Rotamn, Clerk. This church is two and a half miles south of the Center, and is one of the old religious associations of the county.
The first school is supposed to have been taught by Mrs. Almon Chittenden in 1806-07, at the Center, in a little log-house that is now gone. Another is said to have been taught about 1809 in the southwestern portion of the township, but exact location and the old pioneer teacher are numbered among the forgotten things. The condition of the schools of this township in August, 1884, is shown by the following statistics: 214 boys and 193 girls enrolled in primary school. Total revenue, 3,445.09; paid teachers, $2,275.75; number of schoolhouses, 9; valued at $7,000. Average monthly pay of male teachers, $39; of female teachers, $21.
The Sharp Sickle was published at Atwater by William Hicks up to the time of the editor’s death in 1879. The press used in the office is now in possession of William Stratton. The Atwater News was issued in July, 1884, and ceased after the publication of a few numbers. Owing to the fact that the News was printed at Alliance, full postal rates were collected here. This was one of the main reasons for discontinuing this journal.
The Atwater Choral Union, one of the oldest musical associations in the county has 100 members. E. E. Heiser is Secretary and Dr. 0. A. Lyon, President. Prof. R. Griffiths, of Akron, is Conductor.
The first hotel at the Station was opened by Mrs. Massie White, in a house built by Joel Haugh. Mrs. White conducted the house for some years, under the name of the Colonade, now the Atwater House, which is at present operated by Abram Huffman. In 1881 Abram Huffman opened a hotel in a house which he built opposite the present Atwater House. The American House is also conducted as a hotel, with W. A. Loomis, proprietor. Wells Hillyar conducted a hotel at the Center for many years. There was also another house opened there and conducted for a time.
The Atwater Stone-ware Company’s Works were established by Pardee & Loomis,
and a company was organized February 22, 1871, with A. W. Loomis, J. R. Conrad, Joseph T. French, E. M. Chapman and Joseph Peck, members. The capital stock was $50,000. This Company went into liquidation, and the works were suspended, until purchased by George Stroup. The value of buildings and plant is placed at $4,000 and of annual product $9,000. This industry gives employment to ten men.
Atwater Coal Company was organized May 1, 1871, with George L. Ingersoll, S.A. Fuller, A. K. Spencer, John Hutchins, J. E. Ingersoll and J. C. Hutchins, for the purpose of mining and selling coal, building railroads, etc. The capital was $300,000 in $100 shares. In July 1873, the stock was reduced to $100,000. An explosion in the mines of this company killed ten men a short time after the opening of the works. Since that time the mine has been closed down. Another coal bank is operated by Woolford on the Spires coal land. John Spires & Sons’ pottery was established by Pardee & Husted on lands belonging to Mr. Hillyer. William F. Burns operated the works until his death. The present owners have operated the works since 1878. This industry gives employment to twelve men annually. The capacity if 6,000 gallons of stone-ware per week or about l,600 tons of clay annua1ly. The value of annual product ranges about $7,000 or $8,000 per year. The market for both stone-ware and tile (the latter manufactured at the works three and half miles east of Atwater Station), extends over the Eastern and Western States. 0. J. Ellison is Superintendent of the ware works at Atwater Station.
A saw-mill was erected by Capt. Hart in 1805, which was the pioneer manufacturing industry. Many of the pioneers believe that this mill was on the town line, and the same which Abel I. Hall conducted subsequently.
George Stroup’s saw-mill, one and one-fourth miles north of the Station, was established and operated by Stacey Dole about thirty-two years ago, as a muleymill. This is now operated by Mr. Stroup of the Atwater stone-ware works.
David Glass operates a steam saw-mill and grist-mill just north of the Center. This was.built by Grannis & Co., and run by cattle-power. Grannis also operated a grist-mill at this point.
The Spires’ saw-mill, three and a half miles east, was constructed by John Spires sixteen years ago. The capacity is stated at 10,000 feet per day. There is a planing-mill in connection with this saw-mill.
Stanford & Mendenhall, the undertakers at Atwater Station, furnished during the year 1884, seventy-five caskets, and attended a like number of burial services. Their business calls them to visit the cemeteries of Atwater, Randolph, Rootstown, Edinburg, Palmyra, Deerfield, Berlin, North Benton, Suffield, and Marlboro.
Homer Hillyer was appointed first railroad agent in July, 1851. The first shipment was a lot of cheese from B. Huff, who procured it from his brother’s factory at Rootstown. This was shipped to Granville, but Huff never received the price of the goods. What is now the Thomas & Jones blacksmith shop was a portion of the first depot. In January, 1884, Mr. Hillyer retired, when Daniel Townsend, the present agent, was appointed. The shipments from Atwater Station per month are 161 tons, principally stone-ware and butter.
In addition to the industries named above are William Stoutberger’s wagon shop at the Center, and a carriage shop, marble shop and two blacksmith shops at the Station. The mercantile circle is made up of J. H. Green & Co. and Webber & Webber at the Center, and Baith & Jackson at the Station, H. H. Woolf’s hardware, Stanford & Co’s furniture store, and W. T. McConney’s drug store at the Station, and Craig Bros.’ agricultural implement warehouse southwest of the Station. Rev. Rosswell Chapin, Congregational Church Rev. Moore, Methodist Church, Dr. E. Warrington, Dr. 0. A. Lyon, and Dental Surgeon W. A. Loomis, represent the professions in the township. Clarence Green is Postmaster at the Center and A. V. Willsey at the Station.
There is in the township a fine coal deposit opened, entitled “Murehead
Coal Bank,” proprietor Charles Murehead, which usually runs about eight or ten men; a steam saw-mill one mile north of the Station, and a Sweitzer kase factory, Jacob Matti, proprietor.
Township Officers – Trustees: Edgar Whittlesey, W. T. Mendenhall, Levi Heiser; Cler, B F. F. Hathaway; Treasurer, E. T. Goodman, Assessor, Abner Hoskins; Constables, Charles Goodman, William Baith; Justices of the Peace, H. H. Woolf, S. A. Hinman.
Atwater furnished for the service of their country in the war for the Union, seventy-two soldiers, fourteen of whom laid down their lives, and four were disabled.
The country is strictly agricultural, and the land is first-class, tolerably well watered and gently rolling. The Cleveland & Pittsburgh Branch of the great Pennsylvania system of railways affords an excellent shipping point at Atwater Station for the products of the township.
The statistics’ of Atwater Township for 1884 are: 976 acres of wheat produced 17,016 bushels; 5 acres of rye produces 15 bushels; 7 acres of buckwheat, 53 bushels; 679 acres of oats, 25,649 bushels; no barley; 481 acres of corn, 4,423 bushels; 1,558 acres of meadow, 2,400 tons of hay; 114 acres of clover, 180 tons of hay and 31 bushels of seed; no flax; 26 acres of potatoes, 4,936 bushels; no tobacco, butter, 41,677 lbs.; maple sugar, 1,333 lbs.; 5,089 gallons syrup from 29,820 trees; 84 hives, 3,095 lbs. honey; 5,779 dozens of eggs; 6,520 bushels apples; 582 bushels peaches; 12 bushels pears; 50 bushels plums; 10,795 lbs. wool; 289milch cows; 3 stallions; 113 dogs; 8 sheep killed and injured by dogs; 7 hogs; 46 sheep, 22 cattle and 4 horses died from diseases; 5,432 acres cultivated; 5,409 pasture; 2,797 forest; 10 acres waste, total acres, 13,638. The population in 1850,1,110, including 391 youth; in 1870 was 1,180, in 1880, 1,148; and now 1,200.
The information for this booklet was taken from HISTORY OF PORTAGE COUNTY.
FIGURE 123. — First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt touring the Hanna Coal Company Willow Grove No. 10 mine (Bt-163). She traveled 212 miles into the mine to learn about coal front the men who mined it. Photo courtesy of’ Dale Davis, train Hanna Coal News (Stay 193.5, p. 8). (For other photos of this mine see figs. 35, 79, 82, 93, 110, 117, 119, 120, 140142, 153, 154, 193.)