Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Jean Jacques Louis Wuichet

In the mid to late 1800's, Jean Jacques Louis Wuichet, often referred to as James L. Wuichet, wielded mallets and chisels to create the stone used in beautiful buildings all over the world.

Wuichet was born in Switzerland and there learned the trade of stone dressing.

How he came to make Dayton, Ohio his home was related in a newspaper article written by Howard Burba. The article titled, When "Dayton Marble" Brought in Millions, appeared in the February 7, 1937 issue of the Dayton Daily News.

According to Burba, Wuichet traveled through Germany, Turkey, and Russia practicing his trade. He remained in Russia the longest and dressed stone "for some of the finest buildings in the Russian capital".

In 1833 Wuichet immigrated to New York City. About 1835 he relocated to the Cincinnati area and worked on stone for the canal locks. He found the stone to be similar to what he had worked with in Switzerland and asked about the origin of the limestone. This led to his introduction to Mr. Gilmore of Dayton.

Gilmore hired Wuichet, in 1836, to work at his Gilmore & Scott quarry near Beavertown. The superior work produced by Wuichet attracted attention and he was encouraged to start his own business. After Wuichet started his business, he hired other stone cutters trained in the old world.

Burba writes, "His 'yard' was opened in a little oaken forest east of the canal and his first 'chiseling' was done under a big tree in the center of Green St. near the corner of Jefferson, then a rather wild looking place ... So well pleased was Mr. Wuichet with the location that he built himself a large and comfortable house on the scene of his first stone-cutting exploits in Dayton. .." In a death notice in the Dayton Daily Journal the Wuichet residence is described as "at the corner of Green and Logan Streets opposite Jefferson street bridge".

Literature from Woodland Cemetery in Dayton says that Wuichet did all the stone cutting on the St. Peter In Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati built in 1848 and the old Dayton Courthouse built in 1850. It states he also cut the stone for the Waldo street entrance way to the cemetery and their receiving vault. The receiving vault was built to store bodies until graves were prepared. It was mostly used during the winter when frozen ground made digging difficult.

"The vault was designed, "In the Theme of Thebes and Karnak" and is an exact replica of the Tomb of Karnak. It is one of the few examples of period Egyptian Revival architecture in Ohio".

Wuichet married Sabina Dutoit, the daughter of Eugene Dutoit. They had seven sons and two daughters. Their sons became involved in various Dayton businesses: lumber, fertilizer, and asphalt and roofing.

Wuichet died on September 13, 1872 at age 70 and was buried at Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Elsie Clevenger

I really didn't expect to get a hit when I entered Springboro, Ohio in the search feature of e-Bay. But, an interesting item appeared. It said Springboro, Ohio Universalist Church.

My husband and I are members of the South Dayton Church of Christ. Our congregation owns the former Universalist Church building.

When I clicked on the entry, a photograph of our church building came up. The object for sale was a picture postcard mailed in 1911. I bought it and waited anxiously.

A few days later the postcard came. The picture was great. It has a very plain image of one of the stained glass windows. The windows were modified a few years ago and this shows how they looked originally.

And, then there was the message written in 1911, postmarked Waynesville, Ohio, and mailed to Florence Fraze in Indiana. It read:

This is where we go to Sunday School. Have all been having grippe and so have colds yet. How are you? As Ever, Elsie Clevenger.

Who was Elsie Clevenger?

I began to research. Elsie was the daughter of Arthur Elwood and Indiana Metz Clevenger. She was born in September of 1897 in Ohio.

So, she was 14 when she authored the postcard. Elsie had two older sisters, Rhoda and Mary.

Clevenger graduated from Springboro Schools in 1915. At the Lebanon Museum I found a picture of Elsie Clevenger and Inis Davis. A note on the back read: teachers, taught mostly in Clearcreek Township.

At the Springboro Museum I discovered a 7th and 8th grades photo taken in 1920. The teacher was Miss Clevenger and the handwritten title said Old Red School. This was the building torn down to make way for the present Jonathan Wright Elementary.

I was able to obtain a copy of Miss Clevenger's obituary through Warren County Genealogy.

Miss Clevenger died in 1953 after a four year illness. She was 55 years old at the time of her death and was buried in Springboro Cemetery.

The obituary mentioned she lived with a foster sister, Miss Inis Davis, at 445 Warren Street in Lebanon. Her sister, Rhoda, had died in 1945. The article said Elsie was a former teacher in the Lebanon schools, a member of the Springboro Grange and the Lebanon Presbyterian Church.

Melvina Null Montgomery, a lifelong resident of the Springboro area, remembers Miss Clevenger. "She was a great one to work in the Springboro Grange and cooked great dinners," Montgomery said. "She had red hair and lived in Lebanon with her sister, Rhoda and another lady."

Bessie Baker, another Springboro resident, says Miss Clevenger was her eighth grade teacher in 1924. Baker lived near her teacher and used to ride to school with her.

I'm still searching for more information. Lebanon and Springboro schools looked through their files but found nothing. If anyone has more information, I'd be glad to hear from them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fogwell Murder

Crime scene investigation seems like a modern development but a murder trial in 1872 in Greene County shows such analysis was actually done years ago.
The murder happened on October 30, 1872. William Fogwell was returning from Dayton to his home in Greene County when he was shot. The murderer was concealed in a corner fence row near the road. Fogwell did not die immediately. He shouted, “Murder!” several times. Some neighbors responded to his calls. Fogwell was carried to his father’s house which was nearby. There Fogwell said he had seen William Ritchison in the flash of the gun. The weapon was a double barreled shotgun loaded with balls. Fogwell lingered for several days but died on November 8.
Authorities obtained evidence from the crime scene and the suspect’s house. A wheat field and clover pasture near the scene of the crime contained soft clay. Boot tracks were in the soil leading from the hiding place to Ritchison’s house. When Ritchison was arrested he was wearing boots. His boots were taken to the crime scene and inserted into the prints. One man testified, according to a November 1872 issue of the Xenia Gazette, “they fitted every time like a mold”.
The nails on the sole of the boot were unusually placed, some close together and some wide apart. The prints in the ground corresponded exactly with those in the boot.
Scrapes of paper were found at the crime scene. The edges were scorched and they were printed with words in columns. The paper had been used as wadding for the bullets in the murder weapon. At Ritchison’s house a “haversack’ was found. It contained “some gun caps, an old spelling book without covers and the leaves torn, and some paper wads”. The bullets extracted from Fogwell matched the balls found in Ritchison’s sack and the paper at the scene matched the spelling book. The shotgun at Ritchison’s house was examined and found to have been recently fired. Tests were done which showed it was possible to see a shooter’s face in the flare of the gun fire.
It was known, by several people, that the two men had had various arguments over the course of about five years. The most recent quarrel had been about some turkeys that belonged to Fogwell which Ritchison had shot. Fogwell had demanded payment for them. Ritchison refused. Fogwell, a township constable, had obtained a subpoena to serve Ritchison. It was in his shirt pocket when he was shot. Someone had warned Ritchison about the subpoena.
Ritchison was found guilty at a trial. Another trial was ordered because it was claimed a juror from the first trial had talked about the case outside of court before a verdict was reached. Ritchison was again found guilty at the second trial.
Ritchison tried to escape. When the escape failed, he hung himself in his jail cell. He was buried in his own yard, in an unmarked grave.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dolly (Woolwine) Noble

The last history blog told the story of Laura Woolwine who became Laura Bellini, a famous opera singer.

Laura was not the only star in the Woolwine family. Her younger sister, Dolly, became a stage star in the "Gay 90's".

Dolly was born in 1861 after the family moved from Lebanon to Cincinnati. Her early stage training was in the Cincinnati Shakespeare Club. Madame Helena Modjeska, a famous tragedian, appeared on stage in Cincinnati and was entertained by the Club. Modjeska encouraged Dolly to take up a theatrical career.

The Woolwine family moved to Washington D.C. to allow Laura to go to Italy to pursue her music career. It also permitted Dolly to become a student of Modjeska.

Before leaving Cincinnati, Dolly had become acquainted with Milton Nobles, a successful actor and playwright.

After training with Modjeska, Woolwine joined an acting company led by Nobles.

Milton Nobles and Dolly Woolwine were married in 1880. Nobles gave his bride, as a wedding gift, a fully furnished home at 138 First Street, Brooklyn, New York. The house remained their residence until their deaths.

Nobles, immediately after their marriage, wrote a stage play, "Love and Law" to present his wife to the public. She was an instant success. Milton & Dolly gained considerable fame both in Broadway plays and on tour. As melodramas waned in popularity, the couple made a transition to vaudeville.

A vaudeville program was made up of a series of separate unrelated acts. Milton composed short sketches which allowed the pair to appear in such varied entertainment.

Benjamin Franklin Keith, a theatre owner, is credited with bringing vaudeville to the U.S. Following a successful performance at Keith's in New York, the Nobles received top billing when they toured the circuit.

A New York Times article in May 30, 1903 said of them: "…the pair once again demonstrate their ability in the line of farce. Both Nobles and his wife have the rare faculty of so blending the serious and the comic that the right note of burlesque is obtained.."

Later in life Milton and Dolly again starred in a full length play titled "Lightning". It had an excellent record on both Broadway and the road.

The Nobles had two children: Milton Jr. and "Dolly Junior". Milton Jr. was an actor and "Dolly Junior" a pianist.

When performing in Cincinnati, the Nobles always visited Lebanon, thus the entire family was well known locally. They were also generous in sharing their talents to help local charities raise funds.

Milton died in 1924 and Dolly in 1930. Both children had preceded her in death.

The Warren County History Center at 105 South Broadway in Lebanon has a permanent exhibit in the Empire Gallery featuring the Woolwine sisters.

The Center also has numerous photos of the Nobles and Bellini and a copy of the book "Shop Talk" authored by Milton Nobles.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Laura Bellini

Laura Woolwine, born about 1851 in Lebanon Ohio, became a famous opera singer known worldwide by her stage name Laura Bellini.
Woolwine was the oldest of four children born to William and Rebecca Conrey Woolwine in Lebanon.
As a child Woolwine sang in a local church choir and was recognized as possessing great vocal talent.
At fourteen she performed an operatic concert in Lebanon. Afterwards, amazed attendees encouraged her parents to provide for her an advanced musical education.
The family moved to Cincinnati to give Woolwine such an opportunity. There she became a student of Madam Rive. Rive arranged for her to audition for Parepa Rose, a famous opera singer who was appearing in Cincinnati. Rose advised that Woolwine go immediately to Italy for training.
Eventually Mr. Woolwine was able to obtain a job in Washington D.C. which provided the finances to send his daughter, now twenty years old, to Milan, Italy.
There Woolwine became a student of Lamperti and Bellini, both renowned teachers. She stayed in Europe for nine years and took the last name of her favorite teacher as her stage name. Her debut was in the La Scala in Milan, the largest opera house in the world at that time. She sang “Rigoletto” followed by “Iona”.
Hazel Spencer Phillips described Bellini in her May 20, 1948 column, “Our Museum” in the Western Star, a Cox newspaper: “Her success was assured from her first appearance. She was a radiantly beautiful girl and woman…Her voice was that very rare combination of coloratura and dramatic soprano. She had a clear sweet tone with controlled power and an attractive and gracious stage manner that added much to her popularity.”
Bellini toured the major cities of Europe. A Command Performance was given for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Following the concert, the Queen presented Woolwine with a medallion.
After returning to New York City, Bellini became the first to sing “Cavalleria Rusticana” in English. Musicians regard it as the most difficult and arduous role ever written for soprano voice. The notes are exceptionally high and low.
A prima donna who sings the role four times in a week in Europe is considered accomplished. Bellini broke all records by doing seventy-six performances of “Rusticana”. The management of the opera company presented her with a diamond brooch and bracelet on the eve of her seventy-fifth consecutive performance.
Ill health caused Bellini to retire from the stage and to open a studio in New York. After her mother’s death, she returned to Lebanon to live with her father. She had a studio in Cincinnati and some Lebanon students.
Although Bellini is considered one of the really great American singers of the nineteenth century, her later years seem to be ones of limited means. In the 1930 census she had boarders living with her and her total net worth is listed as $6,000.
Woolwine/Bellini died on April 8, 1931 and is buried in Lebanon Cemetery. No gravestone marks the burial site.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Dayton Stone

Stone quarries were the leading industry in Montgomery County Ohio in the mid to late 1800's.

Soon after Dayton was settled, it was obvious there was a great deal of limestone in the area. Farmers were not happy about this fact but later it was determined this stone was valuable.

In 1914 state geologist J. A. Bownocker published a book titled Building Stones of Ohio. He quoted Dr. Orton, who did a Geological Survey of Ohio in 1869, as having written "In Montgomery, Miami and Greene counties the shale contains, in places a very valuable building stone which is widely known as the Dayton stone." He also wrote it was "in every way adapted to the highest architectural uses."

Dayton stone or Dayton Marble as it is sometimes called, is light gray, very compact and strong. It does contain some small iron pyrite crystals which can leave dark spots which look like rusty nail heads, after weathering.

When "Dayton Marble" Brought in Millions was an article in the February 7, 1937 issue of the Dayton Daily News written by Howard Burba. In the article Burba states that in 1827 a Mr. Gallaher advertised he was hiring "able-bodied men to work in the quarries southeast of Dayton". This was the earliest reference Burba found to local quarries.

The Bownocker book says the largest quarry in the Dayton area was in Beavertown, around the present day Dorothy Lane and Wilmington Pike intersection.

Burba lists many quarry owners. Among them he mentions John and Allen Fauver who ran the Wade quarries. He says they began to cut the stone. In earlier times Burba explains fire was built under the rock and thus cracked with the heat.

Stone from the local quarries was used to build many local buildings: several church buildings, the old Library Building in Cooper Park, the old Court House built in 1850 and the newer one erected in 1884. The stone was also sold to far away markets.

Canal building increased the demand for stone since it was needed for the building of the locks.

New quarries were then opened in Belmont near Wayne Avenue and Watervliet.

Only one road led to the quarries and transportation was a problem. To solve this dilemma a type of "railroad" was built from the quarries to the new canal. The rails of this railroad were made of tough hickory and the flat-bed cars that ran on it had grooved wheels to fit the rails. Gravity pulled the cars down the slopes and teams of horses were used to tow them across the flat areas. A stone yard was created between Patterson Boulevard and Wayne Avenue to receive the transported stone.

According to Burba, in order to give a smooth or polished surface to the rough stone, stone cutting and dressing was introduced in 1836 by James L. Wuichet from Switzerland.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Stokes, Amanda

Amanda Stokes, born in 1820 and raised on a farm near Waynesville, overcame personal tragedy and grief by serving those in need.

Stokes' fiancée was killed during the Civil War. She responded to this loss by selling her wedding trousseau and other personal items and raising about a thousand dollars. After serving in local hospitals, she volunteered to be a nurse for the Northern Army. Her parents, Ellis and Hannah Morgan Stokes, other relatives, and friends discouraged her choice. She persisted.

Accepted by the army, she served at Stone River, Chattanooga, Chicamaugua, Murfreesboro, and Nashville. The thousand dollars was spent to buy delicacies and relief items for the soldiers in her care whom she called "her boys".

Hazel Spencer Phillips, an employee of the Warren County Historical Museum wrote a column called "Our Museum" in the 1940's for the Western Star, a Cox newspaper. In 1942 Phillips gave a speech in which she described Stokes' appearance. She wrote, "Amanda Stokes had dark brown naturally curly hair which she wore in curls about her head, parted in the middle. She had rather heavy dark brows and brown glowing eyes."

While working at the Chattanooga Hospital, Stokes was asked to take a wounded Lieutenant to another facility. The horses drawing the ambulance became frightened when crossing the Chattahoochee River. They ran off the bridge and into the water. Stokes managed to escape from the ambulance by breaking the wooden top with her head. Both Stokes and the patient were rescued by four soldiers who had seen the accident. The Lieutenant died a few days later and Stokes' health suffered ever after. The ambulance and all of her records were lost in the river.

By the end of the war Stokes had spent most of her funds and had difficulty obtaining a pension. The loss of her papers contributed to the problem. In 1878, due in part to the efforts of "her boys", Stokes was appointed a matron at the Ohio Sailors' and Soldiers' Orphans' Home in Xenia. She later became their librarian.

Finally, Stokes received a small pension, thanks to the persistent efforts of several citizens of Warren County.

Stokes died on March 25th, 1885. Her services were conducted at the East Baptist Church in Lebanon by Reverend Sumrall, pastor of the church. He was assisted by ministers from the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Christian Churches. Members of the Grand Army of the Republic attended and served as pall-bearers. The casket was draped with the American flag and topped with a beautiful floral wreath from the Home in Xenia. The Lebanon Gazette of April 1, 1885 reported the following, "The services were not protracted, but were peculiarly impressive, and many tearful eyes in the crowded audience attested to the deep affection and esteem in which the deceased was held in this community, where she has been so long and favorably known."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Thomas Mitchell or Ben

The Fugitive Slave Law, a federal law, required all states to allow a slave owner to seize an escaped slave, take them before a judge, present evidence of ownership, and then reclaim the slave. In 1832 the enforcement of this law, in Dayton, led to dire consequences. According to "The Historical Collections of Ohio" written by Henry Howe in 1888 the following story was reported in the "Dayton Journal", a local newspaper. It was told by an eye witness to the events, a person who was not an Abolitionist but one with sympathy for the sufferer.
The witness said a black man, going by the name of Thomas Mitchell, had lived in Dayton for two or three years. He was a hard working and stable man; married and the father of a child.
Some men from Kentucky arrested Mitchell, took him before a magistrate, and said he was an escaped slave. The judge ruled they did not have sufficient proof and released Mitchell.
A few weeks later, armed men, hired by the slave owner, grabbed Mitchell on Main Street and attempted to put him in a sleigh and carry him off. Mitchell was rescued when his cries for help were heard. Legal proof of ownership was demanded by several people.
The case again went to a magistrate. This time new evidence was provided and it was ruled that Mitchell was indeed the slave of the person claiming him.
Several citizens took up Mitchell's cause and proposed that money be collected to buy his freedom. The owner's agent thought this could be arranged. A large sum was collected. Mitchell himself gave fifty dollars from his own savings.
But, the owner refused the deal and came to Dayton himself to take Mitchell back to Kentucky. When Mitchell met the man in the second story of a house and realized he was going to be taken, he tried to jump out of the window. He was restrained from doing so and forced to go south with the man.
On their way back to Kentucky the group stopped to spend the night in Cincinnati.
Later, a letter was received by a man in Dayton which told the rest of the story:
"Poor Tom Is Free Cincinnati, Jan. 24, 1832 Dear Sir:-In compliance with a request of Mr. J. Deinkard, of Kentucky, I take my pen to inform you of the death of his black man Ben, whom he took in your place a few days ago….Mr. D. and company, with Ben, arrived in this city on their way to Kentucky, and put up at the Main Street Hotel, where a room on the uppermost story (fourth) of the building was provided for Ben and his guard. …about one o'clock when they were in a sound sleep, poor Ben…threw himself from the window…He was… severely injured and the poor fellow died this morning about four o'clock. … Please tell Ben's wife of these circumstances…. R. P. Simmons"

Saturday, July 31, 2010


In 1950 Irvina Dearth wrote History of Red Lion Warren County, Ohio. In the book she has much information about early settlers of the area. One such man was Edward Dearth. She says Edward Dearth and his brothers were born in Maryland and served in the militia of Maryland during the American Revolutionary War. They later moved to Pennsylvania.

In 1797 Edward came to the Northwest Territory looking for land. He bought 1400 acres from General Schenck. This land was a part of the Symmes purchase and Dearth later had to buy it again from the U.S. government. The property was northwest of the village of Red Lion. After buying the land, Edward returned to Pennsylvania and prepared his family to move.

His family consisted of his wife Elizabeth and five sons: Basil, James E., Asael, Isaac, and Samuel and one daughter, Priscilla. The couple had eleven children but five had died at a young age.

In a file, at the Warren County History Center in Lebanon, I found a single sheet of paper on which Minnie M. Booz had documented some stories told to her by her Grandmother, Elizabeth Greene Ritter. Ritter was the daughter of Priscilla Dearth Greene. Booz told how Edward and Elizabeth met. One morning the Dearth family in western Pennsylvania found their horses were missing and saw a trail of hoof prints. A search party was gathered and Edward Dearth joined the group. It took all day and the party was in Maryland by the time they found the horses at the cabin of a Mr. Roberts. The Dearth party spent the night and then started back home with their horses. But, Edward had developed an interest in Mr. Roberts' daughter, Elizabeth. A courtship and marriage followed.

In the spring of 1798 Edward built a flat boat and the family floated on it down the Ohio River. They landed in Cincinnati on April 16, came through the wilderness on the Wayne's Military Road to Clear Creek, and then up Gander Run in present day Warren County. They built a log cabin which was replaced in about 1833 by a brick house.

In the Red Lion book Dearth recorded a story told by Newton Dearth, a grandson of Samuel, about the dogs on this early farm. A lane led from the house to the road. There were bars across the lane at the road and also near the house. At night the dogs put their paws on the bars by the house and waited for the wolves to come out of the woods. The dogs then chased the wolves to the set of bars at the road. The wolves then turned and chased the dogs back to the house. Dearth said they played like this for hours.

As to personality, Booz describes Edward as "pious and of quiet temperament" and of Elizabeth she writes "Some other accounts of a stormy temper, and a red head were told".

Friday, January 8, 2010

Colonel John Bigger
By Rosalie Yoakam

Colonel John Bigger, an early pioneer of Warren County, Ohio, had a distinguished political career. He was first elected, in 1802, to the territorial legislature but it never met because the Ohio State Government was organized in its place.
He was then selected to be a Representative in the first Ohio State Legislature. This was followed by twenty terms in the state government. Bigger served a total of eight terms in the House and thirteen in the Senate. His service was from 1803-1833, from the first Legislature through the 32nd. He was Speaker of the House in 1821-22 and in 1825 was appointed to the first State Board of Equalization. He later became its President.
Bigger ran for governor of Ohio in 1826 but was defeated by Allan Trimble. He also served as a Presidential elector on the Clay ticket.
The book, The History of Warren County, Ohio, produced by the W. H. Beers Company of Chicago in 1882, says, “He was more frequently elected to represent Warren County in the Legislature than any other citizen of the county in its whole history.”
The Beers book says of his character, “Col. Bigger possessed powers of mind which enabled him to discharge the duties of the offices to which he was chosen with credit to himself and the entire satisfaction of the community.”
He also served as a nonpolitical executive. Bigger was on the first board of trustees of Miami University and a charter member of the directorate of the first bank of Cincinnati. Its charter was issued in 1803.
Bigger was born in Pennsylvanian on December 5, 1770. He married Hannah Bigger, his cousin in 1801. She was born in Pennsylvania on February 17, 1779 and was the sister of John Bigger who settled in Montgomery County, Ohio. Bigger Road in Montgomery County is named for the family.
Colonel Bigger bought land in the northern part of Warren County, near the Shaker’s Union Village, (now Otterbein Lebanon Retirement Community) from Judge John Cleves Symmes in about 1799. But, he was not able to get a deed to his land until an act of Congress was passed to relieve persons with written contracts to lands not actually in Symmes’ patent.
The Bigger family was members of the Dick’s Creek Presbyterian Church near the village of Blue Ball. He was a Ruling Elder there for almost forty years.
Hannah died on December 31, 1830. Her grave was found in 1949 in a small family cemetery on land north west of Lebanon on Green Tree Road. The property had once been owned by the family.
Colonel John’s second wife was Ann Robinson daughter of Captain John Robinson.
Bigger died on June 18, 1840. It is unclear where he is buried.
Hannah and Colonel John had two sons who achieved political fame. Samuel Bigger became the seventh governor of Indiana and Finley Bigger was the registrar of the United States Treasury under several Presidents.