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Writes of Long Ago

C.W. Smalley Furnishes Interesting Local History

Edgerton Earth, August 17, 1923



Los Angeles, California, Aug. 9, 1923

Mr. C.W. Miller

Editor of The Earth

Edgerton, Ohio


Dear Sir—Your recent “home coming” has set me thinking and in memory I am back in Edgerton forty years ago, where the Observer—now the Earth—was born forty-one years ago this fall, the day following Thanksgiving.  We went to press on Thursday night, Thanksgiving Day, and as I pulled the lever of that ancient hand press I thought I did not have much to be thankful for—but I did.  The first issue contained the marriage notices of Charley Houk and Jennie Lewis—who are still living in the old town I understand—and Sam Long and Alice Kain.  When Sam died in Florida a few months ago a real man and brother went home.  Mrs. Long is spending the summer with one of the children at Detroit.  Jennie Lewis was the daughter of James Lewis, who operated the flouring mill and had trouble to detect the smell of limburger cheese at times.

The Observer was born where other printers had failed.  Whether it came to fill a long felt want is not yet apparent, but it was accepted by the people and as the years went by seemed to become a household necessity, as its succe4ssor is today.  No live town can get along without a home paper to chronicle the local events.  Though of a trival importance many times yet it means as much to the local people as the incidents recorded by the metropolitan papers do to the city dwellers.

Those were great days.  Farnham’s three story brick was the high spot of the town.  Eli Farnham run the general store and the bank and played a few checkers on the side.  His competent assistants included Noah Nihart, Frank Schmetzer, Aime Cory and Bill Rathbun and some of the stunts they pulled would make good reading.  I recall how they loaded the tobacco box, which was one of the requisites for holding trade in those days, and Uncle Jim Callender proved the victim.  George Helwig and J.W. Munzer were the other dry goods merchants.  And that reminds me that I want credit, if any is attached, to starting Billy Munzer in the printing business, and not Charlie Austin as you stated in a recent issue.  Billy was taken on as the office devil after some persuasion on the part of his father.  It was hardly necessary to add that Billy was all the name implied and filled the bill completely. 

John Terpening was postmaster and the office was in the building just east of the old Farnham block, where Truman Hopkins joined him in the jewelry business.  The post office clerk was Rosetta Krathwohl, who was leading soprano in the M.E. church choir and a right good one.  A few years ago we had the pleasure of a week’s visit at her home on a big mountain ranch near Elizabethtown, New Mexico; she is now known as Mrs. Turner.

Eph. Killinger and Jim Skelton were busy fellows making harness for the many horses in daily use; the automobile was an unknown quantity.  They always carried adv. in the Observer, and of course that insured plenty of business.

Mike McGuire was a fixture with the Lake Shore as ticket agent even then and conducted a telegraph school on the side, where many successful operators got their start in telegraphy.

Chilcote Bros., James and Will, were druggists and Pat Snyder run a grocery, while his good wife Mary fixed up hats for the ladies.  A.D. Austin left off making boots and became an attorney while J.M. Schoettly was a justice-of-the-peace who administered the law as he understood it.  It was generally thought that the litigant who first told his story to the justice had considerable advantage with subsequent interpretations of the law.

There were two very good hardware stores conducted by O.E. Fusselman and son Fred and George Spangler and son Date.  Drs. J.B. and C.M. Mortland looked after our physical ailments, and did it well.  J.M. Cleveland’s D Shovel handle factory was the big noise in the manufacturing line, and Herman Kruse run a planning mill.  W.R. Briggs, a relative of Uncle Dan Farnham, came to town from Binghampton, N.Y., and started making oak stave baskets in a modest way.  His business grew in leaps and bounds until it soon became first in manufacturing importance.  Mr. Briggs was an accomplished violinist, in fact a better musician than financier, and his business finally reached that point where he had trouble to handle it.  John Barr was host at the Hotel Mortland and had an enviable reputation with the traveling men who visited Edgerton.

The erection of the town hall came along in those days.  There was much discussion as to the right to use the park as a location for a building to properly house the officials of the town of Edgerton and the township of St. Joe.  It was finally done however and so far no one has attempted to move it off.  The corner stone was properly places with much pomp and ceremony.  We were all there with bells on.  In the stone was placed many papers that will be of historic interest some day.  A copy of the Observer, which contained a story of what was to be done, was also included.  In laying out the foundation for the east wall the mason made an error and it was six inches short of what the specifications called for.  A.C. Donaldson received the contract for the wood part of the building and he came to town, brought his lumber yard with him.  (Am informed Mr. D. is dead.)  Incidentally Alex was a grand addition to our population and he did fine work—when the fishing at the lake was not too good.  When Alex tried to fit his timbers to the town hall trouble started, with a result that the wall was taken down and relaid.  Just how it happened no one could or would tell, but the eighteenth amendment was not a part of the constitution at that time.  Another copy of the Observer was placed in the corner stone when it was reached.  It contained an account of the ceremonies when the stone was laid and other items of incidents happening immediately after that, which some day will cause some one to wonder how that paper ever got in the box.

Of course the town had to have a band and a lot of young sprigs with more or less musical talent organized one.  I can see Eph Killinger swell up back of his cornet.  Olan Colgan vigorously pumped the tuba and the balance of the crowd joined in making one grand noise that was one grand noise that was said to be music.  Other members of the bank wase Johnny Mast, Billy Dunn, Charlie Snyder, Henry Krill, Dr. Snyder, Charlie Austin, Charlie Krathwohl, Ora Hiner, Charley Houk and the Smalley boys.  A.C. Miller came up from Bryan once each week as an instructor.  The Fourth-of-July celebration came along before we were ready for it, but we played along and loud many times during the day with a very limited repertoire.  The first actual money the band received was for playing at Dr. Schoettly’s funeral.  Twenty-five dollars for a dirge going to the cemetery and a quickstep coming back, strictly according to contract.

Genial Jake Zeeb, who so efficiently served as master-of-ceremonies at the home coming, was an after consideration.  My recollection is that he blew in from the north and finally succeeded in marrying one of the best looking girls in town, Grace Relyea.

Incidents and people come crowding in that much might be written about, but why continue.  The face4s of many that I know in those days are seen no more on earth.  The names now appearing in the columns of the successor of the Observer—The Earth—are strange to me or pertain to the children of those I knew.  A few more years and none of that generation will be in the land of the living.  How about the future?

In the early nineties I sold the Observer to C.S. Austin, who passed over some years ago; peace to his ashes.  It seemed like parting with an old friend.  Edgerton and the good people who lived there in the years referred to bring only pleasant recollections and I can only wish you well and regret that it was not possible for me to enjoy the home coming with you.  But I must stop ruminating for fear of tiring you.


J.R. Smalley, 2102 4th Ave.

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