Poetry, the Paris World’s Fair, a Battleship, and John Philip Sousa: “The Ohio Poet” Ida Eckert Lawrence

April is U.S. National Poetry Month, and in recognition this blog post explores a renowned poet who was born in Richland County, just outside Belville, although later in life she lived in Kansas, Toledo, and finally Los Angeles.

Ida Eckert was born just outside of Belville to Daniel S and Nancy A Eckert around 1861, and her family lived there until she was about 6 years old. At that point, the family moved to Wayne County, and by 1880 the family had moved to Topeka, Kansas. In Topeka in 1880, Ida married her first husband, Thomas Brower Peacock, and in 1883 they had a son named Aubrey [1-7].

In Kansas, Ida became very involved with the local writers’ scene, from press to poetry. She was a member of both the Kansas Editorial Association and the Kansas Women’s Press Association, and wrote for both newspapers and magazines [8].

Photo from A. J. Baughman, A Centennial History of Richland County

In 1897, already recognized as “a well known writer of short stories and poems,” she married again, this time to Fred A. Lawrence, of Chicago. They were married in Kansas, but shortly thereafter moved back to Ohio, this time to Toledo, where Fred was a partner in the J. Melvin & Co. clothing company [9].

Successes in Poetry

While in Toledo, Ida’s recognition as a poet continued to grow, and in 1900 she published a volume of her poetry with the Robert Clark Company of Cincinnati under the title Day Dreams. The book was fairly successful, and had three print runs at the time [10].

Ida was also honored in 1900 to be chosen as one of the Ohio Women Commissioners to the Paris Exposition, also known as the Exposition Universelle or World’s Fair [11].

While at the Paris Exposition, Ida was further selected to speak to the International Women’s Congress on the topic of women in American literature. Her talk was apparently very well received, and it was reported that she spoke of such authors as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Louisa May Alcott. She also spoke about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, of the women’s suffrage movement and women in journalism [12].

“Brains, industry, and tact are the necessary qualifications, and we have proved successfully that women are no longer children but are representing themselves along all lines of thought and work. In Frances E. Willard, Clara Barton, and Jane Addams our authors may find the heroic souls heroines are made of.”

Ida Eckert Lawrence, speech as quoted in “Ohioans Abroad,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 8 Jul 1900, p 17.

The next year, returning to the United States after attending the Paris World’s Fair, Ida was chosen to write and read a poem to commemorate the launch of the Battleship Ohio (third of its name) from San Francisco. She traveled to San Francisco to read the poem as part of the launch, and on her way west she stopped in Kansas to visit with her family and speak to the Ohio Association there, where she was also well-received [13].

In 1902, Ida’s poetry achieved yet another mark of renown: it was set to music by another Richland County native, Lulu Genet, and arranged for orchestra by John Philip Sousa. The poems that were set to music included “Way Down South” and “Day Dreams,” the title poem of Ida’s poetry volume. Sousa’s arrangements of the music and poetry were performed in Pittsburgh with a full band and a vocalist of Sousa’s choosing [14] .

A Divorce, and a Move to California

The next “newsworthy” event of Ida’s life was her divorce from Fred Lawrence in 1907. Various newspapers described the reasoning for the divorce somewhat differently: the Stark County Democrat reported that she divorced him “because he clipped unfavorable criticism of her poetry from newspapers,” while the Wooster Republican stated that Ida “claimed cruelty…[and] claimed he ridiculed her literary productions,” and finally the Defiance Daily Democrat reported briefly that she filed the divorce “alleging extreme cruelty” [15]. Whatever the reason for their divorce, Ida was not unmarried for very long. She moved to Los Angeles in June of that year and was married to James K. Connor, a “train man,” but they chose not to tell anyone of their marriage until word got out in October when Ida returned to Kansas to visit her family [16]. In the 1920 census Ida was reported as a widow living with her son, still in the occupation of authoring verse [17]. She herself passed away in 1931, and was buried in Los Angeles [18].


  1. “Noted Poet Visits County,” Wooster Republican (Wooster, OH), 10 Apr 1907, p 6.
  2. 1870 United States Federal Census, Canaan, Wayne, Ohio, digital image, s.v. “Daniel Eckert,” Ancestry.com.
  3. 1880 United States Federal Census, Mission, Shawnee, Kansas, digital image, s.v. “Daniel Eckert,” Ancestry.com.
  4. 1895 Kansas State Census,
  5. 1900 United States Federal Census, Toledo Ward 9, Lucas, Ohio, digial image, s.v. “Fred A Lawrence,” Ancestry.com.
  6. 1910 United States Federal Census, Los Angeles Assembly District 71, Los Angeles, California, digital image, s.v. “James K. Connor,” Ancestry.com.
  7. 1920 United States Federal Census, Los Angeles Township, Los Angeles, California, s.v. “Ida E. Lawrence,” Ancestry.com.
  8. “The Kansas Poetess Married,” Topeka State Journal, 27 May 1897, p 4.
  9. “Ohio Women Commissioners at Paris Exposition,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 29 Apr 1900.
  10. “The Kansas Poetess Married,” Topeka State Journal, 27 May 1897, p 4.
  11. “Ida Eckert Lawrence,” Bellville Messenger (Bellville, OH), 5 Jan 1900.
  12. “Ohio Women Commissioners to the Paris Exposition,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 29 Apr 1900, p 28.
  13. “Ohioans Abroad,” Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, 8 Jul 1900, p 17.
  14. “Sousa Arranges Orchestration and His Band Plays Music Composed and Worded by Former Residents of this City,” Mansfield News (Mansfield, OH), 27 Sep 1902, p 6.
  15. “Late Ohio Specials,” Stark County Democrat (OH), 26 Mar 1907, p 5; Defiance Democrat (OH), 4 Jan 1907 p 8; Wooster Republican (OH), 10 Apr 1907, p6.
  16. “Secret Marriage Announced,” Los Angeles Herald, 30 Oct 1907 p 12.
  17. 1920 United States Federal Census, Los Angeles Township, Los Angeles, California, s.v. “Ida E. Lawrence,” Ancestry.com.
  18. California Death Index, digital image, s.v. “Ida E Eckert,” Ancestry.com.

1950 Census Released!

No April Fools here, just excited genealogists!

The long-awaited 1950 census has been released in a dedicated website by the National Archives! Per National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) policy, only the censuses from 72 years prior are available to the public. These records are invaluable for genealogical and local history research, often serving as an anchor point for research into an individual’s residence, relationships, and occupation. Over time, the process for enumerating the census and the information that has been recorded have evolved, from listing only the head of household and tally marks in appropriate columns for other household members to providing general life information about every member of the household including age, schooling, and occupation [1].

NARA has established a dedicated website for the 1950 census, which you can find at 1950census.archives.gov. You can find additional information here, including some webinar sessions hosted by NARA experts about how the census was conducted and how the records can be used for research.

So there’s a census website….now what??

If you are raring to go and ready to find some folks on the 1950 census right away, you may have a couple of extra steps compared to the earlier censuses that are accessible through online resources like FamilySearch (available to anyone after creating a free account) or AncestryLibrary (available in person at Main Library only). While the 1950 census is digitized and has automated text transcription (known as Optical Character Recognition, or OCR), the transcription will likely be somewhat prone to error, as handwritten records are still a challenge for OCR technology. So you may or may not be able to do a text search for the name you are looking for and find it right away- the computer system may not have “read” that name right yet.

If you are not able to find a head of household by searching their name, you can also browse through the census records for their enumeration district. To find this number, you will need to locate the household on the enumeration district map, like this one to the right. If you do not have their address, you may be able to find it by consulting the city directories in the Sherman Room.

Once you have the address, you can then review the census records from the enumeration district where the address falls to visually scan for the household you are looking for. If possible, it also helps to have an idea of what families lived nearby, so that if you see them you know you are on the right track.

1950 Census Released!

The Mansfield enumeration district map for the 1950 Census. National Archives and Records Administration. [2]

As an example, on the left is an image from the Mansfield Enumeration District Map. The Mansfield/Richland Public Library is located on West Third Street, between Main and Weldon. This puts it in the 70-56 enumeration district. So if it were a residence and you were looking for a person who lived there, you could go to the population schedules (P-10 forms) for that district and look through for the names you wanted to find.

The enumeration districts for Mansfield for the 1950 census are 70-26 through 70-80 and the Shelby districts are 70-6 through 70-16. On the census website, you will need to select “Ohio” before searching by an enumeration district number to see the relevant census records, or you might end up with results from a similar enumeration district number in another state. Within the city of Mansfield (or Shelby), most of the census enumeration records will be on the P-10 sheets, but in the countryside there will be households that were enumerated on a P-11 form, which was a separate form for farms and residences on lots greater than 3 acres. If this is the case, there will be a notation in the regular enumeration forms indicating that there is a separate P-11 form, and the separate P-11 forms will be found after all the P-10 forms for an enumeration district.

Need further help?

If you would like further help finding a person on the census, the Sherman Room will be open to assist with genealogy and local history research! See the Local History and Genealogy page here for current hours and resources.

  1. “About Census Records.” National Archives, 28 Mar. 2022, https://www.archives.gov/research/census/about.
  2. National Archives and Records Administration. 1950 Census Enumeration District Maps – Ohio (OH) – Richland County – Mansfield – ED 70-26 to 80. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/27865011
  3. National Archives and Records Administration. 1950 Census Enumeration District Maps – Ohio (OH) – Richland County – Shelby – ED 70-6 to 16. https://catalog.archives.gov/id/27865015

Women’s History Month Roundup

For this, the last Saturday in Women’s History Month, we are going to explore some of the historical women in and from Richland County. There have been many blog posts previously describing their individual accomplishments and contributions to the community, so I am going to round them up here. Click on any picture in this post to view the blog post about the woman. While certainly not exhaustive, this roundup features some of the early female doctors, librarians, and other community leaders who have helped to shape the Richland County we know today.

Happy exploring!

Martha Mercer

Know other interesting or important women from Mansfield and Richland County you want to learn more about? Let me know in the comments!

The Old Richland County Court House

There have been five courthouses in Richland County’s history, starting from the modest blockhouse in the square, they have grown to meet the needs of residents over the decades.  During the War of 1812, two blockhouses were erected in the public square, one of round logs and the other made of hewed logs.  On July 10, 1813, commissioners examined the hewed log blockhouse and determined that it should be “prepared for the reception of court.”  The lower portion was to be used as the jail.  This served the county for three years until the two bock houses were sold at auction on December 3, 1816. The hewed log blockhouse sold for $56.40 to Alexander Curran, while its round log companion sold for $20 to Jacob Snider.  A second wooden courthouse was built and served the community for another ten years.  The commissioners would meet at the courthouse on November 6, 1826 and receive proposals for the building of a new brick courthouse the following season.  

From the Mansfield Gazzette, October 19, 1826.

The third brick courthouse shortly before its demolition in 1873. The fourth courthouse can be seen in the background.

Thomas Watt was hired as the contractor for the new building, which cost around $3,000 to construct.  The location of the new brick courthouse was just to the north of the old one, still located in the public square.  The building was a modest two-story structure with the courtroom below and offices above.  In 1851, changes were made to the courthouse, which Graham states in his History of Richland County, Ohio, added no real value, but did make the building more imposing.  “A third story was added, which was never used, and this third story was extended beyond the original building on the north and south sides, and for the support of this extension, heavy brick columns were erected.”  The commissioners approved $7,000 for the addition, but McCarron & Sheffler, who were awarded the contract, spent between $14,000 and $16,000 on the project adding in extras.  The addition, according to Graham, could not “be called a brilliant success.”  

The fourth courthouse shortly after construction.

The fourth courthouse around 1909, missing its tower.

The newly remodeled fourth courthouse.

On January 22, 1873, a new elegant and what most of us think of as the old courthouse was dedicated.  Cleveland architect H. E. Myer was hired to design the building, which now sat on the corner of, what is today, Park Avenue East and South Diamond.  The brick for the construction of the courthouse was made locally and pressed by Enoch Smith and Harry C. Hedges.  The plastering and stucco work was completed by local resident E. D. Lindsey, one of the best workmen in the country according to the Mansfield Herald.  The five-foot clock was run on a compound pulley system with 59 ½ foot weights weighing 1000 pounds each.  The pendulum weighed 237 pounds and a 100 pound hammer would strike the 3200 pound bell, which could be heard three miles away.  It would be an understatement to say the new elegant structure was an improvement on its modest, yet imposing, predecessor.  The total cost would be $226,700.

The courthouse went through changes over the years, including a new roof and tower around 1909.  It would stand for over 90 years before being demolished in 1969, when a wrecking ball smashed through the roof at 3:00 pm on February 3, two weeks after the new 2-million dollar courthouse we see today was officially turned over to the county commissioners.