Orin H. Booth: The Man Who Brought the Telephone to Mansfield

Orin H. Booth was born February 17, 1831, in Rochester, New York to Hiren and Sarah (McCleod) Booth.  When Orin was about 4 years of age the family moved to Media County, Ohio.  It was here that Orin developed an interest in the printing trade and, at the age of 19, Orin went to Mt. Vernon, Ohio, and lived with his sister Miranda and her husband, Dr. M. K. Hard where he worked as a printer.  A short time later he would become connected with the Wooster Democrat, later renamed the Wooster Republican.  While in Wooster, in 1853, Booth was one of the founding members of the Wooster Gunners, the nine men responsible for the firing of cannons at parades and other celebrations.  He briefly returned to Medina County, Ohio to marry Harriet A. Jennings on September 8, 1853.  It was also in Wooster where Booth first met Gen. Thomas Thompson Eckert.  Eckert would later become Chief of the War Department Telegraph Staff from 1862-1866 and Assistant Secretary of War from 1866-1867.  This meeting would change Booth’s life as he learned the art of telegraphy from Eckert.  A short time later Booth would leave the Newspaper business and take charge of the telegraph office in Salem, Ohio.  Around 1854 Booth would come to Mansfield to work under Thomas Eckert, who was superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Office in the city.  A short time later, in 1859, Booth would become superintendent succeeding Eckert upon his resignation.

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O. H. Booth and Harriet A.Jennings Marriage 08 SEP 1553 in Medina Co., OH

Booth continued to work as superintendent of the telegraph office throughout the war, moving the office from the Wiler House into Z. S. Stocking’s Building on the corner of Fourth and N. Main Streets.  In 1864 he was elected corresponding secretary of the Sanitary Fair hosted in Mansfield.  Sanitary Fairs were held throughout the North to help the war effort.  The fair in 1864 was for the benefit of “soldiers’ families and others, in Mansfield and vicinity, needing aid.”  In 1867, Booth, along with Roeliff Brinkerhoff and others, started the Mansfield Lecture Association.  The goal of the association was to procure “scientific and literary lecturers.”  In addition to this, Booth was also secretary of the Mansfield Independents Baseball Club and active in the Republican Party.  In 1871 Booth’s duties were expanded when he was made superintendent of the telegraph lines running along the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis Railroad.  Having already been in charge of the lines on the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago Railroad, this put him in charge of more lines than anyone else in the country, with over two thousand miles of lines and four hundred and fifty operators.  By 1880 he would be in charge of nearly three thousand miles of lines.

In 1875 Booth returned to his printing roots and became editor and proprietor of the Mansfield Herald, while still maintaining his position as superintendent of the telegraph office.  It was during his five years of running the Herald that some of the only negative comments directed at him can be found, those coming mostly from the Democratic-run Ohio Liberal newspaper.  In August of 1877 Booth first brought the marvelous invention of the telephone to Mansfield.  On August 24, 1877, a demonstration was set up at the Congregational Church.  A line was set up between the old parsonage and the church.  Singers would begin singing at the parsonage while an audience in the church would file along a table in the church, each taking time to listen to the remarkable invention.  Booth stated that he was ready to take orders from anyone who was interested in having the device.  It was reported that M. D. Harter already had a line run from his office in the Aultman-Taylor plant to the Western Union office, which he found extremely useful in conducting his correspondence.  In September Booth would conduct a successful test by making a talking connection with Salem, OH.  Booth, along with Samuel Uhlich and W. L. Leonard, started a telephone exchange in Z. S.  Stocking’s Building, which they ran for a few years until selling out to the Central Union Telephone Company in 1881.

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Booth-Graig Home at 55 N. Mulberry St, Mansfield, OH 44902

It was around 1879 that Booth made a contribution to Mansfield that is still around today, but until recently, it was attributed to another.  The Booth-Craig House sits on the northwest corner of Mulberry and West Thirds Streets and is today the home of the Chamber of Commerce.  Thanks to architectural historian Craig Bobby and Oak Hill Cottage, we once again know the true beginning of this structure.  The 1882 Mansfield City Atlas clearly shows Booth’s name on the property and newspaper articles chronicle its construction, saying it will “be one of the finest, if not the finest, residence in the city” and its architect was none other than Levi C. Scofield, the architect of the Ohio State Reformatory.  For more information check out this blog post at oakhillcottage.org.

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1882 Mansfield City Atlas

Unfortunately, Booth only enjoyed his magnificent residence for a short time.  He died December 30, 1883, at the age of 52.  Two years prior, his health started declining and he made a trip out west to “Yellowstone and other western grandeurs,” returning to Mansfield with renewed vigor.  Sadly, his health declined again and he suffered and struggled through the last 16 months of his life.  Dr. J. W. Craig, who would buy Booth’s home a year later, said his death was caused by “exhaustion from a diseased condition of the arteries, as well as from hydatids in the ventricles.”  About a year before his death, while suffering from his illness, he penned the following poem after attending a funeral, one of many published in the Mansfield Herald.

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Genealogy: Researching Your Home

Download a list of useful websites mentioned in this article here.

There are many resources available at the library to help you research the history of your home.  Whether you are looking for the owners of the property, the residents of the home or you are curious who may have died in the home, the following tools and resources will help you get that information.

One of the first steps in discovering the history of a piece of property is to create a chain-of-title by locating the deeds.  Start with the current deed, which should be in your records if you own the home, and work backwards.  Deeds going back to April 3, 1989 can be found online here in Richland County, Ohio through the recorder’s office.  On the current deed, you, or the owner, will be the grantee (buyer) and the person you purchased the property from will be the grantor (seller).  Look up the previous deed by searching for the grantor, who would be listed as the grantee, to discover who they purchased the property from.  Sometimes the volume and page number for the previous deed is listed on the current deed.  When you have gone as far as you can online, you will need to physically go to the Recorder’s Office to find the rest of the deeds.  In Richland County, Ohio everything has been digitized and can be found through terminals in the Recorder’s Office.  Deeds go back to 1814 and can be printed at $0.05 a page.

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Other useful resources available at the Mansfield/Richland County Public Library to research owners of property are plat books and county atlases.  MRCPL has plat books for 1940, 1974, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1992, 1995, 1998 and 2001; Richland County Atlases for 1896 and 1873; and a Richland County wall map for 1856.  Going back through the years you can see how property lines have changed and who the owners of the land were.  These are especially useful when researching rural properties.  You may be able to go one step further and find the original land purchaser for the property.  Copies of original land patents are available online through the Bureau of Land Management.  Once you discover the township, range and section numbers you can enter it into the website and find the person who originally obtained the land from the government.  Plots were usually 160 acres, which is a quarter of a section.  After 1820 they began selling 80 acre plots.  The atlas and wall map can be found online here.

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Portion of 1856 Wall Map showing Madison Township

Once you have a list of owners you can start researching who actually lived in the house.  City directories are the best place to start.  Mansfield city directories go back to 1858 and, beginning in 1894, you can look up by address and name.  However, before 1894 you could only look up an individual by name.  City directories will show residents of a home, not owners, and will list heads of household with the wife’s name in parenthesis.  If the husband has died, the widow’s name is listed with the deceased husbands name in parenthesis.  City directories can also be found on Ancestry.com, hathitrust.org and archive.org.

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1922 Street Index

You will want to be sure to pay attention to crossing streets.  House numbers and streets may have changed over time and you don’t want to waste time looking up the wrong house.  Begin by looking up house in street section, then look up the person to find details on him or her, such as where they worked and their wife (or widow).  You can also get an idea of when the home was built through city directories by seeing when it first showed up in the listings.

After you have discovered the heads of household, you can dig deeper by looking at census records.  Starting in 1850, U.S. Census records listed everybody in household.  There is no 1890 U.S. Census (lost in fire) and, beginning in 1900, U.S. Census records started listing the street name and house number.  U.S. Census records can be found on websites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.com.

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1900 U.S. Census showing George F. Carpenter and family at 125 Marion Ave.

You could stop here if you were only interested in the owners of the property and residents of the houses, but the next few resources will help us understand how the people we have discovered lived and died on the property.  One of these resources is Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps.  These maps deliver detailed property and land-use records that depict the grid of everyday life in more than 12,000 U.S. towns and cities across a century of change.  MRCPL has access to over 40,000 detailed maps of Ohio cities drawn between 1882 and 1962.  Mansfield includes maps from 1887, 1892, 1897, 1902, 1909, 1914, 1921, 1929 and 1929 with updates to 1949.  In the Sherman Room at MRCPL, we have physical copy of the 1929 map with updates to 1937.  Using these maps we can see how property lines have changed, when homes were built, and how the homes have changed over time.  We can also see how streets and house number have evolved and get a better understanding of how people navigated the city.

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Obituary from 16 MAY 1908 for Miss Amy Cornell who died at 125 Marion Ave.

The final resource is the various newspaper databases available.  MRCPL has an index of local newspapers maintained by MRCPL staff and access to Newspaper Archive (Main Library Only), the largest historical newspaper online database with more than 70 million newspaper pages from all over the world.  The Library as also recently partnered with the Mansfield Memorial Museum, Ohio Genealogical Society and the Richland County Chapter of OGS, and, thanks to a grant from the Gorman Foundation, we have been able to digitize a collection which includes over 40,000 pages covering the years 1823-1923.  This includes Mansfield newspapers in addition to newspapers from Bellville and Butler.  Through newspapers you are able to see the everyday lives of the resident of the home.  Whether they were hosting picnics, getting married, committing crimes, or dying in the home it was reported in the newspaper.  Simply search for the address or the resident’s name.

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26 APR 1912 ad looking for help

 

The Razing of John Sherman’s Mansion

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John Sherman’s home was razed not long after his death on October 22, 1900, it stood for only four more years.  There were those who wished to save the property and others for various reasons, either financial or they were not a fan of the former senator, who hoped the property would be demolished.  The two articles below from the Mansfield Daily Shield show these two points of view in 1904.  Eventually, the home was razed and lots were sold.  The full page ad from the Mansfield News describes the 71 lots made from the Sherman property.

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Mansfield Daily Shield, October 4, 1904, p. 5

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Mansfield Daily Shield, October 6, 1904, p. 2

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Full page ad from the Mansfield News, March 14, 1904

The Old “Y” on Clover Hill

When Roeliff Brinkerhoff first came to Mansfield to study law, he stayed at the Mansion House on the corner of West Market St (Park Ave West) and Walnut, which was a popular spot in 1850s Mansfield.  The property would be bought by the Baptist Church in 1860 and is today the site of the Farmers State Bank building.  In 1852 Roeliff married Mary Lake Bently and the couple stayed in Ashland at the Samsel Hotel and later a small cottage was purchased.  Later that year, the couple returned to Mansfield and, in 1855, purchased land on the north side of Park Ave West opposite Sturges Ave.  They enlarged the cottage on that land and three years later in 1858, purchased the future site of the YMCA.  This lot was covered in a luxuriant growth of clover.  Brinkerhoff called the estate and the Mansion he later built “Clover Hill.”

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1856 Map showing Brinkerhoff’s first property on West Market St (Park Ave West)

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View of Clover Hill, from The Mansfield News Journal 16 APR 1967.

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1896 map showing Brinkerhoff property know as Clover Hill

Construction of Clover Hill was delayed by the Civil War and took several years to complete.  On January 1, 1869, the Brinkerhoff’s moved in to their new home.  According to a February 4, 1902 article covering the Brinkerhoff’s golden anniversary, “the house … [was] a combination of modern elegance and the solid characteristics of former days and gave a charm and ease and comfort to the guests in its spacious rooms.”  In 1896 Roeliff Brinkerhoff Jr. would later build a Spanish Mission style home just to the west of Clover Hill, and two additional homes would be built on the corner of Baldwin Ave and Parker St.

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Image of Clover Hill, date unknown.

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The Mansfield News Journal, 06 AUG 1977

General Brinkerhoff died on June 4, 1911 and his wife stayed in the home until her death on September 4, 1919.  Shortly after his mother’s death, Roeliff Brinkerhoff Jr. died on December 8, 1920.  After that, the home was rented to employees of Westinghouse and the Circle Club was created.  The club originally included ten members who made their home on the upper floors and, on the first floor, the club was located.  Clover Hill was razed in 1925 and, shortly after that, the structure that currently sits at 38 Baldwin was constructed.  During this time, Mary Bently Brinkerhoff, Roeliff Brinkerhoff Jr.’s daughter, continued to live in the home west of Clover Hill with her mother, Jane.  Mary Brinkerhoff married John Gilbert in 1926 and John moved into the home with Mary and her mother.  In the 1930 Census, the couple has two sons, Bently and Henry.  Mary and John divorced around 1931-32, and, in the 1940 Census, Mary, her mother Jane, and two sons are living at 451 Park Avenue West.   A short time later the address was changed to 35 Bartley Ave.

Mary’s mother died on August 1, 1940 and Mary continued to live on the property, selling a large portion of it to Carlton Fernyak in 1948.  Mary kept only the southwest corner, which included her father’s home and a barn.  Fernyak’s purchase made it possible for the YMCA to acquire the property in 1950, begin construction in 1954, and open the new YMCA in 1956.  Mary Gilbert continued to live in the house where she was born until her death.  Mary Gilbert died while visiting her son in Colorado on January 4, 1973.   In 1977, the YMCA tried to sell Mary Gilbert’s home, requiring it to be moved to a new location in order to make room for parking lot.  There were no bidders and home was demolished, along with the two others on Baldwin Ave.

The Brinkerhoff’s were closely associated with the YMCA.  General Brinkerhoff was the first president of the YMCA board of directors and Mary was a charter and life member of the organization.  With the demolition of the YMCA on Park Avenue West, a chapter in Mansfield history closes.

Sources:

The Mansfield News. 28 MAR 1920, pp. 2.
The Mansfield News Journal. 17 MAR 1948.
The Mansfield News Journal. 16 APR 1967, pp. 5D.
The Mansfield News Journal. 05 JAN 1973, pp. 18.
The Mansfield News Journal. 06 AUG 1977, pp. 1.
The Mansfield News Journal. 09 SEP 1977, pp. 11.