The Runaway Streetcar

On the morning of July 24, 1908, Bessie (Wells) Laver was awoken by what she thought could only be an earthquake.  The whole house was shaking, timbers were tearing, and bricks were falling.  Bessie and her husband Philip hurried downstairs and quickly left the home looking for safety.  Once they were outside, they quickly realized an earthquake had not struck Mansfield in the early morning hours, but a streetcar had left the tracks and crashed into the front of their home at 237 North Main Street.  Luckily those renting the downstairs storefront had left the week before and there were no injuries.  News spread quickly of the accident and, in a short time, a crowd had gathered.  Nearly everyone in Mansfield made time to visit the scene before the car was righted on the track.

trolley wreck

Shortly before 5:30 that Friday morning, conductor Ralph W. Fairchild and motorman Charles Schauck had stopped at the streetcar office at the top of North Main Street, opposite Central Park, to prepare for their first trip of the day to Bucyrus.  Car no. 129 sat empty in front of the office building at 3 North Main Street.  Somehow the car’s air brake released and it slowly started to roll, gaining momentum as it made its way down the hill.  By the time it was noticed by Fairchild and Schauck, it was too late.  The streetcar had begun its descent and was gaining speed quickly.

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The Streetcar would have started its journey at about the same location as the one pictured here.

The speed increased past Third Street, then Fourth.  It reached the highest speed between Fourth and Fifth Streets where witnesses said the car hit the B & O sidetrack and rose one or two feet into the air.  It landed back on the track and continued its course toward Sixth Street.  It was at Sixth Street where the switch was set for the streetcar to turn that it became airborne once again.  The front of the car continued along the street, but the back end swung around tearing up bricks on the sidewalk on its way to its final destination.  The streetcar barely missed the drug store owned by C. C. Coblentz on the corner of Main and Sixth and exploded through a telephone pole before its collision with the Laver building.

trolleywreck

At the end of its half-mile journey, the streetcar sat in a cloud of dust at the bottom of the hill.  Luckily no one was in its unstoppable path and injured.  Had this happened later in the day, it most likely would have collided with another car coming up Main Street, which could have injured and possibly killed dozens.  By 11 o’clock, workmen had the car back on the track and on its way to Galion for repairs.  Men were also immediately put to work repairing the sidewalk and Laver building.[1]  Fairchild and Schauck were disciplined and, in August, a petition was being circulated requesting they be reinstated.[2]  In 1910 Fairchild would accept a position in the shipping department of the Albert F. Remy Company[3] and Schauck, who had been working as a motorman for seven years, would later work for Columbia Tire and Rubber.[4]

Sources:

[1] The Mansfield News, 24 JUL 1908, p. 3.
[2] The Mansfield News, 31 AUG 1908, p. 10.
[3] The Mansfield News, 03 MAY 1910, p. 10.
[4] Mansfield City Directory 1924-25 (Mansfield, Ohio).

Get to Know Your Mayors: Huntington Brown

Huntington Brown was born in Trumbull County, Ohio on December 30, 1849, to James Monroe and Mary (Hicks) Brown.  His grandfather was the Hon. Ephraim Brown, who, along with Thomas Howe, was the original owner of Bloomfield Township, Trumbull County, Ohio.  Ephraim Brown built the first saw-mill in that vicinity in 1815 and the first flour-mill in 1823.  In addition to this, he assisted in the founding of the town library and worked in the Ohio legislature to secure a good common-school system.  This hard work was passed down to Huntington and his other grandchildren, all of whom made their way to Mansfield, Richland County, Ohio in the 1860s and 1870s.

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Bloomfield Township, Trumbull County, Ohio 1856

James and Mary’s first child, Ephraim, was born on April 1, 1845, and died in infancy at the age of 1 Month, 8 days.  Their next child, James Ephraim, born on March 21, 1846, arrived in Mansfield around 1878 after gaining employment at the Aultman-Taylor Company as the assistant to M. D. Harter, his sister’s husband.  The eldest sister, Mary Lucinda, was born on December 21, 1847, and would go on to marry the Hon. M. D. Harter on March 4, 1869.  That same year, the couple would move to Mansfield, Ohio where Harter had secured a position managing the Aultman-Taylor Company.  Huntington’s twin brother, Hicks, would arrive in Mansfield, Ohio around 1875.  Hicks would go into business with John Staub opening a flour-mill.  In a short time, the partnership was dissolved and the Hicks Brown Company was created.  Hicks was a senior partner in the company until his untimely death of typhoid fever on December 17, 1884.  One other sister, Annie, born on August 18, 1856, died at the age of 8.

BROWN_Huntington - Centennial Bio

The Brown family moved to Massillon, Ohio when Huntington was young and it was there that he attended public school.  He would later go on to attend Nazareth Hall, a Moravian academy in Pennsylvania.  It’s believed Huntington arrived in Mansfield, Ohio around the same time as his sister, Mary, in 1869, shortly after his father’s death in 1867.  The first time he is mentioned in local Mansfield newspapers is on October 22, 1873, where it was reported he went to Fulton County on a hunting trip with J. C. Burns, V. Gutzwiler, Jr., Richard Smith, and Prosecuting Attorney McCrory.  He first showed up in city directories in 1873, living at 236 West Market St.  Huntington, like his brother James, was employed at the Aultman-Taylor Company andm by 1879m was superintendent of the company.  He stayed there until around 1888 when he became one of the owners and the manager of the Hicks Brown company.

hicks brown

It was during this time, in 1887, that Huntington Brown became involved with the Mansfield Electric Street Railway, helping to erect the first electric streetcar line in the city.  He would become Vice President of the company.  It was around 1895 that Huntington Brown retired from active management of business, but he still maintained a presence on many boards and committees, including the Mansfield Savings Bank.  Brown was very popular and very well-liked in the city, a member of numerous lodges including the Freemasons.  In 1899 he was elected Mayor of Mansfield running as a republican against democrat J. P. Henry.  Brown was one of two republicans elected that year in the normally democratic city, speaking to his reputation and ability to speak to both parties.

dowie1898

Shortly after his election to office, Mansfield was thrown into chaos.  In August of 1899, a traveling apostle and faith healer by the name of Cyrus Fockler was arrested after Dr. Boles said he interfered with his care of the two-year-old child of Frank D. Calver.  The Calvers were members of John Alexander Dowie’s Christian Catholic Church of Zion, which believed that all that was needed to cure the sick was prayer and faith in God.  Things got worse in July of 1900 when a six-week-old child who was “being treated with prayer” died.  The resulting riots quickly threw Mansfield and Mayor Brown into the national spotlight.  Fockler was run out of town, barely escaping with his life.  Two other church elders were painted blue from head to toe and two more were later tarred.  Dowie said Brown and Ohio Governor Nash were doing nothing to protect his church elders and suggested the national guard be sent to “Devils” field, as he called it,  to do the job local officials refused to do.  It became a weekly parade of Dowieites being escorted through the town to the train depot by police and Mayor Brown with mobs of hundreds and at times thousands of citizens throwing stones and spoiled produce.  For a full account of the riots check out Robert Carter’s book The Mansfield Riots of 1900.

brown leaves of healing

In 1901, Mayor Brown lost reelection to democrat Thomas R. Robinson but regained the office in 1903 by beating former mayor Robert McCrory by 119 votes.  Robinson would go on to later become Prosecuting Attorney.  In 1905, Brown again lost reelection to William F. Voegele, Jr.  Brown was again chosen by republicans to run in 1907, this time defeating Voegele by 131 votes.  Brown again defeated Voegele in 1909, this time by 151 votes.  Huntington Brown lost the republican primary in 1911 to S. F. Bell.  Bell would go on to lose the election to William E. O’Donnell by only 46 votes.

After his retirement from politics, Huntington Brown’s health began to decline.  He made trips to health springs and Europe in order to ease his suffering and at times his spirits appeared to improve.  On January 20, 1914, while returning from a business trip in Philadelphia, PA, he fell suddenly ill.  He was taken to the home of his sister-in-law, Mrs. Carrie Brown, in Massillon, Ohio.  Brown lapsed into unconsciousness and died on February 8, 1914.  Huntington Brown never married and in his 40 plus years in Mansfield, lived in hotels or lodged in others’ homes.  The 1900 and 1910 census shows him lodging with Melissa A. Barbour, the mother-in-law of John C. Burns, who was one of his companions on his 1873 hunting trip.  Brown’s body was brought to Mansfield so citizens could pay their respects, then returned to Massillon to be buried in Massillon City Cemetery.

Ebert and Donnellan: Early Streetcar Motormen

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On August 8, 1887, Mansfield rode into the future on one of the first electric streetcar railways in the country.  This photograph shows one of the first motormen, George Ebert.  In a newspaper article from 1932, they identify the other man as Edward Donnellan and the residence in the background belonging to John Nunmaker on Springmill Street near Mulberry.  Looking at city directories and Sanborn maps, it appears Nunmaker lived in the house partially obscured by the streetcar and the home in view was occupied by David Stambaugh, a carpenter.  The house is still standing today.

 

1902 sanborn

1902 Sanborn Map showing location where photograph was taken

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Springmill St. today taken from Google Maps

George Ebert would have been only seventeen years old when the streetcars started running.  According to information on FindAGrave.com, he was born on December 16, 1869 here in Mansfield.  In an article from the Shield & Banner from 1887, it states the streetcars started operation on August 8, 1887, an exciting job for a young man in a fast growing city.  George was still a streetcar conductor in 1894, according to the city directory.  On May 1, 1899, George became a city fireman and was severely injured in a fire set by an arsonist in January of 1900.  George continued to be a fireman and, in 1913, was appointed captain of the No. 4 fire station.  There was scandal in the fire department in 1913.  The previous captain, Charles H. Eyerly, was brought up on multiple charges, including threatening the firemen under his charge, taking vegetables and wood bought with city finances for his own use and kicking the horses on the shin to make them back under their harness.  Ebert was one of the men threatened; a witness testified Eyerly said he would get him out of the station within two weeks.  In March of 1913, Ebert was made a Lieutenant and William Ryder was appointed Captain of station No. 4.  A month later, Ryder resigned a day before he was supposed assume his duties and Ebert was made Captain.  Ebert’s captaincy was short. In November of 1915, he was also brought up on charges, including being intoxicated while on duty, gossiping about employees, incompetency and conduct unbecoming of an officer or a gentleman.  On November 23, 1915, Ebert was dismissed from the fire department, a decision he appealed, but dropped the case and officially resigned on December 15, 1915.  Ebert worked as a clerk for various businesses until his death on July 30, 1932.

Edward Donnellan was an Irish immigrant who came to Mansfield in 1886, according to the 1900 census.  His wife, Mary, arrived a year later and by 1900 they had six children and were living on Cline Ave.  In November of 1909, Edward was injured while working for the Mansfield Railway Light & Power Co. when he fell from the top of a car at the brans where the kept the streetcars  and broke his collar bone.  The following month, Edward got pneumonia and died on December 14, 1909.  He left behind his wife, Mary, and eight children, 5 sons and 3 daughters.

The street cars ran for almost fifty years in the city.  The Mansfield News Journal reported on June 7, 1937 that “the old car rattled around the loop from Park Avenue West to Fourth Street shortly before midnight last night, coming to rest in the East Fourth Street car barns.  “Old 51” had made its last run and the streetcar era had ended in Mansfield.”