Mansfield Librarians: Mildred Carolyn Furry

Mildred Carolyn Furry was born on July 31, 1908, to Archibald Beach Furry and Carrie Metzger in New Enterprise, Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Shortly after her birth, the family moved to Johnstown, Pennsylvania where Archibald, or Arch as he was known, worked in the steel mill.  Mildred’s uncle, Lorenzo Furry, was a teacher and later supervisor of the public schools in Johnstown. This is most likely where Mildred got her love of education.  Arch and Lorenzo shared a duplex for many years at 624-626 Somerset St. in Johnstown, Pa.  In 1924 Mildred, known as “Mig” in her yearbook, graduated from Greater Johnstown High School with her cousin, Lorenzo’s daughter, Mary, who would also become a teacher. A short time later, Mildred enrolled in Ashland College, today Ashland University.  Her roommate while at Ashland was Maude Edwards.  Maude and Mildred would often take weekend trips up to see Maude’s parents near Medina, Ohio.  Miss Edwards would teach at Shiloh High School and later in Brunswick, Ohio.  She became one of the first female high school principals in Ohio.  Edwards Middle School, recently razed, in Brunswick was named in her honor.  Mildred graduated from Ashland in 1928 with a degree in teaching.

1924 Greater Johnstown High School Yearbook
624-626 Somerset St. Johnstown, Pa. From Google Maps

Miss Furry began work immediately in the New Haven township schools teaching English and home economics.  In the early 1930s, Mildred would return home to Johnstown, Pa., living with her parents and teaching at Cochran Junior High School.  During this time, she also earned her master’s degree in English from the University of Pittsburgh.  On June 29, 1944, Mildred entered the United States Naval Reserve.  The Women’s branch of the Naval Reserve was created in July of 1942 to release officers and men for sea duty.  The Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service, or WAVES, served in 900 stations across the U.S.  Mildred served in Miami in the 7th Naval District.  Mildred left active service on February 8, 1946.  When her service ended, Mildred returned to Ashland College becoming dean of women.  In 1952 it was reported that Mildred was enrolled in Western Reserve University and that she would receive her “master of science in library science [that] summer.”

1952 was also the year Charles Kelley King died and left his estate to the private foundation which operates Kingwood Center today.  King had wanted a library to be established which contained materials related to the activities of Kingwood Center.  It was clear they would need a librarian to establish a collection and help visitors with research.  Miss Furry was hired on June 30, 1953, as the first librarian at Kingwood Center.  King had left a collection of books on gardening and birds and Miss Furry quickly added to the collection by purchasing the library of James Vick of Rochester, N. Y.  Vick was a pioneer of “retail catalog distribution of seeds and plants.”  Allene Holt Gramly notes, in Kingwood Center, The legacy of Charles Kelley King, published in 1988, that the library contained over seven thousand volumes.  Miss Furry gave talks and presented programs regularly about the work being done by the library and Kingwood Center.

Arthur P. Petit (1962) and Mildred C. Petit (1973) Ashland College Yearbook (Pine Whispers)

On December 28, 1956, Miss Furry married Arthur P. Petit, director of admissions at Ashland College.  The marriage was short as Arthur P. Petit died at the age of 58 after suffering a heart attack on May 7, 1962.  On September 1, 1964, Mildred Petit once again returned to Ashland College, this time as an associate librarian.  She would also curate the special books collection at the college.  Mildred Petit retired in 1975 and shared a residence in Ashland with her old college roommate Maude Edwards, who had never married and retired a few years earlier.  Maude Edwards died on August 27, 1983, followed by Mildred Petit on December 12, 1985.


An 1889 Chicago murder and its Mansfield origins

In August of 1889, a chance meeting of two men at Weltmer’s Boarding House in Manfield, Ohio would lead to the death of one and a prolonged Chicago trial of another.  William E. Purdy, no known relation to the Purdy family in Mansfield, who claimed to be from Mt. Vernon, Ohio and Samuel E. Reininger, of Johnstown, Pennsylvania were both young men searching for work and, apparently, spending their money almost as fast as they could make it.  Sam Reininger was a young man of 18 or 19 when he left Johnstown in July of 1889, which was shortly after the flood there where more than 2,200 people lost their lives.  His father had died in February of that year and Sam left his mother and siblings to find work in the West.  William E. Purdy claimed to be from Mt. Vernon, Ohio, but no evidence could be found to confirm this.  During the investigation, no one in Mt. Vernon seemed to know who the young man was.


William arrived in Mansfield sometime in August of 1889 and met Sam at Joseph Weltmer’s Boarding House on South Main Street.  The two men soon decided to go to Chicago to look for work.  William sold his horse and buggy and the men bought train tickets and arrived in Chicago sometime in September.  Upon arriving in Chicago, they checked into the Wiley House at 890 State Street.  The men were unable to find work and, a short time later, William made his way back to Mansfield.  A few days later, a body was discovered in the woods outside Chicago, sitting against a tree with three bullet holes in the head, one in the back and two in the side.  His head had also appeared to have been struck with a blunt instrument.   A hat bearing the initials S. R. and an address card for a Miss Edith Kyner of Mansfield, Ohio where found on the body.  Marshal Henry W.  Lemon, of Mansfield, was contacted and located the woman in a house of ill-repute; but she only knew his name was Sam and that he boarded at the Hotel Sherman.   Marshal Lemon remembered he had taken a trunk for two men from Weltmer’s House to the Hotel Sherman.  Upon going to the hotel and looking through the register, he found the names of W. E. Purdy and Sam Reininger.  It was then determined that the murdered man was Sam Reininger.  Reninger’s cousin, Samuel Slick, made his way to Chicago to identify the body.

Hotel Sherman

From 1888-89 The Herald’s Directory to Mansfield, Ohio


The Hotel Sherman would later be named the Brunswick Hotel, c. 1908


Interior of the Brunswick Hotel, c. 1908


Interior of the Brunswick Hotel, c. 1908

William Purdy was the prime suspect and was quickly arrested here in Mansfield.  Purdy’s possessions were taken to Mayor McCrory’s office and searched.  Within the trunk were many of Reininger’s possessions, including a watch and chain with a compass that appeared to have blood on it.  It was also discovered that another chain found in the trunk was one in which Reininger had tried to sell Ed Byer, another resident of the Weltmer House, earlier.  Many of the articles of clothing were recognized by Joseph Weltmer as belonging to either Purdy or Reininger and Miss Kyner also recognized items as being worn by Reininger.  Jewelry belonging to the murdered man and a gun were also found in Purdy’s possession.   Purdy claimed to have purchased or traded for many of the items which formally belonged to Reininger.  Captain Hunt, from Chicago, made his way to Mansfield to question the suspect and Purdy was soon ordered to return to Chicago to stand trial for the murder.

Mayor McCrory

Mayor McCrory from 1896

The investigation in Chicago also turned up evidence that made the situation look grim for Purdy.  The proprietor of the Wiley House collaborated much of Purdy’s story.  The two men roomed together there and one Monday morning, September 16, 1889, the two men stated they were going to go to the country to shoot.  That was the last time anyone saw Reininger alive.  Purdy returned and said he would be returning to Mansfield and would be leaving the next morning.  He said nothing about his roommate and, since the rent had been paid in advance, no questions were asked.  According to the landlord of the house, Purdy came down to leave dressed in a new suit, which was odd as he had always dressed as a laborer before.  It was also determined that one of the guns procured at 848 State Street in Chicago, which was returned damaged, had blood stains on the stock.  It was determined that the cause of the injury to Reininger’s head was from being struck by the gun.

The trail did not commence until April of 1890, as it took time to get many of the witnesses to Chicago.  Many individuals from Mansfield were on the stand, including Mayor R. B. McCrory and Marshal H. W.  Lemon, who worked much of the evidence in Mansfield, Miss Kyner, Samuel Slick, Joseph Weltmer, Edward Byers and William Harn, a reporter for the Mansfield Herald who interviewed Purdy while in jail.  The trial was based solely on circumstantial evidence and it was the opinion of many in Mansfield, including Marshal Lemon, that Purdy would be convicted of the murder.  On Wednesday, April 23, 1890, the jury returned a verdict of guilty and Purdy was sentenced to death by hanging.  In December of that year, a crook named John Cook claimed that a Charles Messner confessed to him that he was the real murderer of Sam Reininger.   It was well known by criminals around Chicago that Purdy was innocent and that Messner and possibly another person were responsible for the murder.   It was believed by authorities that John Cook and Charles Messner where the same man.  In January of 1892, a new trial was ordered by the Illinois Supreme Court on the grounds that there was not enough evidence to convict Purdy beyond a reasonable doubt and that there was suppression of evidence by the police.  In July of 1892, the case was dismissed and, after more than two years, Purdy was a free man.  It was said he would have to return to Mansfield since the horse and buggy he sold were believed to be stolen from a John Ruehle of Fostoria, Ohio. No further information was able to be found on Purdy after his release.


Daily Shield and Banner – 21 SEP 1889 p. 4
Daily Shield and Banner – 23 SEP 1889 p. 4
Daily Shield and Banner – 24 SEP 1889 p. 4
Daily Shield and Banner – 17 APR 1890 p. 4
Daily Shield and Banner – 19 APR 1890 p. 4