On December 26, 1884, millionaire Cornelius Aultman died suddenly. His widow Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman wanted to create Stark County’s first hospital in memory of her late husband, as it was an unfilled aspiration of his.
From left to right: Cornelius Aultman, Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman, and Elizabeth Harter.
She proposed the idea to his daughter, Elizabeth Aultman Harter. Elizabeth agreed to help her step-mother fulfill this plan in honor of her father. In 1891, the two women provided funding and 4.5 acres of land for the medical center.
Once it was complete, the hospital could accommodate up to 70 patients, larger than any other hospital in a city of Canton’s size at this time. Sitting at its current location of 2600 6th Street Southwest, the Aultman Memorial Hospital opened on January 17, 1892. However, the hospital did not receive its first patient until February 5 of that year. Aultman Hospital is still serving Stark County to this day. According to their most recent annual report available, the hospital cared for over 650,000 patients in 2018 alone.
Designed and built by Cornelius Aultman in 1869, sold to George D. Harter, and later passed onto Elizabeth Harter in 1885, the Aultman-Harter Mansion was a social hub of Canton, Ohio.
From left to right: Elizabeth Harter, Cornelius Aultman, and George DeWalt Harter.
In her adult life, Elizabeth was fondly thought of as the unofficial hostess of Canton. Located at 933 North Market Avenue, this mansion would be the site of many gatherings and social events. While Cornelius was still living, he hosted several presidents and important political figures at the mansion, including Rutherford B. Hayes, Ulysses S. Grant, James A. Garfield, and good family friend William McKinley.
Elizabeth would continue her father’s trend after the assassination of President McKinley. For the two days after McKinley’s death, Elizabeth’s home became the temporary residence and office of President Theodore Roosevelt.
The Harter family’s home, located at 723 North Market Avenue, would eventually be the site of William McKinley’s famous “Front Porch Campaign.” Before McKinley campaigned here, and before the Harters lived here, Elizabeth’s father Cornelius Aultman and step-mother Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman resided at 723 North Market for three years, from 1868 to 1871. The couple lived here while they waited for the completion of the Aultman mansion.
From left to right: Elizabeth Aultman Harter, the Harter home during William McKinley’s front porch campaign, and Cornelius Aultman.
In 1871, The Aultman couple moved out of the house and future president William McKinley rented the home for over two years. From 1873 to 1899, Elizabeth and husband George DeWalt Harter, owned the home. The Harter family resided here for twelve of the twenty-six years they owned it, until 1885 when they moved to the Aultman-Harter Mansion. Finally, in 1896 presidential candidate William McKinley rented the Harter home for his “Front Porch Campaign.” During this campaign, citizens would gather on the front yard of the Harter home to hear William McKinley perform his speeches literally from the front porch.
In 1868, Elizabeth became engaged to George DeWalt Harter, the son of well-established Canton banker Isaac Harter Senior, and a banker himself. George was also the first plant manager of Cornelius Aultman’s Mansfield factory. In March 1869, the two married and Elizabeth Aultman became Elizabeth Harter. In January 1870, the two had their first child, Eliza, named after Elizabeth’s mother. The newlywed couple was wrought with grief when their daughter passed away at only six months old. Over the next seventeen years, Elizabeth and George had five more children, consisting of four girls and one boy. Their only son, Cornelius Aultman Harter, passed when he was only four years old on May 17, 1880. On December 8, 1890, George Harter’s death made Elizabeth the sole parent of four daughters, aged 19, 12, 10, and 3. In addition to her professional responsibilities with inheriting her late husband’s business interests, Elizabeth now had to raise four young women on her own.
Elizabeth Aultman Harter’s involvement in her father Cornelius Aultman’s business was exceptional for a few reasons. First, it was rare for women to be involved in business operations, let alone at the level Elizabeth would reach in her lifetime. Secondly, Elizabeth was only nineteen in 1867 when she began serving on the board of directors for the farm equipment manufacturer Aultman & Taylor Company in Mansfield, Ohio. Despite the common attitude towards women working at this time, her father was incredibly proud and encouraging of his only child.
For over fifty-five years, from 1866 to 1924, Elizabeth was an integral part of the Aultman Taylor Company’s success in the farming machinery industry. Additionally, following the passing of her father and her husband, George DeWalt Harter, Elizabeth inherited their fortunes, along with their responsibilities. Because of this, Elizabeth took on leadership roles at various business and banking institutions.
A C. Aultman & Co. fashion trade card, one from a set of four. The front of these cards commemorated fashion throughout one hundred years prior and the backside advertised the company’s brand of Buckeye Harvesting Machines.
The Genealogy of the Essig Family. Pictured in the bottom left corner, a man uses a Buckeye Binder.
The heading on a piece of Aultman & Taylor Machinery Co. stationary. Mrs. Harter is identified as the vice president of the company in the top left corner of the paper. This heading also features the company’s logo of a starving chicken. It is accompanied by the slogan, “Fattened on an Aultman-Taylor straw stack.” This ironic comment is a reference to the fact that Aultman & Taylor machines leave behind no grain for chickens to feed on.
On May 14, 1847, Elizabeth Aultman Harter was born to Cornelius and Eliza Wise Aultman in Greentown, Ohio. Throughout her life, Elizabeth would leave a lasting legacy here in Stark County. She would serve on the board of directors for her father’s business, the Aultman Taylor Company, and bring great success to the corporation. She would provide the location for future President William McKinley’s front porch campaign and become the close friend of several other presidents. Along with her stepmother Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman, Elizabeth would create Stark County’s first hospital, which is still caring for hundreds of thousands of patients today. She would become the third president of Canton’s YWCA. Another thing that made Mrs. Harter so outstanding is that she, like her father Cornelius Aultman, was one of Cantons greatest ‘silent’ benefactors, putting many young men through college who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. She was also left a young widow and single mother to four children at the age of forty-three. She was a multifaceted woman who fulfilled numerous roles during her life, as well as overcame several devastating hardships. By the time of her passing on October 25, 1932, Elizabeth had reached various achievements throughout her lifetime, exceptional then, and still remarkable to this day.
As part of my internship at the Ramsayer Research Library here at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, I was tasked with creating an exhibit for the display case in the library. The assignment was, “Share a story that needs to be told.” At first, researching possible ideas was overwhelming because there were simply too many stories to tell. After much thought and consideration about what kind of story should be told, the topic presented itself. The women who shaped Canton, Ohio have been largely forgotten in history and their stories need to be shared. Library volunteer Judy Cloud Pocock gave some guidance for this project. She suggested that Elizabeth Aultman Harter be included in the display case exhibit. Once Elizabeth’s life story started to be uncovered, it was clear that she was the woman who the exhibit should focus on.
Elizabeth Aultman Harter was an incredibly accomplished woman— and not just in her time. Her legacy still impresses to this day. Daughter of Canton, Ohio’s first millionaire entrepreneur Cornelius Aultman, Elizabeth left a lasting mark on Stark County. She and her stepmother Katherine Barron Reybold Aultman founded Aultman Hospital here in Canton, Ohio. Elizabeth served on the board of directors at the Aultman Taylor Company in Mansfield, Ohio. She also presided as one of the first presidents of Canton’s YWCA. Another thing that made Mrs. Harter so outstanding is that she, like her father Cornelius Aultman, was one of Canton’s greatest ‘silent’ benefactors, putting many young men through college who otherwise would not have had the opportunity. While she exceled in her professional career, she was also a strong woman in her personal life. When she was just eighteen, Elizabeth lost her birth mother Eliza Wise Aultman after a long-term illness. In her adult life, Mrs. Harter lost her first daughter Eliza when she was just six months old. Later, Elizabeth lost her only son Cornelius A. Harter when he was four. The passing of her husband George DeWalt Harter made Elizabeth a widow and single mother to four daughters by the age of forty-three. However, despite her successes and the hardships she overcame, her memory has faded from history. To bring her back to life, Ramsayer Research Library intern Alyia Marasco has uncovered her legacy to share her story. “Elizabeth Harter’s Lasting Legacy” will be displayed in the Ramsayer Research Library display case. The Library is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm for anyone who would like to view this new exhibit.
Thanks to a recent donation of photographs, the stories of prominent Canton businessman Leo Abt and his store have been rediscovered. Included in the donation were photographs of Abt’s store, the clerks, portraits of the family, and more pictures whose backstories remain a mystery. The captions on the back of the photos were minimal, often providing only basic information. More research had to be done to uncover their stories. An article found by volunteer Sue Henry gave a valuable start to uncovering Abt’s story. This Canton Repository article, written by Gretchen Putnam in 1937, included a photograph of Abt’s clerks, matching a photo that came to the library in the donation. In her article, a part of the series Canton’s Family Album in the Canton Repository, Putnam identifies the clerks and gives an overview of Abt’s millinery. Using the clerk’s names and this new information, I began researching. Throughout my investigation, I discovered Abt’s personal life story, his professional accomplishments, and overall developed a picture of life in Canton in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Leo Abt was born on December 31, 1850 in Melzungen, Hesse Castle, Germany as the youngest of twelve children. At the age of sixteen, Abt immigrated to the United States. Abt later married fellow German immigrant Flora Ury in New York City on November 8, 1873. On November 22, 1875, the couple had their first son, Arthur Loeser Abt, in the town of Aurora, Indiana on the western border of Ohio. Later, the family moved to Circleville, Ohio, a city just south of Columbus. Here, Leo and Flora had two more sons. Edwin I. was born on March 19, 1878. Two years later on July 9, 1880, Oscar Moses Abt was born. The Abt family arrived in the city of Canton on April 1, 1888.
In his personal life, Abt was a deeply religious man who fostered Canton’s Jewish community from the ground up. In 1915, Abt, with committee of other devoted Jews, began working passionately to create a synagogue for their religious community. Today, this structure is the Canton Pentecostal Temple, located at 950 McKinley Ave Northwest. After Abt’s passing, he was described by Charles I. Cooper as the “father of Jewish communal life in Canton.” Further, he was the beloved president of the Canton Hebrew Congregation at the time of his death. The congregation recalled Abt’s memory as being the “most efficient and faithful member and worker” who “was especially fitted in every way for the position of president.” His congregation also described him as being a “friend to all, and really a father to many.” It is clear that Abt was greatly respected and treasured by his community in faith.
In addition to being a leading figure of the Jewish community, Abt was a prominent Canton businessman. For over thirty years from the time of his arrival in Canton until his passing, Abt was an industrious and hardworking merchant. In early May of 1888, Leo Abt’s New York Bazaar was announced to be opened in the Evening Repository, as the Canton Repository was known then. At the time of its opening, the bazaar was advertised as being located at 21 South Market Street. Today, this would be the lot at the corner of Market Avenue South and 2nd Street Southwest. Days after the opening was announced, on May 14and 16, the bazaar’s grand opening was declared a “great success” in the Evening Repository. The advertisement describes “throngs” of customers in attendance, and apologizes for not being able to help every patron due to the mass of shoppers. The millinery department was particularly popular. In 1937 in the Canton Repository, historian Gretchen Putnam described the busy workroom filled with young female employees, referred to as “trimmers.” These girls included Katie Mintzenburger, who was the head trimmer, Inez E. Allensworth, who later owned and operated her own millinery, sisters Olivia Fierstos and Rosia Victoria Halter, and many more.
Abt continued his business under several different names over the years, including Leo Abt & Sons, and the Leo Abt Company at the time of his passing. In several newspaper advertisements and the photographs of his storefront, the cursive logo from the Abt & Sons era can be seen. Abt’s resiliency as a businessman is demonstrated through his handling of various challenges. For example, in October of 1915, Leo Abt & Sons was declared bankrupt by the United States Bankruptcy Court and was immediately sold. Not even six months later, Abt announced the opening of his new store, the Leo Abt Company in March of 1916.
During my research, I found various newspaper articles that gave insight to what life was truly like for Abt and his employees, both the good times and bad. In June of 1897, Abt’s employees gathered for a pleasant evening of entertainment at the home of W. S. McClelland, just north of Canton. The Evening Repository gives a vivid image of the night: “The spacious lawn was elaborately decorated with Chinese lanterns, and admitted of many outdoor games and pastimes.” The contemporary article mentions the delicious dinner the guests enjoyed, and how the party continued until a late hour.
The newspaper also provides an image of hard times the employees endured. On November 20, 1899, the Repository reported the death of young trimmer Rosia Victoria Halter. This employee was only twenty-five years old when she developed appendicitis. She later passed due to the operation for her illness. The article describes Rosia as being popular with the other girls she worked with. She worked at Abt’s with her younger sister, Olivia, nicknamed Ollie, Fierstos.
Finally, the Evening Repository illustrates how the Abt family celebrated special occasions. On March 26, 1895, the Abt home hosted the wedding of Leo’s sister-in-law Clara Ury and Reverend David Klein. This article describes the beautiful event as “one of the most delightful weddings of the season.” The Abt family’s faith is also shown in the “impressive rituals of the Hebrew ceremony.” These photos and articles offer a brief peek at daily life for Abt and those close to him. They hold the hints left by those who came before us. Following the clues in these documents, you can uncover the most forgotten details to piece back together lost stories.
Thank you to Shawn Wood of Studio7 for this spectacular image of the McKinley National Memorial receiving the love it deserves. You thought your work was a challenge…. Mr. Wood’s photograph gives us an amazingly rare look at the festoons of ivy that ring the top of the monument. To the artist the ivy symbolizes McKinley’s character-constancy according to a September 29, 1907 Repository article that appears one day before the dedication of the McKinley National Memorial. In Architect Magonigle’s plans it calls for the festoons of ivy. Each ivy leaf has a bronze post to lift it up and away from the granite surface to create an added dimension.
Thank you to Gary Brown for his very interesting Monday After article: Remembering 1976 and the Bicentennial in Stark County! The article that appears in today’s Repository features longtime volunteer at the McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, Tom Haas when he was the Director of the Canton American Revolution Bicentennial Commission. He went on to take the position of Education Director at the Stark County History Center before later going on to a longtime career at WHBC Studios. Tom is in his 7th year of being a volunteer researcher in the Ramsayer Research Library. Thank you Tom for your hard work and dedication to our community.