More often than we can count the Ramsayer Research Center is asked to provide information on an interesting topic concerning either Stark County or President McKinley. We are honored and consider it fun and a privilege to help these fellow researchers “Seek the Threads.” This is the story of one of our visiting researchers and her experiences here.
Hoover Evacuee Author
We were once again given the opportunity to host and help fellow sojourner, Rebecca McVay from central Indiana. We first met Rebecca and her father in 2015. She returned in 2019 to continue her search for the threads of history that tied together people in little North Canton and London, England.
Rebecca is writing a novel on the experiences of children of Hoover Company employees who worked at a branch of the company just north of London, England during World War II. Many children were brought to the United States to escape the war and placed with North Canton foster families. This is Rebecca’s third trip to Canton, Ohio to research in the Ramsayer Research Center, the North Canton Heritage Society, and the Hoover Historical Center, which is now maintained and administered by Walsh University, North Canton, Ohio.
“Boss” Hoover hosted at least one Thanksgiving dinner for the English evacuees in Hotel Onesto’s Ballroom. Rebecca was given the opportunity to visit the building, now known as the Onesto Lofts, located on North Cleveland Ave. and 2nd Street N.W., Canton, Ohio. Steve Coon and his team at Coon Restoration & Sealants were the people responsible for taking an old historic building in downtown Canton. Ohio and bringing it back to its former glory. Much appreciation goes to Brett Haverlick, project manager for the restoration and transformation of the historic hotel into condos. Brett is a good friend of the Ramsayer Research Center and on a Sunday morning he made a special trip from Akron, Ohio to Canton to show Rebecca the former hotel. She was immersed in a location visited by the English evacuees in the 1940’s. Rebecca walked on the same floors where these children had experienced American kindness and holiday tradition some eighty years earlier. There is much more to the story of her latest visit, but we will leave that for another time.
Mark G. Holland February 14, 2023 McKinley Presidential Library & Museum
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.
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.
Hi! My name is Alyia Marasco. I’m currently a junior at Walsh University where I’m pursuing degrees in History and Museum Studies. After graduation, I plan to eventually go on to graduate school to pursue a master’s degree in Museum Studies. My end goal is to be a curator of collections and work with exhibition design. I love history and spending time in museums, so I’m very excited to be interning at the Ramsayer Research Library for the 2021-2022 school year!
Growing up, I had a unique education. Being homeschooled, I had the freedom to choose what topics I wanted to study. I also had the freedom to explore outside of classrooms. Because of this independence, I was privileged to have a hands-on education. This meant I took tons of field trips exploring nature centers, historic sites, monuments, and– my favorite– museums. I’m originally from Medina, Ohio, so I was also lucky to live near the city of Cleveland, which has a great wealth of museums. Some of my favorite memories from “school” are taking classes at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, going to the Cleveland Museum of Art for my birthday every year, and visiting the Great Lakes Science Center with my friends. I also had the opportunity to visit the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum several times growing up, so interning here and seeing behind-the-scenes has been such an interesting experience. My unique course of education has given me a deep love of learning that I still value to this day.
I decided to major in History and Museum Studies so I could share my love of the two subjects. In the future, I’d love to create and design exhibits to tell the stories of a museum’s collections. If I could inspire others to love history and museums like I do, I feel that I could make a difference.
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 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.
My name is Hannah Beach. In the spring, I will be graduating with my Bachelor of Arts in History from Mount Vernon Nazarene University. I grew up in a small town called Sugarcreek in northeast Ohio where I still live with my parents and my three sisters. Since I was in elementary school, history has been a fascination for me. As a kid I participated in the high school’s production of Annie Get Your Gun and after finding out the musical was based on a true story, I knew I had to know more and quickly fell in love with history. That experience paired with a series of remarkable history teachers all through school aided in my realization that history was something that I wished to pursue as a career.
For the last five years, on weekends and over breaks, I have put my love of history to use as I worked at David Warther Carvings, a non-profit museum in Sugarcreek. There I worked as a tour guide where I guided patrons through the various rooms explaining how the antique ivory carvings had been made and more importantly, told the history of the ships whose schematics had been used to make exact, miniature replicas. In those five years I learned so much. The experience inspired a growth in my passion for history and for sharing it with others. Along with serving as a tour guide, I worked in gift shop sales, created and ran the museum’s social media platforms, and served as the grant coordinator, giving me countless skills that will be useful as I head into the work field. I will forever be grateful for the time that I spent at David Warther Carvings and for the incredible tutelage of David Warther himself. As I look towards my future and my life outside of college, I am incredibly thankful for the way my past experiences have shaped me into who I am today and am very excited to be working at the McKinley Presidential Library this spring.
365 Reasons: Today let me give you a reason to bury a time capsule. When I first met my wife when I was 19 years old, she had a neighbor lady who finally died when she was 103 years old, oh the stories she had to tell. She told me about attending President William McKinley’s funeral in Canton Ohio. I wish she had buried a time-capsule and I could dig it up today. Why not preserve your now, which will become history for a future generation. Choose carefully what you include in your capsule, you want it to accurately represent your snapshot in time. Can you imagine what your great-grandchildren might think about today’s newspaper or CD or current best selling book? Go ahead, think beyond yourself, and invest into the future.