Local History Journal

Musical Life in Holmes County, Ohio from 1917-1960

The Willie Green Band on the steps of the Holmes County Courthouse. The band is seen here wearing their traditional green uniforms with white caps.

Musical Life in Holmes County, Ohio from 1917-1960

A Study of Three Important Ensembles

By Dr. Amy Gerber Doerfler

LOCATED IN Northeastern Ohio, Holmes County is a region with an interesting musical history. In the first half of the twentieth century, the community was entertained by three main groups of musicians. Beginning in 1917, the Willie Green Band, made up of over fifty local performers, orchestrated their own renditions of classical and popular band pieces, eventually traveling throughout Ohio. They also performed as The Willie Green Rube Band, offering various vaudeville acts. Another local group was the Harry Weiss Orchestra, formed in the mid-1920s by Holmes County sheriff, Harry Weiss. The band performed popular music of the 1920s and 1930s at grange halls and dances in Holmes County and mainly consisted of members of the Weiss family. The third important musical group for the county during this time was the “Pop” Farver Orchestra. The Farver family, led by Warner E. “Pop” Farver, was known for its many polkas and waltzes. The group was in demand for many local dances, and played throughout Holmes, Wayne, Tuscarawas, Stark, and Coshocton counties.In addition, Pop Farver wrote many original folk tunes that the family performed. Through their light-hearted entertainment, these three musical groups helped to enrich the lives of citizens belonging to a hard-working, farming community well into the middle of the twentieth century.

The Willie Green Band’s existence arose out of the tradition that began after the Civil War in which communities developed brass bands formed by ex-soldiers who had been in fife and drum corps. Formed by Cal Beatty and Floyd Reese, the Willie Green Band was active for more than thirty years in the first half of the twentieth century. They were headquartered in Millersburg, (which is the county seat of Holmes County), but they performed throughout the state. Each of the fifty musicians doubled on anywhere from two to five instruments, and the band maintained a wide repertoire of music. Their slogan was “Music For All Occasions,” and the members had five complete changes of uniform, one appropriate for any venue. The Willie Green Band was noted for its traditional band music as well as its programs of popular music. The band advertised itself as appearing, “either in Concert band, Rube band, Dance or Concert Orchestra.”

When performing as the “Hicktown Rube band,” the Willie Green members developed specific characters that their audiences expected to see. An early advertisement for the band describes performer Cal Beatty as “Grandpop Overpeck, direct from Possum Hollow…Drummer and Clog Dancer, doubling several different instruments.” Performer Owen Wengerd played “the title role of Professor Schultz, Banjos, Ukelele, Vocalist and Entertainer.” Myron Yakley was “Isaac Fizzlebaum. Accordion Soloist of both popular and classical music.” The pamphlet goes on to describe “Luther Wyler, Trombone Soloist of merit—black face comedian—playing blue or sweet.”The group had several specialty acts: a dog impersonator, accordion and banjo virtuosos, clog dancers, a vocal soloist, a black face comedian and a female impersonator.

The caricatures that the Wille Green Band used are disturbing today, though this type of entertainment was immensely popular not just in Holmes County at the time. The origins of the blackface comedian character found in the band began with blackface minstrel shows, which took shape in the 1820s. Performers like Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808-1860) blackened their faces with burnt cork and created costumes to represent stereotypical African Americans: Jim Crow was a ridiculous, uncouth character in shabby rags, supposedly representing the rural black man. On the other hand, Zip Coon caricatured an urban, pretentious “dandy” dressed in a coat and gloves. When speaking of minstrelsy, scholar William Osborne says, “Ohio audiences devoured the product voraciously and several Ohioans played crucial roles in creating and marketing the phenomenon.” Performers spoke in crude dialects, played banjo and fiddle music, danced and used ugly, racist humor. According to Osborne, by the 1920s, the era of the minstrel show began to wind down. It is quite likely, though, that this type of entertainment was slower to lose its popularity in rural areas—the Willie Green band is evidence of this. In fact, Osborne claims that “vestiges of the practice survive in several Ohio communities,” and goes on to give a few examples of small towns that still support the tradition.

It is interesting to note, however, that, just as blackface minstrelsy had stereotypical African-American characters, the Willie Green Band posed similar caricatures of white Americans. The character Grandpop Overpeck (“direct from Possum Hollow”) is cast against Professor Schultz, similar to the “rural versus urban” dichotomy found in blackface minstrelsy. The band also caricatured women by including a man who posed as a woman in the comedic routine.

In spite of its distasteful caricatures that were typical of many bands in America at the time, the Willie Green Band was known for its organization and preparedness, both in its music and its management. Members were loyal, funding the organization through their playing while rarely (if ever) being compensated monetarily. They were a success throughout Ohio, not only in Holmes County, though it is there that they are perhaps most ardently remembered.

5.5A second influential musical group in Holmes County was the Harry Weiss Orchestra. Harry R. Weiss started the ensemble in the mid-1920s. Members of the community as well as four of his seven children played in the band. The instrumentation included a fiddle, a trumpet, two saxophones, an accordion, a banjo, piano and drums. They played popular music of the day, and were considered an essential element to any Holmes County social event in the 1930s through early 1960s.

The following picture was taken in 1947 of the Weiss Orchestra.

Holmes Co Music Early 20th Century

The Weiss Family Orchestra, circa 1947
Back: Earl Marchand, drums; Murray Gerber, accordion; Harry Weiss, Jr., saxophone
Front: Bill Weiss, trumpet; Darryl Weiss, saxophone; Harry Weiss, Sr., banjo; Evelyn Weiss Gerber, banjo/piano

On the far left, a friend of the family, Earl Marchand, is seated at the drums. The remaining players include: Bill Weiss (trumpet), Murray Gerber (accordion), Darryl Weiss (saxophone), Junior Weiss (saxophone), Harry Weiss (fiddle and banjo) and Evelyn Weiss Gerber (piano). This picture was taken at a time when the band was becoming well-established: sons Bill, Darryl, and Junior were home from fighting in World War II and Murray had recently joined the band after marrying Evelyn. Murray helped strengthen the band by becoming its vocalist. The band played popular selections such as “Melody of Love,” “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “Whispering,” “Beautiful Ohio,” “I Want a Girl,” “Let Me Call You Sweetheart,” and “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.”

Harry Weiss also served as Sheriff of Holmes County. When he was running for office, the band turned into his campaign committee. Since the family lived on a farm before he was elected, they wrote humorous skits as they milked the cows in the morning, and turned the lyrics of popular songs into humorous campaign slogans. Harry’s daughter, Evelyn, enjoyed composing tunes of her own and contributed to the election effort in this way, writing catchy jingles and teaching them to the band. On warm evenings, the family would pile themselves and their instruments into the back of a truck and drive around the county, singing their campaign songs. They were successful: Harry was elected in 1934 and served six consecutive terms as Sheriff of Holmes County. His political position increased the band’s popularity, and they would often travel to neighboring counties to perform.

A single night of playing for a community dance or a street carnival would provide anywhere from sixty cents to three dollars for each band member. New Year’s Eve was always a big night, and the band as a whole would earn as much as ten dollars. The group played nearly every weekend and sometimes through the week.

When the Weiss Orchestra played for square dances, Harry would act as “caller.” This was the person in the band who called out the sequence of steps for the dancers. Quite often, the dance steps were so familiar to the crowd that the Weiss family would let other callers who were there for the evening lead a few dances. In square dancing tradition, callers develop an individualized method of calling, which can include singing or speaking rhythmic patterns. Harry, his son, Darryl, and son-in-law, Murray would sometimes call pieces in three-part harmony.

The Weiss Family Orchestra, 1976: Harry Weiss, Sr., caller; Marion Mackey, guitar; Darryl Weiss, saxophone; Lola Moreland, accordion. Middle: Murray Weiss, piano; Mike Gerber, banjo; Evelyn Weiss Gerber, banjo.

The Weiss Family Orchestra, 1976: Harry Weiss, Sr., caller; Marion Mackey, guitar; Darryl Weiss, saxophone; Lola Moreland, accordion. Middle: Murray Weiss, piano; Mike Gerber, banjo; Evelyn Weiss Gerber, banjo.

Murray Gerber

As Sheriff, sometimes Harry Weiss would arrest prisoners who also happened to be musicians. If that was the case, the family would bring the prisoner along to their Saturday night venue and let him or her perform with the band. This “Mayberry-like” spirit was something that endeared the Holmes County public to the Weiss family; it also reflects what life was like in small-town America in the mid-1900s.

A third highly influential Holmes County musician was Warner E. “Pop” Farver. Like Harry Weiss, Pop Farver also formed a musical group with members of his family. In fact, these two bands existed at the same time and were equally esteemed by the citizens of Holmes County. Sometimes their members would sit in for each other if needed. Farver’s group consisted of his son, Wilfred, on banjo, guitar or accordion, his son, Earl (“Dutch”), on drums, bass, E-flat clarinet, or saxophone, and his wife, Nelly, on piano or accordion. Pop played the fiddle.

The Farver Orchestra also played for many social dances in Holmes County. Like the Weiss Orchestra, they were active into the 1960s. Unlike the Weiss family though, the Farvers frequently added a theatrical element to their playing. Earl, on string bass, would lie on the floor and rotate the instrument up around his head while playing, never missing a beat.

The Farvers are unique to the musical history of Holmes County because Pop Farver composed many original folk tunes and dances that the band would perform. The numerous dance forms he used to compose included polkas, waltzes, quadrilles, reels, schottisches, hornpipes, jigs, clogs, hoedowns, square-dances, two-steps and breakdowns. A self-taught performer and composer, Farver learned his craft by listening. He played first by ear then later taught himself to read music. He carefully organized his pieces into over fifty volumes with nearly fifty pieces to a volume. For each piece he compiled, he listed only the main melody. The music is similar to a lead sheet, though no accompaniment chords are listed.

Pop Farver kept several listening journals, in which he would listen to the radio and dictate popular folk tunes and love songs. He would then write his own arrangements of those pieces. He meticulously organized his listening journals, recording statistics such as the year he learned the tune, where he heard it, who wrote it or performed it or whether or not the tune originally had a name. For example, in “Radio Tunes, Vol. 2” under the 172nd tune he dictated, he typed:

“ ‘Black-Eyed Susie’ Arr. By W.E. Farver, as learned from Ridge Runners, on air WLS, Chicago, and Crockett Mountaineers, on air at WABC, New York City, (later Crockett Book) and from a record. 1929. Series Book 17—Radio Book II.”

Every transcribed piece has a similar label. It was through this careful listening that Farver learned the characteristics of the dance forms in which he began to compose.

The Farver Orchestra played many American tunes, some (but not all) dating back to the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. These tunes were still popular with the general populace at the time the Farvers performed them. A few examples include: “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain When She Comes,” “Liza Jane,” “When the Work’s All Done This Fall,” “Chinese Breakdown,” “Massa’s in De Cold, Cold Ground,” “The Battlecry of Freedom,” “Old Folks at Home,” and “When You and I Were Young, Maggie.” He listed these in separate volumes he titled “Copied Songs” or “From Sheet Music.”

The influence of the waltz on popular music is also witnessed in Pop Farver’s repertory. A dance in triple meter, the waltz became the most popular form of ballroom dance in the nineteenth century. It was accepted into many forms of musical composition and its influence is found in the theater, especially in operetta. Amongst Pop Farver’s collections of “Copied Songs,” he has a volume of waltzes that contains the famous “Beautiful Blue Danube” by Johann Strauss. In addition, the titles he gave some of his original waltzes reflect the form’s European origins, such as his “Venetian Waltz.”

Farver wrote many original waltzes, and this was a form for which his group was well-known. His waltzes were in binary or ternary form and he would frequently shift to the dominant or subdominant in the final section. He often titled his pieces after local, state or national places of interest, as is seen in the following example, a reprint of his piece, “Miami Valley Waltz.”

Holmes Co Music Early 20th Century

Modulation to the dominant or subdominant (as in this case) made for a smooth transition if the band decided to repeat the entire song, which frequently happened.

Another popular dance form Farver used was the breakdown (Example 4). The term “breakdown” can be a synonym for a “reel,” or refer (in general) to a high-spirited country dance. Farver’s “breakdown” was a form originating out of the lively song and dance numbers that concluded minstrel shows in the late nineteenth century. According to Pauline Norton, the concluding pieces in the minstrel show included “break” sections that consisted of short, two- or four-measure interludes of danced rhythmic patterns between the solo and verse and the chorus.

Holmes Co Music Early 20th Century

Farver’s One-String Breakdown exudes the energy and liveliness characteristic of this form. In this example, he modulates to the dominant in the second section.

In addition, Farver wrote many original polkas, to which he sometimes composed lyrics, like this “Polka-Time Polka.”

Holmes Co Music Early 20th Century

The polka is traditionally a couple-dance in 2/4 time. Like the waltz, it also became a popular ballroom dance of the nineteenth century. There is some dispute as to the origins of the polka, but its name suggests that it is of Czech origins. Certain German writers have claimed that it is no more than a schottische with a new name. However, traditionally a schottische is slower than a polka, although it has the same meter. (Farver wrote many schottisches as well, but the family band was better-known for its polkas.) The polka in Example 5 has all the characteristics of the traditional dance form. Farver’s compositions were equal in quality to the music the general public knew; in addition, his compositions used the same forms. Thus it is easy to see why Holmes County citizens were so fond of his family band.

All three of these musical groups helped to enrich the lives of the citizens of Holmes County in the twentieth century. Interestingly enough, they continue to do so to varying degrees. Though the Willie Green Band is no longer in existence, items relating to the band can be seen on display at the Holmes County Historical Society. The Weiss Family Orchestra, though now significantly smaller, contains members of the third and fourth generation. They play annually for a local nursing home’s Christmas party, (the Holmes County Home): a tradition begun in 1934 and upheld every year since.

Pop Farver’s music was recognized by the Holmes County Historical Society on an evening concert they entitled “ ‘Pop’ Farver Favorites.” For the program, four current Holmes County musical groups each learned three or four of Farver’s tunes. They then incorporated the tunes into their own musical styles and performed them for the public. One participating band was the String-A-Longs, a local bluegrass group led by Mike Gerber, a fiddle player who is also a third-generation member of the Weiss Orchestra. Other performers included Linda and Emilie Hershberger-Kirk, flute and guitar players, respectively, the Stockdale Family Band and Maidens III. Each of the groups presented Pop Farver’s tunes in their own musical language. Though none of the groups had the exact same instrumentation as the Farver Orchestra, the music was still well-received and the performances showed one way that Farver’s music could continue to evolve.

The musical life of Holmes County in the early to mid-1900s was represented by three main groups who played for local events and contributed to the social climate of the area. The Willie Green Band, a semi-professional band of over fifty members was extremely versatile in their programming and was able to cater to the entertainment desires of people not just in Holmes County, but throughout the state of Ohio. The Weiss Family Orchestra played locally, meeting the social needs of the small town community. Before Harry Weiss was elected sheriff, the band campaigned for him, endearing him to the people. After he was in office, the band’s position helped the community to view him as a “family man” and the Holmes County public enjoyed the Weiss’s musical entertainment for several years. Lastly, Warner “Pop” Farver and his Farver Family Orchestra were a staple at local gatherings. Writing in dance forms originating as nineteenth-century ballroom dances that crossed over into popular music, Pop Farver’s compositions enlivened social events. Indeed, the music of each of these groups, in some way or another, continues to enhance the lives of the people of Holmes County.

About the Author

The author with her grandmother, Evelyn Weiss Gerber, in 2000. The two played piano together at what is today Sycamore Run.

The author with her grandmother, Evelyn Weiss Gerber, in 2000. The two played piano together at what is today Sycamore Run.

A native of Millersburg, Dr. Amy Doerfler earned her Ph.D. in music theory and composition from Kent State University. She lives in Wooster with her husband, Matt, and their two children. She is active as a church musician and composer and is the great-granddaughter of Harry Weiss and granddaughter of Murray and Evelyn (Weiss) Gerber. She can be reached at adoerfl1@kent.edu. Special thanks to her uncle, Mike Gerber, for sharing the photographs from his personal collection.

The author, Amy Doerfler, with her husband Matt, and children Todd, and Luke Doerfler, Easter 2012

The author, Amy Doerfler, with her husband Matt, and children Todd, and Luke Doerfler, Easter 2012

No duplication of this article is permitted without approval from the author

Bibliography

Černušák, Gracian, Andrew Lamb and John Tyrell. “Polka.” In the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 20: 34-36. New York: Grove Dictionaries, 2001.

Conrad, Jan, general manager. Holmes County: A Pictoral History. Orrville, OH: Spectrum Publications, 1994.

Farver, Warner. ‘Pop’ Farver Favorites. Various local musicians. Holmes County Historical Society, 1CD.

Farver, Warner. 56 volumes of original and transcribed folk tunes, c.1920-1960.

Gerber, Mike. Interviews by author. 29 March 2007 and 5 May 2007.

Harris, Brooks F., ed. Holmes County: Historical Sketches. Walnut Creek, OH: Carlisle Printing, 2002.

Holmes County History Book Committee. Holmes County Ohio to 1985. Salem, WV: Walsworth Publishing, 1985.

Lamb, Andrew. “Waltz.” In the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 27:72-78. New York: Grove Dictionaries, 2001.

Norton, Pauline. “Breakdown.” In the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 4:298. New York: Grove Dictionaries, 2001.

Osborne, William. Music in Ohio. Kent and London: Kent State University Press, 2004.

Reese, F. L., mgr. The Willie Green Band: Music for All Occasions. Photocopy of original band program/advertisement, 3 pages, c.1925.

Ridenour, Harry Lee. Folk Songs of Rural Ohio. Berea: Baldwin-Wallace College: 1973.

Root, Deane L./Linda Moot, Pauline Norton. “Square-Dance.” In the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2d ed., ed. Stanley Sadie and John Tyrell, 24: 227. New York: Grove Dictionaries, 2001.

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J.B. Lightcap Journal, Pages 11 and 12

J.B. Lightcap Journal pages 11 and 12From the week ending Oct 8.

Nothing very new has engaged our minds this week.

Business brisk most part during the week. Weather disagreeable  Much rain during few past days water raising. Bough 21 quarts of chestnuts from Sam Swinehart at 6 per qt making in all $1.25. Sold some of them at 10 per quart.

Nov. 14. We now commence to write our remarks for the week that is gone. My employer bought ninety six dollars and .94/100 worth of julery of J.S. Johnson with Chapman Pike & Co. After buying our goods, he presented me with a gold ring which is a very nice present to remember.

Saturday evening I went home to see my uncle and aunt from Richland Co and also uncle Adam Gilbert and his lady from Vanwert Co. Ohio. They were all well when they left home. this morning Father took them to Stark Co where they will remain for several weeks. We hope that the friends may receive them in wellcom and be glad.

November 15

An example of a sailor’s monkey jacket

Today we had speaching in the New Methodist E Church for the first time. It was a nice day for such an occasion. May people in attendance. The services were well adapted to the occasion. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr .Kenedy of Fredricksburg. His text is recorded in (?). Whom do men say that I am Peter said thou art the christ and the Lord said thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. 

Nov 22/57

Nothing very new for the week that is past and gone. Received a letter from G. Lightcap stating all in good health. Sent his wife in to Ohio on the 29 of October last.

Went to Lakeville on businesses had a pleasant ride on the cars. Got a red flanel monkey jacket worth two dollars and sixty two and a
half cents. Cut by H. Pissett (?) and made by Susan Smith for (?). Got a new silk velvet vest worth nine dollars and cost me at first cost and ten (?) cent carriage seven dollars and ___ cts.

 

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Journal of J.B. Lightcap, pages 9 and 10

Lightcap Journal, Pages 9 and 10Clinton Station, Oct 18/57

Received new goods this week had a very good trade during the past week. Went to an apple pressing to Mr Joseph Kimeser’s lots of young folks there had a good time and enjoyed myself very well.

Got a new flush nest 1 pattern (?)which cost five dollars at wholesale.

Well I must get ready to go to the singing society at the brick church at 3 oclock this evening

Oct 25/57

Every day brings something new. This week that is just past has accomplished much. Ex Governor Chase is relected Governor of Ohio by a majority of two thousand. Death of J.S. Coats the great thread manufacturer. Return of J.S. Johnson from NY City. Times close money scarce. Banks closing up their businesses. Received a letter from Stark County from Jacob McGan (?) All in good health.

Wheat down. Sales quoted at 75@85 rye at 45 dull buckwheat small sales at 35 @ 40, apples 25 @ (?) for gird (?).

Oct 21/57 Attended a wedding of Mm Batorph to Miss Elisabeth Smith. Maryed by Brown Esq. Long may the young couple enjoy life.
And act both the part of man to wife.
May they harmonize together
And love one another for ever
May the live many long days
And spend their years in many busy ways

Today (?)Mr. S. Liggett to Miss Martha Sloan by the Rev M.W. Brown Maried Oct 29, 1857. Mr William Car to Miss Nancy Cammem by Rev Isahia Jones Maried Oct 29, 1857. Two wedings a week is very fine. This is the way it goes. Get maried get old get good. Many enter on the threshold of life without any previous preparations to make themselves comfortable in the world. Many would be excepted from the marriage state when trouble begins to cloud the minds of the young and thoughtless who have never had difficulties to encounter to such marriage is the (?)

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J.B. Lightcap Journal, Pages 7 and 8

J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 7, Top.

J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 7, Top.

September 20, 1857, Clinton Station(1), Wayne County, Ohio

Commenced clerking for J. S. Metzler & Co. at twelve dollars per month  (date of commencing, Sep. 7, 57) for three months at which time I am to increase my wages We have had a very good trade all week past ending Sep 12/57. For the commencing Sept 14/57, I bought one load of red what that .89 cts per bushel bought of Kiflon I think. We bought another very fine lot of red wheat of Joshua Sonagte (?) at 85 cts per Bushel.

Oct 11/57 Receive a letter from George Lightcap. They were all well when rote. Bought eleven notebooks of  J. H. Baumgardner & co Wooster, Ohio at .70 et a $7.70. The book was the Slacom (?). We are raising a signing at Clinton of which I am treasurer we hope much good may be done in peace. Mr. J.S. Metzler is gone to Cleveland Ohio.

W.M. Knox is also clerking for J.S. Metzler & Co.

J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 7, Bottom

J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 7, Bottom

Money matters down times hard. Money scarce and produce declining. Banks closing too.

J.B. Lightcap journal, Page 8, Top

J.B. Lightcap journal, Page 8, Top

Attended a celebration at Lafayett (2) Holmes County Sept 26/57. The day was fine many folks in attendance. Exercises opened by a short introductory by Rev. Green which was delightful to all who heard him. The exercises consisted of singing and speaking  Speaking by the schollars and singing by the quoir. the celebration consisted of four schools: Ripley No 1, Monroe No 2, Clinton No 3 and Lafayett No 4. The Monroe school were first singing and Lafayett school in speaking.

A fine dinner was prepared for the schollars of the different schools of which

J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 8, Bottom

J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 8, Bottom

every one helped themselves at the feast all with peace and harmony. Good order during the whole day.

Friends and neighbors in the vicinity were there to witness something that was instructive as well as entertaining. Many parents were delighted to see their children declaim in public on such an occasion.

(1) Clinton Station=Shreve

(2)Lafayette=Holmesville

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Millersburg City Hall and Opera House History

Millersburg, Ohio City Hall and Opera House

Postcard courtesy of Tina Zickefoose.

These articles are from the vertical files in the Local History and Genealogy Room of the Holmes County District Public Library:

(This piece doesn’t include a date, but Jane and Sandy’s Variety Store no longer exists)

By Lee Hunter
Special thanks to the Farmer-Hub.

Over the years, Holmes Countians have been able to amuse themselves in various ways. People could go bowling or roller skating in the building that Jane and Sandy’s Variety Store is now in. The Opera House was the most popular place in town, which was located just west of where the professional building now stands.

The Opera House was built just before the turn of the century. It was the city building but soon after construction the Opera House moved in. The building seated around 250-300 moviegoers, fitting them into a main seating section and a balcony. The theater specialized in first-run movies with the top-notch stars of the day. Occasionally, they ran plays.

The building shared quarters with a few offices and the Millersburg Fire House. the Fire House was on the west end of the building; it had sandstone pillars, wooden floors, and two large doors that provided access to Jackson Street.
In 1925, Hoy Russell, Holmes County Probate Judge, bought the Opera House and continue to show many fine movies while he owned it.

The Millersburg Council approved funds to redecorate the Opera House in 1928 with the “Fashionable and acceptable colors of 1928.”
The Opera House showed movies every day of the week. On Wednesdays, the merchants of Millersburg sponsored the movie and the doors of the theater were open so that moviegoers could watch a movie free of charge. Soon, inflation caught up with the merchants and the citizens had to pay six cents; then it increased to a dime.
The Opera House started out all of their shows with a cartoon, sometimes a short-short of Laurel and Hardy. It was later torn down in 1954.

February 10, 1955
Holmes County Farmer Hub

Council Plans to Raze City Building

May buy old ford garage for new municipal office; make old site into parking lot

Plans for razing the Millersburg City Hall were discussed at the Monday evening meeting of the village council.
Councilman Richard Kagey, Jr., announced to council members that the building committee has investigated repairs needed to make the roof of the building safe and found the building in such bad condition it would be impractical to try to repair it.
Mr Kagey said that the committee had contacted the Holmes Rural Electric owners of the old Ford garage building on West Jackson St. about the possibility of the village purchasing that location for the village offices, should the present city hall be abandoned and found it could be purchased.

Millersburg City Hall and Opera House

Postcard courtesy of Tina Zickefoose.

The present city building was condemned by the state fire marshall years ago and the opera house sec ion of the building has remained unused since that time. A bond issue for $125,000 for remodeling the building was voted down several years ago, and only a few essential repairs to the clerks office, council chambers and fire and street department sections of the building have been made, as needed.

Tearing down the old building will probably involve bonded indebtedness for the village Solicitor Raymond Miller pointed out as there is no surplus in the general fund for the purpose. The village will also have a large bond issue on its books when the sewage disposal plant is installed int eh near future he added. At present the village has no bonded indebtedness, however it has had to transfer funds from the parking meter fund to the general fund to meet current operating expenses in recent (?)

The councilmen also discussed plans for making over the city hall site into a municipal parking lot, should the building be torn down and the village offices moved to a new location permanently. It was estimated that 36 cars could be parked in the lot and relieve the parking problems of the village. Parking meters would be installed and add to the village income as well as assist business in the community through customer parking space.

No definite plans were made at the meeting. The building committee is to look further into purchasing the new building and Councilman David Stoner was to check with firms for estimates on razing the building.

Tearing the building down will be the loss of a land mark to some, the councilmen considered, however, they pointed out that they have little alternative, since the building has become a safety hazard and a financial burden.

Little else was discussed at the meeting. Payment of bills amounting to $2,582.81 was approved by the councilman and Clerk William Pyers reported that the Mayor’s January report totaled $253 received by the village, including $13 in permits, $140 in local fines and costs and $100 from State Highway Patrol Costs.

March 1955
Holmes County Farmer-Hub

City Building is Condemned
Village Given Ninety Days to Raze Building

An order from Charles R. Scott, state fire marshall, condemning the present city building and fire station as unsafe and ordering that it be torn down in ninety days was received by Mayor Oscar Miller Wednesday morning by registered mail.

An inspection of the building was made by Fire Inspector Ralph W. Andregg on March 9, the order stated and his report listed:

“The following conditions to exist:
“This large old opera house building is in very poor repair; the roof poor and the leaking has caused the beams to rot away the ceiling to sag; wiring very poor; outside walls cracked and in bad condition; brick loose in the chimney and mortor out; the foundation bad in places
“Therefore by reason of the premised and pursuant to the authority vested in my by virtue of my office…you are hereby ordered within ninety (90) days from the date of service of this order, the above mentioned building shall be torn down and all rubbish and debris removed from the premises.”

Mayor Miller pointed out that the village council could protest the order and the protest would be investigated by the state fire marshall. However, it is not likely that a protest would avail a change in the order, since the recent investigating of the building brought an order for tearing the building down and not repairs.

Should the village fail to comply with the order, the fire marshall may have it done at the expense of the village with a 25 percent penalty should the village not pay the cost. Revised Ohio Code also provides for a penalty of from $10 to $50 for each day’s neglect of the order.

There’s more information about the Millersburg Opera House, including a full timeline of its history, in the vertical files of the Holmes County District Public Library’s Local History and Genealogy room.

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J.B. Lightcap Journal, Pages 5 and 6

Lightcap, Page 5, topI worked for him till December when I took a school in District No 12 Clay Township Kosciusko County Ind. For the term commencing Dec 10 1856 a term of sixty five days and concluded March the 3 1857. Public funds 50.00 Other funds 28=$78.00. Making per day $1.20 clear. Boarded at F. Templins all winter. worked for my board had a good time all the term. No of schollars(sic) enrolled was 33. Branches taught were Orthography Reading Writing Arithmetic and Geography. Miss Mary Ellen Kline was the best looking lady that tended school.

Lightcap, Page 5, bottom

After I got my school matters arranged I started for home. lots of snow on the ground but not cold. Walked 14 miles to Warsaw, Ind. got my super (sic) at the Hotel. Meal .25. Stared about eight oclock that evening took the cars for Ft Wayne Ind got there about eleven oclock that night Stayed at the Meyers (?) house next day till midnight When I started for Cresline (sic) Ohio. Fare at Ft. Wayne 1.25. Fare from (?) to Ft W 1.20. From Wayne to Crestline 3.95.

Fare from Crestline to Clinton Station (1), Wayne Co 1.30. Bought books in Ft. Wayne to the amount of $5.00. Got in company with Mr. Joseph Kimerer after leaving Mansfield had quite a chat with him at dinner that day with them. Went home and found my folks all well. George Lightcap being in our house we had quite a good time of it. I must close for today Aug. Sunday 23.

Lightcap, Page 6, topMarch I stayed at for a few weeks visiting my old associates Spent much time in giving discriptions (sic) about the country. I then went to Wooster to clerk for Israel Gray commencing Tuesday April 14 1857. Stayed with him till August the twenty ninth making in all four months and a half at the rate of $11 per month Settled with Mr. Gray on friday of 29 ints paying me a difference on account $11.00

(1) Shreve.Lightcap, Page 6, bottom

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J.B. Lightcap Journal, Pages 3 and 4

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, top.

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, top.

Ohio: 1855, March 12-16: Got home about 5 oclock in the afternoon was glad to see my friends glad to receive me. Spent a few days in visiting the neighbors. I then worked at home for about one month.

April: Then took a school in No (?) District in Riply Township Holmes county Ohio. Taught at the rate of 75 cts per day and boarded myself. Taught 41 days that being all the public money in the district at that time. Amount $32.35.

May: Boarded at home all summer. Had 3 miles to go to school. Worked about home ni the fall and commenced teaching again in the same district. Got $1.00 per day taught four months amount $96.00 Ended March 13 1856. Stayed about home for about two weeks then went with John Lightcap to the great state of Indiana. I took charge of his goods. Got through safe and sound. Found every body in good spirits.

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, page 3, bottom.

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, page 3, bottom.

1856: April 16:  I then worked about among the farmers. Rolling logs burning choping [sic] plowing and every kind of work usually done by farmers.

Page 4; Indiana

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, Page 4, top.

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, Page 4, top.

I still worked on at everything till harvest worked out all harvest commencing July 1 1856 for John Martin helped him 2 day at 75 cts per day. I then went from there to Daniel Swanks Stayed about 5 day I think at 87 1/2 (?) cts for some days and some $1.50 got done there and helped (?) Calhoun better than 1 day this being the tenth of July and harvest about over.

July 12: Commenced clerking for F Templin got $5.00 per month

Dr. and Mrs. L.B. Boggs

Dr. and Mrs. L.B. Boggs

washing and mending free my companion was Dr. LB Boggs Stayed with Mr. Templin till Sept 22 when he sold out to Charles O Barrat and Brother Traded his store and property for a farm 8 miles from North Manchester in Kosciusko County Clay Township Ind. Moved with him to his farm.

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, Page 4, bottom.

Journal of J.B. Lightcap, Page 4, bottom.

Oct: Worked for himby the day and at the reate of 75 cts per day. Worked about 52 days. I cut up corn for him Rolled logs and readup a very bad swamp before the house of several acres and made it look as nice as a garden.

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J.B. Lightcap Journal, Page 2:

A list of towns Lightcap traveled through on his way "west."

A list of towns Lightcap traveled through on his way “west.”

“I forgot to state the names of towns & villages which we passed while traveling to the west. Nashville Holmes Co Ohio.
Next was Loudonville, Mansfield, Richland, Small village Ganges. Went on and came to “Planktown (1), Plymouth, Newhaven, Greenfield (2), Monrowville (3), Bellview, Clide (4), Freemont (5), Mysville (6), Woodville, Perysville (7), Maumee City (8), Bridge across Maumee River is 650 feet long, Swanton, Delta, Berlin (9), West Unity (10). This was the last town that we went through. We reached our destination about 3 oclock in the afternoon.

Well, I must now return to my traveling home (11).

March 8-12 Left Striker at 7 oclock in the morning. This was my first ride on the RailRoad. Fare from Striker to Wauseon (12) was one dol and ten cts.

This is not correct it was from (error?) $1.60Page 2, top half
Striker to Toledo $1.60
Fare from Toledo to Mansfield $2.70.
From Mansfield to Clinton .90″

(1) Around the time Lightcap traveled through Planktown, between 1947 and 1957, the town was experiencing some strange happenings–murders and disappearances–which were eventually attributed to tailor and Eagle House innkeeper J.M. Ward who was tried, convicted and hanged in Toledo on June 12, 1857, just two years after Lightcap traveled through the area. Before the hanging, Ward confessed to three gruesome murders for monetary gain.

(2) According to the Greenfield Historical Society’s website, “Greenfield was an important stop in the Ohio River to Canada route on the Underground Railroad. Newspaper accounts report slave catchers attempting to collect runaway slaves. Only in the generation after the Civil War did people begin to speak about what they had seen, or heard or done to aid runaway slaves.”

Detail of Lightcap Journal, Page 2(3) Monroeville.

(4) Clyde, home of Sherwood Anderson and setting of the book Winesburg, Ohio.

(5) Fremont.

(6) Not sure what town this would be.

(7) Perrysville

(8) Lightcap would have been in Maumee about the time the city lost it’s place as the Lucas County seat.

(9) Williams County

(10) Founded in1842 by John Rings and William Smith  just shortly before Lightcap traveled through the city in 1855.

(11) Referring to where he left off before he started listing the cities and towns they traveled through along the way.

(12) Here’s something I find fascinating: Some say the tracks to Wauseon were built in 1854 (though the depot was built in 1853). Others say it didn’t stretch all the way to Wauseon but stopped at Lamb’s crossing,  about a mile short of Wauseon, until “early spring 1855.”  Lightcap rode on it on March 7, 1855.  So, if you believe  A Standard History of Fulton County, Ohio by Frank H. Reighard, the first passenger train coming into Wauseon was in “early spring of 1855,” which would have made Lightcap one of the very first passengers to ride the train into Wauseon’s new station, which has since been replaced, then moved, and is now home to the Fulton County Historical Society.

Here’s a piece by Beryl Frank from the Bull Sheet Monthly talking about the Wauseon railroad and depot, along with a photo of the depot in 1860:

The history of Wauseon, Ohio, began before the Civil War, about 1853. That was when surveyors L.L. Barber, S.H. Sargeant and two other partners (names unknown) bought 160 acres of farmland in Fulton County, Ohio. They then laid out a map of the land which began and became the town of Wauseon.

In 1850 the Airline Railroad planned to lay train tracks from Toledo through Fulton County. At the same time Barber and Sargeant were selling lots to settlers, and the town of Wauseon was growing.

The first railroad depot was built in 1853, before the rails even reached the town. The structure was made of wood and sandstone. Another year passed before the tracks were laid to Wauseon. The growth of the railroad and the town then ran along together.

Credit: Don and Joan Merrill

Credit: Don and Joan Merrill

In 1854 tracks reached Wauseon. One year later, a train a day was stopping there – one day it was westbound, and the next day it was headed east. From 1854 to 1891 the depot at Wauseon had enough traffic that a second line was built. Then trains could travel to the East Coast and back.

When the steam-driven locomotive was a big event, people from the town were on hand to watch its arrival and departure. The train traveled between 15 and 20 miles per hour, which was very fast in the early days of the railroad. This seemed a real speed demon to the early settlers of Wauseon.

Like so many other towns in the United States, the name Wauseon came from the Indian tribes who settled the area. Some say it was an Ottowa Chief’s name. Others say it was for the tribe of Potawatomies. Whatever, the town became Wauseon in the early 1850’s, and it is still named that today.

In 1896 the wooden station was replaced with a sandstone and brick depot. The replacement building was on Depot Street between Fulton and Brunell streets. It was in use from 1896 through World War I and II when trains moved U.S. troops all around the country.

As of 2006 the present depot is no longer used for train travel. It is home for the Fulton County Historical Society and railroad artifacts, photos and maps as well as assorted other memorabilia. There is also an operating model railroad courtesy of the Historical Society with assistance of the Swanton Model Railroaders Club.

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Memorandum of J.B. Lightcap

Page one of J.B. Lightcap's Journal.

Page one of J.B. Lightcap’s Journal.

Memorandum of J B Lightcap.
1854 Sept 7
Left home and went to Williams County Ohio. With A & J Oberlins (1) Age 19 years 7 months and 26 days. It took us 7 days to move there a distance of 180 miles.

14 We found everything in tolerable order. Hired with them at the rate of $12.00 per month. Worked about 3 months made about 3,000 rails for which I got 25 cts per hundred.(2) When I left home I had in money $13.50. And when I returned I had $31.50 I think.
Taught school out there in District No 12. Commenced on the 4 of Dec 1853 at the rate of twenty dollars per month. Boarded at Adam Oberlins all winter had a very pleasant time of it all winter. Had 2 3/4 miles to go to school. Allways on hand at the usual hour of taking up school. Had 41 enrolled average in daily attendance.

23 Feb Taught 66 days for a quarter. My school terminated on 23 of Feb. 1854. Weather very cold.

March 7 Left for home on the 7 of March. A Oberlin took me as far as Striker (3). Stayed there till morning.

The bottom half of page one of J.B. Lightcap's journal.

The bottom half of page one of J.B. Lightcap’s journal.

Attend a show sleigh of hand that night was more entertained at the concert admission fee 15 cts.
Fare at the Hotel at Striker .50.

(1) A&J Oberlin could have been brothers Adam Oberlin  1813 – 1888  b: December 05, 1813 in Ohio  d: October 20, 1888 and Jacob Oberlin  1816 – 1895  b: March 26, 1816 in Ohio  d: January 15, 1895 in Williams County, Ohio.

It looks like the Oberlins were related to the Lightcaps through his mother, Elizabeth Gilbert Lightcap (b: February 07, 1813 in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania  d: July 29, 1893 in Holmes County, Ohio), based on this information.

(2) Could Lightcap have been making rails for  Michigan Southern Railroad Company? This entry about Stryker, Ohio says that  “the first timetable for the railroad took effect on Monday June 8, 1857. The route ran from Toledo to Elkhart, stopping at 17 villages along the way. Stryker’s first railroad depot was a freight depot on the south side of the tracks.”

The folks from the Holmes County Genealogical Society say it’s likely that Lightcap was making fence rails, not steel rails, based on his pay.

(3) This would likely be Stryker, Ohio. I’m currently attempting to get in touch with the Stryker Area Heritage Council to see if they have any information about the hotel there or the place where Lightcap would have taken in a “sleigh” (sleight?) of hand show and a concert.

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The Journal of J.B. Lightcap

End paper of the journal of J. B. Lightcap

End paper of the journal of J. B. Lightcap

Vintage journals can range from the fascinating to the utilitarian. Finding a pre-Civil War journal written by a young man who had a heart for words is a treasure, indeed. The Holmes County District Public Library has such a journal, and, over the next several weeks, we’ll be looking at it in-depth, with photos and annotations wherever possible.

The memorandum of J.B. Lightcap, a Civil War soldier and one-time resident of Holmes County, Ohio, begins with these endpapers, christened with Lightcap’s sweeping script noting the following:

“Book bought in Wooster
Wayne Co Ohio
Price 50
July 25, 1851”

"JB Lightcap, Mansfield, Jan. 20th 1865"

“JB Lightcap, Mansfield, Jan. 20th 1865”

It seems that, at first, Lightcap intended only to record births, deaths and marriages in the book, which looks as if it were designed to be an address book of sorts, with alphabetized tabs running along the right side of the lined journal. But there are very few of any of these events simply recorded in the opening pages (we’ll get to those that are listed in a future entry). Instead, beginning on September 7, 1854, Lightcap begins his memorandum with these words:

“Left home and went to Williams County with A&J Oberlins. Age 19 years 7 months and 26 days. It took us 7 days to move there a distance of 180 miles.”

Showing Jacob B. and Martha Lightcap and their three daughters, Addie M., age 17, Lilly S, age 13 and Rosa S, age 13.

1800 Richland County, Ohio (Mansfield) Census Showing Jacob B. and Martha Lightcap and their three daughters, Addie M., age 17, Lillian S, age 13 and Rosa S, age 13. Jacob is listed as a draysman.

Based on the 1880 and 1890 census records, the dates Mr. Lightcap gives and the information here,  this J.B. Lightcap is Jacob B,  son of Jacob and Elizabeth Lightcap, born in Pennsylvania in December, 1835, raised in Holmes County, Ohio, married to Martha  and settled in Richland County, Ohio where they had three children, Addie, Lillian and Rosa and an adopted daughter, Helen A. Maser.

1900 Richland County, Ohio (Mansfield) census showing  Lillian, born June 1867 and Rosa, born June 1869. Jacob's listed occupation here is "carpenter."

1900 Richland County, Ohio (Mansfield) census showing Lillian, born June 1867 and Rosa, born June 1869. Jacob’s listed occupation here is “carpenter.”

According to this research, Jacob B was the son of Jacob and Elizabeth (Gilbert) Lightcap, who moved to Holmes County, Ohio and owned and livd on a farm near Bigelow Church in Ripley Township and had 12 children, three of whom, Martin, Jacob and Saul Lightcap were in the Civil War. The information says Saul died serving aboard the S.S. Sultana. The Sultana exploded just after midnight on April 27, 1865 and is known as ” the greatest maritime disaster in United States history.” But if Saul’s birthday was 1854, as it says in the research, he would only have been 11 years old.

Announcement in the Holmes County Republican, November 29, 1860, of Jacob Lightcap Sr.'s estate.

Announcement in the Holmes County Republican, November 29, 1860, of Jacob Lightcap Sr.’s estate.

For the upcoming posts, we’ll look at Lightcap’s journal entries and follow some of the rabbit trails and places his writings points to throughout Holmes County and some of the surrounding areas. We’ll also look a little more closely at his travels, activities, family and companions.

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