Tuesday, January 17, 2017

First Chinese student at Western Reserve Academy

As Hudson, Ohio, is such a small town with far-reaching arms, so to is Western Reserve Academy. Family visitors to WRA are always pleased to hear historical information surrounding our beautiful school. Recently, this was realized again, as a prospective student and his family were quite appreciative of our historical story surrounding WRA's first Chinese student.

Tien Wei Yang at the time of his graduation from WRA, June 1941
We welcomed Tien Wei Yang (1921-2012) to Western Reserve Academy in 1938, who had come from Tientsin, China, to escape the Japanese invasion which had destroyed his school. Both of Tien Wei's parents had been educated in Indiana, but they did not know about this school. They sent Tien Wei to a friend in western Pennsylvania who knew about our school and made arrangements for young Tien Wei to attend. He was warmly welcomed to our campus, and even though a bout with tubercolosis put him back one class because of his illness (he was treated at a special hospital, then returned to campus), Tien Wei graduated with the Class of 1941. At WRA he was a top scholar, an outstanding soccer player, and a winner of the Bicknell Prize as a senior. He went on to Oberlin College where he completed a degree in biology.

Biology teacher Tien Wei Yang with student Jim Kaufman '62, taken in the classroom in 1959
Tien Wei Yang eventually earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of Arizona and spent a long and successful career as a teacher and research scientist. He returned to Western Reserve Academy in 1952 as a teacher of biology and soccer coach, and was here for 14 years, leaving in 1966 to teach in Arizona. He was a winning coach in soccer and continued a great interest in the WRA soccer teams for the rest of his life. In 1991, in time for his 50th class reunion, he was awarded The Waring Prize, a top award for an alumnus of our school. He came back to address the student body at that time. Tien Wei Yang died at age 90 in 2012.
Tien Wei Yang as part of the 1939 wrestling team at WRA. He is fourth from left in the back row.
Tien Wei Wang at Western Reserve Academy in June, 1991, after being award The Waring Prize

Monday, October 31, 2016

Community Events

The past month, as well as this upcoming month, I have been busy with many community events.

I will be the featured speaker at Hudson Rotary on Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016.

The HCTV network featured two of my programs the week of Oct. 23, 2016. One was WRA's Brick Row Tour and the other was Women's Education in Hudson, taped at Ellsworth Hall in Sept.

Additionally, I served as the master of ceremonies on Oct. 29, 2016, for the celebration of Cuyahoga Fall's Oakwood Cemetery's Civil War monument and men who served from the "Village of Cuyahoga Falls" during the Civil War. Visit this page to read more about this celebration.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

School Reopened in September 1916

The Carroll Cutler House from the 1916 Catalog.
It was then used as a dormitory.
It was 100 years ago on September 12, 1916 that Western Reserve Academy reopened as a coed boarding school. The school had closed down in June, 1903 because of bankruptcy, and alumnus James W. Ellsworth rescued the campus in 1912 by lifting the mortgage, buying the entire campus, launching a restoration effort for the historic buildings, and constructing Seymour Hall as the new “recitation center” for the school. Students have been learning in the classrooms of Seymour Hall for a century. The building itself is scheduled for a major renovation that will begin in the spring of 2017.
Harlan N. Wood at his desk in Seymour Hall.
Faculty member, 1893-1903; 1916-1945
When Western Reserve Academy reopened in the fall of 1916, there was a small faculty that served the student body which numbered just over 50. William Sands Morley of Idaho was the new Principal, but did not last the entire year, and Harlan N. Wood, a member of the class of 1888 and a faculty member before the 1903 closing, took over the school until another WRA alumnus, Homer Oscar Sluss, could come from Covington to take over the headship of the school in 1917. He would remain through 1924. Mr. Wood would remain on the faculty until his unexpected death in early 1945.
The Nutting House on Hudson Street from the 1916 Catalog.
It would be the school dining hall until 1922.
The catalog for 1916 tells the story of renewal and hopes for the future. It notes that the school boasts a “splendid new main building”, a new athletic field, the restoration of all the historic buildings, and an endowment of $200,000, provided by the benefactor, James W. Ellsworth. New trees had been added to the “fine old elms already standing” to make the entire campus beautiful once again. The school had a Board of Trustees that included William M. Fincke of New York, stepson of Ellsworth, and local entrepreneurs and community activists Frank A. Seiberling of Akron, Warren Bicknell and John L. Severance of Cleveland. The catalog concludes that with such strong backing and in such a setting, “a high and fine educational purpose will be accomplished.” Estimated total costs for a boarding student in 1916 was placed at $255 per year.

Morley Cottage on Hudson Street from the 1916 Catalog.
It was a faculty residence.
The photos that accompany this article, except for the one of Harlan N. Wood, are from the 1916 catalog of Western Reserve Academy.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Louis Bromfield, The Chamay Brothers and WRA

Patric Chamay '56, senior photo
Sometime around 2008, Bob Carabell of the Class of 1956 asked what had become of Patric Chamay ’56 and whether he had a connection with Louis Bromfield.That sent me to the files to learn more about the two Chamay brothers, both of whom attended WRA in the 1950’s. I learned that they were indeed sent here by their guardian, notable Ohio author and conservationist, Louis Bromfield (1896-1956). It seemed that it would make a good story for our WRA Magazine or a blog post, but instead we are making a short documentary that should appear on Hudson Community Television (HCTV) sometime this fall.
Inside the big House in Louis Bromfield's library.
To the left of the desk is the framed certificate that he received in 1925
for winning the Pulitzer Prize for his novel Early Autumn.
This summer we went down to Malabar Farm State Park in Richland County where the Chamay brothers grew up, and the place they called home, until the untimely death of Louis Bromfield early in 1956. Patric, who was supposed to graduate that June, was denied a place at graduation because of a discipline problem. He may have been under some stress caused by the death of his guardian. In any case, he went to on to attend Carnegie Tech, then pursued a career as a mountaineer, dying in 1968 while trying to scale Mount Rainier. The other brother, Anthony, who never graduated from WRA, is probably still alive. Ellen Bromfield Geld, the last surviving daughter of Louis Bromfield, has a section on the Chamay brothers and their socialite mother in her book, The Heritage. We hope to interview her this fall.
Nick Zlantanovich of Hudson Community Television taping my
commentary atop Mount Jeez, the popular overlook of Malabar Farm
(seen behind me).
We did extensive video taping at Malabar Farm in July, both outside and inside the Big House that Bromfield built in 1939. We have contacted researchers at the Malabar Farm Foundation who have made some rare photos available to us and are interested in the Hudson Cable production. We also taped at “The Mount”, the home of novelist Edith Wharton, who corresponded with Bromfield during the 1930’s when both had elaborate gardens at their respective chateaus in France.
In Edith Wharton's formal garden at "The Mount" in
Lenox, MA, where I taped video in mid-July
It is hoped that this program, which will run about 30 or 40 minutes, will be on Hudson Community Television (HCTV) late this fall. We plan to do another taping at Malabar Farm in late September to get some autumn color, and perhaps meet Ellen Bromfield Geld, who is coming from her home in Brazil for a program there. This is a story that has waited some 60 years to be told, and we hope to do it justice.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Join Me for a Guided Walking Tour on Sept. 8

 The Hudson Heritage Association has asked me to serve as their first presenter for their fall programming series. I will conduct a guided walking tour of Markillie Cemetery, beginning at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8. The tour will begin at the chapel in Markillie Cemetery.

Located on Route 91 north of downtown Hudson, Markillie is one of five cemeteries owned by the city of Hudson. It was established as a cemetery in 1855 by John Markillie, who immigrated to Hudson from England. Upon his death in 1869, the cemetery was bequeathed to the Village of Hudson. It has been expanded several since its beginning and now is the city’s largest cemetery. It is adjacent to St. Mary’s Cemetery and is the final resting place for many of Hudson’s most notable residents.

I will begin with a history of the restored chapel on the cemetery's grounds, followed by talking about the Markillie family and others whose graves will be seen during the walking tour. I will lead this tour through the oldest section of the grounds. Refreshments will be served in the chapel on the cemetery following the tour. For additional information visit the Hudson Heritage Association.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Long Shadow of John Brown

Abolitionist leader John Brown (1800-1859)
Abolitionist leader John Brown (1800-1859)
On Wednesday, April 13, I spoke at the Peninsula Library. My talk, "The Long Shadow of John Brown", sponsored by the Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table, is one of my favorite topics. I have followed the story of John Brown for over 40 years and would like to share some observations about Brown, his family's years in Hudson, Ohio, and his connections to Western Reserve Academy.

WRA connections:
  • Owen Brown, father of the abolitionist, was a founding trustee of the college and school in 1826.
  • Samuel L. Adair, brother-in-law of John Brown, went to our school in the 1830's
  • Charles Storrs Adair, son of Samuel & Florella Brown Adair, was named for Charles B. Storrs, first President of Western Reserve College (1830-1833) and "the first martyr of the abolitionist cause".
  • Charles Storrs Adair, nephew of John Brown, was a student here at WRA 1860-1862 before dropping out to join the 2nd Kansas Cavalry and serving for the rest of the Civil War.
  • Newton B. Hobart, (b.1854) Headmaster of Western Reserve Academy 1880-1892, was proud to be the nephew of John Brown. Hobart mentioned Brown in letters to WRA years later.
    Newton B. Hobart
    Headmaster Newton B. Hobart, who was Head of WRA 1880-1892; he was a nephew of John Brown and could recall sitting on his lap as a small child (Hobart was born in 1854).
  • Julian Scott, grandson of Lora Case to whom John Brown's last letter was addressed, was a WRA graduate, class of 1897. He was the father of Ellen Scott Mickel, WRA 1921 and Jeanette Scott McCuskey, WRA 1925.
  • Julian Scott, WRA class of 1897
    Julian Scott, WRA class of 1897
  • John Brown's last letter, written to Lora Case of Hudson, was loaned to the school in the late 1920's for a special exhibit. It is now in the Schomberg Collection at New York Public Library.
 John Brown's 216th birthday is May 9, 2016.
John Brown (1800-1859)
Abolitionist leader John Brown (1800-1859)

His wife, Mary Ann Day Brown's 200th birthday was April 15, 2016.
Mary Ann Day Brown
 Mary Ann Day Brown, wife of John Brown, with daughters Annie and Sarah, taken in 1851.
John Brown's house built in the early 1820s
The house that John Brown built in the early 1820's, still standing at 1842 Hines Hill Road, Hudson. It was here that the first three of John Brown's 20 children were born. Photo from Reserve Record, 1929, before the house was remodeled.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New Photo of School Benefactor is Gift

A small box from the estate of the late Luella Crawford Dodds (1879-1978) who was among the 24 graduates of the 1898 class at Western Reserve Academy arrived at WRA Archives a short time ago.  It had been hiding in the attic of a Hudson house for the last 35 years.  Among the little treasures of this collection include some diaries that Luella kept, a number of clippings from the local paper, and a couple of rare photos of James W. Ellsworth and his wife, Julia.
Luella Crawford Dodds had become the travel companion of Mrs. Ellsworth around 1910 and remained with the Ellsworth household until the death of school benefactor James W. Ellsworth in 1925.  Her frequent travel to Europe or to Jekyll Island, Georgia, with the Ellsworths was quite a contrast to the other young women who grew up in Hudson at the end of the 19th century.  Luella must have had the charm and panache to mingle in the society that the Ellsworths kept.  One photo shows Luella with Mrs. Ellsworth at the Schloss Lenzberg in Switzerland in August, 1920.  It is interesting but not as good as the one taken around the same time at the Villa Palmieri, the Ellsworth home at Florence, Italy.
The photo of Ellsworth himself and his wife was probably taken in Switzerland around 1914 and shows them both posing on a rustic staircase in what appear to be seersucker outfits, appropriate for summer season. Ellsworth is wearing one of the Lenzberg straw hats that he sported during his summers abroad.  This same hat appears on a Swiss postage stamp of our era.
Luella came back to Hudson in 1925 and lived with her husband on Owen Brown Street where she remained for more than 30 years.  She served on the Board of Trustees at the Hudson Library and Historical Society for over 60 years and was active at Christ Church Episcopal where she was cashier for the church's annual fall rummage sale.  She lived in a house on North Main in her later years, liked strong cocktails and cigarettes, and always wore a hat.  Alice Stark of WRA recalled her attending a function on campus around 1975 where she was "seated bolt upright on a Victorian sofa, sipping tea and smoking a cigarette at age 95, the only person in the room wearing a hat".  We are pleased to add these items from an unforgettable alumna to the collections of WRA Archives.