A. Ley & Co. General Store, Port Washington, Ohio
As I mentioned in the giddy preamble to yesterday’s post on our Smith and Meredith ancestors, some branches on the family tree are shadowy and crooked and loathe to burst forth in any blossoms. And others, well, are fairly festooned with can’t-miss color.
The Ley side is, shall we say, festooned. And this space has been devoted to that family’s exploits on many occasions.
My great-great-great grandfather, Augustus Ley, is one of those ancestors fairly drenched with genealogical ink.
This blog has covered:
* the story of his father, Karl Gottleib Ley’s, emigration to America
* a rundown of the whole Ley patriarchal clan, with much of the information on Augustus Ley garnered from the family history of his daughter-in-law, Harriet Powell Ley (my great-great grandmother)
* a 19th-century police adventure, in which U.S. Marshalls foil a mail fraud artist in Port Washington (the marshall had been fond of chatting up Augustus outside the Ley general store while waiting for the criminal to make his move, and one of Augustus’s sons lent the horse that rode the conman down)
* the 1900 obituary of Augustus Ley, which tells how he died at a young 61 while working in his general store
* and various news of my great-great grandfather Charles Henry Ley, whose success seemed to take after his father’s, both in sales and in local politics (both served time as treasurers and on various town and school boards)
In fact, there’s a whole generation of Leys who roll the wagon train westward and open a string of general stores, contribute to the building of towns, etc.
But we’ll get to all that.
Today’s post is mainly an opportunity to share — at last! — some pictures that bring our bustling Ley ancestor to life.
Above, due to the gracious sharing of some of those western Leys, is a picture probably taken about 1896, a year or so before patriarch Karl Ley’s death. It’s culled from Doris Ley Hill’s book on the Ley genealogy, and features four generations: fourth great-grandfather Karl, third great-grandfather Augustus, second great-grandfather Charles and great-great uncle Lester Herman Ley.
Below, is an engraving from the Combination Atlas Map of Tuscarawas County, published about 1875, showing Augustus Ley’s general store in Port Washington, Ohio.
Cool pic, eh? But I decided to take things a step further.
Grandpa Augustus Had a Store….
Or Opa, if you will, owing to Augustus’s Bavarian heritage.
As I commented on yesterday’s post, in which a picture of the 19th-century Meredith homestead was shared, you’d be hard-pressed in studying images from back then to peg an exact date on them, so similar does the landscape and buildings appear to scenes today in the Tuscarawas Valley.
All malls and parking lots, etc., excluded from that statement.
Well, the image of Augustus’s store is so irresistible to me when coupled with descriptions of his business in the 1888 police adventure article and with topographic maps in 1875 and 1908, culled from the Combination Atlas….
Oh yeah, and a handy little tool we have today called Google Maps.
In its long history, you could reasonably argue that Port Washington, circa 1875, was sitting at the peak of its relevence. Since the Ohio & Erie Canal system was opened to traffic in the 1830s, Port Washington had proved itself an important stop for recreation and commerce on the way south from Cleveland. And from the image above, we see Augustus’s store was right in the thick of the action.
But the last 150 or so years, you might say, mark the long, gentle decline. There are still a few hundred souls calling Port Washington home. But the “port” has dried up — there are only vague grassy slopes indicating where the canal once was, Canal Street to the east once serving as the tow path, the trundling scar of the railroad still further east between the old shipping route and the Tuscarawas River. By 1875, the railroad was already etched on maps, heralding the end of boom times.
What is fortunate for researchers a century later is that the essential layout of the town, and indeed some of its buildings, has not changed. Which enables us to get a bird’s eye view on where Augustus’s store was.
As the 1888 article reported:
The post office and a grocery store kept by a man named Ley adjoin each other in a frame building. They face the town square. On one side is an alley and near by is a canal.
In the engraving above, I make the post office for the building to the left, appearing to connect to the Ley store. And there could be an alley dividing the store from the building farther up the canal, to the right.
But here’s how it all appears in a closeup of the 1875 map.
You can make out the town square at the intersection of St. Clairsville and Main streets — it actually looks more like a rectangle. And by following Main Street up, along the buildings that front the canal to the east of Main Street, you come first to a little bridge over the waterway, and next to building number 37 — likely the post office — and an adjoining structure labeled L & Co, for Ley & Company.
In the Port Washington of today, Main Street is better known as Route 36, which winds its way northeast from Interstate 77. Heading that way, you’re likely pass Tony’s Convenience Store on your right before hitting the town proper (albeit only a couple blocks farther on).
The post office has now moved to the southwest side of the square, across from the cannons now marking the center strip, and across the street a grassy lot marking where structure number 36 once sat across the alley from Augustus’s store. Lot 34 is the old town hall; 35 is an auto body shop. But the alleys are still there in the same place. And the site of Augustus’s store (as well as the old canal) is now occupied by Bates Metal Products.
Use Google Maps to check it out by dragging the little person icon to the yellow street view lane, and walk the same layout our ancestors used to — albeit, now the old canal, lifeblood to the town in the 19th century, is solidly filled and paved over.
But now you know where to look.