Port Washington Detritus: Family Artifacts Online
“Port Washington enjoys the enviable distinction of being one of the prettiest and most picturesque villages in the state….”
So begins a newspaper advertorial of June 1901, taken from the pages of the Uhrichsville, Ohio News Democrat, describing the home of our Ley ancestors. Maybe the description doesn’t jibe with the quaint, cloistered cluster of homes and stores we know more than a century later, lightyears after the town’s peak as bustling canal port. But consider it a record of what life was like for our great-great-great-grandparents and their families then.
With commendable zeal, her citizens have realized the beauty of the town’s delightful situation and have made neat improvements, commensurate with its natural facilities.
The town strikingly resembles in appearance the much admired villas of northern Georgia whose attractiveness is well known to northern tourists.
Well-kept lawns, smooth-shaven as a priest, spacious streets, an artistic arrangement of shade trees, some attention to floriculture and landscape gardening — all attest the love of the beautiful in the towns-people.
Environed by an excellent farming country, the business interests of the town have largely kept pace with its needs, but not to that extreme limit which excludes sociability and cleverness, which are distinguished features of the place –qualities which are better appreciated by those who have witnessed amid the incessant hum of machinery and dust of unceasing toil, the hopeless surrender of domestic pleasures to the all absorbing whirl of business.
Properly speaking, Port Washington presents a just mean between the extremes of these towns which are as dead as John T. Brush’s classification rules and those which are oblivious to all save insatiable greed for lucre.
The recent census shows the town’s population to be about 600. …
Trippy, right? And all a well-typed online search away to the curious and family-minded of 2015.
For the pictures most recently shared of Abraham and Catherine Sperling, and Great-great-great Grandmother Harriet (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand, mother of Minnie (Hammersley) Ley (wife to Charles Ley), we have fellow genealogy sleuths at Kin-Connection to thank. They mined the best source of all — family records, photos, documents and memories.
But some of the additional ways we’ve filled in the blanks the last week — about the tragic death of Third-Great-Grandpa James Hammersley, and the remarriage of Hattie to hardware merchant Curtis Wiand — came from one of the central tenets of my original genealogy dare in summer 2008: that to dig up generations worth of stories on your ancestors, in today’s information-in-an-instant age, you need only a curious mind, tireless fingers and a hardy internet connection.
What a wealth of stuff there is online.
To conclude our series on the Port Washington Sperlings, Hammersleys, Wiands and Leys, here’s a few more tidbits a broad bandwidth away.
Town Life in Port Washington, Ohio, c. 1900
Hattie’s second husband, Christian Wiand, and their descendants through Curtis V. Wiand, kept up for many decades the hardware store in Port Washington he established shortly after their marriage. The above safe from that store — amazingly – was offered at auction three years back (2012) in South Dakota and sold for $50.
Similar to the ruby glass once gifted to Lizzie Foutz, there are countless family trinkets circulating out there. Kinda makes you want to watch the auction circuit, eh?
Christian’s family had first established themselves in Carroll County, Ohio, before residing in Clay Township, where he and Hattie were eventually married. A nice paragraph on the family can be found — through the wonder of Google Books search — eminently accessible, online.
Through free and paid archives, newspaper records paint a vivid portrait of the day. The gushing advertorial that begins this post actually appeared in different guises through a number of editions in the years around the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries.
Rolling back a couple years, we find a Port Washington where Great-great-great Grandfather Augustus Ley’s dry goods store also thrives. Unfortunately — and serving as a lesson of online research — the scanned copies available in newspapers.com as well as ancestry.com have the same big blot in the bottom corner of page 11 of the Nov. 30 1899 edition, marring what is undoubtedly a description of Ley’s store, leaving us to decipher:
… & Co. are located on…
…are. They are good
… (ca)rry a full line of the
…. (goo)ds, groceries, etc.
… have a fine trade and pay the highest prices for produce, etc.
… F.H. Powell’s (undoubtedly related to us through Hattie Powell, Augustus’s wife — yes, another Hattie) general store is in the storeroom formerly occupied by A. Ley. He is a hustling young merchant and is doing a thriving business. He also has a millinery department in connection with his store.
But elsewhere on the page, we check in with Christian Wiand, c. 1899:
C. Wiand, the hardware merchant, keeps a complete line of hardware, tinware, cutlery, stoves, etc. He also has a nice lot of buggies and wagons on hand and carries a good line of cigars in connection. He is located on the Public Square.
By 1901, Augustus Ley has died, but his descendants are continuing their profitable trade along with their Wiand neighbors, as related in the June 11, 1901 edition of The News Democrat:
C. Wiand conducts the hardware store and has a very complete stock. Mr. Wiand is a gentleman of genial manner, apt business qualities and is thoroughly conversant with the public policies of the day. His son, Curtiss, who is employed with him, is a pleasing business man, held in high regard by all who know him.
Lewis Ley (son of Augustus), the gentlemanly traveling representative of Dies, Fertig & Co., is a resident of this place. Mr. Ley’s father, recently deceased, was a pioneer business man here, and all of the family are held in high esteem.
Flipping forward through the archival pages, to April 26, 1906 in The Daily Times of New Philadelphia, we read of the devastating San Francisco earthquake, and how relief efforts have hit home:
All of those who wish to show their sympathy to the people of San Francisco who are in need can place their money in the little tin box at Christian Wiand’s hardware store.
News accounts of the day are filed with notes on who’s coming, who’s going, who’s visiting whom, sometimes reprinted from previous editions. And that holds true in 1930, same as ever, when the Oct. 30 edition of The Daily Times records a 1920 visit of Christian Wiand and wife to their daughter, Minnie, in New Philadelphia. By then, sadly, both mother and daughter have passed away. But print marches on.
Some of the advertorials on Port Washington and other ancestral stomping grounds would close with train tables, departure and arrival times and the rates to get you across a country that, from these descriptions, is bright and full of life and beckons to us through time. If only it were as simple as punching a ticket and climbing aboard….