Posts Tagged With: dry goods business

Postcards from Port Washington | Ley Family History

Curtis Wiand Wall Safe Hardware Store Port Washington Ohio

Wallsafe from Curtis Wiand’s Port Washington, Ohio hardware store.


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.

In the past few days, our latest newsletter installments have (re?)introduced us to our Sperling and Hammersley ancestors, neighbors and family to the Leys in bygone days of Port Washington.

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.

Wiand Henry bio History of Tusc Co


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 as well as 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….

Port Washington, Ohio street scene c. 1870s

Port Washington, Ohio street scene, circa 1870s. Courtesy of Chuck Schneider, a descendant of the carriage shop owner.





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A Case of “Burglarious” Entry – Augustus Ley

Ley Charles Augustus Karl Lester

Clockwise, from top left: Charles Henry Ley, his father Augustus, his grandfather Karl Gottleib Ley, his son Lester Herman Ley. About a year before Karl’s death. From Doris Ley Hill’s book, THE CARL FREDERICK LEY FAMILY.

Augustus Ley Granted Relief from Stolen Treasury Funds

It seems, in the wild early decades of Ohio’s first towns, our Ley ancestors were no strangers to politics or criminal perfidy.

Earlier posts have shared the Ley tradition of public service.

Fourth-great-grandfather (and Bavarian immigrant) Karl Ley served on the school board in Shanesville, where his wife, Caroline (Vogelsang) Ley was president of the Ladies’ Guild.

Son Augustus Ley manned the posts of treasurer and clerk for Salem Twp.

Grandson Charles Henry Ley served on the board of education and city council before gaining election and reelection as Tuscarawas County Treasurer from 1911-1915.

His son Robert Earl Ley, Sr., assisted him in the treasurer post during his first term, and was a charter member of the Dover Kiwanis Club, a member of the Masonic Lodge in New Philadelphia and of the Shrine and affiliated organizations. He was a past president of the Tuscarawas County Dental organization.

Karl Ley’s great-great grandson, Robert Earl Ley, Jr., my grandfather, served on the Dover City Council. He also participated in many fraternal organizations. The rundown: He was a member of Dover Kiwanis, Dover American Legion, past president of Dover Lions Club, past exalted ruler of Dover Elks Lodge No. 975, a 32nd degree Mason, member of Dover Masonic Lodge, Scottish Rite Valley of Canton, Tadmor Shrine, Royal Order of Jesters, and Chef de Gare of the 40 et 8 Voiture 117.

So, yeah. You could say the Leys were civic-minded.

As for criminal perfidy, we’ll focus on the Port Washington, Ohio, Leys and the subject of this post in particular.

Ley General Store Robbed of Public Funds

Of course, I’m not ranking our relatives among the notorious. Merely referring to another article I stumbled upon a couple years ago in The Ohio Democrat of July 5, 1888. As related, a U.S. Marshal had staked out Port Washington, waiting for an at-large counterfeiter to stop by the Post Office next door to Augustus’s store. He’d often chat up my great-great-great-grandfather while he waited for his quarry. And once the chase was on, one of Augustus’s sons lent the lawman a horse and joined in the pursuit.

But the Port Washington Leys had encountered criminal mischief before. And the crime directly impacted the political role of Augustus, as well as his personal livelihood.

That is, until the Ohio state legislature stepped in.

The official statues actually do a great job, below, of telling the entire story. But the cliff’s notes summary:

Augustus Ley, as treasurer, used to keep township and school funds in his store safe. In October 1865, the store was broken into and robbed, the safe blown up(!), the money stolen.

Augustus was held responsible for the $600 and change, and, I’d imagine, his worthiness questioned in the small community of several hundred souls. The legislature, in typical plodding fashion, didn’t get around to ruling on the matter until 11 years later…!

From Acts of the State of Ohio, Volumes 66-73:

AN ACT… for the relief of Augustus Ley, treasurer of Salem township, Tuscarawas county, State of Ohio.

Whereas… On the night of the 13th of October AD 1865 the dry goods store of A Ley & Co in Salem township, Tuscarawas county, Ohio, was burglariously entered and the safe therein in which Augustus Ley treasurer of said Salem township had deposited the township and school funds of said township to the amount of six hundred and thirteen dollars was blown up and broken to pieces and the whole amount of said safe was stolen and carried away by some unknown parties,

and WHEREAS… A majority of the legal voters of said township by their petition represent to this general assembly that said robbery was not due to any fault or negligence on the part of the said Augustus Lev or any person in his employ and ask that the said Augustus Ley and insureties be relieved from liability for said sum of six hundred and thirteen dollars so taken and stolen as aforesaid, therefore,

SECTION 1… Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio that the trustees of said township of Salem county of Tuscarawas state of Ohio are hereby authorized to release the said Augustus Ley and his sureties on his official bond from the payment of said sum of six hundred and thirteen dollars so taken and stolen as aforesaid and enter said release on the minutes of said trustees and the said trustees of said township and the board of education of the school district are hereby authorized to levy a tax on the taxable property of said township of Salem to make up any deficiency of said funds that may exist on account of said theft aforesaid,

SEC 2… This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

Passed April 6th 1876

CH GROSVENOR, Speaker of the House of Representatives

THOS L YOUNG, President of the Senate

I actually wonder if the safe theft date is an error, since if it is not, it took the legislature more than a decade to grant relief to Augustus. A search of local newspaper around the date and my own gutcheck date 10 years later in 1875 turned up nothing.

As for the citizens of Port Washington and Salem Twp., it seems their confidence in my third-great-grandfather Ley was not shaken (or, at the least, they were willing to put up with higher taxes — as indicated by the official legislative act — to make up this stolen deficit). Just two weeks after the legislature acted, the April 20, 1876 Ohio Democrat reported, in its Port Washington dispatch:

The election passed over quietly, producing the usual number of defeated candidates. Among those about whom the greatest interest was manifested was A. Ley, for township treasurer. Mr. Ley’s majority of 80 shows that, notwithstanding the safe robbery, the people of Salem are willing to trust him with the township funds.

Ley Augustus store 1875

Augustus Ley’s general store, along the canal in Port Washington, Ohio, about 1875. From the Combination Atlas Map of Tuscarawas County.

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Places of Rest & Remembrance #9 | Abraham & Catherine Sperling

Sperling Abraham Catherine Old Union Port Washington

Fourth great-grandparents Abraham and Catherine Sperling are buried in Old Union Cemetery, Port Washington, Ohio.

Abraham & Catherine Sperling | Old Union Cemetery

Trying to envision the Port Washington of my great-great-great-grandparents’ day engenders a feat of imagination that is often best aided by aerial maps.

To walk the streets of “Port”, as I knew it growing up 20 miles north on I-77, is to search in vain for any traces of the old canal. The blocks that ran along the industry-sparking waterway have altered their shapes. The shops and the shop buildings are long gone, including Augustus Ley’s dry goods store.

Oh, there’s a post office, still, on the square. And big guns befitting the majesty of the war memorial. A gazebo so new you can just about hear the wood squeak. These are artifacts of a more recent vintage.

But if you let your eyes wander… upwards, along the treeline, the blurred ridges encircling the region like an upturned collar, then the steadfast spires of the churches in town seem to waver if you squint your eyes just right, and time, too, can seem to slip a bit. The churches have been there a long time. And the hills so long it makes you dizzy to think about it.

So when I try to get a feel for life a century and a half ago in Port Washington I turn away from its square and the subtly sunken bed of its yards where the canal once flowed and walk southwest along Arch Street. Even three blocks out from the square the houses give way to open fields stretching off to the treeline and the ridgeline and the hills, and down a little lane in the midst of that open land are great groves of trees, clusters of shadowy green where the town for two centuries has buried its dead.

Walking the lane, farthest back is the newer cemetery, where family names of teachers and friends give off a watery glisten, engraved in the newest stones planted there. Closer in, the names of relatives four, five generations back, and their contemporaries: Stocker, Hammersley, Sperling, Ley. It was in the newer Union Cemetery where my mother, moved by the regimental arrangement of family stones in the large Ley burial plot — from the rose stone obelisk of Karl and Caroline (Vogelsang) Ley, first to America from Germany; through the upward facing blocks of Augustus and son Charles Ley’s families, arranged in lines from the hulking C.H. Ley headstone — imagined twirling in a circle and opening her eyes to find people strolling the streets in Victorian gowns and top hats.

Off to the right of the lane lies Old Union Cemetery. The branches crowd closer together here, the ground is clotted with brambles in places, the stones more weathered, some broken. In the shadows of the great tree near the front, almost at the entrance to the older burial ground, we find the resting place of my fourth-great-grandparents, Abraham and Catherine (Voorhees) Sperling.

Abraham Sperling – Cobbler, Butcher, Soldier

Natives of New Brunswick, N.J., Abraham and Catherine (Voorhees) Sperling were among the early settlers of Port Washington, according to The History of Tuscarawas County, published 1884. They were parents to 10 children — 6 boys and 4 girls, including two twin brothers, Alvin and Allen, born next-youngest on Dec. 24, 1854.

Eight of their children survived into adulthood. Their connection to the Leys would be cemented through their fourth child, daughter Harriet Sperling, whose daughter Minnie Eillene Hammersley would become bride to my great-great-grandfather Charles Henry Ley, son of Port Washington dry goods store owner Augustus.

Maria, the eldest of Abraham and Catherine’s children, was born in 1834 in New Jersey, where the Sperling and Voorhees families had laid down roots in Colonial times. By 1838 and the birth of Anna the couple has settled in Port Washington, which counted just over 100 residents in the 1840 census.

Abraham served the village as shoemaker and butcher. The 1870 census reports his occupation as auctioneer.

In 1861, at age 52, Abraham enlisted in the 58th regiment of the Ohio Infantry. During his seven-month term of service, the regiment served as a “school of the soldier,” and was based at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, before moving to Cincinnati in early 1862, according to a regimental history.

Abraham’s rank was private, according to pension records. He served the 58th as teamster and wagoner.

Abraham was joined in service during the Civil War by his oldest son, John, who as a Lieutenant was one of the commanders of Ohio’s 59th Colored Infantry, after earlier serving with distinction in the 53rd regiment from 1861-1863. He retained his commission in the 59th regiment through the war’s end in 1865.

The May 11, 1876 edition of The Ohio Democrat reports in its Port Washington dispatch: “The death record in our community for the last week has been quite unusual. … Mr. Abraham Sperling, after a long siege of suffering, died of dropsy on last Wednesday evening.”

Catherine outlived Abraham by 17 years. She ran the household in Port Washington as late as 1880, according to the federal census, and is still listed as a resident there in the pensioner record of 1890, three years before her death.

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Busy News Day for the Leys (and Weibles) Gets Busier — Part 2

Weible Ley 1028 Walnut Street Dover 2012

This house, at 1028 N. Walnut St. in Dover, Ohio, built in 1900, was the residence of Minnie Mae (Ley) Weible and her husband, Edwin Frederick Weible in the early part of the 20th century. Following the death of Minnie's father, Colt's third great-grandfather, Augustus Ley, her mother, Harriet (Powell) Ley, lived with the couple until her death, in 1915.

Death of Harriet Josephine (Powell) Ley | September 4, 1915

As related in Saturday’s post, when Great-Great-Grandfather Charles Henry Ley stepped down as Tuscarawas County treasurerThe Daily Reporter in Dover, Ohio ran two bulletins conveying the news — of Ley’s successor as treasurer, and of his plans to resume his career as traveling dry good salesman.

Quite a busy day for any family in the newspaper, especially back in 1915. But there was still more ink to be expended on momentous events for the Leys — and their in-laws by marriage, the Weibles.

Though the next dispatch wouldn’t be published for another three days — no such thing as a 24-hour news cycle a century ago — later that Saturday, September 4, 1915, family matriarch Harriet J. (Powell) Ley would pass away.

Her death, at 70, probably did not come as too much of a shock for her loved ones. According to her death certificate, Great-great-great Grandma “Hattie” had been suffering from colon cancer for nearly a year by then. Though perhaps the bustling circumstances of Charles Ley’s departure from elected office, and its accompanying coverage, caused either the news staff or the family to delay the announcement of Harriet’s passing until the day of her services and burial.

Or — and here you’ll have to forgive me my fevered sprint through the microfilm records on the last day of my latest visit home — in 1915, “daily” publication of the Reporter actually meant semi-daily, and the next issue wasn’t until that Tuesday, September 7.

You can read that news here:

Ley Harriet Powell obit DDR 9.7.1915

More About Great-Great-Great Grandma Harriet (Powell) Ley

At the time of her death, Hattie had been living with her only daughter, Minnie Mae, about 10 years.

Minnie Mae and her husband, Edwin Frederick Weible, had beckoned their dear mother to move from Port Washington and join them in Dover following their marriage in 1904. By then, Hattie had been widowed four years. In 1900, Great-great-great-grandfather Augustus Ley had dropped dead of apoplexy in his Port Washington general store. He was just past 60.

Hattie received generous coverage in the Powell Family History by W.D. Shirk. Of her childhood on the Ohio frontier and young adulthood, Shirk wrote:

Harriet J. (Powell) Ley was born in a little log cabin, her father’s home, near Bakersville, in 1845, Feb. 22. She writes, she well remembers the log house with its great wide fire place, and seeing her father roll in the big back logs for it, and well recollects when she was seven years old and they moved into the new brick house.

She experienced the privations, before described in this book, of a frontier life and though school privileges were not good, she so advanced that she passed a county examination of teachers, but never used her certificate, for she shortly got married and now (1914) she writes me, “My grand children often want me to tell them about when I was a little girl, tell them of the old log cabin, and how we used to play under the old chestnut tree, and gather chestnuts, and hazel nuts, and how we used to fish in the little runs and creeks; and how we used to wander over the woods, hills and meadows gathering wild flowers.”

One has to assume that Great-Grandfather Robert Earl Ley was among those kiddos begging grandma for a story of frontier times.

Shirk was still assembling his 1918 history of the descendants of Thomas J. and Henrietta Howells Powell (Hattie’s grandparents, mother and father to my fourth great-grandfather Henry Charles Powell) when he received word from Hattie’s niece, Harriet Loveless, of her death and burial. Shirk shares his affection and respect for his relative as he writes:

Harriet Ley was a woman of more than ordinary brightness and cheerfulness, and from the tone of her letters I can well say, Oh, how she loved her husband and children, and what an example of truly a christian life she set them.

After her husband’s death she wrote me: “The children wouldn’t listen to me staying alone,” so she sold out and moved to Canal Dover to be near them, and made her home with her daughter, Minnie, where she had every care a loving daughter could give.

That home, located at 1028 N. Walnut St. in Dover, was just a block away from the house where I grew up until age 12. It’s now for sale, and you can see some of the preserved interior in its listing at But we have a more immediate connection to the last home of my third great-grandmother Ley in our own living room in the Chicago suburbs.

Turns out, the wonderful old sofa on which I spent many an afternoon slumbering as a boy and since my parents carted the piece to my Sandusky apartment at age 24, was bought at a 1980s auction at 1028 N. Walnut. Back then, it was a rich burgundy. After a subsequent refinishing, it is gray, and staging ground not only for my weekend afternoon naps but pillow fights and gymnastic romps of Hattie’s fourth great-grandsons, Jonah and Ben. (And probably cause for another refinishing.)

We can’t say for sure if the Weibles ever owned the piece. But a couch that has spanned seven generations? That’s quite the home furnishing feat.

Ley Weible Seven Generation Couch

A typical busy day in the life of our household, circa 2008. At the center of it all is a grey couch purchased at auction from the Dover home where my great-great-great grandmother Ley lived her last decade. It has been (possibly back) in my family for the last 30 years. (Photo by Heather Eidson)

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A Busy News Day for the Leys (and Weibles) — Part 1

Charles Henry Ley

Great-great Grandfather Charles Henry Ley

A Pivotal News Day for the Leys | September 4, 1915

Leys and Weibles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries became accustomed to their hometown papers carrying news of their business and personal lives.

Both families were involved in politics, with my great-great-great grandfather Augustus Ley serving as Salem township treasurer and clerk, and his son (my great-great grandfather) Charles Ley serving two terms as Tuscarawas County treasurer. Regular ads touted the furniture enterprise of my great-great grandfather Franklin Eli Weible, while his son, my great-grandfather Robert Ohio Weible, was a prominent appointed state official, leading the World War II scrap material drives.

These families were first connected in marriage by the union of my third aunt, Minnie Mae Ley — sister to my great-great grandfather Charles — and Edwin Frederick Weible, cousin of my great-grandfather, Robert Ohio Weible.

Charles Ley had served the county through four years before term limits prompted his return to private citizenship. The Dover (Ohio) Daily Reporter of Saturday, September 4, 1915 carried this bulletin, as well as news of his next career move.

Click the links below to read the stories:

Ley Charles ends term Dover Daily Reporter 9.4.1915

Ley Charles resumes traveling job DDR 9.4.1915

But the day would hold more in store for the Leys, and their Dover counterparts who would one day be connected a second time by marriage through my grandmother, Suzanne Abbott Weible, and my grandfather, Robert Earl Ley Jr.

Tune in Monday for part two of a pivotal 1915 news day for the Leys and Weibles, as well as a quaint tale of a house for sale… and a hand-me-down couch.

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