Early History of Kenmore By Vesta Heminger Ritzman
By Vesta Heminger Ritzman ’07
A history of Kenmore is a pageant in retrospect of the passing years of half a century.
So much has transpired that it is hard to believe that in the space of a life time, a city of unprecedented growth has sprung up from the land of six adjoining farms.
Transportation was an important factor in the development of a new allotment between Akron and Barberton. The oldest travelled road in Ohio was the Portage Path, now called Manchester Road. The Ohio Canal was the main artery of travel for many years for the distribution of produce, coal, and mercantile products between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Much later the railroad supplanted the canal. In 1890 the first street cars were run from Akron to Barberton.
The famous and historic Portage Path was used by the Indians. It is so old that no man can guess its age. The roving buffaloes centuries ago made a road of it by their pounding hoofs. At the southern end of the Path, where Louis Young’s Hotel now stands, Chief Hopocan, called Captain Pipe of the Delaware Tribe, reigned over a sizable Indian Village for twenty years. Mr. P. P. Cherry often related stories of the ruthless killings and midnight tortures of this tribe in and about the Kenmore district. One cannot believe that wars were fought on land adjacent to the Kenmore High School, but many flint-points used in arrows were picked up in the woods at 14th Street by my brothers when playing there.
Coventry Township, dotted with many lakes and covered by virgin forests where game was plentiful, was called “The Red Man’s Garden of Eden.” Summit County was known to the men of Connecticut as the garden spot of the Western Reserve.
Much of the land was covered with large trees which the first settlers cut down to make clearings and build log cabins for their homes along the Path or canal. The many stumps gave the settlement its first name of “Stumptown.”
In the prehistoric days a great area of the Kenmore District was covered by Dead sea. A vein of salt, 50 feet down, running to a depth of 2,000 feet, was found as far south as Rittman, Ohio. The discovery of salt deposits, found by men drilling near the canal for oil in 1892, brought men that were interested in the salt industry from Cleveland. They organized a company and developed this vein of salt to the present day plant of the Colonial Salt Company. Today trainloads of refined or rock salt are shipped to the four corners of the world.
Summit County is a watershed in Ohio. Ten thousand and more years ago a huge glacier moved slowly across northeastern Ohio. As it melted it released from its grasp millions of tons of rock and clay and northern drift, filled a deep ravine, divided a great river that no man has ever seen, and left a remnant we know as Summit Lake. The water flows from this lake in two directions, the southern outlet by way of the Tuscarawas River to the Gulf of Mexico, the northern outlet by way of the Cuyahoga and St Lawrence Rivers, to the Atlantic Ocean — a distance of 2,000 miles apart.
When enough families liived in the township along Manchester Road and the new allotment, the demand for a post office was created by the people. This was granted and placed in the corner of the general store; its name was “Halo.” In the business district there were several stores, three saloons, a blacksmith shop, a wagon and harness repair shop, the Evangelical Church, the Zimmerly Packing Plant, and the Colonial Salt Works when the Akron Realty Company purchased, what was known as the six farms.
Several local bankers with real estate men from New York, organized a company and bought the six farms between the Manchester Road and Stop 97. It was necessary for street car services to go through the allotment so the Realty Company offered enough land and the right of way the entire length of the 50 foot boulevard to the Northern Ohio Traction and Light Company if they would re-route their tracks to Barberton.
A thirty minute car service was started about September 1901. The cars were small and open for summer. The baggage car was painted black and was called “The Black Hannah,” It made two trips each day, bringing everything from mail to plows and buggy whips to the local shops. There were four stops along the 1-1/2 mile boulevard — at Pennsylvania Ave., Ohio Avenue, the Pigeon House, and Shadyside Park.
The Akron Realty Company put out a beautifully designed “Plat Book,” with colored pictures of the allotment, with many young trees planted along the boulevard, and the sidewalks on either side of the landscaped double car tracks. The lots sold from $100.00 to $350.00 each. The name “Kenmore” was chosen by a member of the company. Traveling through the state of Virginia, he passed by the “Kenmore Estate” which belonged to the George Washington family. The name of “Hazelhurst” was the other name considered. The company decided to use the name “Kenmore” on their Plat Book.
To advertise the new allotment to the buying public, the company built 5 houses on the boulevard to be given away free at a Homing Pigeon Fly. Many lots were sold because of this promising offer.
In June, 1900, my father, Mr. M. C. Heminger, was employed as Secretary-Manager of the Akron Realty Company. We moved from Clinton, Ohio, 12 miles south of Barberton to the new allotment. No moving van would attempt to move our furniture up the newly made road on the unpaved boulevard because of recent rains, causing a deep yellow mud making the road impassable. A bargain was made with a canal boater to bring our household goods, accompanied by my brother Richard, from Clinton to a landing near the Colonial Salt Works.
A wagon and four farm horses were waiting from the canal boat and it took two hours to bring the furniture up as far as Ohio Avenue, now 12th St. We arrived, the first family to move in and live on the Kenmore Boulevard. It was a disappointment to find no graded lawns, sidewalks, or trees as the colored book had made us believe. We were disillusioned and we begged our parents to return to our former home in Clinton. My father, being a past Superintendent of Schools, was keenly interested in the school situation. The nearest building was one and one half miles away, at Summit Lake. It was called District School No. 11 of the Coventry Township, a one room brick building having six grades, a history class, and one teacher. Three of us walked this distance every day using the car tracks for our sidewalk.
At the November election, 1902, my father ran for and was elected township school board member. Twelve new homes were being built with promise of several more in the spring. When a plan was presented to the board to erect a building on the allotment, much opposition was given by the Manchester Road people. The Akron Realty Company gave six lots on Virginia Avenue, now 11th Street, to the Township board if it would consent to build a four room brick building.
The next board meeting lasted far into the night and after a heated discussion, a motion was made to accept the offer of the lots, and to build four rooms, two rooms to be finished immediately, the others, later if needed. The middle of a corn field on Virginia Ave. was the site for this new school.
When the building was nearly completed, the dissenting board Member stood and mumbled in his long beard, “Never in my life time, or yours either young lady, will four rooms be needed in this Kenmore Allotment; It’s a great waste of taxpayer’s money.” This I remember as if he said it but yesterday.
Later that summer, the Realty Company had the first Pigeon Fly. Many lots had been sold on the strength of this free offer. On Saturday afternoon at 18th Street, a Barberton Band played loudly while three hundred people arriving by horse an buggy, street car, or on foot from miles away gathered in a holiday mood. Speeches were made by the officers of the company. Peanuts, pink lemonade, and souvenirs were handed out to every one. The pigeons were place in a large crate and taken to Warwick, Ohio, twenty-five miles away, to be released. The pigeon loft was placed where Mr. Hedger’s store now stands. Two hours later several pigeons returned and perched on the roof to preen and coo while the crowd waited breathlessly. Finally one entered and was bagged by the caretaker to be brought and the announcement was made that Mr. Ulysses Houriet of Canal Fulton, Ohio, was the winner. Miss Mary, his sister, still lives in this home near 9th Street on the boulevard.
Several years later, at the second pigeon fly, Mr. George Foust of Foust Road won the second house given away by the company. This was the end of the Pigeon Fly’s, because the birds became a great nuisance on the allotment.
The school opened late in October, 1903 and 84 pupils answered the first roll call. The ages were 6 to 20 years. It was the Coventry Township School with the name “Kenmore School” over the arched doorway.
Mr. E. F. Crites of Crystal Springs, Ohio, was principal and teacher of the upper four grades. Miss Rothrock taught the primary grades. It was months before a bell was purchased for the belfry, so Mr. Crites would ring a brass handbell at the front door or open window, calling us in at recess.
We were very proud of our building but felt the need of many things, such as an Estey Organ, a library, and an American Flag for the flag pole in the yard.
A Literary Society was organized and challenged the Township school teachers in debate. The high school pupils won the first debate. We had a Lecture Course — tickets were sold for $1.00 for 5 lectures. We had a box social and a spelldown. We were the social center of the community and used one of the unfinished rooms of the building where refreshments were served. On one occasion we fed the entire town with 5 gallons of ice cream and 7 dozen ginger cookies.
To raise money for an organ, we sold an all-purpose salve that was supposed to cure everything from sore throat to bunions. We made enough profit through these efforts to buy the organ and a flag which was dedicated with proper ceremony. The Hon. H. C. Spicer, as the speaker, inspired us with a stirring speech, urging us to go forward with courage and commending our efforts.
On December 31, 1904, during our Christmas holidays, our school experienced a great tragedy when four pupils drowned while skating on the canal at the Straw-Board factory in Barberton. Edgar and Ada Williams, brother and sister, and Katherine and Elizabeth Morrison, sisters, went down at the same time through thin ice and were lost. These double funerals saddened our entire school.
We never missed celebrating a holiday. In April permission was given to several of the older boys to go into the near by Tamarack Swamp to dig up a small tree to plant in the new yard for Arbor day celebration. Ten husky boys carried it in and planted it. Each pupil placed a handful of soil around the tree while someone read a suitable poem. The tree still grows and beautifies the Heminger School grounds.
With deep regret we received Mr. Crites’ announcement that he would resign at the end of the year 1906 to become the President of the Peoples Savings and Trust Company in Barberton.
The board employed M. M. Brown of Athens, Ohio. The enrollment now reached 176, and another teacher was added. The school was registered as a third grade school.
In May 1907, the first class of 4 students was graduated from the Township High School. Diplomas were presented by W. J. Watters, President of the Board, to Elsie Wagoner, Floyd Wagoner, Margaret Henry, and Vesta Heminger. Rev. D. W. Sprinkle of Civil war fame, gave the class address. The class motto was “WE WILL FIND A WAY OR MAKE ONE.” The class colors were Old Rose and Nile Green.
A program of one and one-half hours of orations and music was given by the members of the class, in the new Goss Memorial Reformed Church.
Mr. Brown resigned to enter the ministry and Mr. C. E. Benedict came as superintendent in 1907.
At the last census the announcement was made that plans were on foot for Kenmore to incorporate and become a village. This would mean a separate school board. This brought a protest from the township trustees. They would lose a large sum of tax money as the Goodrich Mill was listed on the tax duplicate at $40,000. The case was taken to the Ohio Supreme Court and decided in favor of the Kenmore District.
The new board, wishing to add more rooms to the 11th Street building, placed a bond issue before the people which was voted down by the westend voters. Lawndale wanted a building in its district; therefore, a two-room frame building was erected on Foust Road, now Wilbeth. Later, a bond issue was passed and four rooms with gym-auditorium were added to the 11th Street school.
The idea of a gymnasium was popular with the pupils. One member of the school board voted “yes” with the others for baskets for basketball games, but “no” on purchasing a basketball. The game was too rough, he declared, and not necessary for educational purposes. The boys and men teachers bought the first basketball and suits.
The first unit of Colonial School was build in 1912, and a unit of the brick building for Lawndale was started. Now with Colonial to the east and Lawndale in the westend of Kenmore, the first building changed its name to Kenmore Central.
A graduating class of two boys, Richard B. Heminger and Ernest E. Ritzman, were given diplomas in 1908.
Mr. Benedict resigned the following summer to accept a teaching position in Tallmadge. After four years he returned to set up a printing establishment and printed the village newspaper called the “Kenmore Herald.”
Mr. Henry Dice of Canal Fulton, Ohio, followed as superintendent. The teaching staff now numbered 15 teachers. Kenmore High School became a second grade high school in 1910.
Mr. Dice was superintendent until 1915 when he resigned to enter the banking business in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The growth of Kenmore was making headlines in out of town papers. It was the fastest growing town in Ohio. The schools in twelve years had grown from 84 pupils with 2 teachers to 960 pupils with 32 teachers, when Mr. Russell Fouse came as superintendent.