The Fostoria Company That Made History Come Alive.

It hardly seems likely, but there was once a modest little red brick building on Center Street  in Fostoria Ohio that put more people under the lights of the stage and theater than probably any other drama producers this side of Broadway. From coast-to-coast, for most of the 1900’s, thousands of communities, large and small, would become seduced by the bright lights and the scriptwriters from this Fostoria company who helped those regular folks put on the grease paint and costumes so they could “put on a play”. Not just any typical community theater production, but grand outdoor pageants designed to highlight the histories of those communities that were celebrating centennials, or other significant milestones of their heritage.

The company was the John B. Rogers Company, started in 1903, by Mr. John Rogers, an attorney from Fostoria who used the various talents of local actors and musicians to stage his own local dramas and musicals. Enjoying early success, Rogers soon expanded the concept and began employing the talents and eagerness of other amateurs in other communities to celebrate the anniversaries and centennials.  Many of the early productions were performed on indoor stages as operas, or minstrel shows. As the years progressed the company began selling community leaders on the idea of staging elaborate Centennial anniversaries, or commemorations of notable events of history from their area.  

The shows would often utilize a cast of hundreds of people, a truckload of period costumes, various animals, a large rolling stock of wagon and cars, plus a wealth of music scores, and about a dozen choreographed dance routines. In later years, the Rogers’ directors included early forms of multi media complete with slide shows, sound effects and pyrotechnics. Most of these elaborate shows were performed on a hand-crafted grand stage, made of platforms, scaffolding and curtains about 200 feet in length. It was built strategically on a football field where thousands of people attended the spectaculars from the stands.

These pageants were usually the culmination of a year-long celebration of the centennial or the sesqui-centennial at a 150 years. After World War Two, company officials estimated the Rogers’ Company produced over 5,000 of these shows before they finally closed down operations in 1977 in Fostoria, however another company bought the Rogers inventory and moved it to the Pittsburgh area where it continued until the 1980’s. 
The Rogers company, on average, would produce about 70 shows a summer. Most of operations focused on small town America where local communities would pay a fee for the Rogers company to design a celebration plan for them, that included not just an outdoor historical pageant, but would also give them an organization “plan of action” with which the townspeople could use to stage the entire year-long celebration. Those festivities always included beard contests, vintage clothing sales, commemorative dinner plates, historical programs and photos, wooden nickels, and other souvenirs of the community’s celebration. In the final six weeks of the event, the company would assign a director-business manager to the town to direct the pageant and generally oversee the celebration to ensure that company procedures and fiscal policies were being followed.

 

This writer became very familiar with the Rogers Company when I went to work for them in the summer of 1969, as a wet-behind-the-ears 20-year-old freshly minted “director”. Yes, I was unusually young for this type of heady assignment, but not one to shrink from adventure. One spring morning, I flew to points south to begin my director’s training in the small southern community of Clayton North Carolina, a few miles south of Raleigh.

(My first association with Rogers came the summer before when I took part in their production of Genoa Ohio’s centennial pageant in 1968. I was a theater major at the time, and the chance to work for Rogers the next summer was an experience of a lifetime)

Because this story was intended to be about the Rogers’ Company, and not about me, I’ll try to refrain from too much self-indulgence, but I will attempt to provide a unique perspective of the company and the effect in had on the communities they worked with.

The Clayton show was special and somewhat atypical because it was being directed by the Vice President of the company, George S. Elias. A man as unforgettable as he was skilled at his craft. With hundreds of Rogers shows on his long lists of credits, George also brought to his mini-school of new directors, an unflinching passion for the world of show business and showmanship. His stocky build,his soft blue eyes, and a face framed by a shock of graying blond hair, combined with a friendly smile and quick wit, had little trouble getting the attention of those around him. Be they young directors, novice actors or the most influential community’s leaders. I was fortunate to have had George Elias as a mentor in those early years.

 

George’s proudest accomplishment as a Rogers’ director was no doubt his annual reenactment of Custer’s Last Stand at the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. It was a brilliant idea designed to raise money every year for the reservation and to tell the story of this great American story from the perspective of the Indians who crushed Custer’s 7th Calvary unit.
Elias for a number of years wrote and directed the spectacular battle scene, in classic Cecil B. DeMille’s style with bull-horn in hand, directing the hundreds of actors on horses with guns and arrows to be brutal and violent, while at the same time imploring them not to hurt anyone. Elias became so loved by the Crow Nation, he was made an honorary tribe member. By 1969, Elias was on set with director Arthur Penn, offering technical advice in the production of the movie “Little Big Man” with Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway. Elias called me in June of 1969 to ask if I wanted to come out for the weekend to see the battle scenes being shot and to meet with Penn and the crew. I declined. A decision I have always regretted.

George Elias was not the only Rogers’ director whose roots were buried deep in the loam of Hollywood and Broadway. There were many others, including screen writers, dancers, actors, and behind the scenes technicians, who joined this Fostoria company during the summer months to earn some extra money and to experience a rich slice of pure Americana. One of the most popular directors for the company during its last years in operation was Carl Hawley, a Hollywood scriptwriter and showman who delighted in lending his experience and talents to these small town productions.

 

In 1968, Hawley and his wife LaFaye, produced a show for Brookfield, Illinois’s 75th anniversary, called the Diamond Jubilee. The local paper wrote of Hawley.

Everything was coming together. In late June “congenial” Carl Hawley, of Hollywood, Calif., arrived in Brookfield to produce and direct the pageant. Apparently no local person could come up to the standards needed for this job, so Hawley was sent for by the Rogers Company.
Hawley was a true showman, in the best “S.E. Gross” style, brimming over with good nature, optimism and a fine sense of flamboyance. And he had 20 years’ worth of experience in promoting such spectaculars as this.
The July 3rd Enterprise reported that   “he has worked with a number of movie stars before joining the Rogers Company. He has assisted in producing and directing James Arness in ‘Gunsmoke,’ Red Skelton and others. He has also traveled with Bing Crosby and appeared in movies under the name Carlos Fernando.”
On his pinky finger, Hawley wore an outrageously large ring, with a gigantic diamond in it that would’ve made Eva Gabor jealous, if it were real. He wore it, he said, as a symbol of Brookfield’s Diamond Jubilee. In early July, his wife, LaFaye, arrived to help co-produce and direct.

There were many directors in the history of the Rogers company and they essentially became the public face of this mostly obscure Northwest Ohio company that provided a wealth of memories to hundreds of thousands of people across the nation. One of their long time directors, Phillys Shelflow, left her Hollywood home each year along with her husband to direct and choreograph the pageants. She said in a 1968 interview that she loved the work because it was all about “bringing America to Americans”.
And speaking from my own experience as a Roger’s director, this seemed to be the essence of each celebration and each production. Every celebration would not only feature the pageant, but a “queen’s contest” which allowed local women in the town to sell tickets to the big show and the woman who sold the most won the crown and a truckload full of prizes from local merchants. Each celebration also featured beard growing contests for the men any man who grew some facial hair was encouraged to join the “Brothers of the Brush” which involved buying a button, an old-fashioned bow tie, and maybe a top hat or some other type of historic fashion.

The ladies, as well could pick through the racks of beautiful recreation of historic period dresses of many type which were at the Centennial store.

This store was also the headquarters for the event and was the place where everything was coordinated, meetings were and a variety of commemorative items were up for sale. Items that were mostly produced or brokered by the Rogers’ company. In fact the Rogers company also owned another firm called the Ohm Company which specialized in various trinkets, badges, hats and ties that most folks, who got into the celebratory spirit were eager to buy. It was a win-win-win situation. The town, the Rogers company and the director all shared a cut of the profits.

While money and the American “profit motive” were certainly in play for the Rogers Company, I always sensed that the owners and directors were motivated by more than just the almighty dollar, and that the greatest reward was in the sense of community these productions created.  In the smaller towns across the country who got caught up in the spirit of the celebration, the people who took part often found themselves making new friends, sharing new experiences and generally painting some indelible memories they carried for many years.

 

One case in point, was my first show I directed on my own which was in Newell, Iowa. A small farming hamlet of 700 citizens in Northwest Iowa, not far from Storm Lake, and about 60 miles east of Sioux City. It was essentially in the middle of nowhere and I thought I’d be dealing with some pretty dusty folks who had corn silk in their ears. How wrong I was. This little town was as prosperus and progressive as any town I had ever known, and  . the townspeople of this bucolic village were as energetic and friendly and competent as any I have ever encountered throughout the rest of my life. These folks knew how to have fun. A small town with a big heart. I learned a lot from them and never forgot their hospitality and zest for life. The show and the celebration of the town’s 100th birthday was a grand success. I was proud to be a part of it.  In 2004, 35 years after the 1969 Newell Iowa Centennial. I decided to visit that small town again while on a trip out West. The intervening years had taken their toll.  Much of Newell had physically changed, with closed up store fronts, and fewer downtown businesses. But more importantly, the people had not changed. Many of the same folks instrumental in putting the celebration together were still there, 35 years older, but just as eager as ever to have a good time. They held a party for me and my family. I was humbled. We reminisced, we laughed, we drank, we traded stories, and we paid tribute to those who had passed on, and by the night’s end, we made the past come alive again.  I also realized that the Centennial they observed in 1969 was more than just a one week event. It had stayed with them for decades. Several told me that it was the biggest thing that had ever happened in their little town and it was a very important time in their lives. One they would never forget. Nor shall I.

The work of the Rogers Company may be over, but still quietly lives on in thousands of towns across America.

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Mystery “Death Ray” Inventor Lived in Toledo

One of the motivations I had for starting this blog ten years ago in 2010 was my passion for discovering people and events of the past that had been largely ignored, forgotten or assigned to the junk drawer of history.

Every now and then I spend some time sorting through that old junk drawer and without fail, I tend to find a few gems. Such was the case this week when I came upon the story of Maurice J. Francill. Born in Marion Ohio just before the start of the 20th century, Maurice, whose given name at birth, was Francis Marion Cowgill,(he changed his name later in life) would spend most of life exploring the mystery and magic of radio. In fact, he was known as the Radio Wizard, and by the early 1920’s he was stunning audiences around the country with his ability to use radio waves to control mechanical devices. From toys to cars to trains, Maurice Francill had figured out the technology of “remote control”. Recall that in the 1920’s, most people were still wrapping their head around the remarkable new concept of listening to people speak from far off cities on a crystal radio in their living rooms.

This was big magic to most people at the time. It was a technology in its infancy and radio stations were just at the early stages of development. Toledo would not have a radio station until 1925. But here was Maurice Francill, already showing people how radio waves could not only travel through the invisible “ether” of air, but how those waves could make things move.

Local Audiences Awed By Francill’s Shows

In the February 10th , 1923 Edition of the Coshocton Tribune, Francill was demonstrating a remote controlled automobile on the city streets of Coshocton as part of a radio exhibition that was touring the country.

The paper wrote: The machine he will demonstrate tonight is valued at ten thousand dollars and required a year to build. The machine is equipped with a radio selector which makes it possible to perform an operation request from any member of the audience, much in the same manner as if it had “mechanical brains”.

From that description it may be safe to conclude that Maurice Francill, who would later move his operations to Toledo, was the inventor, not just of remote control, but the first autonomous car. That was almost 100 years ago.

Francill would continue his demonstrations for curious eyes in a broad swath of cities and towns across the nation. In New Castle Pennsylvania in 1926 Radio Wizard Francill gave demonstrations at a car dealership of his invention showing the crowd how he could start the automobile, flash its lights, honk its horn or turn its wheel “without the touch of a human hand”. The newspaper writer reflected on what this “remote control” technology might mean for future. Francill even allowed people in the showroom to thoroughly inspect the car to make sure it wasn’t rigged with a hidden driver or wires. It wasn’t. The article also said Francill demonstrated how to fry an egg on a block of ice using this technology, but didn’t elaborate.

His amazing feats before thousands of people would be repeated maimes over from Newark Ohio to Reno Nevada with many stops in between. In Waterloo Iowa in 1927, thousands of onlookers jammed various points of the city to watch in awe as he drove a Hudson Essex down a city street, turned on a washing machine at a city laundry, and started up an ice factory with the press of a button on his 15 pound radio transmitter from a remote location. He was theRadio Wizard. His creativity for finding new applications was impressive. In 1929, In Newark,Ohio he was demonstrating at a local dairy, how his radio device could operate a mechanical milking machine for cows. He repeated the same stunt on stage at a theater in Lima in 1929, and the newspaper reported that the cow, “Duchess” was calmly brought onto the stage and Francill, was able to extract 40 pounds of milk which cascaded into the bucket like “Niagara Falls”. On that same trip to Lima he also showed how radio could be used to operate a street car, and he did it for all to see.

It is not apparent if Francill had succeeded in finding commercial uses for his new radio technology. However, because Francill was seen by many as an entertainer and not a scientist, his credentials and credibility may have been questioned as a serious inventor. Especially when considering that many of his shows also included spiritualism and Seance features. But it was hard to deny that he did have something tangible to provide audiences who marveled at his ability to drive a car, or a play a violin or milk a cow without the aid of a human hand.

It was the stuff of the future and in the 1920’s and 30’s, the science of radio was the new frontier of possibility and Francill brought some of that “wonder” to hometown America.

As far back at 1926 in an interview with a Reno Nevada reporter, Francill said he had built a death ray machine that could stop a beating heart and wanted to try it our on a convicted murderer who was condemned to die. He said he was asking some state governors to let him try it. He was convinced that the death ray technology would be the technology of future wars when armies would be able to use them to “annihilate people by the hundreds”. He also predicted it would become a popular crime fighting tool, for it not only could kill people, but kill the engines of speeding getaway vehicles and could start distant fires. His discovery of the“death ray”, he said, was found by accident while doing other experiments. He held its technology as a closely guarded secret lest it fall into the wrong hands of amateurs.

He also would later demonstrate the use of “light rays” which he touted as a new method to broadcast voice transmission on a,beam of light. He felt this was in many ways more effective and useful than radio waves. He was prescient on that thought, but light ray technology was not new. Hardly.

It had been invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1880. In fact the use of light ray photo-phones did become an effective stealth communication during World War Two. Today’s fiber optic technology is built on the foundation of light ray technology.

Francill’s one questionable claim was his public insistence that he had a “death ray” device. In 1940 he demonstrated it to reporters and witnesses in Toledo. In February of that year he assembled a group of reporters and witnesses to his home in North Toledo. Nine men, according to the article in the Toledo Blade, watched as Francill used a “queer machine” with port holes and coils, to deliver a death ray of sorts to a rat that rose up on its “shaky haunches, ran in a few agonized circles and died.”

The reporter, Arthur Peterson, contended that the rat was a large brown alley rat and appeared to be in good health before it was taken out of a wire cage and put into a glass case. From 15 feet away Francill’s projector was trained on the rat inther glass case and caused its sudden death. How and why did it die? What exotic technology had this Toledo inventor uncovered? Francill told the reporter he didn’t know, but he theorized that the “ray” may have deteriorated the tissue of blood and flesh and nerves.

He also demonstrated another experiment with the strange projector by projecting a ray unto a pair of beakers in which were two unidentified chemicals. When hit by the “ray” the chemicals turned from a milky white color to blue color. Francill showed the witnesses assembled at his home other examples of his shadowy science including the projection of a ray from the secret box to a shaft of steel which became very hot. He also showed a “military” invention thathe says was a thermal compound that can be ignited by water and get so hot it can eat through the side of a battle ship.

Just how long Francill lived in Toledo I have not yet determined(still working on it). I do know that he was here in the 1930’s and through part of the 50’s before he returned to his hometown of Marion where he passed away in 1974 at the age of 77.

Was he a crackpot? A conman? Or was he the real deal? Maybe a little of all three. Not sure really, but what I can ascertain by what I’ve read in the limited research I’ve done, is that he made some of his money by selling sponsors to his shows. When he demonstrated his “remote control” automobiles, it was usually underwritten and marketed by a car dealership. Or a dairy if he was milking cows, or a street car company if he was “automating” the local street cars. His draft card and selective service application in 1943 shows he was living at 1702 N. 12th Street in Toledo, was employed by the Massachusetts Protective Association(insurance company) and was married to his wife Josephine.

I am very curious as to what Francill’s “death ray” was. If it was not a hoax, I suspect that perhaps he had stumbled into some rudimentary microwave wave technology. The use of very high frequency radio waves to heat objects, which had been discovered in the 1930’s and even featured at the 1939 World’s fair in Chicago.

Regardless, even if Maurice Francill was just a clever huckster who could harness electronics to make a quick buck, he gave Americans of all ages and walks of life a sense of wonder of the world around them, a sense of the future wonders that would eventually come to fruition. Heat the very least a futurist, and a teacher who helped spark the imagination of the country.

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The Strange and Elusive Mr. MacFarland: Genoa’s Infamous “Blue Beard” Bigamist and “Hymeneal Champ”.

 

This is a story that’s been taking up space in my files for several years and I’ve been promising to fill in some blanks and share it with others. So here goes. It’s a largely forgotten but sparkling little gem of a story about a strange man who lived briefly in the Toledo area, then set out to become one of the more notorious characters of American matrimony. His name and exploits are still talked about in parts of California to this day.

MacFarland 5

Around 1911, newspapers around the nation began following the saga of Mr. Andrew Franklin MacFarland who was said to have been a resident of Genoa, Ohio at one time in the 1880’s and was in the insurance business. But it seems Andrew liked to move about the country and liked ladies and money. For MacFarland, it proved a dangerous combination of pursuits. I will begin this tale somewhere in the middle, when in September of 1911, while Andrew MacFarland was living with his wife Ella MacFarland in a Colorado Springs Colorado hotel, he was arrested and charged with embezzlement from a a woman by the name of Ethel Groom in San Francisco. Ethel was a lady whom MacFarland had married earlier that year promising her a life of wedded bliss, but she claimed in a warrant that soon after the wedding, he left her, and emptied her safety deposit box of some $10,000 in cash, then absconded with the funds and vanished. He was missing for months, only to be found in Colorado Springs Colorado by detectives who had been in hot pursuit. When captured that September day of 1911, it was reported that he was preparing to leave for a long trop with his third wife Ella, on a trip to Puerto Rico.

 

MacFarland Arrest

San Francisco Call September 20, 1911

A scandalous article in the San Francisco Call newspaper and other papers around the nation referred to Andrew F. MacFarland as a wealthy businessman who had started an insurance company in that city. The articles took delight in providing the sordid details of his “hymeneal venturism” as they called it. For at this point in his life, MacFarland had exchanged vows with four women over the course of his 44 years. Some of the wives, however, he had not bothered to divorce or annul the nuptials before moving on to the next one. And his first marriage took place in the 1880’s near Toledo where he wed a lady by the name of Leona Maville. After the wedding, they made their home in the little village of Genoa, not far from Toledo.

Just why he was in Genoa, or what he did there is still yet to be determined, but he and Leona didn’t stay too long. They stayed long enough to have one son and left Genoa a few years later and moved to Indiana where they had more children and as best can be determined, they moved back to Toledo, where MacFarland was working as a “clerk”, per census records.

Then in about 1895, MarFarland, for whatever his reasons, deserted his wife Leona and three sons and moved to Kansas. This is where in Wyandotte Kansas in 1896, forgetting his first wife, he met and married wife number 2, Minnie Gerard. This marriage occurs despite MacFarland never having legally ended or divorced poor Leona whom he had left high and dry and destitute.

MacFarland’s second wife, Minnie, however, also turned out to be as indifferent to the laws of matrimony as was he. For MacFarland soon discovered that Minnie was married to someone else. Taking umbrage, he left her and trekked south to Oklahoma where he met future wife number three, Ella Clem. The story is told that he was able to convince her that he really wasn’t married to wife number two(Minnie Gerard of Kansas) and never bothered to mention his first marriange or family he had in Genoa from many years before. It was a tangled web indeed and MacFarland didn’t seem too vexed by it all. In a few years he moved on to California with his wife Ella. They settled in the San Diego area of Pacific Beach where they became respected citizens of the community. MacFarland, having built an insurance company as massing a tidy sum of cash built a grand home near the Hotel Balboa in 1907. The story of their lives in Pacific Beach can be found here.

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MacFarland Home in Pacfic Beach

 

 

http://thewebsters.us/2014/10/31/the-macfarland-legacy/

A few years later, however, they left their home in Pacific Beach and relocated to San Francisco and carried on a life of prosperity in that region with his Pacific Life Insurance Company. Then in 1911, in a burst of sudden epiphany, MacFarland announced to Ella that he wanted to straighten everything out with his matrimonial entanglements of the past. To make it happen he asked for annulment from his wife Ella so he could be free to get an annulment from wife #2(Minnie of Kansas) and to be finally cleared from that former marriage. Ella consented but only if MacFarland would agree to remarry her immediately after the annulment from (Minnie) wife#2. (if you’re confused, I was too. Best bet read it again. We’re just getting started)

And as you might have guessed, once a lothario, always a lothario, MacFarland got his annulment from Minnie,and an annulment from Ella. But he had no intention of remarrying Ella as promised, instead he promptly traveled to Ogden Utah and married a fourth woman, Ethel Groom, one of his young stenographers.  After the wedding, they took an extended honeymoon to the East Coast and didn’t return for a month. Upon returning to California though, he was to learn that his strange behavior was now the talk of the town. The story of Andrew MacFarland’s sudden new marriage and all of his matrimonial adventures had made the front page of the newspapers and third wife Ella, now a woman scorned, was not a happy camper. She went back to court and had the annulment to Andrew rescinded, thus MacFarland was now officially a bigamist.

The case became a front page butt of jokes and comedy. The San Francisco Call newspaper published one article in March of 1911 entitled “Now Just Who Is MacFarland’s Wife?”

MacFarland news

The article laid bare his life and his “matrimonial career”, but interestingly it left out the fact that he had been married and was still married to Leona Mavall of Toledo. MacFarland had held this secret very close to his vest over the years and it was not common knowledge.MacFarland6

Seemingly unrepentant, MacFarland’s folly persisted as he was able to convince wife #4(Ethel) to get an annulment so he could officially divorce wife #3(Ella) and then he and Ethel could settle down in matrimonial bliss. (What’s the saying “Fool me once, shame on me, fool me twice…)

So who got fooled again?

Well once Ethel’s annulment was granted and the ink still wet on the court order, our Mr. MacFarland had a sudden and miraculous memory recovery. He rememebered he still had a legal marriage with Leona Maville with whom he had played house in Genoa Ohio back in the 1880’s. With sudden clarity of purpose, MacFarland reveals the truth to the world and grabs the first train to Toledo to reaquint himself with his old friends there, but then after a few weeks, he vanishes.

Back in San Francisco, Ethel the former wife #4, now also a scorned woman, checked her safety deposit box and found that MacFarland had appropriated the cash from it before heading for Ohio. Not only was a known liar and bigamist, he was now being called a thief.

The weeks turned to months and MacFarland was a wanted man. Just where he traveled or hid is not known, but in September of 1911 he was found by private detectives living in a hotel in Colorado Springs Colorado with his third wife Ella. To whom he was still legally wed.

MacFarland, a wealthy man believed to have a cash fortune into the six figures, voluntarily returned to San Francisco after his arrest in Colorado. He fought the embezzlement charges and a year later his case was still tied up in the courts. The furious and former fourth wide Ethel wanted what she said was her money, a wedding gift of 10,000 dollars. MacFarland claimed it was not her money, and he never gave it to her. He also claimed she was blackmailing him for another $30,000 for her to drop the charges against him. Despite this rancor, and MacFarland’s reputation, Ethel told the court she still loved him and wanted to be with him. (Wow did he have some of male magic or what? Money magic maybe?)

Finally in September of 1912, after his second trial concluded, the jury acquited MacFarland for embezzlement. The headlines and the publicity faded and it is written that MacFarland apparently gave up his wedlock wanderlust and settled down, for awhile, with wife #3 Ella.

He and Ella would eventually move back to San Diego to their luxurious home in Pacific Beach. Considered one of the grand homes of the town and stands to this day and as a landmark of Pacific Beach. But for the MacFarlands, life behind the beautiful facade of that home was a stormy one.

In August of 1918 Andrew MacFarland filed for divorce from Ella and accused her of being “cold and of an unaffectionate manner”, often denouncing him as untrue to her and wasting his money in “riotous living” when he was away from home. He denied the allegations.

Ella MacFarland’s also denied his allegations and claimed he had deserted and abandoned her. In September of 1918 a judge ruled in favor of Ella and granted her a divorce. A week later, MacFarland, now 51 years old married a 25-year-old court stenographer Carmen Kertson, and they apparently went on to lead a what was said to be a quiet life in Los Angeles.

MacFarland Marriage record

Marriage License to Carmen Kertson, Wife #5

But even that wedded bliss did not end well. They divorced sometime in the 1930. By the 1940 census it showed him living alone in Los Angeles. He died in 1942 at the age of 75 and is buried at Forest Lawn in Los Angeles. Carmen went on to live a much longer life passing away in 1974. Census records show they may have had as many as two children together.

We do not know if he ever reconciled or acknowledged his first wife in Toledo, Leona Maville. A record search shows that he married her in Monroe County Michigan in 1884. It was appear that he was a mere 17 at the time, being born in December of 1866. According to the records I’ve reviewed they took up residence lin Genoa,had three children together before he deserted them in the 1890’s.

At that time he was using the name Frank MacFarland, not Andrew F. MacFarland. Their three sons were named Harrison, Ransalier, and Alonzo. The oldest son Harrison, born in 1884 in Genoa. Evenutally Harrison moved west, had several marriages himself over the course of his life and appears to have moved to the San Francisco area where his father was residing. Harrison also got tangled up in some unsavory behavior and ended up in San Quentin prison for passing bad checks in the early 1900’s. He died in San Francisco in 1961.

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Son Harrison, born in Genoa. Prison Photo

The second son of Leona and Andrew Macfarland was Ransalier and he was born near Elkhart Indiana, later moved to California and died in Santa Barbara in 1962.

Ransalier MacFarland (son)

Ransalier MacFarland. Andrew on right?

The 3rd son, Alonzo was born in 1888. The 1900 census shows that he was 12 years old and living with his mother Leona and his brother Ransalier in the 300 block of Buffalo Street in North Toledo. She is listed in the census as a “washerwoman” and Ransalier was listed as a “day laborer”. Alonzo was still in school.

And one final footnote is that keeping to Andrew MacFarland’s crazy quilt world of wedlock, marriages, remarriages, and annulments. While he and Leona were on record as having been married in Whiteford Twp Michigan in 1884, they were apparently remarried in Ohio in 1892. Lucas County probate court records show they were wed again on January 2nd, 1892 in Toledo.

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Toledo’s Good Old Days? Were they really?

I just came across a Toledo Newsbee article from January 1st of 1931 which provided the statistics for how Toledo fared in 1930 when it came to violent deaths, such as murders, accidents, drownings and other untimely and nasty means of death. For those who like to harbor the notion that we currently live in the “worst of times”, these numbers may be eye opening, for it seems apparent that in our grandparents era of the 1920’s and 30’s, life was fraught with danger, maybe more than today.

Perhaps the most startling numbers were of those folks who died from car accidents in the city of Toledo. In one year, 1930, 120 people died as a result of car accidents. And the article points out that it was an improvement over 1929 when the toll was 121. That’s more than 2 deaths per week.  If that seems high, it is. While Toledo does record a tragic number of auto related highway deaths these days, it comes no where close to that disturbing toll. The latest stats from the Ohio State High Patrol show that in all of 2018, 33 people died from vehicle related crashes in Lucas County. About a fourth of the death toll compared to 1930.

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Toledo Police Motorcyle Squad 1929

Maybe seat belts, air bags, drunk driving restrictions, training and better enforcement, and of course modern medical care, have something to so with the reduction in mortality. Consider if you will that we actually have far more cars on the street, faster speeds, and more miles driven in the city than 90 years ago.

Death story5

From June of 1930, the heartbreaking story of 5 year old killed in Toledo.

It should be noted that by 1937, the auto traffic death toll in Toledo was still high at over 100, with over 1700 injured. The Toledo News Bee and the city began to recognize there were too many drunk drivers and “madmen” behind the wheel. They began efforts to raise traffic safety awareness and campaigns.

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Car crashes were all too common in 1930’s.

 

The other number that jumped out at me from 1930, were the number of drownings. Forty-one(41) people died from drowning in Lucas County in 1930, and it was noted that the 1930 number doubled the 1929 number at 22 deaths by drowning. Our current numbers are always too high, but far less than 20.

The 1930 statistic on water deaths also includes the mysterious sinking of a speedboat in Lake Erie in June of that year that claimed the lives of 7 prominent Toledo men who were on their way to a picnic at Pelee Island Canada. The boat and the men were found, but the answers as to what and why happened only the water knows for sure.

And when it comes to murder, the streets seemed to be as dangerous in 1930, as they are today, 40 homicides recorded back then.  Compare that to 2018 in Toledo, when we had 41 murders recorded. About the same. Although, without the life saving emergency medical protocols and advances of the modern era, one could easily surmise the death toll would probably be much higher today than it is.

As for suicides. Depression was no stranger to our fore-bearers. 51 people in Toledo took their own lives in 1930, mostly by gunshot.

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Mayhem and Domestic Violence were not rare headlines in 1930

Also of note in the autopsy of violent death were the number of people who died from burns, which was 26. And railroad accident(not auto-train collisions) sent 26 people to their graves. This was during the era when trains and trolleys laced the area and accidents were not uncommon.

In addition to these dangers of the era, 87 others in Toledo in 1930 died by industrial accidents, accidental shootings, sports injuries, falls, food poisoning, and other lurking menaces.

One of those was the new danger that had emerged during the prohibition era for people with severe alcohol addictions. With booze outlawed and not as easy to access, the desperate often met their need for alcohol by drinking whatever they could, such as highly toxic ethanol-based alcohols, or what was known as “canned heat”. Toledo recorded 12 deaths in 1930 from men and women who succumbed to that grim poison.

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“The Perils of Poison” Canned Heat was

These days of course, while “canned heat” is no longer the scourge it once was, our grim statistic is the growing number of opioid deaths in Lucas County..which will easily surpass 100 this year. Hopefully some day in the not too distant future, it too be be a footnote in our long history.

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The Great Stone Face of Toledo

great stone face

Photo of Great Stone Face taken at Dixon Inn in Toledo circa 1920

Okay, here’s a mystery that needs an answer. Or maybe a couple. It seems that back in the 1800’s when Toledo city workers were doing some excavating along Monroe Street in the downtown area, they came across  an ancient stone carving. It was the carving of face and it appeared to those who saw it to be the face of an early Native American, or a person with “thick lips and round face”who was deemed to be one of the “ancient” pre-historic people, known as mound builders.

This little gem has come my way from a book given to me by a friend who found the 1922 book it in a garage sale near Dayton.  The book is entitled “Memories” by Dr. Cyrus Noble of Toledo who practiced medicine in the early part of the 20th century in Toledo and Wood County.

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Dr. Cyrus Noble

Dr. Noble was also a poet and observer of life in the area and his poems reflect on a number of local stories that piqued his curiosity and interest.  In “Memories” he writes fondly of the famed “Indian Elm” in Maumee.  A giant among trees where Indians reportedly perched to take aim at soldiers across the Maumee River at Ft. Meigs.  Dr. Noble also waxes lyrically about a variety of topics, but the one that snared my curiosity was the story of the “Great Stone Face”. There wasn’t much of a narrative about it, but there was a photo of it, presumably where it was exhibited for years inside of the now-forgotten Dixon Inn in Toledo’s old Tenderloin District.   The Dixon Inn had been a brothel at one time, amid the clutter of  the “sin zone” but after the Tenderloin was closed down in 1918, the Dixon Inn stayed open as a hotel, inn and boarding house, and more importantly – a very strange museum.  I have written about the Dixon Inn before in the Gazette, and its odd collection of bizarre artifacts, from shrunken heads to ancient battle weapons. But the “Great Stone Face” is the stand out among the collection, for if it is truly an artifact of ancient heritage, it conjures a list of questions, the first being how it came rest 20 feet below the surface of earth in the area of downtown Toledo?  One might wonder what else is still down there to be discovered?  If there are any folks who can offer some educated speculation as to the origin of this “face” or any other information about it,  please share them with us.  My search efforts to excavate more about information regarding the “face” have turned up nothing specific, but other stories regarding carvings found in other areas of the country.

In fact, the discovery of human effigy artifacts from the “mounds” in Ohio and other Midwest sites in Illinois and the Mississippi Valley are well established, but Toledo was not known for an abundance of such mound building activity, although, there were, as I have read, some small “mounds” discovered in the downtown area near the river upon arrival of the first pioneers to the area. So how did this carving get to Toledo. It was offered by some that it could have been transported here centuries ago from another area and left with those ancients living on the Maumee River.

When looking at the photo of this particular “stone face” at the Dixon Inn, it does not resemble the others I have seen, but looks more “finished” or finely sculpted. Thus, some shades of skepticism darken my door of belief. What do you think?  Where would it have come from? How did it get to Toledo, and what ever happened to it?  I have found from a newspaper reference that it was part of the Dixon collection that was auctioned at the Dixon Inn around 1925 after the owner died.

The Great Stone Face of Toledo seems to have disappeared in the past century, leaving me to wonder whether the carving was really the product of someone perpetrating a hoax and merely had been the handiwork of a con artist or someone with a sense of history and humor.  That is certainly possible and let’s face it, the Dixon Inn was not exactly the Smithsonian.  Despite the questions and the doubts, Dr. Noble seemed convinced of its historic gravity and message  when he penned his poem in 1920, about Toledo’s Great Stone Face.

If the veil of mystery,

were rent so I could see,

I could talk to the Great Stone Face,

and it could talk to me.

To tell me of the ages past,

of all the great unknown–

and about the Master Hand

that made it in the stone,

And of the mighty ruler,

in whose image it was made,

How it t’was worshiped as a god,

through many a decade.

How before some temple door,

t’was strewn with flowers and kisses

It saw the strife of human life,

And heard its howls and Hisses;

Then watched earth drink up the blood,

of men of might and brains

It saw the traitors slay their kings

To grasp the ruler’s reins

 

For centuries this face held sway,

above some sacred mound,

until a conquering army came,

and dragged it to the ground.

Its friends, by night, had stole away

And brought it over land,

with stealth and pride,

they buried it beneath the Maumee’s sand.

Then all the history of its past

Was plunged into the dark,

No doubt t’was safely hidden there

when Noah built his ark.

 

A modern city rose Above its resting place;

Men who delved into the ground

Came to this wondrous face.

They brought it once more to light,

where the curious could gaze,

and ponder over its handiwork of men of other days.

Perhaps a thousand years from now,

when this fair city’s gone,

Art and Science once more lost,

as time keeps marching on,

and as other cities rise again,

this stone face will be found,

To prove that the greatest of all men

Now sleep beneath the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Were Wild Parrot Once Native to Ohio?

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Once native to Ohio, with some sightings in Northwest Ohio

The answer might surprise you. Because the answer, according to some accounts, is -yes. The bird in question was the Carolina Parrot or parakeet(Conuropsis carolinensis), a -tropical looking bird, about the size of a robin with colorful green, yellow and orange plumage and a long sweeping tail that once flourished throughout eastern North America. Sadly, this grand bird is now extinct. The very last survivor in captivity was named Incas and died in an aviary at the Cincinnati Zoo, one hundred years ago in February of 1918, just months after his mate, Lady Jane, had passed away. It was said that Incas died of loneliness. Ironically, he died in the very same aviary cage that also housed the last Passenger pigeon, Martha, which died in 1914.  Prior to the demise of the Carolina Parrot, this brightly feathered creature populated the skies of the Southern U.S. and parts of the Midwest and Northeast in numbers that were startling and loathsome to the early settlers who viewed the bird largely as a gregarious pest. The parrots were known to decimate farmers’ crops and strip orchards of fruit. The range of this parrot was wide, with sightings from Florida and Georgia, north to New England and New York, and west to Colorado and Texas. The first sightings were in the early 1600’s in the southern states where they were most dominant. The last official sightings though took place in the 1920’s, although, unconfirmed sightings also were reported in the 1930’s.

What caused these beautiful birds to die off? Kevin Burgio, a professor of Ecology with the University of Connecticut has studied the Carolina Parakeet for years. He writes that it’s a mystery. “Scientists don’t know what really drove these parakeets to extinction. Some thought it was habitat loss. Some thought it was hunting and trapping. Some thought disease. A few even thought it was competition with non-native honey bees for tree cavities, where the parakeets would roost and nest.”

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Museum Specimen Carolina Parakeet

All we know is they are gone, although we do know where they lived or were spotted over the years. And sometimes when they showed up in flocks of more than several hundreds, their presence was unsettling. In 1780, in upstate New York, a story is told that when a large flock of these aggressive, colorful and noisy birds swooped into one rural Dutch village, the townspeople reacted with fear. They had never witnessed anything like it, and thought it was a sign that the end of the world was nigh. The fear of the birds stayed with the town for years.

In Ohio, they also made people uncomfortable. In a story from a 1924 Toledo News Bee, it was conveyed as to how a flock flew over the state capital n Columbus in 1862. At least 25 of the birds swooped out of the sky across the treetops, noisy and screaming, with the brilliant colors flashing in the morning sun, they provided a rare spectacle, but also startled a group of students who took fright at the menacing flock. That Columbus sighting in July of 1862 was, according the article, the last sighting of the birds in Ohio.

The most common region where the parrots were seen in Ohio was reportedly in the thick forests around Cincinnati. Early pioneers wrote that, at times, the trees were filled with the shrieking hordes. Sycamore trees were their favorite habitat as they were fond of sycamore seeds and cockle-burr seeds as a regular diet staple. Ornithologists have speculated that the birds might have been poisonous, referencing some reports that squirrels that ate their flesh would die. There is really little known about these iconic birds. Research was limited during the time they were abundant in the United States, and it was only after they became extinct that scientist have begun a more focused investigation as to the origins, habitat, breeding, and historical accounts of what was probably the most exotic bird in our history.

So were any of these Carolina parakeets a part of Toledo’s natural history? Perhaps. James Audubon wrote of a sighting in 1806, of a flock of the parrots at the mouth of the Maumee River and Lake Erie. The source of that sighting though has not been confirmed and some scientists are unconvinced that Audubon got it right. Another sighting was reported in 1903, a few miles south of Sandusky as a resident said a parrot would come to feed in his orchard. Again, this report remains as anecdotal evidence only. There were other reports that were more convincing of the birds being seen in areas north of Cincinnati. And its speculated by some researchers that the Carolina Parakeet was probably a rare sight near Cincinnati by the 1840’s. Without more empirical data, however, the haze of time obscures the past and leaves little more than speculation. We may never know for sure if this beautiful parrot found its way to Northwest Ohio. But considering the verdant and rich landscape of heavily timbered swamps and marshes that existed here in this fertile womb of life, it is probably not wild speculation to at least imagine that those green and yellow wings once danced against the sunlight in the skies and the screaming voices of the Carolina Parakeet once echoed in the deep woods of the Great Black Swamp.

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Toledo’s Unforgettable Judge Austin

Judge James Austin

Judge Austin

Prior to the creation of a Municipal Court system, Toledo, like many cities, had for years used what was called a “Police Court”. In Toledo, that court was synonymous for several decades with one man: Judge James Austin.

Judge Austin was undoubtedly one of the city’s most powerful and colorful characters of the early 1900’s.  According to some accounts, he was the compelling reason that Toledo decided to create a municipal court system of four judges and structured the city’s court system.

It was said that a “certain class of citizens was being favored by Judge Austin.” In one edition of the ‘Police Journal’ of 1922, it was noted that “he withstood the continual howl of the newspapers and the public” for his actions in court.

Despite his critics, Judge Austin remained a popular figure in the city and was reelected to his judicial post many times over, even after the city had gone to a municipal court, Judge Austin was reelected to it and named its chief judge.

Even after assuming his new role as head of the court Judge James Austin continued to create headlines.

The ‘New York Times’ carried one story from 1920, when Austin couldn’t decide the guilt or innocence of a local grocer charged with running a gambling operation and bribery. So he asked the court audience to vote on it. He handed out 34 ballots and the vote came back 27-7 in favor of acquittal.

In another infamous case, a group of southern musicians had been arrested in the city’s notorious tenderloin district for panhandling, Judge Austin decided their best punishment would be to go get their instruments and come back and give the court a make shift concert, which they did.

It was his creativity in sentencing and his reputation for leniency that often sparked the most furor, for Judge Austin was of the mindset that a jail sentence was not always the best form of punishment. He believed it did little good to sentence poor people to the workhouse for crimes that “rich people” got away with.

He was known as the “Golden Rule” judge, believing that to be fair, you had to understand what people were going through and that sometimes the heart was a better measure of punishment than laws.

In 1908, back when Toledo had a workhouse near Swan Creek and City Park known as “Duck Island”, Judge Austin found himself “guilty” of curiosity and sentenced himself to a “day” at the prison, as an inmate, to see what the experience of a prisoner is really like.

On a bitterly cold day in February of that year, Judge Austin reported to “Duck Island” and subjected himself to endure the indignities of  being just another inmate. Citizen Austin was treated no differently than others, ordered to strip and get into prison togs, march to the dining hall and was sent to a pond to cut ice for the ice boxes at the jail.

Upon his release, Austin said, he would have to do some “tall thinking” in the future before sending a man to the workhouse. This was one of the reasons that Judge Austin had earned the nickname of the “Golden Rule” judge.

Another reason for his sobriquet was that the good judge was heavily influenced by the former Toledo Mayor Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones, who also believed that poor men deserve “second chances.” Like Judge Austin, Mayor Jones believed the court should not always punish, but serve to reform. He frequently took sides in favor of keeping families together.

In one case in 1909, a young girl appeared before his court to urge the judge to “Let Papa go” after her father had been arrested for “riding the rails.” Judge Austin listened to his heart and released her father from custody.

Austin was eager to listen to children in his court. In another case when a young “newsboy” was brought before his court on an assault charge against another “newsie.” Judge Austin decided to allow the young “newsboys” to serve as the judge and jury to decide verdict and punishment.

Judge Austin’s tenure as the “Police Court Judge” began in 1908 when he took the reigns of the court and lasted on the bench for another 20 years.  Within days after taking over the police court, the Toledo News Bee reported that Austin would not send a man to jail or fine him for drunkeness explaining that the Judge thought it was a disease. And one afflicted with it can no more combat it than he could typhoid fever. It was also noted that a defendant would not be sent to the work house on a first offense, however wife beaters would be shown no mercy. Shortly after assuming the robe, the Judge sentenced a man to 60 days in jail for taking a razor “strop” to his wife for punishment of an unknown transgression.

A native of Rhode Island, and a former Board of Elections member and police court prosecutor, Austin had been in some sort of public employment in Toledo for over 30 years. He was also a Unitarian as he was the son of a Unitarian minister.

Despite his taste for the dramatic while behind the bench, he was said to be a man of modest means, and an even temper. He didn’t drive a car, but took street cars and walked to work each day.

As a writer, he was also was popular on the speaking circuit as he tried to spread his ideas on how the “Golden Rule” should be applied as a tenet of justice. He was, by today’s standards, “liberal” of thought and was friends with many in Toledo’s so called “underworld.”

Judge Austin could be harsh and stern with those who took advantage of the poor and the weak. He was also a robust voice in the anti-gun movement of that era and often opined that guns had no place in a modern society.

It also became Austin’s goal to convince the city to give up its workhouse on Duck Island and start a prison farm.

Within ten years, the prison farm in Whitehouse was built which remained opened for another eight decades before it was eventually shutdown in the 1980’s. It stood vacant for decades and was recently demolished.

Judge James Austin

Judge Austin

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