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Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)


On Nov. 2, J. R. Bradner was elected mayor. He took office on Jan. 1, 1910 and the two-mayor controversy was ended.

Fostoria's hopes, that the city would be chosen for the location of one of the state normal schools, were dashed in November, 1919 by the decision of a state commission that the school would be placed in Bowling Green. That school is now Bowling Green State University.

The cities of Fremont, Napoleon and Upper Sandusky were also vying to host the state school for Northwest Ohio, but Fostoria at that time had a lot of political clout. As the site of the former Normal College, destroyed by fire in 1904, city leaders thought Fostoria had the best chance to land the school.


1911- (More about the year)

The Fostoria Commercial Club, a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, was organized in January of 1911. The first president was D. P. McCarthy; first vice president, W. S. Sutliff; second vice president, C. A. Strauch; secretary, George E. Reed; and treasurer, Don Mickey.

At the first meeting of the 15 directors, McCarthy appointed two committees; one on manufacturing and commerce; and the other on membership and entertainment. The group went on to work hard to bring new business and industry into the city and to assist in the retention of firms already in business here.

Also in 1911, the trustees of the newly-formed Y.M.C.A. voted to accept the recommendation of the building committee for the purchase of the Emerine and Henry properties at the corner of Center and Wood streets for $6,800 (that included three buildings on the site).



On Oct. 1, 1912, Congressman Carl C. Anderson was instantly killed when the auto in which he was riding over-turned on the New Riegel Road, two-and-a-half miles south of Fostoria. Russell Knepper, Democratic candidate for prosecuting attorney in Seneca County was badly hurt and Paul Myers, the chauffeur, was thrown through a fence. His left arm was broken. Charles Scharf, the fourth member of the party wa uninjured except for some bruises.

A passing motorist took Mr. Myers to the Shuman garage in Fostoria to get help. Several doctors and other citizens responded and lifted the auto from the dead congressman.

The quartet left Fostoria earlier in the evening for a campaign trip to Alvada and New Riegel.

Myers said that Anderson urged him to speed up so that Mr. Knepper could catch the last interurban car to Tiffin. As he approached a double curve in the road, Myers continued straight ahead and into the ditch.



In March of 1913, Ohio and Indiana were devastated by floods. Nearby Tiffin was particurlarly hard hit as were Findlay and Fremont.

More than 2,000 lives were lost in the two states with property damage estimated in excess of $50,000,000. More than 500 lives were lost in Ohio.

Mayor W. M. Ralston of Fostoria issued the following statement. "In view of the fact that our city has been signally blessed and favored, while our neighbor cities have been visited by devastating floods, in consequence of which great suffering and deprivation must surely follow; as mayor of Fostoria I call upon all charitably minded citizens to organize at once in a spirit of thankfulness to relieve any and all suffering, from whatever source it may come, by contributions of money, clothing and food supplies".

Governor Cox appealed to the United States Government for 50,000 tents and 100,000 rations. The national guard was called out, but movement of troops was at a standstill because most trains were annulled.



The Y.M.C.A. and the McClean Public Library shared honors as both held formal openings in 1914. The new $76,000 Y building was dedicated on May 10. A four-day schedule of activities preceded the official dedication ceremonies. D. P. McCarthy was president of the board. E. W. Allen chaired the building committee. A. H. Lichty of the state association delivered an inspiring message.

The new McClean Public Library was opened to the people of Fostoria on Nov. 11. A constant line of delighted visitors passed through the building between 6:30 and 10 p.m.

The thousands of visitors were greatly impressed with the well-graded lawn, the drinking fountains, the cannon dedicated to the city, and the high standard lamps on the street.

Rules, laws and regulations governing the library were presented by the Assistant Librarian, Mrs. Ella Robbins.



In 1915, the numerous buildings and grounds of the General Electric Co., on Poplar Street at the B & O railroad tracks, were saved for Fostoria.

A land company was formed by a number of loyal citizens who purchased the property from GE with a cash down payment of $15,000. Officers of the land company announced that the buildings would not be wrecked, but would be rented to industries of Fostoria or to outsiders wishing to locate here.

One interested businessman commented, "There is no reason why 2,000 men should not be employed in these plants in the various industries within a year.

Fostoria had a population of 10,542 in 1915, an increase of 9.9 percent over five years earlier. Fremont was credited with 10,698, an increase of 7.6 percent and Tiffin had 12,351, an increase of 3.9 percent.

Fostoria actually showed a bigger increase than any similar-size city in Ohio with the exception of Barberton, which gained 33.2 percent. Fostoria was then known as the "Biggest Little Town" in the state, located on six railroads and four interurbans, surrounded by a farming district that cannot be beaten and with a bunch of boosters ready at all times to do things for a bigger and busier Fostoria.


1916- (More about the year)

On June 19, 1916, Co. D Fostoria, Sixth Regiment, National Guard, was ordered to assemble and await orders preparatory to mobilizing with other regiments, at Columbus, for duty in Mexico.

The company, along with others, would be sent to guard the Mexican border while the regulars went into Mexico.

Captain Nichols and his officers were busy rounding up their men and ordering them to report to the armory on East North Street. The local company would be recruited to 65 and when that number was reached, would move at once to Columbus. First Lieutenant E. A. Kurtz would remain here to recruit an additional 138 men and three officers. Major George W. Cunningham was the commanding officer of Company D.

The first contingent left Fostoria on July 1 for Camp Willis, Columbus. The entire city turned out to pay them honor and wish them God-speed.

Veterans of two wars and hundreds of fraternal and patriotic organization members, city officials, firemen, men, women and children marched to the Hocking Valley depot where thousands of others were awaiting their arrival.

Factory and locomotive whistles were blowing, bells were ringing, flags were waving and people were applauding and cheering.

On Sept. 6, Company D left Columbus for El Paso, Texas.



The big story in 1917 was a plan by the Allen Motor Car Company to expand, then form an additional company, and increase Fostoria's population by at least 2,000.

With scenes resembling a flurry on the stock exchange, The Dale Body Co. stock, in the sum of $100,000, was not only subscribed, but was over-subscribed by $10,000.

The results were announced at a banquet given by 290 loyal Fostorians at the Odd Fellows Hall under the auspices of the local Chamber of Commerce. It was said to be the largest gathering of men ever held in Seneca County.

E. W. Allen told the group, "We have outgrown our present quarters at Center and North streets (where the post office now stands) and would like to locate our plant on fifty-five acres of land in connection with our present body plant, formerly known as the Peabody Buggy Factory."

Allen requested that all of that territory be included in the city of Fostoria, "bounded on the west by the county line; on the north by the public highway, running east and west in Jackson Township, between sections 30 and 31; on the east by the Hocking Valley Railroad and on the south by the present corporation line."

On the downside, the Gray Printing & Engraving plant was almost completely destroyed by fire on Jan. 13, 1917, with a loss estimated at $20,000.

The flames started in the basement, supposedly from the automatic gas furnace, and burned along the floor until it reached the elevator shaft where it quickly ascended and spread through the upper floors.



The pages of the local newspapers were dominated by war news from Europe in 1918, but the biggest headline was on Nov. 7. It simply said, "WAR ENDS."

The story indicated that, "The greatest war in history of all time came to an end at 2 p.m. today. The allies and Germany signed an armistice three hours earlier on the field of battle after the German delegation had come into the allied lines under a white flag.

A huge parade took place in Fostoria on Nov. 11 which was proclaimed as Armistice Day, now called Veteran's Day. Twenty Fostoria men were killed in the war.

Another major story in 1918 was the $165,000 fire on March 28 which destroyed the three-story block on North Main Street, built in 1906 by Ira Cadwallader and occupied the greater part of the time by the Kiebel-Wilson Co.

The fire had gained such headway before being discovered that the entire building was a mass of seething flames which quickly spread across the open court at the rear, igniting and endangering the Botto-Lavagill building on the corner of North and Main streets.


1919- (More about the year)

In June of 1919 announcement was made that papers were being prepared for the incorporation of the Fostoria Tool and Machine Co., capitalized at $100,000.

The Allen Motor Car Company had moved from Fostoria to Columbus (certainly a major story in and of itself) and Fostoria Machine and Tool Co. took over the old Allen factory building at North and Center streets. They also took an option of the bonded warehouse building just west of the Allen building.

The new owners reportedly planned to raze the old building on the corner and erect a substantial four-story structure of brick. They hoped to employ 50 men at the outset, eventually increasing to 250.

Steady employment was promised as tools had already been contracted for by the largest manufacturing firms throughout the United States.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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