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Thursday, December 6, 1979


PIX #1 - Edna Hatfield, celebrates 100th birthday

Edna Hatfield, a well-known Fostorian residing at 336 S. Main St., will join the ranks of other centenarians when she celebrated her 100th birthday Dec. 8.

Most of those 100 years have been lived in Fostoria, and 73 of them in the same house at 336 S. Main St., where she and her husband took up residence after their marriage in 1916.

Mrs. Hatfield was born Dec. 8, 1879, in the village of Brighton, in Lorain County, on what is now Ohio 18, to George and Eva (Redfern) Hazel. A brother Warren, was born two years later.

Three years later the family moved to Rochester, just three miles south of Brighton. It is interesting that both villages are still shown on Ohio maps. The Hazel family stayed in Rochester until 1887, when the news was circulated throughout the state that natural gas and oil had been discovered in the Fostoria area.

So, the Hazels and the Charles Mann family, grandparents of John and Richard Mann, came to Fostoria to seek work as carpenters, the trade of both. They learned there was plenty of work, since hundreds of houses were being built to meet the demands of the families arriving here because of the oil and gas boom and the related industrial explosion. They went to work for Rawson Crocker, who was involved in many housing and industrial development plans in Fostoria. Hazel and Mann were put to work on two houses that were being built on Jones Street, at the corner of South Main and just next to it.


When school started in September, Mrs. Hatfield recalls that her mother took her to the superintendant of schools to determine what grade she should be in since she had never attended school. Her tutoring had been received from her mother's at home. Since Edna had larned to read and knew her numbers, the superintendant said she was ready for the third grade, and she was entered in Harriet Leeches room. From there Edna went on to complete her education, graduating from Fostoria High School in 1897.

By the time Edna had graduated from high school she had already decided she wanted to be a teacher. I asked her how and when she decided that was her choice for a profession. She said, "As long as I could remember, I wanted to be a teacher.


It was a wise choice, and she put in 41 years before she finally retired in 1950.

When Edna decided to be a teacher, unlike today, there were no normal schools or specialty schools for teacher training. Consequently Fostoria's superintendent of schools appointed a Miss Sinclair to train those locally who wished to take a teacher-training course. That's how Edna received her instruction during the years 1897-98, for teaching.

Her first teaching assignment was to teach second and third grades at Columbus Avenue, and later fourth and fifth grades there.

In 1901, the Crocker Street (Whittier) school was opened and Edna moved there to teach the fifth grade. Later, still at Crocker she also taught sixth grade, combined sixth and seventh, and combined seventh and eighth grades.


When they shifted the eighth grade to Central High, Edna became the teacher there. She stayed on that job only one year, when she resigned to marry Dr. Chalmer Hatfield, one of her schoolmates. They were married October 1906. It was then that the newlyweds moved into the home where Mrs. Hatfield has lived since, with her daughter, Helene, who was born to the Hatfields Nov. 21, 1911.

Dr. Hatfield's health failed early in life, and he passed away October 1919.

After she was out of teaching for 10 years, R.W. Solomon, who was superintendent of schools then, called Mrs. Hatfield back to do substitute teaching in 1916, when make teachers were being drafted into the armed services. She took the place of Miss Miller who was ill, at Union Street school, and when she passed away, Mrs. Hatfield became a full-time Miss Miller teacher and principal at that school.


Later she was transferred to Crocker Street where she remained for 33 years.

I asked Mrs. Hatfield what she would do differently if she could start over. She hesitated only a second or two, then said, "I never wanted to do anything but teach, but if I had the chance again I would perhaps not have stayed in Fostoria for all my teaching career. I could have gone elsewhere, but didn't"

Leaving Fostoria would have been the city's loss, as mnay of her former students still living here (the writer being one of them) would testify.

Occasionally a former student will drop in to see Mrs. Hatfield, sometimes out from out-of-town on a visit here. The most recent one was Hilda (Walsh) Curran from Hastings, Michigan.

Mrs. Hatfield said she believes the Crocker Street school should not have been demolished, but should have been used to serve the children in the south end of town.


All of Mrs. Hatfield's contributions to this community haven't been to the schools. She has also been active in King's Daughters and the Presbyterian Church.

Her family started going to that church soon after they settled in Fostoria, and she has been a member ever since, for 92 years. The Rev. James Patterson was the pastor then, and the church was located on West Fremont Street on the site where the Gladys (Andes) Harrison house was later built.

Many Fostoria youngsters not only got their early schooling in the public schools from Mrs. Hatfield, but also their Sunday School rudiments at the Presbyterian Church.

Asked about differences in the school system then and now, Mrs. Hatfield offered the opinion that there was greater cooperation between parents and teachers on matters of educating and disciplining. Back then, the superintendent visited each classroom periodically to check on teaching procedures and progress, she said.

At 100 years of age, Mrs. Hatfield has relatively good health with her greatest problems being hearing and walking. She uses a "walker" to get around the house. Trips from her home are not practically non-existent. And, she is unable to do as much as she did a year or so ago. But, her mind is sharp and she is able to recall events, dates, names, etc., quickly when questioned.


What a great blessing it must be to reach "100" and be able to look back on all of the events and experiences of those years, to recall former students and their names and to know that you have contributed to their lives, to have seen the town grow, to have been acquainted with so many people who were part of the last 100 years in Fostoria.

Former students and teachers who have been close to Mrs. Hatfield are holding open-house for her Saturday, Dec. 8 at her home at 336 S. Main St. from 2-4 pm. Former students and old friends are invited. On the committee for the affair are: Helen Stone, chairperson, Gladys Lyons, Mrs. Ivy Church Sr., Helen Gary, Uldene Carbon, Ida Emerson, Ruth Sendelback, and Edna Gilhuly.

So, on this memorable event in your life, Mr. Hatfield, this writer and the whole town wishes you a happy birthday, and many more to come. God bless you richly.

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