Wednesday, October 30, 2013

C-T Coverage of the 1923 Swift Mansion Fire

While out in Brownhelm Township this past weekend, I made my annual trek down Gore Orphanage Road to the ruins of the Joseph Swift mansion.

Why? It just seems like the thing to do around Halloween. Plus, the story of the Swift mansion's fiery demise – and how it eventually led to the creation of the Gore Orphanage Legend – is still interesting to me. (Click here to read my 2009 series of posts about it.)

Anyway, in that blog series I reproduced some of The Lorain Times-Herald's coverage of the Swift Mansion fire. Since then, I've located the story as covered by The Chronicle-Telegram as well

Surprisingly, the C-T's coverage only warranted a small article at the bottom of the front page (unlike the Times-Herald's screaming headline and extensive front page coverage). Even more curious is the fact that the C-T story is sensationalized and full of misinformation.

Here's the Chronicle's story (below) as it ran on December 8, 1923.

Flames Destroy Haunted House Near Vermilion

Vermilion, O., Dec 8 – Only two spectral stone chimneys now stand on the site of the old haunted house which has been a mystery at Mill Hollow for many years. The colonial mansion burned to the ground in a midnight blaze.

Neighbors, who heard mysterious noises around the place on stormy nights, swear that spirits were screaming in the trees during the height of the blaze.

How the fire started is a mystery.

The only facts available are that the house was built in 1840 by Joseph Swift, who came to Ohio from Massachusetts. All of the logs used in the structure were brought from Maine. Other materials came from New York.

After his wife and family died, Swift lived at the house alone. One afternoon he rode away from the place on horseback. The saddle was found later near a creek not far from the house. Neither he nor his horse was ever seen again.

Several persons tried to live in the house but hurriedly left, saying it was haunted.

The haunted house was the mecca for thousands of tourists. Names of visitors from all quarters of the globe adorned the dilapidated walls of the house.

The article is so wrong that I wonder if it was written in a tongue-in-cheek fashion.

Swift's wife and family did not die, leaving him all alone in the house, and Swift did not mysteriously disappear along with his horse. The Swifts merely sold the house, when they experienced financial difficulties, and moved away. The house was located in Swift's Hollow, not Mill Hollow. And it's ridiculous to think that it would be necessary to drag logs all the way from Maine, when the property was covered with trees and it took Swift years to clear it before he could build.

Anyway, when it's closer to the 90th anniversary of the 1923 fire in December, I will post the terrific rebuttal to the above article that was written by a Kipton historian and appeared in the Chronicle a few months later.


Owen Dabek said...

I found this a long time ago on the LPLS website. The author of this article seems to think that the legend of Gore Orphanage was started because of the Collinwood School fire of 1908. It is quite an interesting article

-Alan D Hopewell said...

Dan- although the "Gore Orphanage" legend is merely that, that entire area has had a well-deserved reputation for odd occurrences for a couple centuries; I can personally attest to this.

Go to, type in alandhopewell in the "search" slot, and it'll bring up twenty-six true stories I've posted there, several of which took place in and around Gore Orphanage.