Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Log Cabin Days in Avon – Part 1

Today, Avon is one of the Top Ten fastest growing cities in Ohio, with incredible development and change occurring over the last 30 years.

But what was it like 130 years ago? Fortunately, we have a first hand account to find out.

Here’s a great story about the city’s log cabin days, as seen from the perspective of a pioneering Avon couple. The article containing their reminisces ran in the Lorain Times-Herald on November 14, 1928.

There are plenty of interesting things in the story, which I’m breaking into two parts. (The whole article is at left if you don't want to wait for my transcription.) Part 2 even has a mention of Lorain’s "horse car" for you streetcar fans.

(Note: the article was very light and hard to make out with much missing and broken type. My transcription below is about as accurate as I can determine.)

60 Years – In Retrospect
Avon Couple Looks Back to Log Cabin Days When
Village Was a Forest – They were Wed in
’68 When Living Was Dirt Cheap

Out of the lane of busy traffic and away from the smoky atmosphere of the city an old homestead still stands in Avon – a homestead characterized by two of its occupants, Mr. and Mrs. B. H. (Ben) Herwodel.

Nestled back off the road a little where Chester and Jaycox roads bisect each other the old house nestles among a grove of shade trees. For 43 years those trees have gazed down at the old couple who daily busied about the farm yard, looking over the hay and stock, and watching the horses bring in the loads of vegetables and grain from the 30-acre plot which they own.

It was back in the swamp days when Mr. and Mrs. Herwodel took up their abode in the village. It was in the halcyon days of Avon when the village was still a lusty infant and its cries were heard by not more than five or six families in a radius of ten miles. Many of the old pioneers have died or moved, but the Herwodel’s still stay and in doing so have brought upon themselves the good will of their neighbors.

Still Spry at 83
“Good Old Ben” as villagers call the old gentleman, who still is spry for all of his 83 eventful years, strolls around his vineyards and his acreage with the aid of a cane. His eyesight has been gone eight years, but he’s a fatalist in a way. “Come what may,” says he. “It’s to be and I can get used to anything.” A silver plate is in the left side of his head, a concealed reminder of an accident when he was nine. “Ben” was dragged many feet by a runaway horse and wagon in Cleveland. Since then he has worn the plate and has been blind in one eye. The other failed him eight years ago.

Mr. Herwodel came to Cleveland from Germany in 1852. He was born December 1844. He moved to Avon with his bride 42 years ago.

Mrs. Herwodel claims as her birthplace Baden, Germany in 1844. She but dimly remembers the stormy trip across the Atlantic in a sailing vessel in 1847 with her parents and five other children. Her memory recalls incidents of the trip up Lake Erie from Buffalo to Cleveland. “What a miracle Lake Erie was to me,” she says. “Such a difference from the wavy sea.”

Wed for 60 Years
The aged couple have been married 60 years, their anniversary being celebrated about two weeks ago by a host of Avon friends and relatives.

Age has not darkened the eyes of Mrs. Herwodel. Every night she reads the paper to her husband and is “up” on all the topics of the day – peace treaties, politics and everything else one finds in the city papers. No hesitating when she tells the story of her life in the Avon wilderness and the tale of the woods of what today is Cleveland.

Mrs. Herwodel’s father, Sebastian Lear, for whom Lear-rd in Avon is named, had the opportunity many years ago to buy 100 acres of land in Cleveland for $600. Mr. Lear had only $500 and could not possibly borrow another $100 nor would the owner of the land take a note for the payment.

Last Chance for Wealth
“We would have been millionaires now if my father had been able to buy that land,” declares Mrs. Herwodel.

“That’s right, mother. We would be rich now,” chimes in Pa Herwodel.

“Yes, for that land now holds all the homes of East Cleveland.”

Next: More reminisces


Lisa said...

My question concerns Avon Lake, in particular the Avon Lake Water Plant on 33370 Lake Rd. The building itself is a beautifully ornate brick. Do you know what it was back in the day?

Dan Brady said...

Hi Lisa,
According to various online sources (including the Avon Lake Water website), it appears that it was built in 1926 by the Lorain County Commissioners for its current purpose. Gerry Vogel's Avon Lake Arcadia book includes a 1958 photo of it and a short history.