Wednesday, August 8, 2018

The Mysterious Clifton House in Avon – August 1949

These days, the Morning Journal is no longer a “Lorain” newspaper. Its coverage includes much of Northeast Ohio beyond Lorain County, in an attempt to reach a larger readership – and stay in business as well.

But back when the newspaper was the Lorain Journal, it still covered stories beyond the city’s borders. In the 1940s and 50s, the paper had a particular interest in historic houses in Lorain County with a story to tell. Sadly, most of these homes are gone today – but the Journal’s stories about them survive (and often appeared on this blog.

Here’s one of those stories, about a mysterious house in Avon. The article ran in the Lorain Journal on August 18, 1949.

Mysteries Surround Avon Home

No one can say if the whisperings surrounding an Avon house over 100 years old stand true.

But’s a known fact the strange old home at 36468 Detroit-rd twice yielded gold from its walls – slightly over $100 – and that unaccountable wealth may be buried above its oval windows today.

All that Miss Beulah Clifton, 40 King-st, Oberlin, recalls is she was born in the 12-room mansion her grandfather built about 1826. And that about $100 in gold coin was discovered inside its damp foundation walls.

“My father found almost $100 in gold coin,” said the employe of the Elyria Savings and Trust Co.

Believed To Be Slave Hideout
The mansion was once reported to be a slave hideout.

Large windows, deep rooms, a massive foundation and adjacent barn alone testify to the era when elderly Mr. Clifton – a notary public and apparent village prominent – made his way to and from his home by carriage and deposited his earnings in the walls.

The present owners added to the story when they discovered a deerhide trunk and a tombstone.

“Upstairs in a large, unfinished attic with jutting rafters,” said Mrs. Bill Wingate, “in a tiny room all plastered and finished and standing by itself, was a trunk dated 1774, a marriage license of 1829 and a supina [sic] dated 1860.”

The tombstone inscribed “Ann Clifton, 1854” Mrs. Wingate has inverted for use on her front stone steps. She found it in the basement.

21 Acres On Wingate Land
The Wingates’ land (Bill is associated in Lorain with Mobile Vendor Corp.) extends back 21 acres. Their 14-year old son Douglas now plays baseball near the window where gold was found and close by the purported burial ground.

No one knows what the tombstone was doing in the basement. And neither the Wingates or her parents Mr. and Mrs. M. D. Miller who live there have prowled in the strange attic – except once – because no stairway connects it to the mysterious old Detroit-rd landmark.

It appears that today, the 36468 Detroit Road address of the mysterious house roughly coincides with the entrance to French Creek Reserve. The winding lane’s name – Clifton Way – is an apparent nod to Mr. Clifton.
Today, the relocated Clifton barn is part of Old Avon Village. Here's the link to the website for The Clifton Barn at Old Avon Village.


Anonymous said...

Neat story!

Rick said...

Wow -- did that article bring back memories! Although I was unaware of the Journal article, I had heard in some detail about the old house -- and the gold coins. It so happens that I learned details about the house during my American History class at Amherst High in my junior year. The information was related to us students by our teacher Mrs. Helen Wingate, whose family owned the house. Mrs. Wingate was a much loved teacher of American History and the Dean of Girls in the Amherst schools for many years. Her class was largely responsible for my continuing interest in history. When she mentioned that gold had been found in the house, and there could be more, every kid in the class wished that they lived in that house! Thanks for starting my day with the memory!