Friday, October 19, 2012

Brownhelm Tombstones: What's in a name?

For those of you with children – did you choose to name them after someone famous?

Abraham Wellman, Brownhelm pioneer, did – and his choices are on display in the Brownhelm Cemetery.

This article explains it all. It ran in the Lorain Journal on January 2, 1958 and is an interesting account of how one early settler of Brownhelm named his sons.

Here's the article, written by Lee Berton, as well as the accompanying photo, appearing here courtesy of the Morning Journal.

Brownhelm Tombstones Disclose Segments of State's Political Past

BROWNHELM TOWNSHIP – The past often comes alive in cemeteries.

It springs to life through the eye of a passerby.

In the southeast corner of Brownhelm Cemetery on North Ridge Rd. just past Sunnyside Rd., lies a tombstone of the Wellman family.

Abraham Welllman, one of the early settlers of the township who came from Maine, had eight sons and daughters.

Five of their names are listed on this stone. Wellman, a carpenter, named his sons after authors, poets and politicians. Two of the names on the stone are Shakesper 1857-1878 and Voorhees 1865-1871.

Daniel Wolsey Voorhees was a Butler County political leader and great orator. Elected to the House of Representatives and the Senate from Ohio, he was known as "the Tall Sycamore of the Wabash" because of his high stature.

In a plot to the west is another stone. It reads Byron M. Wellman. Abraham Wellman named this son after Lord Byron, the late English romantic poet.

Still another stone was an enigma at first. It read Valdingham. These are the four sons, Shakesper, Vorhees, Byron and Valdingham.

A little research disclosed that another Ohio politician of the 19th Century associated with Daniel Vorhees in a Civil War organization known as the Knights of the Golden Circle was Clement Laird Vallandigham.

Vallandigham sided with the South and was a leader of the "copperheads" or peace Democats. He was at one time exiled to Canada but returned to Ohio to write part of the national Democratic program in 1864.

The spelling of Shakesper suggests that Abraham Wellman most probably named his son after the fiery radical who denounced the Republican's Reconstruction policies.

There is only one relative of the Wellmans remaining in Lorain County. He is the son of Excene, daughter of Abraham Wellman. His name is Jesse Smith and he owns an 86-acre farm in South Amherst.

Smith, 79, is a bachelor and is the son of Loren Smith, the first settler of Russia Township. At his farm on Quarry Rd. near Russia Rd. Smith spoke of his aunts and uncles in happy reminiscence. He remembered that Valdingham, or Val, as he was called, worked at the quarry. Byron and Shakesper worked for farmers.

"Yes, they're all gone now, except myself and Irene, another niece," said Smith. "They were quite a happy lot and an independent lot."

Other residents of Brownhelm remember the Wellmans as self-reliant, mildly rambunctious, but with a rambunctiousness bred of the land.

FROM THE PAST – Warren Brill, Brownhelm Township cemetery superintendent, stands between two tombstones of the Wellman family. The cemetery is at North Ridge Rd. and Sunnyside Rd. Abraham named his sons after writers and Ohio political figures. Another son, Shakesper, is buried at the southeast corner of the cemetery. Valdingham is probably a misspelling of the last name of Clement Laird Vallandigham, a states-rights Democrat in Ohio during the Civil War.

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