Author: Ashley Armstrong

I am fascinated by history, cemeteries, and ghosts! I am a volunteer contributor and photographer for Find A Grave…please connect with me there at can also find me at my Author/Artist profile at Besides history, ghost hunting, and writing, my other interests include genealogy, drawing, painting, cooking, sewing, embroidery, running, yoga, hiking, nature, and spending as much time as possible with my wonderful husband Mark and our two small children Adelaide and Jude.

Fairview Farm: A Glimpse Into My Family History

Sand Hill, Ohio County, West Virginia

The Family Farmhouse, photographed by me in the early 2000’s. I digitally removed the ramp that was placed for my Great-grandmother to show how the stairs originally appeared.

My fondest childhood memory is of visiting my great-grandmother on her farm in Sand Hill, in the district of Triadelphia, West Virginia. My mom, brother, and I would pile into my aunt’s van with three of our cousins and buckled down for the two-hour drive. We often stopped for lunch at Shoney’s before continuing on to the beautiful city of Wheeling. We loved experiencing the sudden cloak of darkness and gradual expanding pinhole of light through Wheeling Tunnel. Having opened in 1966, the .27 mile long twin tunnels run along routes I-70/US 250 and brings drivers beneath the mountain known as Wheeling Hill.

After driving through Wheeling, the car would turn onto Stone Church Rd., a road that makes a vertical climb up Sand Hill. On our right, we passed Stone Church Cemetery, where our earliest ancestors to the area, Daniel and Mary Blake Winters, are buried. From there, we made our way up, up, up the side of the mountain. The road was narrow and winding with steep drop offs. Houses sat at angles with impossibly steep driveways. As the road dipped and swelled again and again, us children had a grand time “wheeing” and “whoahing” along.

Eventually, we turned into a gravel driveway, passing a small dilapidated house. The boards of the front porch were so buckled and misshapen with time that they resembled the trestles of a wooden rollercoaster. The interior floors gaped with holes, the contents spilling into the basement. At one time, the structure had been used as a schoolhouse before my great-grandmother, Alta Winters McNinch, came to live there with her husband Howard. They raised their five children there, one being my maternal grandmother, Virginia. Alta and her siblings had been raised a quarter mile down the drive at the big, white farmhouse, where the old school bell sits in the front yard to this day.

The old schoolhouse, farmhouse, and barns sat on acres of rolling pastures and forests known as Fairview Farm since the day my great-great grandfather Albert Winters purchased the property sometime in the late 1800’s. Albert’s daughter Alta lived in the farmhouse on her own, though had plenty of family living nearby as neighbors. The farmhouse sat in a grove of trees, some growing peaches in the front that were the juiciest, luscious peaches one could ever eat. A vegetable garden grew in the yard near the fence where the horses grazed the pasture. My mom’s cousin Neil took me and my brother riding on these horses. We explored the barns, observing the wallowing pigs and strutting chickens. We took our greatest pleasures in climbing the hay bales in the pasture and would spend hours leaping from one to the next. We would play hide and seek among the outbuildings. One time my cousin Shay, who lived nearby, found the ultimate hiding spot. We climbed inside the empty silo and remained there for an eternity before we realized the others had given up on finding us. One of my earliest memories of the farm is sitting on my Aunt Penny’s shoulders as she walked across the pasture at dusk and she stopped so we could watch a groundhog. In the cow pasture at the right of the farmhouse, sat an old round cement watering trough with the family’s names carved in it decades before. Down by the woods, we fished in the pond and spent countless hours in the calming bliss of the true countryside. It was truly Heaven on earth.

Inside the farmhouse, brown wallpaper peeled from the wall and the rooms smelled of a mixture of must and sulphur. It certainly did not matter to me that the house both looked and smelled old, because it added to the appeal. The front door opened to the living room, with a set of stairs to the second story bedrooms on the back right. My great-grandmother’s bedroom was through the wall on the left of the living room, the kitchen sat at the back, and the newest addition, the bathroom was to the right of the kitchen. On the immediate left of the door, sat the home’s original fireplace. It was quite an unassuming fireplace and one would find it hard to believe that it was once the site of a terrible misfortune. The old brick and mortar held the memory of the family’s greatest tragedy, a story that has echoed through each generation. My mom did not tell me the story until I was a teenager, that the fireplace led to the death of my great-grandmother’s brother.

Family History

Albert playing with a baby bear in 1936

My great-great-grandfather, Albert Winters, was a farmer, a timberman, a great hunter, and loved all animals both wild and domesticated. He was even photographed playing with a baby bear on the farm. His great-grandfather, Daniel Winters, had sailed from Ireland and settled at Sand Hill. His grandfather, John Winters, was known for his strength and power. A key moment in John’s life was when he accidentally broke a blood vessel in his leg while cutting wheat. A young woman, Eliza Davis, ran to help him and bound his leg. They fell in love and married. Their son and Albert’s father, Isaac Davis Winters, was one of three brothers who fought in the Civil War. Isaac earned the title of the Lieutenant before the end of the war and was present with General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

Albert’s brother Richard was the father of Hollywood starlet Charlotte Wynters. His sister Annabelle was a WWI nurse. His other sisters, June and Mary “Minnie”, opened an acting school in Columbus, Ohio known as The Wynters’ School of Expression. June was quite theatrical herself, acting in numerous onstage performances.

Albert falsely accused another brother, John Edward, of stealing farm equipment and John left West Virginia. For a while he sent correspondences to his family, notifying them that he worked transporting logs along the river in Oregon and Idaho. His family became quite alarmed when correspondences from him ceased after 1900 and assumed that he was either killed or drowned on the job. Attempts by the family to locate him proved unsuccessful. However, just a few years ago, Find A Grave volunteer Bob Toelle located his burial place in Princeton, Canada, finally solving a century-long family mystery. Records show that John had made his way north to Canada and died a widower at the age of 64. It seems he had never received exoneration from his family and simply left them behind in his past.

Carrie Minnix Marsh

Albert married Carrie Minnix Marsh on April 15, 1894 in Sand Hill. They were the first couple to be married at Sand Hill Methodist Church. Carrie was the daughter of Johnathan and Catherine (Abercrombie) Minnix. Catherine died before Carrie was a year old and Johnathan left Carrie behind to be raised by friends, taking his eldest daughter Sarah Lucille to Kansas. Carrie was adopted by Charles Wesley and Isabelle (Lewis) Marsh.

The couple opened their own store in Wheeling before purchasing Fairview Farm. The original house had only two rooms, the rooms we knew as the living room and my great-grandmother’s bedroom to the left, with a single fireplace through the partition. Albert added on all the other rooms, except for the bathroom which was not added on until April of 1962, along with a new green roof. Before then, the farm only had an outhouse.

Albert and Carrie lived their entire lives in Sand Hill District, having seven children over a span of twenty-one years: Charles Merton “Mert”, born in 1895, Herbert Leslie “Herb” born in 1899, Orville Melvin born in 1903, Lulu Virginia Belle, born in 1906, Nellie June, born in 1908, Alta Marie, born in 1912, and Mary Roberta, born in 1917.

Albert and his granddaughter, Virginia McNinch, my grandmother

Tragedy Strikes

Orville Winters

Orville Melvin, the third son of Albert and Carrie was three years old when he died on April 10, 1907.

Orville had reached up to the hearth for a pair of scissors when his long nightgown caught on fire. Terrified, he began to run, but this caused the flames to build even more. His family pulled him outside where they stifled the flames with blankets. Despite their efforts, Orville suffered from severe burns and succumbed that same day.

He was buried next to his grandfather Isaac and grandmother Hannah on the grassy knoll looking over Cameron, in the graveyard of Sand Hill Methodist Church.

Mert, Herbert, Lulu, Nellie, Alta, and Mary with Mary’s daughter Margaret Glauser

Six Remaining Children

Both Albert and Carrie passed away at the farmhouse, Carrie on December 22, 1939, from chronic myocardia and Albert on February 12, 1945.

Their eldest son, Mert, had been eleven when Orville died and remembered the death of his little brother, a subject the family chose not to speak of. He married Vivian Fitzsimmons with whom he had six children. He worked all his life as a farmer. He and his wife had their fair share of trauma and seemingly suffered their ailments in tandem. In 1957, Vivian fell and broke her ankle. A couple days later, Mert’s leg was caught between the tractor and trailer and gashed so badly to require stitches. On December 4, 1958, he came home from a hunting trip in the mountains and went to work in his barn where he suffered a coronary occlusion. This had not been his first attack. The following day, he was at the doctor for an echocardiogram when Vivian went out to fetch the mail, slipped on the steps, and fractured her femur. An ambulance had to fetch her to the hospital. The family worried more for Mert’s heart than Vivian’s broken bone, but he was back deer hunting three days later. While Vivian remained in the hospital after an operation on her leg, Mert had a second echocardiogram. His doctor advised Mert’s sister Lulu to not leave him alone due to the poor condition of his heart. In January and April, he suffered more coronary occlusions and was hospitalized. His doctor bemoaned his lack of proper exercise and poor diet. On May 2, 1959, he fell over in the dinette of his home on Dallas Pike and died instantly of a heart attack. He was only 63.

Herb as a young child, from the collection of my cousin Debbie McNinch

The second born, Herbert Leslie, known as Herb, had been seven when his brother Orville died. He live all his life at the farmhouse, remaining a bachelor all his days. He and his younger sister Lulu watch their surviving siblings marry and move out of the farmhouse, while they stayed behind, attending to their aging parents. Herb’s passions were farming, hunting, and welcoming visits by his nieces and nephews, and later on his great nieces and nephews, who considered him their favorite uncle. He often went to the mountains with his brothers and nephews to hunt, even receiving notoriety in the local papers for shooting a bear. The last few years of his life were quite difficult, but he never stopped working hard. In May of 1961, Herb was working on his sister Mary’s barn, when the scaffold pulled loose. He fell twelve feet, landing on his back against the fence. He visited the doctor the next day for X-Rays and not only did the doctor see that Herb had cracked a rib in his fall, but he also had an enlarged heart. A little more than a week later, he was stung by a swarm of honey bees and later went unconscious at the dinner table. Lulu called the ambulance and it took him to Ohio Valley General Hospital where he recovered. He was unconscious for a half hour. Later that year, the ex-son-in-law of a tenant renting property down the road set the crow barn on fire out of spite. He had become drunk and had a cab drop him off at the property at two in the morning when he started the fire. It went up into flames in short time. Herb had six or seven-hundred bales of hay and his line drill stored there. The morning after Christmas, Herb passed out and fell over the front porch rail into the yard. When he came to at 7:30, he managed to make his way back in the house. His nephew Dale drove him, Lulu, and Alta to Ohio Valley General Hospital while his other nephew Tim did the day’s chores. Herb had a cardiogram and his blood test showed he had a stroke the week before. Lulu had noticed he had a spell and wasn’t able to talk. He had another cardiogram two days later because he suffered pain in his left chest and back. The doctor said Herb had a hardening of brain arteries. On Sunday February 16th, 1964, his sister Lulu watched him come inside after his morning barn chores at approximately 8:20 a.m. He sat down to breakfast, picked up his coffee, took a breath or so and died. She immediately called out to her brother-in-law Howard who was outside feeding cows. She had noticed that Herb had been failing fast for a month. His funeral was held that Wednesday at Kepner’s funeral home at 1:30, led by Rev. McIntire. Over 520 people came to pay their respects. I have a little wooden chest that once belonged to my Uncle Herbert along with his wallet, which are among my most prized possessions.

Lulu Winters

Lulu Virginia Belle was only thirteen days shy of her first birthday when her older brother Orville died. Like Herb, she never left the family farm. She went on to become the family historian, correspondent for the Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, and town gossip. She was a tall and thin woman, measuring 5’9″ tall and weighing 128 pounds at her heaviest. She usually bleached her brunette hair blonde, wearing it in the curled style of the time. She was very quirky with a wonderful personality and unique sense of humor. Lulu had become engaged to a man who went off to serve during WWII and broke off the engagement by letter. She never again entertained prospects of romance, content to join her brother Herb in his bachelor life. The two adored having their nieces and nephews visit. My mom recalls her and her three siblings crowding together with “Aunt Lu” in her bed and listen to her stories and jokes as they fell asleep. They thought she was hilarious. Lulu was heavily involved with the local social functions and the farm usually supplied the chicken for the church dinners. Alta walked down the lane every week so the sisters could do the washing together. They would make apple butter in huge vats in the front yard. All the sisters were excellent cooks and astute with gardening, canning, and raising chickens. Lulu was a hypochondriac and visited the doctor at least once a week with some ailment or other, be it rheumatism or digestive issues. Later in life, she suffered from “nerves” and as a result, sometimes avoided social functions, especially when her health was down. She took so many pills during the day, she had to keep track of the amounts in her diary, however they were known as “red pills”, “blue pills”, “grey pills”, or “kidney pills”. I suspect the doctor was giving her sugar pills, yet I say this tongue-in-cheek. Lulu died in 1977 at the age of 71 years. I wish I would have known her, for she seems like a colorful character and I enjoy hearing the stories my aunts and uncles tell of her.

Nellie June, was born two years after the accident that took Orville’s life. She married Jack Stoops on Feb 4, 1928. They had two daughters ten years apart, June Anne and Marcella Jane. I do not know much about Nellie, but that she loved her family, worked hard, and always offered a helping hand. When her sister Lulu was too ill to get out of bed, Nellie would come to the farmhouse and do the housekeeping and laundry. She often hosted her family for supper at her home and showed them a lovely time. The same day that her brother Herb was taken by ambulance for a bad reaction to bee stings, she was at the doctor for her wrist she had broken the day before. It seems no hazard left the family alone with their busy lives on the farm. She regularly attended classes at the Red Cross, so possibly had interest in nursing or at the very least, first aid. Like Lulu, she was also very active in her community and church. Nellie died in Wheeling in 1971 at the age of 63.

Alta Winters McNinch

Alta Marie was my great-grandmother and my memories of her are very clear. She had a gruff manner and could be stubborn, but cared fiercely for her family. In her youth, she was quite pretty like her sisters. She eloped with Howard McNinch when she was 21 years old and had a daughter, Virginia Marie— my maternal grandmother— and four sons, Neil, Dale, Robert Leslie, and Tim. She raised her children in the old school building at the beginning of the lane next to Stone Church Road. Her four boys helped their Uncle Herb with the farm work and enjoyed hunting with him too. Like her mother before her, Alta was the church organist, a talent which passed to Virginia who went on to become the church pianist and secretary at our church in Cortland, Ohio. Alta lost her son Neil to pneumonia when he was just 15, another family tragedy. Virginia came down with polio around the same time and was treated in an iron lung. In Alta’s middle age, she became a teacher. She was the only college graduate among her siblings, graduating from West Liberty State Teachers College. She taught for 20 years at the former S-Bridge Elementary School in Wheeling and served as a substitute at Triadelphia before her retirement. She died just before my 10th birthday and I remember my cousins and I hanging out in the sitting room at Kepner’s Funeral Home, eating sugar cubes. In our boredom, we thought it would be fun to go exploring and behind one door we opened, was the dead body of another elderly lady awaiting her funeral. It both frightened and intrigued us, but taught us not to go poking around in a funeral home. The funeral dinner was held at Sand Hill Methodist Church and Alta was buried in the churchyard amongst her family.

Mary Winters Glauser

Mary Roberta was the youngest of Albert and Carrie’s children, born in 1917. She married Edward Glauser when she was thirty and they had three children, Margaret, Mary Jane, and Robert. Tragically, only ten days after their 8th wedding anniversary, Ed died of a heart attack. I remember my Aunt Mary fairly well. Her house sat just down and across the street from the lane to the farmhouse. In her later years, she developed throat cancer and had a total laryngectomy that removed her vocal cords and voice box. She was left with a hole, a stoma, in the center of her throat. She breathed through this hole and used an electronic device that spoke for her in a robotic voice. I used to be so scared seeing her because all I could see was a gaping red hole and I felt so much empathy for her. She was clearly delighted to see her grand-nieces and nephews, but I wonder how much our reaction to her condition bothered her. She died in 1992 and hers was one of the first funerals I remember attending.

End of An Era

We visited the farm at least once a summer, but often drove out to West Virginia to visit with my mom’s side of the family. Yet as I grew up, changes came to the family and farm. My great-grandmother’s health worsened. She was placed in a nursing home where she lost both of her legs, one by one, to gangrene. Instead of visiting the farm, the place I felt the happiest than anywhere else in the world, we visited my great-grandmother at the nursing home. After her death in 1995, her sons gained ownership of the farm and have since used the house as a hunting lodge. They covered the white exterior of the house with wooden logs so that it resembled a cabin. A transient set fire to the old schoolhouse at the head of the lane and it burned to the ground. We had family reunions at the farm but that was so long ago and we have not visited in a couple decades. Now I mourn what once was. I miss the happy memories playing with cousins amongst the hay stacks and visiting family who are all gone. It is truly sad when tradition dies with family and the happy times end. Memories fade with the years, growing distant and blurred. The way of life of surviving on a farm, visiting family members almost daily, and joining neighbors at their supper tables has become a thing of the past.

The last photo of Carrie Winters with her children. From left to right: Charles, Alta, Mary, Herbert, Carrie, Lulu, and Nellie
Western Union Telegram sent by Mary “Minnie” Winters Walter to her brother Albert Winters,
offering condolences for the death of Carrie, 1939

Carried Away in Big Run: A Tragedy in Mercer County

West Salem Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania
October 17, 1911

A Stormy Night

One October morning in 1911, Edward and Ina Reeher left their Orangeville, Ohio home.  They traveled by buggy along with their small daughter, Mamie, to visit Ina’s ailing mother in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Along the way, they crossed over the calm stream, known as Big Run, that flowed diagonally through West Salem Township. They arrived at Ina’s parents’ home at Race street where they spent the entirety of the day. Typhoid fever had put Mrs. Brown in serious condition and reluctant to leave her, the Reehers at last departed at 10 o’clock that night. 

An aerial view of Big Run today

Heavy rains had fallen across the area for most of the day and the Reehers found the outside world sodden. Their rig crawled southwest through the heavy raindrops as the fall night steeped in absolute darkness. Perhaps due to the late hour, the young child slept in her mother’s arms. 

When their buggy approached Big Run, they found no calm stream. Instead, the waters churned and rushed past in pulsing muddy swells, having risen several feet.  The bridge had washed away. At this point, the Reehers were quite tired and irritable, wanting badly to get home to warmth and dryness. With the choice to turn back or push through, Edward took little time in deciding what to do. He would ford the chasm. He believed the rig heavy and stable enough to drive through the water and soon make it to firm ground on the opposite bank.

Edward urged the horse forward but the animal shied at the clear danger. Edward eventually coaxed the horse into the cold, rushing waters, though it went with much reluctance. The animal immediately strained to stay afoot against the force of the stream. The wheels of the rig ground down the embankment and entered the water. The abrupt push and pull of the surge caused the Reehers to shrink in their seats. Fear and dread filled them. They hoped and prayed to make it across.

When they reached the center of the bloated stream, the deep water pummeled the rig’s side and overturned it. The Reehers spilled out into the night, into the swift stream. Edward was yanked up with the harness as the horse fled. He was able to swim to shore where he made it to his feet and ran along the edge in a desperate search for his wife and daughter. He cried out for them but found nothing.

Edward at last ran for help. He found the nearest farmhouse a substantial distance away. Banging on the door, he awoke the residents with his distressed shouts. The bleary-eyed couple listened to his story and made haste to notify their neighbors of the terrible accident. This cobbled-together search party found their way to the scene of the disaster. There, by lantern light, they sought out the mother and child.

They searched all night, roaming the shore and combing the frigid, rushing waters. Their fingers outstretched in hopes of grasping something, but again and again, they came up empty-handed. As dawn approached, the hope of finding Ina and Mamie alive dimmed and ultimately dashed.

In the light of the morning, the men pulled the buggy from slightly downstream. There, they discovered Ina’s lifeless body. When the searchers uprighted the rig, she revealed herself, having been pinned beneath its weight. The following day, Mamie’s body surfaced and her tiny form was brought home for her family to mourn over.

On Friday, October 20th, Ina and Mamie were buried together in a single grave in Shenango Valley Cemetery in Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

Family History

Edward Reeher was born in 1888 in South Pymatuning, the son of William Ray Reeher and Mary Jennie Jewel. Edward was tall, of medium build, with blue eyes and black hair. Ina Brown was born on December 31, 1887, in Mill Creek Township, the daughter of Lawrence Brown and Melvina Shannon. Edward and Ina appear to have had their daughter, Mamie, out of wedlock as the child is said to have been born in 1908, but this detail is up for debate. The couple married on September 16th, 1909 in Mercer County, Pennsylvania, and settled in Pymatuning with Ina’s preteen brother, George Brown. The pair moved across the state border to a farm in Orangeville, Ohio.

Moving On

Ina’s mother, Melvina Brown, having thought lost to the ravages of typhoid fever, recovered. She went on to live a long life weighted by the tragic loss of her daughter and grandchild.

Following the tragedy, Edward returned to his hometown of South Pymatuning and worked as a laborer at Sharpsville Furnace Co.

Edward remarried on February 3, 1915, in Greenville to Della Hannold and settled in Sharpsville. Following the birth of their first son, Carl Edward, in 1916, Edward moved his new family to Vernon Township in Ohio. There, they had their remaining children, Earl, Marion, Elma, William, and Charles. 

Edward found new employment as a welder for VanHuffel Tube Co.

While mowing the lawn at her Orangeville home on a September evening in 1935, Edward’s mother, Mary Jennie Reeher, suffered a heart attack and died. A neighbor later discovered her body lying in the grass. Mary had been seventy-five years old.

In 1936, Edward and Della’s oldest child Carl passed away from nephritis at the age of nineteen. He had been quite ill for ten months.

Despite his losses, Edward lived a fairly long life. He passed away at the age of seventy-eight in 1967 and was buried in West View Cemetery in Vernon. One can assume that the guilt of his choice to ford the stream ate away at him for his entire life. Perhaps he often wondered what his and Ina’s life would have been like if he had simply turned around. Who would little Mamie have become? Or maybe he shoved the tragedy down and away from all thought, never to bear it in mind again. Was he a doting or distant husband and father to his second family? Newspapers do not provide that sort of information, leaving out details I long to know. Instead, they offer only the cold, hard facts.

The tragedy turned into local lore. Through the decades, teenagers whispered titillating ghost stories to each other. They told of spirits walking the bridge that now passes over Big Run. By the time I heard the story in the early 2000s, the story had twisted into a tale of a bride and groom overtaken by a flood and drowning on their wedding night. It was surely make-believe, I thought, a fantasy born of bored minds. It took me twenty years to learn the true account behind the tragedy. I had no idea how heartbreaking the reality was.


  • Edward Reeher and Ina Brown Marriage: “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2021), E A Reeher and Ina M Brown, 16 Sep 1909; citing Marriage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States, multiple County Clerks, Pennsylvania.
  • “United States Census, 1910,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 June 2022), Mamie P Ruher in household of Edward A Ruher, Pymatuning, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 171, sheet 2A, family 24, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 1375; FHL microfilm 1,375,388.
  • Mrs. Ina Reeher Death: Pennsylvania, U.S., Death Certificates, 1906-1967
  • Drowned In Big Run – Mrs. Edward Reeher and Three-Year Old Daughter Meet Death Together Tuesday Night: Warren Daily Tribune 19 Oct 1911 1:6
  • Body Found: Warren Daily Tribune Oct 20 1911 1:4
  • Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, PA; Pennsylvania (State). Death Certificates, 1906-1968; Certificate Number Range: 093501-097120
  • Edward Reeher and Catherine Della Hannold Marriage: “Pennsylvania, County Marriages, 1885-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2021), Edward A Reeker and Catharine D Hannold, 3 Feb 1916; citing Marriage, Mercer, Pennsylvania, United States, multiple County Clerks, Pennsylvania.
  • “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 25 December 2021), Edward Abner Reeher, 1917-1918.
  • “United States Census, 1920”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 3 February 2021), Edward A Recher, 1920. 
  • “United States Census, 1930,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 June 2022), Edward Reeher, Vernon, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 54, sheet 8A, line 16, family 180, NARA microfilm publication T626 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2002), roll 1884; FHL microfilm 2,341,618.
  • Mary Jennie Reeher Obituary: Warren Tribune Chronicle 20 Sep 1935 9-3
  • Carl Reeher Death: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 8 March 2021), Edward A. Reeher in entry for Carl Edward Reeher, 17 Aug 1936; citing Vernon Twp., Trumbull Co., Ohio, reference fn 54217; FHL microfilm 2,022,689.
  • “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 January 2021), E A Ruher, Vernon Township, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 78-84, sheet 6A, line 22, family 110, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627.  Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3158.
  • “United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2021), Edward Abner Reeher, 1942; citing NARA microfilm publication M1936, M1937, M1939, M1951, M1962, M1964, M1986, M2090, and M2097 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  • Edward Reeher death: “Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007”, database, FamilySearch ( : 30 June 2021), Edward A Reeher, 1967.
  • Edward Reeher Obituary: Warren Tribune Chronicle, Jan 17 1967 7:2

“The Best Way Out Of My Heartaches”: A Double Suicide in Trumbull County

Cortland, Ohio
April 15, 1954

Leavittsburg, Ohio
April 16, 1954

A Gunshot and A Leap

Within the first months of 1954, three Cortland children became orphaned. Their mother died from cancer on January 29th, leaving their father to raise them alone. Yet on Thursday, April 15th, they discovered his lifeless body in the garage with a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. Their father’s name was Marvin Hayden Barnard and he was forty-five years old.

Less than 24 hours later, early Friday morning, a Leavittsburg woman went missing. Thirty-three-year-old Maxine Elliott Hickox had been estranged from her husband and sought a divorce. Around midnight, police discovered her locked car parked on Denman Road near the Mahoning River. Breaking in, they found all of her possessions, including clothing, money, and purse. Within the purse, a suicide note addressed to her husband read, “This is the best way out of my heartaches.”

Page 3 of Niles Daily Times,
Friday, April 16th, 1954

The missing person search immediately turned into a body recovery. The Mahoning River ran ten feet deep along that stretch and police came to the assumption that she had left her vehicle and drowned herself. Torrential rains from the night previous had washed away any clues of where she may have entered the water.

Interviews with family and friends concluded that Maxine had been involved in a love affair with Marvin Barnard. She had hoped to divorce her husband and begin a new life with the widower, but Marvin dashed all plans by taking his own life. Investigators assumed the devastated Maxine followed his lead and wasted no time in planning her own suicide.

Family History

Maxine’s “heartaches” had been numerous. She was born in Youngstown on August 12, 1920, the daughter of Ernest Schaible and Effie Mae Masters. A near-drowning incident in her childhood triggered a life-long fear of water. She first married Fred Springer in 1940 and settled in Newton Falls. In 1943, their son, Lloyd George, died at four months old from pneumonia. Their surviving children were Royal and Eileen Mae. By 1947, the couple was living separately when their names appeared in the Niles paper for failure to pay their mortgage.

Niles Daily Times, Friday, August 22nd, 1947, pg. 3

Following the legal divorce, Maxine made ends meet with a job at Packard Electric. In 1948, she married divorcé Archibald “Archie” Hickox who worked as a truck driver. They had a child, Aaron Charles, in 1952. Unfortunately, Maxine and Archie’s union would prove the second failed marriage for them both. The couple separated and had not yet divorced when Maxine took comfort in the company of Marvin Barnard.

Marvin had grown up in Trumbull County, the son of Oliver Bernard and Sadie Hayden. He first married Edith Margaret Oller in 1928. The couple had one child, Vernetta, before separating. He married second to Alice (Strom) Schiefelhein in 1932. She also had a child, Albert, from her first marriage. Together, Marvin and Alice had two children, Robert and Lola.

A Doomed Coupling

Marvin’s children reportedly disapproved of his relationship with Maxine. Their mother had only just died and Marvin had begun dating far too soon. They surely frowned upon the fact that Maxine was still married, though there may have been additional reasons for their dislike. In any case, Marvin—perhaps depressed over the death of his wife Alice earlier that year combined with “family problems”—doubtlessly drifted into despair. We may never know the exact reason Marvin lost all hope. Perhaps Maxine had broken off the relationship or the couple had argued, sending Marvin into melancholia.

Marvin’s children Robert, Lola, and stepson Albert all lived at his Cortland home where they discovered his body. Albert’s biological father had died in 1945 and he too became orphaned in 1954. Marvin’s children were in their twenties at the time of his death. Around the same time they discovered his body, they also located a note he left for them. In this letter, he asked for forgiveness.

Underwater Search

Volunteer firemen from Warren, Champion, Bazetta, and other nearby stations assisted in the search. Sheriff deputies focused their investigation on the stretch of river between Maxine’s abandoned vehicle to the Schaible home. As they dragged the river for Maxine’s body, those who knew her believed they were wasting their time. They doubted she would choose to jump into the river because of her extreme phobia of water.

Experts said that if she had indeed entered the water and drowned, her body would sink. Bodies typically rise in water as soon as decay sets in. Because the water was so cold, decay would take longer and two weeks could pass until her body resurfaced.

Heavy rain continued through the weekend and the water level swelled by two feet, hindering search efforts. The grappling hooks caught on logs, branches, and other debris, but the searchers persevered. The body could have become tangled in the detritus on the river floor. Fireman managed to pull up a piece of fabric that the family claimed belonged to a jacket Maxine owned. If this was the case, they had just missed the body, but further dragging efforts brought up nothing. At last, deputies abandoned the search and left nature to give up the body on its own terms. They believed it would eventually surface downstream.


With the discovery of the jacket remnant and no sighting of Maxine, her loved ones came to accept that she had indeed entered the waters with the intent to take her own life. It proved a difficult pill to swallow knowing she had left behind her children, the youngest only a toddler.

Maxine’s brother—unnamed in the papers—remained by the riverside close to the Schaible family home, his eyes constantly scanning the flowing waters. He watched for nearly a week and at last on Thursday morning of April 22nd, his vigilance paid off. Floating on the surface, his eyes caught sight of his sister’s remains. Her body had not gone far from where she most likely jumped in and despite the rushing waters, had remained pinned to the bottom before dislodging.

Maxine was buried in Union Cemetery in Warren.

The deaths of Marvin and Maxine were senseless tragedies. This was no real-life story of Romeo and Juliet, forbidden love, or star-crossed lovers. There was nothing romantic about their joint suicides. It was simply sad. Sad for those children and step-children who needed them. Marvin and Maxine’s issues proved insurmountable in their minds and rather than put the lives of their children first, they thought only of ending their pain. That pain transferred to the children. It’s no doubt that Marvin’s children suffered lifelong trauma from witnessing his suicide scene. Maxine’s suicide came off as brash, arriving quickly on the heels of her boyfriend’s self-destruction. Not only were her young children left motherless, but numerous hours and great efforts from many volunteers were expended so that her body could be brought home for a proper burial.

I write this not as a fascinated witness to past tragedies, but as an observer and reporter. We will never know what motivated Marvin and Maxine to take their own lives, but I do hope that their story could prevent someone else from following in their footsteps. All dignity is relinquished in this manner of death. Heavy is the burden of pain and trauma transferred to the living. When life seems too unbearable, know that all things, including emotions, pass. They alter, transform, grow and shrink with the variation of time. The universe has a way of sorting out the most difficult of situations organically. A natural adjustment in the mortal skein. I can say this from my own experiences living with crippling anxiety and depression. Most heartbreaks can be overcome with time. Forgive the platitude, but it is our scars that shape us. Are we human if not a little jaded? Pain is an unwelcome passenger in life, but if we allow love to be the driver, we can make it to our destination—on time and not a moment too soon.


Note: Exact spelling of Schaible surname is yet to be determined. Maxine’s maiden name is spelled differently in nearly every available record. Other spellings include Schieble, Schauble, and Schabbel/Schabel.

  • Marvin Barnard suicide, “Bulletin”: Page 1 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Thursday, April 15th, 1954
  • “Drag Mahoning for Suicide’s ‘Girl Friend’ ”: Page 3 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Friday, April 16th, 1954
  • “Continue Dragging Mahoning for Body of Suicide Suspect”: Page 1 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Monday, April 19th, 1954
  • “Find Body of Warren Woman Who Sought Death In River”: Page 1 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Thursday, April 22nd, 1954
  • 1940 US Census, Fred and Maxine Springer: “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 January 2021), Fred Springer, Newton Falls, Newton Township, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 78-81, sheet 1A, line 1, family 1, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3158.
  • 1940 US Census, Marvin Barnard: “United States Census, 1940,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 January 2021), Marvin Barnard, Newton Falls, Newton Township, Trumbull, Ohio, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 78-79, sheet 5B, line 58, family 85, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, NARA digital publication T627. Records of the Bureau of the Census, 1790 – 2007, RG 29. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 2012, roll 3158.
  • Archibald Hickox and Maxine Springer Marriage Record: “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 2 February 2016), > image 1 of 1; county courthouses, Ohio.
  • Marvin Bernard and Edith Oller marriage record: “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 November 2021), Marvin Hayden Bernard and Edith Margaret Oller, 1928
  • Marvin Bernard and Alice Schiefelhein marriage record: “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016”, database with images, FamilySearch ( : 13 November 2021), Marvin Barnard and Alice Schiefelhein, 1932.

Mollie and the Massacre: A Sad History of the Verbias Family

Trigger Warning: This post contains details of abuse and fatal injuries to a minor

A deadly shadow followed the Verbias family of Niles, Ohio for years, leaving horror, tragedy, and destruction in its path. Today, the family would be termed dysfunctional, the children neglected, abused, and allowed to run wild. The walls of their Belmont Avenue home could not contain their instability, their conflicts leaching outdoors for all the neighborhood to witness. When a daughter was discovered murdered, their darkness became exposed to the public and a son began a lifelong mission to take “a lot of people” with him to the grave.

Warren Daily Tribune, July 22, 1921 Headline

A Body In the Brush

Thursday, July 21, 1921
Niles, Trumbull County, Ohio

Two little boys entered a grassy area off of Russell Avenue on their way to pick berries when they stumbled across a decomposing body. Some five or six-hundred feet from the road, lying face-up in the tall grass was a teenaged girl wearing a simple blue sundress and lightweight slippers. A dark blue straw hat lay nearby. The body belonged to 14-year-old Molly Verbias who lived nearby with her family.

The Autopsy

Mollie’s body was discovered at 2:35 p.m. and she was presumed to have been dead for at least several hours, the summer heat hastening decomposition. The evidence suggested that Mollie had been killed elsewhere and moved to the location her body had been found. Investigators believed the sundress she wore had been placed on her body after she was killed as it had no drops of blood on its fabric and was not ripped during her death throes. The ground around her body was undisturbed, with no indication a struggle had taken place there. 

Holloway’s ambulance removed Mollie’s body from the scene and took her to their Niles morgue where Coroner Henshaw, attended by Doctors Thomas and Elder, conducted an autopsy. Her cause of death could not be immediately discerned, though slight markings were visible on her neck. On Mollie’s side, Henshaw found indents of teeth and believed she had been bitten. Her body showed no signs of having been sexually molested before or after death. 

Besides the impressions on her neck, the doctors theorized a rope could have been used to strangle her. They believed the markings on her throat were consistent with fibers wound tightly about her neck, but such a weapon could not be found near the crime scene. Henshaw was not quick to rule strangulation because he believed the impressions on Mollie’s throat were not deep enough to cause death and could be explained by postmortem insect activity.

Though a cause of death was not immediately released, the local papers pushed the notion that Mollie had been choked to death.

Marks upon the child’s throat are of a peculiar type. The fingerprints seem to be made by a hand, small but strong, such as a woman might possess. The windpipe seems to have been clutched by some powerful fingernails, inflicted when the child made a frantic death struggle and the victim’s death hold was tightened.

– The Niles Daily News, July 22, 1921, Page 1

Another theory besides murder, was the possibility that Mollie had ingested poison, either intentionally or accidentally. She could have accidentally ate poisonous berries in the woods without knowing the difference between them and the edible ones. A person who had swallowed poison could claw at their own throat in such a manner to cause comparable markings before succumbing to the toxic effects. Henshaw wanted to rule out such a possibility, so on Friday morning he sent Mollie’s stomach to a local pathologist, R.C. McBride, to study its contents. He then returned the girl’s body to her family’s home so they could prepare for her funeral.

A Troubled Family

Mollie, described as “pretty”, “attractive”, and appearing older than her years, was the daughter of Joseph Verbias and Elizabeth Botciti who lived at 602 Belmont Avenue, an address that no longer exists. She had two older siblings, Helen and Alex, and four little sisters. She attended the 5th grade at Bentley Avenue School.

The Verbias family immigrated from Barkasso, Hungary, departing from Fiume on the ship Franconia and processed through Ellis Island in New York City on December 26th, 1913. They settled in Niles, Ohio, the state that received the highest amount of Hungarian immigrants in all of the United States. Most made their homes around Cleveland and Youngstown where factories reigned the landscape and work could be obtained. 

The oldest daughter, Helen, married Steve Laboda in 1917 when she was fifteen years old. Prior to the marriage, she attempted suicide and when asked why she wanted to end her own life, she claimed her mother had treated her so cruelly that she could not bear to live any longer. Her marriage proved a welcome escape from the evil within their Belmont Avenue home, but her younger siblings were left behind to live in the chaos.

The neighbors claimed Mollie lived in a chaotic, abusive household and they often heard her cries as she was beaten frequently and with a brutality unacceptable to inflict on a child. Her screams could even be heard the afternoon prior to her body’s discovery as her mother whipped her fiercely.

One month before Mollie’s death, Mrs. Verbias pressed charges against 34-year-old Gasper Logar of Niles, alleging that he had held Mollie hostage overnight in his locked bedroom. The Hungarian-born Logar was crippled, his right leg having been amputated above the knee. He had left a wife and child in Hungary. Logar was acquitted due to lack of evidence against him. The weekend before her murder, Mollie again ran away and her parents went in search of her. She was missing for three days. On Sunday, a policeman found her wandering in Girard and brought her home. The wrath she suffered as a result was heard by the neighbors.

The Hunt For A Killer

Police Chief Rounds immediately put his officers on the task of searching for clues about the field and Mason’s woods. County Detective Gillen joined the men in the gathering of evidence, particularly searching for any bloodied clothing or indication of the kill site. The search fanned out for a mile in every direction from the location Mollie’s body had been discovered.

A group of civilians took to the woods in search for Mollie’s murderer in hopes he was hiding out beneath the cover of brush and foliage. They carried rifles, shot guns, and clubs. Mollie’s death had arrived at the heels of an attack on a Niles woman, 51-year-old Elizabeth Dellinger and assaults of two New Castle girls. The suspect of the Dellinger assault had been arrested, but that fact did nothing to calm the city’s frayed nerves. The entire community was on edge and prepared to capture the coward who had taken the life of a young girl.

When Chief Rounds questioned Mollie’s mother, he discovered she understood hardly a word of English and could speak very few words outside of her native language. Employing an interpreter, he was able to obtain a statement, though this method made it very difficult to accurately discern Mrs. Verbias’ state of mind. She claimed she had last seen Mollie alive when the pair took their cow to the pasture around five o’clock Wednesday evening. Mollie ran off to pick berries in the bushes and her mother returned home, leaving her daughter behind. She claimed Mollie did not show up at the house that night, but was not alarmed and did not go in search of the girl.  This fact puzzled police and when questioned of why she had no concern over her daughter’s disappearance, Mrs. Verbias stated Mollie had been in the habit of running off and not coming home for the night. Mrs. Verbias claimed Mollie had exhibited this “wanderlust” for three years, therefore was unconcerned for her daughter’s welfare.

When asked about the abuse witnessed by the neighbors, Mrs. Verbias declared Mollie to be a rebellious child and professed the beatings were the only method of keeping her daughter in line. According to her, the severe manner of punishment was justifiable. During the cross-examination, Mrs. Verbias fainted twice, and the police called a doctor to tend to the woman. Mrs. Verbias did not shed a single tear during the questioning, but she did moan and call out for Mollie. Finally, due to Mrs. Verbias’ unerring hysterics, the doctor ordered police to end the questioning and allow Mrs. Verbias to return home.

Chief Rounds brought Gasper Logar into the station and interrogated him forcefully.  However, due to lack of evidence and the near physical incapability for Logar to have carried her body into the pasture, Logar was released. 

At 2 o’clock on Friday the 23rd, investigators had formed no verdict and Chief Rounds released a statement.

We have no information to give out in connection with the case. The death of the girl is the most baffling and mysterious that has come under my notice for many years, but we mean to keep on the job until the mystery is solved.

-Chief Rounds, as quoted by the Warren Daily Tribune, July 22, 1921 1:7


As neighbor spoke to neighbor, passing the news of Mollie’s death and discussing the horror of the murder, they spun lurid tales involving the nature of the girl’s death. Someone began a rumor that Mollie’s head had been severed from her body. Another person suggested that in Mollie’s despair over her home life, she had committed suicide, possibly by drinking poison. Others, including some of authority, believed that Molly did not meet a violent end but rather died of shock or natural causes.

Police received the information that Mollie had been so out of control and impossible to parent, that Mr. and Mrs. Verbias were sending her to reform school. Whether the girl was truly scheduled to go is not known, but a rumor formed that Mollie went into a deep state of depression. Police formed the theory that perhaps in her unwillingness to go, the girl had taken her own life and the parents had placed Mollie’s body in the pasture out of fear they would be implicated. Investigators took this information seriously and Coroner Henshaw submitted Mollie’s stomach for chemical analysis. However, when speaking with Mollie’s school teachers, police found Mollie to be a very well-adjusted pupil, despite her troubled home-life. 

The town gossips pointed many fingers at Mrs. Verbias, convinced that the mother knew more than she was telling police. Many had heard Mollie’s cries of pain coming from inside the home on several occasions throughout the prior months and witnessed Mrs. Verbias’ strange, dry-eyed demeanor following her daughter’s death.

The town grocer, Thomas Mullican, told investigators that he had observed Mollie walking along the railroad tracks around 4 o’clock with an unidentified male on the day before her body was discovered. She was near Kane’s corners and walking towards the direction of her home. The vague description Mullican provided matched the description some of Mollie’s family gave concerning a strange man they had seen Mollie with on other occasions. Many residents shared the belief that Mollie’s death had been sexually motivated, but the assailant was frightened off before he could molest her body.

A Niles resident tipped off the police about the presence of a man driving a buggy past the field where Mollie’s body had been found around noontime on Wednesday. They conjectured that possibly he was somehow involved in the murder and had dumped her body off the road in the high grass. The man was brought in to the police station for questioning, but he had no knowledge of the girl and was released.

The day prior to Mollie’s funeral, police conducted a thorough search throughout the Verbias home, but did not uncover any incriminating evidence. They also found no vials or indication of fatal poison having been present in the house. Though the search turned up nothing, investigators were certain that Mollie was murdered, either by a member of her family or by an unknown assailant who saw her alone in the pasture and took the opportunity to attack her. Though they had yet to receive the results of the analysis on Mollie’s stomach, they could hardly further entertain the thought of suicide by poison when a container to carry it had not been present at the home or near Mollie’s body.

Investigators noted how laundry day took place at the Verbias home the day Mollie’s body had been discovered. Though it could mean nothing, it also meant Mrs. Verbias had a chance to clean any traces of blood from clothing. On the other hand, they speculated that the marks on Mollie’s neck may have not exuded a large enough quantity of blood to transfer to another surface. They were not deep by any means and the small amount of blood may have quickly congealed in the wounds.

The Funeral

Mollie’s body lay in state at the Verbias home before her funeral on Saturday, July 23rd. She was encased in a white casket, surrounded by a vast array of flowers. 

 Robes of virginal whiteness concealed the ugly black bruises inflicted by the assassin, and the calm sleep of death enhanced the childish innocence of the small white face.

– The Niles Daily News, July 22, 1921, Page 1

A Hungarian priest from Youngstown led the 3 o’clock services, chanting verse in the family’s native language. Mourners cried at the right of Molly’s body and her siblings took one last look at their beautiful sister, knowing she would not have the chance to grow up with them, forever fourteen.

Investigators were present at the simple funeral, watching the family’s every movement, particularly the actions of the parents. The police remained quiet fixtures in the background, searching for any suspicious word, act, or insincere weeping.

Chief Rounds stated to the Niles Daily News, “If we knew who the murderer was, we would not arrest him until after the funeral. We do not wish to make any arrests until we are sure of what we are doing, but it is possible that some arrests may be made after the services.” (Niles Daily News, July 23, 1921, Pg 1)

The community became incensed at Round’s words, claiming if he knew who the killer was, they should be arrested immediately. In a corrected statement, Rounds said, “We would have considered it inhuman to take any member of the family into custody on suspicion until after the services. If we had positive proof of the identity of the criminal, however, we should not hesitate a second before placing them under arrest.” (Niles Daily News, July 25, 1921, Pg 1)

Mollie was laid to rest in Niles Union Cemetery

Family Implicated

Warren Daily Tribune, July 27, 1921 Headline

Coroner Henshaw received the results from the analysis on Mollie’s stomach on the morning of July 26th. He had hoped an easy explanation of poison would be found within the contents, but the results were disappointing. The chemist had found only undigested cheese, blackberries, and a starchy substance he believed to be bread. He found no trace of poison, vegetable alkaloids, or phenol, leaving authorities to move onto their next plan of action. They could finally act on the clues they had collected throughout the week since Mollie’s murder.

That same day at 4 o’clock, Officers Whittaker, Gilbert, and Mears took Mollie’s father, mother, and older brother Alex into custody.  The three members of the family were locked in separate cells and were not allowed to communicate with one another. Mrs. Verbias raved constantly in her cell, shouting in her native language. She carried on all through the night, crying hysterically.

Since Mr. and Mrs. Verbias spoke very little English, all of the questioning was carried out through interpreters. Attorney Anthony A. Pessenieher of Youngstown represented the family. During examinations, the Verbias’ statements were inconsistent with one another as far as the time of day they last saw Mollie. However, each family member proved so overwrought with grief and confusion that Attorney Passenieher insisted police could not judge them on timing alone. The years of abuse by Mrs. Verbias were also brought up, not just the abuse of Mollie, but upon the other children as well. Investigators had spoken with the oldest daughter, Helen, and learned of her suicide attempt years earlier in attempt to escape the abuse at home. Yet the ill-treatment alone could not prove Mollie was murdered by Mrs. Verbias while carrying out punishment.

Investigators awaited the coroner’s verdict as to a cause of death, as it was difficult to move forward until such information was finalized. Police could not hold the family for very long as concrete evidence was lacking. However, with the arrival of a new crumb of information, the parents’ innocence and lack of involvement in Mollie’s death seemed to be clear. Chief Rounds received the statement by Niles resident Joe Kovak who claimed he saw Mollie at 6 or 6:30p.m. Wednesday as he was driving his cow to pasture. She was all alone and occupied picking berries. Because Kovach stated she had been wearing the blue sundress, the theory the dress had been placed on her after death was voided. Because this information of Mollie’s whereabouts was consistent with Mrs. Verbias’ account, Chief Rounds believed the woman was telling the truth. 

Chief Rounds received a letter from police in Athens, Ohio who were investigating a similar crime in their district. They were without a suspect and proposed that the assailant could be a serial killer going from city to city, making him difficult to capture. 

By July 30th, Mr. and Mrs. Verbias were released from jail, but Alex, remaining beneath the veil of suspicion, was detained longer.


Warren Daily Tribune, August 9, 1921 Headline

Coroner Henshaw scheduled the inquest for Wednesday, August 3rd. Many family members of the murdered girl and locals around the community were served notices, asking them to appear for questioning. They showed up and gave their testimonies, the interrogation lasting until the morning of the 4th, but the witnesses could provide no new information. Nothing was said to incriminate Mollie’s parents or brother and Henshaw set to work, drawing up a verdict. Unable to hold Alex any longer, he was released from jail.

On August 9th, Coroner Henshaw at last issued Mollie’s cause of death as manual strangulation. The faint finger markings proved the only evidence for her manner of death. Yet after the thorough inquest, investigators could not pin the murder on anyone and Mollie’s case went cold.

A Series Of Incidents

The Niles Daily News, Page 5
June 19th, 1916

Years previous to the murder, 12-year-old Alex Verbias had a brush with death. On the afternoon of June 19th, 1916, he was walking along North Main Street in a rain shower with his cap pulled low over his eyes. When he attempted to cross the street, he stepped directly in front of a slow-moving roadster driven by W.T. Bell of Youngstown and was hit. He fell to the road, suffering a fractured rib, lacerated scalp, and a bruised knee. A passerby helped pick the boy up and drove Alex to the Niles Dry Goods Store to seek help, followed by Mr. Bell and his wife. Niles police officer Whittaker came along by chance and placed the boy in Mr. Bell’s vehicle. He led the roadster to Dr. Smith’s office where Alex was treated. Mr. Bell could not be blamed for the accident, but he felt quite badly and paid the lad’s medical bill.

Six years following his daughter’s murder, Mr. Verbias succumbed to pneumonia and lagrippe at his home. He was only 51 and left an obscure mark on the world. Though the Verbias family received considerable attention from the local community, we know very little about the patriarch and his personality. One recorded incident in June of 1916 occurred when Mr. Verbias’ cow wandered into a neighbor’s garden, destroying it. After the neighbor, Sam Natole, confronted Mr. Verbias, he refused to pay for the damages. Natole sued Mr. Verbias for the $5 value of the lost crops. Besides his brushes with the law, Joseph was hardly mentioned in the local papers and was not even afforded an obituary. 

On May 17, 1929, Mollie’s 15-year-old sister Elizabeth “Lizzie” Verbias was injured in a car accident. She was riding in the backseat with her friend Minnie Shehedan in a vehicle driven by an older boy, Sam Maile. Sam lost control of the vehicle on Niles-Warren Road near Deforest. The car went off the road into the ditch and flipped over. All three suffered non-fatal injuries. Fortunately, a patrolman had been driving behind them and gave the girls a ride to Warren City Hospital. Sam refused the ride and never sought treatment. Lizzie was treated for lacerations about her face and Minnie for a broken nose and cuts around her eye.

An Unhappy Marriage

Alex Verbias was a troubled youth. The combined terrors of growing up in an abusive household and the murder of his little sister for which he was accused produced an erratic, depressed personality within him. Those closest to him noted how he became unhinged since Mollie’s death, recalling him as acting “queer”. Whenever he mentioned Mollie’s murder to family or friends, he repeated prophetically, “When I die I’m going to take a lot of people with me.”

He was eighteen when he wed Helen Krivac on May 26th, 1928 in a ceremony performed by Rev. S. Csepke at the Hungarian Presbyterian Church. The bride was dressed in an ornate white satin gown paired with satin slippers and held a bouquet bursting with roses and lilies of the valley. Her bridesmaids wore orange georgette dresses and held arrangements of roses and sweet peas. Following the nuptials, the German Hall hosted the bridal party as well as two hundred guests. Alex and Helen honeymooned in Michigan before returning to Niles to live with Alex’s mother at their home on Belmont Avenue. 

Helen’s joy would last only as long as the beautiful ceremony. It could not have been easy for her to live with a woman as formidable as Mrs. Verbias who made ends meet by doing the washing, ironing, and cleaning for the better-off households of Niles. Alex would drink to excess and his moods were often unbearable.

Niles Daily Times, Page 4
Friday, October 18th, 1929

A bright spot among the darkness arrived with the birth of a son, Edward Joseph, on October 17, 1929. Alex was smitten with his child from the start, showering Edward with affection. Alex was excited about bringing his son up, planning his future before the boy could even walk. It was as if Alex suppressed all his dark energy, allowing his tiny son to hold all of life’s hope and promise. 

Yet as Helen raised their beautiful baby boy in that gloomy Niles home, Alex failed to provide for his wife and the son he loved to extremes. Though employed as a cold roller for a Mahoning Valley steel plant for four years, he drank and gambled away his wages. Unable to raise her child in such conditions, Helen begged and pleaded with him to improve his character, but his intense devotion to his son was not enough to raise him from the demons’ clutches.

Finally, Helen said, “I can’t stand it any longer,” and left.

Just before Edward’s first birthday, she took the baby to the home of her parents, John and Anna Krivac, at 28 West Federal Street in Weathersfield. Three of Helen’s four brothers also lived at the house. Alex became incensed, often going to the Krivac home to argue with Helen, wishing to see his child. Helen and her parents ordered him to stay away, but he visited often and they allowed him entry every occasion so that he could see Edward. Mr. and Mrs. Krivac refused to get in the middle of Helen and Alex’s arguments, usually leaving the room while the pair quarreled.

Murderous Rampage

Alex’s coworkers and creditors held a very different opinion of the man who led a tumultuous home life. At work, he displayed a most respectable character. Foreman Jesse Lewis proclaimed Alex to be one of the hardest workers he had ever witnessed and that he was always punctual, never once hinting at having a problem with alcohol. The Niles Credit Bureau proclaimed Alex paid his loans on time, rating him “in the highest class”. With this information, we see Alex had two different sides and an ability to hide his melancholia and addictions behind the guise of normalcy.

Alex attempted reparations with his wife many times, beseeching Helen to come home. She rejected him, stating he would have to prove himself to her first by showing he could be a better husband and provider. However, his demons proved too raucous and he was unable to do as she asked.

In the late summer of 1930, Alex walked into the Krivac’s house, entering the kitchen and snatched Edward out of the crib kept on the floor. He ran off with his son and the Krivacs notified the police. Alex gave the boy up without issue but went into an intensely morose state. Ordered by the authorities to stay away from the Krivac’s house, he made threats that he would kill himself if Helen did not return home with their child.

On one occasion, Alex made several insults to one of Helen’s brothers and the pair came to fisticuffs. Alex often threatened that he would “get them all”. 

On Monday, October 13th, one of Alex’s acquaintances stated the depressed father purchased a revolver on the pretense it would be used to ward off chicken thieves. That afternoon, Alex entered a speakeasy lounge and between sips of alcohol raved to the other patrons that he was going to kill himself and take everyone with him.

At 8:15 p.m. Alex came to the Krivac home, banging on the door and demanded to see his wife and child. At the time, only Helen, Edward, and Helen’s parents were home. Helen let him in and she conversed with him for several minutes in the foyer while her parents remained in the other room. Alex raised his voice, speaking angrily to her, and as soon as he began to threaten Helen, Mr. Krivac intervened. Mr. Krivac walked into the foyer after hearing Alex tell Helen he would kill her if she and Edward did not accompany him home.

Alex turned to his father-in-law and declared ominously, “I’ll shoot every damn one of you!”

He pulled a revolver from his coat and fired at Mr. Krivac who abruptly fell to the floor, the bullet having pierced his face.

Helen ran from the front hall, shrieking, “My God! Save my baby! Save my baby!” 

Mrs. Krivac flew into the foyer, hands raised as if in surrender and said, “Alex you don’t know what you do! You don’t know what you do!”

Alex pointed the revolver at her and shot her through the eye. She staggered and fell dead just inside the front door. 

Helen fled to the porch, shouting, “Help, help, someone come! Alex is killing us all!”

When a neighbor, Paul Kearney, ran out of his house he witnessed Alex chase Helen down and shoot her in the face. Bleeding profusely, Helen managed to run back in the house and scoop up her child. She ran howling from room to room, so out of her mind with terror, before she finally collapsed in her neighbor’s arms. Kearney placed the screaming baby into his kitchen crib and began making several phone calls, summoning help. When the ambulance arrived, medics could hardly believe what they saw, the bodies lying about with blood splattered on the walls and smeared across the floor. They tended to the blood-soaked baby who cried inconsolably inside his crib. They initially believed the child had been wounded and they brought him to the hospital with his mother and grandfather. When they loaded up Mr. Krivac for transportation, he was semiconscious. Mrs. Krivac was clearly gone and her body left where it fell as medics rushed the survivors to the hospital.

“He’ll kill my baby,” Helen moaned as medics loaded her into the ambulance, her face covered with blood.

Helen thought Alex had escaped, but while surveying the home the first responders discovered his body at the foot of the stairs. He bore a self-inflicted bullet wound behind his right ear while a dead hand clutched the revolver. The gun still contained two useable cartridges and another round of ammunition was found in his pocket. It was believed he planned to find his brothers-in-law at home and take their lives in a plot to massacre the Krivac family. 

Page 1 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, October 14th, 1930

Spectators crowded around the home, their number in the hundreds, craning their necks to obtain a view of the bodies inside. They gaped at the murderer, his blood pooling out beneath him, a life wrought with grief and pain ended in violence. The Krivac’s son Louis returned home that evening to the collection of neighbors at his doorstep. He witnessed the blood everywhere, forming a zig-zag pattern across the kitchen floor. He found his mother laying bereft of all life and fell to her side. Moaning in grief, he ran to the second floor of the house in frantic search for his father. After learning that his father had survived and was at the hospital, he gathered his faculties enough to sign his mother’s death certificate as informant.

The bodies of Alex Verbias and Mrs. Anna Krivac were transported next door to the Kearney Funeral Home, victim lying next to murderer while they awaited funeral arrangements. Mrs. Krivac’s remains were returned to her home for the services and the body of Alex was brought to his mother at their Belmont Avenue home. Mrs. Krivac’s services were held at St. Stephen’s Church at 9 o’clock on the morning of Thursday, October 16th and was buried in St. Stephen Cemetery, having celebrated her 53rd birthday two days prior to her death. It appears Alex was unceremoniously buried in Niles Union Cemetery, his family baffled by his murderous rampage and suicide.

Helen and her father both recovered at Warren City Hospital, having each been shot through the jaw. Their survival was miraculous, as Alex had aimed to kill, but ultimately failed in his endeavor to take many souls with him. Unfortunately, Mr. Krivac died six years later from a respiratory ailment.

Crushed Beneath Vehicle

Sunday, August 2, 1936
Bazetta, Trumbull County, Ohio

Page 1 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Monday, August 3rd, 1936

As if all the untimely death and violence proved not enough for one family, the tragedies continued. Helen Laboda, daughter of Helen Verbias and Steve Laboda, was fourteen when she was killed, the same age her aunt Mollie was at the time of her murder. Helen and her sister Margaret had come to Bazetta Township to fish along Mosquito Creek with a group of friends. As they picnicked, they realized they needed more bread for their sandwiches, so Helen and Margaret hopped into the car of William Berenics, another Niles youth. He drove them to the Klondike store where they made the necessary purchase around 6 p.m. and headed back towards the creek. Yet on the way, William’s car skidded on a patch of gravel between the Lee Scoville and Raymond Hudson farms. He lost control and the vehicle careened over a ditch before flipping. Helen was thrown from the car and crushed beneath it, pressed face-down into the ditch. Her head was pinned so firmly beneath the vehicle that it took a group of passing motorists twenty minutes to extricate her. When she was finally pulled free, it was too late. Margaret and William were not injured, but suffered extreme shock as a result of the accident and Helen’s violent death.

Helen’s body was first taken to the Cortland Funeral Home and then transferred to the Laboda’s home on North Road. There, Rev. Steve Csepke officiated her funeral and she was buried in St. Stephen’s Cemetery. She left behind her bereaved parents, sister Margaret, and brother Steve Jr.

Death of the Matriarch

Mrs. Elizabeth Verbias died at the home of her daughter Helen and son-in-law Steve Laboda, just after Christmas in 1944, after suffering for three years with an asthmatic condition. She passed away under the care of the daughter she had so tormented and abused in her youth, driving her to attempted suicide. Mrs. Verbias’ calling hours were at the Rossi Funeral Home and the funeral services were held at the Hungarian Presbyterian Church. She was buried in Niles Union Cemetery. If she ever admitted to anyone in her family that she or Alex had strangled her daughter Mollie to death, the secret died with them. It seems easy to pin Mollie’s murder on Alex because he went on to kill so ruthlessly nearly a decade later. The police must have had their reasons for holding him under suspicion. Perhaps he did kill her, but it is also quite possible that their mother choked Mollie to death, an instance of abuse gone too far. Then again, maybe she had the misfortune of tarrying in the pasture at the wrong time, attacked by an unknown predator. To this day, the young girl’s murder is unsolved.

Killed Getting Off Bus

Wednesday, March 7th, 1945
Girard, Trumbull County, Ohio

Page 1 of Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Thursday, March 8th, 1945

Elizabeth, Alex and Mollie’s younger sister who had been injured as a teen in a car accident, grew up to marry Pasquale (Patrick) Rinaldo Dinard and settled in Girard. Patrick, who was known by his nickname “Push”, worked for the Ohio Leather Co. in Girard. He was also a member of the FOE Lodge of Girard and was well-known and liked throughout the Niles community. After a day’s work one day, he descended the stairs of a Penn-Ohio coach at the corner of North State Street and Smithsonian Avenue. As he crossed the street in front of the bus, he did not see the oncoming truck before he walked right into it. A Blackstone-Reese Ambulance rushed him to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, but he was dead on arrival. Besides the grief imposed on his wife by his loss, he left a wide group of extended family in the area. He was buried in Niles Union Cemetery. Elizabeth remarried to Michael Niebauer who died in 1971. She had no children from either marriage.

Life Goes On

Niles Daily Times, Page 6
Friday, March 27th, 1953

Helen Krivac Verbias married Samuel Morrall on February 6, 1936 in Cuyahoga County, and settled in Weathersfield. The couple had a daughter, Joanne Marie, in 1937. Edward took on his step-father’s surname Morrall and attended McKinley school. He played trombone in the school band and graduated in 1948. Edward would grow up to become the music director for Central Baptist Church. Both Edward and his half-sister Joanne wed their spouses in 1955 with Edward marrying Rae Gwendolyn Monteith and Joanne marrying Charles Fanos George in a lavish ceremony. Helen enjoyed several grandchildren from these pairings. She was a member of the Cardettes Club and often hosted grand lunches for the group. The family lived wonderfully, were largely integrated into Niles society, and were well respected. For Helen to have endured such tragedy as a young woman, the bulk of her life was spent in happiness. She outlived her son Edward by five years, passing away in 2005 at the age of 94. 

Niles Daily Times, Page 4
August 10th, 1954

Helen and Edward were able to start over in a way, though the horror of that October night in 1930 remained with them until they died. No branch of the Verbias family seemed to exist untouched from violence and untimely death. One can only imagine the heartache the connected Verbias, Krivac, Laboda, and Dinard families endured from these senseless tragedies. My hope is that the dark shadow that cloaked their lives has dissipated and their souls are at peace.

Note: Conflicting reports give differing accounts of who actually discovered Mollie’s body. The Warren Tribune said it was a man coming home from work who segued into the pasture to pick berries in Mason’s Woods. The Niles Daily News claimed it was two little boys who entered the grassy area along the way to pick berries.


  • Immigration: New York Passenger Arrival Lists (Ellis Island), 1892-1924,
  • Young Lad Run Down By Auto: The Niles Daily News, Monday, June 19th, 1916, Pg 5
  • Gasper Logar WWI Draft Registration: World War I Selective Service System draft registration cards, 1917-1918,
  • Slays Child: The Niles Daily News 7-22-1921, Pgs 1 and 5
  • Posses Hunt Assailant of Niles School Girl; Finger Prints on Neck: The Sandusky Star-Journal (Sandusky, Ohio) · 22 Jul 1921, Fri · Page 1
  • Body of 14-Year-Old Mollie Verbias Is Found In Thicket: Warren Daily Tribune, 22 Jul 1921 Pgs 1:7 and 5:4
  • Mystery Is Unsolved As Police Work: Warren Daily Tribune, July 23, 1921 1:1
  • Girl’s Body Found In Woods: The Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, 23 Jul 1921, Sat Pg 6
  • Bury Girl As Police Trace Clues: Niles Daily Times, July 23, 1921, Pg 1
  • Death Mystery Still Unsolved: Niles Daily News, July 25, 1921, Pg 1
  • No Poison Was Found: Warren Daily Tribune, July 26, 1921 1:6
  • Parents of Mollie Verbias Are Under Arrest – Taken Into Custody By Police of Niles: Warren Daily Tribune: July 27, 1921 1:7
  • Coroner is Not Talking Verbias Case: Warren Daily Tribune, July 28, 1921 1:4
  • Probing Verbias Murder: The Niles Daily Times, July 28, 1921, Pg 1
  • Hold Brother Of Dead Girl: Warren Daily Tribune, July 30, 1921 1:2
  • Verbias Case Inquest Aug. 3: The Niles Daily News, July 22, 1921
  • No Decision In Verbias Inquest: The Niles Daily News, August 4, 1921
  • Niles Girl Was Choked Is Verdict: Warren Daily Tribune, August 9th, 1921 1:1
  • Krivac-Verbias Marriage: Niles Daily Times Monday May 28, 1928, Pg 4
  • Girls Injured in Accident: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, May 18, 1929
  • Alex Verbias Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1930 > 60501-63300 > image 2813 of 3129.
  • Death Threat Fulfilled: News-Journal, 14 Oct 1930, Tue, Page 1
  • Crazed Husband Injures Wife and Her Father: Niles Daily Times, Tuesday, October 14th, 1930, Pgs 1 and 5
  • Crazed Man Shoots 3, Takes Own Life: Warren Tribune Chronicle October 14, 1930 Pg 1
  • Niles Man Wounds Wife, Her Father: Warren Tribune Chronicle 14 Oct 1930 1:8
  • Last Rites For Killer, Victim: Niles Daily Times, 10-15-1930, Pg 1
  • Situations Wanted: Niles Daily Times, Thursday, August 24th, 1933, Pg 14
  • Elizabeth Verbias Obituary: Warren Tribune Chronicle 23 Dec 1944, Pg 7
  • Funeral Services: Niles Daily Times, Thursday, December 28th, 1944, Pg 3
  • Car Skids In Gravel, Hits Ditch: Warren Tribune Chronicle, August 3, 1936 1:1
  • Helen Laboda, North Road, Is Victim: Niles Daily Times, Monday August 3, 1936, Pg 1
  • Girard Man Leaves Bus, Killed By Passing Truck: Niles Daily Times, Thursday, March 8th, 1945, Pg 1
  • Samuel Morrall and Helen Krivac Marriage Record: Marriage records (Cuyahoga County, Ohio), 1810-1941; indexes, 1810-1952,

The Deadly Mahoning Valley Interurban Street Car

Mahoning & Shenango Railway and Light car #65 at Warren
Image from the Columbus Library’s Collection

In 1893, streetcars were first introduced to the Mahoning Valley. The Mahoning Valley Railway Company ran interurbans between Youngstown, Girard, Niles, and Warren and also connected to the Shenango Valley Railway that ran from New Castle, Pennsylvania to Youngstown. The line ran until 1939 when it was converted to electric streetcar trolleys and then switched to buses in 1941.

Advertisement for Interurban streetcars that were once constructed at a factory in Niles, Ohio
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Due to all the hazards surrounding streetcars operating along roadways, the Mahoning Valley Railway Company was often defendant in many injury and wrongful death suits. Several settlements were doled out to bereaved families and injured individuals.

On October 30, 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Mawby were hit by a limited car at the intersection of Belmont and Robbins avenues while riding in a rig, resulting in the death of Mr. Charles Mawby. Mrs. Mawby suffered serious injuries. She sued the Mahoning Valley Railway Company for $50,000, but in May of 1916, lost the suit when a jury made a verdict of non-negligence on behalf of the railway company. Emma Williams sued the company for $25,000 after she received injuries while riding a streetcar from Niles to Youngstown in December of 1915. When the car restarted after a stop at Spring Commons, the machine jerked forward so suddenly that she was thrown from her seat and suffered a dislocated spine. She claimed her injuries were permanent. In another suit, N.B. Crofford asked for $15,000 from the company when in early 1916 the streetcar he was riding in hit a moving van and he sustained injuries after falling from his seat. On May 12, 1916, James M. O’Connell received damages of $200 when the jury at Warren’s Court of Common Pleas issued a verdict in his favor against the Mahoning Valley Railway. A year prior, he was injured when his car fell into a hole between the railway track. He had sued for the amount of $1,000.

On August 3, 1918, Della Ray, of 77 Arlington, Youngstown, was hit by a west bound street car on West Federal Street and dragged forty feet. She was treated for non-fatal injuries at Youngstown City Hospital. She suffered a dislocated collarbone, lacerations to her head, shoulders, and hips, and bruises about the body. 

A Treacherous Slope: Bolin Hill at Deforest

Deforest was a former railroad junction near Niles that ran along the paved brick highway between Niles and Warren. Today, the site of the former junction rests near the old steel mills in Warren at Deforest Road between Warren Avenue and State Route 169. The railway track rolled over Bolin Hill, a slope 1,000 feet above sea level that was deemed picturesque for the homes built along its curves, but proved altogether fatal when combined with the track. Due to the steep crest, pedestrians and drivers could not see a streetcar until it was nearly on top of them. It was custom for the motorman to ring the bell along this stretch of road, but that precaution did not always prevent accidents. The Mahoning Valley Railway Company eventually came under fire for streetcars flying down Bolin Hill at a high rate of speed but would not admit to any amount of negligence on their part.

The present-day bird’s eye view of Deforest Junction
Image via Google Maps
The Niles Daily News
Wednesday, July 7th, 1909
Page 8
The Niles Daily News
Tuesday, May 4th, 1909
Page 8

9-Year-Old Harry Hazlett
Deforest Crossing
July 10, 1915

A limited car operated by Motorman McConkey and Conductor Artlip left Niles at 7:36, heading towards Niles. At 7:45 p.m., the car plunged down Bolin Hill and struck a nine-year-old boy riding his bicycle, killing him instantly. The boy was Harry Hazlett of Deforest, a student at Deforest School and a Sunday school member. He and his friend, Sydney Sayers, were riding home from Niles when Harry turned into the path of the limited as it came down the hill. The motorman immediately stopped the streetcar and several passengers exited to crowd around the boy as he lay still on the ground. They found him to be dead, having been struck in the back of the head. The inspector called Holeton & Son’s Ambulance, which arrived at the scene within minutes. Coroner Henshaw ­­­­­made an examination of the body at Holeton Morgue and found the boy to have suffered a fractured skull. At 11 p.m., Harry’s body arrived at the home of his bereaved parents, Harry and Alice (Johnson) Hazlett, on Deforest Road. Funeral services were held at 7 p.m. on July 12th and Harry was buried in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the city of his birth.

Blanche Unangst
Deforest Crossing
Saturday, May 20, 1916

Blanche Unangst of Orangeville Township, a young 22-year-old teacher at Bolin High School, was killed by an interurban at the Deforest Crossing. Friday had been the last day of the school year and on Saturday, Blanche was enjoying the first day of summer break out on a stroll with one of her pupils, Louise Devinna. At 3:15 that afternoon, Blanche and her fourteen year-old charge walked along the roadway arm-in-arm, making their way to the foot of Bolin Hill. There, the pair proceeded to walk across the railway tracks, unaware that a streetcar was coming straight at them. Louisa managed to escape with her life by dodging the oncoming car by mere inches, but her teacher was struck and killed instantly. Blanche sustained a broken left leg, fractured skull, and internal injuries. Her body was transported to her parent’s home in Orangeville for the funeral services.

The Mahoning Valley Railway Company stated that the streetcar had operated at a normal rate of speed, despite allegations that it was seen “flying” down the hill.

Father and Son: William and Leroy Carnsew
Deforest Crossing
April 13, 1916 & May 1, 1916

Thomas Leroy “Roy” Carnsew of Mecca township was a month shy of his twentieth birthday when his life was cut short. He had worked for three months as a milk peddler for Collins’ Dairy Farm and at the time of his death lived at the residence of his employer, Samuel Collins, in Niles. On Thursday, April 13, 1916, he drove his milk wagon through Deforest after returning from Sam Stillwagon’s farm where he had picked up twenty-five gallons of milk in preparation for the next morning’s deliveries.  When he arrived at the Collins farm a mile from Deforest, he turned into the driveway to cross the street car tracks that ran parallel to the highway. This section of road was at the foot of Bolin’s Hill and the tracks were higher than the road. Roy did not see the Mahoning Valley Streetcar until it was too late. 

The limited which left Warren at 9:00 o’clock was traveling at the usual rate of speed down the steep hill. Whether the young man failed to see the car, whether a warning whistle sounded or not or whether the motorman saw him before his car was close onto the rig could not be ascertained.

-Warren Daily Tribune, April 14, 1916 1:6

The streetcar came down Bolin’s Hill and collided with Roy’s cart, sending wood shards and milk in all directions and slicing one leg off the horse. Roy was thrown to the road and those that came to his aid found him still alive, but doubted he could survive. The streetcar halted completely and someone phoned Holloway’s Ambulance of Niles. The suffering horse was immediately put down at the site of the accident. The force of the crash was so intense that only a single wagon wheel survived intact. Splintered wood and shattered glass were scattered everywhere and Roy lay among the debris, completely helpless. The ambulance arrived at the scene, including Dr. J.D. Knox  who had ridden along, and loaded Roy into the vehicle. When the doctor examined him, he found Roy to have a fracture at the base of his skull along with other severe injuries. They transported him to the Warren City Hospital but were turned away because the facility was in lockdown due to a case of scarlet fever. The ambulance took Roy to the City Hospital in Youngstown. The staff knew he was a hopeless case as soon as they saw him. The collision occurred at 9:25 that evening and despite the desperate measures of the doctors and nurses, Roy died just hours later at 12:36 a.m. Holloway’s picked the deceased up and transported him to their morgue where his father claimed the body. Roy’s remains were taken to the family home in East Mecca where the funeral was held two days later on Sunday at 1 p.m. His employer and employer’s wife, Mr. and Mrs. Collins, attended the service as well as a large gathering of family and friends who deemed Roy a well-liked and hard-working young man. Roy was buried in East Mecca Cemetery

H. Enycart had been the motorman of the street car and said he had followed the normal safety protocol by sounding the whistle regularly from the top of Bolin’s Hill to the time of the accident. He noticed the milk wagon but claimed Carnsew showed no sign of turning until the streetcar was two car lengths away. As soon as he saw Carnsew turn, he attempted to brake the streetcar but the gravity of the downward slope rapidly propelled the vehicle towards the wagon. At 9:25 in the evening, it would have been quite dark besides the streetlights and lights of the streetcar. Paired with the steepness of the hill, visibility would have been much reduced. 

The result was the same, another life lost and property destroyed and attributed to the terrific speed attained by street cars and automobiles in traveling down either side of Bolin’s Hill.

-Warren Daily Tribune, April 14, 1916 1:6

Two weeks later on May 1st, Roy’s father William Carnsew traveled to Niles to make arrangements for the retrieval of Leroy’s personal belongings from the Collins’ home. After he left, he was on his way to Warren and at 10:45 a.m. was at the Deforest junction. This is where stories differ. Some say William began walking across the tracks while others say he was standing too close to the tracks while waiting for a car. In any case, a streetcar came at him. He leapt out of the way, but his foot was clipped by the passing train, sending him forcefully to the ground. Unlike his son, his injuries were not fatal, though the two lacerations on his head were quite deep and painful. He also had bruises on his body. Holloway’s ambulance picked him up and took him to Warren City Hospital, now out of quarantine. His injuries were treated and he recovered, though it is safe to say his emotional wounds would never fully heal.

On December 22, 1916, the court of common pleas heard a damages suit from Roy’s mother, Lorena Carnsew. She filed against the Mahoning Valley Railway the wrongful death of her son and sought damages of $25,000, though I could find no record of whether or not she found justice. 

A.D. Bowman, Hit Thrice
Mason Switch, Weathersfield
December 22, 1916

32-year-old A.D. “Dan” Bowman had all the bad luck. He was hit by street cars three times, the third strike being fatal. Dan was a teamster working for F.E. Bryan and in the first incident, his wagon was hit by a streetcar in Mineral Ridge. Dan suffered several broken ribs and a broken arm. During the summer of 1916, his wagon was hit a second time by a streetcar. Dan was thrown to the ground and received injuries as a result.  On Saturday, December 22, Dan left his Warren home to collect his paycheck at Bryan’s feed store and told his wife to meet him later at Callidine’s store at 7 o’clock. When he did not arrive at the arranged time, she returned home after waiting an hour and a half. Just after 10 o’clock, a neighbor knocked on her door and told her Dan had been struck by a streetcar and killed. Mrs. Bowman was beside herself with grief. She had only just buried a child and was left to care for four children all on her own without her husband’s much-needed wages. 

Backpedaling to seven o’clock, when he was supposed to be meeting his wife, Dan had been observed by his brother-in-law near the MV Station in Weathersfield and appeared to be waiting for a street car. He had never picked up his pay from his employer and there was no known reason he should have been at the Mason Switch at that time. He was standing by the tracks when a westbound limited streetcar picked up some passengers and began leaving the station, rapidly increasing in speed. That moment, Dan began crossing in front of the oncoming car and tripped, falling on the tracks. The streetcar could not stop in time and the aftermath proved a gruesome sight for all who witnessed it. Dan’s body became crammed beneath the wheels of the car and a jack was required to lift the car enough to retrieve the body. His head was crushed with the lower maxillary fractured and neck dislocated. Dan was buried in Niles Union Cemetery and how his wife managed life without him is a mystery lost to time. She and their children had depended completely on his paycheck to survive and it does not seem that she received a settlement from the railway company as it was clear Dan walked deliberately in front of a moving car.

The Carnsew Coincidence…or Curse?

Tragedy seemed to plague the Carnsew family of Mecca Township. As mentioned earlier, both father William and son Leroy were hit by interurban cars on separate incidents two weeks apart. 

William Carnsew was born in Wisconsin and married Lorena Hoffman in Ohio in 1894. The couple settled on a farm on Rt. 46 in Mecca and in rapid succession had several children: Thomas Leroy, William Bryan, Lulu Lenore, Weldon Lionel, Clarence Courtland, Carrie Elizabeth, Paul Shirley and Mary Mildred. The second son William died at the age of twelve in Johnston, but no death record or obituary could be found to uncover the circumstances of his death. In 1916, firstborn Leroy was killed in the aforementioned interurban car accident and his father William was injured by one in the same vicinity.

Over the years, William’s son Clarence often made threats to end his own life. He was a bachelor and lived on the family farm, suffering from depression. He surely grieved the losses of his two brothers most profoundly. He had never acted upon his threats until he was thirty-eight years old. On the day of July 6, 1941, he chatted with neighbors at the garage in Mecca Circle and appeared calm and congenial. However, when he came home he notified his parents that he was going to kill himself. Having heard this threat many times before, they did not take him seriously and continued on with their daily activities. 

Clarence went to the barn and grabbed a sturdy length of rope. From there he walked rearward deeper into the property, passing an oat field he had helped his father plant. He was followed by his nephew, Mildred’s son William Larson, who was staying for the summer. William presumed his uncle was off to retrieve the cows from the back pasture and went along to help, but a quarter mile later, Clarence told the boy to return to the house. William, an introspective boy, recognized something odd in Clarence’s behavior and therefore refused. Clarence then brandished a stick at his nephew until he “did as he was told”. 

William, fearful of his uncle’s mysterious actions, raced to the house and told his grandparents that Clarence was acting strangely. The elder William and Lorena decided that Clarence was alas making good on his threat and gathered a retinue of neighbors that headed to the back of the property. They arrived too late. Clarence had executed his motive rapidly and with precision. He hung from a tree, the rope tied around his neck and his feet seven feet above the ground.

A powerfully-built man, he apparently had clambered almost to the top of the 40-foot tree to attach the rope, had climbed down part way, then jumped, falling about 15 feet before the rope tightened.  

Warren Daily Tribune, July 7, 1941 1:4

The neighbors called Gail Banning, the local Justice of the Peace, and she in turn called the sheriff. Deputies W.H. Stone, Edward James and Dick Jones arrived at the Carnsew farm and cut the body down from the tree. They found .22 caliber shells in Clarence’s pocket, but no gun. Love’s Ambulance of Cortland drove back through the field to pick up the deceased. Clarence’s funeral was held at the Love Funeral Home in Cortland at 2 p.m. the following Wednesday.

Pallbeareres Shubert Armstrong, Andy Kuchembo, Marvin Garber, Lawrence Simpson, Ray Johnson, and Chet Tomlinson carried Clarence’s coffin from the hearse to his place of rest in East Mecca Cemetery. There, he was buried next to the brothers lost long before him in a service conducted by Rev. George Wingerden.

Clarence’s stone at East Mecca Cemetery
Photo by Ashley Armstrong

I can only imagine the indescribable grief Clarence’s parents must have felt in losing another child, not only so young but having inflicted his own death. William’s wife Lorena died three years after Clarence and his daughter Lulu died one year later. She was also unmarried. William died at the old age of 89, having buried his wife and too many children before their time. William Carnsew and his family are buried in East Mecca Cemetery in Mecca Township.


  • History of Mahoning & Shenango Railway: Columbus Metropolitan Library Collections
  • Deforest & Bolin Hill: History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, Pg 297
  • Harry Hazlett Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, Boy of Nine Years Is Killed By Niles-Warren Lim. Car: The Niles Daily News, July 12, 1915, Pg 1
  • FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1915 > 40541-43300 > image 843 of 3171.
  • Asks Damages: Niles Daily News, March 3, 1916, Pg 5
  • Awards Damages to Niles Man: May 13, 1916, Pg 4
  • Renders Verdict For Defendant: Niles Daily News, May 18, 1916, Pg 4
  • Local Man Asks Damages: Niles Daily News, May 25, 1916, Pg 5
  • Didn’t See Car: Warren Daily Tribune, May 22 1916 1:2
  • Leroy Carnsew killed: “The Times Democrat” Lima, OH, Saturday, April 13, 1916
  • Limited Car Strikes Milk Wagon; Driver Is Killed: The Niles Daily News, Pg 1, Apr14, 1916
  • Fast Going Car Kills Young Man At Foot Of Bolin Hill: Warren Daily Tribune, April 14, 1916 1:6
  • Leroy Carnsew Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1916 > 25781-28620 > image 1132 of 3306.
  • Met Same Fate At His Son: Dayton Daily News, 1 May 1916, Mon. Pg 1
  • Man Hit By Limited, Father of Boy Killed In Same Way: Warren Daily Tribune, May 1, 1916
  • A.D. Bowman Death Certificate: “Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 21 May 2014), 1917 > 78941-81948 > image 2193 of 3118.
  • Third Time Is Fatal: The Niles Daily News, Monday, December 24th, 1917, Pg 1
  • Killed Instantly: Warren Daily Tribune, Dec 24 1917 1:2
  • 2 Killed, 7 Hurt In Accident Wave: Youngstown Telegram, August 5, 1918, Pg 13
  • Mecca Farmer Hangs Himself: Warren Daily Tribune, July 7, 1941 1:4 & 2:4
  • Clarence Carnsew Funeral: Warren Daily Tribune July 10, 1941 7:3
Thrown Down A Well: An Attempted Murder in Kingsville

Thrown Down A Well: An Attempted Murder in Kingsville

June 27, 1850
Kingsville, Ashtabula County, Ohio

Kingsville is a quaint town in northern Ashtabula County, having been established in 1810, but has a profound history for the macabre as well. Residents were scandalized in 1853 by the suicide of one of its own, Abel Brumbley, who wound a rope around his neck, attached a stone to the end of it, and jumped in a pond to his death. Kingsville was also the seat of the county infirmary which burned down in 1858. The fire was started accidentally by one inmate who survived but caused the death of six other inmates. 

Not only does Kingsville have its store of tragedies, but is also home to several ghosts, one a railway spirit made famous when the Marion Daily Star remarked on the phenomenon.

Kingsville has a ghost that promenades the railway track and swings a blue lantern in its ghostly hands. An express train was stopped one night by the light, and the ghost disappeared into the woods.

Marion Daily Star, January 22, 1885 

The Kingsville Library on Academy Street has a resident ghost wearing a suit and top hat who has been spotted by a few librarians over the years. Also, mysterious occurrences have been recorded at the Simak Welcome Center on School Street. The building was once the old brick schoolhouse, originally built in 1908. After visitors experienced the sounds of children’s voices and other unexplained occurrences, a team of ghost hunters, Lakeview Paranormal, went to investigate. They caught EVP’s, strange noises, and even witnessed a flashlight operated by an unseen hand.

Yet prior to these known stories of Kingsville, one such story exists that without one newspaper article, would be lost to time. 

Rollin Harlow Harmon was born in about 1823 in Kingsville, the son of Reuben Harmon and Harriet Sheldon. Both of his parents had died prior to his marriage to Anna Mohr on March 19, 1850 in Kingsville. Anna was 24, having been born in Canada on October 15, 1825 to Thomas Mohr and Anna Elizabeth Yeager.

With Rollin’s marriage to Anna, he obtained a fine piece of property. There they lived for three months before Rollin decided he was quite weary of his new wife. Within the first month of marriage, Anna conceived a child, but whether or not Rollin was aware of the delicate condition of his wife before hatching his evil plan is quite unknown. Perhaps the information aided his decision to murder Anna and keep the parcel of land she had brought to their union. 

On June 26th, Rollin began to behave very oddly and often lost himself in thought. He eventually told Anna he very much wished to be rid of her, a comment that put her on edge. He ordered the hired man away from the vicinity, busying him with far off tasks. Rollin attempted to draw Anna out of the house by pulling her from about the waist. He told her that the bucket to the well had fallen in and he required her help to retrieve it. She obeyed, albeit with much suspicion, and stood at the side of the well opposite him. When she peered down to see if the bucket was truly down the deep hole, Rollin dashed around and shoved his wife. Despite his determination to pitch her forward, she managed to keep her footing and did not fall in. Trembling in fear, she hastened to the safety of the house and he followed. When she asked him why he had pushed her, he told her he was simply acting in jest and asked her to come back outside. She adamantly refused and spent the remainder of the day perplexed and frightened. Perhaps Anna eventually came to accept the notion that Rollin had been fooling with her, because she told no one and continued with her daily activities.

The following day, Rollin sent the hired man into the woods to fetch the cattle. Anna was engaged in the household chores when Rollin approached her, once again asking her assistance at the well. She rebuffed him and he reacted by scooping her up. He stifled her screams beneath the firm clamp of his hand, his fingernails causing cuts on her cheek and eyelid. Rollin carried her outdoors while Anna attempted to kick herself free. He brought her to the well where a struggle ensued. He could not lift her over the well’s curb, so he kicked the stones away and held her over the chasm, releasing her to the darkness below. She dropped headfirst thirty feet downward, twisting in midair so that her feet landed in three feet of water.  Following a great splash, Anna found herself overall unharmed but in the predicament of being trapped down a well while her murderous husband loomed overhead.

Rollin looked down at Anna in disbelief, angry that all his scheming and effort had come to naught. He called down to her that he would help her climb out, but she fretted that as soon as she was above, he would attempt to throw her down again. Yet she had no choice, unless she wished to remain standing waist-deep in cold water, so she complied by attempting to hold onto a pole he thrust down towards her. She could not grip it, therefore they abandoned that idea. Thinking industriously, Rollin fetched the ropes used for tying the cows and by using them was able to pull Anna up and out of the well. He ordered his shivering wife to immediately return to the house and change her clothing. However, the hired man came along at that moment and witnessed the battered and drenched woman retreating from the well, trembling with cold and fright. Rollin told his man that Anna had fallen into the well on accident, but there was no cause for alarm as he had managed to pull her out on his own. 

Perhaps to collect his emotions, Rollin left at once for his brother’s and returned a short time later. He harnessed the horses and commenced harrowing his field. Anna took this opportunity to escape; crossing a field, climbing over a fence, and finally collapsing at the doorstep of her neighbor’s, the Parkers. They pulled her inside and attempted to discern what horror had befallen young Anna, but she proved to be in such a state of shock that much time passed before she could begin to murmur of her husband’s attempt on her life. Dark bruises formed across her skin and her face bled from the lacerations caused by Rollin’s fingernails. After she could alas tell her story to the Parker’s, Mr. Parker walked to the field Rollin was working. Parker felt out the situation by first engaging Rollin in conversation concerning the crops and found the farmer to be calm, lacking any appearance of agitation. Parker then approached the subject of Anna falling down the well and Rollin assured his neighbor that she had fallen in quite by accident.

The Parkers notified the local esquire, J. G. Thurber, of the attempted murder and Rollin was arrested. During the first night of his incarceration, Rollin managed to escape, fleeing into the cover of the woods. After an arduous manhunt, a Mr. Benson came upon Rollin in his hiding place and the rogue man brandished a knife at his pursuer, threatening to “rip him up”. However, Rollin was alas subdued and booked into the county jail on charges of assault with intent to kill.

What happened after is a mystery lost to time, however we have a vital clue that tells us Rollin was most likely acquitted. In 1850, it was the year of the census and Kingsville’s census was recorded on the 4th of September. In this record, Rollin was shown as living in the home of his brother Catlin with their younger brother Hollis. Anna was listed living with her parents Thomas and Anna Mohr and brother Samuel. It appears that Rollin and Anna were blessedly living separately lives at this point, but Rollin was living a life of freedom with his family. It is possible Rollin received a light sentence that did not involve incarceration or was set free altogether, though we cannot say for sure. Had he been incarcerated at this time, he would have been listed as an “inmate” in the city of his imprisonment, not listed at his usual place of residence.

In January of 1851, Anna gave birth to a daughter, Ella.

Seven years after the attempted murder of his wife, Rollin died. He was a young man of 33 or 34, and was buried in East Lake Cemetery in North Kingsville. His brother Martin named his infant son after Rollin in 1860, but the child died when he was a year old.

Anna and her parents relocated to Erie, Pennsylvania. There, she married Isaac Mosher and they had at least one child for certain according to records, a son Frank in 1867. Anna spent the remainder of her life in Erie, raising her children and stepchildren. She died in 1888 at the age of 63 in Millcreek Township and was buried in Erie Cemetery. Rollin and Anna’s daughter Ella lived a long life and died an old woman.

Though it is frustrating to find no reports of what occurred to Rollin after his arrest and details of his trial—if there was a trial—it is comforting to know that Anna went on to enjoy a relatively long life. The fact that she survived falling down a well is truly remarkable. If it were not for the painstaking efforts of Find A Grave volunteers, we would not know what happened to Anna after her husband in his viciousness and complete lack of empathy, attempted to take the life of her and their unborn child. His actions were premeditated and not performed in a heightened emotional state as his failed attempt one day was carried out in a second attempt on the next. He was truly a cowardly, cold-hearted man who can be placed in the ranks with Ira Gardner in regards to the criminals of Northeast Ohio history. 


  • History of Ashtabula County, Ohio; Large, Moina W.; Topeka; Historical Pub. Co. 1924
  • Ohio Ghost Hunter Guide VI by Jannette Rae Quackenbush, 2014, pages 37-41
  • Marriage Record: “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2014), Ashtabula > Marriage records 1849-1872 vol D > image 16 of 150; county courthouses, Ohio.
  • United States Census,1850: Rollin Harmon in the house of Catlin Harmon,
  • United States Census, 1850: Anna Harmon in home of Thomas Mohr,
  • Assault with Intent to Kill: Portage Sentinel, July 8, 1850

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 6, 1940-Present

This will be my final post of 2020 as the busy holiday season is underway and I need to focus on writing my novels, but I have many great stories planned to share in 2021. I was devastated to discover that just days before my intended visit to Hotel Conneaut tomorrow that the travel restrictions have caused my plans to be cancelled. Due to COVID, Ohioans visiting Pennsylvania have to procure a negative test result within 72 hours crossing the border and me and my group simply would not have time to do so prior to the trip. Unfortunately, the ghost hunt will be going on without us both tonight and tomorrow night. I imagine many groups, especially those coming from out of state, had to cancel due to the pandemic.

Postcard of the boardwalk and Hotel Conneaut, 1941

In the sixth installment of my series on Hotel Conneaut, we alas reach the decade where all the parties, all the glamor, all the fun, and the entire experience of vacationing at Conneaut Lake Park came to an abrupt end. September 1, 1939 marked the beginning of WWII and the U.S. joined in 1941 following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. With war came economic crisis, war rationing, and undying patriotism. All the excess and frills dominating the previous decades were trimmed off and though people still longed for the escapism of an amusement park, it simply was not possible for many families to attend an annual outing at the resort. Then, in 1943, a fire devastated Hotel Conneaut, putting her out of business for the next year, and reshaping her entire future. The war and the poor economy left a sad haze on the entire park and the magic was lost. Though many groups continued to come to the park for their annual meeting or convention, the crowds of yesteryear were long gone. Because the hotel appeared significantly less in the news, I have less material to work with and have combined the decades leading into present day.


The Pittsburgh Press, May 26, 1940
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday June 14, Jun 1940, Page 27

For everything you’ve ever wanted in a day or a whole season of rest and relaxation. Fun and play—visit Conneaut Lake Park. It is the ideal fun site for young and old alike. Fully equipped to meet the scattered diversions of everyone, rich in concessions, spiced with variety in the amusement center, packed with facilities for outdoor sports enthusiasts. The high, healthful, elevation and pure sweet air instills new life in your system, makes you feel “tops” again. Come to Conneaut Lake Park now….you’ll be a “Conneaut Lake Park fan” every year if you do.

Hotel Conneaut—Located on the Western Shore of Beautiful Conneaut Lake—has long been famous as a vacation center. More than 300 delightful rooms—Both American and European plans—Excellent cuisine at most reasonable rates—at Hotel Conneaut you have everything, and everything is devoted to making your stay a most enjoyable one. Relax in perfect ease on Lake-view verandas, or obtain new vigor and vitality through stimulating sports—at Hotel Conneaut. Dancing nightly at the smart new Beach Club…music by famous orchestras….there’s something here for every mood…under the sun or under the starts…at Hotel Conneaut. Enjoy Your Playtime Here!”
You Can’t Beat a Bargain Like This! All Expense 7-Day Vacation….$31.55
Just think of it! Seven wonderful days and nights at HOTEL CONNEAUT with round trip transportation, a comfortable, furnished room, three inviting meals daily served in the Main Dining Room. Dancing and Floor Show privileges nightly at smart BEACH CLUB. Also Golf and Fishing Privileges. Many Other Activities, ALL FOR ONE VACATION PRICE. For information write Hotel Conneaut, Conneaut Lake Park, Pa. 

– The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, June 23, 1940
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 23, 1940
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Friday, June 28, 1940, Page 24
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, August 25, 1940, Page 44


The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, May 25, 1941, Page 39


Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph, Sunday, May 24, 1942, Page 32


Hotel Conneaut was prepared for its opening on May 1st, but on April 27th, an electrical fire began in the north wing. The fire department quickly brought it under control and the resulting damage amounted to $5,000. This postponed the hotel’s opening for a week. However, hot coals from the fire reignited another blaze, one that burned silently through the hotel’s interior for five hours before it was noticed at 4 a.m. on April 28th and brought under control by 9:30 a.m. 150 guest rooms on the second and third floors and the main dining room and main lobby on the ground floor were gutted in the blaze. $150,000 of damages were estimated. The park manager, T.C. Foley, announced the hotel would not open as scheduled and could not open for the imminent future. 

On May 11th, lightning struck wires leading into the second story of the park office near Hotel Conneaut and the building caught on fire. Assistant Park Manager William Tarr and his wife lived on the second story but were reportedly absent at the time of the fire. Downstairs in the office, smoke and water ruined the park records and the total damages amounted to $500.

Plans for repairing Hotel Conneaut were underway, but due to war rationing, the lumber could not be acquired and therefore Hotel Conneaut’s fate was at a standstill. Her gaping wounds lay open to the elements and finally in October, Manager Foley decided that the damaged wing would be completely razed. 120 rooms would be left and Foley projected the hotel would be open for the 1944 season.

The park and the lake as a whole continued to operate and welcomed visitors, but not without further tragedy to cap off the season. Grove City teen, Lillian Cokeane drowned after her rowboat capsized just off of Oakland Beach on the shore opposite Hotel Conneaut.


Due to the ongoing war effort and rationing, the hotel was not finished for the 1944 season as originally hoped and the building sat empty.


The resort opened under new ownership as a family-owned park. Hotel Conneaut finally reopened its doors after a heavy cleanup and restoration, forming a new entryway that opened into the original old part of the hotel which housed the stairwell. The new lobby created that year still stands to this day. 


Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Tuesday, May 27, 1947


Conneaut Lake Park added a new ride, the Tilt-A-Whirl, which continues to operate to this day.

The resort hosted a two-day convention for insurance claim adjusters of which 175 people attended. 90 were from Ohio and one man, G. Don Brown, was from Niles.


Actress and singer Doris Day reportedly sang at Dreamland Ballroom with her band when she was just starting out her career sometime in the 50’s.

Postcard of Kiddie Land in the early 1950’s


The Conneautville Courier Thursday, April 16, 1953, Page 7

Hotel Conneaut opened on May 24th under new management. Robert S. Haire came from his post at Norman-Shoreham Hotel in South Beach, Florida to manage the storied hotel on Conneaut Lake. Robert Varner from the Naples Beach Hotel in Naples, Florida, took over as room clerk. Business proved to be very good that year as many conventions and parties were booked and guests scheduled their vacations. The hotel closed for the season on September 14th


The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania), Friday, July 11, 1958, Page 4


Conneaut Lake Park opened for the season in May, down to two hotels from a dozen. Hotels Conneaut and Elmwood remained. Hotel Conneaut received a new private dining room and patio prior to the season opening.

In the park, a new scrambler ride had been installed next to the Dodgem. The Tumblebug ride was remodeled and the Whip moved to a new spot next to the flying scooter.


Postcard of Hotel Conneaut in the 1960’s


Fairyland Forest opened that year as a separate amusement from the main park.

This attraction, just across the road from the park, was one of several storybook-themed parks which sprouted across the nation in the 1950s and 1960s. It was very popular in its early years. There were many large fiberglass and concrete sculptures on the landscape such as a turtle, frog, penguin in the pond and whale, plus scenes from nursery rhymes such as Humpty Dumpty, Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, Jonah and the Whale and Noah’s Ark. There also were live animals to pet and feed, and visitors exited the grounds through a windmill-shaped building that housed a gift shop.

Ken Lahmers for My Town NEO, Aug 27, 2014

During the off-season, the animals from the new park feature were kept in cages and cared for by trained keepers.


The resort opened on May 28th that year after an early spring busy with workers remodeling. Hotel Conneaut received new carpeting, furniture, and bathroom fixtures in an effort to keep the old hotel looking up-to-date. 

In the park, a new ride called the Paratrooper was installed to replace an old ride, the Rockets. The Paratrooper featured long arms reaching out from a central mechanism and on the end of each arm was a cage to hold riders. It spun around and after increasing in adequate speed, the cages moved so the riders were parallel to the ground like they were flying.  The Merry-Go-Round, Jungle Cruise, and the Caterpillar rides were all refurbished. The Blue Streak rollercoaster was also repaired.


Prior to the season opening, Hotel Conneaut lost her last standing comrade when Hotel Elmwood was leveled to the ground. Meanwhile, Hotel Conneaut received a facelift with new carpeting and décor.



The Pittsburgh Press Sunday, April 26, 1970, Page 109


The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, May 7, 1972, Page 150


The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, Aug 5, 1973, Page 38


Postcard of Conneaut Lake in 1974

The park opened for the season on May 24th. Memorial Day weekend brought a huge United States Polka Association convention along with the 3rd annual Polka Festival held in Dreamland Ballroom. Cleveland radio personality Paul Wilcox acted as the master of ceremonies.

Buffet dinners were served every Sunday in the hotel’s dining room. The Log Cabin restaurant had been newly rebuilt within the park and welcomed diners for eat-in or take-out. The lake-front Buffeteria served one-priced dinners to park guests.

At Fairyland Forest, “children can feed a baby llama, talk to their favorite Mother Goose characters, or to Bobby Baxter, the park’s clown-in-residence —while their parents can stroll through the Lollipop Gardens, a majestic maze of floral beauty.” –The Daily Times, May 22, 1974

On July 12th, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a special article on Hotel Conneaut. Editor Mike Kalina said the hotel was “a cross between an antebellum mansion and a nursing home for the affluent in St. Petersburgh, Fla.” He mentioned how the overall charm of the hotel was due to its history and inability to keep up with the times. The hotel had not been regularly updated like it had in its heyday, decades before. Kalina mentioned how such efforts had been attempted, such as the conversion of a reading room to a television room or fish tanks placed in the taproom, albeit holding artificial fish. He brought up how the hotel rooms were almost primitive in nature, with no TV or radio, air conditioning, and the bathrooms absolutely ancient. Sounds carried through the thin walls, even with the transom (the window above each guest room door) closed. In many ways, the hotel still resembles a few of these aspects in 2020, though the rooms are comfortable and quaint with televisions and some rooms with modern showers, though many still have the old clawfoot bathtubs.

Kalina’s article expressed the affordability of staying at the hotel, a night’s stay costing $12.50 a night for a single-bed room and only $80 for a week’s stay. Food was still served in the hotel’s restaurant, though the dining room was significantly smaller than the one lost in the 1943 fire that could hold up to 1,000 people. The menu offered at the hotel featured steak, chicken, and seafood. In the park, people could eat at the Buffeteria or at one of the food stands. Corn dogs, a novelty food item at the time, was the most popular food sold in the park.


Local Sharon Stone won the title of Miss Crawford County and reportedly stayed at the hotel, though I cannot confirm that fact as an absolute truth. Born in Meadville and having graduated from Saegertown High School, it seems very likely the famous actress would have visited the park and the hotel.


At Hotel Conneaut, a family of four could stay for $20 a night or $120 for a week. The rooms still lacked air conditioning and televisions, but most guests came for the atmosphere. The main dining room served entire meals for between $3.95 to $6.95. The hotel also served drinks in the cocktail lounge, which today is known as the Spirit Lounge. Guests could sidle over to the Beach Club in the park if they wanted to spend an evening listening to contemporary music. Cottage rentals costed between $90 to $100 for a week’s stay and even today, vacationers can rent out various cottages around the park and lake.

In the park, a ride pass, or Ride-A-Rama pass, cost $5.25 for the day or $3.50 for just the evening. Among the 39 amusements in the park, there was the Ferris Wheel, the Turtle, the Wild Mouse, the merry-go-round and the famous Blue Streak roller coaster. The park acquired four rides from the closed West View park. Other amusements included the Jungle Cruise—a 20 minute motor-boat ride on a lagoon—pony rides, and miniature golf. Guests could eat at the Log Cabin Snack Shop or Lakeside Cafeteria. 


The park’s resident paddle boat captains.
The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday, June 17, 1984


Conneaut Lake Park opened on Friday, May 28th, celebrating its 90th season after major remodeling and additions throughout the prior winter and spring. Charles Flynn, the park’s director of public relations that year, was the grandson of one of the businessmen who bought the park in 1945. He said, “We’re seeking to set ourselves apart from the huge theme parks of steel, concrete, and plastic. We are an old-fashioned, family-style lakeside resort with something for everyone.”

A family-owned and operated park for the last 40 years, the 100-acre facility distinctive for its turn-of-the-century charm, contains a 40-ride amusement park, a grand old resort hotel, two ballrooms, a convention hall with 3500 seat capacity, a children’s storybook land and petting zoo, Fairyland Forest, a sandy well-guarded beach, and several restaurants as well as a night club and lounge.

– Niles Daily Times, Friday, May 28, 1982, Page 1

The two golf-courses were now separate from the park, though the park did have miniature golf.

The famous wooden roller coaster Blue Streak was painted blue over its original tan shade. A new water ride had been installed, called the Rampage, a roller coaster with a 63 ft drop into Conneaut Lake. Also added was an electronic wild west shooting range called “Krazy Kenny’s Saloon” along the midway. 

Kids could enter a miniature version of the park and in Kiddieland, they could ride a small Blue Streak rollercoaster, Ferris wheel, and merry-go-round. 

Water Slide
The Pittsburgh Press
Sunday, June 17, 1984

Entry into the park was free and visitors could pay for individual rides or purchase a ride pass. The Ride-A-Rama day pass cost $7.25 that year and every Wednesday was bargain day where ride passes cost $5.50 a person. The park was open daily from 1 to 10:00 p.m.

At Hotel Conneaut, a family could purchase a three-night vacation package starting at  $69.95.

For entertainment, the season brought Sammy Bill Orchestra’s “Big Band” in Dreamland Ballroom, dancing, country and western music shows, a 15,000 meter foot race, two antique shows, a water ski show, and fireworks on July 4th and September 5th. Johnny Greco and Art Farrar’s orchestras also performed that year.


The park opened on May 27th and for six months prior, extreme renovations and additions had been made. Two new rides, Battlin’ Bob’s Bumper Boats and Captain Conneaut, a bounce ride, were installed. A turn-of-the-century ice cream parlor, the Gazebo, proved a nostalgic new feature as well. 

A three-year remodeling process began on Hotel Conneaut and by the season’s opening 56 guest rooms had been updated with new paneling, carpets, and fixtures. The remodel was accomplished with a turn-of-the century tastes in mind.

That season, free shows went on every Sunday from July 4th weekend to Labor Day. The Laker 15k race was held on Saturday, June 18th and runners ran the ring around the lake. The 2nd annual Conneaut Lake Jazz Festival was held August 26-28th. Fireworks were set off on July 4th and September 4th. The park closed for the season on September 5th

Ride passes cost $7.25 that year, with the bumper boats and pony rides extra.


Hotel Conneaut received a fresh coat of white paint. A new ride, the Sea Dragon, was installed and along with the 1900’s carousel, 1920’s Tumble Bug, and Blue Streak, gave the resort a turn-of-the-century, nostalgic atmosphere that executive vice president Charles Flynn hoped to create. “We’re trying to make the rides more active and still keep the atmosphere the same as it has been for the past 50 years. It’ll be a neat trick,” he commented for the Pittsburgh Press. 

In regards to the hotel, he said, “I think we are tapping the nostalgia market, especially at the hotel. We’ve probably had a 40 percent increase in occupancy over the past two years. It’s not only grandparents bringing their grandchildren back; we’re also getting couples with young children. I think they don’t like cookie-cutter motel rooms.”

For that reason with keeping with the atmosphere, the guest rooms still had no televisions or air conditioning. The TV room was located off of the lobby. Guest rooms cost between $24 for a single room to $38 for a larger room with a view.

1990’s & 2000’s

I visited Fairyland Forest with my family in the late 80’s or early 90’s. I don’t remember much from our trip, but I have several photos from a couple visits there.

In 1990, Conneaut Lake Park enclosed its perimeters and for the first time charged admission in desperation to remain afloat. That season proved a bust and led to even greater financial ruin. What followed was an effort to find stability by auctioning off several rides and a group of businessmen banded together to save the park. However, in 1995, the park owner’s filed for bankruptcy and did not open that season. After a few transfers of ownerships, the park finally found footing and was able to stay open. This is a brief summarization as the details can be found on Wikipedia, therefore I will not go into them.

In 2008, an arsonist torched the Dreamland Ballroom and the historic dance hall was gone forever. In 2013, the banquet hall and an adjoining bar were lost to fire as well.

The park struggled for many years, but rallied back to delight new generations. I do not feel the need to cover the recent history as it is fairly well known and dozens of articles are available online about history buffs coming together to save the park and the hotel. 

The Ghost Lake 13 Levels of Fear helps keep the park alive during the Halloween Season. Patrons visit several areas of the park, including the hotel, and delight in the abounding scares.

Hotel Conneaut has become a historic landmark and prime destination for ghost hunting. The Spirit Lounge bar alone is a huge draw for locals who crowd inside its walls, the lobby, and the porch. I am devastated that due to COVID, I will not be visiting the beautiful hotel this year. I cannot even begin to describe how much I adore the historic building and I truly hope she is around for many years to come.

2022 UPDATE: In January 2022, the Blue-Streak was lost to fire and people thought that once again the curse of fire had destroyed the beloved coaster. Instead, news reports said that while the park owner conducted a controlled burn of wooden parts of the roller coaster, the machinery performing the demolition malfunctioned and the fire went out of control. The entire roller-coaster, tracks and all, burned to ash. The fire department worked to contain the blaze, concerned that the fire would spread to other areas of the park, including the carousel which was most under threat. History-lovers as well as people that had grown up riding the coaster were outraged at the deliberate razing of the Blue-Streak, which had been around since 1937. To recall fondly its memory, enjoy a video of what it was like for thousands to ride the coaster here.


  • Fire Causes $5,000 loss to Conneaut Hotel: The Morning Call, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 2
  • $150,000 Fire Hits Hotel Conneaut: Lancaster New Era, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 2
  • Hotel Conneaut Partly Gutted In Blaze Today: The Record-Argus, 28 Apr 1943, Wed Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Office Suffers Loss in Blaze Today: The News-Herald, 11 May 1943, Tue Page 9 
  • Around the Keystone State: The Morning Call, 24 Aug 1943, Tue Page 5
  • Plans For Rehabilitating Fire-Swept Conneaut Hotel: Warren Times Mirror 6 Oct 1943, Wed Page 3
  • Town Talk: Niles Daily Times, Friday, June 10th, 1949, Pg 1
  • Hotel Conneaut Manager Named: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 Jun 1953, Wed. Pg 24
  • Manager Named At Hotel Conneaut: Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph 22 May 1953, Fri · Page 21
  • Conneaut Reopens: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 3 Jun 1959, Wed Page 11
  • Kaleidoscope: Tired old Conneaut Lake Park facing uncertain future; visit was nostalgic: Ken Lahmers for My Town NEO, Aug 27, 2014
  • Conneaut Lake Park Stirs In Sleep As Crews Prepare For New Season: The Oil City Derrick,19 Mar 1965, Pg 15 
  • Landmark Razed At Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 28 May 1967, Sun · Page 82
  • Conneaut Lake Park to Open: The Daily Times, May 22, 1974 Page28,
  • At Hotel Conneaut, It’s Yesterday Once More: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 12 Jul 1974, Fri Pg 21 
  • Small-Town Resort Never Seems To Change: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Fri, Jun 16, 1978 Page 19
  • Old Fashioned Lakeside Resort Opens: Niles Daily Times, Fri May 28, 1982, Pg 1
  • Big Band Sounds At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times June 16, 1982 Pg 16
  • Hotel Conneaut Fix-Up: The Akron Beacon Journal, 24 Apr 1983, Sun Page 94
  • Conneaut Lake Park To Open For 91st Season on May 27: Niles Daily Times May 19, 1983, Pg 13
  • The Resort Time Almost Forgot: The Pittsburgh Press · Sun, Jun 17, 1984 · Page 112
  • Conneaut Lake Park’s Blue Streak roller coaster is no more, but not due to fire: By Associated Press, Published January 10, 2022 at 2:00 PM EST

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 5, 1930-1939

In my fifth part of the ongoing series on Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park, I explore the decade of the 30’s. The stock market crash of December 1929 pitched the country forward into the Great Depression. Despite the possibility of financial catastrophe, Conneaut Lake Park’s president Henry Holcomb remained optimistic, believing that the resort could stay afloat, and his projection was correct. However, the long management by Holcomb had come to an end due to his ill health and the transfer of ownership of the resort.

Postcard Showing View From Hotel Conneaut, 1935


A fire at an adjacent cottage put Hotel Conneaut in danger on February 18th. Fortunately the blaze was quickly extinguished before the flames could spread to the hotel, though the cottage was a loss.

In April, Hotel Virginia sold for $10,000 in a sheriff’s sale to an anonymous buyer.

Victor Leval

Hotel Conneaut opened for the season on May 15th, newly redecorated and under new management. Victor Leval came from Hotel Winton in Cleveland where he had been catering manager and also managed the Rainbow Room and Tally Ho Room. Having been brought up as the 5th generation of famous Levals in the European hotel business, he showed great promise in ushering a new age for Hotel Conneaut. Leval had begun his apprenticeship at the age of 11 at the Royal Palace Hotel in Switzerland before getting his start at Adlen Hotel in Berlin followed by the Metropole in London. From there, he went to Canada where he worked in service at the hotel and dining room of the Canadian Pacific Railroad. He managed the Manitoba Club in Winnipeg before WWI began and he went into military service for the next four years. He began as a sergeant and was eventually promoted to a major. After his discharge, he became vice president of the Overland Hotels Co. and when he lost all his money, he began to work as a cook to feed himself. He was assistant manager at the Coronado Hotel in St. Louis and from there, his services were acquired by Hotel Winton in Cleveland. With his experience in the finest cuisine from around the world, he put together a spectacular menu with Hotel Conneaut’s chef. Some of Leval’s first plans for the park were to install a new private bathing beach for hotel guests and build a recreation parlor.

Leval and his wife hosted a dinner dance and housewarming for around 400 guests at the hotel. The guests present were from Cleveland, Erie, Greenville, Meadville, and Sharon, among others. A dancing and entertainment program shown in the dining room revealed one of the finest displays yet to be seen at the hotel. Seven vaudeville artists danced with their hats to the George Williams’ orchestra.

George Williams And His Music Makers were employed for the season to play music in the dance pavilion, newly dubbed Dreamland Ballroom, and in the Crystal Ballroom at Hotel Conneaut.

The park opened on Memorial Day, May 30th with dances held both afternoon and evening at the dance pavilion.

Jeanne Oatman of Massillon had been employed by Mr. Leval to run a print shop in the basement of Hotel Conneaut. Mr. Leval had agreed to board Mrs. Oatman and her children for free as well as pay her wages. Mrs. Oatman was the widow of Lieutenant Harry Oatman and they had married after they met while he was stationed in France. They had three children, Yvonne, Richard, and Jacqueline. The trouble was that Mrs. Oatman had been acquitted two years prior for the stabbing death of her husband at their Cleveland home. The death was deemed accidental as Mrs. Oatman stated her husband was stabbed during a quarrel. The couple had argued while she peeled potatoes with a paring knife that somehow entered his body. He bled to death in a hospital bed. Her mother-in-law, Alice Oatman, failed to believe her innocence and went after Mrs. Oatman with the full force of the law, attempting to foreclose her late son’s house and all the furniture with it. Unfortunately, the printer Mrs. Oatman was taking with her to Hotel Conneaut was included in the suit. Though Mrs. Oatman claimed it belonged to her, her mother-in-law declared vehemently that all the furniture, including the printer, was hers. I could not find a conclusion to this case, but my presumption is that Mrs. Oatman was not able to go to Conneaut Lake that summer due to her legal troubles in Cleveland.

R.J. McDonald, new Managing Director

After Hotel Conneaut closed for the season, Victor Leval left for Chicago where he became catering manager for the Congress Hotel. The grand hotelier spent one and only season at Hotel Conneaut and was replaced by R.J. McDonald. Leval would go on to serve 90,000 meals a month at Camp Canol in 1942 and was mentioned in the book, The Black Soldiers Who Built The Alaskan Highway by John Virtue.


Las Vegas Age, June 13, 1931, Page 3

Max Schmeling, heavy-weight boxing champion, set up his training camp at the resort that summer. Arriving May 20th, he stayed in a cottage with his manager, Joe Jacobs, his trainer, Max Machon, and his private chef, Otto Winemann. Guards patrolled the outside of the cottage to keep eager fans at bay. Schmeling had an outdoor ring where he trained heavily for his big fight against Young Stribling in Cleveland set for July 3rd. On one of Schmeling’s off days, he played two rounds of 18-hole golf. The remainder of his free time was spent playing tennis, fishing, riding a speedboat, bowling, and flying his airplane. On Sunday, June 28th, the park celebrated German Day, and Schmeling was cheered on by 4,317 people who thronged his outdoor boxing ring. 

Evening Star, June 29, 1931, Page C-3

Schmeling won his match against Stribling due to a technical knockout. Twenty years later, Schmeling recalled an amusing story about his exploits while staying at Conneaut Lake Park. He said that he and his friends along with his part-owner/boxing promoter Billy McCarney went into Hotel Conneaut’s basement while the undertaker’s association held their annual convention. They got into the alcohol the hotel was serving to the crowd of funeral directors, despite prohibition, and became quite inebriated. McCarney became far gone and the boys carried him upstairs. They came upon some caskets on display for the convention and laid him inside one. The boys lit the candles around the casket and left one boy to watch over McCarney while Schmeling returned to his cottage. As the story goes, the undertakers came upstairs and perhaps in jest, bowed in solemnity and said a prayer for the dead. McCarney regained consciousness, panicked when he noticed where he was laying and jumped out, running all the way back to Schmeling’s cottage. Schmeling died in 2005 at the age of 99 and was buried in his native country of Germany.

On August 1st, two cottages directly behind Hotel Conneaut burned, threatening both the hotel and the park offices but were extinguished. The loss amounted to $2,500.

Niles Daily Times August 14, 1931, Page 6
Pittsburgh Post Gazette, September 5, 1931, Page 21


Hotel Conneaut opened informally on May 27th, hosting a banquet for the Wild Life League of Pennsylvania who were in charge of the lake’s fish. Carp were removed from the lake and replaced with game fish, including blue gills, perch, and salmon. 

Niles Daily Times, May 26, 1932 Page 7

On Memorial Day, the park opened with the spectacular fire pageant, “The Spirit of America”. Freddie Carlone’s dance orchestra and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Band of Warren, OH provided the music.

The Park Theatre opened with “The Lost Daughters”, put on by the Broadway Players.

On Sunday, June 26th, Captain Walter “Chris” Criswell of Meadville jumped 4,000 feet from a plane, deployed his parachute and landed in the water in front of Hotel Conneaut. One of his parachute straps broke during the descent and struck him in his eyes, causing injury. The dare-devil parachute jumper made another two leaps on July 4th

Niles Daily Times, June 28, 1932 Page 5

On Independence Day, two features were made free for visitors, one being a water show of the sinking of the Lusitania on the lake in front of the hotel. The other was a reproduction of a zeppelin attack on the Capitol of Washington. They used life-size airplanes, dirigibles, steamships and U-boats in the reproduction. That day, concerts and parades were given by the Veteran of Foreign Wars Boys band, featuring more than one-hundred instruments. Freddie Carlone’s orchestra played in the newly renovated Dreamland Ballroom and also in the dining room at Hotel Conneaut. The park’s new night club, Radio Villa, was opened to guests. At nightfall, a spectacular fireworks display was shown.

Perry Como
Photo from The Evening Star
September 9 1956, Pg 3

A young Perry Como joined his uncle at his barber shop inside Hotel Conneaut in order to send home money to his family. While in Cleveland, he went to a show at the Silver Slipper Ballroom, watching Freddie Carlone and his famous orchestra who often provided the music at Conneaut Lake Park. Carlone invited anyone with talent to come onstage and sing with his band. Como was terrified, but coaxed by his friends, went up and began to sing to hundreds of spectators. Carlone was so impressed, he offered Como a job with his band. Though the job offered significantly less pay than his haircutting gig at the hotel—$28 a week—Como dubiously accepted the offer and stayed with Carlone’s band for the next three years. Como went on to become very famous, with a long and storied career in the music industry.

One young guest of the park recalled her memories of her interaction with the young singer many years after Como left Conneaut Lake Park to begin his career:

“Back in 1931 [sic] —I was only a small child at the time—my family rented a summer cottage at Conneaut Lake, Pa. We frequently ate at the Conneaut Lake Park Hotel because, according to my parents, the food was excellent, and they enjoyed the dinner-hour dance music of Freddie Carlone’s orchestra.

“One of the band’s chief attractions was a young singer who specialized in “crooning.” Bing Crosby was then the top crooner, and I can still remember many of the lake people listening to the youngster sing (he couldn’t have been more than 18) and commenting, “This fellow will give Bing Crosby a run for his money—if he has the gumption to stick with it.” The reason they might have had doubts was that the boy had a likeable, easygoing poise that made him seem a bit, well, lethargic.

“Often the young man would visit our table and talk with my parents. After dinner, he usually invited me to the edge of the bandstand, where I sat on his ice-cream parlor chair (it was sort of a trademark of his act) while he sang.

“As the summer wore on, I developed a regular “crush” on the young singer. Was I the envy of the sandbox set on those days he’d join us at the beach and romp with me!

“The years passed, and I soon forgot all about that summer at Conneaut Lake. Then, one day in the early 1940’s, I turned our radio up to “teenage” volume to hear a new smash hit called “Prisoner of Love.” It was being sung by a bobby-sox sensation named Perry Como. I had never seen his picture, but just the sound of his voice made me swoon all over.

“My mother came in, turned the loudness down, and said, “Norma, just because he used to be your boyfriend, you needn’t bring down the walls!”

“Boyfriend? Me? Perry Como? And then it all came back. The young-man who sang to me on the ice-cream parlor chair…those days we spent on the beach…that relaxed, boy-next-door manner.

“Although the sand castles we built together quickly dissolved into the lake, and many of the songs have faded, my childhood memories of that likeable young man, who the adults said seemed to lack “gumption,” will remain till the day I die.”

-Mrs. Norma Leary, Jamestown, PA
As told to the Rome News-Tribune, October 29, 1973
(I flagged the year because according to records, Como did not come to Conneaut Lake Park until 1932)

Como died in 2001 and is buried in Riverside Memorial Park in Florida.


In May, Katherine Wolff, who had been a housekeeper at Hotel Conneaut for several years, died in Meadville from illness. She was buried in St. Catherine’s Cemetery in Titusville.

Niles Daily Times, May 25, 1933, Page 8

Henry Holcomb lay ill in Cunningham Sanitarium in Cleveland with heart trouble for several months before succumbing on June 7, 1933. He had been ill for some years prior, though had still been involved with some of his hotels before he was admitted into the sanitarium. News of his death reached Conneaut Lake Park by telegram and the incredible loss was felt quite profoundly as the man had spent his life shaping the resort into something truly remarkable. He was 69 years old and had been the park president as well as manager of Hotel Conneaut for thirty years. He left a wife and adopted daughter. His funeral service was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church and he was buried in Erie Cemetery

Actress Fifi D’Orsey visited the resort on June 27th.

Niles Daily Times, June 29, 1933, Page 6

The July 4th celebration at the park proved truly ostentatious. Fireworks were set off every hour from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Freddie Carlone’s Orchestra, who had played at President Roosevelt’s inauguration, provided the music, playing in Dreamland Ballroom and Hotel Conneaut’s dining room. Edythe Siegrist and her group of high flying performers from Ringling-Barnum held acts all throughout the day. Parachute jumper Walter Criswell returned to jump from the wing of a seaplane.


Conneaut Lake Park was purchased by the People’s Pittsburgh Trust Co. and operated the park as Hotel Conneaut, Inc. Glenn Klingensmith was made president and R.J. McDonald vice president and general manager of the park.

The railroads discontinued railroad service as running special trains into the park was no longer sustainable due to the ever rising popularity of motor cars. The 85 mile trip from Pittsburgh took less than two hours by car and proved the preferable method to arrive at the park.

On the season’s opening, held on Decoration Day, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Military Band of Warren provided the music. They had won the National VFW Championship and played at the Word’s Fair. Carleton Coon and the three O’Neill Sisters were the main features at Dreamland Ballroom, playing harmony blues to the masses.

On 4th of July weekend, a young man named Fred Vosens, Jr. noticed a man struggling in the water. The boy jumped in, pulled the man to safety and the man was resuscitated. The man returned home while the boy received many accolades for saving the man from drowning. Fred was aged 15 and was the son of Hotel Conneaut’s senior chef.

Daisy and Violet Hilton

Violet Hilton, a Siamese twin who had been denied a marriage license to her fiancé Maurice Lambert by the New York court, planned to marry at Conneaut Lake. Violet and her twin sister Daisy were born attached at the hip and had become vaudeville stars. While performing in Geneva, OH, Violet told the press the wedding would be the last week of July in Pennsylvania where several justices of the peace had offered to perform the ceremony. They arrived at Conneaut Lake on July 25th but were advised by their attorney to not file for the license in Meadville and the marriage was delayed. Unfortunately, the wedding never happened and with the continuing frustration of the law against the marriage of a conjoined twin, Lambert broke off their engagement.

Niles Daily Times June 29, 1934

On Friday, August 10th through Sunday, August 12th, 2,000 firemen and their families attended the annual firemen’s convention at the park held by the Northwestern Pennsylvania Firemen’s Association. On Friday evening, the women were entertained with a card party and floor show in the Crystal Room. On Saturday, the men were split into teams for a water battle. That evening, a banquet was held at Hotel Conneaut followed by a firemen’s dance in the Crystal Room.

On August 11, a Hotel Conneaut employee, Ray Cobb, was picnicking with friends near the hotel when boiling coffee spilled on his chest and arms. The 20 year old was rushed to Spencer Hospital with severe burns from which he recovered from.


A new manager was appointed to run Hotel Conneaut and proved to be the youngest hotel manager in the state. In January, thirty-one year old Maurice Bigelow of Pittsburgh came to serve as proprietor of Hotel Conneaut, Hotel Virginia, and the Beach Club, having spent six years as the business manager of Hotel Webster in Pittsburgh.

W.E. Baker of Pittsburgh was named park manager by Hotel Conneaut, Inc. In February, plans were made for a substantial remodeling of the entire park with a projected cost of $50,000. 51 workers began to raze the concession stands and five cottages along the midway. A large court and new cottages were constructed in their place to provide an overall appearance of clean lines and genuine attractiveness. The laborers had cut ice on the lake prior to commencing the remodeling project and had went on strike due to wages. Their wages were raised from 20 cents an hour to 40, therefore they gladly went on with the remodeling work. 

Plans for building a bath house on the pier with a completion date prior to opening day were disrupted by an injunction by the Conneaut Lake Navigation Company barring Hotel Conneaut from building. In June, the injunction was dissolved and the construction of a new bathhouse moved forward. The beach ran south of the pier and was completely redone and beautified.

On December 2nd, a cottage inhabited by William Kleeb, caught fire and burned. Fortunately Kleeb had just left the cottage and was not present when the fire tore through the structure. Kleeb was vice president and general manager of the Conneaut Lake Park Company.


On May 1st, two men died in a cottage fire at the resort. The victims were Arthur Bigelow and William Kleeb, the man who had escaped a fiery death just months before. Bigelow was both assistant manager of the park and the father of Hotel Conneaut’s manager Maurice Bigelow. It has been said that their bodies were taken to the Crystal Room of the hotel while waiting to be picked up by the coroner.

Despite the terrible tragedy and loss of his father, Maurice Bigelow pushed forward with park renovation plans. $50,000 was put into making improvements at the park. The hotel’s first floor was redecorated and refurnished and the lobby completely redone. Outside, landscapers added evergreens, shrubs and flowers and the plaza, or common green on the north end of the hotel was beautified. The ground was regraded and sod placed in the areas without sidewalks. The concession stands around the hotel were moved to another area of the park and a cement sidewalk added between the hotel and the Temple of Music.

The midway was once again rebuilt with a fresh design. The Giggle-Giggle and other amusements were torn down. Laborers reinstalled the Old Mill that had been removed the prior year. The new structure sat in its original location at the west end of the dance pavilion. When the Park Hotel burned several years before, it had taken the Dodge ‘Em ride along with it, but the ride was rebuilt that spring, ready in time for the new season. The ride now occupied the space where the Park Hotel once rested.

On the pier, a 600 ft. boardwalk, 20 ft. wide, was rebuilt to extend from Hotel Conneaut to the Beach Club. The promenade on the dancing pavilion was redone with new walkways added. A new bathing beach was provided and the park now allowed guests to swim for free. 

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
July 2, 1936, Page 13

On opening day, Memorial Day, the park featured a music concert, a parachute jump, and fireworks. New concessions and amusements were offered as well.

On June 7th, 3000 women from the Order of the Eastern Star came to the park for their annual convention that continued until June 12th. They held their gathering at the Temple of Music, which had been redecorated and repainted.

Hotel Conneaut served three fixed-priced dinners for $1, $1.25, and $1.50. A food critic remarked that he gave the hotel an honorable mention for serving a tomato salad with the tomato skin. 


During the winter, painters repainted the entire interior of the hotel. In April, the crew began painting the exterior of the hotel.

The Steamboat Helena fell on her side during a bout of rough winds after she was torn from her moorings. The Conneaut Lake Navigation Company, owner of the boat, had the hulk saturated with gasoline and set on fire. The steamer had been built in 1903 and retired in 1931. Her sister ship was set on fire later that year, having been retired in 1932. On both occasions, guests of Hotel Conneaut watched the fire on the south side of the lake where the two boats had been moored.


Conneaut Lake Park opened on May 28th, projected to be one of the best seasons the park had ever had. Hotel Conneaut had propelled its amenities and cuisine into top tier status.

In June, Hotel Conneaut hosted 162 Republican women from the Pennsylvania Council of Republican Women. 

The 12th Annual Conneaut Lake Bridge Tournament was held July 13th through 17th and conducted by Dick Needham. 

The last week of July, The Veterans of Foreign Wars Boys Band of Warren, OH camped for one week at the park. They played two concerts on Sunday July 30th. Their director was Donald Hurrlebrink, also director of the local high school band.


Niles Daily Times, July 1, 1939 Page 4
Niles Daily Times, July 3, 1939 Page 4


  • Hotel Conneaut Menaced As Flames Sweep Small Cottage: The Kane Republican 18 Feb 1930, Tue Pg 8
  • Hotel Conneaut to Open May 15 With New Manager: Niles Daily Times April 29, 1930 Pg 9
  • Hotel Virginia Sold to Unknown Persons: The Record-Argus, 7 Apr 1930, Mon  Pg 10
  • Dancing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 10 May 1930, Sat. Pg 5
  • Hotel Conneaut Opens Auspiciously For Summer, with Fine Banquet: The Record-Argus, 26 May 1930, Mon Pg 5
  • More Trouble For Widow of Massillon Man: The Evening Independent, 25 Jun 1930, Wed  Pg 1
  • War Bride Gets Bond In Husband’s Death: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, July 21st, 1928, Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake Park Hotel to Open Saturday: Warren Times Mirror 22 May 1930, Thu Pg 3
  • Fire At Conneaut: Warren Times Mirror 3 Aug 1931, Mon Pg 10
  • Schmeling to Have Three Days Grind As Last Hard Training : Evening Star, June 26, 1931, Page C-2
  • Win, Lose, or Draw: Evening Star, June 4, 1954 Page C
  • Fireworks At Conneaut On Decoration Day: Niles Daily Times May 26, 1932 Pg 5
  • Meadville Parachute Jumper At Lake: The Conneautville Courier, 29 Jun 1932, Wed · Pg 1
  • New Features Booked For Conneaut July 4: The News-Herald 28 Jun 1932, Tue Pg 7
  • Perry Como: Fishman, Charles (January 24, 1993). “A Few Moments With Perry Como”. Orlando Sentinel.
  • Katharine Wolff Death: The Conneautville Courier 31 May 1933, Wed Pg 8
  • Henry Holcomb Dies, Spent Life Helping Boost Conneaut Lake: The News-Herald 7 Jun 1933, Wed Pg 2
  • Plan For 4th At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times, June 29, 1933 Pg 4
  • Conneaut Lake Planning Finest Season: Niles Daily Times May 17, 1934 Pg 5
  • Life Saved By Young Swimmer: The Conneautville Courier, 4 Jul 1934, Wed Pg 1
  • Firemen’s Convention Planned: The Conneautville Courier 18 Jul 1934, Wed. Pg. 1 
  • Siamese Twin To Wed In Pennsylvania Soon: Evening Star, July 23, 1934, Page A-16
  • Twin Delayed Wedding: Evening Star, July 26, 1934, Page B-18
  • Conneaut Lake Boy Burned: The Conneautville Courier 15 Aug 1934, Wed Pg 4
  • Plans to Remodel Conneaut Lake Park: The Conneautville Courier 27 Feb 1935, Wed Pg 1
  • Injunction Dissolved: The Conneautville Courier, 12 Jun 1935, Wed. Pg 8 
  • Youngest Manager: Times Herald, 8 Jan 1936, Wed Pg 5 
  • Two Men Die In Fire At Summer Resort: Pottsville Republican 1 May 1936, Fri  Pg 1
  • Park Plans To Make Changes: The Record-Argus 18 Apr 1936, Sat Pg 1 & 6
  • Park Adds New Features: The Pittsburgh Press 29 May 1936, Fri Pg 10
  • Conneaut Lake Park Opens Memorial Day: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 28 May 1936, Thu Pg 13
  • A New Peel: The Record-Argus 14 Jul 1936, Tue Pg 2
  • Season Is Opened At Conneaut Lake: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 11 Jun 1936, Thu Pg 15
  • Hotel Repainted: The Conneautville Courier 21 Apr 1937, Wed. Pg 1
  • Steamer Burned At Conneaut Lake: The Conneautville Courier 7 Jul 1937, Wed Pg 8
  • Conneaut Lake Park Expects Biggest Season: The Pittsburgh Press 29 May 1938, Sun Pg 32
  • Republican Women Plan For Campaign: The Conneautville Courier, 22 Jun 1938, Wed. Pg 1
  • Ridge Boys Go To Camp of VFW Boys Band At Conneaut: Niles Daily Times, Saturday, July 30th, 1938 Pg 3 
  • Trains Took Vacationers to Conneaut’s Many Hotels: The Pittsburgh Press, Sunday June 17, 1984
  • ‘Whitewash’ Won’t Aid Earle Opponent Says: Evening Star July 24, 1938, Page A-7

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 4, 1920-1929

1920 Postcard featuring the sunken gardens of Conneaut Lake Park

In Part Four of my ongoing series of Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park (the former Exposition Park), I dive into the decade of the roaring 20’s. The 20’s brought not only the Charleston, but an enormous surge of people purchasing private family automobiles. Due to assembly lines and mass production, the average family could afford to purchase a vehicle and people began to practically live in their cars. As an unsavory result, all summer resorts began to suffer as the amount of guests diminished enormously. People no longer wished to stay in one place, spending a week or two at Conneaut Lake Park. Now, they were eager to drive from state to state or across the country and see all the sites. It truly was the end of an era, but the glitz and glamor of Hotel Conneaut had yet to wear out and plenty of visitors continued to book their annual stays and company dinners at the hotel. 

1920’s Postcard


The Falcon Steel Company from Niles, OH held an annual outing at the park, motoring over for a day of swimming, dancing, and amusements. They supped at Hotel Conneaut before driving home in the evening.

After season’s close, Hotel Conneaut opened briefly to hold a game dinner for the park residents on Armistice Day. Only the lobby and dining room had been heated while snow flew outside. Hunters had collected game throughout the week prior and forty rabbits, pheasants, wild duck, and two racoons were served. Chef Holmes busily cooked in the hotel’s kitchen for the 112 people in the dining room. They completed their evening with dancing and games of cards.

Henry Holcomb spent nearly his entire winter at the park as he had done for many years. He kept himself very busy with repairs that every year averaged a cost of $30,000, proving that the maintenance of the park was no small task or fit for a small pocketbook.


The Niles Uniform Rank of K and P came to Conneaut Lake Park, expecting to make their annual encampment as planned. Unfortunately, due to a misunderstanding, their 150 tents were not available to them and the group had to return home to Niles, OH. They quickly made new plans for a week of camping at Brady Lake.

1921 Postcard of the Boat Landing


In January, the sad news came to the park of the death of Frank Lockwood, Hotel Conneaut’s former proprietor of eight years. He died in Titusville, the town of his residence and was eighty-five years old.

Many improvements were made to the park prior to the season opening. Some of the new installations were sewage disposal plant, a large deck in front of the bathhouse, a diving platform with a height of 30 ft. above the water’s surface, additional boat docks, and several cottages.

In August, a series of large hail storms north of the lake brought chilly weather to the park. Nonetheless, scheduled events moved forward as planned.

On August 26th and 27th, a grand boat race was held with some of the fastest boats in the U.S. The race was held over a 30 mile course on Lake Conneaut.

The board of directors of the Conneaut Fair and Racing Association held a meeting at Hotel Conneaut to finalize arrangements for the fair to be held August 28-September 2. 250 of the best horses around were slated to race that season.


Hotel Conneaut opened on Saturday, May 6th, after a round of redecoration. The Keystone Serenaders were employed to play the music at the dance pavilion and daily concerts at Hotel Conneaut. Substantial rain had raised the level of the lake so high that the docks were nearly beneath water.

The 4th of July celebration brought an obscene amount of visitors to the park, the trains alone shuttling in a wide estimate of 25,000-40,000 people. Even more people arrived in their newly acquired automobiles, causing significant congestion. Because parking spots were limited, drivers parked their vehicles along the highway for up to three miles away. 

Because of automobiles, fewer guests made reservations at Hotel Conneaut in advance and came to the lobby expecting to take their chances on whether they could acquire a room or not. Usually by 11p.m., the clerk had to turn people away, but it was no matter, as they simply drove on to the next town to find lodging. Also, guests did not spend a week or entire summer residing at the hotel, instead staying for only a night or weekend. Times had certainly changed and very fast at that.

The other great change was the lack of drunkards in the park, as alcohol had been outlawed. Prohibition had brought a temporary peace and the teetotaler guests found a renewed calm to the resort.


That spring, renovations to Hotel Conneaut were rapidly underway with the construction of a large south wing. 180 new guest rooms were built, each with their own bathroom, and outfitted with electric and plumbing. The guest rooms also included private apartments with a living room and two bed rooms. Most spectacular was the new auditorium, named the Crystal Room, on the southeast corner with a wide porch encircling the addition on the front, north, and part of the south ends. The purpose of the new auditorium was to serve as a place for conventions, dances, and other festivities. The auditorium is today known as Elizabeth’s Ballroom and the new south wing has survived to present day when the older north end of the hotel burned to ash twenty years later. Also included in the addition was a sun parlor and oriental tea garden with a red rubber floor. A fresh coat of paint was put on the entire exterior.

Postcard of the Crystal Room

A band stand was also constructed where the old dock used to be in front of Hotel Conneaut. A children’s playground was installed on the upper side of the boat landing. Ground for two new golf courses was cleared, one a nine-hole and the other an eighteen-hole. A firehouse was also built and men’s clubrooms built into the upper story. 

The hotel’s new south wing was not ready for the season’s opening on Memorial Day, though the Crystal Room was open for events. Opening day proved a huge success as thousands from Pennsylvania and Ohio crowded into the resort.

The Conneaut Lake Press Outing Association held their sixth annual outing at the park. Over one hundred from the association enjoyed a lovely banquet on June 7th in Hotel Conneaut’s dining room before moving into the Crystal Room for an interlude of entertainment. Afterward, they walked over to the dance pavilion for an evening of dancing and at 11 p.m. finished their night off with a lovely steamer ride across the lake.

In early June, Hotel Conneaut hosted the annual convention of Western Pennsylvania Funeral Directors. The undertakers, nearly one-hundred of them, were also guests of the hotel and used Hotel Conneaut for their annual meeting for several years.

The stockholders of the Conneaut Lake Fair Association held their annual meeting at Hotel Conneaut and made preparations for the large fair coming up in August.

The Pittsburgh Builder’s Exchange held a four-day outing in mid-June and was one of the largest conventions at the hotel and resort as a whole that season. 

The Bessemer & Lake Erie Veteran’s Association held their annual outing at Hotel Conneaut on June 21st and 22nd, proving to be their largest one yet.

In early October, several thousand members of the Ku Klux Klan descended on Hotel Conneaut, which they considered their national headquarters. Dr. Hiram W. Evans of Atlanta, the national head of the clan, spoke on radicalism during their event. The group were entertained by singers, band concerts, airplane stunt flying, and fireworks. The Yellow Dogs, the fun-making sect of the Klan’s Realm of Pennsylvania, initiated hundreds of new members into their order. One of these new members was Dewey Allen, a bellboy at Hotel Conneaut, who became the first known black member to be initiated. 

The Buffalo Times Sun Jul 6 1924


On September 1st, Conneaut Lake Park held an enormous dance contest, seeking to find the person that demonstrated the Charleston in the absolute best manner.

Eighteen-year old Peggy Bosza of Pittsburgh won a beauty contest held at the park from a selection of 1,200 other girls and was thus dubbed Peggy of The Press after the competition’s name. The preliminary contest first pitted the redheads, blondes and brunettes against one another and for the main tournament, the three winners from each went forward to compete. Peggy’s mother had died five years prior and Peggy was left with a father and two brothers and two sisters, all younger. She badly wanted to cut her hair into a bob as that was the style of the day. Her father adamantly refused and she won out from the brunettes and then the entire contest with her long jet-black hair, named Queen of The Press. Virginia Lee Bateman, age five and half, won the junior division. As part of Peggy’s prize, she became a special guest of Henry Holcomb at Hotel Conneaut and stayed in the large suite with windows looking out over the lake. She enjoyed the best treatment possible, even receiving her first manicure in the hotel’s manicure parlor. A dance was held in her honor and many young men scrambled for her attentions, one being Tom Holleran, a football star who had become a coach for Thiel College.

1920’s Postcard of steamer on Conneaut Lake


In the spring, new improvements were underway including the installation of a water system at the cost of $40,000. The dance pavilion was remodeled and the pier in front of Hotel Conneaut received a new stage intended for band concerts and vaudeville acts.

Henry Holcomb had presided over the park for twenty-seven years and was a truly hardworking, dedicated man. His position had truly been a labor of love in every sense and that year was relieved of much of the burden of his many duties. A reorganization plan was put into effect and his responsibilities were delegated to others. He told Jim Borland of the News Herald, “You can say that I am still the largest stockholder of the Conneaut Lake Company and president of it. With Lowerey Humes as president of the Board of Directors, of which I am a member, and John Greer, of Sharon, as park superintendent, I have simply been relieved of many of the details. That’s all there is to it.”

Unfortunately, the park was not welcoming the massive crowds seen in the prior decade as people were taking family vacations in their automobiles. 

At the end of August, workers completed the conversion of the 9-hole golf course to a full 18-hole course. Work was begun on a new road that would connect the two roads on either side of the lake with a projected completion date for the following spring.


The first weekend in June, Henry Holcomb hosted the employees and 250 family members of 100 newspapers from western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio. Included in the group at Hotel Conneaut were newspapermen from Niles, Youngstown, Hubbard, Girard, Struthers, McDonald, and Lowellville. They enjoyed all the amusements and shows the park had to offer. Billy Erhardt of Youngstown’s Erhardt’s School of Dance did several performances at the dance pavilion. At Hotel Conneaut, the Red Arrow Quartet of the Pennsy Railroad, the Newspapermen’s Mandolin Club of Butler, PA, and the Royal Welsh Ladies Chorus all performed for the special guests. 

By July, the park reached its season’s peak of excitement and frenzy. Guests amused themselves not only with the rides and games of the park, but also golfed, played tennis, boated, swam, rode horses, and danced. 

Guests shown swimming, or “bathing” in 1920’s postcard

Prohibition did not deter the employees of Hotel Conneaut from serving alcohol to their guests, in fact it was expected to serve up large casks during conventions and parties. On July 12th, dry officers raided a sheriff’s convention going on in Parlor B of the hotel. In the end, the officers took away the alcohol and arrested a bellboy.

August 26th through 30th, the Elks committee celebrated a large annual meeting at the resort, hosting a “Miss Elk” bathing beauty competition on August 29th. They also enjoyed a huge display of fireworks, a parade, an auto presentation contest, water regatta, golf tournament, and a flying circus with a 2000 foot parachute drop into Lake Conneaut.

Towards the end of the season, a deluxe duck dinner was served to guests at Hotel Conneaut. Gertrude Gruman and the Royal Welsh ladies’ choir entertained in both the dining room and Oriental Tea Room. In the Crystal Room, the Mountain Quartette sang.

In the fall, hunters came to the lake to shoot grouse and woodcock as Conneaut Lake had become an extremely popular destination for the sport.


On Saturday, May 25th, the Newspaper Outing Association held their 18th annual convention at the park. After a reception at Hotel Conneaut, the association enjoyed an evening of dancing at Hotel Virginia. On Sunday, they golfed, boated, and swam before returning to their respective homes. Jim Borland, who regularly wrote articles in the Franklin Times about Conneaut Lake Park, was re-elected president of the association, having served that position for seventeen years. 

Niles Daily Times, Aug 29 1929, Page 8


  • At Conneaut: The Niles Daily News, Saturday, July 17th, 1920
  • Seeing Winter Come: The News-Herald, 19 Nov 1920, Fri. Pg 4
  • Unintentional Misunderstanding: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, August 2, 1921 Pg 2
    Conneaut Lake Will Shine Like A New Dollar This Summer: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Saturday, May 27th, 1922, Pg 4
  • Frank Lockwood Death: The Conneautville Courier, 11 Jan 1922, Wed. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake Park Has Many Events on the List: The Pittsburgh Press, 13 Aug 1922, Sun. Pg 47
  • Conneaut Lake Park: The News-Herald, 22 May 1923, Tue. Pg 11
  • Autos, Prohibition, and Time Change: The News-Herald, 7 Jul 1923, Sat. Pg 4
  • Large Addition to Hotel Conneaut: The Conneautville Courier, 14 May 1924, Wed. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake Park: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Jun 1924, Sun. Pg. 74
  • Klan may Guard Invaded Church In M’Kees Rocks: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 7 Oct 1924, Tue · Page 15
  • Charleston Contest to be Held At Lake: The News-Herald, 21 Aug 1926, Sat. Pg 7
  • Red-Headed Lad First to Take “Peggy of the Press” For Boat Ride on Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 8 Sep 1926, Wed. Pg 1-2
    Improvements: The Conneautville Courier, 11 May 1927, Wed. Pg. 6
    August Days at the Lake and the Pines: The News-Herald,13 Aug 1927, Sat. Pg 4
    100 Newspapers In Outing At Conneaut Park: Niles Daily Times, Monday, June 4th, 1928, pg 5
  • High Point of Season Reached at Conneaut Lake Park: Niles Daily Times, Thursday, July 19th, 1928, Pg 7
  • Elks Convention At Conneaut Lake To Be Record Breaker: Niles Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, July 24, 1928 Pg 5
  • Borland Elected Association President: Niles Daily Times, Monday, May 27th, 1929, Pg 3

Anecdotes of Hotel Conneaut & Exposition Park: Part 3, 1910-1919

In the third part of my ongoing series of Hotel Conneaut and the resort it was and still is part of, I will explore the decade of the 1910’s. Despite the advent of WWI, the park’s success proved only greater as thousands of visitors came to the park to lose themselves in the bounty of amusements and amenities the park had to offer.


James M. Hultz of Niles, Ohio spent the summer as superintendent of the electrical power plant for Exposition Park. He received great praise from park president Holcomb for his mechanical abilities. 

Conneaut Lake Park installed a Mullerton-Harton carousel which continues to operate at the park to this day.

The boat landing, 1910 postcard

The Pennsylvania Lines offered one day excursions to the park, leaving Niles, Ohio at 6 a.m. and returning at 7 p.m. Excursionists could pay $1 to ride the train both ways and spend the day at the park.

The summer season proved the most successful of every year prior, thus maintaining the trend of constant upward movement. The park owners were on a tireless mission to bring only the best to the resort and constantly improve and expand. 

The midway at Exposition Park, dance pavilion at right, 1910 postcard


The park opened on Memorial Day, May 30th and nearly 10,000 souls from within a hundred mile distance came through the gates. Once again the Nirella Orchestra was employed for the season and played from May 27th to September 15th. Hotel Conneaut opened May 27th after being newly redecorated and refurnished. More than fifty new cottages were built and opened by June 15th. Despite a cool season start, by mid-June the cottages and hotel rooms were nearly full. 

1911 postcard of the lake

The park had three new attractions that season. The first was a ride called the Virginia Reel, built at a cost of $10,000 and requiring a hundred thousand feet of lumber in its construction. It was 50 ft. wide by 175 ft. long. It had round cars that ran on an 800 ft. long track, swooping over hills and diving through tunnels. The second attraction was the Shoot the Chutes, a ride 600 ft. long with a 75 ft. drop into the lake. Riders were loaded into the car on a section of the lake with a new cement bottom, the car reversed up the hill and then dropped down into the lake, without any water splashing onto the riders. The third latest attraction was called the Double Balloon, a ride that took guests one thousand feet up into the air by a balloon attached to a rope and dropped them back down.

In early August, the resort hosted nearly 5,000 guests, not including the thousands that visited the park just for the day. Pittsburghers, Shenango Valley folks, and Mahoning Valley residents were among the excursionists. The younger guests enjoyed hay rides, corn roasts, watermelon parties, and moonlit walks along the beach. 

Guests going out on the lake would return carrying dozens of the beautiful white water lilies in their rowboats. The lilies decorated the tables in the hotels and cottages for most of the season as they bloomed from spring to September. 

Docks and navigation steamers, 1910 postcard

Ropes were fitted to each end of every canoe due to the problem of the boats capsizing, causing one drowning death.

On Sunday evening of August 6, the Apollo Club of Pittsburgh played a prank on Thomas Kirk, Sr. when they met him at the train with the club’s band. They put him on a cart with a young woman who was a complete stranger to him, took them to Hotel Conneaut, and there announced them as bride and groom.

The following evening, the Apollo Club held a reception and dance at the pavilion.

“Four hundred couples of the best dressed and finest looking bunch of young people ever seen in the big dance pavilion had the time of their lives. A breeze came up [from] the lake all evening, making it just cool enough for dancing, adding very materially to the enjoyment of the occasion. This club never does anything by halves and everybody is loud in their praise as entertainers.”

The News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania), Saturday August 12, 1911, Page 1

On August 9, a crowd of 3,000 attended the Painesville Merchant’s outing held at the park. 

On August 10, the park celebrated United Presbyterian Day, and required twenty-three special trains to bring in the amount of guests who came to the event.

A guest of Hotel Conneaut, Judge W.E. Porter of New Castle, spent so much of his vacation in the water that he returned home quite red with sunburn. Ed Boyle, Beaver County Clerk of Courts, was also a guest of the hotel.

The Voegtley Cadets of Pittsburgh arrived on August 19 and put up their tents near the lake where they camped for two weeks.

The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 25 Jun 1911, Sun · Page 34

The first woman to swim twice across the width of Conneaut Lake was Cleo Heisel of Pittsburgh. She had been spending a vacation at the resort with her mother and made quite an impression on onlookers who watched her swimming and diving skills during her stay. She made the swim across and back again on August 12th but her fame was short-lived. Another young lady, Yetta Cable of Rochester, became the first to swim the entire length of the lake, a distance of three miles. On Thursday, August 24, the nineteen-year-old accomplished the great feat in two hours and fifty-five minutes, despite heavy winds.

At the end of August, the lovely goldenrod burst into bloom and hundreds of acres at the head of the lake were covered with yellow. Guests took their rowboats out on the waters and returned with large bouquets for their hotel rooms. Vases full of goldenrod ornamented tables all about the resort and decorated Hotel Conneaut’s dining room.

The Conneaut Lake Fair was held at the end of August into early September with the largest crowd yet seen of almost 35,000 souls. The showcase of livestock proved most impressive and one farm from Youngstown had 800 fowls under their tent. Most alluring was the model dairy exhibit showing the entire dairy operation, including the milking of cows, completely by electricity. The races were a huge draw as usual, with Miss Trace of Franklin, PA the big winner. 

Postcard of the race track

The Pennsylvania Fish Commission showed a selection of fish from the lake from the fish hatchery. This hatchery was located at the foot of Lake Conneaut and was the best in the state.

Washington D.C. aviator Paul Beck displayed his Rex Smith biplane and attempted a demonstration of flying it for four days in a row, only managing one actual flight due to the wind. The aircraft weighed nearly 1,200 lbs., measured forty feet in length, and had an engine of eighty horse-power. On Thursday with no crowds to watch, he was able to rise to 1,000 feet and circled the park, landing with ease. On Friday, he attempted rising again but the cross-currents hindered his flight and he tried to land. He was whipped abruptly to the ground and crashed into a buggy, causing $500 worth of damage to his machine.

On Friday evening of September 1, the Agricultural Association put on their annual banquet, held in a corner of the dance pavilion’s lower story. The hall was decorated festively with a beautiful harvest theme: cornstalks on the pillars and colorful vegetables piled on the table. Boiled chicken and lobster were served for supper. Association President Henry Holcomb served as toastmaster and issued speeches from members of the association.

With farming the topic of conversation, the association praised the efforts of Henry Holcomb who proved quite a busy man. Besides being president of the association and the park as well as proprietor of hotels Conneaut and Virginia, he owned a seventy-five acre farm nearby. Not only did his farm supply all the produce, eggs, milk, and butter served in hotel Conneaut’s dining room, but it boasted 170 pigs, a length of chicken coops, and incubator house. He had many gardeners employed to maintain the gardens and they lived in cottages on the farm.

The following week, the Pennsylvania Electrical Association held a substantial convention at the resort. They put on a large electric display which drew spectators to the park and proved one of the greatest sights yet to be seen in the state of Pennsylvania. With record-breaking attendance so late into the year, Hotel Conneaut and Hotel Virginia kept their doors open later into the season than usual. The resort had a history of closing on Labor Day, but this year closed on September 11.

The Labor Day Celebration on September 4th proved to be one of the greatest and largest revelries held at Conneaut Lake.


In May, light renovations were underway on Hotel Conneaut. The hotel was redecorated inside and out. On the outside, landscapers planted thousands of new shrubs and flowers, many that had been grown on the Holcomb Farm, one mile west of Conneaut Lake, which also provided much of the produce for the kitchen. In the dining room, workers installed artificial grapevines with electric lights. They hung beautifully from an arbor where guests entered the dining room and appeared quite realistic. The vines also wound around the columns and the ceiling, their soft light illuminating the room quite spectacularly and to the delight of all who entered. Mrs. Catherine Wolff was manager of the dining room that year, having proved her skills the summer prior.

1912 postcard of Hotel Conneaut

The campgrounds opened a month earlier that year in early June and despite the cool weather, many eager outdoor enthusiasts put up tents and began their vacation.

Father John Butler of Conneautville held mass in the new auditorium every Sunday during the season at 11 a.m.

The Evening Republican (Meadville, Pennsylvania) · 25 Jun 1912, Tue · Page 5

On July 13th and 14th, resort guests watched as American Aviator, Lewis Earle Sandt, made successful flights through the park. On Monday, he began his third flight at 5:30 p.m., watched by a record-breaking crowd as he took off from the fair grounds and rose above the trees. He made it a not quite a half mile when his engine began to choke and sputter and Sandt realized he was in trouble. While drifting over an oat field on the Lynce farm, the engine ceased to function altogether. The plane veered nose down into the ground, turning over, and Sandt jumped clear, landing three feet away from the engine which would surely have crushed him.

The crowd screamed in fright, believing Sandt to be killed. Someone on the ground pulled an unconscious Sandt into an automobile and rushed him to Hotel Conneaut where he was attended by a doctor. Sandt suffered a concussion, two broken ribs, various cuts and bruises, and was in shock. He awoke within a half hour. A year later, Sandt was flying for crowds in Grove City, PA, when he crashed and sustained injuries that led to a tetanus infection. He died on June 22, 1913 and was buried in Brookville Cemetery within the town he was born.  He was only twenty-five years old.

Pittsburgh Daily Post Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 26 Jun 1913, Thu • Page 4

On Friday, July 26, tragedy struck when the lake claimed three souls by drowning. William King of Wilmerding, PA had left his wife and child at home to come to Exposition Park and camp with his society, the Knights of Pythias. He and another of his order, McKinley Offutt, took two young ladies who were employees of Hotel Virginia out for a midnight rowboat ride. The young women were Alta Robinson of Pittsburgh and Lillian Gustafson of Spring Creek. They were having a pleasant time on the lake when a sudden wind whipped up and the water became rough. As the boat began to fill with water, they jumped in fright, causing the boat to capsize. Offutt was the only one in the group who could swim and quickly made his way to shore. The two young ladies were pulled beneath the waves by the weight of their skirts while King clung to the capsized boat. A fisherman, Max Keck, had heard the cries for help and made his way to where the boat had overturned, but before he arrived, King lost all strength. He loosened his grip on the boat and sunk to the bottom. The bodies were not located until daylight, the drownings having occurred at 1 a.m. 

Hotel Conneaut, 1913 postcard


In April, Charles Mullet of Niles, Trumbull Co., Ohio became the chief engineer of the resort’s electrical department, proving to be another Niles native capable of handling the resort’s electrical demands.

Hotel Conneaut, 1914 postcard

As soon as the season closed, construction workers began making new improvements to Hotel Conneaut. Proprietor Holcomb had been adamant that a dining room double the size of the existing one was required to fit the amount of guests that wished to dine there each summer. The dining room was situated at the north end of the hotel and workers expanded the room outward, making the finished size 60 feet wide by 100 feet long. They rebuilt the esplanade used for the musicians that was originally situated on the northwest side of the building. On the second and third floors above this addition, laborers added twenty guest rooms, each with its own private bathroom. Along with theses substantial renovations, the carpenters repaired and refinished the hotel’s furniture.

1914 Postcard showing gardens leading to Hotel Conneaut in back left and Hotel Virginia in back right

New cottages sprang up all around the resort as the need to supply extra accommodations proved great.

James Reany, owner of the Lakeside Inn (formerly hotel Mantor), ushered in the modern age by razing the old building to make way for a new, 60 room hotel.


1915 advertisement

When the renovations of Hotel Conneaut were completed, the hostelry now had fifty bathrooms and a dining room large enough to seat 400 people. This dining room was shared by guests of Hotel Virginia and was beautifully decorated in white and gold as the Nirella Orchestra played music every evening. The hotel opened two weeks before the resort, admitting guests who wished to get an early start on their vacation.

The Nirella Orchestra of Pittsburgh was also employed to play the music for the dance hall that season and had played in many prior seasons. The season’s first concert was held at Hotel Conneaut on Sunday, May 30th

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 1 Aug 1915, Sun · Page 39

Prior to the season opening, a young man walking by Hotel Conneaut heard the familiar snapping a popping sound known only to him as fire. He immediately sounded the alarm and the fire department rushed to the hotel within minutes, hoses at the ready. When no smoke or fire was to be found, a quick investigation found the sound to be swallows who had nested in the hotel chimney.

The resort received a large hydroplane to take guests for trips over the lake. It was also employed for longer trips to Lake Erie.

Pittsburgh Daily Post Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 29 Jun 1915, Tue • Page 10

Construction was completed on the brand new Hotel Reany, built on the site of the Lakeside Inn, which opened June 6th. Its dining room nearly filled the entire first floor, with seating capacity for 160 guests. The hotel and parlors were situated at the front of the first floor. The guest rooms were fitted with the most modern conveniences, with hot and cold running water. The separate bathrooms were equipped with showers and bathtubs. The porch was constructed to be deep and 140 feet long, extending along both sides of the building, as well as the front that butted up to the lakeshore. With guests wishing to stay later in the fall every year, Mr. Reany planned for the hotel to be used especially during the late autumn season. 

Postcard showing the new Hotel Reany

Henry Holcomb, park president and head of the Wild Life League, had twenty-five thousand salmon dumped into the lake in preparation for the busy fishing season.

Conneaut Lake Park opened on May 30th, Memorial Day weekend to the largest crowds the resort had ever seen. Pittsburghers drove their fancy automobiles into the resort in hoards. The Good Roads movement had cleared stones from the road between Conneaut and Pittsburgh, making for a smooth drive. Special trains ran from up to one hundred miles around just for the occasion. Trains from Pittsburgh bursting with excursionists rolled into the station on the Bessemer and B & O Railroads. These trains also worked all season bringing in weekenders. A businessman could work all week, hop on the train in Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon and be at the resort in time to eat dinner with his family. He would then depart for home on the Sunday evening train while his wife and children resumed their vacation at the resort.

In June, the State Industrial Board ordered Hotel Conneaut along with other businesses to modify their care of female employees. The order included better division of time of work and time of rest so that chambermaids, kitchen aids, waitresses, etc. would not be on their feet without a break for long hours and also provide time for the workers to use the telephone. The order was temporarily put in place until September 30th, season’s end, to protect the female workers until a permanent ruling could be made. This proved a breakthrough in rights for female workers.

Every Sunday morning, Fred Butler of Conneautville led mass in the auditorium.

Many churches, groups and societies held their annual outing at the park. In mid-June, 2,000 delegates from the Grand Lodge of the Eastern Star of Pennsylvania spent the week at the resort. They used Hotel Conneaut for their festivities and booked every room in the hotel.

Albert Hilgendorf drowned in Conneaut Lake on Sunday evening of July 4th and his body was recovered later that month. The Evening Republican reported that in a drowning incident of a man named Steele some years prior, his body was pulled out a week later with grappling hooks. The water had been so cold that the body was perfectly preserved.  


Hotel Conneaut received a new coat of paint inside and out in preparation for the upcoming season. A water heater was installed to provide the guest rooms with both hot and cold water. Proprietor Holcomb remained steadfast in his desire for the hotel and resort as a whole to showcase the height of modernity and luxury. Guests of the hotel were served mineral water in a setting of the most up to date furniture and décor. The lobby, spacious hallways, and large verandas proved to stage the very best of high class living.

Pittsburgh Daily Post (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 2 Jul 1918, Tue · Page 8

Once again the Nirella Orchestra was employed at the Dance Pavilion and in the dining room at Hotel Conneaut for the season. A.A. Lutz, a Pittsburgh dance instructor, led the dancing.

Despite the ongoing war, business continued to boom for the resort, though men no longer came in on the train for a day’s excursion, being occupied in service. Most families chose to forget their usual cross country or out of country vacations because of the war and instead traveled to the comfort and extravagance of Exposition Park.

The commander of the Swift Boys Brigade, Major McCombs, was a guest of Hotel Conneaut in late June. A large part of the usual attendance of boys of the last twenty years was much diminished by the fact that the boys were off to war. 

On June 28, the Exposition Park Board held their annual banquet in the dining room of Hotel Conneaut. Some of the board members provided speeches and the Nirella Orchestra performed while the board members and their families dined and socialized.

Hotel Reany opened on July 1st, but as it was under new management, the named was changed to Hotel Elmwood.

More honeymooners spent their newly wedded bliss at Hotel Conneaut that year due to the fact that more young men married by reason of the war and the wage increase for those in service.


As with every season before it, 1919 broke the attendance records and a spectacular year was had. At the season’s end, all of the hotels and cottages were filled to capacity, something that had never happened in the history of the resort. The hotels Conneaut, Virginia, and Elmwood remained open until the middle of September.


  • Will Return to Florida: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Wednesday, October 5th, 1910, Pg 1
  • At the Lake: The Record-Argus,18 May 1911, Thu. Pg 3
  • Conneaut Lake Has Busy Week: The News-Herald,12 Aug 1911, Sat. Pg 1
  • Girl From Pittsburgh Swims Conneaut Lake: The Niles Daily News, published in Niles, Ohio on Saturday, August 12th, 1911, Pg 4
  • What’s Doing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 26 Aug 1911, Sat. Pg 1
  • What Time Has Wrought on Conneaut Lake, Where the Credit Belongs: The News-Herald, 6 Sep 1911, Wed. Pg 1 & 6
  • Hotel Conneaut Renovated: The Evening Republican, 27 May 1912, Mon. Pg 4
  • Aviation Meet at Exposition Park: The Record-Argus,10 Jun 1912, Mon. Pg 1
  • Aviator Sandt Falls: The Conneautville Courier, 17 Jul 1912, Wed. Pg 1
  • Death concludes exciting life of aviator E. Sandt: Erie Dispatch. June 23, 1913
  • 50 years ago: Page 2 of The Daily Times, published in Niles, Ohio on Tuesday, April 21st, 1964
  • Conneaut Lake Drowns 3: McKean County Miner, 1 Aug 1912, Thu. Pg 1
  • New Hotels For Exposition Park: The Evening Republican, 17 Oct 1914, Sat. Pg 1
  • Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 9 May 1915, Sun. Pg 54
  • Official Opening at Exposition Park: The Evening Republican, 29 May 1915, Sat. Pg. 4
  • Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 6 Jun 1915, Sun. Pg 41
  • Industrial Board Makes Exceptions: Harrisburg Telegraph, June 24, 1915, Page 9
  • Many Visitors Are At Conneaut Lake: The Evening Republican, Jul 1915, Sat. Pg 6
  • Demand For Housing At The Lake: The Record-Argus, 29 Jun 1918, Sat. Pg 3
  • Summer Resorts, Exposition Park: Pittsburgh Daily Post, Tue. Jul 2, 1918 
  • Conneaut Lake: The Pittsburgh Press, 24 Aug 1919, Sun. Pg 34