Month: October 2019

Mishap at Hotel Conneaut: Deaths, Accidents and Incidents Through the Decades

The front entrance of Hotel Conneaut in 1911.
Postcard from my personal collection.

Hotel Conneaut in Conneaut Lake Park was once the premier destination for the wealthy of Pittsburgh and surrounding areas to visit during the summer months. 

Built on the site and using remnants of Exposition Hotel that first opened in 1893, it eventually boasted 300 rooms to accommodate the large crowds that flocked to the shores of Conneaut Lake. But even then the hotel quickly sold out rooms and as demand for lodgings increased, several hotels sprouted up in the park. Hotel Virginia was built adjacent to Hotel Conneaut to accommodate the overflow, joined by a dining room between the twin structures. North of Hotel Conneaut was the beautiful structure of Dreamland Ballroom which burned to the ground in the horrific fire of 1908 that devastated the park. Fires proved to be a constant threat to the park and the resort suffered many losses as a result, even as recent as 2013. 

Deaths and accidents were par for the course with the huge throng of visitors that came and went through the decades. Legends surround the hotel that attempt to explain the ghosts haunting the hotel to this day, but instead of finding the origin behind these legends, my research unearthed several different accounts. Bride Elizabeth never perished in the 1943 fire, a chef never murdered a butcher, and the small child never fell down a flight of stairs on a tricycle to their death; at least there are no record of such incidents. It’s possible that there were accidents and deaths that the owners covered up, paying off the local papers so they would not report such incidents and thus soil the hotel’s reputation as a premier summer resort. This is just a theory with no foundation to stand on, an idea taken from the fictional account of the Stanley Hotel in Stephen King’s The Shining where the wealthy owner paid off reporters to keep quiet concerning the brutalities committed there. 

While on the subject, I do wonder if the legend of the ghost child riding through the halls of Hotel Conneaut upon a tricycle began after the release of the 1980 movie The Shining. Though in the film little Danny spends his endless winter hours pedaling his tricycle through the maze of hallways of Stanley Hotel, this tidbit was never in the book. In the Conneaut legend, it is a child—some accounts say a little boy named Michael while others say a little girl named Angeline—who rode too close to the stairs, toppling downward and now haunts the halls by colliding into guests. 

Hotel Conneaut did have its fair share of stories that were reported which are listed below. It is my hope that these may help explain some of the paranormal activity at the hotel. I have included stories that took place around the hotel as well as within because I believe them to be of historical significance and are part of the hotel’s story too. The many losses that were suffered in view of the hotel while the hotel remains standing—though only partially—nearly 130 years later are a testament to the hotel’s survivor status. The hotel may seem like an inanimate object to some, but to many others like myself, it is a living, breathing structure, full of the energy of all the people living and dead who have walked her halls, rich with history, and loved and adored by so many who call it home away from home.

Death of Owner’s Infant Son
July 3, 1899

Frank M. Lockwood, aged sixty-two, was the owner of Exposition Hotel when his nine-month old son, Earl Vincent, died of cholera. The summer season was in full swing at Exposition Park at the time with festivities planned for the 4th of July holiday. It is unknown if the child died in Conneaut or in Titusville, where Lockwood lived, but it appears Lockwood and his wife Mary were living at the hotel during the time. What a devastating loss for the owners to endure, especially while running one of the most prominent resorts in the Midwest. The 1899 season was the most successful since the grand opening of the hotel. The baby was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Jamestown, NY.

Fire At Exposition Hotel
Winter 1900

In January of 1901, repairs were completed from a fire that had damaged the hotel. I could unearth no other details, including the cause of the fire and extent of the damage.

The Falling Death of a Hotel Laborer
February 14, 1903

In the winter of 1903, construction workers were hard at work building the new Hotel Conneaut, made from remnants of the original Exposition Hotel. The new hotel was built on the north end of the old structure. The three story portion of Exposition Hotel was used to form part of the new Hotel Conneaut. On Monday, February 9, a young laborer named Harry Hogan, 22, fell and struck his head. He returned to work Tuesday, but by nightfall was feeling very poor from the injuries he had suffered the day prior. He took leave from work and went home to recover in Erie where he lived with his parents. Unfortunately, by the next day he was confused and delirious. He remained in this condition until he passed away on Saturday, February 14. Harry Lester Hogan was buried in Lakeside Cemetery in Erie, PA.

Elizabeth: A Heartbroken Bride
July 27, 1904

Though this story did not happen at Hotel Conneaut, it does relate to the park, and remains the only account I could uncover about a bride named Elizabeth. Elizabeth “Bessie” Rainey, 26, lived with her mother, Elizabeth Frame Rainey, at Hotel Mantor during the summer of 1904 while her father, Jesse, remained in their hometown of Youngstown, Ohio, no doubt to work. Hotel Mantor was a lakeside hotel within view of Hotel Conneaut. Bessie soon found herself wooed and won by Dr. Arthur Henry, 38, and they were married in Youngstown on July 27. The following day, Arthur was arrested in Warren after another woman went to the authorities claiming Dr. Henry had taken money from her. It was revealed that the woman was none other than Dr. Henry’s other wife, Nellie Butler. They had married the previous year and she had given him all her savings when he tearfully told her he was in trouble for passing a forged check and would be arrested if he did not pay the fine.  This proved to be a falsehood, and as soon as he obtained her savings and her stock shares he abandoned her, leaving her destitute. Nellie was not the only one; Dr. Henry had four wives before her who were all living. It was also revealed that Dr. Henry was no doctor at all and had never passed the required examinations, operating as an unlicensed physician. 

After hearing the terrible truth about her new husband, Bessie fled home to her mother at Exposition Park, no doubt inconsolable and ashamed. She waited until April 15 of the following year before seeking an annulment in Youngstown. Her husband had been sent to the Columbus Penitentiary on charges of bigamy. Theirs had been his sixth marriage and his inflated ego made him unremorseful and full of self-aggrandizement and pity. I do not know what became of Bessie after her separation from Dr. Henry, but I hope she was able to move on. Even if she did or did not move on, perhaps the incredible anguish she suffered imprinted her essence upon Conneaut Lake Park and the ghostly bride wanders the grounds, hopeless and heartbroken.

Fire Destroys Three Nearby Hotels
December 4, 1906

A large fire tore through three of the largest hotels in Conneaut Lake Park as well as the surrounding frame buildings. Hotels Arlington, Brunswick, and Thatcher were lost, amounting to about $30,000 in damages.

Large Fire Devastates Half of Park 
December 2, 1908

Around one o’clock in the morning, guests sleeping in Hotel Bismark were awoken when they were alerted that the hotel was on fire. A heavy winter wind blew the fire towards the lake, destroying restaurants, places of business, and amusements, including the bowling alley, the Beach House, and the dance pavilion. Hotel Conneaut and Hotel Virginia became under extreme threat as the fire ripped through the park and burned within a street’s distance from them. However, with the exertions of firemen from Greenville and Meadville, the hotels were spared and though half of the park was destroyed, no one perished. For a beautifully written detailed account of this historical fire, please visit:

The dance pavilion that was destroyed in the 1908 fire

The Falling Death of Dr. Cornelius Van Horne
June 2, 1907

Dr. Cornelius Edward Van Horne, 39, one of the most prominent physicians on the east side of Pittsburgh, stayed at Hotel Conneaut in the summer of 1907 and was noticed retiring to his room on June 1. On Sunday, June 2, at about 9:20 in the morning an Edward Hammond discovered the doctor’s rain-soaked body laying on the ground south of the hotel near cottage #3. Dr. Van Horne was wrapped in his robe but was otherwise naked. A postmortem found ruptured blood vessels in his head, most likely from a fall. It was presumed he fell over the low railing of his suite’s balcony—a 12-foot drop—and wandered a hundred feet in his dazed condition, ultimately dropping to die of exposure where he was found. Another theory that did not hold up so well due to lack of evidence was that Dr. Van Horne had been attacked. He was known to suffer from heart issues, so it is possible his early death was sped along by that factor. Dr. Van Horne was buried in Denny Cemetery in Crawford County, Pennsylvania.

Prohibition Raid
July 12, 1928

A group of sheriffs were having their annual convention in Parlour B of the hotel when their festivities were raided by dry officers. They had significant amounts of ale and most of the men were staggering about drunk. A skirmish broke out among both parties; the District Attorney pushed two sheriffs over a table and the inebriated sheriffs punched at anything and everything, including the chandelier. In the end, only the bellboy was arrested for violation of prohibition law which left onlookers shaking their heads. The dry officers’ reasoning was that they could not arrest everyone in that room, so the poor bellboy remained the lone whipping boy for an entire group’s offense. The raid was conducted by District Attorney Stuart Culbertson and Detective John Laley who were lambasted for their “rude” intrusion of the peace officers’ gaieties. The general attitude was that the raid had a purely political agenda and incensed the community. Prohibition would not end for another five years. 

The Fiery Death of Two Park Employees
May 1, 1936

Each winter, while the hotel was closed for the season, a few employees and caretakers remained in Conneaut and usually stayed in the bungalows that were rented out to the public during the summer months. These summer cottages surrounded the hotel and provided more private and roomier accommodations for wealthy park guests. On February 18, 1930 a small cottage adjoining the hotel went up in flames but no injuries were reported. Nearby farmers and park residents worked together to squelch the conflagration before the fire department arrived, saving the hotel from harm. Over a year later on August 1, 1931, two cottages burned and resulted in $2500 worth of damage. On December 2, 1935, a cottage caught fire from an oil stove, causing $500 worth of damage. The cottage had been occupied by William Kleeb, vice president and general manager of the Conneaut Lake Company. Fortunately, William had left the cottage prior to the discovery of the fire and was unharmed.

Shortly before the opening of the park on May 1, Maurice Bigelow, Manager of Hotel Conneaut, awoke to see the cottage adjoining his engulfed in flames. His father, Arthur Bigelow, 62, park manager, William Kleeb, 52, who had avoided the fire from the year previous, and Donald Macdonald, 30, park auditor, were sleeping inside the burning 9-room cottage. The men had been staying there from the beginning of the year in order to do repairs around the park and make the necessary preparations for the season’s opening. Fearing for the lives of his father and the other men inside, Maurice approached the burning bungalow and broke through a door but the flames were too high. He then attempted to enter the cottage by breaking a window, but again the heat was far too unbearable to cross. Donald Macdonald awoke as smoke filled his room on the second floor of the cottage. Shouting frantically for the other two men, he first ran towards Arthur Bigelow’s room but was held back by flames, so dashed downstairs, falling most of the way, to find the downstairs nearly obliterated by fire. He was unsuccessful in entering William Kleeb’s room due to the immense heat. He was able to escape the cottage by jumping through a wall of flames but was terribly burned in the process. He assisted Maurice Bigelow in the attempt to gain access to the cottage in order to save the other men, but they finally sought help from the fire department. 

The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 1

Maurice Bigelow held out hope that his father had been able to escape before fire entirely consumed the structure, but after a search of the surrounding property, the dreadful truth became clear. Once the fire department had snuffed out the blaze an hour later, the bodies of the two men were discovered. The newspapers reported that William Kleeb was found on the floor of his downstairs bedroom and Arthur Bigelow’s body was seen slumped against a second-floor window that he had tried to escape from. However, from Maurice Bigelow’s own testimony, he found his father and William Kleeb dead in their beds, apparently never waking to notice the horror around them. Their burns were minor, leading the declaration that the cause of death was asphyxiation. Maurice Bigelow surmised the cause of the fire was an overheated water heater that had been burning in the kitchen before the men retired at 11:30 p.m. The loss of the cottage, one of the oldest on the grounds, was estimated at $5,000.

Arthur Bigelow was buried in Union Dale Cemetery in Pittsburgh, PA and William Kleeb was buried in Allegheny County Memorial Park in Allison Park, PA.

Robbery of the Hotel Safe
July 13, 1936

The hotel safe was robbed of $4500 during the hours of 1 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Monday morning. The thief failed to notice another $1,000 in bills that was tucked in a corner of the safe and did not take valuable silver. When staff entered the room Monday morning, the safe was locked as usual and the combination used to open it. The thief must have been someone with access to the combination and there is no record they were ever caught. It proved to be an enormous loss, as the value of the $4500 at that time was worth over $69,000 when compared with the inflation rate of present day. 

Sudden Death of a Guest
Sept 7, 1936

It was written that a guest of the resort, Zedoc Gray, an 80-yr-old farmer from Richmond, suddenly dropped dead within the hotel. No details or cause of death were provided in the article reporting his demise, though one could assume a heart attack was the likely culprit. Zedoc Gray was buried in North Richmond Cemetery in Crawford County, PA.

Fire of 1943 Devastates Hotel Conneaut
April 28, 1943

In April of 1943, workmen began preparing the hotel for the season opening set for May 1. On April 27, a fire resulted from crossed wires and though quickly extinguished, the damage from smoke and water in the lobby and a few rooms amounted to $3,000 worth of damages. It was presumed the season opening would have to be delayed a week to clean up the water, fallen plaster, and other debris. Unfortunately, after firemen departed the scene, the fire rekindled itself and burned unnoticed for hours before being rediscovered at 4 a.m. on April 28 by a police chief making his rounds.  The embers had reignited and flames built up within, disguised between the partitions of the walls and tore through the hotel in such a clandestine manner. Firefighters from five communities rushed to the scene and set fourteen hoses upon the inferno, drawing water from hydrants and the lake. 

By the time the blaze was extinguished at 9:30 a.m., flames had destroyed 150 of the 300 rooms and the dining hall, amounting to $150,000 worth of damage which today would be worth about two and a quarter million dollars. Initially, hopes of saving the hotel were dismal and beautiful Hotel Conneaut was thought to be a total loss. However, the new south wing was spared. The second and third floors of the hotel’s original portion were ruined and the first floor suffered major water damage. Many rooms had been completely gutted and were a total loss. Half of the roof was compromised and because of war rationing, no lumber could be purchased to mend it, so she sat for years with her gaping wounds open for all to see. The exposure of these rooms over time caused irreversible weather damage and the original section of the hotel was eventually razed. A war was going on, so repairing the hotel could simply not take priority.

The new south wing of Hotel Conneaut in 1920 that survived the fire of 1943. The original north section at far right of photo was destroyed.
Postcard from my personal collection.

Ever since that dark day, the hotel has maintained the number of 150 rooms, never replacing the 150 that were lost and never having the need for them as a steady decline of business marked the beginning of the end. No doubt the rumors of ghosts have kept many away while drawing others in. Because the hotel was still closed for the season at the time of the fire, no one perished in the catastrophe. One news article in the Record-Argus did state that a lone laborer had been asleep in the hotel as fire traveled through the rooms, but was able to escape when the police chief sounded the alarm. Though evidence makes the truth clear, the legend of bride Elizabeth dying in that fire subsists, despite the efforts of historians like myself to squelch it. In any case, though the glory days of Hotel Conneaut are in the past, she bears her scars beautifully, standing solid and regal like an old grand dame cloaked in the furs and jewels of her youth.


Baby Lockwood Death Notice – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 6 Jul 1899, Thu · Page 1

New Hotel at Exposition Park – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 3 Apr 1902, Thu · Page 1

Henry [sic] Hogan Death Notice – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 18 Feb 1903, Wed · Page 1

A.W. Henry and Bessie Raney Marriage Certificate – “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 15 July 2014), Mahoning > Marriage records 1904 vol 18 > image 143 of 300; county courthouses, Ohio.

An Interrupted Bridal Tour – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 3 Aug 1904, Wed · Page 1

Dr. Henry Arrest – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 10 Aug 1904, Wed · Page 1

10 Annul Marriage – The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) · 15 Apr 1905, Sat · Page 4

Debate Rises Over Rundown McClure House – The Meadville Tribune Dec 5, 2005

Three Hotels Burned – The Daily Morning Journal and Courier, 5 Dec 1906

Sudden Death At Expo – The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) · 3 Jun 1907, Mon · Page 2

Dr. Van Horn Obituary – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 3 Jun 1907, Mon · Page 4

Death From A Fall  –  The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 5 Jun 1907, Wed · Page 1

Exposition Park Fire Swept – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 2 Dec 1908, Wed · Page 1

Saw Tub of Ale at Sheriff’s Jamboree – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 12 Jul 1928, Thu · Page 1

Two Burned To Death In Resort Lake Fire – The Charleston Daily Mail (Charleston, West Virginia) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 55

Pittsburghers Die in Flames At Lake Park – The Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 1

Two Men Die In Fire Destroying Cottage – The Evening Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) · 1 May 1936, Fri · Page 3

Two Men Die As Fire Sweeps Home –  The Gazette and Daily (York, Pennsylvania) · 2 May 1936, Sat · Page 1

Conneaut Lake Hotel Looted of $4,000 – The News-Herald (Franklin, Pennsylvania) · 15 Jul 1936, Wed · Page 2

Zedoc Grey Death Notice – The Conneautville Courier (Conneautville, Pennsylvania) · 12 Sep 1936, Thu · Page 6.jpg

Hotel Conneaut Partly Gutted By Blaze Today – The Record-Argus (Greenville, Pennsylvania) · 28 Apr 1943, Wed · Page 1

Conneaut Lake Hotel Damage $150,000 – The Gazette and Daily (York, Pennsylvania) · 29 Apr 1943, Thu · Page 25

Mesopotamia Walking Tour

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Mesopotamia is one of the most picturesque and quaint townships in Northeast Ohio. Its rich history is held up with pride by the locals and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It has one of the oldest and largest Amish communities in the country. The End of the Commons General Store is a historical landmark. Established in 1840, it is the oldest general store in Ohio and walking through its door is like stepping back in time. Traveling to the general store for old fashioned candy or a malted milkshake proves a novelty for children that live in the area. I myself once looked forward to an annual visit to the store on a hot summer day. A popular tourist destination, visitors from all over come to experience the nostalgia that the general store evokes. The surrounding homes in the town square, or Commons as it is thusly called, have historic significance as well and the center green is the site of many annual festivities including the Maple Syrup Festival and Ox Roast.

When Robin and I hear about a historic walking tour of Mesopotamia, or “Mespo” as the locals call it, we leap at the opportunity for a little adventure in the vicinity of our hometown. We meet with a group of other historians at the Old Stone House for the event that was organized by the Trumbull County Historical Society. The tour is hosted by Darcy Miller, owner and operator of the Old Stone House Bed and Breakfast just south of Mesopotamia Commons on Rt 534. She serves coffee and cinnamon buns and is as warm and friendly as the atmosphere of the bed and breakfast.

Virgin Earth

When our tour group assembles in the kitchen of the house at 10 a.m., Darcy provides us with a brief history of Mesopotamia and the Old Stone House. She relates how Pierpont Edwards acquired the acreage that eventually became Mesopotamia when the Connecticut Land Company distributed land. He appointed his son John Stark Edwards, a lawyer, to settle the unbroken wilderness. Soon after clearing away some of the trees and dense underbrush, settlers came to roost, if not temporarily then for good with their descendants walking the same rich earth decades later.

Darcy speaks of a tribe of Indians that remained in the area well after the settlers rooted themselves in Mesopotamia. They were of possible Chippewa descent, but were known by their totem, the Massasauga black rattlesnake. The white settlers did not care to be neighbors with the Indians, criticizing their ways of dress and customs. Attempts to Christianize them failed and their old chief Papua was known for bothering the settlers for food and drink. Before the war of 1812, the Indians vacated the area but following the war, they returned to camp just north of where the Commons sits today along the Grand River. One day, some of the settlers came to the camp and discovered the Indians gone temporarily. They took it upon themselves to send a message by vandalizing the camp, carving the silhouette of an Indian in the bark of a tree and shooting it in the head. When the Indians returned, saddened by the destruction and threats of violence, they proclaimed their desire to live in peace. They carved the figure of a white man in another tree trunk and let it be, but this proclamation was for naught as they soon gathered up their belongings and moved on, never to be seen in Mesopotamia again. 

The Old Stone House

Darcy estimates that the Old Stone House was built around 1823 because the 1824 tax records listed a dwelling on the property. She tracked down as many historic documents as she could to discern information on the prior owners of the home. It had been built by Jesse Holcomb, grandson of Hezekiah Holcomb, original owner of the property. George Arnold was also an owner before Mark and Aysley Ford acquired the property. Two of their sons, Hiram and George, continued living there after they reached maturity and inherited the property upon their parents’ deaths. Subsequent to the brothers’ deaths, the house was passed down to their nephew Jesse Ford while their other nephew Elsworth inherited the surrounding land. Eventually, the home was taken into possession by the Webbs and most likely passed through many hands in the decades before the Millers took on the establishment.

Google aerial map of Old Stone House

Darcy purchased the Old Stone House in 1985. She came here from Ontario, married an ex Amish man, Sam Miller, and together, they renovated the building that would become their home and later a bed and breakfast. Her mother teased her about moving far away into the middle of one of the biggest Amish communities in America, but Darcy was smitten with the property from the start. The structure is two stories tall with three bedrooms, one on the first floor with a king size bed and two bedrooms on the second floor with queen sized beds. The walls of the home are nearly two feet thick, but the stones are porous, leaving one to feel the chill breeze through the house on blustery winter days. Built in the Greek Revival style, circa 1815, the home is not only a thing of beauty for those passing by, but a historical landmark. An apt description of the house was written by historian Chris Klingemier from Hartford Township, Ohio, who specializes in architecture:

 “The stone house sited atop a rise south of Mesopotamia center is a 1-1/2 storey, two room deep center hall house, a common type found in both Pennsylvania and New York. What is uncommon is the quality of the stone and stonework. The facade of the building used stones carefully selected from one strata of the quarry, all exhibiting purple & blue mineral bands. The doorways are exceptional, with dressed stone used for the elements normally rendered in wood. The layout and scale of the interior, as well as the selection of strap and pintle hinges for doors, suggest a Germanic influence. Stone houses were rare in the Western Reserve and few survive, making this one of the most important early structures in the region.” 

Chris Klingemier

While performing renovations, the Millers preserved as much of the original woodwork as possible and today the home is full of charm and warmth. They have added a large addition onto the back of the house to accommodate a large living area. I am unable to snap photos while inside the home because there are so many bodies crammed into the space. We tour the home and go upstairs where we crowd on the landing, peering into the quaint rooms that Darcy has decorated so lovingly. 

Hiram & George Ford and Legends of Ghosts

Darcy regales us with the tale of the Ford brothers who lived here over a century ago. Hiram and George Ford lived alone for many years, operating the successful farm they inherited from their parents. Neither of them married or had children. They got along so well, that upon Hiram’s death in 1871, George could no longer bear to live there alone and walked away from the home and all his belongings in it. From then on, locals avoided the Old Ford Place as stories it was haunted took on a life of their own. Another rumor indicated money was left hidden in the house, but no thief or curiosity seeker had been brave enough to find out for themselves for fear Hiram’s ghost would chase them away. 

Due to rumors and legends, word of mouth as well as publications have misidentified these brothers as John and Jerry Ford, including a Plain Dealer article on the subject and in the book Legends and Lost Treasure of Northern Ohio. However, this inaccuracy most likely originated from an oral history passed down through the decades and like a game of telephone, the brothers’ names transformed. So in these publications’ defense, it is understandable that they would repeat these legends as told. In any case, the story continues on to say that decades after George, or “Jerry” abandoned the house, his niece asked him if she could take a look inside and he gave her the key. The year was 1900, or so it goes.

“Once inside, the niece experienced a sort of time warp. Entering the house, everything —all the way down to the dirty pots on the stove was left exactly as it had been thirty years prior. Lavish furnishings, clothes, and newspapers were virtually untouched.

“As the niece and her mom rummaged around the house, they stumbled upon a dark wooden chest. Inside, the pair found numerous faded legal documents, including deeds, bank records and medical records. Most interesting, they found a tin can with gold and silver coins totaling to $500.”

Legends and Lost Treasure of Northern Ohio, page 59

The niece and mother left without the coins and on a return trip, discovered that someone had broke in and stolen them.  To this day, locals continue to believe money is buried or hidden somewhere on the property. Rumors the home is haunted abound, though as Darcy tells her tale, she does not reveal if she has lived in the presence of ghosts through the past decades. A member of the press is on our walking tour taking notes as Darcy speaks and no doubt interviews Darcy at the close of the tour. This evening, an article will be published in the Tribune Chronicle that states Darcy has not seen any ghosts.

William G. Krejci reveals differently in his book, Ghosts and Legends of Northern Ohio. He begins by setting the record straight, not only to correct the brothers’ names, but to say that George had no niece by blood. Instead, he believes the women in the story to be his nephew’s wife Grace Ford and her mother Julia Brigden. Also, George died in 1896, so the year could not have been 1900 when the house was reopened, but an earlier date.

Krejci visited the Old Stone House and personally interviewed Darcy for the story in his book that was published in September of 2019, a month after our history walk. Darcy told him that initially the house had no activity to speak of, but things became noisy, most likely during renovations. Darcy sometimes hears noises of an unexplained origin and guests have even witnessed the ghost of a young boy in the house. Krejci states that paranormal investigators have stayed the night in the house, capturing EVPs (electronic voice phenomenon) and photo anomalies. With this information in hand, it makes sense why Darcy told the Tribune writer that she has not seen any ghosts on the property. Though she has heard noises, it has only been guests that witnessed the apparitions, not Darcy herself.

Google aerial map of the center of Mesopotamia

The Town Hall

As soon as we tour the house, Darcy directs us to our cars and we drive north to the old Town Hall that sits on the southeast corner of Routes 87 and 534. We park in the gravel parking lot behind the tall, red-bricked building. Stepping over the threshold into the two-story structure, we are taken to a period where neighbors come together for fellowship and entertainment. We take the stairway to the left of the interior entryway that leads upstairs into a large auditorium. A stage occupies the north end of the room while the floor slopes upward toward the south end of the room, an intentional construction detail to allow people sitting in the back to see over the heads of those in front. The seats have been pulled off to the sides of the auditorium as pieces of the ceiling fall away to scatter the floor with debris. The grand stage, once the center of excitement, is empty and coated in dust. I begin to imagine the political debates and Christmas programs that once took the stage, among all manner of community events and festivities.

A Walk around the Commons

We begin our walk around the commons of Mesopotamia village, starting with a stop at the Mesopotamia Historical Museum & Meeting House. Built in 1846, it was originally a Spiritualist Church. Nowadays, the Historical Society conducts their meetings in this building. Today during our tour, it hosts a rummage sale. Darcy explains that the upstairs of the meeting house holds boxes of historical documents that have been unfortunately water-damaged from a leaky roof. An upcoming project of hers will be to rummage through these boxes and salvage anything she can. 

Methodist Church, built in 1830. Interior restored in 1960.

From here, we walk next door to the Methodist Church built in 1818 and take a peek inside. The pastor explains that the pews are not original and that initially the church had the box type pews where men and women were separated. He also points out the antique chandelier that that forms a focal point towards the front of the church.

Fairview Cemetery & Artist Howard Brigden

The Western Reserve Chronicle,
June 2, 1869

Behind the Methodist Church lays Fairview Cemetery. With the first burial in 1818, most of the stones are made from white marble with their inscriptions worn away with time. However, many unusually shaped stones carved from sturdy granite stand out among the rows.

Born on November 29, 1841, Howard Bridgen was a local carver, political cartoonist, and satirist. He was the son of Charles Brigden and Mary Ann Sperry and enlisted in the Union Army where he served as a spy. He suffered a broken arm and upon discharge, he returned to Mespo where he made his living as an artist. Though he had guidance from his mentor, Walter Supple, Brigden had natural talent that many considered even genius.

Front and back of stone carved for Ira & Charlotte Sperry and their two-year-old son Ira

One of his first carvings was the eagle atop the Soldier’s Monument that stands on the Mespo Commons green. He also carved many of the ornate stones in Fairview Cemetery, including his own, a towering monument depicting a bear climbing a rock precipice. Shell–shaped stones mark the graves of family and friends, a trademark theme of Brigden’s. He even carved a trough that once sat on the village green but now rests against the outside wall of the meeting house. The front of the trough reads, “The Devils Own Hogs: John. D., Mark A., J. Pierpont” which expressed his disdain for tycoons with fortunes amassed by predatory means. The two names on the ends are John D. Rockefeller and John Pierpont Morgan Sr. (J.P. Morgan), but for the life of me, I have no idea who Mark A. could be. If anyone help me out with this one, I would be most grateful.

Brigden married Elsie Belden on February 18, 1865 and they had two sons, Earl and George. He died September 24, 1913 at the age of 71 after a long and memorable career. 

Howard & Effie’s stunning monument
The Western Reserve Chronicle, November 7, 1866
The Western Reserve Chronicle,
May 13, 1868
The Western Reserve Chronicle,
July 20, 1870

Dio Reynolds & Scarlet Fever

One of the most popular of Brigden’s sculptures in Fairview Cemetery is “The Dog Who Waits for His Master”, a black stone dog sitting vigil by the grave of its owner, Dio Lewis Reynolds, a six-year-old boy. It is said that when Dio died on March 12, 1875 and was buried in the cemetery, his dog often came to lay on the grave. Brigden later carved the sculpture in the loyal dog’s memory. Legend says that Dio died falling out of an apple tree and many publications have perpetuated this myth. For example, a Star Beacon article from 2012, reads:

“Nearby, in the Fairview Cemetery, many examples of Brigden’s stone carving skills mark the graves of cherished citizens. The most poignant of these stands as a memorial to Dio L. Reynolds. Dio was 6 when he died from a fall out of an apple tree. His dog was inconsolable, and for weeks lay under the tree, his paws holding fast to Dio’s hat. Brigden’s carving captures in stone that heart-breaking love between a dog and his master.”

“Sir Henry’s Last Ride” by Carl Feather of the Star Beacon, Feb 19, 2012

A romantic tale to be sure, but historical documents prove otherwise. When I track down Dio’s death certificate on, it names his cause of death as scarlet fever. 

Effie, Mearle, and Dio lined up in a row

Scarlet fever is a disease causing sore throat, fever, throat abscesses, and in children it can progress very quickly to the point where they succumb in 48 hours from the initial symptoms. It can be highly contagious. In the historical epidemics, infected dairy workers handling unpasteurized milk were found to be the cause of many outbreaks. Cemeteries from far and wide show the evidence from scarlet fever epidemics throughout history. Fairview Cemetery is one of them. Just months before Dio’s death, Howard Brigden lost a niece, Mina Tay Brigden, from the disease and two-year-old Bertie Easton perished from the illness in the same month as Dio. 

On December 28, 1874, the newspapers in nearby Hiram, Ohio reported an unusually malignant epidemic of scarlet fever sweeping through their town in the months prior, taking children of all ages, even multiples from a single household. A scarlet fever epidemic killed at least twelve young children in Jackson County in southern Ohio and several children in Ashtabula County just north of Mespo in the same month that Dio died. Cincinnati lost hordes of children to the disease throughout the year of 1875. These being just a few examples of how the epidemic devastated communities and destroyed families.

Unfortunately, Dio’s family suffered many tragedies. Dio’s parents, Job Reynolds and Altha Lewis, married on July 16, 1864 and lost Dio eleven years later. Dio’s brother Mearle died at age 2 months, 27 days in 1880 and his sister Effie died from pneumonia on April 28, 1885.

Clark Cemetery

After circling the commons and noting the nostalgia brought on by the rows of historic homes, including the Lyman House, we pass the general store and turn the corner to walk around route 87. We turn into the driveway of a private home where Darcy notifies the owner of our arrival. The man is not feeling up to coming out to chat, but allows us to stroll through his backyard and up a hill into a wooded area. There, covered in underbrush is an old burial ground. Clark Cemetery had once been a family cemetery and only a handful of stones remain, some inscribed with the manner of death. Isaac Clark, aged 22 years, died from an explosion of a cannon in 1844. Ruben Clark, aged 39 years, was struck by lightening in 1850. Bearing an unusual name, little Almond Clark died at the age of 2. The first known burial is Ephraim Clark who died in 1830, so Fairview Cemetery predates Clark Cemetery. Find A Grave lists twenty-four graves in all, though I suspect there are more.

With our final stop at Clark Cemetery, our tour is over and our group disbands, many returning to the End of the Commons General Store. Robin and I spend a great deal of time in the cemetery before heading back to the commons. The general store holds a feast for the eyes, and the stomach too. Besides unique toys and other novelties, the general store boasts the best fry pies around, jams and jellies, natural peanut and almond butters, a large candy and soda collection, maple sugar sweets, and ice cream and deli sandwiches that are served at the café. Adjoining rooms hold shelves of kitchenware, soaps, liniments and other remedies, beauty items, and home décor. I encourage anyone to visit Ohio’s oldest general store as you will not be disappointed with their selection and atmosphere. Be sure to take a walk across the commons and view Howard Brigden’s amazing sculptures at Fairview Cemetery as photos simply do not do them justice. Also, if you need a place to stay, I highly recommend the Old Stone House Bed and Breakfast. The Old Stone House is located at 8505 State Route 534, Mesopotamia, Ohio 44439.

The Trumbull County Historical Society began their second Saturday history tours in the summer of 2019 and I hope that they continue them in 2020. If so, I will visit as many as I can, if not all of them, and share my experiences with you.  


  • History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties, Ohio by Williams (H.Z.) & Bro, p. 497
  • History of the Western Reserve, Volume 1by Harriet Taylor Upton
  • Ghosts and Legends of Northern Ohio by William G. Krejci, p. 79
  • Legends and Lost Treasure of Northern Ohio: Brother Bonds by Wendy Koile, p. 57-58
  • “Sir Henry’s Last Ride” by Carl Feather of the Star Beacon, Feb 19, 2012
  • Howard Brigden Find A Grave:
  • Dio Lewis Reynolds find a grave:
  • Dio Reynolds, Mina Tay Brigden, & Bertie Easton Death Records: “Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001.” Database with images. FamilySearch. : 18 April 2017. County courthouses, Ohio
  • Scarlet Fever Epidemics of the 19th Century by Alan Swedlund and Alison Donta
  • Jackson County Deaths In March: The Jackson Standard. (Jackson C.H., Ohio), June 17, 1875
  • Hiram Correspondence: The Democratic press. [volume], January 07, 1875
  • Ashtabula Deaths: Ashtabula telegraph. (Ashtabula, Ohio), March 26, 1875
  • Walking Tour of Mespo Engages History Buffs by Beth Shiller, The Tribune Chronicle, August 11, 2019