By Barbara Shrodes.
A LITTLE HISTORY FROM PRESIDENT,
On March 11, 1966, the organizational meeting of the Martins Ferry Area Historical Society was held with an enthusiastic group of civic minded citizens in attendance. Mayor John Laslo stated that night, “The attendance and interest of these people indicates there is a tremendous amount of concern about the history of Martins Ferry and for the preservation of our heritage.” Tydvil Thomas was chosen as chairperson of the group, with Laurel Krieg as the secretary, and William Kelley in charge of publicity. The charter committee consisted of John Laslo, Phyllis Kane, and Betty MacAninch. Mike Maistros and Fred Theurich were to work on the constitution and by-laws for the society.
It was decided at that first session that a public meeting would be held to inform the citizens of the organizational procedures and administrative function of the group. Also, the group would obtain a charter from the Ohio Historical Society. That public meeting was held on May 28, 1966. An election was held and officers were chosen: President Morton Wilson, Vice-President Edward Selby, Treasurer Virgil Smith, Secretary Betty MacAninch, Historian William Kelley, and Curator Phyllis Kane. Roy Riethmiller, Frank Heinrich, and Mildred Smith were named as directors.
One of the first proposals that the Martins Ferry Historical Society made was for the building or purchase of a structure to be used as a museum for the city. That dream came true when the MFHS purchased the structure at 627 Hanover Street from Grace Sedgwick Mitchell. The Sedgwick family had purchased the house, built by Henry Helling in 1872, around 1900 and various family members had lived there until Grace decided to sell the property. In 1969, the MFHS purchased the home for use as a museum. Grace Sedgwick Mitchell was interested enough in the museum plans that she agreed to turn back a note for $2800 for her contribution, asking in return that the museum bear her family name.
The neighborhood Development Corporation, using a state grant, made major renovations upon the building. The Sedgwick House Museum was finally ready to open. The dedication ceremonies were held on May 28, 1970 with Mayor John Laslo and Congressman Wayne L. Hays in attendance. At that time, the MFHS decided to sponsor the Betty Zane Frontier Days, with proceeds from the festival to be used to provide funds for the purchase of the museum. Because of that work, the mortgage for the museum was finally retired in 1977. The museum underwent another renovation in the 1990s.
The Martins Ferry Historical Society and the Sedgwick House Museum have a long and proud history in Ohio’s oldest settlement. Now that heritage is in danger of ending. The MFHS’s membership is declining, the day to day operation of the museum is now in the hands of less than ten volunteers, and the museum visitors are few in number. If you want this important part of Martins Ferry history to continue to exist, please get involved. Call President Tom Thomas (633-5559) for more information.
Josiah Fox was born at Falmouth in Cornwall, England, in 1763.He was the only formally trained shipwright concerned with the design of early American ships.
Apprenticed at age eighteen to the master constructor at his Majesty’s Dockyard at Plymouth, he was later employed as a shipwright. The young Josiah Fox made a number of voyages aboard the CROWN, which was captained by one of his brothers.
Arriving in the United States in 1793, he planned to study American timber and to visit friends and relatives in Philadelphia. The following April, he was employed, along with Joshua Humphreys, by Secretary of War, General Knox, to assist in the design and construction of the proposed navy. His title was originally “Clerk” in the War Department. Within a year, he was promoted to the rank of Assistant Navy Constructor and assigned to design the frigate CRESCENT, which was to be given to the Dey of Algiers to fulfill a condition of the treaty that ended the war with the Barbary States.
The U. S. S. CONSTITUTION “Old Ironsides” was a joint effort of Josiah Fox, Joshua Humphreys, and William Doughty. She was launched October 21, 1797. “She was perhaps as fine a frigate as ever plied the seas under sail. With her bottom sheathed in copper furnished by Paul Revere and a hull of the strongest live oak, she was a marvel of the shipwright’s skill.” The defeat of the GUERRIERE was the first major sea victory of the war of 1812. Off the coast of Nova Scotia on August 19, 1812, the masts of the once-proud GUERRIERE splintered and fell under a withering barrage of cannon fire from the CONSTITUTION. Striking another blow to British sea power, it defeated the British ship JAVA off the coast of Brazil on December 29, 1812. In 1815, “Old Ironsides” captured the CYANE and the LEVANT after an engagement near Gibraltar. Deemed unseaworthy about 1829, the CONSTITUTION was ordered dismantled, but the order was rescinded in deference to the sentiment aroused by the Oliver Wendell Holmes poem “Old Ironsides” . Rebuilt in 1833, the ship became a training ship. Congress ordered it rebuilt in 1925 . Today , she is tied up to a dock in the old Boston Navy Yard, manned by a full crew of enlisted men, and skippered by a regular naval officer. Still being in commission, she has the same status as an aircraft carrier or a nuclear submarine. “She is part of America.”
Some other ships designed by Josiah Fox were U. S. S. UNITED STATES with Humphreys and Doughty, the U. S. S. CONSTELLATION, also with Humphreys and Doughty, and the frigate CRESCENT, the PICKERING, EAGLE, and DILLEGENCE, revenue cutters, the U. S. S. PHILADELPHIA, U. S. S. JOHN ADAMS, and the U. S. S. CHESAPEAKE.
During his fifteen years as Naval Architect, he served under presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.
He was married to the the former Anna Miller of Philadelphia. They had ten children. Josiah Fox was a Quaker, and because it is against the Quaker faith to be engaged in war activities, he was disowned by the Philadelphia Meeting. Also his wife was not a Quaker. However, after the war of 1812, he was restored in good faith to the Quaker religion. In 1814,they settled on a farm near Colerain, Ohio. The home he constructed there is said to be a replica of his ancestral home in Cornwall, England. Josiah Fox died in 1847 at the age of 84. He is buried in the cemetery next to the old Concord Meeting House.
His home, now known as “Quaker Acres”, is owned by David and Cindy Lash. The MFAHS Board of Directors held the October meeting there.
Keeping abreast of the progressive spirit of Martins Ferry, with the splendid cooperation of Ferry fans, merchants and industries, the local Board of Education tomorrow afternoon will dedicate another section of Ferry Field.
The new $40,000 concrete bleachers and brick wall around the three acre lot, built during the past 15 months, with federal WPA assistance, will be dedicated to the youth of the city, another monument to the aggressiveness and far sightedness of a citizenry that is loyal to its athletic teams be they winning or losing.
With the completion of another section of the stadium the $100,000 athletic plant now ranks with the finest in the entire Ohio Valley. And it grew from a humble beginning.
Carmichael Field, as it was first called, was once upon a time a corn field. As industry progressed, it became part of the fast developing industrial section of the city. Its natural level terrain, location and other features attracted the attention of school board officials when it became evident in 1925 a “home” playing field was really necessary, and it was purchased that year for an original investment of about $15,000. Moving and repairing the brick house that stood on the site of the stadium cost approximately $1,800; grading and surveying about $1,700.
In 1928, the present covered stands were completed at a cost of about $22,000. The iron fence, ornamental yet sturdy, cost another $4,500. Interest, taxes and insurance in the past 12 years have cost another estimated $12,000 to $15,000. The red brick building that now occupies the southwest corner of the field was improved at a cost of $8,800. It houses the home of the caretaker of the field.
And out of all the moneys spent for the athletic plant, about $60,000 has already been paid back by the athletic funds of Ferry high, with the treasury for athletics expected to pay off the balances without one penny of increased taxation.
There is no way to estimate the number of people who have visited the stadium since it was first started, but an indication is shown the estimate that the 1937 editions of Riders has already performed before 32,000 spectators so far this season, with four more games to be played, and all at home.
More improvements will be made to Ferry Field as time passes, and it is now considered one of the most complete in the district. It house tennis courts besides the gridiron. Baseball can be played there. A track will be completed, probably next year. And it is also a public institution, as evidenced by the pageants of last summer for the sesquicentennial celebration.
Following are a few facts of Ferry’s first stadium, dedicated with the Bridgeport game on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1925:
New grand stand 300 feet long; made of concrete, metal and wood. Cost $16,000.
John Calder, of the city, was the designer; Miller Brothers and Moss Iron Works, both of Ferry, were the contractors.
Ferry high grid teams have had five home fields in the past 29 years. The first games were played on what was then Seabrights lot. Later the games were battled on the Mill Field, with no fences, no bleachers...only a striped field... and sometimes it was not even marked very well.
Hoyle park was the “home” of Ferry teams for a few years and then the Central League baseball park was used in those days, it was a celebration to have a home game, and the ball yard was often packed.
The present athletic plant was completed and dedicated in 1925. Additions have been built and today it is the finest high school athletic field in the valley.
The public is invited to attend the Martins Ferry Area Historical Society’s Annual Christmas Program & Open House Saturday, December 13, 2003 at 6:30 p.m. at the Sedgwick House Museum. Music provided by the Elm Middle School Choir. Refreshments will be served.