Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Short Trip in Miles, A Long Way in Time

This posting to my travel blog is of an entirely different sort. The trip we took on Thursday May 8th coincided with my husband’s birthday and produced a fascinating wealth of history about his family.  I have been actively working on the genealogy of both sides of our family since last fall and his side has some really fascinating stuff. I mentioned in a post about our Florida trip in February that his grandfather on his father’s side was an stage actor and in early Edison films*

You can check it out about halfway through the posting HERE 

Thursday we searched his mother’s side of the family. She was an Adams and her father was the son of the man who ran the Adams Bag Company in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. 
My father-in-law would occasionally joke that “he married one of the bags” but in our pursuit of our own happiness we failed to get into the particulars of the family history until now when retirement and perhaps the imminence of our own demise is causing us to wonder about roots.

              Today and yesterday
This photo courtesy of The Chagrin Falls Historical Society shows a cool reflection but the downside is that the water is waaaay to high due to flooding!

Our first stop was at the old mill which is now in the National Historic Register (see article) and is being transformed into new restaurant, retail and office space. See article here
The bridge that offers the best vantage point is closed to traffic but you can still drive right up to it. This mill passed through several more ownerships and actually was operating in some capacity until 2004.
The bag man's descendant on the bridge
Chagrin Falls is one of those charming little places that have maintained the older homes and the kind of retail that bring out day trippers and tourists.  There was a busload of “red hat ladies” strolling the shops and perusing the falls on the greatest spring day in memory. 

We ventured into the Visitor Center on Main Street which is housed in the Township Hall where we encountered a long time resident who was quick to inquire what we needed and when we mentioned our family was associated with the Adams Bag Co. she immediately brought forth the 287 page Chagrin Falls: An Ohio Village History. A quick 
turn to the index revealed 18 pages for Adams Bag and Alfred Adams and Fitch Adams and the Greek Revival style home Alfred lived in.

We told her that our next stop was the Chagrin Falls Historical Society, but that we knew they would only be open from 2pm to 4 pm but she assured us that they would already be there and not to hesitate but agreed that it might be nice to have lunch first. By the way, no fast food places have been granted access to the town but there are plenty of places to eat. Our choice, turned out to be only so-so soooo I will not mention it since it might have been an off day!

We were welcomed heartily at the Historical Society by at least a half dozen members who seemed delighted to have people seeking there services.  When we told them that 
Dan’s family were the Adams Bag people the first remark was that we must know about “the drowning in the mill pond”.  No. Who? What? Never.  Not only did we not know that in 1891 Fitch Mygatt Adams drowned while inspecting possible damage from excessive rains and was swept over the spillway and his body was recovered four hours later.

BUT, we didn’t know that this Fitch Mygatt Adams was the older brother of my husband’s grandfather Alfred H. Adams.  We knew that his great grandfather, Alfred Adams along with his brother Fitch Adams and and Mr. Jewett of Cincinnati   formed a company that purchased the property and made paper using manila rope fiber. My genealogical searches had become confusing because Alfred had a son named Fitch and Fitch had a son named Alfred.  Now I know why some of the birth and death dates didn’t always make sense. Things for our descendants may be a lot easier now that everyone wants there kids to have “special” names. 

Note: We have found that the family traces back to William Bradford of the Plymouth Plantation and the Mayflower!!

Fitch Mygatt Adams (left) with his father Alfred Adams

Alfred H., younger brother of Fitch M. seemed
to have little connection to the company and had
 moved to Abilene Kansas and Los Angeles, CA
 before dying at 33, the same age at which his brother

I had hoped to find out where the family had lived and that quest was more than fulfilled when we were told exactly where the house is and what had recently happened to it.

Alfred (great-granddad) lived there for 13 years after purchasing it from the original owner Charles Sears, another paper mill owner, who built it in 1844 . There had been at least nine mills of various types along the Chagrin River here. Then the Sihler family purchased it in 1927 and it served as Windsor Hospital for mainly psychiatric and post operative care.
 Just recently the home has been saved from demolition and lovingly and expertly renovated into a fabulous family home.

Read the NEWS ARTICLE here

We drove up to the house which is at the highest point in town and snapped this picture.

After returning home, I was itching to see what else I might find online now that I had more search terms to try out like the "Sears Adams house"  and I discovered the blog written by the new owners documenting the whole renovation.
Read it HERE

I literally cried when I found this.  I contacted the blogger/house owner and we have been invited to let her know when we are in the area  take a private tour. My eyes are filling up as I type.

Next we are heading off to Pennsylvania and New York in hopes of returning with more history.  Watch this space!


  1. So interesting. Good work!

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