The Bay Village Cahoon Sisters
Margaret and Joel Cahoon conceived five daughters. Mary Emma Cahoon, the tenth child, died when just a young girl at the age of 8 from rheumatic fever. Lydia, Laura, Martha and Ida grew to womanhood. They became school teachers, and at one time, worked together at Barkwell School on Broadway Avenue in Cleveland.
They purchased a house on Broadway next to the school to prevent traveling during week days. After a week of teaching, they would ride the train to their home, Rose Hill, getting off at the Cahoon Store, or trolley stop No. 24 on their property, for a quiet weekend with church and family. Outside of school, they worked every day to benefit others through their religious and community endeavors. All the sisters were active in the Commodore Perry Chapter of the Daughters of 1812 and the Dover Lake Shore Methodist Episcopal Church. None of them married. Lydia, Laura and Ida, in this order, died in the same year, 1917.
Lydia Elizabeth Cahoon
Lydia was the Cahoons' third child. She was educated at Mrs. Green’s Select School in Dover Township and at Miss Linda T. Guilford’s Seminary in Cleveland. She taught at old South School (which became Barkwell) in the Cleveland School System. Often her classroom had not one English-speaking student. When she retired, she interested herself in the religious and social life of her hometown. At her funeral service, Dr. Luce proclaimed: “Her gentleness is greatness; kindness is service, and these words define in their truest sense, some of the elements of the character of this good woman – gentle as a June Zephyr, kind as the hand of Charity and Love itself, modest in her activities, always faithful to any duty; she will be remembered while memory lasts.” She was a founding member of the Ladies Aid Society at the Methodist Episcopal Church. She had a delicate and kindly nature. She died of pneumonia in March 1917 at the age of 82.
Laura Ellen Cahoon
Laura was the sixth child. She had a bright, pleasant personality and happy face. Laura taught first grade in the Cleveland school system for 36 years. She displayed an American flag over her classroom door and taught patriotism. “A child’s earliest lesson should be in patriotism,” she said. She once gave this advice to a young teacher: “Never go into the work of preparing a child for life simply as a means of making a living. Unless you love children and love to work with children, your place isn’t with them.” Every morning her class would recite:
“Now, before we work today,
We will not forget to pray
To God, who kept us through the night,
And waked us with the morning light.”
Laura died from hernia complications after an operation at St. John’s Hospital in June 1917 at the age of 76.
Martha Washington Cahoon
Martha was the seventh child. She was born on George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22. Martha was an artist. Two of her landscapes hang in Rose Hill Museum. Martha retired early from teaching due to extreme back pain, and retired to the family home where she cared for her brother, John Marshall, and kept house. When she became ill with sclerosis, she was nursed by her sisters for seven months until her death in May 1903 at the age of 59.
Ida Maria Cahoon
Ida was the youngest child and the last to die. She was the tallest of the sisters. She was afflicted with a club foot and droopy eye. Ida received her Cleveland teaching certificate in 1871. It qualified her to teach reading, writing, orthography, geography, grammar and arithmetic. Ida rode a bicycle. She enjoyed writing. She wrote: “Looking Backwards,” a story about her Saturday Reading Club, and the “The History of the Cahoon Family.” Ida served on the Bay Village Board of Education and held many positions in the church. She organized the family reunions, held yearly, and was active in planning church anniversaries and being secretary. She was respected by her community. Ida died from a cerebral hemorrhage in December 1917 at the age of 65.
Will Swanker wrote in his memoirs the following: “We owned a cottage on Cahoon Road across from Osborn Road. My sister, brother and myself would take our pet duck, in our wooden wagon, down to the Cahoon beach for a swim. The rule was you needed to stop at the Cahoon house and ask permission to use the beach. We stopped and knocked on the door to ask permission. All the sisters would come out to talk and laugh at our duck. The smallest one would take my face in her hands and kiss my face all over. They loved children.”
I am the Historian for the Bay Village Historical Society. Member and Past President of the society. Lived in the village since 1936.