The Oviatt Manufacturing Company, Part II

Young workers at the Oviatt basket factory posing with piles of the pint-sized wood baskets.

Five of Luman Oviatt’s children migrated to Ohio from Connecticut. History tells us his daughters, Rhoda (married to Julius Humphrey) and Harriett (married to Washington Bigelow), migrated to Richfield. Luman's son Marcus Oviatt had two children born in Ohio, Aaron Oviatt married Electa Brown and purchased 123 acres around Copley, while Moses Oviatt purchased 150 acres in Lot #20 in the Blake Tract of Parma Township and married Electa Spafford. 

Luman's son Nelson and his wife, Melinda, traveled with their son, Luther, to Parma in 1821. Emily (born in 1822) and Louisa (1823), their daughters, were born in Parma Township. We know Nelson was in Dover Township in 1825 because the next child, Mary, was born in Dover as was Caroline, Dudley and Laura. (We don’t know the connection between Loyal Humphrey, Julius Humphrey and Melinda Humphrey, Nelson’s wife, but they could be siblings. If their father was Dudley Humphrey from Hudson, it could be why Nelson named his son, Dudley Luman, after the grandfathers, which was common then. And it could be why Nelson was in Dover Township in 1825.) 

In 1832, Nelson and Melinda’s sixth child was Dudley Luman. Dudley married Almira Abigail Phinney of Avon. Besides being a successful farmer, Dudley joined his father in the lumber business, The Oviatt Manufacturing Company. At first they just cut raw lumber, but soon saw advantages in cutting wood for fruit baskets. In 1860, they continued to operate the sawmill north of the Oviatt bridge over Cahoon Creek, while abandoning the gristmill and erecting a new steam sawmill and basket factory where the gristmill used to be.

With the influx of Germans and gardens yielding abundant crops of fresh vegetables, farmers began selling much of what they produced at the West Side Market on West 25th Street. Their produce went to market in all sizes of wooden baskets. They made baskets that ranged from pint, quart, peck, half bushel, bushel, pony and keg. If we add the grape production, we surmise the misters Oviatt found their basket factory most successful.

Nelson died in 1870. He and Melinda are buried in Fairview Cemetery, in Richfield. With Dudley getting older, Clarence Melville Oviatt, Dudley’s son, took over the reins and became owner and operator of the mill. Dudley and Almira retired to their home at 13230 Detroit Ave. in Lakewood. Almira died in 1917, Dudley in 1923. They are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cleveland.

The Oviatt Manufacturing Company meeting room, being the biggest room in the area for a gathering, became the civics meeting room for the township. Many important decisions were made in this building over the years, including the decision to separate from the rest of Dover Township and become the Village of Bay.

George and Clarence Oviatt are shown on a 1910 map owning property on Cahoon and Dover Center roads. Clarence, however, has sold the land next to the tracks from Dover Center to the creek to the Zipp family. Next, he sold the property by the bridge, which contained the sawmill, to Hugh and Russell Pease. Clarence moved to Memphis, Tennessee, but kept his land along Cahoon Road.

The Pease brothers continued operating the basket factory as baskets were still needed for the grape and fruit farmers' large production. In 1914, the Peases sold their property to Zipp Manufacturing Company and built the present Farm Bureau building (Landmark) just south of the railroad tracks on the east side of Dover Center Road. (Later, the Pease family went into the funeral business and became the Pease/Jenkins Funeral Home.)

I remember an Oviatt house on Cahoon Road. I don’t remember any of the manufacturing company buildings on that property when I was growing up in the 1940s. Zipps, however, was there and still making their syrups. The Zipp family built a house at 602 Dover Center Road in front of the factory. The field where the manufacturing company was located became a great baseball field for the neighborhood kids. Today, this area is Dover Commons and Cahoon Ledges and, across the street, the Convenient store and the Village Project.

Addendum: Luther Oviatt, Dudley’s brother, who traveled with his parents to Ohio in 1821, stayed on the east side and attended Western Reserve College of Hudson where he graduated in 1857 with honors.  He went directly into the public school system of Cleveland serving as teacher, principal and superintendent of  instruction. Along the way two of his students were John D. Rockefeller and Laura Spelman, who in time would become Mrs. Rockefeller. Luther served as the First Librarian of the Cleveland Public Library from 1869 to 1875.

When Clarence retired, he went to live with his brother, Arthur’s, son, Douglas George Oviatt, mayor of South Euclid. In 1938, while crossing a street in East Cleveland, he was struck by an automobile and killed. His obituary in The Plain Dealer read, “Clarence M., brother of Arthur, was the operator of a lumber concern here until 1910, when he joined a Memphis company dealing in timber. He returned in 1916 and looked after his properties after that time.”  Clarence is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Cleveland. Almira Phinney, Dudley’s wife, was born in Avon. Her father, Benjamin Phinney, married Lucretta Thompson, possibly of the family that owned Thompson’s store on Bassett Road. The A.C. Phinneys lived on the east end of Lake Road (Washington Lawrence purchased this property ) and then Bassett Road on the old Caleb Eddy farm. The Phinneys sold their farm to Joseph Waldeck. Dudley and Almira’s daughter, Lillian, married Hoyt Verner Bright, born in Dover in 1863. He was the son of Laura Foote and Alfred Goodwin Bright. Laura was the daughter of Ransom and Catherine Porter Foote. This family moved to California.  The Oviatt name left the village.

kay laughlin

I am the Historian for the Bay Village Historical Society, member and Past President, 1976. Lived in the village since 1936.  I was part of a team that developed the Cahoon farmhouse into Rose Hill Museum in 1973.  I participated by inventoring the Cahoon items and serving as the first Accessions Chairman and as a Docent at the museum for 20 years.  I was part of the committee that brought the Osborn house to Cahoon Memorial Park in 1995 and turned it into a learning center.  Along with my sister, Gay Menning, and the society, we wrote the 'Bay Way of Life' history book in 1974.  When Ginny Peterson asked for my help, I offered my historical pictures and wrote the captions for the Arcadia picture book, 'Bay Village,' published in 2007.  

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Volume 9, Issue 7, Posted 9:23 AM, 04.04.2017