The Cahoon homestead house, Rose Hill Museum, turns 200 years old

Rose Hill is pictured in one of the oldest photos on record of the Cahoon family farmhouse, circa 1890.

In 1818, Joseph Cahoon and his son, Joel, using a simple carpenter’s manual, built the Cahoon homestead house on the west hill above Cahoon Creek, in the style of the gristmill that sat below in the valley. The house contained four rooms up and four rooms down with double-sided lake stone fireplaces in the middle of the four rooms down.

The walls were built of strong oak trees and the floors were poplar. The stairs wrapped around the fireplace on the north side with steps to the upstairs rooms. The basement, open to the east, housed a large stone fireplace for cooking and processing meats. The walls contained white oak lath sprung between the joists. The plaster was horsehair and the green tree plugs, heated and pounded into the beams and then allowed to cool, replaced hard-to-find iron nails.

In 1845, Joel, having inherited the farm from his father, brought his family back to Dover Township. He added a south wing which contained a wood-burning stove and keeping room. In 1910, Ida, Laura and Lydia, Joel’s daughters, having retired from teaching to the farm, built a room onto the east end of the house to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Cahoon family arriving in Dover Township. 

This new addition had a basement foundation, a living room and two bedrooms on the second floor. The house stayed in the family until 1917 when Ida Cahoon passed away. In 1919, the Cahoon Will gave the house and property to the citizens of Bay Village. One of the stipulations of the Will was the house become a library or museum.

Mayor Walter Wright brought to the Cahoon Park Trustees the idea to give $100 to the Paul sisters to organize a library in the farmhouse. In 1921, new Mayor George Morgan asked the sisters, Emma Paul Pope and Olivia Paul Bailey, living in their Cahoon house on the corner of Wolf and Cahoon roads, if they would start a library in the house. Using the Cahoon and Pope book collections, the sisters opened the Dover By The Lake Library. 

When Julia Osborn Scott became the librarian and lived upstairs above the library, the staircase was moved to the south wall of the east front room. This remained the Bay Village Library until 1960 when the library moved to Dover Center and Wolf roads.

In 1960, the Bay Village Historical Society was organized. With the library gone, the homestead house sat empty. Members of the society placed artifacts from their own collections on the shelves and brought in furniture to decorate the rooms. On Sunday you could visit and have a tour of the first floor, viewing their artifacts.

In 1968, a group of young historians, Bob and Gigi Monroe, Gay Menning, and myself included confronted the society with the idea of truly making the house into a living museum. The historical society agreed and Bob and Gigi spearheading this move approached the city for money to remodel the house into a museum.  Funds were procured and architects from Hale Farm were contacted for advice. Windows were changed, doors removed and ersatz walls built to produce an easy walking tour flow on the first floor. 

Rose Hill Museum opened in 1975 with mostly Cahoon and Aldrich artifacts. Louella Meyer and I made the first inventory of the museum artifacts. Whatever we had, we put out. We considered this a living museum and dressed it as it would have looked in the time period of each room.  Today, it is more of a collection of items and not the style of the Cahoons. Some of our early greeters were: Jane Richards, Sue Tobey, Harriett Laverty, Jessie Hull, Sally Langner, Evelyn Allen, Jan Veverka, Marie Black, Brenda Gerbick, Paula Williams, Bonnie Ross, Sandy and Roger Pick to name a few. 

At the same time, Gay Menning and I were finishing up the first written history of Bay Village which was distributed from Rose Hill. This book started a money flow to help us maintain the museum. The Antique Show was started and the first managers were Gigi Monroe and Gay Menning. Our helpers grew as we added new things to do like braid rugs, offer education classes, build a log cabin and have picnics. Homemade stew was made in the black Cahoon kettle in the valley.  Everyone brought a side dish and we ate outside under the catalpa tree just like the Cahoons.

The homestead house has witnessed many changes over the years. At least 10 Cahoons have died there. The library brought the students from Parkview School and now the museum brings visitors interested in our town’s history. Two hundred years later the house, Rose Hill Museum, contains an important collection of Bay Village artifacts and memories. It is a delightful visit.

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Volume 10, Issue 11, Posted 10:02 AM, 06.05.2018