June 6, 2012
LIMA — Wooden barrels once were the storage and shipping container of choice, and the Lima area was in the thick of the action.A monthly newsletter called Barrell and Box dating from December 1905 describes how this area became important in the industry.After the Civil War, the railroad began to open the Midwest, the newsletter reported.“With the first trains that went through to the Indiana state line, reports of the wonderful oak and elm forests of Northwestern Ohio and Northeastern Indiana were related in the Eastern cities, and these stories, from a cooperage standpoint, when repeated in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston, must have resembled those which the Spanish cavaliers carried back to the court of Ferdinand and Isabella ... . This fact amounted to the discovery of a new world for operations to the cooperage industry.”In about 1863, the first stave mill was opened in Van Wert by Pennypacker & Sibley. A stave, to remind us in the modern era, is a thin slat of wood that was held together with a hoop to form a barrel. There were many mills in this area, each taking advantage of the forests. George H. Marsh, of Van Wert, was another developer of stave mills. Marsh — whose estate was the basis of the Marsh Foundation, which continues today — originated the theme of eagles and called the business Eagle Stave Co.In came David C. Dunn, a man of Scottish descent. Dunn was in real estate at Miamisburg when a vast real estate deal made him the owner of the Minster Stave Co. He visited Minster with the idea of dismantling it, the newsletter reported, but he was convinced by residents of that town that it was a good business to continue. He entered this business in 1898 and opened two new mills at Chickasaw and Cridersville.Eagle Stave Co. eventually became the leading brand, operating many of the mills in this area. In 1901, the general offices of Eagle Stave Co. were moved to Lima, and Dunn oversaw plans for a new mill here. “The specialty at the Lima mill is coiled elm hoops, where with a complete outfit of Defiance Machine Works tools, they are making that grade for which the mill has gotten a reputation. They also cut elm staves at this plant,” the newsletter continued. A newspaper story published Jan. 15, 1903, offers details:“The Eagle Stave Co., formerly operated at Cridersville, is being removed to south Lima. Considerable of the machinery has been brought here and placed in the Monroe factory, on Tanner Avenue. The new industry will be in operation in about a week. About 50 men will be employed.”Tanner Avenue is known as South Central Avenue today. The stave plant was on the east side of the road, just south of the railroad tracks, and a business under the same ownership — South Side Lumber — was on the west side of the road. This is north of today's Second Street. Dunn would end up head of some 10 mills in the state.Newspaper reports of accidents help explain how the plant worked. Wagons, or bobsleds in winter, carried in logs to the lumberyard and mill. The workers processed the raw wood from there into barrel products. Two incidents from 1904 show how precarious this work was. A man named Noah Cox was hurt when logs started to roll off a wagon before the men expected. Two boys were very seriously hurt when they hopped aboard the rails of a bobsled carrying logs. A rough jostle spilled the logs out onto the boys.Meanwhile, Dunn was enjoying the pursuits a man of his position could afford. The industry newsletter shares:“Last year Mr. Dunn built for himself an elegant home in the city of Lima, which is the best proof that he has decided to make this his permanent home and the center of his future cooperate operations. He is fond of automobiling, and the writer had the pleasure of doing some speeding in his fine buzz-wagon. Mr. Dunn is not a politician, but since he has an automobile, he got into politics just enough to influence the police on the streets to allow him to run his machine at the maximum rate of speed of eight miles an hour — did I say 80?”The Dunns resided at 408 S. Cole St. The home survives today just a few doors to the south of the Colonnade on the corner of Elm and Cole streets.But as time passed, the raw materials were becoming harder to come by. Dunn sold Eagle Stave to R.E. Morris, of Harrod, an April 20, 1906, newspaper item reported. That same year, the Dunns sold their home to B.F. Williams, an oil man, for $22,000.Dunn instead occupied himself in real estate and home building. He had offices in the Holland Block downtown.His instincts were impeccable. A July 7, 1912, story explains:“With the purpose of establishing a country estate, D.C. Dunn, general manager of the Home Builders Realty company, yesterday acquired of Waldo Berryman the old Berryman homestead and 16 acres surrounding it directly oppose the entrance of McBeth's park (Shawnee and Spencerville road area). ... The deal directs attention to the rapid development of the suburban extension of Lima in that quarter known as the Shawnee suburb. ... Arrangements are in progress to pave Spencerville Road from the end of the present pavement west of Woodlawn Cemetery to Shawnee Country Club. Bituminous macadam will probably be used. The cost of the improvement will be paid partly by the property owners and partly by the county.”Dunn and his family moved on first to Mansfield, and he retired in Los Angeles. He died in California in 1949.