LIMA — In January 1924, Lima native Edgar B. Cunningham took his memory for a stroll around the Public Square he had known as a boy during the years during and after the Civil War.
Arriving at the southeast corner of the square just north of Buckeye Alley, Cunningham noted in a paper for the Allen County Historical Society that at that location “Jule Churchill ran a dry goods store in an old frame building. He traded it to Crall brothers for a farm at Westminster. Crall brothers built the present building, now the Hoover furniture store.”
County records show the building was purchased by the Crall family in 1873 and, although it was sold out of the family in 1902, it would continue to be known as the Crall block.
The “old frame building” was transformed in 1890, a year in which, according to the Lima Daily Times everything was “stir and bustle” in Lima. “It has been raised to three stories,” the newspaper wrote July 30, 1890, “and is now a solid front of Bedford and Ohio brown stone. The second-floor front window will contain the largest pane of plate glass in the city, and this, with the other tasty improvements, will make the Crall one of the handsomest blocks in the city.”
On April 30, 1913, Lima Times-Democrat reported that the Crall block and adjoining Mehaffey block were “being given a new front with a complete set of large show windows, for the accommodation of the Hoover and Bond Furniture store. This company has leased all three floors and the basements of these two buildings, and the repairs are for their benefit.”
Furniture stores like Hoover and Bond came and went in the Crall block. From about 1877 to 1880, Lima’s original furniture dealer, J.C. Musser, offered customers cabinets, cupboards and coffins at his showroom in the Crall block “where every available space even to the ceiling” was used to exhibit goods, according to the April 29, 1880, edition of the Allen County Democrat.
Over the years, other tenants included the Lima Electric Railway and Light Company, J.W. Heiniger’s notion store and the Saratoga Cigar Store as well as clothing stores, tailor shops, law offices and private apartments. In more recent years it was home to the Crab Shack bar and Jalapeno Mexican Grill.
A hall in the block was the site of exhibitions, such as an ornithological exhibit by “Professor Leon” in 1885 during which birds from “all parts of the globe were on display. “If is well worthwhile for everyone interested in ornithology to visit the bird show and see these wonders of the feathery tribe …,” Lima’s Daily Democratic Times advised on March 23, 1885.
Around the turn of the century, the hall was a popular site for meetings of groups like the Ancient Order of United Workmen, Knights of the Golden Eagle and the Ladies of the Maccabees, most of them now as defunct as the Crall block itself, which was razed along with other buildings in the southeast quadrant of the Square to make room for Rhodes State College downtown.
The Crall family was as diverse as the tenants of their namesake block.
The family patriarch, Rev. David Crall was born in Frederick County, Maryland, in 1798. In 1821, he married Mary Haff. He entered the ministry in 1824. An article in the 1892-93 issue of the National Magazine, described him as a man “of great energy and force of character. He was one of the founders of the Methodist Protestant Church, being among the original seceders from the Methodist Episcopal Church.”
He served as pastor of churches in Pennsylvania and Indiana before arriving in Westminster in 1841 with his wife and three young sons, Leander Howard, Francis Hiram and Alpheus Boyd. Three other sons, Joel Emory, Alfred Beverly and Edwin Theodore, died in childhood before the family moved to Ohio.
“Possessed of unusual moral and physical courage, Rev. David Crall was a prominent figure in the rude society of the new country. He was earnest by nature, an enthusiastic abolitionist, and the founder of the first temperance society in that locality,” according an article in the National Magazine in the early 1890s. “Thus he was cordially respected, feared and hated in turn by the various elements which constitute pioneer life.”
When he died in September 1876, the Democrat wrote that he was “well and favorably known by most of our older residents.” Mary Crall died in March 1881.
Leander Crall, who was born in 1835, “worked on his father’s farm, and clerked in the stores and mill; chopped down trees, split rails, mowed hay and harvested grain with a sickle in true primitive fashion …,” the magazine wrote.
He also inherited many of his father’s “radical tendencies and was one of the “most enthusiastic supporters” of the fledgling Republican Party. After attending Oberlin College, Leander Crall “engaged in grocery and shipping business with his brothers” until, in 1860, he accepted a position in the U.S. Treasury Department under Salmon P. Chase.
After the Civil War, Leander Crall left the Treasury Department and became involved in newspapers, eventually going to New York City as a representative of newspapers in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Chicago, although he retained business interests in Lima. He died in March 1911.
Born in 1832, Alpheus Crall also was educated at Oberlin College “and subsequently, for many years, was a merchant at Westminster, Ohio,” according to a family ancestry compiled for Leander Crall. He later moved the short distance to Lima where he also was a merchant. In the 1880 U.S. Census, Alpheus Crall is listed as an insurance agent.
He was appointed Allen County Probate judge in September 1886 and served until November of that year. He eventually left Lima, settling in St. Louis, Missouri, where he died in January 1908.
Francis Hiram Crall, was born in 1837, and like his brothers worked as a merchant in Lima. The 1878-1879 edition of the Allen County Directory lists Francis Crall as a shepherd living on St. Johns Road. He eventually established a tailoring business in the northeast quadrant of the Public Square.
He closed that business in August 1884 and moved to southern Illinois to operate a fruit farm, although he did make a memorable visit to Lima in December 1885. On New Year’s Eve 1885, according to the Daily Democratic Times, Francis Crall and Alf C. Baxter Jr. got into a fistfight in front of the Post Office over a court case.
Francis Crall had lost the court case and, apparently, also lost the fistfight. “Crall has a pair of black eyes, while Baxter has a dislocated thumb, the effect of his first blow,” the newspaper wrote. Francis Crall died in October 1887.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.