LIMA — When a story in the August 1945 issue of the Allen County Historical Society’s publication the Reporter incorrectly credited Dr. S.A. Baxter with building the large brick house that stood at the corner of Market and Charles streets, a correction arrived quickly.
The correction, which ran in the October 1945 issue of the Reporter, came from Albert G. Keith, who was then in his mid-70s and living Boston. At the beginning of his life, however, Keith had lived in Lima just one block west of the large brick house and had been a playmate of the builder’s son.
Dr. Baxter had done much for Lima, but he had not built the house that was commonly referred to as “the Baxter house.”
“This house of Dr. Baxter’s was the former home of Mr. George Jameson. It was built several years before the City Building was put up in 1883,” Keith wrote. “It was standing, and Mr. Jameson had been living in it for some time when, in 1880 or 1881, my father bought quite a sizable lot off Mrs. Jameson in the next block west of the Jameson home.”
Around 1873, Jameson had purchased about 160 acres of land between what today are Baxter and Cole streets and North and Spring streets. In 1875, he began work on a four-story brick mansion which stood on five acres roughly in the middle of the tract. The street on the west side of the property was named Jameson while the one to the east was called Charles in honor of Jameson’s son and Albert Keith’s childhood playmate. Jameson divided the remainder of the tract and sold it off in lots, including the one that went to John Keith, the father of Albert Keith.
Unlike the house Jameson built and Dr. Baxter occupied for years, the home John Keith built on his lot is still standing — and still being used — 140 years later. The Jameson/Baxter house was leveled almost 60 years ago.
Like most of Lima’s earliest residents and most of those who would live in or own the house he built at 1028 W. Market St., John Keith had roots in the East. His grandfather and father migrated from Maryland to Van Wert County in 1833.
According to a 1906 Allen County history, which was compiled with the assistance of Dr. S.A. Baxter, the Keith family settled on land in Van Wert County that “was long known as ‘Keith Island,’ because of the fact that then the land was covered or surrounded by water.” In 1854, the family settled in Allen County “at a time when Lima was but a village.”
Despite being raised on a farm, the history noted, John Keith “early turned his attention to civil engineering, and subsequently became so thorough and competent a surveyor that, in 1879, he was elected county surveyor of Allen County.” In May 1880, the Allen County Democrat reported Keith was building a home on West Market Street on land purchased from George Jameson.
John Keith, who had married Mary Partello in 1869, was re-elected county surveyor in 1882. “It was during this term of public service that many important public improvements were made, one of these being the inauguration of an extended system of ditching,” according to the history. When he died in February 1907, the Lima Times-Democrat described him as “one of the sound businessmen of the county and is quite generally known throughout Allen County.”
By the time John Keith died, the house he built at 1028 W. Market St., had passed through several hands, beginning in May 1883 when ownership passed to Mary E. Manning, the wife of Dr. William H. Manning.
Dr. Manning was at the center of rumors reported in the summer of 1881 that a railroad car manufacturing plant was coming to Lima. “Dr. Manning, a capitalist of Miamisburg, was in the city the first of the week, taking in the favorable points for the location of manufacturing interests,” the Allen County Democrat reported July 21, 1881. By the fall of that year the rumors were being transformed into reality, thanks to the ever-present Dr. S.A. Baxter who, according to the Democrat, convinced Dr. Manning to invest in Lima.
The Lima Car Works, the Democrat reported October 27, 1881, were being constructed on a 14-acre “triangular plot lying between the D&M (later B&O) and the L.E.&W.R.R. (later Nickel Plate) tracks and are about one mile directly south of the public square, fronting on South Main Street.”
Despite a promising start — the Democrat reported in March 1882 that “the car works … are turning out six cars a day now” — the enterprise proved short-lived. It was apparently closed by late spring 1885 and would remain so, despite the efforts of Dr. S.A. Baxter to breathe life back into it.
The house at 1028 W. Market, meanwhile, went through several more owners. After owning it less than a year, Mary Manning sold it to a Connecticut native named Lucius V. Walkey in January 1884 and he, in turn, deeded it to his brother, Webster Walkey, nine months later. In April 1887, Webster Walkey sold it to Dr. Baxter. A month later Dr. Baxter deeded the house to Florence Carpenter, who was the sister-in-law of John R. Hughes and who, in July 1892, sold the property to Hughes.
Hughes operated a hardware and housewares store on the Public Square from about 1860 until the turn of the century when he moved to California, where he died in 1921. Hughes also served as mayor of Lima during the Civil War, was a member of city council and was a member of the Woodlawn Cemetery Association. His name can be found on the arch over the entrance to Woodlawn Cemetery. About 1870, he built a home at 649 W. Market St. that many years later became the home of the Lima YWCA, which itself was recently razed.
Meanwhile, by the 1890s, the house at 1028 W. Market St. was occupied by Sylvester M. Finch, described in a September 1893 article in the Times-Democrat as “the well-known oil man.” Like many residents of Lima during the late 19th century, Finch, a native of New York State, had arrived in Lima after the 1885 discovery of oil.
An 1889 story titled “Lima, Ohio, and Her Resources” declared that Finch “was one of first to recognize the vastness of the Ohio oil field, and made haste to locate in Lima, the ‘hub’ of the oil territory.” In addition to operating a plant producing tanks to contain the oil, he also was involved in drilling for oil. The story went on to describe him as “a keen, shrewd, far-seeing businessman, whose integrity is never questioned.” He left Lima early in the 20th century and died in 1917 in Arizona.
Hughes, who owned the house at 1028 W. Market St. that Finch lived in, sold it in September 1900 to Walter Standish. Standish, whose parents, Henry and Amanda, arrived in Allen County from New York state in the 1820s, was born in Lima in 1841. He served in both the Army and Navy during the Civil War and later engaged in the dry goods business while also serving on Lima City Council.
When Standish died in April 1904, the Times-Democrat wrote that he was “for many years one the city’s foremost businessmen, prominent in social, business and secret order circles and one of the most respected men in the community …”
With his death, the house on West Market Street again changed hands. “John M. Boose is the new owner and the consideration was $8,000,” the Lima Daily News reported Jan. 23, 1910.
Next week: A new era.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.