Charles W. Justus was born in Massillon in 1863, moved with his family to Shawnee Township as a child and grew up on a farm near the intersection of Shawnee and Fort Amanda roads. As a young boy, he left the farm with his brother, Louis, to, in the words of his grandson, Kenneth Justus, “walk into Lima to seek his fortune.”
Lima in the late 1800s was a good place for an ambitious young man to seek his fortune.
“Lima is a modern city,” the Allen County Democrat wrote in July 1889. “A city of homes, of schools, of churches, of young vigorous industries, a great railroad center, the center of an organized and highly cultured social life. This is what Lima now is. Its great future built on this noble foundation is a matter of logical and inevitable necessity.”
While Louis landed a job in a machine shop before eventually drifting into the insurance business, Charles apprenticed in a pattern shop. Pattern makers created replicas, mostly from wood, of parts that were then set in sand to make an impression from which a metal mold would be cast.
After five years of training, Charles W. Justus landed a job at the Lake Erie & Western Railroad, becoming one of many pattern makers to find work in Lima during its industrial heyday. A newspaper story from February 1930 reported the local pattern makers association counted some 70 members.
Charles W. Justus, however, was much more than a pattern maker. He received numerous patents for his own inventions while also creating models of inventions for others who needed them to apply for a patent.
And at times, he just created things that were interesting.
“But few railroad men in Lima have not seen the ‘C.J.&E.W., 711,’ the wonderful little mogul engine that was built by Charles Justus and Eugene Warner (the “C.J.” and “E.W.” in the engine’s name) at the L.E.&W. shops during one and a half years of the time that they were employed there as pattern maker and draughtsman respectively,” the Lima Times-Democrat wrote in November 1900. “The ‘711,’ it will be remembered is a perfect miniature of the Brooks mogul locomotive built on a scale of one inch to the foot or one twelfth the size of the original.”
Kenneth Justus said his grandfather methodically measured the parts of the Brooks mogul locomotive whenever one arrived at the L.E.&W. shops in Lima before building the working replica, which was displayed around the country for years and once resided in his childhood home before being sold to a museum.
While working as a pattern maker at the Solar Refinery, Charles Justus designed and built a steam whistle “that worked like a trombone” as well as a steam whistle with a unique sound that was blown only on pay day, according to his grandson.
Around the turn of the century, Charles W. Justus received patents for several inventions, including improved woodworking tools, land anchors to keep poles upright and a hitching post that could be folded up when not in use.
A flyer published in an attempt to sell the hitching post advised that the “improved hitching rack, which is adapted to be folded and lowered to the curb, so as to be out of the way of pedestrians when not in use, thus being particularly well adapted on the streets of cities in which the ordinances prohibit the use of stationary hitching posts or racks because of their liability to injure pedestrians or to impede their progress.”
In August 1903, the Allen County Republican-Gazette reported the folding hitching rack being produced by Justus was “meeting with great success” and that orders are “coming in faster than they can manufacture them.” Several of the racks were installed at the Lima post office, and the Republican-Gazette judged them “not at all unsightly.”
Around 1905, according to Kenneth Justus, local pattern work lagged, and his grandfather went to work in Illinois, returning in 1908 when he heard the Lima Locomotive Works was expanding.
That year Charles W. Justus began to expand a barn at the rear of his home at 628 S. West St. into a pattern shop. A November 1910 ad in the Times-Democrat advised readers that “for expert job pattern and model work, mechanical drawing, inventor’s ideas perfected, patent office sketches made, and patents secured” the Justus Pattern and Model Works, at the rear of 628 S. West St., was the place. The pattern shop, according to his grandson, once employed 22 people and was the second-largest pattern shop in Lima.
In June 1917, George W. Justus, the father of Charles and Louis, died at the age of 80 in his North Shore Drive home. He had brought the family to Lima from Massillon in 1865 and, according to the Times-Democrat, opened the city’s first retail meat market in 1870. Less than a week after George W. Justus died, the Justus pattern shop on South West Street was damaged in a fire that started in wood shavings, which had not been swept up because the family was dealing with the death of George Justus.
“It is the opinion of fire chief (John C.) Mack that it was incendiary in nature,” the Times-Democrat reported June 11, 1917. According to Kenneth Justus the rumor was the fire, which caused only slight damage, was the work of German saboteurs.
With the end of World War I in November 1918, a real recession replaced rumored saboteurs as a pressing problem. Charles W. Justus, his grandson said, did not want to lose his skilled workforce but lacked work for them. Realizing pattern makers were also very good carpenters, he founded C.W. Justus & Sons builders, which also was headquartered at 628 S. Elizabeth St. He was joined in both the pattern works and the builders by his sons, Charles K. Justus, the father of Kenneth Justus, and Leroy E. Justus.
Charles W. Justus again proved adept at adapting his business to survive when the Great Depression hit. With houses not selling well, he opened a store in the 100 block of South Elizabeth Street selling end tables and other small furniture items. The pattern works, meanwhile, found work during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal making patterns for such things as plates that were placed on bridges constructed by the Works Progress Administration and flood gates manufactured by a local company for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Charles W. Justus died Sept. 30, 1938, at the age of 75. His widow, Elizabeth, 67, was killed on Christmas Eve of 1938, when she was struck by an automobile at the South West Street bridge over the Ottawa River. His brother, Louis E. Justus, with whom he had set out to seek his fortune years earlier, died on Dec. 15, 1938, at 77. A well-known insurance agent, Louis Justus had been treasurer of Trinity Methodist Church for more than 50 years and was said to have the largest private library in the city.
After the death of Charles W. Justus, his sons, Charles K. Justus and Leroy E. Justus, operated the family businesses but, according to Kenneth Justus, “couldn’t agree on much of anything” and separated in early 1954, although they still managed to work together. Charles K. Justus continued to operate the South West Street pattern works, while Leroy E. Justus founded Leroy E. Justus Inc.
“They had their own businesses, but they were intertwined,” Kenneth Justus said.
Charles K. Justus died in April 1977 at the age of 75. His brother died in May 1969. He was 77.
This feature is a cooperative effort between the newspaper and the Allen County Museum and Historical Society.
See past Reminisce stories at limaohio.com/tag/reminisce
Reach Greg Hoersten at [email protected].