Sylvania–Then and Now: 5768 North Main Street

by Gayleen Gindy
PUBLICATION DATE: 09.13.16

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LOOKING BACK

The next building on our tour of North Main Street is the two-story building that was originally a residential home and is now a commercial business known as Keith’s Hair Design. This structure was constructed in 1850 after Dr. Thomas T. Cosgrove and his wife Betsey purchased the property. Dr. Cosgrove was one of the first medical doctors in Sylvania and lived here until his death in 1864. During the Civil War, he was appointed captain of the 5th Company, First Infantry Regiment, First Brigade and 16th Division of the Militia of the State of Ohio under Governor Wilson Shannon. Dr. Cosgrove’s son, grandson and great-grandson went on to serve as medical doctors in the area also. His widow, Betsey, continued to live here until 1880 when she sold this home to Hiram and Mary Wellman in 1880.

Hiram and Mary Wellman were married on 10-24-1870 and came to Sylvania in 1880 after purchasing this home. Mr. Wellman was a veteran of the Civil War, enlisting for 100 days on 6-2-1862 and becoming a Sergeant in Company K of the 67th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. On 9-20-1862 he re-enlisted, serving as a Sergeant in Company L, 16th Illinois Cavalry, from 9-20-1862 to 8-19-1865. During that time, on 1-2-1864, he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was then imprisoned for nine months in the following prisons: Pemberton, Belle Isle, Andersonville, Macon, Charleston, Danville and Libby. He was honorably discharged on 8-19-1865. While he was imprisoned records show that he suffered untold privations. His wounds included a bullet which had passed through his cheek and lodged itself in the side of his head. Doctors could not remove the bullet because it was too close to his brain, so he lived for the rest of his life with that bullet lodged in his head, and lived to be 81 years old.

The 1880 census already shows Hiram and Mary Wellman living in this house with an adopted daughter listed as Nellie Wellman. Hiram was 42 years old, Mary was 40 years old and Nellie was 5 years old. Hiram’s occupation was listed as “painter.”

An article in the Toledo Blade dated 5-9-1896 under the heading of “Sylvania” reads: “Miss Nellie Wellman and James McDowell, of Ottawa Lake, were married by the Rev. of Waterville at the bride’s home, Thursday evening at 6 o’clock. About 70 guests were present.”

According to records, Nellie and her husband James McDowell constructed a residential home just to the south of the Wellman home where they lived for a period of time, and are listed living here at the 1900 census. (That was the house that used to exist at 5658 Main Street before Ernest Schaber had it demolished so he could construct his car sales building, which I talked about in my last article).

As time went on, Mrs. Wellman had to watch Mr. Wellman very closely. The bullet lodged in his head had made him mentally incompetent. Residents of Sylvania said that each day he would make his rounds in and out of the downtown businesses, talking to business owners, talking to customers and generally wasting his day away telling stories about his war battles and imprisonments. Hiram received a small pension from the government throughout the rest of his life for his injury, but it was definitely not enough to support him and his wife. Proof of this fact was found in the 1883 “List of Pensioners on the Roll” where Hiram W. Wellman of Sylvania was listed as receiving a $6 per month pension.

Hiram did earn a little money painting, and village records show payments to him for cleaning the jail, road work and small jobs such as that. However, it is the justice of peace dockets that tell the story of Hiram Wellman’s problems, including arrests for breach of peace, disorderly conduct and assault and battery upon various residents over the years. He died in 1918 and Mrs. Wellman continued to live here. In 1939 she celebrated her 100th birthday on Valentine’s Day and most of the community came out to celebrate with her. Although she was unable to get out of bed, each guest visited with her at her bedside and came to wish her many more birthdays.

So, according to stories told, it was Mary Wellman who pretty much supported the household and an article printed in the 1-16-1933 Sylvania Sentinel newspaper said: “Mrs. Wellman states that there is no kind of work that she hasn’t attempted, even to husking and stacking a field of corn.” It has been said that she operated the business of doing laundry for area residents and that she had a “pounding tub” that she used that could be heard throughout the downtown area. She also did sewing for a local tailor shop and for the local residents, to earn extra money. Old-timers of Sylvania, for years after Mr. Wellman died, said that he still roamed around Sylvania causing havoc.

In 1938, Mrs. Wellman transferred ownership of the home to John Iffland whom she had assigned to handle her affairs. She died in 1940 and was buried next to her husband in Ravine Cemetery. Mr. Iffland sold the house and land on a land contract agreement to the Trustees of the Christian Science Society in 1941. The Sylvania Sentinel newspaper reported on 12-4-1941 the following: “The Mary Wellman house on North Main Street is being remodeled by members of the Christian Science Church so that it can be used as a meeting place. The first floor was made into an auditorium and reading rooms and the second floor was used for Sunday school. The house is one of the oldest buildings in Sylvania and it was purchased from the heirs of Mrs. Mary Wellman. Work on the house started about five weeks ago and it is hoped that it will be completed about the first of the year. Mr. Orlo Thorpe is in charge of the remodeling.”

From 1942 until 1997 The Christian Science Society used this home for their church services and other church functions. A building permit issued in 1951 gave them permission to install a sign in the front yard made in the shape or replica of their church building here. A 1961 building permit allowed a 17’ x 28’6” addition to the structure. The builder at that time was Frank W. Eichenlaub, Inc.

In 1997, the home was sold to Keith and Marsha McHugh, and a building permit was issued in 2002 to Mr. McHugh for a small tool shed addition to the rear of the building and interior remodeling to accommodate a hair salon. Mr. McHugh still operates his salon here today, and the home has definitely received the TLC that it deserves under his care.