Focus on Fostoria - Feb2005

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Published on 02/20/05 in the Fostoria Focus
Foster family returns home, at least for a little while
By LEONARD SKONECKI
Focus Correspondent

Throughout 2004, there was a lot of talk around town about Charles Foster and the establishment of Fostoria. But that’s the problem.

We tend to think of the Fosters in the past tense. But just because none of Calico Charlie’s relatives live in Fostoria doesn’t mean the Foster family isn’t still a going concern.

It is. What’s more, several of the family visited Fostoria during 2004.

Jessemae Noritake of Tennessee and her sister, Edith McCorkle, and Edith’s daughter, Dee Premer of Nebraska, and Joan Condit of Toledo were all here at one time or another. Joan is Jessemae and Edith’s cousin.

Jessemae, Edith and Joan are all great-granddaughters of Charles Foster (1828-1904), the governor of Ohio, four-term congressman and Secretary of the Treasury for President Benjamin Harrison. They are the great-great-granddaughters of the elder Charles Foster, the man for whom Fostoria is named.
Edith, Dee and Jessemae were here shortly after our Sesquicentennial. They came for two reasons.
They wanted to visit the Fostoria Area Historical Museum to see the Charles Foster Room. And they were on their way to Columbus for an event planned by Ohio’s First Lady, Hope Taft.

Mrs. Taft organized a “Governors’ Reunion,” an event designed to bring together family members of all of Ohio’s past governors. The reunion was held Aug. 8 at the Governor’s Mansion. Edith, Jessemae and Joan all attended.

Each family was asked to prepare 1) family stories about their governor, 2) a list of famous acquaintances, and 3) an answer to the question: how would you like your ancestor who served as governor to be remembered.

Edith, Jessemae and Joan said they wanted Charles Foster to remembered for his “intellect, keen political acumen, compassion, keen business sense, and his compelling sense of fairness and justice in government.”

“Hope, the First Lady, is very interested in history and got this started,” Edith said. “The first one like this was 100 years ago.”

During the course of their visits, the Foster family met with Mel and Jean Murray and with George Gray. Mel wrote an award-winning biography of Charles Foster and George is the president of the Fostoria Area Historical Society.

In the reference department of the Kaubisch Memorial Public Library, Mel, Jessemae, Edith and Dee spent several hours looking over materials at the library.

Dee was especially intrigued by a letter Gov. Foster wrote to a Methodist minister in Berea in 1880 explaining his position on the liquor issue in Ohio.

Edith and Jessemae brought two plates. It seems both Jesse and Annie Foster, Gov. Foster’s daughters, had an artistic flair.

They like to hand paint china tableware. Both of them also painted their initials on the plates’ undersides.

Annie’s plate is Oriental in design. It has two purplish flowers in the foreground beneath golden clouds.
Her initials are very stylized. The “A” and “F” are blended into one figure with the right downstroke of the “A” forming the spine of her “F.”

The date ‘89 indicates she painted it in 1889. Since that was after Foster was governor and before he served in President Benjamin Harrison’s cabinet, the plate was almost surely painted here in Fostoria.
Family stories are often more engaging than the historical record. One of the unexplained items in the museum is a black and white portrait of a dog.

It appears to be a retriever, perhaps. It turns out that the dog was Gov. Foster’s and that he was quite fond of it, though the pooch’s name is now forgotten.

Many of the items in the museum’s Foster Room once furnished the governor’s office. One such item is a large conference table capable of seating over a dozen.

Now one can easily imagine Gov. Foster presiding over a meeting of his cabinet — men of importance — discussing weighty matters of public policy — taxation, transportation, and the like.

Edith and Jessemae have different memories of that particular table. When they were girls, they cleared it off and played ping pong on it.

“We used to have some wicked games,” Edith said.

In addition, the Foster descendants are baseball fans. They were very pleased to learn that Foster not only was a fan himself, but played the game.

In 1866, Foster took a hand in organizing the second regular team Fostoria ever had, the Morning Glorys, so named because they practiced at five o’clock in the morning, no doubt to the great delight of the folks who lived near what was an open field at the corner of Poplar and McDougal Streets.

The Foster family seemed to enjoy their visits to Fostoria during the year just passed. They are justifiably proud of their ancestor and his service to the city of Fostoria, the state of Ohio and the United States.

“It’s so nice to see some of the old things again,” Jessemae said.

It was also nice for some of us to get reacquainted with the Foster family and to learn more about the man who is Fostoria’s more important historical figure.

We hope we get the chance to visit with them again sometime.