Focus on Fostoria - Jun1905

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Published on 06/19/05 in the Fostoria Focus
Signing off on home remodeling

By LEONARD SKONECKI Focus Correspondent

Never know where home remodeling might lead. Sometimes it leads backwards, into the past, even into the long, long ago.

Tim and Amie Pelton recently purchased their home on College Avenue. Theirs is a nice, big place, just right for raising their kids, Iona and Thomas.

Tim said one portion of the upstairs of the house hadn’t been occupied for a number of years. One of those rooms seemed perfect for a bedroom for Iona.

So armed with scrapers and other assorted tools, Tim and Amie began taking off the old paint and wallpaper. That’s two layers of wallpaper and four different colors of paint.

When they finally got down to the bare walls, they discovered the walls weren’t so bare, after all. Two folks left calling cards long ago and Amie and Tim uncovered them.

There were two signatures on the walls of Iona’s room. One fellow just signed his last name: “Caldwell, April 28, 1886.” The other person signed “F.A. Sommers, April 23, 1896.”

It’s a good bet that these two were workmen who did painting or papering. The Focus did a story some years back on a signature in the McNerney home north of town when Elaine Myers discovered a signature, “Jesse James,” that bore a striking resemblance to the famous outlaw’s handwriting.

Elaine said that it was traditional for painters and wallpaperers to write their names on walls before they worked on them.

That’s a good bet in the case of Tim and Amie’s house. There’s no city directory for 1886, but in 1896, a Willis Campbell was living there.

Caldwell appears to be Silas Caldwell. Silas was born in Fostoria in 1865.

After his wife Ann died, Silas moved into the YMCA where he was living when he passed away in 1948 at the age of 82. He was a member of the Moose and Fostoria United Sportsmen.

F.A. Sommers was Fred Somers. It seems his name was spelled both ways. Maybe Fred didn’t mind. When he died in 1953, his obituary appeared under the name Fred A. Summer.

He also wrote his “F” in such a way that it looked like a “T.”

Fred’s wife, Edith, died in 1925. Fred was born in 1866 and was 87 when he died.

Both Fred and Silas’ obits identify them as painters or contractors so I’m confident these are the fellows who left their autographs at Pelton’s to be discovered after all these years.

Both Silas and Fred were identified as painters in the 1889-1890 city directory. Fred lived on Sandusky Street at that time. Silas lived on Summit Street and was in business for a time with his brother William.
Fred and Silas continue to appear in the city directories, variously identified as “painters,” “painters and paper hangers” or “contractors” until the late 1930s.

In 1938, Silas Caldwell is listed as “retired.” Fred Somers’ retirement isn’t indicated in the directories.
Silas was a restless cuss. He lived on Summit Street, West Center, East Tiffin, and West Fremont before settling on North Union around 1903. He lived there for over 30 years.

Fred hopped around a lot, too. He lived on Sandusky Street, Columbus Avenue, Leonard Street, West Fremont, Railroad Street, East Center, East Fremont and North Main.

That’s not the only connection that the Peltons have to Fostoria area history. Tim’s great-grandfather was Burr Pelton.

If you’ve ever eaten “Pelton’s Popcorn,” then you have a tie to Burr Pelton, too. He started Pelton’s Popcorn, a brand which is still made, though not any longer by the Pelton family.

Fred and Silas weren’t very special, I guess. Just a couple of ordinary working Joes. But we can imagine that they probably took some pride in their craft. That’s why they left their names.

They probably wrote their names on walls all over Fostoria. Maybe they chuckled to themselves each time, thinking that someday someone would strip the walls, find their names and wonder who they were.
They were right. We did wonder. And now that we know, we’re glad to make their acquaintance.