Focus on Fostoria - Feb020806

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Published on 02/08/06 in the Fostoria Focus
Early Fostoria had to weather tough weather

By LEONARD SKONECKI Focus Correspondent

Enjoying the winter? We ask because everyone loves to talk about the weather. It’s true today. It was true 180 years ago.
Pioneer Fostorian John Crocker took it a step further. He not only talked about the weather, he wrote it down.
John Crocker was a genuine pioneer and helped found Fostoria. He came to Seneca County in 1823 from New York State.
His daughter, Laura, married the elder Charles Foster, father of the governor. Crocker and Foster went into business together when they moved to the area of Tiffin and Main Streets and established the Foster Store in 1832.
Crocker also kept strict tabs on the weather. He maintained a diary of it from January 1826 to January 1838.
Some of his observations are recorded in the Historical Record of Wood County, published in 1897. Crocker and his fellow settlers had some tough weather to fight.
On Jan. 26, 1826, the temperature chimed in at a brisk 21 degrees below zero. The winter was long as well as hard because on April 10 five inches of snow fell.
The next winter was rough, too. On Jan. 20, 1827, Crocker noted the temperature was 31 below zero.
Summer brought no relief for the farmers. Crocker recorded that squirrels ravaged much of the wheat and corn crops that year.
The winter of 1827-28 arrived early and with a bang. The settlers awoke on Oct. 30, 1827, to snowy skies that blanketed the ground with six inches of the white stuff. Crocker’s entry for March 29, 1828, simply says, “Great flood.” Guess a lot of snow melted in a hurry. The climate seems to have been considerably cooler in those “good old days.” On April 25, 1829, Fostoria enjoyed a two-inch snowfall.
The winter of 1830-31 must have been a doozy. On Dec. 22, 1830, the Crockers and their friends shivered in minus-41 degree air. That wasn’t the end of it. On Feb. 7, 1831, our forebears were wobbled when a blast of 42-degree-below-zero temperatures blanketed the area. Consider what our modern natural gas bills would be in the face of cold like that. On April 8, 1831, two inches of snow fell, but less than a month later the apple trees bloomed. 1832 started out warmer.
Crocker’s diary noted a “Great thaw” in January. There was “high water” in mid-February. Interestingly, Crocker gives the prices of corn in February 1832 as “3 shillings” and rye as “4 shillings.” The shilling is a unit of British currency. Its value in 1832 is anybody’s guess. In 1968, it was worth about 12 cents. By May 8, 1832, some farmers had made three plantings of corn and the apple trees were in bloom. However, Crocker reported that the summer was abnormally cool and much of the corn never ripened.
Crocker’s entry for February 1835 is amazing. It says, “Coldest weather ever known here.” Colder than 41 or 42 degrees below zero? Yikes!
Of course, weather is like everything else. Sometimes you’re low, sometimes you’re high. On Jan. 2, 1838, Crocker said, “Very warm weather.” Farmer John Morrison decided to take advantage of that. On Jan. 6 and 7, Crocker wrote that Morrison spent two days plowing his field.
Crocker was active in Seneca County politics. He was a member of the Whig Party. In 1824, he was elected a trustee in Seneca Township, near Tiffin. In 1832, he served on a committee to nominate candidates for county offices. 1832 is the year Crocker and Foster moved to what is now Fostoria.
Crocker was the father of Roswell Crocker. Roswell is the man who laid out the village of Rome (Tiffin and Main Streets) in 1832.
Crocker and Foster opened their store in November 1832. Crocker and Foster were partners until 1842 when Crocker retired.
The History of Seneca County, written in 1886, contains a sampling of the goods that Crocker and Foster sold — calico, gingham, shirting, flannel, buckram, linen, nails, coffee, tobacco, tea, gun powder, glassware, crockery, wool hats, boots, shoes, medicines, tinware and whiskey. In April 1837, the store’s stock was valued at $2,616.60.
John Crocker died Nov. 11, 1854. There is some poetic justice in that date. When Crocker came to this area, he was one of its first residents.
He watched the birth of the villages of Rome and Risdon and helped guide their development. He lived long enough to see the villages unite in July 1854 and out of that union the city of Fostoria emerged.
It probably made it worth all that cold weather.

(Thanks to reader Rick Clevenger for tipping us off to this item.)


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