Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)

100 years

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Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)

Choosing the top story of the year for the past 100 years is a formidable task. During nearly two months of research (scanning the front pages of every local newspaper edition since 1899) the following list resulted, my choices, of the top stories of the year.

There were some years when there was no clear-cut top story and other years when I had to decide from among as many as five or six top stories. In some cases, I have listed co-winner or a second or third choice.

Some may differ with individual year selections, but I think all agree that the selections presented here cover the most important local events of the past 10 decades.

In the early days, fires and explosions were rather commonplace and Fostoria experienced many of them.

Many of the buildings in the early part of the century were of wood construction, there were no sprinkler systems and the local fire department, in the early years, consisted of volunteers with horse-drawn equipment.

Information courtesy of William Cline


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Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)

1899- (More about the year)

The big story in 1899 was a happy one, the arrival in Fostoria of the 90 members of Company D, 6th Regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. They rode a train into town on May 26, following the end of the Spanish- American War.

A large parade and a reception were held in honor of the soldiers who had been away for approximately 13 months. The streets were jammed as the parade moved west on High Street and down Main Street from High to Center Street where the welcoming ceremonies were held.

The reception was held at the Odd Fellows Hall on June 1.

Three members of Company D had been killed in the war. They were W. W. Dale, Roscoe Kistner and Armitage Green.


1900- (More about the year)

In 1900, an explosion, which occurred in the powder room of the Columbia Firecracker plant, rocked the community.

The plant was located on Sycamore Street, just off South Union Street and employed 66 people. The 18-by-20-foot building was destroyed and at least seven men and boys were severely burned. One of the victims, 25-year-old Delano Eberhardt, died the following day.


1901- (More about the year)

There was no hospital here in 1900, but on Aug. 19, 1901 a semi-public hospital was opened by Mr. and Mrs. C. Fletcher, at 645 N. Main St., in the house adjoining England's grocery store.

There were fifteen large airy rooms in the house and they were supplied with all the (then) modern conveniences.

Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher both had considerable experience in nursing and were prepared to furnish nurses for any kind of trouble.

They received the assurances of the physicians of the city that such a place was greatly needed and that the doctors would send them all the business they could.


1902- (More about the year)

The fire department was called to the U.S. Signal Co. plant, on the local fair grounds, on July 11, 1902.

Their quick response saved the filling room, but the finishing room building was burned to the ground with its contents including about 250 gross of torpedoes, 30 gross of fusees and a considerable amount of stock. The loss was estimated at about $1,000.

Six days later, the fire fiend again visited the plant site leaving the three remaining buildings and their contents in ruin. This time, the damage was estimated at over $7,000. The plant was owned by M. M. Carr and Phil Peter.

Later that same year, on Dec. 9, fire destroyed the Fostoria Glass Specialty Co., leaving only the furnace standing.

The company had been organized the previous summer and had given employment to 125 people.

The site of the plant seem to be ill-fated as it was the third glass factory to have burned at that spot, the Calcine plant having been twice burned.

The loss was estimated at between $40,000 and $50,000.


1903- (More about the year)

Probably the worst accident in the history of Fostoria occurred on Feb. 16, 1903 when an explosion took place in "the bullet factory," a building, just north of the B & O tracks on South Main Street, occupied as a facility for the manufacture of explosives used in the Fox Magazine Cane. Eight workers were killed in the blast including two sisters, Alice Mompher, 19 and Jennie Mompher, 16. A ninth person died the following day.

The cause was not known, but plant manager Robert Short laid the blame on a new fanning mill, recently put in and being run experimentally.

Several of the badly burned rolled in the snow to quench the flames and were then taken into the Hotchkiss saloon where medical aid was called for them.

The eight who lost their lives in the fire rushed for the front door, which opened inward. Their bodies were all found huddled about the door.

Oh yes, the Columbia Firecracker Co., which had rebuilt after the earlier fire, was again destroyed by flames earlier in the year.


1904- (More about the year)

Still another fire, in January of 1904, destroyed most of the Ohio Normal College building on College Avenue, with the exception of the one-story portion used as a chapel and lecture room.

When firefighters arrived, the fire was confined to the music room, the northeast room of the building. The department responded as quickly as conditions of the streets would permit, and in comparatively short time, had the flames under control. They were almost ready to desist when flames broke out in the third story.

Had the institution not been destroyed by flames, it was among the leading contenders to become the site of a new college in northwest Ohio, which instead located in Bowling Green.

The building was erected in 1879 and was known as the Fostoria Academy, erected by the United Brethren Church as a denominational school.

Another sad blow for the city that year was the death of the Hon. Charles Foster on Jan. 9.

The former governor and secretary of the treasury was stricken with paralysis shortly before midnight at the home of a friend in Springfield. The two men intended to go to Columbus the following Monday for the inauguration of Governor-elect Herrick. Mr. Foster was born in a log cabin, on a farm in Seneca Township, near Tiffin on April 12, 1828, and came to this area with his parents at the age of 4.

He was Fostoria's first treasurer and held other local offices before defeating Edward Dickinson for congress in 1870. After eight years in the congress, and four years as governor, he was secretary of the treasury in the cabinet of President Harrison.


1905- (More about the year)

A meeting of stockholders of the new Seneca Wire & Manufacturing Co. was held on Nov. 20, 1905 in the rooms of the the Columbia Club.

It was decided to select the site of the old Seneca Glass Co. on Vine Street as the location for the new plant. The company was capitalized at $100,000.

Less than a month later, ground was broken for a 60-by-64-foot main building plus engine and boiler room and a packing house, to be constructed by J. H. Jones at a cost of $10,000.


1906- (More about the year)

The big story of 1906 was the March 12 train wreck at Godsend, five miles west of the city.

Two freight trains and one passenger train were involved. Two men were killed and 16 passengers were injured.

A snow storm, the worst of the winter, was the probable prime cause of the wreck as it not only prevented the train men from seeing any distance ahead, but made the tracks so slippery that their efforts to stop in time were to no avail.

First reports reaching Fostoria indicated about 50 killed or injured and the services of all the physicians in the city were requested. A switch engine was hastily hitched to a box car and six doctors were taken to the scene.

Many of the passengers were brought to town and taken to the Sherwood Hotel. Two ambulances and a number of cabs were awaiting them.

By this time, there was a steady stream of horse and buggy rigs making their way out the ridge road. The snow was beating in the faces of the drivers, almost blinding them, and the roads were in such condition that few would have cared to have made the trip for anything less urgent. From 500 to 1,000 people must have visited the scene.

The train's fireman and a postal clerk were listed as fatalities.

One of the injured, an express messenger, closed a bad scalp wound with postage stamps.


1907- (More about the year)

The worst gas accident in Fostoria was reported on Jan. 17, 1907.

Three people were dead and one was apparently in dying condition. The dead were 52-year-old Clement Leidy, 26-year-old John Kreais and Kreais' 17-month-old son. Mrs. Kreais was barely alive.

The victims were discovered by the Kreais' son-in-law Lon Shuman. Two gas jets from the cookstove were on.

Shuman summoned a neighbor and Dr. A. E. Watson. They threw the doors and windows open wide, but no one thought to shut off the burners until Dr. Watson realized that the fumes were not diminishing and finally turned off the gas.

Superintendent Frey of the Logan Gas Co. visited the home and found the stove pipe and chimney also completely filled with soot. The family had been burning gas for about three months, changing from coal without cleaning out the chimney.


1908- (More about the year)

Another tragedy was listed in 1908 when three young children burned to death on July 25. The victims were Lillie, 5, Goldie, 4 and Benjmin, 15 months, children of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Doke who lived on East Tiffin Street just outside the city limits. The father was working and the mother had gone for groceries when the flames broke out. The cause of the fire was not known.

Goldie was blind and crippled as a result of an attack of scarlet fever two years earlier.


1909- (More about the year)

In 1909 Fostoria had two mayors at the same time and neither would give up his duties.

Carl Anderson, who was elected mayor in November of 1907, was elected to the position of congressman from Ohio's 13th district in March of 1909 and left for Washington.

By act of Fostoria City Council, Anderson was disposed from the office of mayor and Vice Mayor Frank Gebert was declared to have succeeded to the duties of the office. The resolution declared that the office of mayor was abandoned when Anderson left Fostoria to assume his duties in the nation's capital. Anderson refused to give up the local office claiming that he could fill both positions. He fired off a telegram to the council saying, "Have not resigned, do not intend to."

Anderson authorized Justice J. R. Bradner to hold criminal court here in Anderson's absence and his lawyer filed suit to recover any monies paid to Mr. Gebert. Both Gebert and Anderson appointed a member to the board of public service.

Several courts refused to consider the matter saying they had no jurisdiction in the case. Finally, in July, Judge Baldwin of Seneca County issued a temporary injunction restraining Mr. Gebert from interfering with Mr. Anderson in the performance of his duties as mayor whereupon Mr. Anderson appointed Clyde Johnson to act in his stead while he was in Washington. Anderson also appointed N. Burtscher as director of public service and Peter Gardner as director of public safety.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)


On Nov. 2, J. R. Bradner was elected mayor. He took office on Jan. 1, 1910 and the two-mayor controversy was ended.

Fostoria's hopes, that the city would be chosen for the location of one of the state normal schools, were dashed in November, 1919 by the decision of a state commission that the school would be placed in Bowling Green. That school is now Bowling Green State University.

The cities of Fremont, Napoleon and Upper Sandusky were also vying to host the state school for Northwest Ohio, but Fostoria at that time had a lot of political clout. As the site of the former Normal College, destroyed by fire in 1904, city leaders thought Fostoria had the best chance to land the school.


1911- (More about the year)

The Fostoria Commercial Club, a forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, was organized in January of 1911. The first president was D. P. McCarthy; first vice president, W. S. Sutliff; second vice president, C. A. Strauch; secretary, George E. Reed; and treasurer, Don Mickey.

At the first meeting of the 15 directors, McCarthy appointed two committees; one on manufacturing and commerce; and the other on membership and entertainment. The group went on to work hard to bring new business and industry into the city and to assist in the retention of firms already in business here.

Also in 1911, the trustees of the newly-formed Y.M.C.A. voted to accept the recommendation of the building committee for the purchase of the Emerine and Henry properties at the corner of Center and Wood streets for $6,800 (that included three buildings on the site).



On Oct. 1, 1912, Congressman Carl C. Anderson was instantly killed when the auto in which he was riding over-turned on the New Riegel Road, two-and-a-half miles south of Fostoria. Russell Knepper, Democratic candidate for prosecuting attorney in Seneca County was badly hurt and Paul Myers, the chauffeur, was thrown through a fence. His left arm was broken. Charles Scharf, the fourth member of the party wa uninjured except for some bruises.

A passing motorist took Mr. Myers to the Shuman garage in Fostoria to get help. Several doctors and other citizens responded and lifted the auto from the dead congressman.

The quartet left Fostoria earlier in the evening for a campaign trip to Alvada and New Riegel.

Myers said that Anderson urged him to speed up so that Mr. Knepper could catch the last interurban car to Tiffin. As he approached a double curve in the road, Myers continued straight ahead and into the ditch.



In March of 1913, Ohio and Indiana were devastated by floods. Nearby Tiffin was particurlarly hard hit as were Findlay and Fremont.

More than 2,000 lives were lost in the two states with property damage estimated in excess of $50,000,000. More than 500 lives were lost in Ohio.

Mayor W. M. Ralston of Fostoria issued the following statement. "In view of the fact that our city has been signally blessed and favored, while our neighbor cities have been visited by devastating floods, in consequence of which great suffering and deprivation must surely follow; as mayor of Fostoria I call upon all charitably minded citizens to organize at once in a spirit of thankfulness to relieve any and all suffering, from whatever source it may come, by contributions of money, clothing and food supplies".

Governor Cox appealed to the United States Government for 50,000 tents and 100,000 rations. The national guard was called out, but movement of troops was at a standstill because most trains were annulled.



The Y.M.C.A. and the McClean Public Library shared honors as both held formal openings in 1914. The new $76,000 Y building was dedicated on May 10. A four-day schedule of activities preceded the official dedication ceremonies. D. P. McCarthy was president of the board. E. W. Allen chaired the building committee. A. H. Lichty of the state association delivered an inspiring message.

The new McClean Public Library was opened to the people of Fostoria on Nov. 11. A constant line of delighted visitors passed through the building between 6:30 and 10 p.m.

The thousands of visitors were greatly impressed with the well-graded lawn, the drinking fountains, the cannon dedicated to the city, and the high standard lamps on the street.

Rules, laws and regulations governing the library were presented by the Assistant Librarian, Mrs. Ella Robbins.



In 1915, the numerous buildings and grounds of the General Electric Co., on Poplar Street at the B & O railroad tracks, were saved for Fostoria.

A land company was formed by a number of loyal citizens who purchased the property from GE with a cash down payment of $15,000. Officers of the land company announced that the buildings would not be wrecked, but would be rented to industries of Fostoria or to outsiders wishing to locate here.

One interested businessman commented, "There is no reason why 2,000 men should not be employed in these plants in the various industries within a year.

Fostoria had a population of 10,542 in 1915, an increase of 9.9 percent over five years earlier. Fremont was credited with 10,698, an increase of 7.6 percent and Tiffin had 12,351, an increase of 3.9 percent.

Fostoria actually showed a bigger increase than any similar-size city in Ohio with the exception of Barberton, which gained 33.2 percent. Fostoria was then known as the "Biggest Little Town" in the state, located on six railroads and four interurbans, surrounded by a farming district that cannot be beaten and with a bunch of boosters ready at all times to do things for a bigger and busier Fostoria.


1916- (More about the year)

On June 19, 1916, Co. D Fostoria, Sixth Regiment, National Guard, was ordered to assemble and await orders preparatory to mobilizing with other regiments, at Columbus, for duty in Mexico.

The company, along with others, would be sent to guard the Mexican border while the regulars went into Mexico.

Captain Nichols and his officers were busy rounding up their men and ordering them to report to the armory on East North Street. The local company would be recruited to 65 and when that number was reached, would move at once to Columbus. First Lieutenant E. A. Kurtz would remain here to recruit an additional 138 men and three officers. Major George W. Cunningham was the commanding officer of Company D.

The first contingent left Fostoria on July 1 for Camp Willis, Columbus. The entire city turned out to pay them honor and wish them God-speed.

Veterans of two wars and hundreds of fraternal and patriotic organization members, city officials, firemen, men, women and children marched to the Hocking Valley depot where thousands of others were awaiting their arrival.

Factory and locomotive whistles were blowing, bells were ringing, flags were waving and people were applauding and cheering.

On Sept. 6, Company D left Columbus for El Paso, Texas.



The big story in 1917 was a plan by the Allen Motor Car Company to expand, then form an additional company, and increase Fostoria's population by at least 2,000.

With scenes resembling a flurry on the stock exchange, The Dale Body Co. stock, in the sum of $100,000, was not only subscribed, but was over-subscribed by $10,000.

The results were announced at a banquet given by 290 loyal Fostorians at the Odd Fellows Hall under the auspices of the local Chamber of Commerce. It was said to be the largest gathering of men ever held in Seneca County.

E. W. Allen told the group, "We have outgrown our present quarters at Center and North streets (where the post office now stands) and would like to locate our plant on fifty-five acres of land in connection with our present body plant, formerly known as the Peabody Buggy Factory."

Allen requested that all of that territory be included in the city of Fostoria, "bounded on the west by the county line; on the north by the public highway, running east and west in Jackson Township, between sections 30 and 31; on the east by the Hocking Valley Railroad and on the south by the present corporation line."

On the downside, the Gray Printing & Engraving plant was almost completely destroyed by fire on Jan. 13, 1917, with a loss estimated at $20,000.

The flames started in the basement, supposedly from the automatic gas furnace, and burned along the floor until it reached the elevator shaft where it quickly ascended and spread through the upper floors.



The pages of the local newspapers were dominated by war news from Europe in 1918, but the biggest headline was on Nov. 7. It simply said, "WAR ENDS."

The story indicated that, "The greatest war in history of all time came to an end at 2 p.m. today. The allies and Germany signed an armistice three hours earlier on the field of battle after the German delegation had come into the allied lines under a white flag.

A huge parade took place in Fostoria on Nov. 11 which was proclaimed as Armistice Day, now called Veteran's Day. Twenty Fostoria men were killed in the war.

Another major story in 1918 was the $165,000 fire on March 28 which destroyed the three-story block on North Main Street, built in 1906 by Ira Cadwallader and occupied the greater part of the time by the Kiebel-Wilson Co.

The fire had gained such headway before being discovered that the entire building was a mass of seething flames which quickly spread across the open court at the rear, igniting and endangering the Botto-Lavagill building on the corner of North and Main streets.


1919- (More about the year)

In June of 1919 announcement was made that papers were being prepared for the incorporation of the Fostoria Tool and Machine Co., capitalized at $100,000.

The Allen Motor Car Company had moved from Fostoria to Columbus (certainly a major story in and of itself) and Fostoria Machine and Tool Co. took over the old Allen factory building at North and Center streets. They also took an option of the bonded warehouse building just west of the Allen building.

The new owners reportedly planned to raze the old building on the corner and erect a substantial four-story structure of brick. They hoped to employ 50 men at the outset, eventually increasing to 250.

Steady employment was promised as tools had already been contracted for by the largest manufacturing firms throughout the United States.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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Fostoria's Past: A Century of history in the making
By Gene Kinn
Staff writer (The Review Times)


In April of 1920, a front page story announced that the Willys Corp. of Toledo would take over the old Peabody Buggy Co. plant and would erect and operate a branch factory of the Toledo Auto-Light Co. here.

The story indicated the Willys firm would install at once an ignition plant employing, "just as many men as there are housing accommodations for them; to also have an auto parts plant and later a body plant; and to fill the 55 acres purchased with factories of different sorts just as fast as Fostoria can care for the increased population.



The big story in 1921 was, "The Big Four is going to stop in Fostoria."

For several years the Big Four did not stop here, although their trains passed through the city. Every possible effort was made during the years to get them to stop. Finally, an ordinance was passed establishing a four-mile per hour speed limit for Big Four trains passing through town.

The railroad obtained a federal injunction restraining Mayor F. M. Hopkins from enforcing the ordinance. Negotiations were then opened up between city officials and attorneys and officers of the railroad resulting in an agreement to stop and to pick up and discharge passengers here.



Three new factories high-lighted the news in 1922.

An announcement was made on Jan. 11, indicating that the Fostoria-Bellevue Rubber Co. had purchased the upper glass factory and would start operations as soon as the building could be put into shape and the machinery secured.

The new concern was expected to give employment to nearly 100 men and women and to double their output and payroll within a year.

H. B. Skinner, president and general manager of the company, said they would manufacture commercial rubber articles such as hose, jar rings, foot pads, balloons, nipples, gaskets, etc. They also had a large order on hand for rubber heels.

The company previously had a small operation in Bellevue.

On Jan. 13, it was announced that Pierce Body Co., a newly organized manufacturing concern would start production Feb. 1 hiring 12-15 men at the outset. A big feature of their production was to be a four-door sedan body for the Ford automobile.

On Jan. 16, another front page story revealed that Ohio Alloys Co. had purchased the Loudon Glass plant on Hissong Avenue and would begin remodeling the building at once. There was said to be, "every assurance that employees will have steady work and that it will not be long before a considerable force will be engaged."



Fostoria High School band, under the baton of Jack Wainwright, won the national high school band contest in Chicago on June 7, 1923, carrying with it a $1,000 prize. When Jack and the band returned to Fostoria on June 11, thousands of Fostorians and people from the rural districts crowded the platform and all available space in the vicinity of the Nickel Plate station a half hour or more before their train was scheduled to arrive.

According to the newspaper account, "never has there been such a homecoming for a school-boy organization. Never were returning victors greeted with a more whole-hearted tribute of welcome than given the Fostoria High School band boys.


1924 (More about the year)

On June 5, 6 and 7 of 1924, Fostoria hosted the state high school band contest. Nine of the finest school boy musical organizations in the state gathered here for this first annual tournament. The local band won the title.

Also in early May of 1924, property damage running into thousands of dollars was suffered by farmers living south of Fostoria when a tornado swept through the area.

Roofs were torn off houses, barns were blown down, trees were uprooted or snapped off at the base and early garden crops were cut to shreds. Incredibly, there were no injuries to persons or livestock reported.



Tragedy and the New Year arrived almost simultaneously when two local young men were killed and a third was seriously injured in an auto accident in Tiffin.

The accident occurred at 2 a.m. on Jan. 1 at Market and Monroe streets when their car crashed into the Tiffin City Hall.

The dead were Ruhel Freese, 18, son of W. A. Freese of West High Street and a senior at Fostoria High School; Abraham Abowd, 22, son of George Abowd of 581 Maple Street, a clerk in his father's confectionery store here. The injured man was William Kovaschitz, 26, son of Stephen Kovaschitz of Columbus Avenue, a real estate dealer in Cleveland. Kovaschitz was the driver.

Two other occupants of the car escaped without injury. One was C. E. Morris, an employee of the Nickel Plate Railroad. The other man had been at a party with the others and had joined them, but neither Morris or Kovaschitz knew the man who disappeared after the crash.



Ground was broken early in September, 1926 for the erection of the first of 12 large modern factory buildings which were to constitute a gigantic expansion and development program of the National Carbon Co., Inc. in Fostoria.

The expansion, to be completed in the spring of 1928, meant an expenditure of several millions of dollars (somewhere between 4 and 5-million). When completed, the Fostoria plant would be one of the most modern plants in the world for the manufacture of carbon products.

Earlier in the year, the Electric Auto Lite Co. acquired the Bosch Ignition Co. According to Dwight Sampson, superintendent of the local plant, between 250 and 400 more employees would be taken on to care for the increased production of the combined plants.

Also, in 1926 Fostoria hosted the national high school band contest, featuring eight hundred boys and girls from every section of the nation.

The dozen bands competing came from Ohio, Michigan, Utah, Iowa, Indiana, Texas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York and Illinois.

The band from Joliet, Ill. won the contest. Fostoria High was graded six-tenths of a point below Joliet and was awarded second honors.

As part of that national contest, the National School Band Association was formed here with Hy Lammers of Ogden, Utah as president. J. W. Wainwright of Fostoria was elected second vice president.



An unidentified man was burned to death and another man was reported in critical condition after a $100,000 fire totally destroyed the Union Stock Yards here on Sept. 2, 1927. Approximately 500 head of livestock were killed.

The unidentified man was thought to be a transient who was in town repairing awnings for several local businessmen. His body was charred beyond recognition, but a small packet of needles and tools, used in awning repairs, was found nearby.

The fire was discovered at about 1:30 a.m. by E. Stahl, the night man employed by the stock yards.



Another fire, on Feb. 2, 1928, destroyed the millwork department and storage yards of the Fostoria Lumber and Supply Co. on West North Street. It was said to be, "one of the most spectacular fires Fostoria has ever experienced."

The loss was conservatively estimated at $80,000.

The north end residential section of the city was thrown into total darkness for several hours when it was found necessary to sever a number of power lines for the protection of firemen fighting the blaze. Telephone cables serving several hundred residents of the west section of the city were melted and burned through by the intense heat.

Another big story in 1928 was news, on Dec. 10, that Fostoria would have an airport. The site was already selected, the James Cullen farm of 100 acres on McDougal Road, just over a mile east of Main Street.


1929 (More about the year)

A hangar was to be erected within a month or so and three Swallow airplanes had been purchased, with delivery of the first one set for early March of 1929. The new facility was to be operated by Earl Emrtson, proprietor of the Emerson Garage here.

Three downtown business blocks were gutted and the post office building was seriously threatened in a spectacular fir on Dec. 4, 1929.

The entire stock of the Franklin Store was demolished, 19 used cars and one new one stored on the second floor of the Brandeberry-Dodge Garage were destroyed, and the Park Bowling Alley, owned by Harry Aldrich, where the fire is believed to have started, was completely gutted.

Equipment in offices and studios above the Franklin Store and the bowling alley were also destroyed, including a piano and a valuable collection of relics and antiques owned by H. J. Adams. Fireman Charles Wise was severely burned, but remained on the job.

The total loss was estimated at $100,000.

Another big story in 1929 was the opening of Fostoria's new filtration and softening plant on Jan. 27. The plant was said to be one of the most modern in the country, featuring the very latest ideas and most modern methods in water purification.

Information courtesy of William Cline



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