Centenial - page4

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1954 Centennial Book

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Page 4


The North Ridge Road ran westward through Risdon and the South Ridge Road ran in the same direction through Rome. There was intense rivalry between the businessmen in the two villages, and in the winter of 1844-45, the businessmen of Risdon petitioned the Seneca County Board to vacate the South Ridge Road. A day was set for the Board to inspect the road. Mr. Charles W. Foster instructed a number of men with sleighs, there being a heavy snow on the ground, to go out the South Ridge and wear down a road on that eventful day. He, himself, rented a front room in a house for the day, hung up a tavern sign, and set up a bar, with what looked like the office of a hotel. When the County Board came along, they were surprised to see that the South Ridge Road had much more traffic than had the North Ridge Road and great was their surprise when they came to the tavern. Mr. Foster "happened along" and asked what they were doing. He was informed that they were inspecting the road with a view to closing it. "What? Closing this road?" said Mr. Foster, "Say, gentlemen, come into the hotel and have something." They went in. The tale of the tremendous traffic was told. They saw the snow packed down by any number of sleighs and the hotel doing any quantity of business. The South Ridge Road was not closed and Rome's business from the west was not cut off.

PIX#3 Charles W. Foster, Sr.

As one reads the rather meager biographies of the Fosters, father and son, one cannot help but be impressed with their energy, their initiative, and the manysidedness of their abilities and accomplishments. They seem to represent the true American pioneer spirit and courage. Sometimes, it may seem to us, of today, to have been a bit ruthless, a bit crafty, but always looking ahead. It was the spirit which conquered the frontier., and made our State and Nation what it is today.

Charles W. Foster, Sr., was born November 11, 1800, in North Braintree, Worcester County, Massachusetts and came west with his parents in 1818, stopping for a few years in Monroe County, New York. Here young Foster seems to have met a girl by the name of Laura Crocker, who with her parents moved into Seneca County, Oho, in 1823. In 1826, the Fosters followed and also settled near Tiffin, where Charles Foster, Sr., married Laura Crocker in 1827. For two years the couple remained in Seneca Township, and here in her father's home, on April 12,1828, Laura Foster bore her first son, who was named Charles W. Foster, Jr. The next year, in 1829, the Fosters moved into Hopewell Township, where they had secured on hundred sixty acres of unimproved land. Mr. Foster sold this land in 1832, and with his father-in-law, John Crocker, who was rather better off than the Fosters, opened up a general store in a log house, located on a town site platted on August 31, by Roswell Crocker, son of John Crocker. This store was just west of the "Old Foster Block" on the southwest corner of Main and Tiffin Streets. The new town was named Rome. The new store, the first in what is now Fostoria, was a partnership under the name of Crocker and Foster. In 1842, Mr. Foster became the sole owner of the store. Two years later, Charles Foster, Jr. left Norwalk Academy, where he was studying, to assist his father in the store, being sixteen years of age. Two years later, at the age of eighteen, he became a full partner, the store being under the name of Charles W. Foster and Son. In 1854, Charles W. Jr., married Annie Olmsted, daughter of Judge Olmsted of Fremont.Two years later, a Mr. Olmsted, a brother-in-law of Charles Jr. entered the firm, and it became known as Foster, Olmsted and Co. Over the years, the firm prospered. Its original capital in 1832, was about $2,000.00, and in the first year, it did a business of about $3,000.00, with furs and skins furnishing most of the medium of exchange. As the years passed, and the area became settled, the Fosters bought and sold wheat, wool, other grains, lumber, or whatever the community produced. In 1873, the capital stock had increased to $75,000.00 with an across the counter business of $175,000.00 and a gross business of at least $1,000,000.00.

Six children were born to Charles and Laura Foster of whom three grew to maturity; Charles Jr., John, and Emily. His biographer says of Mr. Foster, "He was a man of character, and his methods of doing business won him thousands of friends. The House of Foster contributed largely to every enterprise that tended to build up the town and country." Mr. Foster never became the public figure that his more famous son did, but for several years he served as Justice of the Peace of his township, and was postmaster of Rome during the Presidency of James K. Polk (1845-1849). He died in April 26, 1883 at the age of 83 years.

PIX#4 - Charles W. Foster, Jr.

We have already said much about the early life of this, the most illustrious citizen of Fostoria, a worthy son of a worthy father. After his marriage to Annie Olmsted, two daughters were born to them, Jessie and Annie. During the Civil War, Charles, Jr. remained in Fostoria, attending to the duties of the growing store and politics, his Democratic rivals twitted him about this, saying that while other men fought for the country, he remained safely behind the counter selling calico to the soldiers' wives. But his friends took up the challenge and calico neckties became the trademark of the followers of "Calico Charlie."

In his first political trial, he lost the election when the Democrats who controlled one county, threw out all the votes cast for him. In 1870, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from the Ninth District. After the state was redistricted, he was re-elected for three more successive two-year terms from the 10th District, serving from 1870 to 1879. While he was in the House, he cast the only Republican vote to set up the Electoral Commission which was to decide the contested Hayes-Tilden Election of 1876. He later served as Chairman of the Sub-committee which visited New Orleans to decide the contest in Louisiana. Hayes was elected by one vote, although Tilden had a popular plurality of 250,000 votes. He failed to be elected to the U.S. Senate in 1880, the election of Senators at that time being in the hands of the General Assembly. In 1880, he became the Republican candidate for Governor of Ohio, and was elected. He served with distinction and was re-elected to a second term, serving from 1880 to 1884. He was out of office for several years, but in 1891, he was appointed Secretary of the Treasury of the U.S. by President Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893). He also served as Chairman of a commission appointed by President Harrison to negotiate a treaty with the Sioux Indians of the West, which he did successfully.

In 1887, he became the President of the Board of Trustees of the Toledo State Hospital, serving the rest of his life, and in 1895, he became President of the Association of Trustees and Officers of Hospitals for the Insane, which office he held until his death in 1904, being in his 76th year. What is his monument? There is no statue of him anywhere. One short street far out bears his name, Foster Park, where stood the Foster homes the community could not afford to preserve, is becoming a parking lot for cars and idlers. It can be said of his memory though, as the inscription in London's great Cathedral of St. Paul's says of its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, "Ye who would seek his monument, look about you!" Fostoria is the monument to Charles W. Foster, father and son.

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Information courtesy of Joan Fleming

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