12 things you didn’t know about Stark County

From secret stories to famous folks, we dug up some little-known information you should know.

From secret stories to famous folks, we dug up some little-known information you should know.

secrets_starkEstablished in 1808 Gen. John Stark never stepped a foot into our neck of the woods, but his last name labels us.

We are … Stark County.

Established in 1808.

BUT … Who is John Stark? Why are we named after him?

First, Stark was a famous hero in the Revolutionary War at the Battle of Bennington in Vermont. He was born in 1728 and lived 94 years. He still was alive when our county was founded.

He also fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill and helped free Boston from British control.

According to the website starkcoohio.com, Stark was the oldest surviving general of the Revolutionary War in 1808, the same year Stark County was established.

Perhaps that connection gives a nod to the name selection as that time.

At least 10 places in the U.S. were named after Stark and/or his wife, Molly, including the former Molly Stark Hospital in Nimishillen Township.

Molly was known for her success as a nurse to her husband’s troops during a smallpox epidemic and for opening their home as a hospital during the Revolutionary War.

Smoketown, U.S.A.

Three miles south of Navarre on Route 21, an old red brick church stands solidly on a hill. It has no flock. No services.

Like the graves laying in its shadows, old St. Paul’s Reformed Church is a silent reminder of a forgotten spot in southern Stark.

Called “Smoketown,” the rural area once had its own sawmill, blacksmith shop and general store.

As the population dwindled, Smoketown gradually disappeared from the landscape there and into history. The church and graves are the only reminders that it ever existed.

Do you know Dorothy?

secrets_summerIt appears one of the most famous older women in American cinema lived here, in Canton.

Herman Raucher’s 1971 best-selling book Summer of ’42, and Oscar-nominated screenplay for a movie of the same name, is largely autobiographical. It’s the story of a summer he spent on Nantucket Island with his family in 1942.

It’s also the summer a then-14-year old “Hermie” met a woman named Dorothy, whose husband, Pete, had gone off to fight in World War II.

A summer friendship turned to romance one night when Hermie visited Dorothy’s cottage. He found her in tears that night because she’d received a telegram informing her Pete had been killed in action. The teenage boy and older woman fell into each other’s arms for one night of passion.

Hermie never saw her again. When he returned the next day, she’d already left the island.

He never even knew her last name. During the film’s hot box office run, Raucher received many letters from women claiming to be Dorothy. One was from the real Dorothy. She mentioned details only Dorothy would know. It was postmarked “Canton, OH.”

Raucher, who lives in Connecticut, recently said he’s never heard from her again.

The name rings a bell …

Stark County has had its share of famous sons and daughters, from the likes of movie star Lillian Gish to athletes such as Thurman Munson and Alan Page.

But there are plenty of soundalikes amongst your everyday neighbors here in Stark County.

From a variety of sources, here are residents of the past several years who share the same name as a more famous counterpart: John Kennedy. John Lennon. William Gates. Michael Jordan. Paul McCartney. Ronald Reagan. Elizabeth Taylor. Kevin Costner. Gary Cooper. James Dean. Julia Roberts. Steve Martin. Helen Keller. Mel Gibson. Paul Harvey. Sharon Stone. Mike Tyson and Jesse James.

Four become one

secrets_carnationsFreedom. Liberty. They’re not just ideals of a democratic society.

At one time, they were two small settlements in Stark County which helped form present-day Alliance. The other towns were Williamsport and Mount Union.

According to the city’s website, Freedom, Liberty and Williamsport merged in 1850 under the name “Alliance.” Mount Union was added 38 years later.

Where does the name “Alliance” come from? There are two predominant theories for where the name originated from: The merger and the railroads.

The name was chosen from the “alliance” of the settlements, the city’s website reads.

Additionally, the area was a junction for two major railroads of the time, both of which helped Alliance grow.

Read more about the “Carnation City,” from the city’s website at www.cityofalliance.com.

Before her time

secrets_woodhullThe first female presidential candidate in U.S. history spent some of her teen years in Massillon.

Victoria (Claflin) Woodhull was nominated as presidential candidate of the Equal Rights Party in 1872.

She was born in 1838.

Margy Vogt, a local historian, said Woodhull’s family moved around quite often, and one place they called home was Massillon.

“I don’t know how long they were here. They didn’t stay too long,” Vogt said.

The family lived in a house on Federal Avenue NE, which now is parking lot, Vogt said,

“She’s not the only famous presidential candidate from Massillon,” Vogt said.

Jacob S. Coxey Sr. ran for president — twice. He lost both times.

Hartville’s muck

Have you heard about the “Hartville Swamps?”

The dark muck here has made the area famous for its ability to yield two or three crops a year. The rich soil can be difficult to manage but produce high-quality vegetables.

The area is high in organic matter and water-rich vegetables such as celery, lettuce, radishes and herbs thrive here. Glacial deposits from long ago are said to be the cause of the amazing soil in this area.

Legend has it that a Muck Monster lives in these parts with Boder the Dog. Sightings are almost always at night near Swamp Road.

Secret past

secrets_swordOn the western edge of West Lawn Cemetery lies a simple headstone for a seemingly simple woman named Edith Bauer, who died in 1942.

Even her obituary printed in The Repository was fairly mundane, though it did mention she was active in the local Republican Club for women.

Here’s what it didn’t say: That Edith was born in London and began a career as a sword-swallower at age 15. That she performed with Ringling Bros. and with Barnum & Bailey in the early 1900s under the stage name Mademoiselle Clifford. That she once set a world record for swallowing 24 swords at the same time.

That she once swallowed a sword fired from a cannon. That famed magician and illusionist Harry Houdini sought out her shows and wrote about her in a book. That her first husband was circus sideshow man Thomas “The Elastic Stretch Man” Holmes.

And that plenty of her circus friends visited her Third Street NE home, where she settled in retirement with her second husband, Karl Bauer, a former trapeze artist. The couple ran a small grocery store in Canton.

Karl Bauer, who died 20 years after Edith, is buried alongside her at West Lawn.

Holy water

The chapel at Canton’s Mercy Medical Center once was a swimming pool at the former H.H. Timken residence — and its ceramic tile-lined walls remain visible today.

W. Robert and Henry H. Timken, sons of Timken Co. founder Henry Timken, gave the compound and its 30 acres to the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine in 1950 for use as a hospital. When it opened two years later, it was only a satellite facility to the then-Mercy Hospital at Market Avenue and Eighth Street NW. Gradually, additions were made to the Timken hospital site, leading to the closing of the original hospital.

Aside from the swimming pool, the Mercy Medical Center campus retains other reminders of its former use as the Timken mansion.

One the public doesn’t often get to see is the former mansion library, which hasn’t been altered much. It now serves as a meeting room for the hospital board of directors. Mercy spokesman Cindy Hickey and Sister Mary Denis Maher, archivist for the Sisters of Charity, tracked down information, including an old newspaper story about the library.

The article describes the walnut-paneled walls and fireplace that can be seen today.

The demise of Greatest Crawford

Light-heavyweight boxer Greatest Crawford, of Brooklyn, N.Y., came to Canton to challenge one of the city’s favorite sons, Marion Conner, on Nov. 16, 1966.

It would be Crawford’s last fight.

Crawford had one-upped Muhammad Ali by changing his legal name to Greatest; Ali always referred to himself as the Greatest. Crawford, however, wasn’t nearly the fighter that Ali was. At Memorial Auditorium, Conner knocked out the 28-year-old Crawford in the ninth round of a main event fight.

It was shortly before 11 p.m. Lying on the canvas, Crawford stared up blankly and muttered something to the referee about pain in his arm.

He rolled over on his stomach and never regained consciousness.

An ambulance rushed Crawford to then-Timken Mercy Medical Center, where he died 26 hours later.

An autopsy revealed Crawford had suffered severe trauma to his brain and bleeding on his brain. Coroner G.S. Shaheen ruled the death an accident.

Who is buried in Stark?

secrets_tombThe list of notable people buried in Stark County cemeteries is remarkable.

Of course, the obvious ones are former U.S. President William McKinley and his wife, Ida.

Some others: Paul Brown (former NFL coach); Jacob Coxey (two-time presidential candidate); Samuel Beatty (Civil War general and Stark County’s highest-ranking Union officer); Robert Pinn (one of four black men to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in Civil War); J.P. Burton (iron and coal magnate); M.A.W. Pratt (the woman who initiated lighting the Statue of Liberty, 1930); Max Stern and Henry Mann (from Stern & Mann Co. — they actually share a stone); Boss Hoover (Hoover Co.); Cornelius Aultman (Aultman Hospital named for him); Nancy Allison and William McKinley Sr (the 25th president’s parents); Anna McKinley (the president’s sister, for whom McKinley High School is named) … the list goes on and on, and includes many recognizable Stark County residents.

Kimberly Kenney, curator at the Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum, wrote a book called “Canton’s West Lawn Cemetery,” which features many interesting stories related to who is buried there ($19.95, available at the museum’s gift shop).

Massillon historian Margy Vogt gives walking cemetery tours in Massillon a few times a year — the next two are June 2 and Sept. 8 at 2 p.m. For more information about the tours, contact Margy Vogt at 330-832-8469 or vogt@sssnet.com.

The Wizard’s magic started here

A man named Ernie Roth, who became hated by millions of professional wrestling fans, was born in Canton on June 7, 1929.

According to Gary Michael Cappetta’s book, “Bodyslams: Memoirs of a Wrestling Pitchman,” Roth delivered weather updates on local Canton TV and handled ticket sales and public relations for some local events. He eventually began announcing for wrestling matches, then ultimately took over as a manager for some of the wrestlers.

Adopting the persona of Abdullah Farouk, he managed The Sheik. But his most famous character was The Grand Wizard. Standing only 5-foot-7, Roth dressed in mismatched, loud clothes and wore a turban and sunglasses.

His wrestlers typically were bad guys.

Over the years, he managed Superstar Billy Graham, Blackjack Mulligan, Jimmy Valiant, Stan “The Man” Stasiak, George “the Animal” Steele, Killer Kowalski, The Masked Superstar, Pat Patterson and Sgt. Slaughter, to name a few.

He died in 1983 and was inducted posthumously into the World Wrestling Federation Hall of Fame.