And the Chidsey Story Continues
Eliza (Chidsey) and Phil Kennedy, hardy Brunswick pioneers, lived their lives on what is known as "The Kennedy Farm." The home, built in 1835 by Norman Chidsey, still stands on West 130th Street. Eliza was born and lived her entire life there, including giving birth to four daughters.
The girls, Minnie, Rena, Jenny and Ethel, grew up happily in this small town of the late 1800s, which was a farming community until the mid-1950s. Each of the girls married (at age 24 and on the same day of the varying years) in the family home under the watchful eyes of Eliza, who was growing more and more crippled by arthritis. She spent her last 40 years confined to a wheelchair.
Minnie married Freeman Hoff and was the only one of the girls to wander far from home. Hoff became a school superintendent at Mitchell, South Dakota. He used to return at least once a year by train, always wearing black to hide the soot associated with train travel in those days. A story says that Mrs. Hoff used to fool her young nieces by taking them (here in Brunswick) to the top of a hill and pointing to a valley below. "That's Mitchell, South Dakota" she would say, and the gullible youngsters would believe her. Perhaps she believed it herself.
Jenny married Dennis Johnson who was well known in the town as the head of the first telephone company. The Johnson's had three children. Homer, who died about 12 years ago, married his neighbor friend Ethel Brant, who still lives in the same home they built before their marriage.
Freda married L. Ashley Pelton and lived in Medina.
Willia (who helped with our story) married Henry Zuengler. Willia graduated in 1925 as valedictorian of her small class, the first to graduate from the "new" high school, now the south house middle school. She attended Ohio State University and came home to teach, first a year in Valley City and then in Brunswick. She was the home economics teacher and Henry was the instrumental music teacher and band director. He would come to her class for cookies after school, and romance blossomed.
The word is that many a young woman was envious of Willia who captured a real prize. And relatives tell us that Henry never forgot he had captured a real gem as well.
Henry left teaching to found his own business in Cleveland - right at the beginning of the depression - which took a lot of gumption. He ran a shipping supply business for 25 years until his death in 1960. Henry was a Wisconsin farm boy at heart and after a hard day at work would delight in coming home to putter around the farm on Grafton Road. Willia has remained active in church work and is an accomplished craftswoman.
The Zuenglers had two daughters, Sally who resides in San Diego and Sandra Robson who lives on Gary Boulevard. She is a 1954 graduate of Brunswick High School and married Wayne in 1961. They have three children, Jenny, Jessica and John. Sandra also helped with our story of this branch of the Chidsey family, supplying many of the sidelights her mother was too shy to relate. Sandra was an active high schooler and has remained active in community affairs here. Her children are following the traditions as well.
Ethel married O.B. Averill.
Rena married Morris Perkins who had the store on the corner at the center of town. It was brand new then and Perkins left it when he was named manager of BHL Elevator.
There were four Perkins children: Dorothy (Leyda); Marie (Carlton); Reginald who died in 1961 without having married, and Marion (Wolff).
Mrs. Wolff is another who has aided us with our story; and she's a person used to helping others as one of Brunswick's most active women her whole lifetime.
Marion graduated from Brunswick High School in 1919 at the Methodist Church, one of a class of nine. She attended college in Tennessee and Baldwin-Wallace and then taught school in Seville for four years.
She met young Alwin Wolff of York Township when her father invited all his BHL employees to join them for a swim at the family summer vacation cottage in Lorain. She was 19 when they first met and had never heard of him or his family, despite the fact Wolff was an old York Township name.
The Wolff name didn't stay unknown for long, however. They married and after a short time in Cleveland, the Wolff's moved back to Brunswick where Alwin had many interests. He entered the building business and was active there during the boom years of growth. The homes west of Route 42 in the Meadowbrook-Wolff Drive-Blueberry Hill area are often remembered as the Wolff Development. He was active in local and county affairs serving in many capacities.
But he was probably best known as Brunswick's third mayor, serving during important years of grown. The coming of water and I-71 opening here took place during his administration. Wolff never took his paycheck for being part-time mayor, but donated the money to the Brunswick Scholarship Fund. He remained a powerful part of the community, even after retiring from the mayor's post, until his death. And Mrs. Wolff was equally active in many areas until suffering a stroke several years ago and moving with her son, Dr. David Wolff and his wife and two children to the Washington, D.C. area.
She was a remarkable lady whom, we are told, weighed just over a pound at birth in those days of unsophisticated medical practices. Her innovative relatives, it is said, saved her by placing the baby inside a slightly warmed oven - a homemade incubator.
Many local residents still remember the homes of the two girls, Willia and Marion. The Johnson and Perkins homes were torn down to make way for the Cardinal Federal Savings and Loan Building on Route 42.
At Christmas Time
What was Christmas like in the "good old days" in Brunswick? The days when perhaps a thousand people populated the town and everyone knew everyone else?
For Marion and Willia who were born and raised here, Christmas meant a visit to Grandma Eliza Kennedy's house with the rest of the large, close-knit family.
The girls would visit on Christmas Eve day to help grandma, who was crippled with arthritis, to help with the cooking. They would fetch the ingredients and Eliza would mix, cut and prepare.
There would be a morning church service at the Methodist Church that everyone looked forward to attending. Santa would visit and there was a general feeling of good cheer shared with friends. Santa's gifts would be something small like a brightly colored pencil, but always appreciated.
"There weren't many gifts," noted Mrs. Wolff. "And the tree was never put up ahead of time." Mrs. Zuengler added that Sandra always brought the tree to the home the night before Christmas and it was decorated with candles in little holders (probably the reason for having a free tree) and popcorn, cranberries and little gifts.
There was no gift wrapping. Gifts might include oranges and nuts, a homemade doll or an old doll in a new outfit, perhaps a sled or skates. Those winter activities were popular because they could be done close to home. "And we all wore long underwear - even the girls, even to school," the women added.
Sandra Robson noted that she remembered going to her grandma Jenny Johnson's house for Christmas. It was both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day - and all the aunts, uncles and cousins would gather for the festivities.
Now the family gathers at Mrs. Zuengler's. "As each generation grows to large to handle, the festivities 'step down' a generation," the women noted.