The Buchanans of Willshire

Here are a couple more interesting postcards from Willshire, Ohio, from the early 1900s.

You can see the name Buchanan on the side of the the horse-drawn hearse below.

Stephen S. Buchanan, undertaker in Willshire, Ohio.

Stephen S. Buchanan and his son Claude were both undertakers in Willshire. This is likely Stephen Buchanan driving the hearse. According to the awning on the building, the photo was taken in front of his furniture/undertaker business.

Stephen Sylvester Buchanan was born 15 November 1848 in Ohio. He married Rosa Fairchild 27 April 1871 in Fairfield County, Ohio. [1] Stephen died 4 February 1934 in Willshire, at the age of 85 years and is buried in Willshire Cemetery beside his wife Rosanna. [2]

In 1880 Stephen S. and Rosa Buchanan lived in Willshire. In their household at that time: Steve, 32; Rose, 28; Emily Alice, 8; Claude E, 6; Daisy Dell, 3; and James S, 1. Steve was enumerated as a carpenter. [3]

According to census enumerations Stephen S. Buchanon was a furniture merchant, carpenter and undertaker in Willshire over the years. I have seen his name as the undertaker on several local death certificates from years ago. Furniture makers were often undertakers because they could make the wooden coffins.

Pictured in the next photo is likely the father Stephen S. Buchanan and his son James S., in front of their general store in Willshire. His son James S. was born about 1879.

J.S. Buchanan General Store, Willshire, Ohio.

I remember a general store on the west side of State Street in Willshire. I think it was near where Lillie’s Tin Ceiling is today. I remember shopping for fabric there years ago, in the late 1950s to early 1960s, but I do not remember the name of the store. Was it Buchanan’s? I do not know when the Buchanan store there closed. Perhaps someone remembers.

I worked in St. Marys, Ohio, for nearly 37 years and there was also a Buchanan’s Department Store there, on East Spring Street. That would have been in the 1970s and maybe the early 1980s. It was a nice store that had clothing and fabrics and I always wondered if Buchanan’s Department Store in St. Marys was connected to the Buchanan store in Willshire.

Just this past week, after studying these photos, I asked a couple of my St. Marys patients if they remembered the St. Marys Buchanan store. One man said his mother did household work for the Buchanan’s. He recalled that Mrs. Buchanan’s name was Mary but could not remember Mr. Buchanan’s name. Another person remembered the store but not the owner’s name. Finally, I talked to one lady who said she actually worked in Buchanan’s Department Store in St. Marys. She said she bought her children’s clothing there and that the owner’s were Stephen and Mary Buchanan.

Were these Buchanan stores in Willshire and St. Marys connected somehow?

According to Stephen James Buchanan (1909-1984) and his wife Mary Bancroft (1907-1997) are buried in Elam Grove Cemetery, St. Marys, Ohio.  [4] They would have been the St. Mary’s Buchanan store owners.

Stephen J. Buchanan was the son of James S. and Liza C. Buchanan. And James S. Buchanan was the son of Willshire’s carpenter and undertaker, Stephen S. Buchanan.

James S. Buchanan married Eliza K. Hill in Mercer County, Ohio, on 14 Dec 1904. He was living in Van Wert County and she was from Blackcreek Township. James S’s parents were given as S.S. Buchanan and Rosie Fairchild. Eliza parents were Fredrick Hill and Nancy Bollenbacher. James S. was a blacksmith at the time of their marriage. [5]

In 1910 James S. Buchanan and his wife Eliza lived on Green Street in Willshire, where James S. owned and operated a blacksmith shop. The couple had been married 6 years and their son Stephen was 8 months old. It appears he was their only child. [6]

In 1920 James S. and Liza Buchanan lived on Sprague Street in Willshire, where James S. owned a clothing store. Their household in 1920: James S, 39; Liza C, 37; Stephen J, 10. [7]

So Stephen James Buchanan, the owner of Buchanan’s Department Store in St. Marys, was the grandson of Stephen S. Buchanan, the undertaker. And Stephen James Buchanan was also Claude Buchanan’s nephew since James S. and Claude were brothers.

A family with generations of merchants, carpenters, and undertakers.

Mystery solved.


[1] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013, (accessed 2 Feb 2017); Stephen Buchanan & Rosa  Fairchild, 27 April 1871; from Fairfield County Marriages, Vol.3, p.215; FHL microfilm 295270.

[2] Find a, Stephen S. Buchanan memorial no. 71892217.

[3] 1880 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 154, p.461C, family 68, Steve Buchanan; ( accessed 2 Feb 2017); FHL microfilm 1255074, NARA microfilm T9, roll 1074.

[4] Find a, Stephen James Buchanan memorial #40528178.

[5] “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013, (accessed 2 Feb 2017); JS Buchanan & Eliza K Hill  14 Dec 1904; from Mercer County Marriages, Vol.3, p.80; FHL microfilm 914958.

[6] 1910 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 114, p.12B, dwelling 76, James Buchanan; (accessed 2 Feb 2017); FHL microfilm 1375251, NARA microfilm T624, roll 1238.

[7] 1920 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 146, p.10B, dwelling 105, James A Buchanan; (accessed 2 Feb 2017); NARA microfilm T625, roll 1446.


Skip to comment form

    • Sondra Samples on February 4, 2017 at 8:09 am
    • Reply

    Buchanan’s clothing store on the west side of Willshire’s business district was located where the library is now. After Buchanan, the building was used as a hardware store by different owners for many years, then Dr. Lucuesta’s office, the Willshire town office, and finally now the library. The “Variety Store” , that sold fabrics, clothing, etc., as you remember, was located where Lillie’s Tin Ceiling is currently, after being the Lions Club for a long time. It is interesting how the local business needs of the small village of Willshire have had to adapt over the years to accommodate the trend of out-of-town and internet shopping. Willshire Home Furnishings, Blackcreek Peddler, Lillie’s Tin Ceiling, Becky’s Village Restaurant, Mike’s Drive-In ice cream, and TJs convernience store have made Willshire a “destination” for unique shopping and good food for many patrons who come from outside the local area. I think Captain Riley, founder of Willshire in 1823, would be proud of how his little town survived.

    1. Thanks so much for the information, Sondra. You are a wealth of information about Willshire! Yes, the Variety Store does sound like the name of the store I remember and that would be why the location seems familiar. Willshire certainly has adapted to the times and I enjoy visiting the businesses there. Thanks for writing!

  1. Karen, my wife and I were putting things away from the holidays and noted that we hadn’t opened some boxes from our move several years ago to our current location in Williamsburg, VA. My wife, Diane, found a plate that my mom, Charlotte (Hill) Rumple had given us many years ago. On the back of the plate was a note from my mom that said, “From Aunt Liza Buchanan”. I have some geneology of the Hill family, so looked up Liza (Elizabeth) and she is my Great Grand Aunt. There are several other family members that are from Willshire including Bolenbach, Stetler, and Hill. The note on the back is probably written by my Grandmother Mary (Johnson) Hill, as Liza would have been her aunt. My family (Rumple’s and Hill’s) are from Rockford.
    … Tom Rumple

    1. That is certainly interesting and so helpful that your mom labeled the plate. Those family heirlooms are so special. Thanks for writing!

    • April Rizzotti on January 6, 2023 at 2:48 pm
    • Reply

    Very cool to see some background info on my 3X Great Grandfather. In 1880 my 2X Great Grandfather was born – Homer Virgil Buchanan, and in 1908 my Great Grandfather Claude Eugene Buchanan was born. I had the pleasure of meeting him, but did not get to grow up around him due to the fact that my father was in the Army and we moved around alot. But whenever we passed through Ohio to visit all the family I got to visit him. He passed away when I was about 14. His daughter Vivian Buchanan born in 1931 was my grandmother. I have an old photo frame of professional pictures of Stephen S. & Rosanna Buchanan and their 6 children when the kids were late teens/early 20’s maybe – it has been passed down in the family and I treasure it. I am one of the few family members that are into genealogy and history. Love your article – thank you for the info I did not know about them. I have an uncle who has worked his whole life in carpentry – must be in the genes.

    1. You are welcome and thank you for writing and sharing some of your family history. I remember Claude and Vergie and going to their house for Farm Bureau Council meetings. They had an interesting collection from their travels. Thanks for writing!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.