Willshire Hotel Information in the 1850-1880 Censuses

After writing about Willshire’s hotels last week I wanted to see what I could learn about the town’s hotels and their proprietors in the census records. I was primarily looking for information about the best-known Willshire hotel, the one most of us remember as the Straubinger Hotel, built in 1850 by Dr. John W. Pearce and razed in 1964.

Straubinger Hotel

I started with the 1850 census, the first census to show occupations as well as more information in general.

I was looking for hotel information but the first thing I noticed was that there were quite a number of physicians living in Willshire in 1850. Five physicians total! There was physician and hotel builder, Dr. John W. Pearce, 34, with his wife and children: Emeline, 29; Thomas, 6; Mary, 4; and Laura, 2. Although Dr. J.W. Pearce built the hotel he reportedly never lived there. In addition to Dr. J.W. Pearce, there was Dr. J.C. Book, 27, Pennsylvania; Dr. David H. Parrot, 28, Ohio; Dr. Amos Gulick, 48, Virginia; and Dr. Thomas J. Pearce, 29, Ohio. I do not know if the two Dr. Pearces were related. All the physicians had families except Dr. David Parrot. [1]

Back to Willshire’s lodging. J.W. Banks was a landlord in the village, probably operating a boarding house or hotel. David Major, merchant, had five people with varying occupations living with him and his family: David H. Parrot, 28, [born in] Ohio, physician; Alden Breslian, 26, New York, laborer; Eguacius [?] Cook, 19, Pennsylvania, clerk; And. W. Porter, 40, Pennsylvania, merchant; and R. Tenner/Tanner, 16, female, Ohio, occupation not given. Major may have had a boarding house or rented rooms.

In 1860 Clarinda Hasper/Harper, 45, born in Pennsylvania, ran a boarding house. That was the only mention of a boarding house/hotel in Willshire in the 1860 census. She had three young Harpers living with her and I wonder if she was a widow. Four boarders resided there: Wm Slis, 26, cabinetmaker; A. Patten, 25, physician; ? Albian, 17, school teacher; and Henry McMans, 20, occupation not given. Clarinda could have been running the hotel. 

There were only three physicians in Willshire in 1860: Dr. J.W. Pearce, 44 and family; Dr. Wm. M. Stephison, 45, Pennsylvania, and family; and Dr. A. Patton, 25, Ohio. Dr. A. Patten was one of the boarders at Harper’s boarding house. [2]

In 1870 it appears there was very active hotel with a livery stable in Willshire. Enumerated at that same dwelling, very likely the hotel we remember: F.S. Johnson, 25, Ohio, hotel keeper; Mary Johnson, 22, Ohio, [his wife?], hotel clerk; Joseph Billman, 27, Indiana, hostler at the livery stable; N.S. Davenport, 44, New York, ret. [retired? retail?] grocer; Mary Watkins, 29, Vermont, cook at the hotel; Doris Teleshpore, 20, Canada, no occupation given, likely a boarder; and Alfred Park, 18, Ohio, worked in the livery stable.

Willshire had five physicians in 1870: Dr. J.W. Pearce, 56, Ohio; Dr. Marchard Croninger, 48, Ohio, and family; Dr. John F. Shaffner, 41, Pennsylvania, and family; J.S. Estell, 26, Ohio, and D.W. Estell, 55, Pennsylvania. Both Estells had their own family and perhaps they were related.

There were a couple “book and shoemakers.” I hadn’t thought of those two occupations being connected but I guess it makes sense if they worked with leather and binding. I also love that Willshire had a bonnet maker in 1870, Sarah Pierce. [3]

In 1880 we first see Adam Straubinger, 37, Prussia, hotel keeper. His wife Matilda is shown as landlady. They had children Anna, 8, Catherine, 4, Lucy, 2, and George W, 1, all born in Ohio. Also at the hotel was Catharine Oaches, 73, Prussia, mother-in-law, who assisted at the hotel; William Thomas, 26, Ohio, hotel clerk; Louisa J. Cook, 20, Indiana, cook at hotel; John Detterer, 29, Ohio, boarder, wagon maker; Wm. F. R. Davis, 22, Ohio, boarder, agriculture clerk.

Stephen C. Flinn, 31, Ohio, was also a hotel keeper in Willshire in 1880. His wife Bertha, 21, Indiana, was a housekeeper. Jos. Morningstar, 22, Indiana, and Mary Jones, 33, Indiana, worked at the hotel. It appears there were two hotels in Willshire in 1880.

In 1880 Ann Crowinger, 44, Ohio, widow, ran a boarding house. Her daughter Ida, 23, taught music.

Willshire was still blessed with physicians in 1880: Dr. J.W. Pearce, 65 was still there; Dr. John K. Ross, 35, Indiana, and family; Dr. S.K. Christy, 27, single, Pennsylvania; Dr. Timothy Hawkins, 35, Pennsylvania, and family; and Dr. J.F. Shaffner, 51, Pennsylvania, and family. Dr. Shaffner and wife had couple boarders in their home: Sylvester Brock, 40, Ohio, worked in drug store; Agi Keefer, 20, Ohio, stone cutter; and F.G. Marple, 20, Ohio, stone cutter.

In addition to all the physicians in Willshire, in 1880 there were also 2 dentists: Christopher C. Scott, 27, with family, and his brother John D. Scott, 44 single, both born in Ohio. [4]

Look for more to come. I will continue on with this in the 1900 census.

[1] 1850 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, p.325-327 [penned]; Ancestry.com, viewed 17 Mar 2022.

[2] 1860 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, p.174-176 [penned]; Ancestry.com, viewed 17 Mar 2022.

[3] 1870 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, p.2-7; Ancestry.com, viewed 17 Mar 2022.

[4] 1880 U.S. Census, Willshire, Van Wert, Ohio, ED 154, p.32-41 [penned]; Ancestry.com, viewed 17 Mar 2022.


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    • Sondra Samples on March 18, 2022 at 8:51 am
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    Karen, thanks for this birds-eye view of who lived in Willshire from 1850 until 1880! So many physicians, I wonder if anyone could call themselves “doctors” back then. I believe that Drs. Pearce, Schaffner, and Christy were the only ones that were long-time residents that were mentioned in historical recordings of the village in that time period.

    1. I think you are probably correct about all the physicians in Willshire at that time. I also wonder if some were trying to become established and traveled from town to town until they found a good place to set up their practice.

    • Deb Miller on March 18, 2022 at 9:37 am
    • Reply

    Very interesting. Thanks Karen for sharing.

    1. Thanks, Deb!

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