We have all heard Medina referred to as “the sweetest town on earth” and know about the Medina “battling (or musical) bees” mascot. There’s even a Medina County Bee Festival. All this because of one Medina man’s interest in honey bees and their well-being back in the mid-1800s — Amos Ives Root, founder of Root Candles, still based in Medina and making "The Best Candles in America.”
But back to the photo of the gentleman on what appears to be a really fun carnival ride. The image is in fact, A.I. Root flying in a Wright Brothers style airplane at the Medina County Fair in 1915. Very appropriate since Medina County Fair Week just ended.
Mr. Root, always interested in new technology, had read some "sketchy" news accounts about the Wrights, who were very secretive about their work and did not encourage reporters to cover their experimental flights. Therefore, in September of 1904, just three months after the brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, A.I. Root drove his 1903 Oldsmobile (another favorite recent invention) nearly 200 miles on primitive roads from Medina to the Wrights' hometown in Dayton, Ohio. While there he was present at Huffman Prairie when Wilbur Wright flew in a circle around the pasture, returning the plane to its starting point for the very first time. A.I. Root wrote about the event in his journal Gleanings in Bee Culture making him the "first reporter" to write about the Wright brothers' historic accomplishment.
"...these brothers have probably not even a faint glimpse of what their discovery is going to bring to the children of men. No one living can give a guess of what is coming along this line, much better than any one living could conjecture the final outcome of Columbus’ experiment..."
Gleanings in Bee Culture, Jan. 1, 1905
You can learn more about A.I. Root and his interest in bees, honey and the earliest days of aviation at the following websites:
The Medina County Fair, one of Ohio’s oldest, is celebrating its 173rd anniversary this year and many interesting things have happened over its long history. You might want to visit the Fair’s website to learn more about how this Medina County institution came into being and grew from a livestock show on Medina’s Public Square in the mid-1800s, to early “harvest display” days in the 1850s on just seven acres to the present-day weeklong event which draws over 110,000 visitor’s each year to its recently improved 92 acre site.
For 100 years, from 1878 to 1978, Medina County had its own amusement park and resort on the shore of Chippewa Lake near the village of the same name in Lafayette Township, just south of Medina. The Rocket Ship Ride (long gone, but still an historical landmark on Google Maps) was a featured attraction on the park's midway.
The original picnic ground and beach was organized in 1875 by Edward Andrews as Andrew's Pleasure Grounds. In 1878, with the addition of a steamboat and the park's first (manually pushed!) roller coaster the amusement park came to life. In its heyday, the amusement park and swimming beach was a summer and weekend getaway for Cleveland and Akron residents who would arrive by train and later by car.
A businessman named Mac Beach acquired Chippewa Lake in 1898 and improved the park immensely. His son, Parker Beach, managed the park during its boom years: The Roaring '20s.
In 1925, the first modern coaster was built at the park. Originally named the Big Dipper, it became better known as simply "the coaster." Eventually, Chippewa Lake would feature three roller coasters, flying cages, a Ferris wheel, carousel, Tumble Bug and many other rides including the Rocket Ship before it closed in 1978.
Many who grew up in Medina County had some happy times at the park, laughing and screaming in the Fun House, hearing the click-click of the wooden coaster, cruising the boardwalk, shooting down the big slide, playing pinball in the arcade or watching fireworks from the beach.
Over the decades, the enormous dance hall hosted performances by popular big bands from Benny Goodman to Guy Lombardo. In later years, WHLO (Radio) Days brought in the crowds sponsoring dances with "rock 'n roll" music and where kids lined up at the Hamburger Factory between sets. Into the 1970s, the ballroom was the site of the spring charity ball (The Cotillion) where accomplished young ladies from around the county were "presented" in white ballgowns and elbow length gloves on the arms of tuxedoed escorts.
After closing, the park sat empty for many years and fell into decay. The dance hall burned down in 2002. With plans for redevelopment falling through, the empty park has captured the interest of "forgotten" buildings websites, photographers and filmmakers. A low-budget horror flick was filmed at the park as recently as 2009. Searches on the web and Pinterest will lead you to some eerily beautiful images of the park today, as well as shots of Chippewa Lake Park in its heyday.
The content of this post is derived from articles in the Akron Beacon Journal, Wikipedia, and cleveland.com, among others.
In these days of basketball players over 7 feet tall, perhaps Captain Martin Van Buren Bates' height of 7'8" and that of his wife Anna Swan Bates at 7' 11-1/2" might not be a surprise, but in the mid-1800s persons that tall were quite unusual.
Born on November 9, 1837 in Kentucky, Mr. Bates, known at one time as the "Kentucky Giant," was a Civil War-era American famed for his incredibly large size. Accounts of his remarkable growth vary, but all agree that he began a tremendous growth spurt at some time around the age of seven, and was over six feet tall and nearly 300 pounds by the time he was thirteen years old. This incredible growth reportedly so astonished his parents that they forbade him from doing chores around the house, fearing that his body would be too fragile.
His first occupation was as a schoolteacher, but upon the outbreak of the Civil War, he joined the Confederate Army as a private in the Fifth Kentucky Infantry, quickly rising to the rank of Captain. His ferocity in battle, aided by his imposing figure, made him legendary, with Union soldiers telling tales of a "Confederate giant who's as big as five men and fights like fifty".
Bates returned to Kentucky after the war, but no longer finding it to his liking, traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio where he joined the circus, exhibiting his enormous stature to curious onlookers. While on tour in Canada, he met the even taller Anna Swan who also joined the troupe. She and Martin got to know each other and were married while on a European tour in 1871 at St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London. Queen Victoria herself gave them two extra-large diamond-studded gold watches as wedding presents.
Martin and his wife returned to Ohio in 1873 and settled down in Seville, in southern Medina County, where they built a house — oversized in many ways.
He explains the next few years in his autobiography: "While in Ohio, I purchased a farm in Seville, Medina County. It consisted of 130 acres of good land. I built a house upon it designed especially for our comfort. The ceilings have a height of fourteen feet, the doors are eight and one half feet in height. The furniture was all built to order and to see our guests make use of it recalls most forcibly the good Dean Swift's traveler in the land of Brobdingnag."
After a few years on the farm, he and Anna joined W.W. Cole circus from 1878 through 1880. Upon their return to Seville, they led a life together full of ups and downs which Bates described as "one of almost uninterrupted joy."
Anna Bates passed away on August 5, 1888. Martin remarried in 1897, this time to a woman of normal stature, and lived a mostly peaceful and uneventful life until his death in 1919. The Bateses are buried in Mound Hill Cemetery in Seville, Ohio.
Much of this post is adapted from the website The Tallest Man