The James A. Garfield Historical Society was organized in 1979. It encompasses the communities of Freedom, Garrettsville and Nelson in Portage County, Ohio. The school system of the same name honors our nation’s 20th President, who lived in the area and was a member and one-time chaplain of the still active Masonic Lodge 246 F. & A.M. on Garrettsville’s Main Street. The brief life of our Society pales in comparison with the history of the settlers and settlements we honor: Freedom was settled in 1818, Garrettsville in 1804 and Nelson, 1800.
Operational funds are derived from membership dues, benefactors, and a biennial “Christmas Walk” in Garrettsville, held the first two full weekends in November, in even-numbered years.
The Historical Society welcomes your membership as they strive to preserve the historic past for present and future generations. Annual dues are $10.00 per person. A lifetime membership is $100.00. Business and corporate memberships are available.
“Mott Drug Store” ca. 1840Our Museum
Our museum home is a 19th century Greek Revival-style structure that has occupied the northwest corner of Main and High Streets for more than one hundred and seventy years. It first housed dry goods businesses on the main floor, with the second floor at times serving as a residence, select school, and a photography studio.
History records that Alonzo C. Lake started the town’s first photography studio soon after he came to Garrettsville in 1847. The new Daguerreotype art interested him and he established his gallery and continued in business here for nearly thirty years. Dr. E.B. Lee joined his father in the pharmacy endeavor here in 1857. Frank Mott joined Dr. Lee and assumed ownership in 1890 at the time of Lee’s death.
The Society’s first home, in 1983, was the quaint historic building just around the corner, known for many years as the famous little Bogrand Millinery Shop. Initial donations consisted mainly of lovely old hats and clothing, including several wedding dresses in period styles. We soon outgrew the little building and in 1990 we moved into the 2-story building next door which last housed Andy Krauss’ Garrettsville Paint and Glass business.
Our larger quarters give us space to display donated historic artifacts, memorabilia, books, clothing and furniture. Items from the estate of the late Jeanette Wheeler Meloy offer a glimpse into the lives and lifestyles of early Wheeler, Pierce, Waters and Atwater families. The spacious second-floor Don Meloy Memorial Research Library contains the large reference collection of the late Les and Mary Folger. Mary was editor of The Western Reserve Magazine published in Garrettsville, 1973-1983. These magazines were also in that collection.
The Society is also the recipient of a very generous offering of old books from Garfield High School. The library’s bookshelves are being expanded in order to preserve and protect these books. Some of them had originally been donated from personal libraries in the latter part of the last century. Diaries, ledgers, maps, pictures, local histories,
yearbooks, etc. add to the wealth of information available to visitors.
Nestled in back of our building a small picket-fenced garden, dedicated to the memory of Lou Danku, invites relaxation.