One of the attractions of an older home, particularly to someone with an interest in history, is the fact that the home had a life long before its current occupant. That life includes people who, like me, are moving through time and experiencing the events and challenges presented in their lifetimes. Another of the individuals who called my home theirs was a woman who, for her time, was as modern as they come. Her name was Florence (Myers) Marsh.
Florence (Myers) Marsh was born March 8, 1875 in Tuscarawas County. She was the daughter of prominent Dover, Ohio grocer John Myers and his wife Martha (Fitzgerald) Myers. Her father was a successful businessman and community leader, having served on the school board and the city council. There is little doubt that Florence took her education seriously, as she appears often in the newspapers of the era presenting and hosting lectures, concerts, and gatherings throughout her life. One of the first such references is from the April 1, 1891 edition of the New Philadelphia Times where it is reported that she, along with another student, won a school debate on the subject of Napoleon Bonaparte. Following her graduation, she was elected the treasurer of the New Philadelphia High School Alumni Association in the summer of 1895.
During the first decade of the 1900s Florence started becoming active in a number of community organizations, one of which included the Womans Club. She frequently presented at the club on issues related to history, current events and the future of the club. Subjects she presented to the club included the Franco-Prussian War, Knighthoods, and German Literature. She married newspaper foreman, and future printer, George Canfield Marsh on August 6, 1902. They subsequently moved into their first home on the 300 block of West Ray Street, New Philadelphia.
Florence’s marriage did not limit her activities in the community. She continued to play an active role in the Womans Club, being elected its Vice President in 1906 and President in 1907, while also participating in other community organizations including the local Buckeye Club. George and Florence hosted parties at their West Ray Street home regularly, including hosting the Ladies Aid Society of the Lutheran Church in late 1909, shortly after the death of Abraham W. Patrick. She also traveled to visit family and friends during this period, occasionally traveling to New York to visit her brother and his family. During the spring of 1911 she traveled, along with her daughter Susan and other members of the New Philadelphia community, to Cleveland to attend the opera. The group attended showings of Wagner’s “Taunnhauser”, “Aida” and Humperdinck’s “Koenigskinder”.
Florence was not just attracted to cultural organizations, but political ones as well. She was elected second vice president of the Tuscarawas County Drys, a temperance organization, in November 1911. It was shortly after this that Florence and George Marsh purchased the home of the late Abraham Patrick on the corner of West Fair Avenue and Sixth Street (now 3rd Street NW). Florence began holding prayer meetings in the home as early as May of 1912. Florence was appointed to a committee to establish the YWCA in New Philadelphia in July 1912 and shortly after that she was named Chairman of the New Philadelphia Suffrage Organization. Shortly afterwards, the first official meeting of the group took place at Florence Marsh’s home. This meeting meant that my home was the home of the beginnings of the suffragist movement in Tuscarawas County, Ohio.
Throughout the 1910s Florence Marsh hosted a number of gatherings at her home, some social and some related to her political activities. Her interest in education never wavered and she was active in the community during this period supporting new methods and approaches to education. She presented a paper in November of 1913 on the need for teachers to meet children’s parents in order to better understand the child’s needs and the environment in which they live. Florence’s activities with the Womans Club during this period included numerous lectures she gave on a variety of political, social and religious subjects. Florence’s home was a regular host of meetings and social gatherings of the numerous organizations to which she belonged.
During this same period George and Florence Marsh had begun to undertake physical renovations and additions to the home, likely to make it more useful for hosting the many meetings and social gatherings that seemed to be a large part of their civic life. I will examine the home’s physical development in a future blog post.
It will come as no surprise that once the United States entered World War One that Florence directed some of her energy towards supporting the war effort. She became the chairperson, in July 1918, of an organization in Tuscarawas County that would organize women to undertake all manner of work that would benefit the effort. By October 1918 the Spanish Influenza had come to Ohio and Florence Marsh, as chairperson for the Women’s Branch of the Ohio Council for National Defense was educating the community of the dangers the influenza outbreak. Florence also found herself volunteering with the local Red Cross during this period as well.
As a new decade arrived, Florence continued to remain very active in the New Philadelphia community. Among her new pursuits in the 1920s was serving on a local committee to welcome new residents to the United States from other countries. Florence Marsh was the only female member of the committee, a testament to how visible and active she was. She continued to travel to visit family, both in New York, Delaware and Ohio. Following the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Florence played a major role in encouraging women to vote and educating them about the electoral process.
The 1920s also saw Florence playing a prominent role in the New Philadelphia Civic Club, serving as its President. She also continued to present papers and lectures at the various clubs and organizations throughout the area while still entertaining guests at her New Philadelphia home. Late in 1921, while sitting on a jury that would deliberate a rape case, Florence declined the judge’s offer to excuse the women jurors due to the nature of the case. Florence told the judge “We are citizens…and are willing to do our fair share of citizen’s work…we ask no favors or privileges in the performance of our duty.”
Florence’s husband was a prominent man in his own right. George Marsh had learned the printing trade working for newspapers in New Philadelphia and ultimately opened his own firm, the Marsh Printing Company on East High Street. George Canfield Marsh passed away unexpectedly in June 1926, he was only 52 years old at the time. The Marsh Printing Company was sold by Florence Marsh a month after her husband’s death to New Philadelphia resident, Charles Humphreville in July 1926.
To Be Continued in Part 3
© Noel B. Poirier, 2020.