When you drive down Fair Avenue in New Philadelphia, Ohio you see a variety of homes in differing architectural styles and in differing states of repair. One house on the 400 block of Fair Avenue NW is currently being worked on in preparation of once again becoming someone’s home. This is a story from that house’s history.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time. The house that occupies Lot 495 today carried various house numbers over its lifetime.
The Walton family arrived in Tuscarawas County around the time that Ohio achieved statehood in 1803. Boaz Daniel Walton (1776-1836) moved with his wife from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Clay Township, just outside Gnadenhutten. The family would grow to include eight children by his first wife and, following her death in 1817 and his remarriage, a total of nine children in all. Boaz was a successful farmer and, upon his death, was able to leave land holdings to his children.
One of those children was a son, named Josiah Walton (1811-1891), who married Sarah Shaffer (1821-?) around 1840. Josiah was a successful farmer in his own right and, by the 1870s, was prominent enough in the community to have his farm in Warwick Township, Tuscarawas County featured in the 1875 Atlas of Tuscarawas County. Josiah and Sarah raised seven children on the farm and, by all accounts, educated those children as well. Among their children was a son named William H. Walton (1849-1904) who would go on to build the house on West Fair Street.
William H. Walton, rather than pursue farming and perhaps with seed money provided by his father, went into the mercantile business in New Philadelphia. He started small, opening a shoe store, but expanded his business over time into other goods. Sometime in the early 1870s he met Elzyra E. Link (1851-1935), the daughter of New Philadelphia grocer Peter Link (1828-1887) and his wife Minerva Porter (1832-1904). Elzyra was an educated young woman who graduated from New Philadelphia’s school in 1871. She worked as a school teacher in New Philadelphia at the time that she and William met, and the couple married in the spring of 1877.
William and Elzyra moved into a home on Fair Street, though exactly where is unknown. Determining the exact date when they acquired Lot 495 on West Fair Street (Fair Avenue NW) would require a trip to the county courthouse and a search of deed records. However, William H. Walton sold a property he owned in Uhrichsville in January 1886 for $200 and may have used the proceeds towards the purchase of the property in New Philadelphia. The Tuscarawas County Auditor’s records record the construction date of the dwelling on Lot 495 as 1890. It is safe to say that, by 1890, William and Elzyra Walton were occupying Lot 495 on West Fair Street.
The house that William and Elzyra built was another Tuscarawas County example of the Italianate architectural style. The house originally boasted the hipped roof, tall narrow windows, offset front entrance, bay window projection on the east side, deep roof overhang, and likely a once corbeled and decorative cornice all typical of the style. The house did not have a front porch when it was originally built, but the Waltons added one in the first decade of the 1900s. Many of its Italianate features, particularly any exterior decorative moldings or cornice work, have been neutered over the years.
William H. Walton continued to improve his businesses, partnering with other merchants and eventually selling his business to another prominent New Philadelphia merchant. He played an active role in the community as well, serving with the Street Fair Association, the Knights of the Maccabees, and was a founding member of New Philadelphia’s Royal Arcanum. Elzyra belonged to a number of civic and religious organizations as well and was a charter member of the Que Vive Club, a women’s club in New Philadelphia. The Que Vive Club met regularly to discuss cultural, historical and political issues of importance to women in the community. Numerous meetings of the club, which included the city’s most prominent women, were held at the Walton home on West Fair Street.
William and Elzyra, along with all of their cultural and social activities, also raised a family in the house on West Fair Street. The couple welcomed three daughters into the home, though their middle daughter died unexpectedly at the age of 20. Later, the Walton family welcomed Elzyra’s sister Josephine Link (1857 -1938) to live with them. Josephine, like her sister before her, was a school teacher in New Philadelphia.
1904 was a tragic year for the Walton family. William H. Walton fell ill with a fever in late January, a fever that turned out to be typhus. He died on Tuesday, February 9, 1904. Elzyra had little time to grieve the loss of her husband when, a week later, her mother passed away. As these losses occurred, one of the Walton’s daughters had been sick for three months with tuberculosis with little sign of recovery. That daughter, Alice Walton (1884-1904), succumbed to the illness in August 1904.
Elzyra Walton continued to live in the house on West Fair Street with her sister Josephine for another thirty-one years. The two ladies continued to host meetings of the various social and civic groups to which they belonged and watched as Elzyra’s two other daughters married and moved into homes of their own in New Philadelphia. When Elzyra Walton died just before Christmas in 1935, the newspaper referred to her as “one of the best known women of New Philadelphia.” Her sister Josephine lived another three years after her sister. The family burial plot is located at the Fair Street Cemetery in New Philadelphia.
The Walton House on Fair Avenue NW is currently being repaired and updated for some future owner. Though it has lost some of its Italianate wrappings, it retains the history of being the home of a well-respected New Philadelphia family. I wish the future owners of the home the best and hope they come to appreciate the home as much as the Waltons did.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.