There was once a busy carriage making shop founded by a Pennsylvania-born blacksmith on what is today 2nd Street SW that manufactured and repaired carriages, buggies and wagons for over twenty-years. Today the site is occupied by a nondescript office building.
Charles Houpt (1833-1921) was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1833 to farmer Philip Houpt (1796-1880) and his wife Susanna Arndt (1797-1894). The Houpt family name is written a number of different ways in the historical record including Haup, Houp, Houpt and Haupt. Philip and Susanna’s family included eleven children composed of five sons and six daughters. Some of Philip’s sons, including Charles, were apprenticed to learn various trades including cabinet making, blacksmithing and wheelwrighting.
Charles was one of the sons who learned the blacksmithing trade; the art of forging metal using tools like a hammer, anvil, and file to make a variety of iron and steel products. Charles, after finishing his apprenticeship, went to work as a blacksmith in a wheelwright’s shop in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania around 1850. In the meantime, Charles’ older brother Zeba Houpt (1826-1902) moved to the town of Shalersville in Portage County, Ohio where he established a cabinetmaking shop. Charles relocated to northeast Ohio, and likely to work with his brother in Shalersville, sometime during the 1850s. It was also during this time that he likely also made the acquaintance of a Shalersville carriage maker named Lewis Kasson (1839-1906) and his family.
Charles Houpt, now living in northeast Ohio when the Civil War began, enlisted in April 1861 in one of Ohio’s three-months regiments, the 19th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Charles enlisted in Company G, recruited from the Akron, Ohio area. After his enlistment in the 19th expired in August 1861, Charles then enlisted in Battery D of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery. While he began service in the regiment as a private, he was later named as one of the battery’s artificers, where his blacksmithing skills were put to use. Battery D served for the entire conflict, mostly in the western theater where it saw action in battles and sieges throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, and Georgia.
After the war Charles returned to Shalersville and, a year later, married the sister of Lewis Kasson, Melissa Kasson (1844-1896), in February 1866. Charles and Lewis decided to move to the busy city of New Philadelphia and set-up their own carriage making business. One of the first advertisements for their new shop in New Philadelphia, referred to as “Kasson & Houpt”, stated that they were “lately from the Reserve” and had established themselves a “few rods south of the M.E. Church.” The shop sat on the west corner of what was then called South 5th Street and an alley between Front and High Streets. Charles and his new wife also lived in a house just south of the workshops.
Charles and Melissa welcomed their only child, a daughter named Carrie (1870-1960), in 1870. Lewis Kasson decided to pursue other business interests in New Philadelphia and so Charles became the sole owner and operator of the carriage works. The New Philadelphia newspapers are full of advertisements for the business during the 1870s and 1880s, and one source stated that Houpt’s half-a-dozen or so craftsmen turned out thirty-five to forty buggies annually. When Charles was not busy overseeing the work in the shops, he joined friends on excursions to destinations as far away as California. Perhaps it was this desire to travel that motivated Charles to sell his carriage making business and home in the winter of 1889.
After selling his carriage manufactory and home in New Philadelphia, Charles, Melissa, and Carrie built a home and moved to Canton, Ohio. Carrie Houpt married nine months later in the fall of 1889 to Jacob J. Sheets (1868-1952). The carriage works in New Philadelphia were torn down shortly after the Houpts moved to Canton to make room for a large brick dwelling. Charles continued to travel across the United States and was away from home when, in November 1896, Melissa suffered a heart attack and died. Charles moved in with his daughter and son-in-law after Melissa’s death and would live for another twenty-five years, dying in April 1921.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.