Many older and larger homes in a community are converted to multi-family dwellings later on in life. New Philadelphia has many such homes, but they all started as the home of a single family with their own story. This is the story of one of those homes.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The Mathias family settled in the area known as Lockport, Tuscarawas County around 1813 when John Mathias (1786-1825) moved his family from York County, Pennsylvania. John and his wife Anna (1788-1866) were the parents of nine children, including a son named Adam Mathias (1809-1889). Adam married Elizabeth Attick (1811-1885) in 1831 and the couple established their homestead in the area known as Hummel Valley, south of the city of New Philadelphia on land that the family farmed. Like his parents before him, Adam and Elizabeth also raised a large family of eleven children including five daughters and six sons.
The couple’s eldest son was named John B. Mathias (1834-1909) and, interestingly, when he was 25 years old his occupation was recorded as “Artist” on the 1860 census record for the Mathias family. What kind of artist he was, and where he learned to be an artist, is unclear. Shortly after that census, John married Lydia Ann Shull (1838-1914) and after the birth of two of their children, John started his own business. Perhaps it was his artistic spirit that motivated John to establish a photography studio in New Philadelphia in 1866. There he offered his skills as a photographer and sold photo albums, picture frames and other items associated with the trade.
Two years after opening his photography studio and shop, John Mathias purchased an interest in the popular store of Kaderly, Senhauser, and Company. John would have a number of partners over the years as he grew his own mercantile businesses in New Philadelphia. It was during this period of family and business growth, in the early 1870s, that John and Lydia acquired the property on West Fair recorded as Lot 302. The family had grown to include a total of four children and the house on Fair provided ample room and reflected the success that John had achieved in the mercantile businesses that he partnered in, or owned outright.
The house that became the Mathias’ family home was an large brick home built in the very popular Italianate style that dominates many New Philadelphia neighborhoods. The home had the tell-tale hipped roof structure, the deep eaves decorated with moldings, cornice and corbels, and framed, arched top windows. Additionally there was eventually a single story brick addition on the north side of the home that expanded the overall living space of the home. A wood frame summer kitchen with a bake oven also sat just north of the main house itself. The Mathias House, both in appearance and location, spoke to the business success of the family that resided in it.
During the late 1880s, John Mathias had entered into another partnership in his mercantile business with a man names Thomas Williams. Meanwhile, his daughter Della Mathias (1863-1929) began a courtship with the son of a prominent bricklaying family named Edward Dick (1862-1895) of the Dick Family of Ray Street. The couple were married in 1888 and, a year later, Edward purchased the Thomas Williams’ interest in the Mathias partnership. Edward and his father-in-law became partners until Edward’s untimely death in 1895 at the age of 33.
John and Lydia Mathias continued to reside in the house on Fair Avenue after their children had grown and gone on their own. Della moved back in with her parents with her children following the death of her husband. Della eventually remarried, this time to another partner of her fathers. One son lived in the home immediately behind the Mathias house, on Ray Street. John B. Mathias passed away in the fall of 1909 and, out of respect, all the shops in New Philadelphia closed the afternoon of his burial. Lydia lived another five years before she too passed away in the spring of 1914.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.