One House’s Story: The Ohliger Family

The Ohliger House on Fair Avenue in New Philadelphia, Ohio, 2019. (Source: google.com)

This home was built by an immigrant who had, through years of hard work, become a prominent and respected member of the community. Unfortunately, he was only able to enjoy his new family home for a short time.


A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.

The Ohliger family boarded the Ship Tropic in Le Havre, France in October 1858 bound for a new life in America. The family included parents Philip Ohliger (1816-1890) and his wife Jeanette Klein (1819-1900) and their three sons. Their voyage to America was a tumultuous one and their ship suffered a number of calamities from storms encountered during their two-month passage to New York City; enough to warrant mention in the New York Times. Once they arrived, the family boarded a train that took them to Stark County, Ohio and a new life in America. That life now also included a daughter born shortly after their arrival in Ohio.

Philip was a blacksmith by trade and he easily found work in the growing communities of Alliance and Canton where the family lived for nearly two decades. Their eldest son was tragically killed in an accidental shooting at the age of 17, but the other two boys found work on the growing railroads that crisscrossed the state of Ohio. One of those sons, Edward Ohliger (1853-1909), started working as a brakeman on the Cleveland and Pittsburgh line in 1870 at the age of 17. Three years later he married Grace Lee Ida Way (1857-1889) and the couple eventually moved to Cleveland.

  • The Ohliger family recorded on the passenger manifest for the Ship Tropic, December 1858. (Source: ancestry.com)
  • Description of the voyage of the Ship Tropic, carrying the Ohliger family, from the New York Times, December 1858. (Source: archive.org)
  • Edward Ohliger and his brother recorded in the directory for the city of Cleveland, 1880. (Source: ancestry.com)

Edward had been promoted from brakeman to freight conductor by the time he and Grace moved to Cleveland before 1880. Edward and Grace never had any children and it’s possible that Grace suffered from some form of health issues. Grace was eventually hospitalized and died from what was reported as an abscess in November 1889. Edward did not remain single more than a year, marrying Mary Matilda Marr (1852-aft. 1897) in December 1890 in Cleveland. Edward was soon promoted to the position of passenger conductor for the Cleveland and Pittsburgh railroad.

Once again the marriage proved childless, and it appears that Edward’s new wife may have had issues with the use of morphine. She nearly died from a self-administered overdose of morphine in 1892 and, less than five years later, Edward sued for divorce from Mary. Edward had relocated to New Philadelphia by this time and was living on Front Street. Once in New Philadelphia, he met Martha Alice Murray (1863-1941) and the couple married in October 1898. Just over a year later the couple welcomed a son and Edward determined to build the family a new home.

Edward and Martha acquired a lot at the corner of West Fair Street and North 10th Street in section of town known as the “Free Home Allotment” in the late summer of 1902. There Edward built a Queen Anne style home of the type often referred to as “hipped roof with lower cross gables.” An image of the home from around 1908 shows the house looking very much as it does today, though the large, L-shaped pedimented front porch was decorated with fancier spindle work trim typical of the Queen Anne style. The home soon became host to a number of community and church related activities and meetings held by Martha Ohliger.

  • Report of Matilda Marr Ohliger's morphine overdose in the newspaper, June 1892. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • Edward and Matilda's divorce reported in the newspaper, October 1897. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • The location of the Ohliger House on West Fair Street from the 1910 Sanborne Fire Insurance Map. (Source: loc.gov)
  • Picture of the Ohliger House on Fair Street from the 1908 Tuscarawas County Atlas. (Source: ancestry.com)

Edward continued to work as the passenger conductor for the Cleveland & Pittsburgh railroad over the next several years and he and his family would often travel to visit their family members in other parts of Ohio. Occasionally, those family members would stay with the Ohligers at their home on West Fair Street as well. Meanwhile, their young son attended in school in New Philadelphia while Martha played an active role in the family’s church. Unfortunately, Edward would not get to enjoy his new home and family life for very long.

When the newspaper reported on the death of Edward Ohliger in July 1909, in a lengthy article that included a picture and a history of the Ohliger family, it reported that he had died from a lingering illness for which he had been treated for years. Edward died of cirrhosis of the liver, a disease common among alcoholics, and his death shed light on that aspect of his life not otherwise reported. After Edward’s death, Martha received enough money from insurance and her late husband’s pension that she was able to live comfortably in her West Fair Street home until her death in 1941.

  • Death of Edward Ohliger reported in the New Philadelphia newspaper, July 1909. (Source: newspaperarchive.com)
  • Death of Mrs. Martha Ohliger reported in the New Philadelphia newspaper, 1941. (Source: ancestry.com)
  • The Ohliger House on Fair Avenue NW, 2022.

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© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.

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