I’ve driven past this New Philadelphia building many times and, given its proximity to the railroad tracks, had always assumed it was somehow connected to a railroad. I now know that it was associated with an entirely different type of business that sat on that property for many years at the beginning of the 20th century, and even earlier.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
The mass canning of fruits and vegetables began in earnest in the United States in the late 1800s and Tuscarawas County, with its many farms, was a good location to establish such an industry. New Philadelphia, with its access to railroads and its role as the county seat, attracted one such company in the early 1890s. The Beidler Canning Company was incorporated in February 1894 and later that year purchased a defunct Salem Wire Nail factory on West Front Street in New Philadelphia. The property at the time consisted of the factory building itself and a small, brick office next the railroad crossing with West Front Street.
Unfortunately for the Beidler Canning Company, their time in New Philadelphia was short-lived. The company had invested a great deal of money into the conversion of the nail factory to a canning factory from the very beginning so, when the factory suffered a catastrophic fire in June 1900, the costs to rebuild basically bankrupted the company. Additionally, they suffered from mismanagement of the cannery as well that led to prison for one of the cannery’s superintendents. The cannery, by December 1901, was put in receivership and its property offered for sale. County leadership recognized the value, both to farmers and to labor, of having a cannery operating in the county. Representatives travelled the region to lure a new owner, including the Heinz family in Pittsburgh.
While the Heinz family passed on purchasing the New Philadelphia canning facility, a well-known West Virginia firm chose to instead. The company was the Flaccus Brothers, a company that had been in the canning and preserves business since the 1880s in Wheeling, West Virginia. Their plan was to primarily use the New Philadelphia facility for the production of catsup and pickles. They also planned to plant at least three of the property’s five acres in cucumbers for the pickling enterprise. Local newspapers announced the purchase of the property, and the company’s plans, in January 1902.
The new owners decided that whoever they hired to superintend the cannery should, at least initially, reside on the property as well. They determined to dismantle the brick office that stood on the northern edge of the property and replace it with a small, brick house for this purpose. The home they built, likely using bricks saved from the old office, was a very simple one-story, cross-gabled, Queen Anne style home with two frame additions and a small porch on the east side. The house was ready for its first tenant, Ulysses A. Zimmerly (1870-1933), by May 1903.
Zimmerly was born in Harrison County, Ohio in 1870 and was a son of Elisha Zimmerly (1832-1890) and his wife Elizabeth Lewis (1837-bef. 1880). He worked on his father’s farm, and as a hired farm laborer until he moved to New Philadelphia around 1895. He found work as a gardener in town and, in 1900, married Lenora Kortz (1881-1913). He apparently only lived in the Flaccus Brothers company house for his first ten years as the cannery’s superintendent, moving to a small house on West St. Clair by 1913. That year his wife passed away from tuberculosis at the age of 32, leaving Ulysses to raise the couple’s only child.
The Flaccus cannery fared better than its predecessor, even as it went through a series of purchases and reorganizations during the time it operated its New Philadelphia cannery. After the death of the company’s owner in 1914, the firm lasted only a few more years until it finally dissolved in 1920. Ulysses Zimmerly left to work in one of steel mills after the cannery closed sometime in 1919. Luckily for New Philadelphia though, another canning firm, the Phelps Can Company, purchased the factory in 1919 and operated in some capacity on the site into the early 1960s. The company house built by the Flaccus Brothers still stands.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2023.