This large brick home on East High Avenue in New Philadelphia, one of many large homes on that stretch of road, was home to one New Philadelphia’s most successful businessmen and his wife. The son of an immigrant, the home stands as a testament to the immigrant goal of achieving a better life in America for their children.
A note about addresses: House numbers and street names often change over time.
Skilled Millwright George Frederick Horning (1823-1879) immigrated from Germany to the United States in the early 1840s and he was living and successfully practicing his trade in Tuscarawas County by the end of that decade. George, also referred to by his middle name at times, married New York-born Harriet Perry (1830-1908) in 1849, a little over a year after her family arrived in Tuscarawas County. George’s skill as a millwright enabled him to earn enough money to acquire a significant land holding just east of New Philadelphia where he also farmed.
George and Harriet raised four children on their farm in Goshen Township and apparently made sure that they were educated beyond the farm and the mill. Those children, one daughter and three sons, were all born between 1850 and 1860. The youngest child was a son named Ralph Theodore Horning (1859-1933) who, once completing his schooling, went to work as a clerk for a local merchant in New Philadelphia. Ralph was working there, and boarding in New Philadelphia, when George Horning died in September 1879. All three of the sons, by the time of their father’s death, were involved in commercial activities.
George named his wife Harriet as his executor in his will and, after his death, she leased the family farm and moved into a new home on what was then called East Avenue in New Philadelphia. Ralph, meanwhile, became a partner in the firm where he had clerked in 1884. Four years later that business was sold and Ralph, along with other investors, decided to purchase the defunct New Philadelphia Agricultural Works on South Broadway and reopened it as the Spicer Manufacturing Company. The company continued to produce the many agricultural implements that the previous occupants had been known to manufacture. It was also around this time that Ralph married Eva M. Scott (1864-1959) and the couple decided to move into their own home on East Avenue near Ralph’s mother.
Whether Ralph had the house built or it was already standing would require a more in-depth trip to the courthouse and a search of deed records. Regardless, the house that Ralph and Eva moved into around 1890 was constructed in the previous few years as a duplex home as seen on the 1901 Sanborne Fire Insurance map for New Philadelphia. That is also confirmed by the 1903 New Philadelphia Directory that listed two family occupants of the house. The home was constructed in the centered-gable Italianate style with the style’s typical tall, narrow windows with elaborate window crowns and wide overhanging eaves with decorative brackets. There was no front porch when the house was originally built and this feature was likely added later by Ralph and Eva when they converted the home into a single-family home prior to 1910.
The Spicer Manufacturing Company was far more successful than its predecessor and Ralph Horning rose through the ranks of the company, while also branching out into other successful commercial and social endeavors including the local Masonic Lodge. The Hornings did not have any children, so the large home on what was now called East High Avenue must have seemed cavernous and a reminder of their childlessness. Eva Horning spent her time taking part in the local Women’s Club and Tuscarawas County Garden Club among other social activities.
Ralph Horning retired from Spicer Manufacturing in 1916, but still sat on the boards of a local bank and Union Hospital until his death in September 1933. His cause of death, stomach cancer, was similar to what took his father’s life. Following the death of her husband, Eva Horning continued to live in the house on East High Avenue until her death in June 1959. After her death Eva donated the proceeds of her estate to Union Hospital. The donation totaled $204,000 in 1960; the equivalent of over $2,000,000 today.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2023.