A History of the Burns Family
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PART ONE: Guy's Path to the Dance


Cuyahoga Falls, Summit County, Ohio
Friday, July 6, 1894

PART ONE Overview
1 - Wildcat Brigade
2 - Battle of Wilderness
3 - Field Hospital
4 - Orphan School
5 - Ladies' Man
6 - Mary Dinger
7 -The Masons
8 - Mary Rebecca
9 - Guy the Wanderer
10 - Farmer Boy
11 - Center of the World
12 - Birthday
13 - Fish Story
14 - Miss Fenn
15 - To the Dance

More Information


18 Newberry Street
Mary Rebecca in front of the house on Newberry Street

The Baltimore and Ohio train rumbles by the backyard, brakes screeching as it nears the station on Main Street. [1] Guy startles awake in the early morning light, and as usual it takes a moment to remember where he is.  It’s summer in the new house, and today is his tenth birthday.  He’s already decided what he’ll do on this special day – collect Harry Duffy and finish the tree house in Mr. Connor’s woodlot over on Center Street.[2]

He slips on a pair of knickers and a long-sleeved cotton shirt, pulls on stockings and buttons his boots. [3] Then he thumps downstairs, where his mother has been hard at work since before dawn.  Two batches of sugar cookies are spread out on the kitchen table, cooling, and the raisin ones are already in the big black crock on the counter.  She’ll make doughnuts later. [4] She gives him a pat, and lets him sample the broken cookie bits even before he finishes his morning chores. It’s hot in the kitchen after all the baking, and he wonders how it is that she always seems cool and comfortable encased in her black sateen dress. The high-necked collar looks tight enough to choke a person. 

In the spring, Guy’s parents had decided to leave Center of the World, and all the Mason relatives in Windham, to make a new start in Cuyahoga Falls, a bustling town a few miles north of Akron.  Guy is excited by all the changes since they moved to the ten-room house on 18 Newberry Street.  The Falls, as they call it, is not crowded like Akron or Cleveland, but it’s much bigger than Windham – more than 10 times bigger, his father says.  But it’s still small enough to be friendly, and his father’s earnings can pay the reasonable rent with money to spare. [5]

Big Picture
From the 1915 Plat of Cuyahoga Falls (click for closeup of house location)

The house is near the center of town, and the family walks everywhere they need to go.  Union School is just a few blocks away.  Three friends from school – Harry, Charlie Vance, and Russell Cook – live up the street, Leo Brown lives around the corner on Stone, and Bertha Moon lives across from Russell, although being a girl she’s not any fun. The shops on Front Street are just across the Portage Street Bridge.  The Falls Christian Church is also just across the bridge, near the big public square with the bandstand, where the town band plays concerts on summer evenings. [6]

After two years in the relative isolation of Center of the World, it seems to Guy he is living in a veritable candy store of opportunities and attractions.  He doesn’t mind the chores.  He’s strong and capable, and the simple task his mother has given him on his birthday – to sweep the sidewalk under the maple tree -- occupies very little conscious thought. 

Another train rattles by, blocking the view from the back yard of Falls Rivet and Machine, a sprawling factory of low buildings strung out along the river. Every morning, his father carries his lunchpail across the tracks behind the house and to his job there as a day laborer. And every evening, the end-of-day siren signals that the day shift at Falls Rivet is over, and Father will soon be retracing his steps across the tracks, and joining them for supper.

Falls Rivet
Photo of Falls Rivet & Machine around 1891 (anyone see Lorenzo?)

A much later photo showing Lorenzo and Clyde
heading to work across the tracks behind the house

Guy loves all the usual boy things, but he is also a thinker. Today he is thinking about the dam beside Falls Rivet, and how it supplies power for manufacturing the pulleys, hangers, rivets, washers, and other products his father helps to fabricate. [7] This curiosity makes him an excellent student -- with nice penmanship for a boy his age and a head for figures to boot. In his short stint at Union, he distinguished himself as the smart new pupil in the class for a few weeks before school let out for the summer.  Unlike some of his friends, he does not dread September. 

He already knows a great deal about his new hometown.  He knows that the old Ohio Canal, now a dry bed in back of the house, used to carry boats south from Cleveland all the way to the Ohio River.  He knows that depending on who you talk to, Cuyahoga means “crooked” or “the beautiful” or “the place of the jawbone.”  And that Newberry Street was named after the town’s first mayor, and that the river flows 100 miles north into Lake Erie.  And he’s also learning the local boys’ haunts – the woodlot of oak and hickory trees, the best places to snag a bass, the vacant lot where the old rope swing hangs and the boys play baseball until it’s too dark to see. 

He knows how to get to the meat market, where Mr. Roethig always gives him an extra sausage, and Loomis Hardware on Front Street, where you can find most anything, including Round Oak woodstoves like the one in the parlor and the tinware they eat their meals on. [8] He happily fetches supplies from town, proud of the responsibility entrusted in him.  Four quarters ride in his pocket westbound over the bridge, and a small sackful of groceries returns:  12¢ for a brick of cheese, a pound of butter for 25¢, a dozen eggs for 12¢, and three pounds of dressed chicken for 36¢. His mother lets him spend a penny on striped candy when he goes up to the counter to pay. [9]

When Guy finishes the sweeping, he joins his parents and sister for a hearty plateful of bacon and eggs.  His father’s in his work clothes already, with the new suspenders Mother gave him for Christmas, his plate nearly clean.  Eliza May squirms in her seat, bursting to tell her brother something very important.  Following the glances she’s trying so hard to control, he looks behind him, where the icebox stands, and sees the gift – a brand-new fishing rod and reel!

“Happy birthday, son,” says Father.  “We’ll go down to the river when I come home from work.” 


[1] Two rail lines ran behind their house: one was the Baltimore & Ohio, the other was the Cleveland, Akron, & Columbus Line.  You can see the B & O train in the photo, to the left and behind the house.

[2] The Duffy family lived down the street for years, and was remembered by Bob Burns.

[3] Standard boys’ clothing of the time.

[4] Robert Burns remembers sugar cookies and raisin cookies being favorites.  She would make several batches a week and put them in big black crocks on the shelf.

[5] For comparison, in 1900 Cuyahoga Falls had 3186 people and Windham had 283.

[6] All of these details are from the 1900-1910 census records, and the 1910 plat map that shows who lives where.  Union School was renamed East School in 1909, and was a combination grammar/high school until 1922, when Cuyahoga Falls High School was opened across the river.

[7] From Summit Memories website – list of businesses operating in 1890 – and what they produced. We know from city directories from the late 1890s through the early 1900s that Lorenzo worked at Falls Rivet.

[8] Details from the Sesquicentennial History of Cuyahoga Falls, Summit Memory website, and Ebba’s recollection of going to Roethig’s for sausages.  Loomis Hardware sold Round Oak stoves, which Ebba remembers having in the house on Newberry Street. The photograph is from the turn of the century.

[9] Prices from Summit Memories website.  Ebba’s recollection was that her grandma always let her get a bag of striped candy when she paid her grocery bill.