Monday, June 4, 2012

1614 Richmond Avenue - Hamilton House

1614 Richmond Avenue
Woodland Park, Columbus, Ohio
Lot 2-3-4 A.R. Creamer's Subdivision

On October 31, 1919 Donald M. Hamilton purchased this property from the Richmond Realty Company.

Donald Munson Hamilton was born November 14, 1887 in Columbus, son of English parents, Archibald and Mary Ellen Atkinson (Lovelady) Hamilton. He married Leoti Leni Leeper on December 18, 1915 in St. Joseph, Indiana. Leoti was born October 6, 1889 in South Bend, Indiana, daughter of Samuel and Della M. Earl Leeper. They had three sons: Donald, Jr. (August 6, 1918 - October 7, 1978) who became an attorney, Earl L. (1921) and Richard H. (1926).

Hamilton is in the front row in this picture of the 1909 Notre Dame football team.

A Wilkipedia article states that Don Hamilton was "an American football player for the University of Notre Dame, as well as a professional baseball player and a football referee. As a two-year starter at quarterback for Notre Dame, Hamilton amassed a record of 15-1-1. The highlight of the undefeated 1909 season was the school's first victory over Michigan in nine tries - an 11-3 triumph over a very good Fielding H. Yost team that would earn Notre Dame the title "Champions of the West". In 1910, Hamilton's eligibility was suspended for having played professional baseball with the Louisville Colonels, but he would return as a backup quarterback in 1911 and throw the school's first game-winning touchdown pass - a 35-yard strike to Lee Matthews - for a 6-0 victory against Pitt. After graduation, Hamilton played professionally in the Ohio League, first for the Shelby Blues in 1913,and then for the pre-NFL Canton Professionals-Bulldogs in 1914-15. By the early 1920s, he had become a referee for pro games played in the Ohio Valley, and in 1921 was banned from officiating games for the Ironton Tanks after admitting that he had watched them "more closely" than their opponents. By the mid 1930s, Hamilton had become a college football referee for the Big Ten Conference."

The Hamiltons are listed in the 1920 Census as living at 35 Wilson Avenue, Apt. 2. Donald is an attorney. They have a 17-year-old servant, Sarah L. Latham.

In 1940 the Hamiltons lived in Bexley at 222 S. Cassingham Road. Donald's firm was Hamilton and Framer at 17 S. High Street. About 1945 Donald and Leoti were divorced.

Leoti is listed in the 1951-54 Delray Beach, Florida City Directories, though by 1956 she had returned to Columbus and was living at 256 N. Cassingham Road.

Donald died June 2, 1959 in Columbus. Leoti died in Columbus on November 27, 1963.

Daisy Sellers
circa 1920
On February 1, 1923, Daisy F. Sellers bought the house from the Hamiltons.

Daisy Finnell was born July 25, 1878 in Louisville, Kentucky, daughter of Col. John W. Crittenden and Eliza Finnell. Daisy married Truitt B. Sellers about 1898. Truitt was born August 8, 1869 in Lebanon, Ohio, son of William B. and Sarah Elizabeth (Pullen) Sellers.

In 1910 the couple lived at 159 South Monroe Avenue. They had a servant, Ona Wingo. Ona was born about 1866 in Virginia. In the 1911 City Directory she is listed as a domestic, living at 157 South Monroe Avenue. Truitt was manager of the Ohio Inspection Bureau.

Inspection Bureau, Inc. (IBI) began its operation in Columbus, Ohio in 1888 under the name of “Underwriting Association” with several branch offices located throughout the state. In 1894, the name was changed to “The Ohio Inspection Bureau” in Columbus but the Cincinnati office retained the name “Underwriting Association” until 1917. The Ohio Inspection Bureau was a private organization supported by the fire insurance companies. Its duties consisted of scientific fire insurance ratemaking, the preparation of reports and information for the use of the insurance companies and fire-prevention service work for the insuring public. At its peak the bureau employed 200 people maintaining a main office in Columbus, Ohio and 10 branch offices throughout the state. It published thousands of reports and insurance rates. The published rates in reality were prices for $100 of insurance for one year for various types of buildings in any given town or city.

For almost 60 years the Ohio Inspection Bureau was the electrical inspection authority for the City of Cincinnati and adjacent areas while also doing business as an insurance rating organization. 

In 1947, a federal directive required insurance rating departments to confine their work to insurance interests only. The Ohio Inspection Bureau changed its name to Inspection Bureau, Inc. and reorganized its operations to focus entirely on electrical inspections for the City of Cincinnati and surrounding areas. This was accomplished through the combined efforts of the City, the electrical contractors, and Cincinnati Gas & Electric Company (Duke Energy). Presently, IBI is authorized by the Cincinnati and Hamilton County Building Commissioners as the area’s electrical inspection authority.

In 1920 the Sellers lived at 157 Smith Avenue. Truitt's older sister Sarah, "Sallie", lived with them.

In 1930, things were much the same. Sarah was still with them, Truitt's job was the same but 64-year-old Ona Wingo was back with them. The Sellers owned the house, valued at $20,000.

The Sellers both died in Columbus and are buried at Greenlawn Cemetery. Daisy died July 11, 1942 and Truitt died September 21, 1944.

Truitt's heirs split the property three ways, on April 11, 1945. Apparently they were all living at 1614 at the time. Sara M. Sellers (age 80), Helen G. Sellers (age 78), and Irma B. Tinsley (age 65). Title to the property passed along until there was only one surviving sister.

Sarah M. Sellers was born March 3, 1863 in Ohio. A family Member reported, "After the death of their parents in the early 1900s, Sarah moved in with her brother, Truitt B. Sellers and his wife, Daisy Finnell, at 1614 Richmond Avenue where they all lived the rest of their days." Sarah died on July 1, 1950 and is buried in Lebanon Cemetery in Lebanon, Ohio.

On October 11, 1955, the property passed to the last surviving sister, Irma S. Tinsley. Her guardian, Emily I. Hamilton sold the property on March 17, 1959 to the Roans for $14,000.

Sanford Roan
circa 1941
Sanford Ernest Roan was born February 23, 1914. He married Lucile Penn Johnson on March 1, 1941. Lucile was born in Columbus on August 5, 1916, daughter of William F. and Lena Penn Johnson. They had two children, Kay Sanford and Gary R.

In 1945, Sanford was a factory worker at Curtiss-Wright and the family lived at 76 East 11th Avenue. In 1953 they lived at 1568 Clifton Avenue, a property the family retained.

Sanford Roan was the first African-American to try to become an officer in the Ohio Highway Patrol in 1940. He was the first cadet, but not the first officer.

partial newspaper article
on Roan's beating
From the Ohio State Highway Patrol website, "In 1939, at the age of 25, an African-American named Sanford Roan decided to apply to the Ohio State Highway Patrol. He had assurances from many in important organizations, including Ohio Governor John Bricker, that the state was eager to hire men of color to various positions. But despite his qualifications, Roan's efforts to join the Patrol in 1940 were met with much opposition within the Division.

During the training, reports were made in newspapers throughout the state that he was made to eat by himself, away from the rest of the class, and other instances of being treated badly. The final straw came, though, after the boxing portion of the training, according to this newspaper account:

Lucile Penn Johnson Roan
"'During the self-defense class, which is held from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.,' Roan said 'part of the routine is the sparring bouts that are held daily where the students usually box in three minute periods. I was given several men to spar with for these periods and then when I almost reached the point of exhaustion, I was matched with a 200-pounder who attempted to make a fight of it,' he continued.

Roan received stitches at a local hospital and resigned from training, despite pleas from many for him to return to the Patrol. Despite its promise to Roan, the governor's office put off making any decisions until after Gov. Bricker's re-election, then ignored Roan's pleas all together.

Nevertheless, after his experience with the Division, Roan became a successful entrepreneur and family man. He married his sweetheart, Lucile Penn Johnson, March 1, 1941, and some years later added two children, Kay and Gary, According to Kay, her father and mother heavily emphasized education for their children - both had college degrees.

FAMILY LIFE  After his experience with the Division, Roan became a successful entrepreneur and family man. He married his sweetheart, Lucile Penn Johnson, March 1, 1941, and some years later added two children, Kay and Gary, his daughter Kay said during an interview in the fall of 2009. According to Kay, her father and mother heavily emphasized education for their children. Sanford had a college degree, as did Lucile (from The Ohio State University). When old enough for school, Kay said she and her brother attended University School, a school set up at Ohio State as a sort of "learning laboratory" for education students in what is now known as Ramseyer Hall. They were two of very few minority children in the school, but Kay doesn't remember that being an issue.

LEMONADE IN A WORLD OF LEMONS In fact, there wasn't much that Kay noticed growing up in her immediate surroundings on the east side of Columbus that made her feel uncomfortable. She attributes that to her parents' ability to shield their children from much of the world's racism during their young lives. Kay said her father never talked about what happened to him during his time at the Patrol's Training Academy. Although she believes it affected him deeply, she points out that he moved on to become a successful businessman in Columbus until his death in July 1965. "He didn't share the horror stories. It made him a stronger person," Kay said of her father's Patrol experience. "He was not a bitter man, but he wanted justice. He was promised a state job. He quit several times (due to the incident), but a lot of people worked very hard to get him to go back." 

The former Macon Hotel at 20th and Mt. Vernon Avenue
DOING BUSINESS IN COLUMBUS After he resigned from the Patrol's training program, Roan began opening businesses throughout Columbus and the surrounding area. They mainly consisted of smaller stores, like today's convenience shops, pool halls, and lounges, Kay said, and included names such as the Kozy Korner Lounge (Roan owned the building at 320 Taylor Avenue), the Macon Hotel and Lounge, several apartment buildings, and R&R Car Wash. The Macon, which Roan owned with a partner, was a premier location in Columbus on the near east side, where many of the best black entertainers came to perform, including Duke Ellington. In fact, the Macon was part of the Chitlin' Circuit, a string of performance venues throughout the eastern and southern United States that were safe and acceptable for African American entertainers to perform during the age of racial segregation from the late 1800s through the 1960s. "We're not quitters. I come from a strong work ethic," Kay said of her family. "I remember him commenting once that he would 'never work for anyone in his life.' Whatever problems happened in his life...he never did end up working for anyone else." 

STRONG HERITAGE Both Roan and his wife, Lucile, came from strong working families. Roan's family was prominent in the Chicago area, owning and managing several restaurants and nightclubs in the city, Kay said. Lucile's family owned Penn Transfer and Storage Company in Columbus, which, at the time of its operation, was the United States' oldest African-American-owned business operating in the same location, according to The Library of Congress. Located on High Street near the OSU campus, the business catered to the university, moving objects, furniture, and other items for students and local residents. "When black celebrities came to town, they all needed a place to stay, and my Great-Grandma had raised eight kids and had a lot of room at her house," Kay said. Other well-known figures who stayed at the home included singer Ethel Waters, politician and author Booker T. Washington, and poet/short story writer Langston Hughes, according to Kay and Gary. Lucile's mother, Lena Penn Johnson, ran the family company and made frequent trips to New York City on business. Johnson was very well known socially, as was Lucile herself. In addition to being involved with and starting several social groups in the Columbus area, Lucile modeled along side Lena Horne, wrote a newspaper column and was engaged for a short time to Mercer Ellington, the son of Duke Ellington. In fact, Color Magazine voted Lucile and Horne as two of 10 Best Dressed Negro Women in the country. Despite the ability to provide almost anything his children desired due to great business success, Kay said her father was very adamant that his kids realize the importance of education and hard work. They had jobs at car wash owned by their father, and they would work every Sunday after church. Gary also worked his own paper route each Sunday after church. "He didn't want to spoil us. But we always had nice things - new cars, nice clothes. Mom never worked (outside of the home) a day in her life. Our college was paid for and he paid cash for everything," Kay said. "We didn't even get to have our own bikes for the longest time. We were always riding other kids' bikes." 

SOME LEMONS ARE MORE SOUR With all the prominence enjoyed by her family and their circle of friends in Columbus' black community, Kay enjoyed a childhood devoid of racial tensions. "They tried to insulate us," she said of her parents. "We didn't go places we weren't wanted." But there came a time, when Kay was 15 years old, and she was invited to a school friend's house overnight. The friend's house, located in another neighborhood than Kay's house, had neighbors across the street who weren't particularly fond of seeing Kay on their lane. The neighbors made it known to the schoolmate's parents that, if Kay actually spent the night at her friend's home, that the neighbor's daughter would never visit again. The incident bothered Kay, but her mother gave her good advice on how to handle it. "She said, 'Honey, tell them it doesn't rub off,'" Kay said.

WHAT A TRIP Kay also remembers trips her family made each year in the family car to California. To protect his family during the trip, Roan carried the registered gun he used to protect the lounges and bars he owned from theft. "We had to because our lives were in danger," Kay said. The trips were disappointing, though, because each summer, the Roan family encountered some incident of discrimination. So one year, they decided to travel through Canada. "We went through Canada and there was no racism," Kay recalled. "They all said, 'You should come up here, it sounds terrible in the States.'" A short time afterward, they traveled through Washington State, where two white men in a sports car tried to run the family's car off the road, and succeeded - they ended up in a ditch. Fortunately, no one in the Roan family was injured, and they continued their vacation.

PERSERVERANCE, PRIDE IN FAMILY AND COMMUNITY Incidents like these didn't stop the Roan family. Kay and Gary were active in programs, like Jack and Jill, a club for parents and kids, and groups in the church. The Victory Matrons, an African-American women's group started in 1942, also invited Kay to be sponsored as a debutante at their annual Star Lite Cotillion. She was presented as a Pre-Debutante when she was 16, and a Debutante at the age of 17. A strong sense of unity in the Black community was very important, Kay said, and is to this day. Kay's mother, in fact, was one of 10 founding members of the Columbus chapter of The Girlfriends Inc., a social-civic club for African-American women that started in New York in 1927. Kay continues to be a member of that organization to this day. "The Black Community stuck together - it still sticks together. We have to," she said.

Kay said her father never talked about what happened to him during his time at the Patrol's Training Academy. Although she believes it affected him deeply, she points out that he moved on to become a successful businessman in Columbus until his death in July 1965. 

Like the Roan family, there have been many who sacrificed and suffered to better the lives for those who followed. Motivating these leaders were characteristics like civic pride, patriotism, pride in family and heritage, and fortitude to overcome obstacles. 

In 2009, the number of sworn Patrol personnel belonging to minority groups is about 15 percent of about 1,500 officers, and the atmosphere within the Division is very different than that of 1940. Today, recruitment of minority officers is a focus of the Office of Training, Selection & Standards.

These and others were able to serve with the Patrol as as a result of those like Sanford Roan, who spoke out for the rights of individuals of all races. Roan passed this legacy onto his children, as well. Both of Roan's children continue the family tradition of success - both are college graduates and have successful careers.

Reels of microfilm, one of which contains Roan's letter to Pres. Roosevelt, the U.S. Attorney General's response, and several articles regarding Roan's unfortunate experiences with the Ohio State Highway Patrol are recorded as a part of the "U.S. Department of Justice Classified Subject Files on Civil Rights, 1914-1949 (ISBN 978-0-88692-765-3)." These reels are a collection mainly of letters to the President written by citizens against the practice of lynching. A large group of the documents deal with the case of the Scottsboro Boys, and others include subjects like the lynching of Claude Neal, race riots, and other civil rights violations. The collection is owned by Lexis-Nexis and are available only four places in the United States (according to State of Ohio Library information as of November 2009): Lexis-Nexis (Bethesda, Maryland); John Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland); a library in Iowa; and The Library of Congress, (Washington, D.C.).

The Columbus Dispatch of Saturday, July 17, 1965 headline reported, "Sanford Ernest Roan, 51, 1616 Richmond Ave., is fatally shot, and two others are wounded after an extnded drinking bout at the Int'l Hod Carriers Union Hall." Lucile died in Columbus on April 3, 2003.

On February 25, 2000, the property was transferred to Kay S. Roan.

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