This article first published Feb. 7, 1985:
The past few days we have been doing a lot of digging into old papers, books, letters, diaries, and what have you, in an endeavor to document the old photos that are on display in the Patterson Art Gallery during February (of 1985). It was surprising to discover how many stores, mills and businesses offering a variety of types of service were located in this small town.
Hon. Austin Smith, who began practicing law in Westfield in the spring of 1830, presented a historical oration in Westfield at the centennial anniversary of American independence on July 4, 1876. One hundred years later the Westfield Republican printed the lengthy speech which is loaded with information about early Westfield.
Smith told a bit about many business enterprises and I will just give a count of those mentioned. In this little village before the year 1876 there were: three dry goods stores; five men's clothing stores; two harness stores; three drug/book/stationery stores; six grocery stores; one jewelry store; three hardware stores; two banks; four boot and shoe stores; six shops for the manufacture of boots and shoes; six blacksmith shops; two barrel factories or coopers; four millinery stores; three cabinet shops and warehouses; two undertaking businesses; and six churches.
There were three hotels - the Westfield House, the Minton House, and the Tyler House near the depot. There were several restaurants, one of which seemed to be budding into a hotel, three gristmills - the Westfield Mill, the Glen Mill, and Rorig's Steam Mill - two steam sawmills, one on Spring Street owned by H. Fitch, the other about four miles south of town owned by O.H. Ogden, and several others run by water power.
There was a woolen factory, the lock factory, the Shackleton Steam Heating Co., two planning mills, a paper mill, York's Foundry and Machine Shop, the Westfield Manufacturing Co., and one tannery.
There were three wagon and carriage shops, one kept by L.E. Osgood on the north side of Main Street near the Minton House, one by William Crandall near York's Foundry and one on North Portage St. near the head of Clinton Street run by T.J. Macomber.
Smith had this to say about the gas company in 1876, "The gas from the spring near the lake is now conducted by a gas company to Westfield, and furnishes the principal supply for lighting the village. Little was known or suspected at the early day of carbureted hydrogen gas along the southern shore of Lake Erie. Great efforts have been made to find precious minerals here. At an early day Buffington bored for salt; more recently a company bored for oil; but all ended in gas, and not always of the illuminating kind."
Five physicians resided in town - John Spencer, T.D. Strong, J.M. Brown and Oscar Jones, old school, and G.W. Seymour and J.B. Campbell, homeopaths. Smith said, "Dr. McIntyre can hardly be ranked with the physicians. He and his sulphur springs were an institution. He established a water cure in the gulf at the springs. Had a large business, often 30 or 40 patients at a time, and effected many remarkable cures. Dr. McIntyre really deserves the merit of establishing the first water cure in the state. There was but little thought of it at the time, and it was the subject of ridicule with the savants, but late experience has proven that water properly applied is one of the most effective remedial agents."
At the time of Smith's oration there were two banks in Westfield, the First National Bank of Westfield by F.B. Brewer, E.A. Skinner and others, and L.F. Phelps and Co. Bank, a private banking company.
It would seem that whatever a person might want, he could get it in Westfield more than 100 years ago.