Jonas and Mary Freer paid $25 for a lot of the southeastern
corner of Center and Walnut streets. Subsequently, they built the
house that stands there today and is one of the oldest homes in the
Center Street Historic District.
In 1859, however, neither the house nor the street looked as
they do today. Originally, the house had one-story recessed
wings on either side of the central block. There were porches with
Behind the house was a barn where Freer kept the horses for
his carriage and wagons. Like his neighbors Freer kept a cow, some
pigs and chickens and possibly other farm animals.
It wasn’t until 1888 that Mrs. Freer, then a widow, added plate
glass windows to the house and raised its wings to the height of the
The Freer had no children of their own but helped to raise a
number of orphan children. Mrs. Freer loved to entertain and it is
reported that her cooks might bake pies in cold weather, wrap them in
paper and put them outside to freeze until they needed them.
Jonas, who had been a grain hauler, a tavern keeper, a grocer
and a hardware merchant before he and his brother founded the
Farmers’ Bank in 1874, died in 1886.
An item in the Ashland press of December 15, 1887 noted that
four large hogs were butchered in the back yard of the Freer home.
For a description of the street in the early 1880s, we look to
Mary Brinton Tubbs’ account:
“When it rained, the road was solid mud. I’ve known the mud to be almost hub deep on Center Street. The wagon and buggies would go down the street bumping over the wooden crossings and every once in a while someone would come out and shovel the mud off the crossings so people could cross the street.”
“We had gas street lamps and the lamp lighter, Coonie Hammond, would come along at dusk, place a later against the lamp post, climb up and light it. Then he would have to come back in the morning and put them out.”
“Most of the yards were fenced, and the gates were kept shut to keep the cattle from coming in. Either brick or wooden sidewalk ran n front of the houses.”
The Civil War statue on the lawn of the Ashland County Courthouse was presented to the community by Mrs. Jonas Freer. Prior to the dedication on November 15, 1888, she entertained 37 at a noon-time dinner in her home. One of the guests was former President Rutherford B. Hayes.
Following the meal, a procession of carriages escorted by a GAR color guard and the Ashland City Band, traveled to the Courthouse dedication ceremonies. In his remarks, Hayes, then 78, praised Mrs. Freer and said, “It is rare that a woman would give a Civil War statue and this showed her American patriotism.”
Mrs. Freer died in 1901, She had stipulated in her will that the land she owned on Center Street south of town be used for a Children’s Home and that a suitable building be constructed.
The will was contested because of irregularities and the large amount to be given to the executor. As a result of the long litigation, there was les than $2 left to construct a building, and some time later a farmhouse on the land was refurbished for the home.
Her will further stated that should the land be sold, the proceeds should be dived among the Methodist, Presbyterian, Congregational, and Lutheran churches.
Will Duff, who became a local historian, made his home with the Freers and inherited the Center Street home in 1905.
In 1950, he sold it to Kate M. Myers, who remodeled the house into four apartments. Her daughter, Elizabeth Myers Mitchell, acquired the property in 1958 and retained two of the apartments for when she would come to visit Ashland.