Helen Smile Dexter was born in 1909 at 602 Center Street, in the red brick Italianate house built in 1873 by her grandfather, William Frazee, and occupied by members of her family to the present day.
William Frazee came west to Ohio from Maryland in 1863 because he chose not to fight for the South during the Civil War.
The house a 602 Center Street was built to accommodate the funeral business. Help was needed to tend the horses, cattle, and the garden. These people he fed.
The early Frazee and Wallack furniture business was located between Second and Third Streets on Orange. Later the store was moved to a location in the southwest section of Main Street.
The Horn and Gribben trial was well known. William Frazee was the undertaker, while his neighbor to the north, Isaac Gates, was county sheriff responsible for hanging them. Mrs. Dexter recalled her mother often saying that they never should have been hanged. Children who went past the jail used to talk to them. Great sentiment built up on their behalf.
Mrs. Frazee played a large part in her husband’s undertaking business. She was responsible for feeding the people who helped them. She always had a hired girl. She served coffee to mourners after funerals.
The family had two teams of horses. One team was used to pick up the bodies. The other, a dapple gray team, was used to drive the hearse to the cemetery. Frank and Nellie, as they were called, would trot with seeming sadness and dignity to the cemetery and then gallop home.
The land originally owned by William Frazee ran from Liberty Street, through College Avenue, and back to Chestnut Street. The fields were used for cows and chickens.
Mrs. Dexter recalled one “prize story” she had heard told. One day Mr. Frazee was called upon to pick up the body of a man who had died while in town. He did so, and upon to pick up the body of a man who had died while in town. He did so, and upon arriving at his destination, tried to console the man’s widow. She, however, seemed not to need consolation, but asked only if Mr. Frazee had found her husband’s umbrella.
William Frazee was the first Ashland person to be acquainted with Mullet Lake. He learned of it from a furniture salesman from Jackson, Michigan, who praised it from its great fishing and hunting opportunities. Mr. Frazee, although not interested in finishing or hunting, finally went up to look it over. After that he kept inviting Ashland people to go up. Sometimes groups numbering twenty or thirty would go. In those days it was quite a trip, requiring trains and a boat ride on the lakes and up the Cheboygan River. Originally the people slept in tents. Eventually they bought the land and each built his own cabin. In the early tent days, they employed an Indian to cook and serve the meals. The men would take turns doing a week’s buying, going around the countryside buying fresh berries and other produce.
On the northeast corner of Orange and Main Streets William Frazee et al. built the Masonic Block. Bowman Dry Goods occupied the corner store front for many years, and there was until just recently always a drug store next door to it. On Saturday nights barrels of beer and whiskey were rolled down into the basement of the drug store, and after the drug store closed the basement was turned into a sort of nightclub. This was kept a secret because Ashland County had voted to go “dry.”
George Gilbert came to Ashland from Lodi when he was seventeen years old. He was hired by Mr. Frazee to be an assistant in the furniture business.
William Frazee was among the originators of the Lutheran Church in Ashland. He served on the building committee when the Trinity Lutheran Church was built at the corner of Third and Church Streets.
Carrie Frazee Smilie, Mrs. Dexter’s mother and the daughter of William Frazee, could play the piano by ear. As a child she was taken to see shows at the Opera House and would come home and play the whole score by ear. As a young woman she studied music as the Oberlin Conservatory.
In her day, around the turn of the century , there were lots of young people in the neighborhood. Their evenings were usually spent around the yards of Center Street. Her friends included the Brinton girls, Edna being her age, the Cowan girls, and the two Gates boys.
One outstanding neighbor was Miss Belle Osborn, a well known teacher in Ashland. She was a tall, slender woman with an angular face. She looked a bit like the actress Edna May Oliver. She had a great sense of humor. Mrs. Dexter recalled the story of how many of the neighbors worried because Miss Osborn would never lock her doors. They persisted in this concern. Eventually Miss Osborn did purchase a lock and key for her front door. She told her neighbors she had locked her door…and left the key in the lock so no one would break in.
In describing some of the features of her home at 602 Center Street, Mrs. Dexter noted, in particular, the fireplace in the parlor. It was carved from the best cherry. All the wood in the woodwork of the house was taken off the land around the house. The fireplace features Royal Dalton tiles, blue, gray, beige, and white, having Shakespearian scenes. The upper part of the fireplace incorporates a mirror which is the original one place there. The interior of the house was somewhat altered in 1909. The big dining room was divided into smaller rooms. To the exterior a front porch was added. The pillars are made of solid oak. In the entrance hall and in the dining room are parquet floors made of nine different kinds of wood. There is not a nail in them. They are dove-tailed. The ceilings downstairs are frescoed. Repair is now a worry as all the old European craftsmen are gone. The chandelier in the parlor came originally from the Eli Wallack house on Center Street on the northwest corner of Walnut. It was three different sizes of prisms and close to 400 prisms altogether. It contains brass and copper. The patent date on it is 1873, the same as the Frazee house.
Helen Dexter recalled watching the building of the P.A. Myers house on the southwest corner of Center and Walnut Streets. The house was built by Cleveland contractors in 1915. Tons of concrete and metal were used, but the intricate wood paneling called for by the architect had to be done by an Ashland man, as none of the Cleveland workmen were sufficiently skilled.
Three houses were torn down in order to build the Trinity Lutheran Church on Center Street.
Vernon Redding, a Mansfield architect originally from Ashland, drew he plans to remodel the Frazee house.
Charles Kettering spent his lunch hours in the clothing stores downtown while working at the Star Telephone Company. Mrs. Dexter recalled her father’s telling how he used to love to sit and tell what could be down with electricity and motors. Most people considered him “just a dreamer.”
Mrs. Dexter recalled the Cowan house which formerly was situated across Center Street from her house. It was brick and sat back away from the street, down a little hill. It had a beautiful white porch with white pillars. It was torn down and a HUD apartment is in its place.
The F. E. Myers house, Mrs. Dexter recalled, had walls covered with silk damask, beautiful woodwork, an unusual and prominent staircase, and a two-story front porch.
Mayme Myers was the same age as Mrs. Dexter’s mother. Every Christmas, lat in the afternoon, she would go with her mother to the Myers house with a present for Mayme, and they would spend the afternoon there. Mrs. Dexter remembered that every year the Myers family would have a “fabulous, big Christmas tree” and that they always had a wonderful time at their parties.
Mrs. Dexter recalled the night the Myers foundry on Center Street, just north of the creek, burned. Her family had all gone to bed, Someone in the Gates household yelled over to them that the fire bell had rung. They could see the flames from their house. After that the lot was cleared. A filling station and a diner came there later.
The old flour mill stood where Hawkins parking lot is today. The mill was last owned by the Leareh family.
The Banning house on Center Street was originally a summer home for a man from Cincinnati. The yard was tremendous, the lawn going all the way down the hill to the Cowan house. Two houses now stand on the site of this side lawn. The house has three stories with a staircase going to the third floor. Mr. Banning is said to have enjoyed children and allowed them to come and slide down this banister. Late in the 1930’s D. C. Rybolt owned the house. He later became mayor of Akron. The house is now broken up into eight apartments.
The house (north of) next door to the Banning house was built by T. W. Miller around 1906 and 1907. It was later lived in by W. W. Palmer who had Palmer and Mayner Dry Goods store. It was sold in the 1950’s.
The Gilbert Hess house on Center Street, no longer standing, was a big, square, red brick house which was lived in for some years by Mr. Stubbs who was with the Southern Pacific Railroad. He later moved to California.