by Michele Yamamoto
At the Bay Village Historical Society archives we have recently come across a couple of remembrances of the Cahoon sisters. They were written by two former residents of Bay Village who recalled their time growing up in the town over 100 years ago. It is an interesting peek into what the sisters, Lydia, Laura Martha and Ida Cahoon, may have been like.
In “Remembering the Cahoons,” written by Wilfred C. Swanker (1907-1983) for Westlife in 1982, Swanker wanted to make sure that the Cahoon sisters’ characters were correctly recorded. “They were very civic minded,” he wrote. They opened their property up to the public long before giving it to the City of Bay Village in 1917. “The Cahoons engendered a spirit which I feel still prevails today. Their foresight was superb. They were a decent and kindly family which lived their religion.”
Swanker remembered the ladies giving the public access to their beach. Children unaccompanied by parents were requested to check in with the Cahoons for their own safety. “They opened their beach and grounds to the public when nobody else did. They built dressing rooms for the public as well as a pair of outdoor toilets.” A set of men’s dressing rooms were on the west side of Cahoon creek and another for ladies was on the east side. Swanker notes that this was before the building of Huntington Beach, whose stone levees contributed to coastal erosion on the Cahoons’ beach.
Another account of the Cahoon sisters was handwritten on notepaper by Roger Jewitt (1891-1993) in 1959. He was sharing his memories after a call was put out by the Kiwanis Club in a local paper and as part of the 150th celebration of Dover Township (Bay Village). Jewitt stated that he was the youngest child of Dr. E.H. Jewitt, physician to the Cahoon family, who summered in a cottage on the Cahoon property from 1896 to about 1912. Roger jokes that his boyhood pranks may have caused the sisters to practically disinherit his father. Indeed, only a Dr. Clifton Dalton Ellis (the husband of Ida’s cousin, Effie Cahoon) is mentioned in the Cahoon will.
Jewitt also wrote about the Cahoon family and their beach. He hinted that the sisters could actually be very forgiving in the defiance of their rule of not allowing bathers on Sundays. “The religious old gals put up and still up (under their wills) on Cahoon Beach a sign ‘No Boating or Bathing on Sunday.’ Every Sunday A.M. with their field glasses they checked me as a bather and if the culprit turned up in the Methodist Church my violation was condoned because I washed for the Lord. Tough quandary each Sunday for a growing boy.”
Swanker does mention in his article that the women may have had an interesting bathing habit. “Saturday morning was quite practically set aside for taking a bar of Ivory soap (it floats) and modestly taking a bath while wearing your bathing suit. You had to be a bit of a gymnast.”
Perhaps the ladies were just softies for the kids. Swanker talks about how the sisters would talk to the children who visited them and take an interest in their activities. “They were school teachers and liked kids. I remember they often wore high lace collars. For some reason the collars interested me.” Jewitt remembered Ida “would cover my neck and face with kisses with loud smacking of lips, as I resembled my doctor father, her best friend, charity on a young boy’s part.”
The Fourth of July was a time of big celebrations in Bay over a hundred years ago and the Cahoon property was a part of this even before Bay Days. Swanker wrote that “the Cahoons threw open their grounds and people came from all over. Picnics were a must. There were other families with much land but it was always the Cahoons who offered. No one else did. We had lots of races and contests and the Cahoons gave prizes. Fireworks were not like they are now but we thought they were the greatest.”
Swanker mentions that the sisters were ahead of their time. One small example was given in the way Ida Cahoon (1852-1917) chose to commute to work. “I remember Ida, the little one, riding her bicycle to teach school in what is now Westlake. In those days, very few women ever learned to ride a bike. It was considered unladylike. The Cahoons were a very modern family. I wish I had their acumen and foresight.”
We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into the lives of the Cahoon sisters. If learning historical information such as this is important to you, please consider a donation to the Bay Village Historical Society. Find out more on our website Support Us Page. You may also contact us by phone at (216) 319-4634 or email email@example.com.
Another way to support us is by attending our benefit historical fashion show Silhouettes of Style, September 24, 2023 at Lakewood Country Club. Details can be found on our website events and programs page at www.bayhistorical.com.
Come visit us Sundays, April through December (excluding holiday weekends) from 2 p.m.- 4:30 p.m. at the Rose Hill Museum. Currently on display for 2023 is our temporary exhibition, Beadwork: The Beauty of Small Things, as well as our permanent collection concerning early Bay Village history.