The Winckles-Barber-Gower Homestead
Thomas Turland Winckles was noted as “one of the grand old men among [Lorain County’s] native citizens” by George F. Wright in his “A Standard History of Lorain County Ohio (1916).” He was a son of Thomas T. and Ann (Buck) Winckles, both from Northamptonshire, England. The family immigrated to the United States in 1836, settling briefly in New York City. They soon moved to Avon Township, Lorain County settling here the year that T. T. Winckles, Jr. was born. The father was a farmer. In 1845 they moved to North Ridgeville, where a “fine estate” was constructed. The farm eventually encompassed about 187 acres of land along the Center Ridge, an ancient beach ridge and important geologic formation – particularly good for farming.
Giant hand-carved sandstone blocks comprised the basement, which was relatively dry due to the natural drainage situation created by the sandy soil in this area. All lumber (beams, joists, &c) looked to be sawn on a circular mill.
In North Ridgeville, T. T. Winckles Sr. was active in the community where he served in public office as a township trustee (several years) and justice of the peace. His family consisted of three sons and four daughters. Of note, there was T. T. Winckles Jr. and Cary H. Cary was a graduate of Oberlin College, who enlisted in the army during the Civil War. He began as a private and was promoted to orderly sergeant. Later he became a first lieutenant, but this was just a few days before his death in 1863, serving with the 103rd O.V.I.
T. T. Winckles, Jr. was educated largely in Elyria. He was enrolled at Oberlin College from 1858-59. His schooling and work on the family farm led to his eventual farming of the family homestead. At 20 years old, his father passed away. Until 1881 he worked on the family property, when he bought the Homestead. The “fine farm” was noted as “easily one of the best in Lorain County” by Wright (1916). At the time Wright wrote this, the farm had been acquired by T. T. Jr.’s son, Cary T. Winckles. It is noted that T. T. Jr. operated the farm until about 1900 when he moved to Elyria and was “almost retired.” In Elyria, his home was located at Cleveland and Winckles St. In Elyria, as in Ridgeville, he was active in public life, serving on council for six years. Wright mentions that, “In politics he is a Republican” and was active in the Congregational Church in Ridgeville, serving as a trustee in one capacity but was active with the church since he was twenty – more than fifty years of service to the church.
Mr. Winckles married Lucy Hurst in 1861. One of their children, Cary T., who was president of The Elyria Construction Company and owned and operated the dairy farm on the Winckles’ family homestead. (Most information above is via G. F. Wright’s “A Standard History of Lorain County Ohio” (1916)). The farmstead contained a very large bank barn (the earthen bank, outlined in stone, is still evident today – the barn burned twice and was not rebuilt the third time) used for hay and a long barn used in the dairy operations on the farm.
Remnant of stone-lined earthen ramp that led to the bank barn.
“The Winckles barn was the largest “plank & beam” barn in northern Ohio at the time. It was built by the Amish community. The barn burned down twice, but it was not rebuilt for a third time. The second fire was in the late 1930s. My dad, Tom Richards and my uncle Bill Richards, along with their father Paul Richards are pictured. Paul died in 1936.” Photo and information via Tim Richards.
In the early 1960s, the farm was then purchased by the Barber family. William J. Barber operated the Barber Motors automobile dealership, an upscale auto retail shop located at the corner of Center Ridge Road and Route 113. A large parcel of the original Winckles’ farm was sold/gifted to Lake Ridge Academy in 1965 for the campus of this newly formed independent school (founded in 1963). The Barbers were an early Lake Ridge family and helped support the school in those early days by offering a permanent home for this new type of experiment in education. In the late 1970s, the Gower family purchased the Winckles’ Homestead, and they were the final family to live on the Homestead. Mr. Gower was a salesman at Barber Motors.
Museum contributor and local historian and genealogist, Jeff Sigsworth put us in contact with direct relations to the Winckles family. After speaking with several of the family members, we were able to get a better idea of the history of the old Homestead from a unique family perspective. Of particular note, we learned that in the late 1920s, a large portion of the western end of the original Winckles’ house was separated from the remainder of the structure and moved across the road (we believe this may have been the original section of the house). It was subsequently used as a house for farmhands and the farm foreman. This house was later demolished. It is believed that certain major renovations occurred at the house in the 1880s (when the house was purchased by T. T. Winckles, Jr.) and during the 1920s when the western edge was removed and updates were made, such as adding modern plumbing and electricity.
Western-facing side of the house, showing the area from where a section of the original house was removed and moved across the road.
Lake Ridge Academy purchased the property and will add the remaining portion of the original Winckles’ Homestead to their campus, thus re-connecting the old farmstead that was separated from the Homestead back in 1965. The old Winckles-Barber-Gower Homestead was demolished August 11, 2015. We visited the property in mid-July, when we photographed the Homestead for our records. We later gained permission to salvage unique and important items from the Homestead. These items include the original (and quite large) sandstone carriage step (donated by Mr. Michael Shaulis); the sandstone well cover; several old-style late 1920s toilets and related items; and a few miscellaneous items such as the old coal door from the house’s basement.
Original Winkcles’ sandstone carriage step, in-situ, after we cleared away brush that had covered the stone for many years. Note the house in the background. Just before relocating the stone to the New Indian Ridge Museum.
The original well cover and accompanying cistern cover in-situ at the homestead, just before relocation to the New Indian Ridge Museum.
Upstairs maser bathroom with late 1920s bathroom fixtures – note the large separation from the tank and bowl of the Hygienic Si-Wel-Clo toilet, the flush chain, and also an American Standard pedestal sink (both items were salvaged).
Of note, we connected with Tom Winkles-Richards, now of N. Carolina. He made the eight hour trip here before the house was demolished to salvage the old fireplace mantlepiece, as he has a photograph of himself in front of it with other family members, when he was just twelve weeks old. He was successful in removing this sentimental piece and will incorporate it into a future project. We are so fortunate to have been able to work with both Mr. Richards and Lake Ridge to acquire and save this item for the Winckles-Richards’ family history! Thanks to the Richards family as well for their contributions to this article.
We are very thankful for the opportunity to document and salvage items from the Winckles Homestead. A special thank you to Michael Shaulis for his donation from this project as well.