A HOME AT THE CENTER OF RICHFIELD,
…………….–AND THE FAMILIES THAT LIVED THERE.
By:Â Jim Fry
The gray colored house standing at the north side of the Richfield Commons is most recently & commonly known as the Knopp house. But the house much predates the Knopp Family ownership. The house tells an interesting history of Richfield and the families that lived there. An examination of its structure also reveals the many changes and remodels that effected the house, family to family and generation by generation.
The date of the house’s construction remains somewhat uncertain, but the date that has most usually been attributed is 1856. That date was fixed because the house is shown on a county map published in 1856. But the house must have been built at least somewhat prior to that date because the map was drawn in the several years before its publication.
Over the years, various changes have been made to the home. Originally the house had no basement, just a tall crawl space. There was also a full front porch early in its history. The rear room of the one story kitchen was added at a late date, probably in the 1980’s. The present basement was dug out from under the house by Elmer and Melvin Knopp in the 1940’s. Much of the first floor interior was covered with paneling and the exterior covered with Insulwood in the 1970’s. These changes have caused some confusion among some folks of Richfield who, in not knowing the history of the house, guessed the house to be of a more modern vintage.
But, rather than being “recent”, the house has stood at the center of much of Richfield’s history.
Sitting on the original front porch one could speak to the Peter Allen family (owners ofÂ the nearby harness shop) who lived across Streetsboro Rd. Or they could easily converse with the Welton’s, who lived directly across the road (Mr Welton developed a nationally known new variety of apple). The Carr Carriage Shop (since divided into two houses stillÂ on the same location), the Tavern of Richfield, Liberty Hall (the original township hall, later Pete & Al’sÂ and now called The Dugout) and the Eastwood Grocery were a short stones throw away across the intersection of Streetsboro and Broadview Rds. To the west (and only a shout away) was The Hotz Blacksmith (now at the Museum of Western Reserve Farms), a cider mill that had even earlier been a sawmillÂ (and is now an antique store), the Phelps & Jackson Blacksmith Shop (which later became Ruth’s Snack Shop, then Keepsakes Antiques), the Ellsworth Cabinet (and casket) Shop (later serving as the town barber shop) and the Richfield Collar Shop (also at M.of W.R.F). A few dozens of yards behind the house stood the “new” Richfield Township Hall c.1856, and the Baptist Church. Across the “green” and south of the house was the town school house (now Masonic Hall). And east was the Methodist Church, which has since been divided and stands as two residential homes. Certainly much of the daily commerce and life of Richfield passed by the “house on the commons” every day.
The builders of the home are presently unknown. The survey of 1874 lists the house as being owned by the Starr Family, and so the story begins with Martin and Jenny. It”s the story of a home at the center of Richfield, and of the families and their relations who passed thru its doors, whether as guests, visitors or owners.
________________The Starr Family________________
Martin Luther Jenny Snow
Martin Luther Starr 1850-1919.
Martin married Jenny Snow. The Starr’s are listed as owners of the “Knopp” house in the 1874 Summit County Plate Book. They sold the house to Alexander Ruple on June 18th,1881. They then moved to 3834 Broadview Rd. The Broadview Rd. house was to later become the Russ English home, when the future Richfield Fire Chief’s family moved from their rental home in the upstairs of the Richfield Telephone Exchange (formerly the Peter Allen Harness Shop, which stood next to the Hotz Blacksmith and the “Knopp” house).
Jenny had six children, 2 girls and 4 boys, several of whom were born in the “Knopp House”. She always “kept a beautiful home” that was “neat as a pin”. She is especially remembered for the wonderful handwork she created including embrodery (particularly the pillows), clothes for everyone, and crocheting.
Their daughter Edna Eursula Starr (1875-1941) was born in the house. She married John Rooy and they were to have 13 children. Edna is remembered as “very unusual” and “deeply religious”. She “served her family very well”.
John Rooy worked as partner with Harry Eastwood at the Eastwood/Rooy Slaughter House located at the back of the (Harry) Eastwood Farm (the slaughter house is now at the Museum of Western Reserve Farm). The Eastwood Farm was just a blink west of Richfield Center. The farm supplied milk to the (Walter) Eastwood Grocery. One of the Rooy’s daughters, Myrtle, became the well known writer of the Richfield Times column “Grapevine”.
(Myrtle and her daughter, Edna (Larson) on Mill St., have been very helpful in the gathering of the Starr history.)
_______________The Ruple Family________________
Alexander bought the the house from Martin Starr on June 18th 1881. He sold the house to the Sapsfords on April 15th, 1922. He may have been the builder of the original one story kitchen addition on the west side of the house.
________________The Sapsford Family________________
Ruth Blanche Challis Ray Fred Clyde
Elmer Ralph Henny
Knopp Bigelow Hammond
Irving. 18.. -1940’s
Irving and Mary owned a 20 to 30 acre farm on Oviat Rd., near or at the present day Rising Valley Park. They sold the farm in 1922 and bought the then Ruple house in the town center. Irving then went to work at the Kirby estate on Oviat Rd (that part of the Kirby land and houses were later to become Julia Crowell Girl Scout Camp).
–(The Sapsford house on Oviat Rd. was later bought and moved in the summer of 1929 to Southern Rd. by Roby Davis, Buzzy and Roy’s dad. Roby simply “cut the ridge” and loaded the rafters on a wagon. Then he cut the corners and loaded the whole sides on wagons and took it all home. There he reassembled the house on the basement he commissionedÂ Henny Hammond, husband of Challis Sapsford, to build.)
During the time Irving and Mary lived in the Sapsford/Knopp house, Irving would harvest the year’s cabbages, roots and all. He would then lay boards on the ground on the south side of the house and stack the cabbages upside down on the boards. They would last all winter.
Challis married Henry Hammond, who was one of Richfield’s masons and stone workers. They lived in a very old house across from the (Old )Township Hall, just south of (now) Swan Plumbing.
Blanche married Ralph Bigelow. They lived at what was later to become the Paddock farm on Medina Line Rd. One time she and her husband had an argument while standing in the kitchen. Blanche threw a salt shaker at Ralph and it flew out the window and landed in the small pond that still lays just beside the house. Three generations later some in the family still wonderÂ if the salt shaker is still in that pond.
As a boy Ray was quite adventuresome. One time he took a buggy to the top of Porter Hill (the very tall hill on 303 that marks the boundary between Richfield and Hinckley). He unhitched the horse and tied ropes to the front axle so he could steer the buggy, then rode it down the hill like a sled on snow. Unfortunately, he had forgotten that in those days, Porter Hill had a series of flat areas where a horse could pause to catch its breath as it pulled a load up the hill. As Ray flew down the hill in the horseless rig, the buggy jumped into the air when it hit the flats. Ray lost control and ended up in the river at the bottom of the hill. Many thought at the time it was lucky he didn’t break his neck.
Ray, for a number of his years, liked to imbibe. One day, when he was particularly influenced, he decided it was a good idea to burn down the very old abandoned house that stood empty between the Telephone Exchange and where the Amvets Bar was to later stand. To the best of recollection he was not arrested for performing the needed but somewhat adhoc public service.
Ray and his brother-in-law, Henny Hammond who also liked to enjoy a beverage or two, built theÂ red barn on the Eastwood Farm (now Eastwood Preserve). Some folks at the time wondered how they were able to complete the barns construction, considering how much consume’n they was do’n.
Marie and her mother Challis were women not much given to confining themselves to the finer pursuits. On one occasion they decided to build a cement block garage behind Mary and Henny’s house. They not only successfully built the garage but also hand cast all the block used in its construction.
Marie worked for a local tractor and small engine repair, landscaping, lawn care and mowing business. She is remembered as being quite able at returning failed engines to usefullness. One day she was doing lawn rolling at the Pettigo home at the corner of Humphery and Streetsboro Rds. She was apparently backing the tractor up in order to roll the lawn around a sweet cherry tree. Elaine Pettigo was in her beauty shop (Elaine’s Beauty Shop) that she ran for a time in the properties barn. She looked out to see Marie sitting on the tractor. It looked like she was leaning forward to shift gears. A short while later, Elaine looked again to see Marie is the same position. Elaine went to check on her and discovered Marie had backed into a low hanging branch and had broken her neck. She immediately called her husband Martin, who was working at his West Richfield Garage, and she called Doc. Wagner. Unfortunately, it was too late.
Several days later Matin cut off the offending tree branch. Every summer thereafter, Challis held a family picnic/memorial for Marie.
In keeping with the sad family experiences with necks, Fred was to fall down the steps of The Corners. He also broke his neck and passed away.
(The Corners was originally The (original) Township Hall which had been next to the Ellsworth Cabinet Shop. It was moved, using logs and horses, to the NE corner of 303 & Broadview, after the “new” Township Hall was built. The Corners later was called Pete & Al’s and is now known as The Dugout).
________________The Knopp Family________________
Elmer Stella Alma Ida Henry
Ruth (Sapsford Tom Griffith Harvey Luther
Kathy Karen Karl
David Butera Carol Kopp
Before moving to Richfield, Charles lived in Cleveland and in Erie, Pennsylvania. At one time he ran a beer hall in Cleveland. In 1902 he and his wife, Kate, bought a 116 acre farm at the intersection of Black, Columbia and Dewey Rds. in Richfield Township. The Knopp familyÂ ran a diversified farm and cultivated 2 ac. of apples, 2 ac. of grapes, several ac. of cabbage and 4 or 5 acres of potatos, hay and other grain crops. They also milked cows and delivered the milk to the Jaite railroad stop for shipment into Cleveland.
Once a week, all year around, Charles would hitch up his team of horses and take the long ride to the German neighborhoods in Brooklyn, a SW “suburb” of Cleveland. There he would spend the day going door to door selling his cabbages and potatoes. When the unpaved roads of Richfield were muddy, Charles and one of his sons would hitch two teams of horses to the wagon in order to pull it through the badly rutted roads. His son, usually Elmer, would then drive the extra team homeÂ once the wagon arrived at the paved Broadview Rd.
Charles continued working on the farm until his passing in the 1920’s. It is believed that he died of the effects of throat cancer. Charles was a devote Christian Scientist and believed in the power of prayer. His son, Elmer, wanted Charles to be more “modern” and seek medical help. Charles refusal caused a split in the family and Elmer left the farm. Charles’ wife, Kate, continued to live on the farm until her passing in the 1940’s.
Henry lived his life on the family farm. In his later years he continued to “do what needed to be done” on the farm, including chopping wood to provide heat and cooking for the house. During the winter he would close up the upstairs of the house and spent most of his time in the kitchen where he had a cook stove. In winter he slept on the couch in the living room. At the very end of his life he slept on a bed in the corner of the kitchen. “Uncle” Henry continued to use horses on the farm until the 1960’s.
Married Tom Griffith. They had a daughter named Jane. When Ida passed, Ida’s sister, Edna, adopted Jane.
When Edna was young an old gentleman neighbor told her that he had known Indians whoÂ still lived in the area in his youth. It is interesting that only three hand shakes ago (neighbor ~ Edna ~ Karl) Indians lived in Richfield. Edna married Harvey Luther and they lived on the west side of Alger Rd. in the Luther house that is now to the side of Luther Farm Produce Store. They remained childless until the passing of Edna’s sister, Ida. Edna and Harvey then adopted Ida’s 10 year old daughter Jane.
Alma never married and lived her life in the farm house with her bachelor brother, Henry.
Elmer. c.1900 -1987
Elmer was born on the farm about 1900. When Elmer was young, probably about the time of WW 1,Â he carved his initials into one of the horsestall posts in the horse barn of Knopp farm. That post is at the Museum of Western Reserve Farms.
When Elmer’s dad, Charles, became ill with cancer, Elmer wanted him to seek medical help. When Charles refused because of his belief’s this distressed Elmer so much that he finally left the farm. He shortly thereafter met and married Ruth Sapsford.
They lived in several places in Cleveland and for a time in Erie (just as his parents had). They moved home to Richfield in the early 1940’s and lived with Ruth’s parents in the Sapsford home on Streetsboro Rd. (now commonly known as the Knopp house). When Ruth’s parents died Elmer and Ruth became owners of the home in 1949.
In this period Elmer dug out the basement by hand. If you were visit the Knopp house basement today you would find the basement walls have a ledge. This ledge was the original foundation of the house. Elmer dug down to below the original footers to lower the basement floor and achieve a full height basement. Also in visiting the basement you would find rough sawn 8″x8″ beams. These foundation beams would have been sawn shortly before the Civil WarÂ when saw mills first came into common use. They may have been sawn directly across Broadview Rd. at the saw mill that has since been converted into House Blends Antique Shop. And upon closer examination you can also see hand hewn 8″x8″ beams forming the perimeter sill plate of the house. They are difficult to spot because they are covered by sawn boards on the interior of the basement. They also would have been produced before the Civil war. Also during the 1940’s Elmer removed the front porch that had originally spanned the front wall of the house and put plumbing in the house for the first time.
In the several years before his passing in the 1987, Elmer worked to fix up the house as much as he could so his wife, Ruth, would have less work when he was gone. He hired Ted Monegan to put plywood on the floors and paneling on the walls. Elmer also covered the exterior of the home with Insulwood gray shingles (Insulwood is composed of wood fiber, tar and crushed stone. It contains no asbestos). Additionally, Elmer had the original stone and mortar basement walls plastered with mortar to make them more smooth and water proof. When this work was done, it covered a crock that was inset into the wall at the base of the basement steps. The crock formed a shelf for an unknown purpose. These modernizations were done as inexpensively as possible, and would be fairly easy to reverse.
An interesting story of Elmer was told by Steve Torma, owner of Country Maid Orchard. He related that when the ammonia pump used for the coolers needed repairs, Elmer would come over to fix them. At that time Elmer’s eye sight was poor, so he would have Steve get a white 5 gal. bucket and Elmer would sit and listen. By sound alone, Elmer would tell Steve to “loosen that packing a little”, or, “tighten the value a bit”. Steve’s hands would do the work. Elmer’s ears would tell him what to do. And soon the pump would be operating perfectly once again.
Mell was the son of Elmer Knopp and Ruth Sapsford. He was born in Cleveland. His family moved to the Sapsford House in Richfield Center when Mell was young. There is an aerial photograph at Richfield’s Fellowship Hall of the Sapsford/Knopp house that shows a path worn in the grass from the backdoor of the house to the front of Hotz’s Blacksmith Shop. When Mell was young, he and his friends would run over to the blacksmith after school. There Mike would make small toy “blacksmith tools” for the kids.Â The children would often sit on a barrel that stood to the right of the front door as they watched the horse shoeing and other shop tasks. (The blacksmith shop is now at the Museum of Western Reserve Farms)
WW 2 began when Mell was still in high school. Upon graduation he immediately joined the service and fought and was severly wounded in the Pacific. When he returned home he bought the then empty Hotz Blacksmith Shop (Mike Hotz had gone out of business in the 1930’s when he put out an eye with a hot spark.). Mell moved the shop from its original location on 303, across the town green to the connected family property next to The Old Town Hall. The back of the building then faced Broadview Rd. He then renovated the building and rented it to a variety of tenents including a quack “doctor”, Dorsey Arnold C.P.A., the original location of Eastwood Dry Goods, and finally to the Amvets Bar.
When Mell married Ruth Anderson, whom he had met at a church sponsored “young peoples” social group, his family gave the couple 2 acres on the family farm on Dewey Rd. They built a ranch style home and raised their 3 children on the farm.
About 2000, Mell sold the family properties in Richfield Center to the Village of Richfield. He was very involved in the Cuyahoga Valley Rail Line, where he worked on repairs and upkeep of the railroad equipment and acted as tour guide on the various train runs. Mell also played guitar inÂ several folk/bluegrass bands including Strings and Things and Unstrung Heros. He was very active in the Richfield United Church of Christ, and served as youth group leader in the 1960’s. Mell also served as President of the Richfield Historical Society. Mell was a well respected and liked friend and neighbor.
Karen married David Butera, and they were the last of the Knopp’s to live in the Knopp/Sapsford House. They now live several doors south on Broadview Rd., continuing the family’s presence in Richfield Center. When Karen’s mother, Ruth, sold the Dewey Rd. farm she moved next to Karen’s Broadview Rd. home. David has also served as President of the Historical Society.
Karl has carried on the family’s farm traditions of cutting and selling firewood, raising produce (most particularly strawberries) and keeping a team of Belgium horses. In the last number of years, Karl and his wife and partner, have most especially followed in the footsteps of his Great Grandfather Charles. Karl and Carol daily deliver Amish grown seasonal produce, flowers, pumpkins, cornstalks and more to stores and nursery centers throughout Northern Ohio.
Karl has spent countless hours listening to and remembering the stories and history of the elders of his family. Karl has been most helpful in the gathering of much of the information in this essay.