Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Oberlin Weekend, Part II: Family Connections

A needlepoint sampler, showing the women in Clara's family who have graduated from Oberlin (1847-1983). Click to enlarge.

Clara was in the fifth generation of her family to graduate from Oberlin College. Her great-great grandfather, Nathaniel Gerrish (1810-1890) moved to Oberlin shortly after the town was settled in the early 1830s. After his first wife's death, he married Harriet Blanchard (1820-1898), who graduated from Oberlin in the Class of 1847. Among her classmates at Oberlin was the prominent women's rights crusader, Lucy Stone. Harriet Blanchard was Clara's great-great grandmother, and the first member of her family to graduate from Oberlin.

The old municipal waterworks in Oberlin, Ohio.

Nathaniel and Harriet Blanchard Gerrish had a son, William Blanchard Gerrish (1863-1939), who graduated from Oberlin in 1886. He became a civil engineer and worked for the Oberlin municipal engineering department, where he engineered Oberlin's first municipal waterworks. Along with Oberlin chemistry professor Frank Jewett, he also developed the country's first municipal water softening system. In 1889, he married Julia Gage (Oberlin Class of 1884). William and Julia Gerrish were Clara's great-grandparents, and the second generation of Oberlin graduates in the family.

The grave of William Blanchard Gerrish in Oberlin's Westwood Cemetery.

William and Julia had five daughters: Martha, Dorothy, Mary, Evangeline, and Margaret. Mary (Oberlin Class of 1918) married Willard P. Seiberling, the son of F.A. Seiberling, the founder of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Mary and Willard were Clara's grandparents, and Mary was the third generation of Oberlin graduates in the family.

Willard and Mary (Gerrish) Seiberling had two daughters and a son. Their eldest daughter, Clara's mother, graduated from Oberlin in 1947—one hundred years after her great-grandmother, Harriet Blanchard. Clara's mother, the fourth generation of Oberlin graduates, married a fellow Oberlin graduate whose mother had graduated from Oberlin in 1908.

Fairchild Chapel, on the Oberlin campus, where Clara and I were married. The building was designed by Cass Gilbert.

Clara, who graduated in 1983, was the fifth generation. Clara and I were married in Fairchild Chapel on the Oberlin College campus. I was a mere first generation Oberlin graduate, although at the time my sister and my future brother-in-law had just finished their freshman year at Oberlin. Among the Oberlin students—past and future—at the wedding were our nephew John (Class of 2007) and our niece Clara (Class of 2010). Our nephew Thomas (Class of 2012) was born less than two months later.

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