Submitted by Robert H. Ellis

First Family Member #200

Sometimes we wonder what happened to residents of a community, especially those people who had a historic link to the founding of such places. They seem to disappear. This was especially true after World War II when the population became very mobile. Let's take a look on one such person to ascertain what happened to him and his descendants.

Fred Signor Lewis was born in Clarksfield, Ohio in 1869, the only child of Charles A. Lewis and LOUISE BERNICE (SIGNOR) LEWIS. (There were twin boys born to Charles and Louise but they evidently died shortly after birth). Charles and Louise owned property in Clarksfield and it is believed that Charles was involved in the family "dry goods, groceries, ready-made clothing, hats, caps, boots, shoes, and hardware; also proprietors of grist, saw, and wool and carding mills" business (as indicated in an 1873 business map of Clarksfield). Louise had deep ties to Clarksfield and Huron County. Her mother was MARY HUSTED, the daughter of SAMUEL HUSTED and ELIZABETH WILDMAN. Samuel Husted was one of the early settlers of the area arriving in 1817 or 1818 from Connecticut when Mary was about three months. The Husteds, sometimes spelled Huested, were originally from England and came to Connecticut in the early 1600's. Samuel died in 1883 and is buried in the Clarksfield Hill Top Cemetery. His daughter, Mary, and her husband, GEORGE H. SIGNOR, spent their entire lives in Clarksfield The Pioneer History of Clarksfield indicates that George, who was listed in the 1860 census as a "master tailor", arrived in the township before his father JACOB SIGNOR. Jacob is noted as a "carpenter" in the 1870 census and a "painter" in the 1860 census.
         Louise probably picked Fred's middle name and later Fred would honor his mother by selecting her middle name, Bernice, for his oldest daughter...Grace Bernice Lewis.
         Because of the lack of transportation people didn't stray far from home in the 1800's but Louise and Charles Lewis did leave Clarksfield going to nearby Cleveland, Ohio where Charles opened a grist mill. Fred was only a young boy at that time, a boy greatly interested in electricity.  One of his early adventures was installing what is believed to be the first telephone in Cleveland.  It hooked up his father's mill to their home.
         Fred went to work for the Brush Electric Company that would become the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. He was one of the company's pioneers. The Brush Company installed electrical streetlights in Cleveland, the first city to do so. Some of the old arc lights are still preserved in Cleveland's Public Square. It is believed Fred worked on that project and also invented an oil switch that was used for many years as a safety device in transformers.
         Fred became Superintendent of the Electrical Department a position he held for 55 years. When he died in 1942 at age 73 he was the company's oldest employee.
         Fred Signor Lewis had a distinguished business career along with a rewarding marriage. He was married to Minnie Louise (Herschler) Lewis for over 50 years and they had three children, Grace Bernice Ellis Kline, Ruth Spencer and Charles Edward Lewis. Fred and Minnie lived and died in Cleveland but Fred and Minnie's descendents have spread across the nation. They live in Texas, Colorado, Arizona, Indiana and, yes, some remain in Ohio but not in Clarksfield. In fact most of Fred's descendants are not aware of his career or their heritage, not knowing that some of their ancestors were responsible for pioneering efforts in Ohio and Connecticut.