The Kane family is one of the many families that make up Vermilion’s history

By: Rich Tarrant

Five years ago – in January of 2012 – I received several of the photographs accompanying this essay pertaining to Vermilion’s Kane family from an Amherst native named Bill Brandon. He was kind enough to add the following commentary:

“…The Kane Family moved to Amherst Ohio from the Isle of Man in 1840. Edgar and Eugene were the first children born to William Kane. Edgar served in the Civil War and after the war he got a Job in a Grocery owned by Orange Leonard in Vermilion. Orange Leonard was the first son of Sophia Leonard and who later married Josiah Pelton and she became known as Sophia Pelton. Sarah Jones was living with Orange Leonard. Sarah was the daughter of Eliza Leonard who died. So Edgar met Sarah Jones in the Grocery and they married and built a house on the corner of Decatur and Lake road. (The house appeared in your publication as a “then and now photo” with the curved glass windows and porch.) Edgar also appeared with the Civil War veterans at F.W. Wakefield house. [Note: I’ve added both the picture of the Kane house and the Civil War veterans Bill refers to in his comments.]

This picture is of the front yard of Edgars house looking east towards Vermilion. Sarah Jones Kane —granddaughter of Sophia Pelton is sitting with her son Robert Kane and Alice Kane and their seamstress in the middle smiling.”

This is really a wonderful photograph. But if it were taken today these folks would be sitting in the middle of Liberty Avenue on the west side of town where the 4-lane highway begins. In any case Mr. Brandon went on to say that the lad lolling in the lawn…“Robert Kane…became treasurer of Wakefield Brass. His daughter was my grandma. Also his son Bill Kane – married Polly Line – Bill worked for a US Steel ore boat and later Lyman boats but he built a house on the Line property… Polly’s mother Nellie Line owned 40 acres and she sold the property to the Kyles for the Car Dealership… George Wakefield [a prominent Vermilionite and local historian] also built a house on the lake next to Bill Kane’s property…”

To be sure Bill’s commentary / genealogy is fairly intense, perhaps even extraneous reading for some. But for persons interested in the history of our community it has a good deal of value. Orange Leonard, for instance, was among Vermilion’s earliest prominent citizens and a real entrepreneur. He’d been a sailor, a grocer, and he owned a good deal of land. In fact he owned a good portion of the swampland that was years later magically transmuted into the beautiful Vermilion Lagoons housing subdivision. And Orange Leonard’s stepfather Josiah Pelton was uncle of a world famous inventor named Lester Pelton.

But getting back to the Kanes; In the October 21, 1915 edition of The Vermilion News the following article appeared: “ An interesting relic of by-gone days was presented to the NEWS office this week by ex-postmaster E.M. Kane. It is made of black walnut and consists of twenty-six pigeonholes one for each letter of the alphabet and stamps and card compartments and a place for miscellaneous papers. As is well remembered by the older generation, letters used to be sorted according to initial letters and when one called for his mail all letters beginning with A or B or whatever it might be was taken from the compartment by the Postmaster and sorted over. A box or basket served as a receptacle for papers and magazines of which there were few.

            The case will remain at the NEWS office and be used for various clippings, etc. How long the (post) office has been in existence could not be ascertained. Mr. Kane served the people of Vermilion as Postmaster for a quarter of a century and he found it in use when he first entered the office. These days of individual boxes parcel post and rural routes were not dreamed of then, yet the office seemed well equipped at that time to handle all mail that came.”

To my knowledge no direct descendants of Vermilion’s Kane family still reside in the city. And while there are still folks about town who remember them about the only palpable thing left of their time here (aside from the house with curved windows) is the black walnut letter case Edgar Kane gave to the editor of The Vermilion News weekly. Today it hangs on the back wall of the print shop behind the old newspaper press. Were it not for the 1915 blip in the newspaper about it, it is likely that no one would have ever guessed its relationship to the old Vermilion Post Office, or Edgar Kane a very prominent member of one of the town’s most prominent families.

Ref: Special Thanks to: Bill Brandon of Amherst, Ohio.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at:



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