Local families and the history of cheese in Vermilion

By Rich Tarrant

Not that many of the photographs that appear in this column aren’t artifacts – but these are special. Vermilionite Barbara Ruggles donated the Bauman family portrait along with several other items to the Vermilion History Museum a bit over four years ago. It’s a beautiful portrait of Vermilion’s Bauman and Leadrach families that was taken in the yard of the Leadrach Cheese House supposedly around the year 1910.

After I received the photograph I scanned it and sent a copy to Vermilionite Ruth (Bauman) Tanner. In fact, Ruth’s father, Earl, is the little fellow sitting on the lawn all the way to the right of the group looking rather uncomfortable in his dressy duds. In any case, because Earl was born in 1904 the date on the photograph may have been guesstimated sometime after the fact. A more accurate guess would have been c. 1906.

In addition to that some may note that the name Leadrach often appears as Ladrach in publications and census data during the early years of the 20th century. That may have more to do with how the name was pronounced than the way it was actually spelled. In short, the name was apparently spelled the way it was pronounced.

Also note that aside from their Swiss heritage and their having come to this area from Tuscarawas County, Ohio these families were related in other ways. Emma, the mother of little Pearl Leadrach (the fourth girl from the left) for instance, was a Bauman.

Now, several days following my email to Ruth containing the photograph she dropped by the museum with several books detailing the history of the Bauman family. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that until that time it had not fully occurred to me that both the Bauman and Leadrach families are of Swiss descent. Their history is very interesting. [Unfortunately, I failed to make a copy of it.] But moving along; while I was always aware that there was one cheese manufacturing company near Vermilion I was surprised to discover that there were actually two.

The first was located about three and one-half miles south of town on the west side of State Road / Route 60 just north of Axtel Corners (i.e. the corner of 60 and Mason Road). It was the enterprise of a Switzerland native named Christopher Bauman and later his son Christopher who were Ruth’s grandfathers. Today there is a 2-story brick home that was once part of the factory compound still standing on the site. It very well may be that the home housed Ruth’s ancestors; those who operated the very successful Diamond Cheese Company.

The lower photograph shows the interior of the second enterprise – the Brownhelm Cheese House. It is actually a stereoscopic image; one of those contributed by Barb Ruggles. Although I knew after reading their history that both families were involved in farming and cheese manufacturing businesses in Florence and Vermilion townships, the second cheese factory was news to me.  Initially I thought that the designation on the photo was a mistake. But Brownhelm historian Edward A. Brill confirmed its existence. And what an interesting photograph it is. I was unable to get a good close view of the calendar in the background to acquire a specific date for it. But I was able to get a nice look at the poster for ‘Snag Proof” rubber boots that hung on the door behind the cheese-maker. The advertisement is c. 1891.

Though it is doubtful that the interior photo is quite as old as the advertisement it really doesn’t matter. All the photographs are true local artifacts and more than 100 years old. And like the cheese made in these facilities in the yesteryear, they only get better with age.

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: rnt@twc.com



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