ELYRIA — A piece of county history has come home to the Lorain County Historical Society.
The leather and fabric saddle bag was never far away, but about 190 years after it was first used by one of Elyria’s founding fathers, Artemas Beebe, a mailbag dating back to the 1820s is now one of the oldest items in the museum’s collection.
Bill Bird, director of the historical society, accepted the bag Thursday afternoon and promptly placed it near a mantel — an original piece — from the Beebe Tavern.
The saddle bag’s most recent home was the Elyria post office, where it was on display in the front lobby for several years.
“This is a wonderful, just wonderful additional to the collection,” Bird said.
Often when dealing with century-old pieces tracing the lineage can be difficult, but with this piece Bird said he is very confident it is the real deal.
“I feel real good about the provenance of this piece, knowing how it came from Artemas Beebe III, the grandson of Beebe,” he said.
Beebe, a carpenter, came to the area with Heman Ely in 1817 and built one of the first permanent buildings in town on the city’s south side. He also had the first mail contract between Cleveland and Elyria.
The mailbag was used to carry mail between the Rocky River, which was not bridged at that time, and Elyria. Beebe used to go to the river, collect the mail and bring it back to the Beebe Tavern, where he delivered it to Ely, who was deemed postmaster in 1818.
The mailbag passed through the Beebe family until Artemas Beebe III gave it to friend and fellow Masonic Lodge member Norwood G. Baumhardt. It stayed in the Baumhardt family until it was gifted to the post office after Baumhardt’s death by his daughter, Sue Innes.
The bag is in surprisingly good condition. The fabric’s red and green embroidery is reminiscent of Native American artistry and the leather bottom still shows stamps of leaves, circles and flowers.
“Before it went on display, I actually found it in a storage locker,” said Mike Gosnell of the Elyria post office. “This is the best home for it because it’s a part of Lorain County history.”
Bird said there is no telling how much mail was carted on horseback between Rocky River and Elyria. There were probably two dozen families at that time, but the Beebe Tavern also served as a stagecoach stop for the entire area, so most mail went through there.
The bag is the oldest item connected to the city at the historical society. There is a Bible that dates back further, but it has no connection to the area.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or email@example.com.