In collaboration with Ohio Wesleyan University’s African-Americans and U.S. Law class, the Delaware County Historical Society Meeker Homestead Museum is exhibiting “Delaware County Great Beginnings.”
The museum’s first exhibit of 2019 features six prominent, but little known people, whose beginnings are well rooted in Delaware: E.W.B. Curry, Horace Newton Allen, Mabel Cratty, Amos Dolbear, Frank Sherwood Rowland, and Dr. Ezra Vogel.
Ahead of his time, Elmer Washington Bryant Curry, a native of Delaware, was born in 1871, just six years after the end of the American Civil War. He sought to improve and uplift the lives of his fellow African-Americans through education.
Curry was the subject of the Delaware County History Society’s April program, which was presented by Benny Shoults, Meeker Museum curator, and Barbara Terzian, Ph.D., a professor at Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU).
According to records from the DCHS, Curry was the son of Julia Frances Andrews, also known as “Berty,” and George W. Curry, who was a minister at the Second Baptist Church on Ross Street in Delaware. The family lived in a log house on South Street, which is now London Road.
“Our home was a humble but happy one, a log cabin on South Street, in Delaware, Ohio,” Curry quotes in his book “A Story of the Curry Institute.” “Two meals a day, two rounds at the family altar, a mother and father out in service, leaving a mischievous boy and two girls at home, made up the daily routine for years.”
While still enrolled in Delaware City Schools in 1889, E.W.B. Curry rented a kitchen shed for 50 cents per month and made his dream come true, which was to open up his own school. The school was named “The Place of Knowledge for Old and Young,” and tuition was 25 cents per week. Curry’s first student was a 50-year-old man who was a day laborer.
According to Shoults, Curry continued his own education after graduating from Delaware City Schools.
“Right after graduating high school, he went to Van Wert, Ohio, to teach,” he said. “After a year, he returned to Delaware to attend Michael College on East Winter Street, and later he attended OWU … while continuing to run the Curry School at night.”
Shoults said Curry spent a couple of years as a law student with the firm of Marriott and Wickham, taught night school for Delaware City Schools becoming the first African-American teacher in 1895 of the mixed-race schools of Delaware City. In later years, Curry moved the school from Delaware to Mechanicsburg, Ohio, before one final move to Urbana, Ohio.
A Delaware native like Curry, Allen graduated from OWU and Miami Medical School, becoming the first American Protestant missionary to Korea.
An OWU graduate, Cratty was a Delaware City School teacher and principal who went on to be the General Secretary of the YWCA.
A graduate of OWU and the University of Michigan, Dolbear invented a “talking telegraph” while at OWU and a receiver that contained two features of the modern telephone.
Schultz said if he would have gone to the patent office, he could’ve beat Alexander Graham Bell on inventing the telephone 11 years earlier.
Born in Delaware and a graduate of OWU and the University of Chicago, Rowland went on to be a professor of chemistry at the University of California, Irvine. Rowland is a Nobel Laureate recognized for his work in discovering that chlorofluorocarbons contribute to ozone depletion.
A Delaware native by birth and a graduate of both OWU and Harvard, Vogel is a professor and author who has published dozens of articles, reviews, conference papers, and major books on China, Japan, and American-East Asian relations. He has organized scholarly and policy conferences on many topics and is considered one of the nation’s foremost experts of family life in the Far East.
Vogel is a professor of the Social Sciences Emeritus at Harvard University and the sponsor of the annual Vogel Lectures each spring at OWU.
The Delaware County Historical Society is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote, preserve and sustain interest in the history of Delaware County. The Barn at Stratford is operated by DCHS as an event venue for weddings, corporate meetings, and other special occasions. To learn more, visit the venue and society web sites at barnatstratford.org and delawareohiohistory.org.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.