History of Oviatt House
In the early 1800’s, Salmon and Mary Oviatt, along with their 11 children, moved from Connecticut to Richfield, Ohio. In 1831 one of their sons, Mason, married Fanny Carter who had also moved with her family from Connecticut to Ohio. Mason was 22 years old and Fanny was 21 at the time of their marriage.
Mason bought 100 acres of land from his parents and, with the help of his brother Erastus, built a sawmill next to the stream running through his property. Using lumber from the sawmill, Mason built his family home which was completed in 1836. This home still stands today at West Streetsboro and Oviatt roads near the Summit-Medina county line.
LEARN MORE: Dating the House
Ties To The Underground Railroad
Mason’s uncle, Heman Oviatt, was involved with the famous abolitionist John Brown. John moved to Richfield in 1842 to work off a debt he owed to Heman. Connections were made between John Brown's family and Mason Oviatt's family. In 1843 Fanny helped care for the Brown family during an epidemic. Both families had strong anti-slavery beliefs which led to Mason helping John Brown with his efforts in the Underground Railroad.
A published story tells of five freedom seekers crammed into the false bottom of a horse-drawn wagon driven by Mason Oviatt. The lid was shut and covered with hay to disguise its fragile cargo. The long, difficult journey to freedom took them to Oberlin, Ohio and eventually to their independence. LEARN MORE: Secret Hayride Leads to Freedom
Mason and Fanny Oviatt raised eleven children in this house. When Mason died in 1850 searching for gold in California, Fanny kept the farm going until her death in 1886. Several generations of the Oviatt family remained in the house until 1919 when the house and adjacent farmland were sold to inventor James Kirby.
In 1937, Kirby sold his estate to the Cleveland Girl Scout Council which, until 2007, was used as Camps Julia Crowell and Crowell Hilaka. The Western Reserve Land Conservancy acquired the property and then sold it to the Richfield Joint Recreation District. The land and house is now part of a 336 acre park known as Richfield Heritage Preserve – Ohio’s Hidden Treasure™