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The Suburbanite
  • The Monday After: How New Berlin became North Canton

  • Lecture to examine how New Berlin became North Canton during World War I

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  • New Berlin was a community of German roots that grew to disavow its heritage.
    The city, then a village, became North Canton in 1918 in the face of anti-German sentiment during World War I.
    Christopher Post, assistant professor of geography at Kent State University Stark Campus, will talk about that name change when he speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday March 19 at the annual meeting of the North Canton Heritage Society. The meeting will be in the Society’s museum at 200 Charlotte St. NW, the former North Canton Middle School.
    Post, who has written a journal article on the subject, completed much of his research on the name change by searching the Society’s files, said Kathy Fernandez, the Society’s director.
    The speaker said that he will be looking at the historical event — “an event that many in the area are familiar with” — and put it into geographical context.
    “I think geographers look at things such as name changes a little bit different from an historian,” said Post. “We look at the place and region and the cultural landscape. ‘New Berlin’ said something about the community, just as ‘North Canton’ later did.”
    ORIGIN OF COMMUNITY
    A history of North Canton offered on the city’s website — an historical timeline supplied by North Canton Heritage Society —  describes the community, settled early in the 1800s, in terms that reflect its European heritage.
    “The early settlers of the area were mainly German-speaking families from the eastern part of Pennsylvania, hence the name ‘New Berlin,’ ” recalls the history.
    “Taverns, inns, wagon-makers, blacksmiths and general stores sprung up where the rutted wagon paths crossed. ... In 1831, the first 23 lots (in the area of City Hall) were surveyed and became the village of New Berlin.”
    The community was a “bustling trading center” by the 1870s, the history records.
    “In the years before World War I, the streets were paved for the first time with brick, electric streetlights replaced gas lamps, sewer and water systems were laid, a telephone exchange was installed and the volunteer Fire Department was organized.”
    In decades following the village’s founding, “new families of various background arrived,” the history notes. The mingling of heritages, perhaps, made it easier for the community to adopt a national way of thinking that developed when Germany became the enemy during World War I.
    “All over America, things bearing Germanic names were changed — hospitals, schools, towns, streets, even family names,” explains the history. “So, after a petition drive, New Berlin, population 926, changed its name to North Canton on Jan. 30, 1918.”
    CORPORATE INFLUENCE
    Post will examine in his lecture a significant supporter of the name change.
    “What made the change unique is that it was influenced to some degree by the Hoover Co.,” Post said. “They were the ones that got the petition out there.”
    Page 2 of 2 - The Hoover Co. already was an established force in the village by the time World War I arrived, wrote historian E.T. Heald in the “Industry Comes of Age” volume of his multi-volume history, “The Stark County Story.”
    “North Canton had been New Berlin when the W.H. Hoover Co. was at its peak in horse-collars, saddlery and leather goods,” wrote Heald, who then revealed, perhaps, why the Hoover Co.’s influence could be strong when it supported the change in the name of the community in which the company resided.
    Hoover’s founder had been a trusted member of that community.
    “ ‘Boss’ William H. Hoover, who never bossed, was the type of businessman who was instinctively trusted by his fellows,” Heald wrote. “His enterprise and public spirit were held responsible for the civic improvement of the thriving little community of New Berlin.”
    A LAST LOOK
    The annual meeting also will afford those who attend a final glimpse at what has been the home of North Canton Heritage Society before it moves to new quarters. It will be “a chance to say goodbye to the Charlotte building, home to the Society since 1999,” said Fernandez.
    Depending upon the progress of renovations there, those attending the meeting may be given the opportunity to tour the Society’s new home, Portage Street School. The Society hopes to move into the building early in April, Fernandez said.
     
    Reach Gary at 330-580-8303 or gary.brown@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @gbrownREP
    ABOUT THE EVENT
    WHAT Lecture on the change of name from New Berlin to North Canton
    WHEN 7 p.m. Tuesday March 19
    WHERE North Canton Heritage Society, 200 Charlotte St. NW
    WHO Christopher Post, assistant professor of geography at Kent State University Stark Campus
    WHY Annual meeting of North Canton Heritage Society recognizing the 95th anniversary of North Canton
    HOW Open to the public, free of charge; for information call 330-494-4791 or visit www.northcantonheritage.org.