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Brown-Hafer Chapel Wedding

For many years the Chapel provided church services, Sunday school, lectures, concerts, parties and housed a lending library to bring the Middle Bass Club families together for religious, educational and social purposes.  Based upon the Records Book, the ladies were extremely dedicated to the Chapel; they met at various times during the year to plan the Chapel’s programs for the summer and worked hard to make them successful.  The Brown-Hafer Wedding story properly illustrates how incredibly special the Chapel was to the Middle Bass Club membership.  Walter Folger Brown and Katherine Mann Hafer Sheldon met at the Middle Bass Club and fell in love.  Instead of holding their wedding ceremony in the larger, more prestigious hometown churches in Toledo and Cincinnati, the couple decided to wed in the tiny Chapel located in their beloved Middle Bass Club.

Walter Folger Brown, the groom, was a member of the Middle Bass Club from 1902 to 1907 (based on available membership lists) and was a guest in earlier years according to the Middle Bass Club Guest Register books.  He was a prominent attorney from Toledo, Ohio who was very involved in the Ohio Republican party beginning with William McKinely‘s campaign for Governor in 1891.  Walter Folger Brown was also influential in helping William Howard Taft gain the Presidential nomination in 1908.  (As a matter of coincidence, President William Howard Taft was a frequent guest in the Middle Bass Club; he enjoyed the bass fishing.)  Walter Folger Brown would go on to become the Assistant Secretary of Commerce from 1927 to 1929 and the 49th United States Postmaster General from 1929 to 1933 under President Herbert Hoover. 

Walter Folger Brown. Middle Bass Club member 1902 to 1907. He married Katherine Hafer Sheldon on September 10, 1903. They were married by Charles H. Tucker, rector St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Put in Bay, Ohio. Source: Wikipedia & Ancestry research.

Katherine Mann Hafer Sheldon, the bride, was the daughter of Middle Bass Club member George Hafer and his wife Kate Mann Ocheltree and the widow of Ralph Sheldon who died in 1897.  George Hafer was a member of the Middle Bass Club from 1888 to 1907 (based on available membership lists).  He was a well-respected businessman from Cincinnati, Ohio who served as the “last” mayor of Avondale, Ohio (Avondale was annexed to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1896).  George Hafer was appointed Receiver and then once the company was back on track, he was promoted to President of the Cincinnati, Lebanon and Northern Railroad.  Kate Mann Hafer, the bride’s mother, served as a Middle Bass Chapel Association Trustee from 1890 to 1910 and was elected Treasurer from 1895 to 1906 (this is the last year that the Records Book identified officers).  The Hafer family owned a cottage on Grove Avenue in the Middle Bass Club that exists today; William Rehberg’s 1st Addition: lot 32 which is currently owned by the Aquilla family. 

It is apparent that Walter Folger Brown and the Hafer family enjoyed spending time at the Middle Bass Club and that the Chapel was important to them.  Therefore, it is understandable that the couple married in the Chapel.  Sadly, I have been unable to locate any wedding photos.  However, we have the 1903 Guest Register book which contains the names of the Hafer and Brown family members who attended the wedding and a copy of their Marriage Certificate.  George Hafer (father of the bride) and Walter F. Brown (groom) signed in on Wednesday, September 9, 1903 and stayed at a cottage (Hafer).  It is unknown whether the groom stayed at the Hafer cottage or another member’s cottage.  Members of the groom’s family arrived on the same day: Miss Sarah R. Folger (groom’s cousin) and James Marshall Brown (groom’s father) signed in as guests of Walter F. Brown and stayed in the Club House, rooms 56 & 57.  Members of the bride’s family also arrived that day: Edward Hafer (bride’s brother), Frank Hafer (bride’s brother) and Edward Frazier Hafter (bride’s nephew) signed in as guests and stayed in a cottage (Hafer).  The groom’s brother, Ralph P. Brown, arrived on the day of the wedding (Thursday, September 10, 1903) and stayed in the Club House, room 54.  It is unclear when the bride and her mother arrived at the Middle Bass Club.

Middle Bass Club Guest Register entry: September 9. 1903. Two pages showing entries from September 5 through 11

“On Sept. 10, 1903, at Middle Bass Island, in Lake Erie, he [Walter Folger Brown] was united in marriage to Miss Katherine Hafer, daughter of George Hafer a well-known citizen of Cincinnati.” (Source: In the Memoirs of Lucas County & City of Toledo – Vol. II – Publ. 1910 – Page 179.)  The Folger-Hafer Marriage Certificate is signed by Charles H. Tucker, Rector St. Paul’s Reformed Episcopal Church (REC), Put-in-Bay, Ohio.  It should be noted that Rev. Charles H. Tucker signed in on the Middle Bass Club House’s Guest Register book on Thursday, Sept. 10, 1903 (see above), at a time of “d” (which stands for dinner - the daytime meal) and did not have a room number or cottage indicated.  From this notation we can assume that Rev. Charles H. Tucker did not stay overnight in the Middle Bass Club; he most likely took a boat back to Put-in-Bay after the wedding ceremony and/or celebration meal at the Club House. 

Brown-Hafer Marriage Certificate. Source: Ancestry

Rev. Tucker graduated from Kenyon College in 1866.  In fact, he signed the document to establish the Reformed Church on December 2, 1874.  Rev. Tucker served the following parishes: Emmanuel Church (Chicago, Illinois), Church of our Redeemer (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), Mustang Creek and White Oak (Indiana Territory), First Church (Boston, Massachusetts) and St. Luke’s Reformed Church (Boston, Massachusetts).  At the suggestion of Jay Cooke of Gibraltar Island, Rev. Tucker accepted the position to become Rector of St. Paul’s REC at Put in Bay, Ohio in 1898 and served the parish until 1906. (Source: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Put in Bay, Ohio) Perhaps Rev. Tucker met Jay Cooke while at Kenyon College or in Philadelphia? 

Based upon available Middle Bass Club records, this was the only Chapel wedding.  Likewise, the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records indicate that Rev. Tucker performed wedding ceremonies for a number of Middle Bass Island people, but this was the only one showing the wedding was held at the Toledo Club.  Specifically, the St. Paul’s records confirm the Middle Bass Wedding on September 10th and indicate that the groom was 34 years old, the bride was 30 and the wedding took place at the “Toledo Club House” (i.e.,  the Middle Bass Club).    (Source: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Put in Bay, Ohio)

A proper way to end the Middle Bass Club Chapel Story is to applaud the ladies of the Middle Bass Chapel Association.  They succeeded in their efforts to build a beautiful Chapel on the grounds of the Middle Bass Club and provide religious, educational, literary and scientific programs for the membership.  Sadly, the Chapel no longer exists today but I hope by sharing its history the Chapel came back to life for a minute.  If you have any photographs or information to share about the Middle Bass Club Chapel, please contact me and we will update the story (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).