Barberton Memories - 1960s
By: Sarah Hays, Local History Librarian
This is the first article in a three-part series that concentrates on O.C. Barber’s weddings, particularly the wedding to his second wife, Mary Orr.
On October 10, 1866, Barber married Laura L. Brown, the granddaughter of the notorious counterfeiter James Brown from Cuyahoga Falls. The newlyweds set up housekeeping in Akron near the intersection of Spicer and Buchtel Streets, and later moved to fashionable East Market Street. They had two children, Charles and Anna. Charles died in infancy and Laura likely died of tuberculosis while on a trip to England in 1896. Ten years after Laura’s death, the handsome, black-mustachioed millionaire was paying court to Marie Lawson, a fine-looking, capable nurse. Barber donated $200,000 to build the original City Hospital. Marie became the head nurse and superintendent of the hospital, and while Barber sat on the hospital board, her position was not challenged. The social gossips of Akron were certain Marie would become Barber’s wife. However, everyone was shocked when he married his secretary, Mary F. Orr, in a civil ceremony at her parents’ home on December 2, 1915. She had been his secretary for twelve years and was 36 years his junior.
Perhaps the loudest outcry of indignation over the marriage came from Barber’s own son-in-law, Dean Bevan, when on December 7, 1915, he wrote the following to a member of the board of directors of the Diamond Match Company: “You are, of course, familiar with the way our mutual friend has handled his financial and personal affairs in the last few years. Matters are in such a condition at present that I question in my own mind whether it is to the best interests of the stockholders or directors to re-elect him as a director of the company at the spring meeting.”
It is believed Barber never knew of this treachery and regardless of Bevan’s efforts, Barber was not deposed as director.
Despite the initial shock, the huge reception held by the newlyweds in the newly finished Barber mansion was one of the greatest social events of the year.
Next month, as this series about O.C. Barber’s second marriage continues, we will discuss the wedding ceremony. On Thursday, June 20, join us as we discuss the 1947 Barberton High School Football team. The program will be held in the Spillette Meeting Room at 6:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.