Humongous 1856 Baker’s Map of Wayne Co. Ohio

John Lechot's 1856 Bakers Map hanging in the Little Red Schoolhouse.

John Lechot’s 1856 Bakers Map hanging in the Little Red Schoolhouse.

Sometimes the story about how an artifact was acquired is more interesting than the actual artifact itself. This may be the case with the large framed 1856 Baker’s Map that hangs in the Little Red Schoolhouse on the campus of the Wayne County Historical Society of Ohio. The map has darkened with age, some type of stains are clearly visible, and the colored ink has paled over time. The fluorescent lamp to light the map for better visibility no longer works but the engraved artwork around the edges of the map showing six buildings in Wooster still attract the eye.

The originally printed 1856 Baker’s Map was a large map, it measures about 4.5ft wide by 3ft high and was a lithographic marvel for its time. The map housed at the Society was owned by the well-known Orrville resident, John Lechot, after being discovered hanging on the wall in Charles Lechot’s former contracting business headquarters by Lister O. Weiss. Perhaps calling Lechot’s former place of business a headquarters is being too kind as the following transcription of the exchange of letters between Lister O. Weiss and John D. McKee, Wayne County Historical Society President at the time, explains:

1-18-(19)64

Wayne Co. Hist. Society
Wooster, Ohio

I have been working on maps of Orrville as the city was in the early days – for the centennial next summer. I discovered an 1856 map of Wayne Co. with the maps of the towns of the county all around the edge.

It is in what was the office of contractor John Lechot for many years – the Will Burt Co. owns the building now. The place used to be called “The Hole in the Wall”, just across the railroad on S. Main St.

The map is 108 years old and is a valuable map. Do you have one of these maps? It is about 5ft square and is encased in a frame with a glass front.

It has worried me ever since I found it, afraid something might happen to it. So I called Mr. Lechot this morning and talked to him about it. He said for some time he has wanted to do something with it. I asked him if he would like to give it to the Society and he said that he would.

Mr. Lechot is an elderly man and cannot do anything about it himself. So I wish that someone from the Historical Society would arrange to get it from Mr. Lechot and the place where it is hanging.

It would be ashame if anything would happen to it. He said that he bought it at a sale about 10 years ago. I would be glad to hear from you about this.

Sincerely,
L. O. Weiss

John Lechot was 97 years old in 1964 and died on September 11, 1964.

Jan. 29, 1964.

Mr. L. O. Weiss
135 Sterling Ave.
Orrville, Ohio.

Dear Mr. Weiss:

Your letter of January 18th has been received and we wish to thank you for your interest in our Society. We need more folks over the county, with open eyes, to locate articles that will be of interest to us at the Wayne County Museum. I am sure there are many articles that their owners would be glad to give them to us if they knew our needs and desires.

We were in Orrville last Monday afternoon and we tried to contact Mr. John Lechot by telephone. I did talk to him concerning the map and told him we felt we would greatly appreciate getting it. He said he had a key to the building in which the map is but he had company so I did not ask him to bother to let us see it at that time. That evening I saw the article in the Daily Record about his big birthday celebration the previous day. Mr. Lechot said the map was about 6 feet square which would make it too large to bring over in a car. He thought a pick up truck would be needed. I am not sure what we would need to pay to get it over here but we shall try to locate someone that could do it. We would like to see the map before making definite arrangements to have it moved.

Again thanking you for your kindness and we will get in touch with you again. Our President, John D. McKee is acquainted with Mr. Lechot and possibly he can make some arrangements.

Sincerely yours,

Wayne County Historical Society Secretary.

John D. McKee managed to find a person with a pickup truck and rounded-up a few strong men during the summer of 1964 and made the trip to Orrville where they loaded up the big framed map and hauled it back to the Society’s campus. However, finding a space large enough to display it proved difficult for a few years.

9-11-(19)64

Dear John D:-

Thanks for the letter of Sept.2 to John Lechot. I am glad that the 1856 Map of Wayne County is safely in the hands of the Wayne Co. Hist. Soc.

When I first discovered it about a year ago, my upper teeth almost fell out. Then I began to worry about it’s safety. So I wrote to the Society about the map and asked John (Lechot) if he would like to donate the map to the Society.

It was hanging on the wall what is known as the “Hole in the Wall”, a fire of course would have been the end of it.

I had it moved to Centennial Headquarters during the Centennial and now I can rest that it is safely deposited with you.

I’m glad you are serving as President and good wishes to you.

Sincerely,
L. O. Weiss

Once the 1873 Little Red Schoolhouse was moved and rebuilt on the Society’s grounds in 1966, Lechot’s 1856 Baker’s Map was hung on the Schoolhouse wall just inside the doors and has been there ever since. The Wayne County Public Library also has one of these large maps hanging on the wall in the Geneology and Local History Department section of the Library. You can see and download a beautiful pristine copy of this map on the Library of Congress website: 1856 Baker’s Map of Wayne County, Ohio

Related tidbit:
Did you know that Apple Avenue in Orrville, Ohio was originally named LeChot Avenue after Charles Lechot for many years? However in 2004 Lechot Avenue became Apple Avenue when City Council moved to change the name after the J.M. Smucker Co. petitioned the city to change the name of the street, saying the various possible pronunciations make it difficult to find for drivers delivering to the company, who often go past it and then have to turn their big trucks around, frequently in inconvenient places. LeChot Avenue, most of which was on the J.M. Smucker Co. campus, was a north-south street connecting Strawberry Lane with Orr Street. President David Handwerk said council received letters from Ruth E. Otto and Marjorie L. Squire, the daughters of Charles LeChot for whom the street is named, expressing concern over the potential loss of the memory of their father, who built a large number of homes in Orrville. Charles’ father, John LeChot, was the founder of Orrville Body, which evolved into Orrville Products.

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