John Samuel Oram’s story of his success in Cleveland, Ohio is fascinating, though of course not unusual. “Ba Ba” as he was known arrived in the USA in 1867 with nothing but within twenty years he had developed a thriving engineering business making barrel making machinery for the oil industry. By the late 1880’s John could afford the time and money to be philanthropic as well as visit his parents in England most years.
Two sentences in the 1960’s Oram Family Saga have sent us on an interesting line of research:
… the house the family loved best was “The Cottage” at Lakeside Ohio, where the whole family spent the long hot summers. Ba Ba was first President of the Lakeside Chautauqua Association which sponsored recreational activities for children and arranged lectures and concerts for them.
Through the internet we have found correspondence, written in 1897 between John and The Ohio State Board of Health about improving the water supply to Lakeside. John described himself as President of ‘The Lakeside Company’ whilst the the Board refer to John as ‘President Lakeside Association, Cleveland, Ohio.’ John lived in Cleveland so the letter was probably sent to him at his home address.
We are trying to establish a definite connection between John and the present day‘Lakeside the Chautauqua on Eire’ that is on a peninsular into Lake Eire between Cleveland and Toledo. Did John write the letter on behalf of the community of Lakeside or the Lakeside Chautauqua Association?
The association was one of the ‘Daughter Chautauquas’ inspired by the work of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle started by two Methodists in 1878 beside Chautauqua Lake in south western New York State. John was also a Methodist so would have been drawn to the Chautauqua movement and it fits in with his support for the YMCA. It is unlikely that John could have afforded to travel from Cleveland to Lakeside in 1877 but he could have played a major role in the 1890s programme:
“Its first Sunday school training sessions were held in 1877, which blossomed into a robust Chautauqua with a full program of religion, education, cultural arts and recreation during the 1890s.”
When we sent the two above photographs to Jon Schmitz, Archivist and Historian at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State we received the following reply:
“This is very interesting. The grounds do look like a Chautauqua somewhere. The arch might even have been for Recognition Day Ceremonies of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (the CLSC). As [your contact at Lakeside] may tell you, Lakeside is actually older than Chautauqua. It only later used the name Chautauqua. It was affiliated to Chautauqua through the CLSC and through the Vincent family (John Vincent being one of the cofounders of the Chautauqua Assembly).”