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Eaton, OH New Deal art

(photograph courtesy of Rod van Ausdall)

New Deal/WPA Art in Eaton, Ohio
Anyone wishing to contact Rod van Ausdall may email him at: cvandall@adelphia.net)

“The oil on canvas mural by Roland Schweinburg*, measuring 4¼ by 10¼ feet, depicts Van Ausdal’s Trading Post, which was located on the northwest corner of Main and Barron streets, now the site of a building owned by Citizens Federal Savings and Loan….Murals of local history were at times the special targets of minute criticism….A case in point was Youngstown artist Roland Schweinburg’s submission of a mural for Eaton. One might think that the citizens would not be so particular about Van Ausdal’s long-vanished store, but the postmaster conveyed a series of objections to the artist. He argued that the Indian girl’s skirt should ‘be shortened to knee length’ and ‘shouldn’t be quite so form fitting’. The sign also should read ‘Furs and Skins’ rather than ‘Furs and Hides’. As a final remark, the postmaster wrote “Personally I do not think the horse appears quite true to type.” He criticized the treatment of both the head and the legs. The mural as installed incorporated several of the recommended revisions.” -Tim H. Miller, Richmond Palladium-Item, Thursday, August 24, 1989.

Post Office Murals Recall Early Eaton Days by Rexford Sexton, Palladium-Item, Eaton, Ohio, January 28, 1939

“Murals which are to be placed on the walls of the Eaton post office, located on East Main Street, near the Main and Barron Street intersection, will show scenes enacted at the trading post established here in a log cabin in 1806 by Cornelius Van Ausdal, this town’s first merchant. The scenes will recall some interesting local history. Mr. Van Ausdal arrived in Eaton when William Bruce, founder of Eaton, was laying out the town.

There is some connection between the site of the post office and the life of Eaton’s first merchant. A house, built of brick, probably handmade, and wood, cut from virgin timber, occupied by Harvey Van Ausdal, Cornelius’ son, was razed to create room for the federal building. Part of that house now forms a part of the local youth community center structure.

The story of Cornelius Van Ausdal’s life is closely interwoven with Eaton history, for local mercantile records begin with the establishment of his trading post. His business grew and developed into large proportions. Other trading establishments located here and followed the trail blazed by Van Ausdal & Co., so the success of that organization played a part in making local history.

Van Ausdal & Co. had more than a local reputation in the early years of the Nineteenth century. The reputation of the company for honesty in buying and selling spread throughout the Northwest Territory. Not only was a retail business conducted by wholesale trade as well and goods were sold to Richmond merchants and those in other parts of the then thinly settled territory…..

Mr. Van Ausdal located in Eaton, after he had found a liking for Ohio by spending a winter with his brother, Peter, then living in the wilderness of what is now Lanier Township. His home was in Berkeley County, VA, but he thought the possibilities of this state so great that he determined to open a business. In order to secure capital he took a quantity of furs on horseback to Baltimore, MD, from Ohio, sold them, then returned to his home. However, he needed additional cash so transported a load of wheat by wagon from Virginia to Baltimore which was sold. Profits from the sale of the grain were sufficient to purchase a wagonload of goods, which were taken to Eaton. Local historical records reveled that when the wagon arrived here the goods were sold direct from the vehicle…..Mr. Van Ausdal was described as a man of average size, but must have had tremendous physical capacities in order to withstand the rigors of pioneer life. In the early days of his business career, twice each year in the summer and fall, he made a trip on horse-back with furs to New York City in order to replenish his stock of goods. Estimated time for such a trip was three months, but in some instances it might have taken longer. Streams had to be forded, and the trails were poor and sometimes there were none. Sometimes rivers were swollen, making necessary detours, adding many miles to the trip. In later years, Mr. Van Ausdal probably utilized the Ohio River or the Erie Canal for part of the New York trip.”

*Roland Arthur Schweinsburg is listed on the Artists Biography page.