Orrin Head died in 1882, and Mrs. Head later married to Henry Stentz, who had been the bank cashier and had been promoted to its presidency. When Mr. Stentz died in 1903, the ownership of the bank and of a quantity of farm land passed to Mrs. Stentz.
One of her major gifts to the village was the Soldiers and Sailors monument which now stands in the village park opposite St. Joseph’s Church on Broad Street. When dedicated, the monument was in the intersection in front of the Octagon House. It was moved when U.S. 20 was widened through the village. It is believed that this was the first monument to honor those who served in the Spanish-American War, as well as the veterans of the nation’s earlier conflicts.
Mrs. Stentz also owned a controlling interest in the Sandusky, Norwalk and Mansfield electric railway. This line ran south from Sandusky through Milan to Norwalk and then south through North Fairfield and Plymouth to Shelby. Its line to Mansfield was on borrowed tracks, as was its line from Norwalk to Sandusky. No doubt Mrs. Stentz had great hopes for her interurban, but it never was a real success and failed less than ten years after her 1914 death.
All of these business enterprises kept Mrs. Stentz busy, but they didn’t keep other little problems from creeping in. One such problem recently came to my attention and it surely was not only a problem, but a genuine scam. In 1912, Mrs. Stentz was president of a concern known as the Stentz Building Co. It may have been based in California, as it did own some land there.
One piece of California real estate had been purchased in the name of Mrs. Annie Head, and all went well with it until 1904, when a man and woman claiming to be “John and Annie Head” signed a deed and sold the land to one John Meyers. Mrs. Stentz was unaware of this deception until 1912, when Meyers contacted her and told her what it would cost her to release his interest in the land, even though he had sold it in the meantime.
Annie said “nothing doing,” took herself to California and sued all concerned. There were several interested parties, known and unknown. It was established that “John Head” was actually Carl Anderson, an ex-con known to deal in land transaction frauds.
Within a month the court had ruled in Mrs. Stentz’s favor, and she was once again the rightful owner. During the trial, it was revealed that Mrs. Stentz was aware of the fraudulent deed, which was not recorded until 1909 at the courthouse. She continued paying the taxes but also kept track of the other conveyances of the land until a mortgage on a part of it was to be foreclosed and the matter had to be settled.
This goes to show that forgery usually is not a profitable scam.
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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.