The 78th Annual SFA Reunion
Aurora, Ohio is a most beautiful city! We had such an enjoyable visit spending time there for our annual reunion this year. After the planning year, which didn’t take all year, just a few hours of many days, I was well ready to actually begin the reunion. I had visited the Aurora Inn and Event center previously to check on the rooms and location and facilities, which were all five star, so I knew what to expect! I was able to attend all four days this year which was such a delightful experience. I grew up about an hour away from Aurora, and my family is still local. I was able to bring with me each day a friend or relative as a guest. My Mom came with me on Sunday and she was such a great help! She really enjoyed the experience and was quite upset when she could not attend the next day. My best friend from elementary school, Angie, came with me on Monday, she had a great time, as well, and she enjoyed the posters of all the different findings through the years of the Sheldons around the world and their relations. I was amazed, as this was the first time I had seen all the posters. Angie had such a great time that she signed up for Ancestry online and began the search for her family tree! My Dad and two of my cousins came with me on Tuesday, all day, and my cousin, Margaret, became a member of SFA! She had such a great time at the reunion that she decided she would like to be a part of the Association. I must say that bringing guests with me each day was a great success!
Monday was a scheduled meet and greets, enjoy the area, and relax day. We didn’t have any scheduled activity for the day, aside from genealogy look-ups, which Frank Sheldon was doing throughout the whole of the reunion. Whenever anyone needed any information he was right on his computer to help them find what it was they were searching. Angie and I enjoyed the pool and the food! We also had a great time checking in and meeting many of my cousins. Whether the cousins are first, second or ninth, they are still family and so much fun to meet! The food at the Aurora Inn Hotel and Event Center is absolutely spectacular! It is farm to table, which is a grand benefit, but the chef has a way with preparation that just enhances the freshness and great flavor.
Tuesday was the BIG day! We began in the AM with two delightful short talks from Ruth Watson and Gwen Sheldon. We proceeded to our open Board meeting which went very nicely. Around 11:30 we boarded a tour bus, which was provided for our use by the city of Aurora. This came complete with a driver, Sam Colmery, who was very good at his job, and our tour guide: Mr. John Kudley Jr. the president of the Aurora Historical Society. Mr. Kudley helped me all year on various questions and situations, and he helped to orchestrate this whole reunion for us. A major Thank You to Mr. John Kudley!
Our first stop was The Atrium in Aurora. It is an assisted living facility that is top notch. It is very beautifully decorated. We were treated by the city of Aurora to a very delicious lunch and a visit with Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin. We were also able to visit with some of the members of the Aurora Historical Society (AHS) during our lunch. Mayor Womer Benjamin welcomed us to The Atrium and Aurora, and then each of us took a minute to introduce ourselves. We had the privilege of the accompaniment of Clara Gutermuth, the eldest living SFA member.
The next stop was the Aurora Historical Society Museum and across the street from that the Ebenezer Sheldon Deed House! The museum is so very nice. It has many artifacts from the area acquired from many people. There is a special section that takes up a good space in the center with all the information regarding Ebenezer Sheldon as the first settler of Aurora, and his family and others who came during those first years. John Kudley gave us a full tour of the museum, answering all our questions and sharing with us some really interesting stories.
Upon entering the Deed House we tried to see just how many Sheldons we could fit inside at once! John Kudley told us about the many folks who had donated materials to help refurbish the office of Ebenezer Sheldon. It was amazing to me to hear of the interest and assistance given by so many. The results are beautiful. It was here that we presented the plaque to John, the AHS and the city of Aurora. They did a real nice job depicting what Ebenezer’s desk would have looked like in 1805, and after, when he was signing plots of the land in and around Aurora to various new settlers. It was a memorable experience to visit this rejuvenated office of our ancestor.
The next stop on our tour was The First Church of Aurora which was built beginning in 1822, and dedicated in 1824. Many years and many hands worked together in order to build the first brick church building in Aurora. Ebenezer and his wife Lovee (Laura) were the first family of Aurora to have a travelling preacher speak in their home. This was their church. It has changed in many ways since then, but it was really neat to sit on the pews just as they would have done. 1 This information was taken from a book written by John Kudley, Jr. I, of course, had to have a copy, and I had to have it signed by the author. We also visited the Aurora Cemetery, where Ebenezer and his family, and many other first families of Aurora are laid to rest. There is a wealth of information to be gleaned from the headstones and placement of them in a cemetery.
The tour took us down the road, Pioneer Trail, a ways to the original location of the Deed House on the Sheldon Family home site, which is now known as Spring Hill Farm. This Sheldon home was built in 1851 by Ebenezer’s grandson, Albert Russell Sheldon. There is a photo of the home in its originality on page 17 of the book Aurora: from the founding to the flood by Carol G. Bowman.2 It is still standing but in need of great repair. This is a beautiful century home on a grand piece of land, overlooking the Chagrin River. It is now owned, with the help of the conservation society, by the city of Aurora and the AHS. According to the AHS website it is still undecided what is going to happen with this stately home. Walking around the home was quite interesting; my favorite part was the two horse head topped poles placed along the drive way, maybe used for tying up the horses. Visiting this site gave a feeling of days gone by, many years ago.
We had a dinner reservation at the 1815 Tavern in Aurora. This restaurant is located in the heart of Aurora, right next door to a building, home and store, built by Ebenezer Sheldon II prior to 1840.3 The food was absolutely fantastic! We were all seated in one room together, with plenty of time to socialize. It was a very good meal and very good company, too!
The bus took us all back to the Inn and we enjoyed a presentation on the history of Aurora by John Kudley. See, I told you earlier that he did so much for this reunion! His presentation was interesting, as he adds quaint tidbits of information that are so very fun to hear.
On Wednesday, we had two options of activities, one being a visit to the Aurora Farms Outlet Mall, where I enjoyed spending quite a bit of cash in the Malley’s Chocolate store. They are a local Cleveland, Ohio chocolate manufacturer which I have had the pleasure of enjoying for many years! The other option was to visit the Liberty Park which had hiking trails and an indoor museum. I am told it was a very nice visit there as well.
After shopping I had a few minutes to locate the old “Chet Edwards” store across the street from the Inn. The original building was built by Ebenezer Sheldon II around 1838, or 1840, and he lived there with his family and used the building as a store. Sheldon sold the building later, and now it was vacant when I arrived, but peeking in the windows showed some really neat woodwork on the inside.1 I’m told that a furniture store will be moving in there soon. Once again it was really interesting to see a house built by an ancestor of the Sheldon’s, and to walk around the outside of the building and almost feel the existence of kin!
We wanted to get back to the Inn by 3:00pm for another short talk. This one presented by Albert Sheldon on Sheldons of Western NY, many of which are not in our database. This calls for some more research!
We had a small crowd, so the progenitor lineage tables meetings were short and small, but still sweet. Those of us in the John from Kingstown line talked about creating some poster boards for our ancestor. I was really impressed by the story boards; much work goes into the research and presentation of those, not to mention the transporting of them. The first thing one sees upon entering our grand room is those displays, and they draw one’s attention to each one and there is so much to learn there. I was amazed!
The business meeting was full of business and it went very well. We were able to Skype with those members who were unable to meet with us in person this year. The annual picture, of course you can see, was a great hit. We did it in one shot! The owner of the Inn asked if he would be able to keep a photo of us all at the reunion, as it was interesting to have the family there for our visit.
We did have enough time for a little cocktail hour before our banquet dinner at the Inn. Prior to dining Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin greeted us with a very nice story about the work the city did for the Deed House. The dinner was absolutely fabulous! The food was so delicious, the preparation was very well done, and the service was delightful. The Aurora Inn strives to prepare farm to table foods, and the flavors show.
After our dinner Mr. Kudley presented another talk regarding the Ebenezer Sheldon family in Aurora. He mentioned that he felt like an honorary Sheldon after all the research and work he has done for the family and after the warm welcome from all of us during this reunion. He is working on his next book, the story of Ebenezer Sheldon’s history in Aurora. I asked him for a signed first edition copy of that as soon as it is available! John Kudley had books available for purchase that he brought from the historical society. I had to have one of each, because I felt like an honorary Auroran! I have quoted two of these books in writing this article. I hope that you all enjoy!
1. Kudley, John Jr., More Than a Landmark A History of The Church in Aurora 1809-2009. 2010 John J. Kudley, Jr.
2. Bowman, Carol G., Aurora from the founding to the flood, Volume One 1799-1913. 1999, The Aurora Historical Society.