Filed Under Biography

A Reprieve for Maria Barstow

Wisconsin's First Lady finds a Home in Cleveland

The years 1856 to 1865 were tough ones for all Americans, as the country reeled toward and then fought a bloody civil war over slavery. But they were especially tough years for Maria Quarles Barstow. In 1856, her husband, William A. Barstow, the third governor of Wisconsin, left office under a cloud of a scandal as the result of campaign law violations in his re-election effort. Then came his failure and embarrassment on the battlefield in the Civil War. And finally, just months after the war ended, William Barstow suddenly died, leaving her a 42-year old widow with four boys--ranging in age from eleven to nineteen, to raise.

And that's when Cleveland, and the house at 4211 Franklin Avenue, gave her a reprieve from a horrendous decade. Prior to 1865, Maria had never lived in Cleveland. However, her husband's family were west side pioneer settlers and she came to Cleveland in late December of that year to bury her husband and to start her life anew. Her husband's spinster sister and bachelor brother took her and the boys in--all of them living together in a small house on State (West 29th) Street. Then, in 1868, she had a opportunity to gather her family together in their own home. She rented the new Second Empire style house near the corner of Franklin Avenue and Harbor (West 44th) Street that had just been built by German immigrant carpenter Ferdinand Dryer.

Maria had landed in a good neighborhood. Just across the street from 4211 Franklin lived Hannes Tiedeman, who had not yet torn down his modest house and replaced it with Franklin Castle. Also living on the street a few blocks to the west was Stephen Buhrer, who had just been elected Cleveland's mayor. Up the street toward Franklin Circle lived Henry Coffinberry, a prominent early Cleveland industrialist and son of Judge Coffinberry. Further up the street was coal magnate and real estate developer Daniel Rhodes. Living next door to Rhodes were his daughter and son-in-law Marcus Hanna, who one day would put William McKinley in the White House. Two of Rhodes's sons, including noted American historian James Ford Rhodes, also lived nearby on the Avenue.

Maria Barstow and her sons only lived in the house at 4211 Franklin Avenue for about three years. It was likely financial circumstances that forced her in 1872 to move back in with her husband's family on State Street. But perhaps the three years in the new house on Franklin Avenue were long enough to stabilize and rebuild her family, and introduce her sons to Cleveland's business elite. Frank Barstow married a daughter of Stephen Buhrer, becoming not only connected to this Cleveland political family, but also to John D. Rockefeller, a long-time friend of Buhrer. Likely through this family connection, Frank met Rockefeller and eventually became one of the founders of the original Standard Oil Trust. He amassed a fortune by the time of his death in 1909.

Maria Barstow survived her husband William by more than 50 years, dying in 1916 in Lima, Ohio, at the age of 93. The former first lady of Wisconsin is buried alongside her husband William in Brookmere Cemetery, on the southwest side of Cleveland.

The house at 4211 Franklin has been home over the years to other interesting people, including the vice-president of a large Cleveland industrial business from 1879 to 1883, and an Ohio circuit court judge whose family owned the house for almost 40 years from 1883 to 1920. But in more recent years the house fell into disrepair and faced foreclosure and possible demolition. It was rescued in 2012 by the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation. The stately nineteenth century home now has new owners who have restored to its nineteenth century beauty and grandeur.


A Second Empire Style House The house at 4211 Franklin Avenue was built in this grand style in 1868 by German immigrant Ferdinand Dryer, a carpenter, who built a number of houses on Franklin Avenue and nearby Harbor (W. 44th) Street during the 1860s and 1870s. The two-story house, which also has an attic and basement, has over 3000 feet of livable space. This tax appraisal photo was taken in 1958. Source: Cuyahoga County Archives
William A. Barstow (1813-1865) He came with his family to Cleveland in the 1830s as a young man. In the early 1840s, he moved to Wisconsin, where he became involved in politics and was eventually elected the state's third governor in 1853. Three years later, he resigned in disgrace because of alleged campaign fraud and corruption during his first term in office. This 1850 circa portrait was painted by William F. Cogswell. Source: Wikipedia
Wisconsin's Third Governor Resigns On March 21, 1856 when William A. Barstow resigned from office as Wisconsin's governor, he shared national news with Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who was engaged in a battle with fellow Senator Lyman Trumbull over the legitimacy of the recent elections in Kansas which took place in the wake of the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act. The passage of this law was one of the major precipitating events leading to the Civil War. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Plain Dealer collection
Living on the Avenue In the 1870 United States census, Maria Barstow and her four sons--Frank, Augustus, William and Horatio, along with a servant, are listed as living in Cleveland's Ward 10, just up Franklin Avenue from Hannes Tiedemann of Franklin Castle fame. Maria Barstow's name on the census sheet is circled in red while Hannes Tiedemann's is in green. Image courtesy of United States census collection.
Franklin Avenue in its Heyday This section of the 1881 City of Cleveland map reveals the array of fine houses and mansions that lined Franklin Avenue between Kentucky (West 38th) Street and Harbor (West 44th Street) Maria Bartow's home at 4211 is circled in red. Above and to the left, circled in green, is the lot where Hannes Tiedemann was preparing to build Franklin Castle, which was constructed between 1881-1883. To the right and above, circled in blue, is the mansion of Henry Coffinberry, one of Cleveland's prominent early industrialists. Also seen on this map to the right is the Kentucky Street Reservoir, Cleveland's first reservoir. It was built in 1853 and served famously as the site of promenade walks for the west side's elite. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map collection
Maria Bartow comes to Cleveland Former Wisconsin Governor William A. Bartow died suddenly in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on December 16, 1865. His widow Maria, then residing in Wisconsin, brought his body to Cleveland where funeral services were held at the West Side Congregational Church on December 24. He is buried at Brookmere Cemtery on the soutwest side of Cleveland. Maria remained in Cleveland and became a resident here for the next two to three decades. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Plain Dealer Collectoin
A Judge's Home Too Circuit Court Judge Moses Dickey made 4211 Franklin Avenue his home for over a decade before retiring from the bench in 1901. He and his wife thereafter moved to Mansfield where he died in July, 1913. The house on Franklin Boulevard was thereafter rented out until 1920 when it was sold out of the estate of Judge Dickey's widow to Margaret Mowbray. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, Plan Dealer Collection
Falling Apart When this photo was taken by a City photographer in May 1986, the Maria Barstow house at 4211 Franklin Boulevard was literally falling apart as the photo shows. It is difficult to believe that it survived another three decades before new owners, in 2012, began the arduous, but rewarding, task of restoring it. Source: City of Cleveland
Saved from Demolition In the early twenty-first century, the Maria Barstow House at 4211 Franklin Avenue went into foreclosure and was facing possible demolition. It was rescued in 2012 by the Ohio City Near West Development Corporation and sold to a new owner, who restored the nineteenth century home to its former beauty. This photograph was taken in 2016. Source: Google Maps


4211 Franklin Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44113


Jim Dubelko, “A Reprieve for Maria Barstow,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 3, 2023,