By Ernie Barbeau
Past President, Kennedy Heights Community Council

Kennedy Heights Community Council Past President Ernie Barbeau has been compiling a history of our neighborhood.

His research has been focused on the 1862–1914 period—when Kennedy Heights was a community of Columbia Township and later the Village of Kennedy Heights.

Based on Cincinnati Enquirer articles and items, annual editions of the Williams’ Cincinnati Directory, and other library sources, he has drafted a major document about this period and a subset of special documents about the Lewis Kennedy family (26 pages), Yononte Inn (19 pages), Christ Episcopal Mission (5 pages), and information on 275 Village residents (50 pages).


Part 1

This is the first of four historical articles about the founder of Kennedy Heights. Our geo-graphical area was initially part of Columbia Township, later known as Kennedy Station (1881), Kennedy (1884), Kennedy Heights (1887) and the Village of Kennedy Heights* (1896-1914).

Mr. Lewis Kennedy was born on Novem-ber 9, 1836. Twenty-two years later he married Delia McCullough of Pleasant Ridge, who was born on June 3, 1840. They were married on May 27, 1859 by Rev. John P. VanDyne whose church affiliation and denomination is unknown.

Delia’s father, James McCullough*, was a successful businessman known as “Cincinnati’s Seedman”. In 1862 he was probably Mr. Kennedy’s first employer! Mr. McCullough died in 1895 at the age of 85 when residing at the Kennedy’s Georgia residence, Lithia Springs Hotel*.

Mr. Kennedy died at the age of 77 on November 22, 1913, a few months before Kennedy Heights became a village. Even though he resided at 6014 Montgomery Road [corner of Lester Road, currently Richard Carryout], he died at his son’s Pleasant Ridge residence, 5945 Ridge [corner of Ridge at Woodford, currently the Ridgewood Building]. The funeral service was held at the Spring Grove Chapel, with burial at the Cemetery.

Mrs. Kennedy died from asthma at the age of 67 on August 30, 1907, six years before her husband’s death. Like her husband and family, she is buried at the Cemetery’s McCullough plot*.

The Kennedys had two sons, Willis and Edwin. Willis* was born May 30, 1860, one year after his parent’s marriage. He died at the age of 57 from chronic nephri-tis (kidney issue) on July 30, 1917 in Pleasant Ridge and only four years after his father’s death and ten years after his mother’s death. Willis was married to Ida R., but I have yet to find information about her. It appears they had only one child, Irene Mabel, who was born March 21, 1887. She died from “brain fever” on July 21, 1887.

Edwin L. Kennedy was born fifteen months after Willis on August 14, 1861. He died three years later from measles on July 14, 1864.

*Identifies some of the topics that will be developed in future articles.

Part 2

In 1862 Lewis Kennedy, at the age of 27, was employed by James M. McCullough, of J.M. McCullough & Son. The company, established in the 1840s, had a store at 200 Main and 3 East 5 Street, and sold seed and garden and farm “implements and machines.”

Kennedy remained with the company about eight years and in 1868 the store was renamed the McCullough and Kennedy Co.

Classified ads in several 1871 editions of the Enquirer note that Kennedy established the Lewis Kennedy & Co., “a commission merchant for clover, timothy and other grass seeds, grain flour, provisions, dried fruits, onion sets, and produce generally” at 38 Vine Street. One year later, Kennedy and John A. Clark of Pleasant Ridge, established Clark and Kennedy Co., “commercial merchants for wholesale grocery products”, with a store at 36 Vine St. Five years later T. R. Kennedy of Pleasant Ridge, sold his “agricultural implements and seed” business at 16 Water Street to Clark and Kennedy, which shortly thereafter became the Lewis Kennedy & Co.

By 1877 Kennedy was wearing another hat--a realtor. That year Kennedy had the following classified ad for a house for rent: “Near Norwood—Nice country place of fifteen acres covered with fruit, fine spring water, pond, etc. Lewis Kennedy, 36 Vine Street.” Perhaps this “place” is Pleasant Ridge or Kennedy Heights!

In 1878, after only six years, the Clark and Kennedy Co. was dissolved. Three months later Kennedy was appointed as the administrator of the estate of his father, John W. Kennedy. In October, Lewis Kennedy and Albert McCullough, son of J. M. McCullough (Kennedy’s father in law), were appointed to the Chamber of Commerce’s Committee on

Quotations for Butter, Cheese, Seed and Fruits.

Two sources note that between 1862 and 1880 Kennedy resided at eight different places. He boarded at the Winnie House (3rd and Broad) for at least a year (1862; at the age of 28 and three years after marrying Delia), 118 East 5th (1864), 173 Plum (1866), Pleasant Ridge (1867–1868), 136 Walnut (1869), 142 Elm (1870–1873), 29 Clark (1874–1877), and Norwood (1878–1880).

Part 3

The 1880’s was a decade of successes, financial losses, the wedding of their only child, Willis, and the death of the Kennedy’s only grandchild. A review will include business activities, family tragedy, social and community activities, and residences.

Business Activities

In the 1880s, Mr. Kennedy was the owner of Lewis Kennedy and Company at 36 Vine Street, a “commission merchant” that specialized in butter, eggs, flour, dried fruits, grain, seeds, and whiskey. During that decade, he was appointed as a member of a Chamber of Commerce committee that dealt with “quotations for record of prices” for butter, and was later appointed to a grain inspection committee. In 1881 he was one of the guests for the grand opening of four grain elevators at the Plum Street station.

In 1883 he was elected as Vice-President of the Pleasant Ridge Building and Loan Company, where he served until at least 1886. In April 1887, “a new association [had] been formed out at Kennedy Heights. It will be known as the Kennedy Heights Building and Loan Company. Mr. Lewis Kennedy will, of course, be President.” In 1888 the Enquirer reported that the KHBLC “had a good meeting” and “several shares were taken.” In January 1887, Mr. Kennedy was reported to be one of the incorporators of the Cincinnati, Norwood and Pleasant Ridge Railway Company, with capital of $100,000. There were four additional incorporators.

Mr. Kennedy was also a real estate agent. As early as September 1881, he sold some property for $6,000. He sold bought and sold properties in 1882 and 1883, and in the latter year he gave a parcel of land to his son Willis, and his wife Ida. In 1885, he sold two lots from his Lewis Kennedy subdivision. In 1885 the Union Life Insurance Company of Maine transferred to Mr. Kennedy “about ninety acres in section 24 of Columbia Township.” In 1887, he sold property on the eastside of Highland (probably today’s Hedge); and later lots 21–25 (near Kennedy and Aikenside) for $7,700. The year 1887 included several lawsuits and significant financial losses.

Part 4

In November 1888, Kennedy told the Enquirer “that suburban property is in good demand,” and that he sold two houses and two lots. In the same month the Enquirer reported that he sold four lots on Kennedy Ave., a seven-room house for $4,500, and a six-room house for $3,589. In February 1889, Kennedy sold a residence in Avondale to the President of Cincinnati’s Western German Bank. Later that month he sold a lot at Pleasant Ridge. Three months later it was announced that Kennedy and Alexander Clark “have gone into business as real estate brokers”.

Kennedy was involved in several law suits: In 1883 he sued Martha A. Clark on a foreclosure issue to recover $16,680, and he lost a breach of contract suit in the Superior Court. In 1884 he was sued again for breach of contract “for delivery of a number of cars of barley.” In 1887, as a result of Chicago’s wheat market collapse, Kennedy was separately sued by three parties: The Third National Bank, the Chemical Bank of New York, and Siebern. His attorney stated that Kennedy’s losses were “about $40-50,000 during the past year in speculation in wheat and other deals.” Kennedy was “compelled to

mortgage his real estate to the extent of $20–30,000…He lost $10–5,000 in the (Chicago wheat deal)… (and) liabilities are from $125,000–150,000...Kennedy is a man of middle age, of family, and has been in business in this city for about twenty-five years. He has always stood high in the business community.” In September Mr. Kennedy’s company was appraised at $33,140 in real estate, and $2,100 in other assets.

In 1888 he was sued again and lost. In another situation, the Enquirer stated that the cause of the failure of a company (Lobnitz & Son) was the inability of the firm to collect what was owed them… They had about $5,000 due from Lewis Kennedy for work done at Kennedy Heights. He failed and there is little prospect of getting that…”

Part 5

This edition will amend and enhance what was written In the Part 4.

In 1883 Martha A. Clark sued Lewis Kennedy for $16,689 on a foreclosure is-sue. In 2016 dollars that is about $382,300! Clark won the suit. (Henceforth, 2016 monetary values will be quoted in brackets [$382,300].

Four years later, in January 1887, the Enquirer reported that Mr. Kennedy was one of five incorporators of the Cincinnati, Norwood, and Pleasant Ridge Rail-way Company, with capital of $100,000 [$2,468,000]. It is unknown if Mr. Ken-nedy was a financial investor.

In April, the Enquirer noted that “(a) new association has been formed out at Kennedy Heights… the Kennedy Building and Loan Company. Mr. Lewis Kennedy will, of course, be President.” In June, the Enquirer reported that five of the lots in the Lewis Kennedy subdivision were transferred to his wife and daughter-in-law. Neither Mr. Kennedy nor his son Willis, were mentioned.

The ensuing days and months of 1887 became a year of turmoil and pain for the Kennedy family. On June 25 the Enquirer stated that “yesterday afternoon Lewis Kennedy, doing business as Lewis Kennedy & Co., at No 36 Vine Street, produce and commission merchant, put up his shutters on the same account… Mr. Kennedy could not be found, but his attorney made a statement on the affairs of the firm.”

The statement noted that losses from the collapse of Chicago’s wheat market and of “other deals” was in the $40-$50,000 range [$987,000– $1,200,000]. Due to that loss, Mr. Kennedy “was compelled to mortgage his real estate” to the extent of $20– $25,000 [$494,000– $617,000]. He also had endorsed notes for a friend in the amount of $60– $70,000 [$1,481,000– $1,728,000], of which he was called to pay. Mr. Kennedy’s liabilities were in the $125– $150,000 range [$3,100,000– $3,700,000]. His assets “consist prin-cipally of real estate at about $10,000” [$247,000], and the previously men-tioned mortgage. Between June and late December Mr. Kennedy was sued separately by the Chemical Bank, the Third National Bank, and John Siebern, for a total of $18,000 [$444,000].

The Enquirer described Mr. Kennedy as “a man of middle age, of family, and has been in business in this city for about twenty-five years. He has always stood high in the business community.”

In late July, the Enquirer reported the death of the Kennedy’s one and only grandchild, Irene Mabel, daughter of Willis and Ida R. Kennedy. She died at the age of four months from “brain fever”, a term used in the 19th century for symptoms related to encephalitis, meningitis, and scarlet fever. She, like her father and both sets of grandparents, is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery.

Part 6

I previously discussed the Enquirer’s June 1887 article on Mr. Kennedy’s County’s Probate Court application for bankruptcy. This case was settled four years later in June 1891. The Enquirer’s title regarding the settlement is creative and provocative: Holding the Bag. Lewis Kennedy Settles for Five Per Cent. His Creditors Get the Hot End of the Financial Poker.

In 1887, the depth of Mr. Kennedy’s liabilities were projected to be $125-150,000 [in 2016 dollars: $3.1M-$3.7M]. By 1891 Mr. Kennedy’s liabilities had dramatically increased. They were now $171,600 [$4,326,500].

The Enquirer stated that the “creditors…are holding the bag in good style. When Mr. Kennedy failed, his liabilities were heavy and his assets light. It was thought at the time that his creditors would not get much on their claims he had borrowed money in large sums.”

Mr. Kennedy owed nine banks $123,400 [$3,111,200] and four nonbank creditors, $29,000 [$731,200], for a total of $152,400 [$3,842,400]. The Enquirer did not identify the smaller creditors who were owed the remaining total liabilities of $19,200 [$484,100].

The Enquirer article concludes: “Mr. Kennedy is the man who owned the property on which the Kennedy Heights Hotel1 was built. The building of that and the failure of the enterprise to pay was one on the causes of the failure. Mr. Kennedy became deeply involved in real estate deals, and could not carry them out. The settlement at 5 percent is one of the cheapest made in this city for a long time.” With the settlement being 5% of $4.3M, the creditors received only $216,000.

Upcoming Story columns will report on how the filing for bankruptcy significantly affected the Kennedy family. The Hotel refers to the Yononte Inn, previously on the corner of Davenant and Kinoll. Future Story columns will be devoted to the Inn’s history.

Ernie Barbeau


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