A True Depression Era Story

By Stephen J. Hartzell

During the Great Depression many Tiffin families fell on hard times. Money was tight and steady work was difficult, if not impossible for the average working person to find. But there were exceptions. This story is about one such exception, Frank S. Callahan, noted horseman.

Mr. Callahan was a native of Youngstown, Ohio. He relocated to Tiffin in 1910 after separating from his wife Elizabeth. At that time he was in his early 40’s. He bought a home at 528 West Market St., about a block west of the Thomas Hartzell home. Shortly he built a horse training facility on the land that is now occupied by Lindsay Ave. He quickly became well known around Tiffin, not only as a horseman, but also as a generous, and somewhat eccentric man.

One day while at a track in Urbana, Ohio he bought a black Pomeranian pup. He named the dog Baby Ginter, after a horse that had won him some money at the track. This was an animal of great intelligence and he was Callahan’s constant companion for the next 11 years.

By the winter of 1931 the dog had reached a ripe old age and it’s health began to decline. Concerned about his little friend, Frank hired local Veterinarian Dr. Clarence Shipman, who practiced with his brother Neil from their home at 34 West Market St. He cared for the shaggy black Pomeranian during the coming months. April came and Baby Ginter’s health continued to decline. Dr. Shipman began to treat the dog for leakage of the heart, so Callahan delayed a business trip to Milwaukee for several weeks to be with him. The dog appeared to be showing improvement, so Frank departed for Milwaukee. Soon thereafter the dog became much worse, and on April 24, 1932 Baby Ginter suffered a fatal attack.

Dr. Henry S. Meyers, one of Callahan’s associates, was also living in the home with his wife Esther. They were able to contact Callahan in Milwaukee. Informed of Baby Ginter’s death, Callahan expressed deep regret of the fact that he was not home at the time of his little friend’s death. He immediately began to prepare for his trip home.

Being well aware of Callahan’s love for Baby Ginter, the Meyers began to make arrangements. The dog was embalmed by Dr. Shipman and a white casket was prepared in anticipation of Callahan’s return. He returned on April 26 and immediately set out to make more elaborate arrangements. This set into motion one of the most unusual, and yet touching events in Tiffin’s history.

Callahan hired a funeral director, believed to be a man who operated a funeral home in Tiffin. Callahan ordered a more expensive casket. Designed for a child, it was made of solid copper complete with a metal liner and a plate glass inner case. It was purchased from a Cleveland company and the funeral director made a special trip to pick it up.

The funeral was set for Thursday April 28 at 2:30. Callahan had chosen a site under a peaceful shade tree in the east lawn as Baby Ginter’s final resting place. This was Baby Ginter’s favorite spot, and he often lay under the tree to find relief from the hot summer sun. The grave was prepared complete with a concrete vault and it’s walls were lined with grass. The site was prepared with the same care that would be afforded a human burial, including the familiar metal framework used to lower the casket into the grave and a full sized funeral tent. Many of Callahan’s friends came to pay their respects beginning Wednesday and continuing to the time of the funeral. A constant stream of curious onlookers lined West Market St. to behold the unusual event, but their view was largely obscured by the funeral tent. It was reported that over 200 people were in attendance. A local attorney was scheduled to read “Senator Vest’s Tribute To A Dog.” He backed out at the last minute so the piece was read by the funeral director. Pictures published in the 2 local papers show the scene of this funeral. A heartbroken Frank Callahan weeps while Henry and Esther Meyers stand at his side. A battery of more than a dozen photographers clicked and flashed throughout the service.

After the story hit the papers both Callahan and the funeral director were quick to respond to the critics.

The following is taken from the Tiffin Tribune of April 29, 1932.
“Mr Callahan was indignant at criticism of the funeral he arranged for his pet. He declared that he was within his rights in paying tribute to the dog which had been his companion for 11 years.
‘No one ever came to my home and was refused help,’ he said. ‘This is the first time I have ever mentioned it, but I have never failed to contribute to every cause, charitable and civic. I have spent $125,000 in Tiffin since I have been here and every cent has gone to Tiffin people and Tiffin business.’
Such a funeral is not uncommon among horse-men and racetrack followers, according to Mr. Callahan, who declares that it is the usual thing for a horseman to provide what he believes to be a fitting funeral for his prize racers. It was this custom and the love for his little pet that prompted yesterday’s funeral, he explained.”

The following is taken from the Seneca Advertiser of the same day
“Proceeds received by the undertaker for the burial of Frank Callahan’s pet dog, Baby Ginter, will be turned over to charity. The funeral director who officiated at the elaborate funeral yesterday made the announcement to the Advertiser today, stating that he believes that it could be put to no better advantage. The actual outlay for the purchase of the casket and for other incidentals of course will be deducted.
Preparations are already underway for placing an elaborate monument above the dog’s grave.”

The remarkable story of Baby Ginter’s funeral was picked up by the news services and was published in newspapers nationwide.

The following is taken from the Tiffin Daily Tribune of May 3, 1932.

“Hundreds of letters are pouring into the home of Frank Callahan on West Market Street daily, conveying sympathy for the loss of his pet Pomeranian, Baby Ginter.

The mails today added more than 200 letters to the 600 received since the burial of the dog last Friday. They come from all sections of America, from men, women, children and societies.

With notably few exceptions the letters were sent by lovers of dogs and animals, owners of pets who told of their own losses. Children - ardent friends of animals - added their expressions, and sent poems, some original.

There were some letters seeking money. One woman in Hollywood, California asked for a donation for a home for aged people and offering to name it the Ginter home. Fewer still were the letters of condemnation and these were usually anonymous.

Mr. Callahan gave his personal attention to the letters. He said it was encouraging to discover that so many people were interested in their pets.

Humane societies and Audubon societies joined in words of appreciation. Orlo M. Knapp, president of the Seneca County Humane Society, sent a letter approving his kindness.

Mr. Callahan took occasion to deny that the criticism he had received from a few persons had caused him to destroy his will in which he made bequests to many local institutions and causes. He admitted that his will provides many bequests to local religious, educational and charitable institutions and intimated that the aggregate would be considerably larger than is generally expected.”

Fifteen years later on July 8, 1947 Frank S. Callahan died at Mercy Hospital at the age of 83. A simple 2 paragraph obituary marked his passing. Mr. Callahan remained true to his word, and to the animals that he so dearly loved.

His estate file shows a net worth of over $650,000. His estranged wife was left 50% of the total estate with the provision that the Youngstown mansion must be sold. He set aside $23,000 for his own funeral and burial in his private mausoleum in Youngstown. The property at 528 West Market St. was given to Esther Meyers in addition to over $25,000 in cash. A total of over $41,000 was given to various friends. $5000 was given to Mercy Hospital for a free ward for the poor, and a total of $41,000 to other charities. He set aside $3500 for the care of his prize horse Callie Direct, including the cost of a monument and burial expenses. The will also states that anyone who challenges any of the provisions of the will loses their share.

Callie Direct was later buried near the horse barn. The grave marker was removed when Lindsay Ave. was laid out & houses took the place of the old horse barn. The grave was located roughly where Lindsay Ave. turns west from it's first leg off Market St.

The will also set aside $2000 for the care and maintenance of Baby Ginter’s grave. On January 22, 1949 Mrs. Meyers sold the property to James M. Dunn. As a provision of the sale Mrs. Meyers paid the $2000 for the care of Baby Ginter’s grave to Mr. Dunn with the understanding that he shall continue to care for the grave.

Mrs. Dunn, then in her 90’s still lived in a home on the property in January of 1997.
The gravesite was found in immaculate condition, and well taken care of.


The stone reads;

APRIL 24, 1932



In April of 1999 it was announced that the houses at 520 & 528 West Market St. will be torn down to make way for a new Rite Aid Store. 520 is the Dunn's ranch style brick home, and 528 is the former Callahan home.
Shortly after this, I tipped the Advertiser Tribune as to the history of this property.

As of June 1, 1999, the corporation is still undecided as to what will be done with the grave of Baby Ginter.
On this date, a story about this situation made headlines in the Advertiser-Tribune.
Please refer to their website archives for this account, found by following this link.

Baby Ginter's grave might stand in way of new drug store

August 1999
The brick ranch style home of Mrs. Dunn was moved to a new location south of Tiffin, after several difficulties regarding the logistics of moving it. The former Callahan house is still standing, although obviously empty.
The white barn behind 520 also remains.

October 1, 1999
The old Callahan home was torn down in September.
Next were the 3 houses on the Wentz St. side of the site, the Dunn garage, and finally the old white barn.
The lot is now empty.
As for the grave of Baby Ginter, it too has been cleared.
For the record, it was located about 25 yards directly north of the traffic signal post at the intersection of Market & Hopewell.

October 30, 1999
The remarkable story of Baby Ginter came to a fitting close today, as the dog's remains were reportedly reburied at Valentine Village south of Tiffin.
Thanks to Tricia Valentine and Lisa Swickard, the elaborate coffin was saved due to negotiations with Rite Aid.

Read the complete Advertiser-Tribune stories by following these links.

October 31, 1999
Paying tribute to man's best friend

November 2, 1999
History and fun really can be mixed

©1997 - 1999 by Stephen J. Hartzell
All rights reserved