Lobdill family members, friends and neighbors, about 1912
Lobdill family members, friends and neighbors, about 1912
This sociable group of ladies assembled about 1912, maybe on the porch of the Lobdill mansion at 312 Division Avenue.

After serving two years in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War, S.C. Lobdill came to Spring Valley in 1868 to establish a thriving hardware store and tin shop. He built what would be termed a very modern brick home for his family on the corner of Division Avenue and Church Street that boasted an intercom system. He married a lovely English woman, Josephine Farman, and together they raised seven children, including two sets of twins, one set being a boy and girl and the other, identical twin girls. Their home obviously became known as Twin Place, and three of those twins appear in this photo with their mother. It is possible this is simply a group of relatives along with a few neighbors, but also possibly members of the Up to Date Club founded by the twins, Emily and Emma, which was a blessing to the local library.

Let's ponder the women in the photo. Of the six ladies in the back, the first at left is Emma Hande Wentworth, mentioned in a recent column as she and her husband, Jack, operated the Amuzu Theater on Broadway. She stands next to her mother, Marit Brandt Hande, whose husband and partner operated Sheldon & Hande Hardware along Section Avenue. Across the street from the Lobdill stone stable, the Hande home was later known as the home of Harry H. and Alma Johnson, and son Harry R., our local postman for many years.

Third is Mrs. Al Smith, Lavinia Lobdill, one of the first set of twins. Her brother was named Ludwig, and they were always known as Lode and Vine. Al Smith was a druggist, at one time in Spring Valley, later in Austin. Lode joined his father in the hardware business, was an oil and gas inspector for the state, and was the last of the Lobdills to live in the home. Fourth is Laura Renewa (Newie) Kalb, the oldest of the Lobdill children. She married Henry Kalb, a "traveling man," and scandalized her family by going to Chicago to learn the art of ballroom dancing; coming back to Spring Valley to teach dance classes.

Then we see Emily and Emma, the famous "Lobdill Twins" as they always called themselves. Emily married Elmer Lloyd, a pharmacist in a drug store on the east side of upper Broadway, a one time partner with Al Smith, later with Roy Viall. There are many prescription boxes and bottles with labels of the drugstores on display at the Methodist Church Museum. Emma married Roy Viall, Captain of Co. F of the Minnesota National Guard in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and for many years a local postmaster.

The twins married in a double wedding, of course, and they and their spouses lived together almost all their lives in a home on South Section Avenue. They had no children, but were indulgent of the neighbor kids, and maintained beautiful flower gardens in the tradition of their English mother. They were noted for their benevolent and charitable works, and for delightful entertainments for friends. The twins went to countless conventions and always won a prize for being "the most identical in their age group." At the time of the city centennial in 1955, they were celebrities and garnered a great deal of attention. The Spring Valley Historical Society displays many artifacts from the twins, especially in the Costume Room at the house museum.

In the front row we see Iva Hayes Thornhill, who lived at the corner of Division and Church Street. Her husband, Frank Thornhill, was a kindly man who specialized in raising horses. Frank's father, Dr. French Thornhill, was a local physician for over 40 years. At the church museum one can see a picture of Dr. Thornhill and his 33-year-old horse, Old Henry, a Kentucky breed saddle horse. Dr. Thornhill was an avid horseman and helped build the horse racing track on North Section, now our high school track. Next in line is Mabel Chapman Viall, wife of Fay Viall, Roy's brother. Fay was part of the Viall shoe store business, and a talented musician. Their son Phillip was also an accomplished musician. Fay and Roy both played in the Mandolin Club "orchestra" around 1900. Next is Lolah Chapman Wiseman, stepmother (?) of Marian Wiseman, who married Rolland Warren. Last in the front row is tiny Mrs. S.C. Lobdill, mother of seven. As seen in the photo, Josephine's children all towered over her diminutive stature, but she must have been a dominant character to have raised all those distinctive personalities.

The Lobdill mansion deteriorated dramatically in later years, losing its porches, trees, shrubs and flower gardens. It was used as a hospital in the 1930s; then as rental property. It was demolished several years ago, and Ann Thon had her home moved from South Huron Avenue to this lot where it looks like it has been forever. The Lobdill stone stable remains as an attractive residence today.

Each of these admirable women played a significant role in the history of Spring Valley through their families, community, churches, lodges and the library. Hat's off to these ladies!