Some of beloved bovine Molly Bawn’s biggest fans celebrated her 138th birthday on Feb. 24.
Students at Westwood Elementary School drew up birthday cards and the Spirit of ‘76 Museum put together a new window display for the occasion.
Bawn — or Baun, as it’s often spelled — is seen as a legendary figure in Wellington’s rise as the “Cheese Capital of the World” in the mid- to late-19th century.
Most documentation says she was imported from Europe by cheese dealer Charles Horr and also credits Horr with introducing the Holstein breed to America.
Local historian Nicole Hayes dug a bit deeper into Bawn’s history late last year and uncovered a few discrepancies in that narrative.
Through reading “The Holstein Herd Book” published in 1872, Hayes learned that nationally registered Holstein cows existed in 14 U.S. states by 1875 and in at least 15 Ohio communities by 1880, the year Bawn was calved.
According to an entry in the book on Bawn, she was purchased at six months old by Horr from a New York-based breeding operation called Smiths and Powell, which had brought the cow to America from North Holland.
Hayes was inspired to research the legend after she was contacted by Donna Adam, a descendant of Horr’s now living in California. Adam was interested in learning more about her family’s history in Wellington before she makes a trip to the village this year to take part in bicentennial festivities.
“I often find when I investigate a story like this the actual history is much more colorful and complex,” Hayes said. “There’s a broader picture that ties into state, national, and world history. It’s more interesting than the simplified legend that’s come down to us.”
In 1883, the Enterprise published an editorial about maximizing profit from cattle investments. Horr offered the three-year-old Bawn as an example and said she was producing 60 pounds of milk per day. A chart printed the following week showed the cow producing nearly 700 pounds during the month of May.
Later reprints of that editorial in the mid-20th century by Enterprise editor Ernest Henes are likely what began to shape the narrative around Bawn that many have come to know, Hayes said.
“It’s never my intention to upset anyone or take their local history away,” she said. “I’m just interested to find out what really happened.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.
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