Growing Up Next Door to Thomas Edison

Lovina Belle Hart (McKee), c. 1900.

Lovina Belle Hart (McKee), c. 1900.

Andrea King’s mother, Belle Hart McKee, was born in Milan, Ohio, in 1885. The Hart’s farmhouse was right next door to the Edison home—the birthplace of inventor Thomas Alva Edison, in a spot called Spears Corners.

Belle Hart McKee's childhood home. Spears Corners. Milan, Ohio. c. 1890.

Belle Hart McKee’s childhood home. Spears Corners. Milan, Ohio. c. 1890.

The two-hundred-fifty-acre farm sat spaciously on the outskirts of Milan, Ohio, in a spot called Spears Corners. Five roads radiated from a single watering trough. They seemed to reach out like fingers, each pointing to a different path in life. One road might be sensible and practical, another unconventional and full of adventure, but even at the age of six, it was clear which road Lovina Belle Hart had chosen.

The three main farmhouses in Spears Corners had been built years earlier. The Harts’ home with the giant elm in the front yard was built by Lovina’s maternal grandfather, Reverend Benjamin Wilcox, a Presbyterian minister. The second house was occupied by Mrs. Hart’s first cousins, Chauncey and Ethel Spears, and the third had been the birthplace of Thomas Alva Edison, who would occasionally pay visits to Milan from his current home in Menlo Park, New Jersey. His sister, Mrs. Page, now occupied the family residence and was a dear friend of Mrs. Hart’s.

This description of the farmhouse and its surrounding area is from the new book “More Than Tongue Can Tell” and took its cue directly from the words found on the back of this photograph, written by Belle herself in the 1960s or ’70s:

The back of this same photograph, with a brief description of Belle's childhood home.

The back of this same photograph, with a brief description of Belle’s childhood home.

The Hart’s farmhouse today has been converted into the Edison Birthplace Museum in Milan, Ohio, right next door to the Edison homestead. This shows just how close the two family homes were. It can be seen in the photographs below. A few modifications have been made in the past 125 years, but it’s still easily recognizable.

The Hart's farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Hart’s farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Hart’s farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Hart’s farmhouse on the left, now the Edison Birthplace Museum, and the Edison homestead itself, on the right.

The Edison home actually fell out of the family’s ownership for a brief time, until it was purchased by Thomas’s sister Marion Edison Page in the early 1890s, and Thomas eventually purchased it himself from his niece, Marion’s daughter, also named Belle.

Thomas Alva Edison. The Wizard of Menlo Park.

Thomas Alva Edison. The Wizard of Menlo Park.

Find out more about Belle’s incredible childhood encounters with Thomas Edison and his sister Mrs. Page by reading “More Than Tongue Can Tell: The Story of Andrea King and Her Mother Belle McKee,” available now, exclusively through Amazon.com in paperback in Kindle formats!

 


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