Arvine Wales was born in New Stanford, Vermont. In 1811, he was working in Hartford, Connecticut, and drove 408 Merino sheep over the mountains to Ohio for Thomas Rotch. They traveled at the rate of 12 miles a day at a total cost of $1,847.37-1/2, which included tavern bills for six men, mending the wagon several times, and leather for the sheep muzzles to keep them from eating laurel. These sheep were the founders of the Kendal Woolen factory and the fortunes of Arvine Wales and Alexander Skinner. Skinner continued in the wool business, but Wales identified himself with agriculture and real estate. His first purchase of land was Lot #2 in Kendal in 1812 on Front Street (Wales Road), and then the quarter section of land north of Hills and Dales Road in 1816. This property was always referred to in later years as the “upper farm.”
Arvine lived with the Rotch’s in their large log cabin on the farm until he built his small brick house in about 1820 on the “upper farm” (the house was razed in 1968). At the time of the Rotch’s deaths in 1823 and 1824, he became their executors, inherited $1,000 and in 1831 purchased their home and 65 acres from the estate for $6,000. Thomas Rotch had paid $2.00 an acre for the land in 1812.
Arvine married Mary Kimberly in 1822. A Quaker orphan, she came from Wheeling to be a companion and assistant to Charity Rotch. She died a year after her marriage in childbirth the same day as Thomas and a week after her and Arvine’s son died. They lived in the home Arvine built just north of the house on the “upper farm.”
Charity left about $12,000 to found a school Arvine was Treasurer of the Fund, bought the land and built the buildings. The school opened in 1844. He never missed a day going over to the Charity School from his own farm, and he increased the fund from $12,000 to $40,000 during his lifetime. After his death in 1854, his son, A.C. Wales, took his place as a trustee on the board.
In 1825 he married Ann Foote Baldwin, the widow of Pomeroy Baldwin of Hudson, and she bore him one son, Arvine Chaffee Wales. She was the grandmother of Frank Lee Baldwin, whose home later became the Massillon Museum and is now part of the Massillon Public Library. Ann had a son from her first marriage, Pomeroy, who was ten years old when Ann and Arvine married. Ann Foote died in 1828.
In 1831, James Duncan, Alexander Skinner, and Arvine Wales gave two acres of land for “literary purposes” and this is the site of Longfellow Middle School, the forth school on this land (this is now where the Salvation Army stands between 5th and 6th streets behind the Five Oaks). In 1848 the Union School was established and Arvine Wales served on the Board of Education as Treasurer.
Arvine’s third wife was Nancy Smith Shepherdson, a widow from Palmyra, New York, who he married in 1833. She came to Massillon to visit her two daughters, Mrs. J.V.C. (Lydia) Teller, and Mrs. Samuel Pease. Nancy Shepherdson was responsible for promoting the education of her stepson, Arvine Chaffee, and for the well-known hospitality of the house.
Perrins’ History of Stark County states “Whatever may be due Charity Rotch for her gift for the education of the poor and needy, all of which will ever be gratefully acknowledged, the name and memory of Arvine Wales will ever be kindly and affectionately remembered in connection with the cause of education not only for his guarding the fund upon which the Charity School is based but for his devotion to the cause of popular education during his long and useful life. The Union School of Massillon and the Charity School of Kendal are monuments which bear the impression of his care and watchfulness.”
Two thousand acres of land which had belonged to the Rotch’s were sold to the Kendal Community (1826-1829), which, as an early venture in socialistic living, was not a success. As no interest had ever been paid on the mortgages, the Rotch heirs demanded a foreclosure in 1829. In 1831, Duncan, Wales, and Skinner purchased the land together, and separately and subsequently developed the 4th Ward as an addition to the Town of Massillon.
The Massillon News of 1854 gives a long obituary on the death of Arvine Wales and states that “without much education by close study and application he made himself one of the most intelligent and practical men in this section of Ohio. He was social in his habits and kind and hospitable. He entertained his friends at his fireside with such plainness and simple-hearted kindness as to assure a stranger even a cordial welcome. In him the oppressed and down-trodden had a firm friend as many a fleeing bondman can testify.”
Arvine Wales stayed involved with the Abolitionist Movement throughout the rest of his life. We believe that he may have continued to keep the house open as a station on the Underground Railroad. Unfortunately, at this time, we have no documentation of this and cannot definitively say he did.