Irene McLain Wales was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Clarence M. McLain. She came to Spring Hill as a bride in 1910.
She tried to become interested in all her husband’s sports, but the only one she really enjoyed was riding and she became an excellent horsewoman.
As a young woman, she was not interested in the history of the families nor of the house, but after finding letters in the wool house and realizing what the collection in boxes and barrels meant, she started and never stopped her efforts to read, file, and research the Rotch-Wales families.
Shortly after coming to Spring Hill, she watched the farmers bring out an old carriage and burn it one day, and then realized later that it was the carriage Thomas Rotch went east to purchase in 1820. Many things like this happened, which she regretted in later years.
Mr. and Mrs. Wales traveled to Europe in the early 1830s with Arvine Wales’ family and visited the Skinners in Greece. Later, on another trip to Europe, they visited the Skinners in their Paris home. They took many hunting and fishing trips, and one fall rode through Glacier Park on horseback with Ralf McLain, who was a park ranger. Mrs. Wales spent a great deal of time in the east doing research on the Rotch’s and her own family, traveling to Philadelphia, New Bedford, Nantucket, Boston, and Worcester, Massachusetts.
The collection of Rotch-Wales papers were a gold mine to the research student, and Mrs. Wales assisted in numerous college student’s writing themes and thesis. The Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., sent representatives to Spring Hill gathering information, and Swarthmore College did research here on the Quakers. Six different historical societies around the country requested that Mrs. Wales give them this collection of papers, but she gave them to the Massillon Public Library with an amount of money for their care. She did this in 1963 after she lost her eyesight and could no longer work on the papers.
Mrs. Wales served on the Massillon Museum Committee for many years and promoted tours, cataloging, classes, exhibits and was intensely interested in the whole museum program.
She had a life lease to live in the home at Spring Hill as long as she wanted, but the home belonged to the heirs. In 1963, the remaining approximately 450 acres and the house were sold at auction as no family member wanted the home, and the property was too much to manage. The land and home were purchased by three individuals of Canton, who planned to develop the property. Through interest and efforts of a Museum board member, the Massillon Museum Foundation, Inc., was formed in 1966, to purchase the home and twelve acres of land. Mrs. Wales was pleased that the board wished to preserve her home and she contributed $35,000 for the purchase of the house and the board members raised the remaining $40,000. She changed her will in 1969, leaving most of the contents to the Foundation, as she trusted them to care for and operate the home.
Many of her books are in the library and show some of the many interests she had through the years, such as gardening, birds, bee-keeping, history, art, and music.
In 2006, the Massillon Museum Foundation officially became Spring Hill Historic Home, with a focus on preserving Spring Hill and the outbuildings, along with the first jail of Massillon, which was moved to the property in the 1980s.