June 16, 2022 •
Discovering an Amazing Part of Akron’s History
On June 14, I had the privilege of joining Finance Administrative Assistant Emone Smith and her parents, Stewart and Ethel Satterwhite at a meeting with the Summit Metro Parks at the Himelright Lodge on Cuyahoga Street in Akron. This was an amazing moment of connection, family history, and a glimpse into an important part of Akron’s history.
It all began on April 21, when Emone attended the Akron Roundtable presentation “Summit Metro Parks: Embarking on Our Second Century” by Lisa King, Executive Director, Summit Metro Parks.
Lisa King talked about an important archaeological find on the grounds of the Cascade Valley Metro Park. They found the remains of a house that George C. and Willie Mae Prather built on Honeywell Drive, an unpaved street off Cuyahoga Street. It was one of the homes making up a forgotten, but historically important neighborhood of African Americans in Akron. Eventually, the neighborhood was taken over by a golf course and then by the Metro Parks.
The Cultural Resources Group, made up of archaeologists and historians gathered basic facts and material culture about the neighborhood, but knew very little about the residents’ lives: “We have the dates they were born, when they were married and when they died. George passed away in 1975 and Willie Mae followed in 1983. We know that George worked for Goodyear and at one point Willie Mae worked as a maid. Beyond that, however, we know next to nothing about their lives.” wrote Charlotte Gintert in The Devil Strip 2018.
This is where Emone entered the story. At the Roundtable, she recognized her great aunt Willie Mae’s obituary being shown in the presentation and saw her own address listed! Emone confirmed with her mom that this was in fact her own family and spoke to Lisa King, which led to a set of interviews with Ethel Satterwhite, Emone’s mom.
Ethel and Stewart were able to tell the amazing story of George and Willie Mae Prather, about their lives, their neighborhood, and their church. This was exactly what the park’s archaeological team needed to fill out the story. They couldn’t have gotten this information anywhere else and it is all thanks to Emone attending Akron Roundtable.
During the event at Himelright Lodge, Ethel, Stewart, and Emone had the chance to see some of the 6000 archaeological artifacts, including foundation stones, nails, bed springs, cooking pans, even bits of a phonograph LP! They rode golf carts deep into the park, where the Honeywell Drive neighborhood used to be and saw the archaeological dig at the foundation of Uncle George and Aunt Willie Mae’s house. Ethel Satterwhite teared up when she saw it and said she was grateful to see the place again.
View some photos from this amazing afternoon in the carousel below:
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