The George Biddulph house at 25896 Butternut Ridge Road has been an important part of North Olmsted’s history for over 100 years.
George Biddulph built the small house for his first wife, Almera Frances Kennedy, whom he married on Christmas Eve in 1876. The couple moved into their brand new home six months later in June of 1877. It was situated on a 5.5 acre parcel of land, on the north side of Butternut Ridge Road.
George’s father and mother, John and Christina Biddulph, lived close by on the south side of Butternut Ridge Road. John had purchased the land from William Collister on April 24, 1865, and moved his entire family to Olmstead Township, from Brooklyn, Ohio. In addition to his parents, George had an older brother William and three younger sisters, Louise, Caroline and Rose. William Biddulph would be the future owner of the R. K. Knight house on Porter Road, built around 1860.
In March of 1881, George and his father decided to trade residences. George moved onto the 100 acre farm on the south side of Butternut Ridge Road and assumed responsibility for its care. John and Christina moved into the 25896 house on the north side of Butternut Ridge Road. According to family notes, during the time that John and Christina Biddulph lived in the 25896 house, John was constantly making improvements, adding stone walks and a handsome front fence in 1882. In 1884 John fell off the roof and was confined to bed with a severe spinal injury. He recovered, and in 1885 John and Christina traveled to Europe with their youngest daughter, Rose. George had a one story expansion added to the north side of the house in 1886.
In 1895, years after the death of his father, Christina, along with John Biddulph’s other heirs, deeded the 100 acre farm they had inherited to George Biddulph, making him the sole owner of both the 100 acre farm and the house he had built in 1877.
George Biddulph’s beloved wife, Almera, died at her home on the farm in 1900, after a two year period of declining health. Quoting from her obituary, “Her entire life has been spent in this neighborhood, and a beautiful life it has been, diffusing a sweet and healthful influence wherever placed and leaving in death a void which nothing can fill. Her presence was valued at the Star Rebekah Lodge of Dover, in the church, and in every social function to which she was always most faithful, and for her wisdom and pleasing social qualities, which were rare indeed.”
George married for a second time in 1901. His wife was Stella M. Kennedy, the daughter of his first wife’s brother, George Kennedy. They lived on the farm, as did their young son Fred.
In 1918, George Biddulph’s second wife, Stella, passed away. In a rather quick turn of events, George Biddulph was planning to marry for a third time in the fall of 1918, just five short months after Stella’s death. On August 29, 1918, in anticipation of their upcoming marriage, George signed a pre-marriage contract with Josephine Burford to provide suitable provision for her, in lieu of any ownership in his estate.
Shockingly, eight months later, on May 4, 1919, George Biddulph and his third wife Josephine were found dead in the 25896 house. George’s brother, William Biddulph, arriving from the train station, along with two women who were friends of Josephine, discovered the bodies. The sensational story was told in a newspaper article at the time, which gave a detailed account of the event. A shotgun was found next to Josephine and an old fashioned pistol was found at the feet of George. Sheriff’s deputies determined from the evidence that George had first murdered Josephine and then taken his own life. The motive, they said, “remained locked within the walls of the small cottage,” the cottage that George had built, forty-two years before, in 1877.
Evidence of the location of the deaths is found in the May 1919 article on the murder-suicide. The author quotes neighbor Joseph Minnich on not hearing any gunshots fired that day. The article states that Joseph J. lived sixty feet away from the Biddulph “cottage.”
Fred Biddulph inherited the 100 acre farm, and the 25896 house, upon the passing of his father. Sometime after his father’s death, Fred and his wife Clara decided to build a dance hall on the farm. Construction was undertaken, and ultimately completed, on a 5,000 square foot hall. On May 19, 1923, Fred and Clara Biddulph paid $15.00 for the right to open the new pavilion. The first dance was held on May 23, 1923. Later that same year a five hole golf course was added to the property.
Fred and Clara became parents for the third time on July 22, 1924, with the birth of their second daughter, Alice Rose, on the farm. Rose, as she was called, later gave accounts of growing up in the dance hall, and living in the apartment above the hall, for most of her life.
Fred and Clara lived their entire lives together on the 100 acre estate. They ran the dance hall and golf course. In 1935, their son George took over management of the golf course. In 1937 the course was expanded to nine holes, and later, in 1953, George oversaw the renovation and expansion of the course to eighteen holes.
Fred Biddulph remained active in the operation of the course until 1950. In March of 1963, Fred and Clara’s heirs, daughters, Rose and Almera, who had helped run the operations of the dance hall, and their brother George, were now the owners of the entire Biddulph estate, which included the house their grandfather had built.
The North Olmsted Foundation purchased the house in June 2011.