How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Trip to Canton

I’m just that much of a history nerd that it’s been my dream to write historical fiction and research it on location. Well, last week, God blessed me with the opportunity to do that!

Canton, Ohio, is the setting of Suit and Suitability, my 1935 Sense and Sensibility retelling. I chose it because a Midwestern industrial town fit the story, and I have relatives there who I thought might be up to helping me. As it turned out, they and my parents were an indispensable help, because they let us stay with them while my parents took me around Canton, to research and drink in the atmosphere. What a blessing they all were!

Canton itself is a fascinating town. The people have done a remarkable job of preserving and restoring old buildings; at least half the center part of town was perfectly vintage! How accommodating of them, don’t you think? I was able to picture the Canton my 1930s characters know, because so much of it still exists.

I visited two libraries and a museum and found answers to many of my questions. It was as much fun as solving a mystery! I searched books and newspapers on microfilm for clues (my first time using a microfilm machine—it’s like a microscope for peering into history instead of minuscule objects!). An archivist even helped me at the local museum’s research library, finding books for me to investigate. One of my favorites was a 1935 McKinley High School yearbook. Seeing that Ellen and Marion Dashiell attended McKinley, it had exactly the information I was looking for!

Now, for pictures: 

The stern and beautiful Stark County Courthouse, where Ellen and Marion's father is convicted of embezzlement. 
The Canton Repository building, the city newspaper.
The President McKinley Memorial, built 1905. Canton was McKinley's hometown, and he's buried here.
Atmospheric Canton. Beautiful old houses and stone or brick Gothic churches on almost every corner.
The Saxton-McKinley house, where McKinley and his wife lived for a time. It's in the center of town and now houses a First Ladies museum.
McKinley High School, which Ellen attended and Marion attends at the beginning of the story. In the yearbook, I discovered they indeed had a drama program, which is very important to Marion!
I hope you enjoyed this small tour of Suit and Suitability's setting! Which is your favorite building? Do you like using real places in your stories? If so, have you ever visited any of those interesting places?


  1. What a great way to really add depth to your story, Kelsey!!! That's great that you were able to "go back in time" so easily, and I'm sure there are a ton of small tidbits you can now slip into the tale that will make it feel so much more alive now than it would have otherwise!!! :-)
    Thanks for sharing the pics...

    Wish I could visit Demargen... I'm having trouble "seeing" the royal palace at Kohaagie... ;-)

    1. It was a very exciting trip for me! :) That's something I like about writing of real can visit and feel them out. I find satisfaction in weaving that kind of fact into my fiction. (Of course, all fiction is based on fact---fantasy depends a lot on realism, too!)
      Ah, I wish I could visit Demargen as well! Seeing that lovely palace would be so neat...hopefully you'll "see" it soon so that you can make your readers see it also!
      Thanks for your comment. :)