THE CONCERNED AND
Mother and Father Cody carried on their own evangelical mission by starting a Gospel Church in a needy section of Cleveland.
"Why were they so devout?" wonders Gertrude, and she recalls the epiphany that inspired her father. Mother Cody was equally dedicated and involved,
together they started seven churches during their 65 years of marriage, while raising 9 children with help from the "Hard Man" and Aunt Becky.
Lindus was a real estate developer and understood how necessary churches and schools were to stabilizing this "boom town".
Each of Gertrude's siblings are mentioned, all with their own talents, personality and career, as well as her school chums and William, the man who became her husband.
Fifth Avenue Home
No account of this branch of the Cody family would be com-
plete without a small chapter concerning our life in the big "5th
Avenue House" — about sixty blocks from Cleveland City Public
Square. It was also eight blocks from the Gospel Church on Central
Avenue, which Father Cody had been instrumental in building in an
area in which Scotch, Welsh, and English immigrants were entering
to find homes. Father had deliberated long about leaving the con-
ventional Congregational Church for which he had solicited the
lot and had contributed toward its building. He wanted to start an
Evangelical Missionary type of Church in a more needy neighborhood.
THE GOSPEL CHURCH, CENTRAL AVENUE, CLEVELAND, OHIO
ESTABLISHED BY LINDUS CODY
l wondered often to myself, "How come my father was so
devout". As this story was about to go to the typist, a letter popped
up from those still "unread-in-the-trunk-ones" — and in my mother’s
handwriting she told that when Father Cody was thirteen, his mother,
Harriet died. She had called her three boys to her bedside and
told them to be good Christians and join a church. Instead my
father joined up with a crew as a cabin boy on a lake steamer to
Buffalo. He took on their "Evil Ways", even “card playing and
dancing". After he left the boat one Sunday evening, he happened
to go to church. The minister did not impress him but on his way
home (as he related to mother later), a voice spoke to him in the
darkness. He stopped and said, "What is that"? The voice said,
“Jesus on the cross was dying for you, too." It brought a sudden
great joy to him. From that day he prayed with happiness in his
heart. He looked up his brother, Aldus, to tell him about this ex-
perience. The two boys decided to join the Congregational Church
of East Cleveland. He met my mother at school and church. He
was living with one of the well-known Ford family in that district.
They noticed Lindus’ entire change of attitude, though he was too
shy to express his "experience" and conversion. He thought maybe
he should give up "girl friends" also, but it appears that after
seeing my mother, he began to think of a home of his own. So on
October 16, 1861 they were married and both became devout
"followers of the Master of love and joy". They moved into the home
built by his father near where the giant Sears complex of stores stand
We used to tell a joke on Father, how for the first years in
the Gospel Church he passed the plate at Sunday Service and
Mother put in the envelope which contained the minister’s salary.
This church grew very fast. One reason was that a group held out-
door meetings at corners near the church, prior to the evening
service. At these meetings we sang hymns and a few gave testi-
monies of the power of God in our lives. How well I can remember
Father’s nudge in my side if there was a pause and no one was ready
to praise God. My older sister and I had to step forward and ex-
plain in our childish voices why we should all follow the Saviour.
New people would gather around these groups and follow us to
the Gospel Church. I think my training for public speaking began
there and culminated after college in a few story programs I gave
in Chautauqua Institution, New York, and also in many little needy
churches in Ohio where talent and ministers were lacking. It led to
my organizing a Speakers Bureau for the Federation of Churches of
Cleveland; I found speakers and took requests to be filled.
At the new 5th Avenue Home, a sixteen-room house, we had
great family gatherings. I was born there eighty-nine years ago.
We had a barn and horses and carriages and a cow, which necessitat-
ed having a hired man who had quarters in the second story of the
barn. I can remember standing by his eating table in the family
kitchen, begging him to make one more doll bed for another new
doll, so that I had proper sleeping places for my big doll family.
Mother Cody, who presided over her family of nine children, was
a supreme being. She made each one of us feel that we were her very
best child. When an older sister died, leaving three children, one
just ready for college, Mother folded them to herself and the rest
of us. She and Father helped the eldest of these grandchildren,
Dr. Cody Marsh, through Gambier and his ministerial course, then
later through Medical College. He graduated from Gambier Bexley
Hall Ministerial course and Albany, New York, Medical College. He
was Captain of Red Cross in expeditionary Forces in Vladivastok
during the First World War. When Dr. Cody Marsh, as a Red Cross
worker in the 1st World War, was about to leave Vladivastok he
went to the steamer where American soldiers were embarking.
There he saw a pitiful picture which should be written in the brain
of everyone in our so-called civilized world. On the wharf were
native girls, clutching their bag of clothing, looking eagerly for the
man with whom they had slept, and who had promised to take her
to his homeland. After the steamer left, the huddled women sat
reaching their arms toward the departing "exploiters".
How tactful Mother Cody was with our variously chosen call-
ings. She soon found our talents and encouraged schooling suited
to each. Grace, who chose to go to Cleveland School of Art and
to Summer Art Colonies, became interested in Girl Scouting and
taught them her art in many clubs. She became head worker of
Varick House in New York City, but when our parents came to old
age and needed care, Grace resigned her position in New York and
went to Florida to take over the burden of their long illness and of
the large property, mostly of groves of oranges and grapefruit which
my father had developed, After father Cody’s last lingering illness
and death, Grace brought Mother to Cleveland for his funeral service
at the Gospel Church among his beloved friends. The only com-
plaint we ever heard Mother give to our Father was in their early
life in a small town church Father was promoting. She said, "You
go to Prayer Meeting while I must stay with the children. You take
home those "Sisters" afterward and I don’t like the looks of it.
People will talk". Father said, "Would vou want them to go home
in unlighted streets when they are so faithful in prayer?" Father
started seven churches in his life span. On Sunday mornings at the
5th Avenue Home, the hired man took two loads of our family to
church in the Victoria carriage, and three loads back, because the
Ministers and wives came for Sunday dinner.
Mother was adored by the people of the Gospel Church.
She was a queen, though a small one too, among them. She would
put on receptions for the whole congregation at our home. Mother
was a collector of old religious magazines and newspapers, in fact
any reading material, hoping someday to find time to read. (We
found three newspaper copies of Lincoln’s assassination among them,
after Mother’s passing.) Father had a real estate office at home
with a big iron stove around which his business deals were closed.
When we were about to entertain the whole church, Mother and
all of us dumped this great collection of magazines and newspapers
in Father’s office to make room for the crowd of English, Scotch
and several other nationalities who attended our church.
Mother always kept a cook or family servant, and we all at
home also pitched in to work. At one time servants were scarce
and that was when Aunt Becky arrived suddenly one morning.
Word reached Becky through the mother of a friend of mine (Mrs.
Barder) that frail little Mrs. Cody was without help. Besides our
house there was a lane leading to a streetcar. Becky always came
talking. We heard her in the lane, “Got to get here to help Miss
Cody. She needs me. Dat Mr. Cody, he sure needs me to do his
shirts". She went to our basement and began on the washing and
came upstairs talking about our failure as housekeepers and began
to clean. We had not sought her. She just came in with no dis-
cussion of wages at all. She could not read or write, but she was
very proud and sometimes defiant like the white Southern Colonel,
her father. She was his child by his wife’s negro "nanny". “Aunt"
Becky was independent and often stayed away when it suited her,
but arrived shuffling down the lane talking about our weaknesses or
the ones she liked the most. On occasions when we had guests,
she brought forth her own kind of special graciousness and formality.
She ruled our household and when rebuked, she took it out on
banging pots and pans as she did the dishes. Mother held onto
Becky because father said, “There’s no servant waits on me like Aunt
Becky!" lf we got a second girl, and Becky arrived in the kitchen,
her black eyes flashing, with an expression "This is my place," the
second girl soon disappeared.
One day she brought her grandson, Juanita’s boy, because
his school was closed and his mother was out working. She put him
in her third floor attic room, which she heated by an iron Franklin
stove. We soon smelled smoke. He had made a fire in that stove
and when kindling gave out, he just put in Aunt Becky’s new waist
and stockings. Juanita’s boy went out the back door, clutched by
his ear and a switch at his rear. In later years Juanita’s boy married
an ltalian girl and they had very intelligent, educated children. Aunt
Becky’s devotion to our family over 55 years was so appreciated
that when a necessary operation in the hospital came, it was followed
by a recuperation in the guest room of the family home.
When Aunt Becky died, her two daughters arranged for a
burial and casket from the undertaker. When they all arrived at the
ceremony by the graveside, Sister Grace, who often directed Aunt
Becky’s family doings and who took her to Florida one winter to
help care for our parents, was the only one available to represent
the family. Suddenly, they all realized one item had been omitted:
no minister had been engaged, and the undertaker shook his head.
Sister Grace came forward, made a little speech about Aunt Becky
and led in prayer. We all loved Grace a little more than usual
after that. She was an artist and not one of the speech-making
Another point of interest about the Fifth Avenue Home was
the Guernsey Cow which was kept in a big barn back of our house
and cared for by the "Hard Man”’ as we called our hired man. l re-
call my mother skimming the rich cream from the large pans of milk,
which were standing in the cold pantry, where the deep shelves ac-
commodated the larger pans. When spring came, there was the
problem of getting the cow to our Lake Shore Home out about 12
miles from our city home — called Beaula Park. My two older
brothers, about 15 to 18 years and the hired man drove, pushed,
coaxed, pulled and switched the cow down our back lane to the
main road. They had to cross the Collinwood Yards where trains
were kept in the Round House — and where a maze of tracks were
going in circles and straight out to other cities. lt was a job to hurry
the cow across that train yard at a time when no engine would be
backing out of the Round House. We followed at a distance in the
carriage so as to bring the boys home. l can still feel the terror l
felt lest the cow would suddenly bolt in fear of the engines. Of
course she bellowed a lot in protest! She was then left at the
summer home to bring her calf into the world in the fall months
and a new “fresh cow" came to the Fifth Avenue Home. lt is as
vivid today as it was to my childhood years. That was about the
year 1891 or 1892. l was born in 1885.
When l was in the third or fourth grade of Sibley School —
and living at the Fifth Avenue Home — l met a little girl my age.
Her mother was a doctor and was looking for a chum or close friend
for her little girl, an only child. She came to school and looked
over the "possibilities" and chose me. Quite often I was invited to
spend the night at the Merrick home which was across the street from
the very large, spacious grounds and home of the Rockefeller Family.
One night my little friend said, ’“We will go to Prayer Meeting tonight
at the nearby Baptist Church". Since l had been brought up on
Prayer Meetings, l consented. lt seemed to me that we stayed on
our knees a long time, leaning on the hard wood seats. When we
arose, my friend said to the man next to me, "Mr. Rockefeller
I want you to meet my school-mate friend." I shook hands with
him—very startled! From that night on, l included the Rockefeller
family in my prayers. Maybe l influenced the Lord’s blessings on the
four fine grandsons who carry on the burden of one of the world’s
great fortunes! "A trust for the world’s needs" as one grandson said.
My oldest sister, Lydia, went to teach in a negro institute in
Texas. She was a very successful teacher, but was so devoted to our
Mother, she could not stay away from home. She worried a great deal
about us all. She constantly pushed us on to further our education.
On Sundays when "us little ones" all went to Sunday School and
Church, Sister Lydia stayed home with the excuse that she "must
help Becky with the Sunday dinner". ln truth, she was an agnostic.
In her various rebellions, she kept her beliefs, or lack of beliefs
from my father, and therein dwelt a turmoil which burst forth toward
the family. Mother would say her Bible verse, “Let patience have its
perfect work". But Lydia wrote constantly on philosophical topics.
She attended Western Reserve University until it was closed to
Women (more recently it became co-educational). Then she went
to Boston to study and later graduated from Barnard College in New
York City. There, with the cooperation of the faculty, she founded
a course in training volunteers for Social Service, to which she was
appointed as instructor. But she could not be tied down to any
new undertaking and did not remain long. Her brain was so full
of forward looking ideas. She would come home, fret at all of us
for lack of immediate obedience to herself — until father would
give her money to go to New York where she had friends who
would gladly pay her a fee for teaching various subjects; history,
philosophical thinking and current events. She was a great student,
but now as l look back, I think she was an example of human frustra-
tion. She wanted to carry out too many ideas and she loved Mother
so much she could scarcely stay away from home with any inward
happiness. Mother understood this so well and wrote her twice
weekly letters. She would never burn those letters and it became
my painful duty to read and destroy them.
One of the major accomplishments of her life, with Mother's
help, was to gather the historical points of the Cody Family. These
dates and family facts were put in book form and published, largely
at her expense, as the Cody Family Geneology. Luther Cody, son
of Aldus and our first cousin, assisted in doing research and the
book was published by his sons, Bob and AI of the Kissimee Publish-
ing Company. They also keep the geneology up to date and publish
the Cody Family Bulletin for which all Cody descendants are grateful.
One big event at the 5th Avenue House was when young
Sam Higginbottom, a Welsh boy who graduated from Princeton,
came to be interviewed by our Church Committee on Missionary
Affairs as a possible candidate to represent the Gospel Church in
India. He also came to see if he met the favor of my father, the
Church Elder, who would pay a good part of his salary. l can see
his face clearly in my mind when he came in the door, a radiant,
eager man, glowing with enthusiasm. The Presbyterian Foreign
Board had already stamped their approval for a two year student
internship. My older sister, Ethel, came bouncing into the dining
room one evening, as we were all sitting at dinner. Young Sam
looked at this happy girl graduate from Chicago Kindergarten
College. In the few days they had together before his departure,
they fell in love. The Church Committee all agreed he was just the
one to represent the Gospel Church in India. He proposed to my
sister by letter and she replied, "yes" by cable, going to lndia alone
where they were married in a small English Cathedral in Bombay.
Several books and many magazine articles have been written by
and about them. They established an agricultural institute, a leper
colony, and a girls home-economics school. Also, my sister had a
Medical Clinic building in her yard where she cared for many sick
people. She learned the symptoms of leprosy, malaria, cholera, and
plague and was able to send very sick people to the proper place
for treatment. Sometimes she saved the baby of a leper woman
who would certainly have given the disease to her child if they
were not separated. So she had a home for children of lepers —
and later collaborated with an orphanage to care for them in their
Harry Cody, my musical brother, played the piano and organ
for the Gospel Church and after marriage helped with his neighbor-
hood Episcopalian Church. But he always entertained the family
grandchildren and grandchildren’s friends with his jolly songs at the
piano. My Mother would say, "l had a little brother who was known
far and wide as a beautiful singer. Music is in Harry’s nature."
However, he went into real estate with our father and built streets
and streets of houses. They were the first firm in Cleveland to sell
houses with one month rent as the down-payment, thereby enabling
many working people to own homes.
My brother, Arthur, served in the Spanish American War;
and when he returned, he was so emaciated, we scarcely knew him.
He joined Father and Harry in the real estate firm and later took up
residence in Cody Villa, Babson Park. He and his wife, Marie
established the first PTA in the schools there. He was Sunday
School superintendent for several years and his children were the first
members of the Sunday School.
After the Spanish American War, when the United States
seized Cuba, two brethern came from a Missionary Society to father
and persuaded him to go with them to Cuba to start a Church and
Sunday School. None of them could speak Spanish and there was
only one known Protestant interpreter. It was a thrilling thought to
Father that they brought living Salvation to Cuba. Father wrote home,
rejoicing that a church was obtained, and he was happy over the
out-pouring of the Latin temperament in their expressions of grati-
tude. Then, in one letter, Father rebuked Mother for not attending
to Gospel Church meetings in his absence. She wrote pitifully,
"You scold me for not going to Church when you left me the carriage
but no money to pay a driver and only a sickly horse which I
cannot harness. It is too far to walk even to the first street car.
And now you ask to bring home two orphan Cuban girls for me to
raise. You know I am frail. I asked each of our children and only
Gertrude voted to tell you to bring them. She’d like playmates".
Finally, Father’s money gave out, and Brother Harry could not con-
tinue to manage the Real Estate Building Business alone. Mother
had only welcoming arms for a religiously zealous adventurer. She
wrote, "You know I could never rebuke your father". Within six
months time he never mentioned the Cuban venture.
It was from the 5th Avenue home that I, this writer, prepared
my wardrobe and embarked on my college career. My number one
playmate, Irene Merrick, went off to Wellesley College. My number
two playmate, Evangeline Hiatt, charming daughter of Dr. Wister
Hiatt, minister of Euclid Avenue Congregational Church, to which
my father had made one of the first financial donations to build the
church, and had also persuaded the well-to-do owner of the land
to donate enough property for a large church and parsonage. So
Evangeline and I had some links in common, as we also had been
friends for four years at Central High School. I went to Oberlin
with Evangeline as my roommate the first year. I had a feeling of
emancipation from family dictation. But ill health soon made
inroads on my time and energy at college and I sought family
cures quite often. On October 17, 1905, my birthday, my handsome
father and charming little mother came to see me. A few days
later this letter came from my father, "Dear Gertrude, I enclose a
’draft’ for $50.00 to pay your board, etc.. We had a delightful time
out there for our 44th Wedding Anniversary. I tell you forty-four
years is a long time and multitudes of memories throng through the
mind, but I will have to tell you some of them when we can talk
it over. It was an exceedingly beautiful morning for our trip, the
fall foliage in the valley and on the campus and also in the two
towns we passed through and then the wonderful, lovely Oberlin
with all its memories of anti-slavery times and the Revival work of
President Finney and others, and its liberal and Christian way of
receiving boys and girls and colored students of all nations who
are free to come there, so that the atmosphere of peace and Christian
Charity was all so evident. Altogether, we had a lovely time and
Evangeline helped to make it pleasant. Well, the dear Lord is good
and has given us free, all things to enjoy, for which we praise Him
continually. Mother left her umbrella, probably at the Hotel; if not,
down at the depot. Give our thanks to Evangeline for her kindness.
Lovingly, your Father."
My beautiful Evangeline died about 20 years after our ’09th
graduation. We had such happy years of maturing together. She
found it difficult to write letters, and one day when I took her mail
to our room, she took one letter and stamped up and down, so
angrily, saying, "I just managed to find time to write to that girl
and here is a quick reply! Now I’lI have to owe her a letter for
months again before I can write! ! Oh Pshawl" I, who had been
asked to be on the Editorial Board of the Oberlin Review( but re-
fused), and who wrote to a very large demanding-for-letters family
—found her tantrum exhileratingly funny and I rolled on my cot
with shouts of laughter until the whole first floor dormitory came
in to find out about the hilarity. Evangeline said, "Well, it’s just
that Gertrude likes letter writing and I hate it." I could write a
book about my Oberlin memories.
Another event, to me the greatest in my life at the 5th Avenue
Home, was when my Canadian banker, friend and suitor, came to
meet my family and ask my father for his daughter in marriage. I
lived in a settlement in the Ghettos of Cleveland, but came home for
my mail. In 1910 I had met Will Wheaton when I had taken a leave
of absence from my Ghetto job to go to Cobalt, Canada, where
my brother Frank had become a naturalized citizen, was the Mayor
and Church School Superintendent. To the 5th Avenue Home, Mr.
Wheaton sent me weekly boxes of flowers, mostly pink rose buds.
Then he came from Vancouver to tell me that he had been asked by
the head bank in Montreal to build a new bank in Vancouver, and
to gain my father’s permission to marry me and take me far away
to live. I said to Mr. Wheaton, "My father may not talk much
about our marriage, but he will sound you out as to whether you
have any modern ideas on religion, or if you interpret the scriptures
as he does in the manner of fundamentalist teachings and evangel-
ism. Just do not argue with him!" He didn’t! My future husband
became an admirer of my mother. He was amazed at the twelve
divergent personalities she encouraged to be themselves, but how
we all had the stamp of her personality in various ways.
Will Wheaton had a complete breakdown in Vancouver, so
I never reached that city with him. He came to our 5th Avenue
house where Aunt Becky looked after our needs for the ceremony
when the minister came to marry us. Mr. Wheaton was so weak l
had to get my own marriage license and hold him up to sign it.
Mother and Father wired us to come to Florida for his recuperation.
It took one whole year for me to build up my husband’s
health before he could return to work. Our son was born in
fifteen months, and was a continual delight to my Mother although
she never knew of his great accomplishments in the field of urban
renewal and city planning, even serving on a committee for our
government and the United Nations. Or did she know? Do those
"gone-beyond" know of their children's childrens progress? We
know nothing for sure of the mind's link with the spirit. Science
teaches us that we live in a world where nothing is lost. Things
change, but their elements survive and reappear in new form of
life. If God so orders the natural worlds with perfect economy,
shall He not much more guard and keep the precious things of
the Spiritual World? We may be sure that goodness and beauty
and truth, though they seem at times to be dashed completely by
events, will reappear in forms more potent and enduring. Then
are not our children’s progress part of that everlasting, ever-increas-
ing truth preserved by those in the Spirit World?