Rendville’s Hanging Tree

In my Ohio days, I spent a lot of time documenting dying coal towns. Rendville was one of them. It was one of the few town that had a sizable black population, partially because William P. Rend, a Chicago businessman who operated a coal mine there, paid black and white workers the same wages.

Click on the photos to make them larger. The black and white photos are square because I shot them with a 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 camera instead of my usual 35mm Nikon. I rarely used that format because it didn’t “feel” right to me.

Strange message on building

I never have been able to figure out this cryptic message on the side of a building means. “HOWE – West Virginia monkey with a white cap on. What’s he going to do when Halloween comes.” was what it said.

Ohio’s smallest town

A 2011 Columbus Dispatch story said that Rendville, population 36, was the smallest village in Ohio. During the 1880s’ boom days, the population was about 300 “coloreds” and about 1,500 whites. The town averaged one bar for every 25 residents.

By the 1890s, the mines were starting to go bust and the village was down to about 225 families, and they needed assistance from the state for food. In 1901, a fire wiped out sixteen buildings, including the town hall, at least one store and a Baptist church.

There was a brief economic uptick during World War I, but the depression hit Rendville hard. By the 1940s, the town boasted only two stores, one bar, a post office and a few over 100 hundred homes.

City Hall and hanging tree

I haven’t seen any printed references to the Rendville hanging tree, but three people within an hour made reference to it. It’s the tree to the left of the City Hall in this photo taken this month.

One man said it would be logical because the jail used to be located right behind city hall. Read this Rendville’s cemetery mystery to get a sense of what a small town it is.

Jackson’s hanging tree

Jackson MO Hanging Tree 03-26-2010Cape Girardeau County had a hanging tree behind the Jackson courthouse.

22 Replies to “Rendville’s Hanging Tree”

  1. You had to grow up in Rendville to know what the message on that building meant. Mr Howell (not Howe) was the constable at one time. Funny looking man who rode around in his police car and wore a ‘white hat’. Kids were mocking him for ‘running them in’ after dark. Since Halloween was pretty much an all night affair in those days the question was..what you gonna do then Copper??!!

  2. I was born and raised in Rendville and I can remember playing hide and go seek in the hollow of that tree. I can’t remember it ever being called a hanging tree. I was born in a house that sat where the post office is setting. I remember the people who lived in all of those houses so well .Really good memories but it also makes me sad because they are all gone now.

  3. My mother was born and raised here and a good portion of my family. As kids we & lots of family members went there ever other week to visit my grandmother and some other family members. Love those memories. We played in the jail, walked up to the school and on top of the hill. My great grandmother was Nation’s 1st Black woman appointed mayor .

  4. It’s Great to live in this tiny community, and to find out that it has So much wonderful history to go along with it..! I’ve lived here for the past 11 or so years and this is the first time I’ve ever researched Rendville on line.. 🙂 imagine my surprise, to find out that it has so much to be said for such a small and quiet place.. 🙂 I’ve enjoyed reading about it and learning everything I can about my home and the historical buildings around it.!

  5. I a’m the one who wrote on the side of that building. Ken Roberts was right in his explanation to you. I think it was in 1958!!!!

  6. I have been doing some research on my family history and was wondering if anyone knows any stories about family that lived around there from 1884 until ???Thinking around 1945. There was a women names Mary Baldy that worked in the post office. She had 6 sons and her husband was killed in a mining accident. Her madden name was Thomas and she was my great grandmother and her son John was my grandfather. Any information would be great. Would love to hear stories. My name is Roger Cannon and my dad was raised in East Fultonham. My email is cannon@sisna.com

    1. I
      remember Mrs. Baldy Well. She had three sons. I can only remember two of them. Francis I didn’t know but knew Pete and Joe. I can remember Joe and his wife Christine helping out in the grocery store. Joe also ran the post office from the grocery store. Joe had two boys and a girl. Sharon, Mark and Larry.Pete made it to hid 100th birthday I believe. Joe and his wife have passed away and I am sure Pete passed away also.

  7. I’ve enjoyed looking at the old pictures and story of Rendville. I was born the in a house that was directly across the street from the building called the City Hall in the post. It was actually the First Baptist Church of Rendville. The City Hall was on the corner across the street which was still standing a few years ago when I last visited. The jail was behind it and my family later moved into a house adjacent from it. So many memories growing up there as a child. My dad was once the City Treasure his family followed the coal mines and stayed in Rendville after they shut down. My mom took her first teaching job in Ohio at that brick school on top of the hill. When I seen the steps memories came flooding back of winter fun running up them and sleigh riding down the hill which ran along side of them. My Grandmother lived half way up the Main St. hill and is buried in the cemetery at the top. I can remember once a photographer came to town around the mid 1960’s and took pictures of us kids playing and my dad chased him in his car and forbid him from publishing them.

  8. My family were LeROy and Winnipeg’s. Any one have info on them? My great grandfather ,Thomas LeRoy was supposed to be mayor at one time

    1. Kim, I’ve been to Rendville a dozen or so times, but I know very little about the town other than what I posted. If you Google “Mayors Rendville Ohio,” a few histories pop up that are pretty interesting. Good luck.

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