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DeNoon Road Was Site of Gable's Early Years

By Faith Scott, Source: Times-News Meadville Bureau

MEADVILLE - The legacy left the world by the woman whose name is cut into a small headstone in an abandoned church cemetery near Meadville is tremendous in scope.  That the child she bore was to become one of the ultimate heroes of modern American history is unsurpassed in its magnitude.  The child she was to hold in her arms and nurse for 10 months was Clark Gable, or "The King" as he was called in Hollywood where he was a contract player for almost a quarter of a century.

THe name, Adeline Hershelman Gable, and the dates: born, Jan 3, 1869; died, Nov. 14, 1900 are cut into the red marble stone located at St. Peter's Cemetery in a rural area located a mile from the beat of traffic along one of the country's main roadways.  Adeline, or "Addie" as she was called, died before the first birthday of her only child, Clark Gable, at the age of 32.

The maiden name of the mother of the movie star was Hersheman.  She was a daughter of John and Rosetta Hershelman of Vernon Township, a hard working German immigrant family who purchased a farm west of Meadville.  The couple had three sons, Joseph, Thomas and John and a daughter Josephine besides Adeline, the youngest in the family.

Addie was a frail and aesthetic child and sick much of her childhood years.  She was a real beauty and artistic.

Fragments of information about the Gable legend, both fact and fantasy, have been gleaned from the Hershelman family, friends, and from both the Crawford County Courthouse and the Harrison County Courthouse in Cadiz, Ohio.

Addie left her secure farm home in Vernon Township to marry Bill Gable and to travel with him on his oil drilling ventures.  Since the Hershelmans were Catholic and the Gables Protestant both families were against the marriage.  Nevertheless, the couple were married around 1900 and found an apartment in Cadiz, Ohio, a small town in Harrison County.

Addie's poor health was made more severe as a result of her pregnancy.  Following the birth of a big baby boy, Clark, on Feb. 1, 1901, (his name Clark was his grandmother Hershelman's maiden name, also county residents).  Addie's health took a turn for the worse.  Bill, who was away from home much of the time following his drilling leases, returned home one day to find his wife seriously ill, not able to take care of her husky baby.   He decided to take his wife and son home to her parents and returned to the Crawford County farm.  It was there she died, Nov. 14, 1901.  Addie's death is recorded in the local courthouse as dying from epilepsy.

Unable to take care of his infant son, Bill left Clark with the elder Hershelmans.  Addie's brother, Joseph, and his new wife Elizabeth took charge of the infant, since they had not yet started their own family.

Clark Gable's birthe is recorded on the birth docket at the Crawford County Courthouse, and many countians believe he was born in the county.  The Harrison County Courthouse at Cadiz, Ohio also registers a Clark Gable, born Feb. 1, 1901.  Both entries are, however, the same.  His father, not knowing that the birth had already been recorded at Cadiz, had it recorded here in Jan of 1902, following the burial of his wife.  Discussions with the local officials in Cadiz stressed they are confident the child was born in Ohio.

Other contradictions have been apparent over the years.  Those who visit the small cemetery for instance, see the date of death for Clark's mother as Nov. 14, 1900, when in fact she died a year later.  The error is obvious in the fact that Clark was born in 1901.  Who made the error?  Perhaps no one will ever really know.

Some of the local old timers tells this story about the head stone.  Following Clark Gable's winning of his first Oscar for "It happened one night" made in 1934, local people began claiming their heritage in Gable.  When his father Bill came back to the county to visit a friend in a brand new Chevrolet purchased by Clark, countians drew his attention to the poor condition of this first wife's grave located at Chestnut Corners.  Bill told the friend that he would take the matter up with his son when he got back to Hollywood.

Research uncovers the fact that prior to leaving he had consulted with the John Gizzie Memorial firm of Meadville about having a stone made.  Letters found at the local memorial firm, stil operating in Meadville, indicate he replied in a letter dated Nov. 30, 1934, saying, "after consulting the Son (in capital letters), we are advising you to have a stone set -- ".   The date scrawled on a separate piece of torn paper indicated clearly the date decided upon for the marker was the same as appears on the stone today.  The paper had obviously been left with the firm before Bill returned to California and had not been confirmed with Clark, therefore was not corrected or changed in the return correspondence.

Much of the information about the infant Clark Gable was revealed for the first time by a cousin living in Meadville.  Charles E. Hershelman, Gable's first cousin, a retired executive of Talon, Division of Textron, clears the air on where Gable was raised.  Contrary to some versions of Gable's years in the county, he did not live at Gable Hill, as had been rumored for years in this area.  "When Gable was brought to the conty as an infant, he was taken by my mother and father, Joseph and Elizabeth, and raised for a few years at the Hershelman farm on the road now called, "DeNoon" in Vernon Township, north of the Harmonsburg to Meadville Road, and sold by the DeNoon family to the present owners.  Gable stayed there until his father remarried and returned for him.

Hershelman recalls seeing Gable as a young man when he returned to Crawford County to pick up some of his mother's possessions.  He said Gable rode the street car from Harmonsburg to the Hershelman home and requested two paintings his mother had made before she died.  The local resident indicates the time may be the same date that Gable returned to the county to pick up an inheritance left him by his grandfather John Hershelman in 1922.

Ironically the date that Gable walked into the Courthouse to sign for the small inheritance f $300 was Feb. 1, 1922, his birthday.  The Registrar and Recorder's office, has the the will registered in book "Q", where Gable's signature is also recorded as having received the money.  This was long before he made his mark in the movies.  His first real break in talking movies was in "Red Dust" made in 1932 with Jean Harlow as his co-star.

The Gable Hill property was in fact the property owned by Clark's grandparents, Charles and Nancy Gable, his father's parents.  The large 16-- acre tract was, however, sold at a sheriff's sale in 1899, two years before Clark's birth.  His grandfather Gable died before the sale.  Gable and his father were no doubt visitors of Nancy Gable, who died in 1927, at 90 years of age.

Many ironies exist in the Gable legend.  Among these is the fact that Gable was the only child born by his mother.  She didn't live long enough for Clark to see or to talk to her.  Gable himself died before his only son, John Clark, was born in March1961.  Gable went West to seek his fortune, and during the next forty years in theater and films found four wives, but not contentment.  His fifth wife, Kay Williams, was born in Erie County, no far from where he was raised, yet the couple met thousands of miles away.

Clark Gable died of a coronary attack, Nov. 16, 1960, following the completion of his 66th film, "The Misfits", co-starrring Marilyn Mornroe, finished only a few days previously.  Present generation still identify with the famous one liner from Gone with the wind that declares the Gable masculinity, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn!"

Today, 20 years later, the name is still spoken, the image of it is still intact, Gable is still, "The King"!

Direction to Addie's Grave:

(Many Thanks to Pat England's discovery!)

Directions to the cemetery:

Take Route 18 North out of Harmonsburg-- travel 1.5 miles and turn left onto Agnew Road. and you will go another 1.4 miles to the cemetery. You will go over a set of railroad tracks and start up a hill--Porter Road crosses at the top of the hill and the cemetery is on the left. The grave stones face Porter Road and her stone is in the second row. It has a slight pink coloring to it. One article states that it was put on in 1935.

The cemetery has 3 different names according to another article: Immaculate Conception, St. Peter's and Chestnut Corners. The stone was set by John Gizzie Memorials of Meadville--they have since sold the business.

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