W.W. Pancoast, who was a former prosecutor in Medina, was accused of killing three wives. He is depicted on the lam and going by the alias Myron Kent. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION PROVIDED
Many characters have graced the chapters of Medina’s 200-year history. There was abolitionist H.G. Blake, for whom an elementary school is named, and W.W. Pancoast, a former Medina County prosecutor accused of killing his wives. Vernon Stouffer, who started the Stouffer frozen foods empire, went to Medina schools.
Their stories and more are included in the eight-part documentary, “An American Story: Medina, Ohio,” by Miles Reed, which launched Friday on MedinaTV and is airing on Armstrong cable Channel 37 in the Medina area. Each part is about 30 minutes and is done in a style reminiscent of Ken Burns’ documentaries.
Reed, operations director for MedinaTV, put in three years on the Medina history project, which is being released in conjunction with the city’s bicentennial.
Jarrod Fry, general manager/executive director of MedinaTV, said he “asked Miles if he could take on the challenge. He never does anything less than 300 percent. It’s the most extensive look at Medina anyone has ever done. It starts at the beginning of Medina all the way to the modern day.”
Although Medina was founded in 1818, Reed’s documentary travels to a time when the area was along an Indian trail. Fry said there was an Indian settlement, aptly called Paleo Crossing, near Ridgewood Road and state Route 94.
“He went above and beyond,” Fry said. “He wanted to see what we could bring to the citizens to make 2018 special. I left him to his own devices.
“We tried to look at the big picture for the community. How often do you get to celebrate an event like this in your lifetime?”
Fry said he was amazed at the attention to detail Reed gave the project.
“Basically, he’s written eight books. It will be a great educational resource. It will be a good tool for the schools and the city. I couldn’t be prouder of the work he’s done,” Fry said.
After its release on cable, it might become available on the internet, possibly on the
Public Broadcasting Service station in the Cleveland area and eventually for sale to the public.
“We’re not in it to make money,” Reed said.
He said there were not a lot of photos from Medina’s early days, which made his job somewhat difficult, but he brings several old photos to life in the documentary.
Reed, 60, a 1975 graduate of Medina High School, narrates “An American Story.” He also enlisted the help of several professors and experts on the area’s history.
One of the main characters in his documentary is H.G. Blake, known for his abolitionist views and his work with the Underground Railroad. Blake founded Old Phoenix Bank in 1857 and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1859.
The country was divided over slavery when Blake introduced a resolution to free all slaves.
“It was the first straw leading to the Civil War,” Reed said.
Blake also was thought to be a rich man, which wasn’t necessarily true, Reed said. The documentary includes a letter written by Blake to President Abe Lincoln begging for a job.
“Much of this information was never revealed,” Reed said.
He also delves into the story of W.W. Pancoast, who worked under Blake and was Medina County prosecutor in 1871.
Pancoast is accused of murdering two wives, having 11 aliases and traveling the globe while on the lam.
He changed his name to Myron Kent and moved to Mora, Minn. There, he met a new wife and ended up having her killed. He eventually lived out his life in prison.
Pancoast’s life is one of the “twisted tales” Reed tells in the documentary.
Another interesting saga is about Vernon Stouffer, whose family started the Medina County Creamery, where Woodsy’s Music is today off Public Square, Reed said.
Stouffer later became part-owner of the Cleveland Indians and started the Stouffer frozen foods empire.
“He went to Medina Schools,” Reed said.
“This culture supports and cultivates some great things,” he said. “Our local history aspects are very global. There are so many things I’ve found on this journey. It’s changed my perception of this area.”
He said he had a lot of “profound discoveries” while doing this project.
“It’s important to uncover some things lost in time and add them to our prominence,” Reed said.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.