The Alliance Circle disbanded more than a century ago, but its spirit is still alive in the Carnation City through the Filibusters, Questors and Wranglers.
It was never more evident than in the early fall when members of the three men’s literary groups met at Alliance Country Club for an evening to “reconstitute” The Circle, a group of prominent Alliance gentlemen that formed in 1893 and met through at least 1913, when it celebrated its 20th anniversary.
That event is well documented in a short book published by the group’s originator, John E. Morris.
The Circle never had more than a dozen members at any one time. And over time, the members decided to let the club go by the wayside rather than welcome new members.
However, when The Circle was broken, the Wranglers, Questors and Filibusters – in that order – formed over time to take its place.
“The Alliance Circle died because its members would not allow anyone else in because they thought they should maintain the circle rather than recruit new members,” said Sid Zufall, president of the Questors and organizer of the reconstitution event. “Therefore, the younger people formed their own groups. We are all descendants from the original Alliance Circle. The original Alliance Circle, as far as we’re concerned, has been reconstituted. We are all now members.”
Doug Schwarz, a member of both Filibusters and Wranglers, served as master of ceremonies for the event. Judge Robert Lavery, a member of Questors, gave the prayer. Meanwhile Jesse White, also a member of both Filibusters and Wranglers, gave the program.
A brief history
Much of what is known about The Circle comes from the aforementioned book. The group celebrated its 20th year on July 18, 1913, at the Crooks Hotel along Long Lake near Akron.
Morris delivered a brief sketch of the group’s origins that Schwarz reread at the recent reconstitution.
Morris, who was superintendent of Alliance City Schools, wrote that the beginning was simple. On the third Saturday in August 1893, he went to the high school to see Heaton W. Harris, a lawyer who was conducting a teachers’ examination and briefly outlined to him the idea of getting together “a dozen congenial spirits of different occupations on the third Friday of each month for a social and intellectual feast.”
Harris cordially accepted and it was agreed that they would meet Sept. 22, 1893, at Morris’ home and each man was to invite three others.
When it came time to meet, only Morris and Harris were present. The two then decided to meet Sept. 29, 1893, at the home of J.H. Sharer, an undertaker and furniture dealer, and each was to invite four others.
When that meeting took place, Harris and Morris attended along with Sharer, industrialist Silas J. Williams and newspaper editor Wallace H. Phelps.
That group of five was the beginning of The Circle, and Morris read a paper on “The Public Schools of Germany.”
Over the remainder of 1893, industrialist William Henry Morgan, John H. Tressel, MD, the Rev. Tamerlane Pliny Marsh (president of Mount Union), manufacturer and financier Willis H. Ramsey, and railroad operator Edwin E. Scranton were added to the group, which was never intended to be larger than 10 members at one time, but there were 11 active members at the time of the 1913 celebration, according to the group’s book.
As members would leave the group by either death or resignation, a new member would be added following a unanimous vote.
Those Alliance Circle members who added later were William W. Cantine, manager of the Alliance Gas and Lighting plant (Feb. 20, 1896); attorney David Fording (Nov. 20, 1896); pottery manufacturer George Sebring (July 5, 1901); the Rev. Albert B. Riker, president of Mount Union College (Aug. 1, 1903); industrialist Oliver F. Transue (Oct. 26, 1906); hardware merchant Charles Y. Kay (Oct. 26, 1906); the Rev. William H. McMaster, president of Mount Union College (Feb. 17, 1909); lumber dealer Benjamin F. Weybrecht (Feb. 26, 1909); Charles C. Baker, president of Alliance Bank Co. (Feb. 19, 1909); and pottery manufacturer Frank A. Sebring (Nov. 18, 1910).
The members would take turns hosting the group at their homes, and the ladies of the house were invited to take part and often served as hostesses.
Meetings started at 6 p.m., with a meal served at 6:30 p.m. that was followed by transactions of business, the reading of a paper by the host, and discussion of that paper.
White describes his club beginnings
Jesse White, a native of Kent, explained that he got involved shortly after he moved to Alliance to begin his practice as a physical therapist. In one club, he replaced Leroy Zang, an officer of the Lamborn Floral Company and a director of the Mount Union Bank. In the other, he replaced Charles Henschen, president of Henschen Motor Company and a member of the Board of Education.
White said he attended his first Filibusters meeting at the urging of his mentor, Dr. Craig George, who was giving a program on Poets of the Harlem Renaissance.
“I thought, ‘why am I wasting two hours of my life listening about the poets of the Harlem Renaissance?’” White said with a laugh. “But when I left there, I had two more points on my IQ. I thought that was something.”
Then he was asked to attend a meeting of the Wranglers by James Rodman, a professor of physics and astronomy at Mount Union, who was giving the program.
“After five minutes I didn’t understand a thing he was talking about,” laughed White. “He was so far over my head, but that was my introduction to The Wranglers. I thought this is an interesting town. I was learning so much from being a part of these groups and I wanted to know a little bit more about how this all got started.”
He later discovered the book about The Alliance Circle.
White said the concept of the group was interesting because it brought people together in an age when there were no cars, no radio and no television. They did have newspapers, and the telephone was in its infancy, but getting together and discussing topics was a way to broaden members’ horizons and a form of social entertainment.
“All of our groups grew out of the group that was known as The Alliance Circle,” said White, who had members present at the reconstitution event read “pen portraits” of the original 10 members that were printed in the souvenir book from 1913 so that they could get to know the men who constituted The Circle.
The Wranglers, Filibusters and Questors operate much like The Alliance Circle. They meet monthly, enjoy a meal and listen to a program arranged by the host for that month.
Here are the current members of each group as of October 2022:
FILIBUSTERS – Adam Christian, John Christian, Philip Francis, John Frazier, Mark Hostettler, Shawn Jackson, Greg King, Gerard Mastroianni, Phillip Mastroianni, David Mitchell, Tom Moushey, David Mungo, Michael Ogline, Harry Paidas, Doug Schwarz and Jesse White.
QUESTORS – Mike Anstine, Doug Cunningham, Jim Edwards, Leonard Epp, Phil Francis, Reggie Givens, Rob Gress, John Gross, Robert Lavery, William Lavery, Clyde Lepley, Edward Lohnes, Toni Middleton, Vince Obmann, Harry Paidas, Mike Patterson, Mike Pauli, Jim Perone, Jerry Peterson, Scott Robertson, Bruce Smith, Stephan Smith, Don VanFossen, James Williams and Sidney Zufall.
WRANGLERS – Alan Andreani, Arthur D. Garnes, Brad Goris, Patrick Heddleston, Kevin Knowles, David J. Lundgren, Todd Mastroianni, Daniel Mitchell, David Mitchell, Evan Morris, John Park, Rick Robenstine, David Rodman, Doug Schwarz, Jesse White, Joshua White, Alex Zumbar, Andrew Zumbar.
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Alliance men bring spirit of old club back to Carnation City