History - Zanesville, Ohio, U.S.A.

Born, Laura Anne Cochran, August 1851, married John Otis Wilhelm, December 31st, 1874, and resided at 46 N. 7th St. in Zanesville, Ohio. Her son, Roy Cochran Wilhelm was born September 17th, 1875. They moved to their new home on Thurman Avenue in 1890.

Otis operated a haberdashery in Zanesville, selling hats and other items for men. Roy began working for his father as a travelling salesman in 1892.

In the early 1890's, Laurie and her friend, Miss Laura Jones, were beginning to research various religions having a sense that the end times were drawing near. Miss Jones moved to Chicago and wrote to Laurie she had found what they had been seeking, including pamphlets and a copy of Hidden Words by Baha'u'llah (The Glory of God) in the letter. Reading these, Laura Wilhelm accepted the Baha'i Faith immediately in 1898.

By 1901, Roy had moved to New York, opening a thriving coffee import business on Wall Street, and invited his parents to visit. There, she met with other Baha'is at various gatherings and began devoting her time to the study of the Bible and connections with the Baha'i Sacred Writings. In 1904, she and Otis moved to New York to live with their son, Roy.

It was in 1907, Laura was invited with a group of Baha'is to visit the Holy Family in Akka (Acre), Palestine (Israel). She asked her son, Roy, to accompany her on the long journey. It was in the Holy Land that Roy met with 'Abdu'l-Baha (Servant of the Glory), the son of Baha'u'llah and became a devoted follower.

The Wilhelms moved in 1908 from New York to their new home in West Englewood, New Jersey, where several hundred Baha'is met to picnic in a nearby wood. It was there, in 1912, that 'Abdu'l-Baha (son of Baha'u'llah), while traveling and speaking throughout the United States, met with the believers in a Unity Feast, commemorated by the Baha'is each year hence.

Laura Wilhelm continued contact with her friends who had moved from Zanesville to New York, and New Jersey, until her demise in 1937. Otis passed away in 1921 and Roy became a prominent member of the Baha'i Faith, assisting with the completion of the Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, Illinois, serving as a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States, purchasing properties on Mt. Carmel to expand the Baha'i International Headquarters, and the lighting of the Shrines and edifices in Haifa, Israel. He retired from public life in 1946 and left this life in 1951, being named as a Hand of the Cause of God by the Guardian of the Baha'i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, grandson of Abdu'l-Baha.

Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL

Shrine of the Gate - Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel by Day Shrine of the Gate - Mt. Carmel, Haifa, Israel by Night

Laura A. Wilhelm
The first declared Baha'i in Ohio (1898)
while living in Zanesville.

Local Contact

Frederick C. Mohler
Zanesville Baha'i Community
P.O.Box 934
Zanesville, Ohio 43702-0934
Phone 740-408-6058

UPDATED 10-08-2018