Thursday, December 31, 2009

William King Rogers and Duluth, Minnesota's Skyline Parkway

Columbus, Ohio native and ordained minister, William King Rogers was an early law partner of and later personal White House secretary to President Rutherford B. Hayes. Before the Civil War, Rogers moved to Minnesota where he was involved in the development of the cities of Hastings and Duluth. He also invested in railroads, a canal across Costa Rica and Panama, and mining interests in northern Mexico. Sadly, Rogers suffered financial losses in nearly all of his investments.

Despite his misfortunes, Rogers made a lasting contribution to the city of Duluth that exists to this day - the Skyline Parkway. As an investor in the Duluth Highland Improvement Company, Rogers realized that the development of his hilltop property depended on better access. As he surveyed the view of the city from the upper terrace, Rogers wrote that "no one can glance over it and doubt that one of the great cities of the world is here in the making...."

To that end, he advocated the construction of an incline railway to reach his land holdings. During a visit to Ohio in the summer of 1889, Rogers met with President Hayes at Spiegel Grove, explaining the importance of constructing the incline.

In his diary, Hayes indicated that he was fully aware that his dear friend Rogers was a poor businessman. Despite his concerns, Hayes agreed to invest in the project. Hayes believed that his share of the cost should have been one-tenth, but in reality, Hayes knew that he was paying one-sixth of the construction costs. To secure his investment, Hayes explained that his portion would only be forthcoming when the incline reached the Duluth property he himself owned. At right, is a 1904 image of the incline railway from the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

At left, is a map of Duluth given to President Hayes by Rogers. According to Mark Ryan in his article, "The History of Skyline Parkway," the incline intersected with the Old Beach Road, a path that followed a natural terrace left behind by glaciers.

In 1875, Rogers had looked out over the view from the terrace - the lake nearly 500 feet below. It was then that he conceived of a park system that would one day feature a citywide boulevard built across the hilltop, following the natural terrace. Such an improvement, he was certain, would attract more real estate investors.

As head of Duluth's park board, Rogers wrote to Hayes early in 1889, telling him that work on the parks and driveway had already begun. He believed that construction costs for four miles of the terrace boulevard would not exceed $5,000. "Nature has done the work" of creating a natural roadbed by grading, graveling, and draining. A wooden fence followed the boulevard's rim. Boulders were placed near the curves. Known as Rogers Boulevard or Terrace Parkway, the road was an immediate attraction for tourists and locals who enjoyed Sunday caravan rides and the spectacular view of Duluth and its harbor.

Due to ill health, Rogers resigned from the park board in 1891. He returned to Ohio, where he died in 1893. But others had already caught hold of his vision and would extend and complete the scenic byway. The total cost reached $312,000! Originally, the boulevard ran from from Chester Creek to Miller Creek, a distance of some 5 miles. Today, linked by bridges and parks, Skyline Parkway extends nearly 25 miles. Above, right is one of Bob Hendrickson's 2007 photos of Chester Park available on Google Earth. The breathtaking natural beauty that so captivated Rogers more than 100 years ago remains evident today.

Many of Rogers' Papers are located at the Hayes Presidential Center. His correspondence with President Hayes is part of the Rutherford B. Hayes Papers.
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Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Sidney Frohman Foundation Funds Educational Museum Experience for Sandusky City School 4th Grade Students

On November 18,19, and 20th, more than 300 4th grade students from six Sandusky City Elementary Schools visited the Hayes Home and Hayes Museum. Their firsthand learning experience was made possible by The Sidney Frohman Foundation, who sponsored the students' participation in the Hayes Center's Curriculum Connections educational program.

Developed by the Hayes Presidential Center staff, Curriculum Connections is a three-part program, providing a "classroom satellite" experience by incorporating Ohio's Social Studies Academic Content Standards into a pair of DVD resources given to teachers for classroom use before and after students' onsite visit.

In a time of tight school budgets and greater emphasis on meeting curriculum goals, schools have been forced to cut back or eliminate visits to Ohio's historic sites. In the words of one teacher: " The Sidney Frohman Foundation's sponsorship of the Curriculum Connections program gave us a chance to lift history from the pages of the book for our students! The 'real thing' has enduring appeal."

Curriculum Connections allows teachers and students to better connect with our nation’s past, Ohio’s history, and our local history while addressing Ohio’s Social Studies and English/Language Arts Academic Standards.

The program finds sponsors, like The Sidney Frohman Foundation, that are willing to cover admission and/or transportation costs for school children to visit the Hayes Presidential Center.

Hayes Presidential Center Development Director Kathy Boukissen is seeking additional sponsors for school systems that do not have adequate funding for a visit. For more information about Curriculum Connections or to donate to the program contact Kathy at 419-332-2081, ext. 26 or email her at

Friday, September 25, 2009

More on Andersonville Survivor David Daub

In an earlier post, the Andersonville Survivors Association certificate of David Daub of Burgoon, Ohio was posted. Daub was born in York County, Pennsylvania and later moved with his parents to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where he enlisted in the 45th Pennsylvania Infantry. Captured at Petersburg, he was imprisoned at Andersonville, Libby, and Danville.

Following the war, Daub moved to Jackson Twp., Sandusky County. In later life he settled at Burgoon, Ohio. Thanks to Richard Hanny for sharing this picture of David Daub, his wife Lydia, and daughter Sarah Catherine, standing in the front yard of the Daub home in Burgoon. Richard also brough us this albumen print of Daub with other Civil War veterans at an apparent reunion. Unfortunately, there is no date or location on the print.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Discovery of WW II Seaplane Confirmed as that of Fremont Native Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman

More often than we might think, the past meets the present. In 1996, relatives donated materials to the Hayes Center, documenting the aviation career of Fremont native and pioneering pilot Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman. They included his log books, photographs of his planes and fellow pilots, and articles appearing in newspapers and aviation newsletters.

There was no doubt that Zimmerman was one of those daring, early pilots whose every flight was filled with danger. He was one of a handful who catapulted TWA’s fledgling airline into a leader in the commercial aviation industry.

Zimmerman logged more than two million flight miles, crossed the Atlantic more than 100 times, flew TWA’s first Boeing 307, set numerous aviation speed records, and piloted TWA’s first flight into New York City's LaGuardia Airport. He also flew secret flights for the FBI. A 1942 biography, The Million Miler, the Story of an Air Pilot, chronicled Zimmerman’s aviation career

It was almost a given that he would enlist in the Army Air Corps when WW II broke out. In charge of a fleet of seaplanes that ferried supplies to Allied Forces in England, Zimmerman was the most senior pilot. In November 1942, Zimmerman’s seaplane foundered on take-off in rough seas. With seawater rushing into the fuselage through a damaged wheel well, the PBY Catalina
sank instantly. Fishermen from Quebec’s Longue-Pointe village rescued four of the nine men, but Jack Zimmerman was not among them.

The dark, cold waters of the Atlantic swallowed up the seaplane along with its brave pilot and four crew members – seemingly lost forever. That was until August 7th when I received a call from a Canadian who was searching for information on the Internet about Jack Zimmerman..

He said, “Didn’t you hear? It was in the New York Times, Bloomberg News , and in all of the Canadian newspapers. Parks Canada believes they have discovered the plane of Jack Zimmerman, the pilot you wrote about in your article!” He told me that during a routine survey, underwater archaeologists found the wreckage of a well-preserved seaplane in the area where Zimmerman and his crew were lost 67 years ago.
Side-scan sonar indicated the plane appeared to be well preserved. Parks Canada said that “in collaboration with the U. S. Government, they will be launching an operation to formally confirm the identity of the wreck and to explore the possibility of eventually recovering the remains of missing crew members. Parks Canada is dedicated to managing the discovery with the dignity and respect owed to lost American soldiers.”

On August 21st, Parks Canada, using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), confirmed conclusively that the PBY they had discovered was that piloted by Lt. Col. Jack Zimmerman. You can watch a video of the underwater archaeologists as they view the downed aircraft.

This post is an updated variation of an article published in the September 2009 issue of Lifestyles 2000.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Analyzing a Victorian Era Gown

Dating and identifying owners of 19th-century clothing can be difficult without documentation from individuals or descendants who know the history. When the Hayes Center received the George Buckland Collection from Jacksonville, Florida, a number of pieces of clothing were included in the donation. Among the items was an elegant silk dress. When it was made and for who remained a mystery until intern Alexandra Hutchings analyzed and researched its fabric and style. Below is Alex's analysis and description.

A one-piece elegant gold-colored dress features a fitted bodice and a train skirt, originally called a “mermaid’s tail,” a style that dates to approximately 1880. The bulk of the fabric used for this dress is silk. Hand-embroidered cream-colored silk flowers and leaves adorn the entire hem, skirt front, and bodice.

A matching gold velvet ribbon is sewn into the bottom of the bodice and wraps around to the back to form a bow with long ribbon tails. Cream-colored cording is used as lacing for the bodice front. Hand-sewn openings for the cording feature the same embroidery floss as the flowers and leaves. The sleeves puff slightly at the shoulder tapering down tightly at the wrist, ending with 1½” upturned cuffs.

Beneath the embroidered flowers of the skirt at the hem is ruching approximately 5½” in width. The lace placed on cream-colored silk on the front of the skirt gives the illusion of a complete under petticoat, but the lace in reality covers only the space visible to the eye. The same lace adorns the collar, cuffs, and shoulder areas.

There is a balayeuse or “dust ruffle” made of heavily pleated strips of fabric serving as a hem guard, with one ruffle in the front and three separate ruffles in the back under the “mermaid’s tail.” The dust ruffles are hand stitched loosely to a stiffer fabric perhaps for easy removal for washing.

Some of the manufactured items in this dress include: a belt secured on the inside back of the bodice to help with the weight of the garment. It includes a printed brand name, Cregmile Cincinnati. Quarter and half inch boning along with brass hook and eye closures were used in the bodice. Lace (different from the lace used on the bodice and front of skirt) found at the hem beneath the ruching of the skirt was also manufactured.

This gown has many qualities that fit the princess style dress dating from 1875 to 1881. The “mermaid’s tail” measures about 70” (evening gown length). The bustle, and the fitted and boned bodice are markers of the “princess style dress”.

The bulk of the dress was sewn by machine. However, the many finished edges were done by hand.

The overall appearance of this gown clearly emphasizes the hourglass shape.

A further search of the collection turned up two cabinet card images taken in Mora’s Studio at 707 Broadway in New York. One of the images was identified as “Elizabeth Huntington Rice, June 1881.” We later learned that Elizabeth Huntington married Brigadier General Edmund Rice, June 14, 1881 in Cincinnati, Ohio. We now know that the dress in our collection was Elizabeth Huntington’s wedding gown.

Andersonville Survivors Association

Discovered recently behind a framed picture was this certificate presented to David Daub of Burgoon, Ohio on the 2nd of January 1880 by the Andervonville Survivors Association.

Daub was born in York County, Pennsylvania on February 18, 1845. He was the son of Michael and Katherine Daub. He moved with them in 1855 to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Daub enlisted from Lancaster County as a private in Company B of the 45th Pennsylvania Infantry. He fought at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. Following the Petersburg mine explosion, he was captured. He was imprisoned at Andersonville for seven months and later at Libby Prison and Danville. Daub was paroled February 22, 1865 at Annapolis, Maryland.

The certificate recognized Daub as a lifetime member because of his imprisonment at Andersonville. The certificate further states that "his Health has been seriously impaired and he contracted General Disability during confinement in Rebel Prisons."

The organization was founded in the wake of the publicity surrounding the trial of Henry Wirz, the commandant of Andersonville. Former prisoners of war formed the organization to lobby Congress for disability pension legislation.

Following the war, Daub moved to Sandusky County and farmed 120 acres in Jackson Township. He married Lydia Shale and the couple had five children. In 1901, he moved to Burgoon, where he sold hardware and implements until fire destroyed his business. Daub was a member of Sandusky County's Eugene Rawson Post of the Grand Army of the Republic. He was also a road supervisor and a member of the Evangelical Church. December 5, 1919, Daub died suddenly of a heart attack.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Digital Diaspora Family Reunion

While working to compile the names and service records of Sandusky County, Ohio Civil War soldiers, I uncovered nearly two dozen African Americans, who served in the conflict. Some were born free; others escaped the bonds of slavery. From GAR membership rolls; the research project of Washington Courthouse High School students; cemetery records; and obituaries, I was able to piece together fragments of their lives. (You can read about them by following this link.) My great frustration was my inability to locate even one photograph!

I am hopeful that in the coming weeks, all that will change. This month Digital Diaspora Family Reunion goes live! The project is the brain child of New York documentary filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris. While working on Through a Lens Darkly, a documentary about professional African American photographers, Harris decided to explore broader themes. He has developed a web-based multi-media project, where individuals will be able to upload their family photos to a central archive. They will also have the opportunity to explore other family stories, make comments, and add data.

Using an “Antiques Roadshow” format, Harris held events in Georgia, Maryland, and other states, where he has already gathered and archived thousands of African American family photographs. He hopes that photographs lying hidden in shoeboxes and attics will be shared, allowing African Americans to explore the lives and history of their ancestors. Further, he believes that his initiative “will document moments in African American history that have been lost or overlooked - such as the inter-racial communities that flourished briefly but were later stamped out by Jim Crow laws and the Ku Klux Klan.”

Harris is correct in stating that “museums, historical societies, and archives have rarely preserved and interpreted the work of professional and amateur African American photographers.” One of the few African American photographs preserved at the Hayes Center is this cabinet card of Lizzie Breckenridge. Sadly, I have been unable to find much information on her. But I remain hopeful that through the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion, I will have the opportunity to learn more about the life of Lizzie Breckenridge and those of other African Americans who lived in Sandusky County. Most especially, I would like to see the faces of brave Civil War soldiers like Edwin Leonard who, along with his African American comrades of the 54th Massachusetts, launched the Union attack on Fort Wagner.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Memoir of John Gephart Sneider

Between the years 1850 and 1870, some 200 of the 1,500 residents of Wolfurt, Austria emigrated to the United States. Wolfurt, is located in Vorarlberg, the westernmost state of Austria. It borders three countries: Germany, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Tyrol is the only Austrian state that shares a border with Vorarlberg. Many of the Wolfurt residents settled in or near Sandusky County, Ohio. They included families with the surnames Fischer, Flatz, Heim, Kalb, Reiner, Schneider, Dur [Dehr], Gmeiner, and Bohler.

Below is a memoir by John Gephart S[ch]neider, who came with relatives to Sandusky County, Ohio in 1853. The memoir was transcribed and provided by descendant John Fischer.

From the time I, John Gephart Sneider [also spelled Schneider], left the Old Country until the present date, March 15, 1915.

I left my old home, a village by the name of Wolfart, not far from Lake Constance, Voralberg, Tirol, on the 18th. Day of February, 1853, with my two uncles, Messrs. Flatz, and an Aunt Johanna Flatz, Martin Schwerzler, Joseph Bohler, Martin Kalb and their families. We went though Switzerland and part of Germany, and got to Antwerp, Belgium, in five days, from where we shipped for America February 28, 1853, in a sail boat by the name of Petrol, and in forty-nine days we landed in New York (April 18th). April 24th, 1853 we got to Fremont, Ohio.

My two Uncles bought forty acres of land east of Linsay. I worked for them that summer for the passage they payed for me to come to this country. In the winter of 1853 and 1854 I was trying to learn the cabinet trade by Adam Miller at Fremont, but he called me a dog, which I could not stand and left him, and went to Scott Township, and worked for Jacob Zimmerman on the farm that summer, and worked for other farmers until in the Spring of 1856.

In the Fall of 1855 I was taken with the Ague and could not get rid of it. I was told I had to change climates before I could get rid of it, so in the Spring of 1856 I went to Iowa where I had some Old Country friends. When I got to them they were ready to move to Minnasota, and they wanted me to go with them, so I did, and staid with them that summer; but they said the winters were very cold, so late in the Fall I came back to Ohio again, and went back to my old friend, Zimmerman in Scott Township. I staid with him that winter of 1856 and 1857, and done the chores for my board, and went to English school for three months.

In the Spring of 1857 Joseph Bohler and I started for Kansas, and each entered a piece of Government land at a Dollar and a Quarter an acre. In the Spring of 1859 the Gold Excitement of Pikes Peak came up; then Joe Bohler and I sold out in Kansas and made preparation to go to Pikes Peak, four in company. Each bought a yoke of cattle and wagon in company. Then we went to Leavenworth City and bought provisions for six months, then started West. As we got out a couple hundred miles we met hundreds of gold seekers coming back, who reported it was no good.

We having plenty of provisions with us, we concluded then to go to California. The five years and four months I was in California I worked in the gold mines, but I was not one of the lucky ones to strike it rich. When I went in the mines I had $150.00, and after working five years I came out with $750.00. Then in December, 1864, I started for Ohio to see my Father, Brothers and Sister whom I had not seen for nearly twelve years. My Father and Mother, with the family, came to this Country in 1859, six years after I did. My Mother died four days after she came to Fremont.
Coming back to Ohio from California, I made the trip by water, and passed through Panama about where the Panama Canal is located now. The Winter of 1864 and 1865 I made my home with Father, Brothers and Sisters in Rice Township on the farm my Brother Leonard lives on now. In the Spring of 1865 I went West again to Iowa, and worked for a railroad company, firing a construction locomotive at Two Dollars a day. If I had been a younger man, I would have learned the railroad business, but I was then in my thirtieth year, and too old to start in to become a railroad engineer. At that time they all had to start as firemen. Then at beginning of winter of 1865 and 1866 I came back again home.

On October 22d, 1866, I got married to Mary Ann Reineck, and located in Fremont for one year. I then bought six acres of ground of Flat Brush, a mile west of the Corporation of Fremont, and put buildings on it, and made that my home for forty six years. My Wife was the mother of twelve children (one died when nine weeks old; the other eleven we raised to manhood and womanhood). My dear Wife died April 24, 1908. She had been sick and ailing for over five years, and for over two years helpless. My girls and myself have taken good care of Ma. It was done for her all that could be done for a sick person.

After I was married and moved to town I went to work at Carpenter work for Mr. John Stierwalt, and worked for him twenty-seven years. Then Mr. Stierwalt quit carpenter business, and then I contracted for myself until my dear Wife died. After my dear Wife died, my younger children and I stayed and kept house at our home in Ballville Township until a year ago last July 1914 (moved July, 1913). I then sold the old home to R. W. Jackson. Since then my youngest daughter, Mary, and I have made our home in Fremont.

Birth of myself, Wife and Children: -

John Gebhard Sneider, born June 12, 1836, married to Marry Ann Reineck Oct. 22, 1866. Mary Ann Reineck Sneider, my Wife, born Nov. 10, 1847, died April 24, 1908.

There was born to us twelve children, as follows:

Balbina Susana March 31, 1868,
John Martin November 5, 1869,
Frank Joseph August 6, 1871,
Mary Josephine September 11, 1873
Eleanor October 30, 1876
Gephart August 27, 1878,
Ida Rose May 9, 1880, died July 10, 1880,
Wilhelm Oct. 15, 1881,
Johanna Adeline December 2, 1883,
Bernhard June 9, 1885,
Ann Mary June 9, 1888,
Roman Isidor March 14, 1892.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reverend Franklin and Bertha Ohlinger: Methodist Missionaries of Foochow, China

Born in Sandusky County, Ohio, in 1845, Reverend Franklin Ohlinger (standing third from left with other faculty of the provincial university) was the son of David and Hannah (Miller) Ohlinger. Next to the youngest of seven children, Franklin managed the family farm and supported his mother while his father and older brothers served in the Civil War. Shortly after the war ended, Ohlinger entered German-Wallace College (now Baldwin-Wallace College) located at Berea, Ohio. In 1868, he was ordained in the ministry of the Methodist Church. Early in 1870, Ohlinger attended a lecture about the mission fields. That fall, the Methodist Mission Board sent Ohlinger to serve in Foochow, China.
The opium wars, arrogance of foreign representatives, and the plundering of Peking in 1860, made Ohlinger's mission extraordinarily difficult. A skilled linguist, Reverend Ohlinger quickly learned the Chineses language and founded the "Zion's Herald." As president of the theological school, Ohlinger translated English hymns into the Chinese language for his students.

In 1876, Ohlinger returned to the U.S. and married Bertha Schweinfurth. The couple left that fall for Foochow. Ohlinger believed that education and evangelism went hand in hand. Assisted with funds from the wealthy Tiong Ah Hok, he founded the Anglo-Chinese College in 1881. For the next 6 years the Ohlingers taught, translated, published texts in the Chinese language.

In 1887, the Ohlingers joined the newly opened mission fields of Korea. It wasn't long before the Ohlingers had mastered the Korean language and established the the first printing facility in Korea.

Following the deaths of two of their children in 1893, the Ohlingers returned to the U. S. for a furlough. Two years later, Reverend Ohlinger returned to China as an independent missionary. Ohlinger translated and published literary works, articles, and texts. In 1909, the Chinese government hired Ohlinger to teach languages at the provincial university at Foochow. (The image at left is one of Ohlinger's class schedules).

Reverend Ohlinger returned to the United States because of illness. Although frail, he lectured extensively on the Chinese culture and the Methodist Church's missionary work. Equally at home in the German, Chinese, Korean, and English languages, Ohlinger published and translated hundreds of articles, books, and pamphlets. Reverend Ohlinger passed away in 1919 at the Scarlet Oaks Sanitarium in Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Ohlingers are buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Toledo, Ohio. Their tombstone reads: "Friends of the People of China and Korea."

September 2011
Jon Shafer, whose great grandmother was the sister of Bertha Schweinfurth Ohlinger shared an incomplete news clipping about the Ohlingers. A relative shared it with him while attending a family reunion. The story is believed to have been published in a 1910 issue of the Toledo News Bee.


Spurred by the hope of reaching her goal in time to again see her husband in life, Mrs. Franklin [Bertha]Ohlinger, of the Vistala apartments, on Twelfth Street [Toledo], is preparing to undertake an 11,000 miles race with death to Foochow, China. Mrs. Ohlinger will be accompanied by her daughter,Constance, aged 10.

Cablegram bearing news of the serious illness of the Rev. Franklin Ohlinger at his Methodist missionary station in Foochow, has been received by his son, Attorney Gustave Ohlinger. No details were given.

Suspense of the Rev. Mr. Ohlinger's relatives here is made greater because of the distance that separates the stricken missionary from his home. The minimum schedule between San Francisco and Foochow is five weeks.

Mrs. Ohlinger is planning to start by next Friday. She will travel across the continent to San Francisco and expects to embark on the steamship "Nippon Maru" which sails on February 8. The route will ___ by the way of Honolulu, thence to Yokohama, and to [Shan?]ghai across the Pacific Ocean _________
[Mrs. Ohlinger was?]..... a missionary with her husband both at Korea and at Foochow. Her husband is one of the best known missionaries in the country. For over 40 years he has been teaching Chinese and Koreans.

The Rev Mr. Ohlinger and his wife started the first newspaper in Korea. Up to the time he was taken ill, Mr. Ohlinger was editing that publication. He has often been referred to as "Korea's Caxton." The Reverend and Mrs. Ohlinger were the pioneer missionaries of Korea. Two of the children, who died in 1893, were the first white children buried in Korea. Mrs. Ohlinger made her last visit to Foochow in 1899.


While he always called Toldedo his home, the Rev. Mr. Ohlinger has lived here only at intervals, spending a major portion of the last 40 years of his life as a missionary in foreign lands. He is 65 years old.

The Rev. Mr. Ohlinger left Toledo in September, 1909. [?He?] intended to retire as a [?missionary?] within the next year and ____ several volumes on ____ wo__ the manuscript to ___

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fremont Then and Now: A Pictorial History of Progress and Change

Deeply interested in the area's past, Larry Michaels and Krista Michaels worked for more than two years to create a visual record of Fremont, Ohio's amazingly rich history. Arranged in a "then and now" format, their 186-page work contains over 250 images. More than 100 historic photographs were carefully selected from the holdings of the Hayes Presidential Center's Local History Photograph Collection. Others came from private collections, the Birchard Public Library, and the Sandusky County Historical Society.

The authors paired many century-old images of homes, stores, churches, schools, streets, businesses, and the Sandusky River with modern views of the same scenes. Fremont: Then and Now chronicles the change and continuity of this vibrant Northwest Ohio city. Also included are key dates in Fremont's history, the origins of street names, and an index. You can purchase their fascinating book, Fremont: Then and Now, at the Hayes Presidential Center's Museum Store.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Brown, Jr. In Canada

Born in Hudson, Ohio in 1821, John Brown, Jr., eldest son of the abolitionist John Brown, took part in the violent struggle in Kansas between the free-staters and the proslavery faction. However, he and his brothers Salmon and Jason and brother-in-law Henry Thompson refused to join the raid on Harper's Ferry. John Brown, Jr., served as agent of Emigration for the British North American Provinces in 1860-1861, where he labored on behalf of African Americans as well as Native Americans. Brown wrote the following letter to his wife, Wealthy (Hotchkiss) Brown from Chatham, Ontario. Working under James Redpath as an agent for the Haitian Bureau of Emigration, John Brown, Jr. recruited African Americans in and around Chatham to emigrate to Haiti. Brown later resigned his position as recruiting agent and took a group of "New York sharpshooters" to Kansas, where he and his men were attached to the Seventh Kansas Cavalry. But within a short time, Brown fell ill and was forced to resign his captaincy. In 1862, John Brown, Jr., purchased a ten-acre plot on the south shore of South Bass Island at Put-in-Bay, Ohio. His sister Ruth and her husband Henry Thompson also settled at Put-in-Bay. Later, Owen Brown, who had participated in the raid at Harper’s Ferry, joined them. Owen lived in a small cabin on his brother’s land; he spent the winter months on nearby Gibraltar Island serving as the caretaker of Jay Cooke’s summer home.

John, Jr., remained on the island until his death in 1895. He farmed, harvested grapes, practiced surveying, taught science and mathematics to the islanders, and lectured on temperance and slavery.

Windsor Canada West
Friday Eve, March 22nd 1861

Ever Dear and faithful Wife,

It is now Friday evening, and I trust before another Friday Eve I shall be on my way to my much loved home once more. Indeed I have long been counting the days. I expected to have been here last Monday, but could not get ready to leave Chatham until this morning. Reached here about 11 o’clock this afternoon and found your dear letter of the 13th, also enclosing once from Jennie to you. I also found here seviral letters from persons in this region who propose going to Hayti. Also, two from Boston, one from Mr. Newton and one from Mr. Redpath. But as you are the only prompt and faithful correspondent I have, I shall answer you first of all. I sent you a paper from Chatham this morning, and one a day or two before. Have read here the paper Called “the sacrifice”, and one of same name from Mrs. H. F. M. Brown. I would now give you the items of my Journal for several days past, but as I shall probably see you so soon I will defer until I see you. It is late at night and all save me have gone to bed. I presume Johnny is by this time fast asleep. How I do want to see you. Tell him I have bought a little axe for him and will bring it home next week in my trunk. I can almost hear him say “Ma, when will next week come?” Tell him that in 7 days more I hope to see him.

I am getting along well in getting emigrants for Hayti. Ones 50 have signified this determination to go from Chatham, and many will go from Dresden, Boston, Rondeau &c, though the greater number will not be ready to leave before Fall.

There are about 20 who intend leaving this place for Hayti in May. The Free Press Came out in another scurrilous article about me shortly after I left here for Chatham. Stating that, I had finally left this part of Canada, without so much as getting a single donkey to go to Hayti. I have nothing more to say to the Press. The Editor is infinitely beneath notice from henceforth.

It will really afford me a resting spell to get once more to a land where prejudice against Color assumes a milder type than it does in Canada. Indeed, if I were myself as black as ebony should not receive more undisguised coldness from the white inhabitants here than I now do, and this simply because I treat the colored man as an equal socially. In all of Canada West, a man would be read out of what they call “Good Society” who should ask a Colored man or woman to eat at the same table with him. In consequence of my boarding and lodging at their Houses, and in the street and at all places meeting them on terms of social equality, I have scarce been recognized by the white inhabitants here, as belonging to the human family. Every where I have met the cold shoulder. It is perhaps well. I am thereby enabled to sympathise with these people in their experience of a new form of Slavery, at least to me. “Man’s inhumanity to me makes countless thousands mourn.”

Tomorrow, I shall answer letters all day. _ On Monday go to little river settlement, and meet a number of those who wish to go this Spring to Hayti. I have just learned that a white man has made an appointment for a meeting in that settlement next week, at which meeting he proposes to prove that I am not John Brown, but an imposter, who is trying to get the colored people away from Canada and back into Slavery. If it is convenient I shall try and attend that meeting, and so find out with certainty who I am.

Well it is getting very late and I will once more bid you goodnight. I may write again before I leave and may not. _ Give to Mr.& Mrs. Smith Edwards my very warm regards. I hope soon to “greet the bride with a holy Kiss” _ Say to Martha, that the long letter she promised to write me, must have miscarried. Perhaps Smith, forgetting to mail it, yet has it in his pocket. If I keep on writing I may fill out my sheet. I dont want to go to sleep, and yet I must or be unfitted for business. It is now nearly three months since I left home. Well do I remember the time Johnny stood in the Road and kept looking into the Hack as long as he could see me. Don’t let him forget me._ These three long months without companionship, its awful. If it had not been for your letters I don’t know how I could have endured it. What a dear thought, that this is some one whose sympathies go out to us ever faithful and true. ­­_ One such, makes all the rest of the world look poor.

If I can get a moments time I shall send you another letter before leaving here. Mr. Redpath wants me to stay until the middle of April, before returning to Ohio, but I had made up my mind to go home at the time I wrote you, and no ordinary event shall prevent me.

Mr. Anderson accompanied me to the cars at Chatham to day. he sends his kindest regards to you and Owen, and Johnny and to the Edwards family_ Shall look for a letter from you up to the time I leave. Hug Johnny for me “real right”, and believe me ever faithfully

Your loving husband
John Brown Jr.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lt. Col. William Charles Shortt and His Descendants by Mike Hedges

Through the decades, descendants of Lt. Col. William Charles Shortt and Hayes Presidential Center staff have exchanged information about Lt. Col. Shortt's family, his descendants, and his military career. Most recently, Mike Hedges of Portsmouth, England, a great great great grandson of Lt. Col. William Charles Shortt contacted me. I thank Mr. Hedges for graciously agreeing to share some of his research in the article below. Above is a photograph of a portrait of Lt. Col. Shortt sent previously by a descendant of William Tayler Peter Shortt.

My great great great grandfather, Lt Col William Charles Shortt, served in the 41st Regiment of Foot in the British Army and died a heroic death at the Battle of Fort Stephenson, Lower Sandusky, Ohio (Fremont, Ohio), on 2nd August 1813.

The Battle of Fort Stephenson

This battle, won decisively by the Americans, was the last western battle in the Second War of Independence (War of 1812) between Britain and America. Fort Stephenson guarded an American supply base on the Sandusky River and became a target for the British, led by Major-General Henry Proctor, after they had failed to capture Fort Meigs at Perrysburg, Ohio.

Fort Stephenson was commanded by Major George Croghan. His superior, Major-General William Harrison, ordered him to destroy the fort and withdraw, believing the British force to be larger than it really was. However, Croghan was confident that he could defend the fort and successfully persuaded Harrison of this.

Croghan’s view was decisively endorsed by the outcome of the British assault. The British and their Indian allies had 96 men either killed or wounded, of whom 25 were from Lt Col Shortt’s column of men from the 41st Regiment of Foot. Shortt himself died with many of his men in a murderous barrage of American fire as he led them into one of the perimeter ditches of the fort.

A full account of the battle can be found on the website

Lt Col William Charles Shortt

Lt Col William C. Shortt had a rather colourful life and seems to have passed this trait down the generations that followed. According to information provided in 1909 by his great-nephew Captain Henry D. Shortt to the Hayes Presidential Center, he was the eldest son of Major John Shortt of the Madras Native Infantry. William was born in Trichinopoly (now Tiruchirappalli) in India in 1764 and was apparently educated at Eton College[1]. He joined the Army as an Ensign in the 24th Foot in 1782, became a captain in 1783 and joined the 99th Foot at the same rank in 1801. By the time of the Battle of Fort Stephenson, he was a Brevet Lieutenant Colonel[2].

William C. Shortt had a relationship with (or may in fact have married) a Shawnee Indian called Sally Bluejacket (born 1778) while his regiment was garrisoning the British fort on the Maumee River, Ohio, in 1794 and 1795[3]. They had a son, Thomas Shortt, born in 1796, who was later recorded as living in the Indian reservation at Flat Rock, Mi[4]. Thomas had a son Joseph, born in 1833, and Joseph had two daughters[5]. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the relationship between William and Sally did not last and she later married a trader called Wilson. They may have met again in 1813 just before the Battle of Fort Stephenson, as by then Sally was living on the Detroit River, within the area commanded by William’s superior officer, Major General Henry Proctor.

By this time William C. Shortt had married Jean Margaret Stuart (known by her middle name) and they had a son William Tayler[6] Peter Shortt, who had been born in Marylebone, London, in 1800. The name Tayler was no doubt chosen because it was the maiden name of William’s mother Jane; her brother Lt Gen William Tayler was an equerry to King George III.

William C. Shortt’s wife Jean died in 1805 while giving birth to a daughter, Mary, who survived for just seven weeks. In 1809 William married Jane Crooks, whose sister had married the borther of his commander, Henry Proctor. William and Jane had a son, James Symington Shortt, who was born in 1812 and was my great great grandfather. James’ mother died in 1812, probably after giving birth to him.

With the death of their father at the Battle of Fort Stephenson and the earlier deaths of their mothers, William TP Shortt and his half-brother James became orphans at the respective ages of 13 and 1. To support their upbringing and education, the guardians of both boys were granted payments from the Royal Bounty, a fund established to support the families of people who had died in service of the British Crown, for example officers killed in battle.

The Elder Son, William Tayler Peter Shortt

William TP Shortt was educated in Quebec, but eventually returned to England where he gained a Bachelor of Arts degree at Worcester College, Oxford, in 1821 and, true to family tradition, embarked on a career in the British Army. However, before this he engaged in another tradition for wealthy families of that period by going on the so-called ‘Grand Tour’, a visit to classical cities, art galleries and historical sites of continental Europe. In his case, the tour was through France and Switzerland to Italy and consequently, in an early pointer to his future occupation as an author, he published A Visit to Milan, Florence and Rome, etc in 1821. The visit inspired his lifelong interest in Roman antiquities. In 1824, he co-authored Journal of the Principal Occurrences During the Siege of Quebec.

By 1826, William TP Shortt was a Lieutenant in the 17th Regiment of Foot, joining from the 34th Foot. However, he soon abandoned his military career and moved in 1832 to Heavitree, Exeter, England, where he lived as a gentleman of independent means (on his father’s death, he had inherited the freehold rent of Remenham House, near Henley-on-Thames, England). He developed a keen interest in Roman relics and especially coins, many of which were being found during the substantial reconstruction of Exeter that took place from the 1830s to the 1850s. At this time, no great interest was aroused whenever archaeological remains were discovered and building contractors regarded any interference in their work to recover relics as obstruction. However, William TP Shortt was not deterred and, over a period of 23 years from 1832, took it upon himself to retrieve and investigate as many items as he could and to publish the results of his findings.

His persistence led to some incidents on building sites, typical of which is one of July 3rd 1835 when, during his enquiries with labourers about relics found during the re-development of the Upper Market, Shortt was confronted by a prominent Exeter builder, Henry Hooper, ordered off the site and helped on his way by a shovelful of earth! Enraged by this slight on his dignity as an ex-officer and a gentleman, Shortt summoned Hooper for assault. At a court appearance the next day, Hooper admitted the assault but said that Shortt’s habit of retrieving artefacts was constantly interrupting work at the market and that he had refused to leave the site when asked. The Mayor of Exeter, conforming with the general indifference to the history of Roman Exeter, found Hooper guilty but levied a token fine of 10 shillings (50 pence) on him. Shortt was rebuked for his ‘warmth of temper’. The case was well publicised in the local and national press, which generally supported Shortt, and began a trend of making archaeological excavation and research more fashionable[7].

William TP Shortt published many articles about his findings in the Devonshire Chronicle, the Flying Post and other local journals. He apparently insisted on receiving printers’ proofs of his articles, which he then savagely corrected before they were printed! He also wrote two books about his work; the first, with the not very catchy title of Sylva Antiqua Iscana, Numismatica Quinetiam Figulina, or Roman and Other Antiquities of Exeter, was published in 1841 and the following year came Collecteana Curiosa Antiqua Dunmonia; or An Essay on Some Druidical Remains in Devon. The latter book was based on his visits on horseback and in all weathers to every known prehistoric site in Devon. Each book is, it has to be said, hard to read for the modern eye, but each was no doubt very learned and based on Shortt’s great historical knowledge and extensive field work. This did not prevent a magisterial put-down by one writer, who said of Shortt’s books: ‘I could refer to the two works of this author with much more confidence had they been drawn up with the gravity which becomes the subject. They have been compiled in such a careless, rambling and ill-arranged manner, and are so full of haphazard assertions, that I lament extremely that I cannot quote them as authorities’[8]!

Despite this criticism, there is no doubt that William TP Shortt carried out pioneering archaeological work in Exeter that recorded and preserved valuable Roman artefacts. Without his intervention and dedication, they and the valuable historical information that they yielded would certainly have been lost.

William TP Shortt moved to Heidelberg, Germany, in 1855 and died in 1881. He and his wife Margaret had a son and three daughters. His son Stuart followed a military career, and the Army also featured strongly in the lives of his daughter Ann and of the descendants to the present day of his daughter Kathleen. She married Captain John Dent Bird, who was murdered by one of his troopers at Aldershot, England, in 1874. Their son Wilkinson Dent Bird (born 1869) was a decorated soldier, became a Major-General, and lectured and wrote about military history and strategy.

The Younger Son, James Symington Shortt

Orphaned at the age of just one year when his father William died at the Battle of Fort Stephenson, James Symington Shortt probably then lived with his maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Crooks, and his material aunt, Mary. His middle name Symington came from the surname of John Symington of Niagara, who was his maternal grandfather and one of the executors of his father’s will (the other was William C Shortt’s cousin, Captain William Thomas Tayler).

Family researches have so far thrown up no other information about James Shortt’s early life. He is next recorded as living in Ancaster Township, Brent County, Ontario, in 1832. Within a year he was an Ensign in the 48th Foot Regiment of the British Army. In 1835 he transferred to the 4th, or King’s Own, Regiment of Foot, became a Lieutenant in 1837 and a Captain in 1844.

In 1839 at Sholden, Kent, James married Mary Harvey, one of the daughters of Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Harvey (1775 – 1841) who, along with many other members of his family, served with great distinction in the Royal Navy. Mary died only two years later and James subsequently took her sister Annie as his partner, but they never married because, at that time in England, it was illegal for a man to marry the sister of his deceased wife.

Over the period of James Shortt’s service in the 4th Foot, the regiment was stationed first in Australia then, from January 1838, in India[9]. James and Annie had their first child, a girl, in 1844, but the child did not survive her first day. A son ws born a year later, but is believed to have died in infancy. Their first surviving child, Mary, was born in Kamptee, India, in 1846. James remained in the Army until 1847-48. James’ departure from the Army came shortly after he had been found guilty at a court martial of being drunk at the funeral in Kamptee of a fellow officer, Ensign William Thorpe.

The remainder of James’ life was punctuated by misfortune and tragedy. During the 1850s, he and Annie had five more chilren. a son and four daughters, but only Jessie (born 1850 in Colaba, India) and Helen (born 1855 in Broadstairs, England) survived. Four of these five children were born in India, but it seems that Annie purposely came back to England to give birth to Helen there and give her a better chance of survival. Helen may well have remained in England in the guardianship of Annie’s sister Eliza and may never have returned with her mother to India; certainly Helen was living with Eliza and her husband Admiral William WP Johnson[10] in England in 1866.

James and Annie’s youngest child was Edith Annie Shortt, my great grandmother, who was born in 1861 in Ahmedabad, India. Tragically her mother Annie died just 17 days later from diarrhea and exhaustion following her confinement.

James’ fortunes with employment were no better. After leaving the Army, he and Annie stayed in India and he is recorded as working in the secretariat of the Judicial Department in Bombay from 1851 to 1853. In 1855 he is listed as a clerk, but then prospects seem to have improved, as he held the post of Deputy Marshal of the Byculla House of Correction (a prison in Bombay) in 1856 and was its Governor from 1857-59. Thereafter his employment appears to have resumed its decline, for by 1862 he was a clerk on the Bombay, Baroda and Central Indian Railway.

In 1864 he brought my great grandmother Edith (and possibly one or more of her older sisters) back to England. Edith was put first into the guardianship of her maternal aunt, Sarah Rainier, and her husband Revd. George Rainier, and then into the guardianship of her maternal uncle, Admiral Henry Harvey.

The final tragedy of James Shortt’s life came when he died at sea of dysentery in 1865, probably on his return journey to India, and was buried at sea.

Thus, like her father, Edith Shortt was orphaned at a very young age. She was clearly told of the fate of her parents; a poignant letter, still in the family’s possession, from Henry Harvey to his sister Eliza mentions that ‘little Edith….says her own Papa “gone, dead, gone into the water. Mama died too.”’

Of the four surviving daughters of James Shortt, Mary remained in India and married a civil engineer, Robert Gompertz, but is believed to have died before 1882, when Robert re-married. Jessie (1850 – 1939) never married but went to England, eventually giving birth to a son, Henry. Helen (1855 – 1925) married George Humphreys, a farm labourer. Edith (1861 – 1933) married Thomas Hall, a post office clerk.

Contrasting Fortunes

Thus the two sons of Lt Col William C. Shortt and their descendants experienced contrasting fortunes. William TP Shortt initially followed his father’s footsteps by joining the Army, but the academic side of his nature led him away from military life into pioneering archaeological work. He lived to the age of 81, and several of his descendants continued the family tradition of military service right through to the early 21st century. He did not escape sadness, losing his daughter Kathleen when she was only 27 years old and his son-in-law in an act of murder in 1874.

His half-brother James S. Shortt suffered disadvantages that stemmed from being a second son orphaned at the age of just one year. With no university education, he joined the British Army at the age of 21. His first wife died when he was 29. For him, the early prestige of being an Army officer was later significantly tempered by his court martial, and more sadness came with the loss of five of his children in infancy. The final personal tragedy for him and his daughters was his death at sea at the age of 53; almost inevitably perhaps, the guardians of his three younger daughters could not provide sufficient financial resources for them to be able to live the privileged lives of their parents’ families.

This story of the lives of Lt Col William Shortt and his descendants is the result of much research by my cousin David Royle and myself. There are still many gaps in our knowledge and we would welcome any further information. This can be passed to us by contacting Nan J. Card, Curator of Manuscripts, Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Fremont, Ohio at(

Acknowledgements: My family is grateful for information provided during our research by the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center (Fremont, Ohio), National Archives (Kew, London), the British Library (London), the Families in British India (FIBIS) website, Sue Andrew, G. Carlyle Hinshaw and Margaret McGrath.

This article has been copyrighted by Mike Hedges.


[1] Henry Shortt said that William was educated at Eton College, but my enquiries with the College suggest that this is not correct.
[2] Brevet rank was awarded for distinguished service, but the recipient retained the pay and responsibilities of his previous lower rank. Brevet rank could not be purchased.
[3] Ref. Bluejacket: Warrior of the Shawnees by John Sugden (University of Nebraska Press, 2000).
[4] Article in the Wyandotte Tribune, 3 November 1948.
[5] Information provided in an e-mail to the author.
[6] Correct spelling, but generally recorded as Taylor in later mentions of WTP Shortt
[7] From An Antiquary in Devon (WTP Shortt 1800 – 1881) by R.G. Goodchild, Transactions of the Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and Art, 1947.
[8] From A Dissertation on the Site of Moridunum, The Gentleman’s Magazine, January to June 1849.
[9] From The King’s Own: The Story of a Royal Regiment Volume 2, 1814-1914, by Colonel L.I. Cowper (Oxford University Press, 1939).
[10] William Ward Percival Johnson (1790 – 1880) served as a young seaman on HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Childhood Dream Comes True for Helen Herron Taft

Venus Williams, Miley Cyrus, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, and Katie Couric are just a few of the notable figures who serve as role models for today’s young women. But in the 19th century, it was an altogether different matter! Barred from voting and severely limited in establishing an independent career, women rarely rose to national prominence. But Helen Herron, a Cincinnati teen found her role model – First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes.

At the age of seventeen, “Nellie,” as her friends called her, visited the White House. She and her entire family were guests of President Rutherford B. and First Lady Lucy Webb Hayes. From that day forward, Helen knew that she wanted to become First Lady more than anything in the world. Years later, she recalled that her visit to the Hayes White House was “the only unusual incident of her girlhood!”

A short time after the Herron family visit, “Nellie” met “the adorable Will Taft.” They later married. William Howard Taft became solicitor general of the United States and then a federal circuit court judge. In 1900, Taft was appointed head of the civil government of the Philippines. Helen, the mother of three children, was more than willing to travel half way around the world to live in a foreign land if it helped her husband’s career. Four years later, the Tafts were back in Washington. President Teddy Roosevelt had chosen Taft as his Secretary of War. Helen was delighted at her husband’s rising political career.

In 1908, her lifelong dream came true! William Howard Taft was elected President of the United States! It was an exciting day when Helen Taft stepped into the role of First Lady. But only two months later, she suffered a severe stroke. Although ill for more than a year, Helen Taft was determined to resume her social obligations. By late 1910, the First Lady, with the help of her daughter, delighted the nation when she hosted the White House events during the Christmas holidays.

Helen Taft became famous for her elegant receptions for prominent dignitaries and foreign heads of state. In her memoir, Recollections of Full Years, the First Lady considered the celebration of the Tafts’ 25th wedding anniversary the “greatest event” of her White House years. Several thousand guests celebrated with them at an evening garden party.

Social obligations were not the First Lady’s only concern; she wanted to make the nation’s capitol a beautiful place for visitors. At her request, Japanese cherry trees were planted. The two original trees she helped plant at a ceremony still stand several hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial. When the cherry trees bloom each spring, they serve as a reminder of a young Ohio teenager with a big dream and an indomitable will – First Lady Helen Herron Taft.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Fort Stephenson Mining Association

About to leave for California's gold fields in the spring of 1849, eight men of Fremont, Ohio established the Fort Stephenson Mining Association for their mutual aid and protection. John M. Smith (President); Levi E. Boren (Secretary); and John A. Johnson (Treasurer) joined brothers William and Robert Caldwell, Grovenor Gallagher, Isaac Sharp, and James W. Stevenson in forming articles of agreement that bound the men and their fortunes to each other for a period of eight months. All eight charter members arrived in California safely. Initially, they took up claims on Beals Bar located on the North Fork of the American River, near its junction with the South Fork in Placer County. During the next several years, other Sandusky Countians headed to California to seek their fortunes.

Cyrus Sebring wrote this letter from California to his friend Minerva Justice of Fremont, Ohio. His letter is particularly interesting because it provides a glimpse into the lives of some of the original members of the mining association as well as others from Sandusky County who crossed the plains in the intervening years.

Those mentioned in his letter from Sandusky County, Ohio are:

John M. Smith
Jaques Hulbard
Grove Gallagher
William Caldwell
Robert Caldwell
Putnam Norton
Henry Loveland
Cyrus Thompson
J.C.H. Montgomery
Add. Mann
Kenny Russel
Levi Boren
Peter Hershey
Hiram Kelly

Many of these men returned to their homes in Sandusky County, Ohio. Others lived out their lives in California. And, some died in the gold fields, having never fulfilled their dreams. The record of the Fort Stephenson Mining Association kept by John A. Johnson is housed at the Beinecke Library at Yale University. In an upcoming post, I hope to provide more details of these men who went West in search of gold.

Sacramento City, Feb. 26, 1851

Dear Friend Minerva

I have just received your very kind letter and I can assure you that it was a very welcome visitor for in reality I had about come to the conclusion that all my old friends had determined that I should never again hear from them but oh how agreeably have I been today in recieving your letter. I can truly say that this is the happiest day that I have seen since I left Fremont. Minerva I think I scarcely need attempt to tell you how rejoiced I am to learn that your health has so far improved as to admit of your visiting your friends and enjoying their society. I realy wish that I was at home a short time that I might have the pleasure of enjoying a share of your smiles, but I am far away and deprived of all the pleasure derived from mingling with society and I feel the loss very much but since I voluntarily left I shall endeavor to make the best of a bad bargain and there is one thing certain and that is that I shall know much better than ever before how to appreciate the blessings derived from society and I assure you that I shall endeavor to make my stay in this land of Cutthroats and Gamblers as short as possible. But you know that I came here for the purpose of obtaining gold and I must have some of it before I can return home and as soon as I can accomplish that object you will surly see me coming home. And when I do come it will be to remain. I can assure you that if I live to get back I shall be contented to stay there.

Well now Minerva I presume that you would like to hear from some of the rest of the boys and I am glad that I am able to inform you that they are all well for I have just returned to the city from a prospecting tour and I have visited all of the boys that came from Fremont. Russ and J.M. Smith live together. I took dinner with them on last Friday and they were both of them hard at work. When I went up to them they were both rocking their cradles. I think you would laugh if you could only see Russ at work with his blue shirt on rocking the cradles and then you would laugh I think to see him cook. He moves around so very graceful and then they are so very cleanly they make it ruleable to wash their dishes as often as once during the week. Jaques Hulbard went up with me. We staid until almost sundown and then Jaques and Russ and myself started back for Beals Barr where almost the whole tribe of Fremonters are located, as you will see when I come to enumerate them. And in the first place there Jaques and Grove Gallagher, they tent together and seem to live very agreeably together and both as fat as there is any need for, and the next Putnam Norton and Henry Loveland they live together and are in good health and next comes Robert and Wm. Caldwell. They live together and are quite well and then comes poor Cyrus Thompson. He lives in a tent by himself and is well but looks lonely. And thinks he will not keep house much longer. He talks of going to Scotts River, a distance of about three hundred miles from here.

I believe that I have mentioned all at that place and will next walk down the river four miles to Negro Barr and there I find J. C. H. Montgomery. He is in good health. And then I come down to within four miles of town and there I find Add. Mann [?] and Mr. Stark. Not our Stark but his brother, and they are both well. And then when I get into the city I find Hiram Kelly, Kenny Russel, and Mr. Boren and by the way he wishes me to say that he shall feel himself under lasting obligations to you for your kindness in saying that his family are well. He has had the horrors for the last month. He has not had a letter from home for the three last mails. And now I believe that I have given you a short history of all of the folks from Fremont, and now I must say something about myself and in the first place will say that I am very well and weigh ten pounds more than I ever did before, so that you may judge that California agrees with me very well.

And if I could only see all of the girls for about one day I think I should be willing to stay in this country for some time. For the climate is realy very fine. We have not had any rain as yet and it is about as warm here at this time as it is in Fremont during the month of May. Go out of town and we can gather as many flowers as we wish and we have lettuce and radishes on the table while you are sitting around the stove. And hardly dare look out of doors for fear of freezing your nose. I think that if I only could have the same society here that we have at home I should like very well to live in this country. But without we can be with those we love, there can be no enjoyment or at least there is not for me and now I have a few questions to ask.

And in the first place you speak of recieving but one letter from me. I have written two and in the second one there was a specimen of gold. You say nothing about it. Have you not received it or was it so small that you did not think it worth while to mention it. You must not think that I intended that to answer for the one that I promised to bring you when I come home for I have one on hand and the pin fixed to it. It is rather large to send in a letter but you shall surly have it. I will send it the first opertunity I have that I think that it will be safe to do so. And unless I can have such an opertunity I shall keep it until I come home, which I am in hopes I shall be able to do by next fall, but dare not promise positively to do so. I have written to several of the girls. I say several, I will say a few. I wrote to Eveline and Alvina and A. M. O. and to Hat F___ [?] and Nett and not a single sound do I hear from one of them. I hardly know what to think. It is to me a mistery that I am unable to solve and my sheet of paper is about coming to a close. And I shall soon be obliged to bid you good by.

Cyrus Sebring

I feel very much obliged to those who wished to be remembered to me. Say to Alvina I should very much regret to hear that she should have the consumption poor girl. I could almost cry and would if I could only keep from laughing. Should she be taken off suddenly she shall have my blessing. To start with give her my best wishes and to Eveline give my love in return and to Mrs. Ball and Mrs. Olmstead my kindest regards. Tell them I wish them to keep a protecting watch over the girls.

And say to A. M. O. that Peter Hershey is on his road home and I wish her to be a little upon her gard for I am inclined to think that he has some very serious intentions from what I could learn. Tell her it is my wish that she should take good care of the telegraph office until I return. Tell Nett I am glad to that she is so well employed as teaching the young idies how to shoot. But I don’t see why she did not go to the house that I picked out for her between Fremont and Sandusky City. Where is Rachel. Is she yet in the famous city of Sandusky. I somewhat regret to learn that Mr. Fitch is not yet married. I thought he would have been before this time. Tell him not to dispair but try try again.

I had almost forgotten to tell you that I was going to start for the mines tomorrow. I can’t tell how long I shall stay but will surly be back in time to get all letters that come for me so that I want you to be sure and write to me as soon as your receive this and if it was not asking too much of a friend I would ask you to become a regular corispondent and I will ask you to write as often as you can do so. And tell the girls that I think if they only knew how anxious we folks in Cal. are to hear from them they would surly write. Now I will stop. I think I have now written more than you will have the patience to read if indeed you can read it at all. And now I have one request and that is that you will again write to me and let me hear the news and by so doing you will very much oblige.

Yours C.S.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

American Eagle to the Rescue

While spring is coming to Northwest Ohio, it has beeen only a few weeks since the U. S. Coast Guard rescued fishermen from Lake Erie when the ice broke loose and began to drift. This brought to mind an article I'd read while researching the Lake Erie vessel, the "American Eagle." The vessel (161 tons, 104 foot keel measurement; 24 feet wide with a draft of 9 feet) was built by John Monk in Sandusky, Ohio. She was sheathed with ice iron capable of breaking 8 inches of ice without stopping. By backing up and bucking the ice, the "American Eagle" could break through 24 inches of solid ice.

During the winter of 1898/1899, a large crowd was skating on the Sandusky Bay when the ice broke loose and began drifting out into Lake Erie. Captain Fred Magle and the "Eagle" were dispatched "to the rescue." The "Eagle" succeeded in getting alongside the ice field and then put a line on the field. Magle towed the ice field back to the Sandusky Bay while the skaters continued to skate all the way home.

The "American Eagle" was built for Wehrle and Werk of Middle Bass Island, later known as Andrew Wehrle and Son. Duing the spring and fall of the 1880s, she carried all of the wines from Middle Bass Island and Kelleys Island to Sandusky. During the summer months, the "Eagle" ran the Sandusky and Peninsula route to Put-in-Bay; stopping at Marblehead, Lakeside, and Catawba.

In the spring of 1882, while carrying sport fishermen to the Pelee Island Club on Point Sheridan, the "Eagle" raced the steamer "Jay Cooke." Between Cedar Point and Carpenter's Point, Kelleys Island, the "Eagle's" boiler exploded, killing Chief Engineer James W. Johnson, Fireman Frank Battle, and deckhands Frank Walker and Lorenze Neilson. The tug "Mystic" towed her back to Sandusky, where her boiler was rebuilt.

Three years later, during an excursion run from Lakeside to Put-in-Bay, she struck a reef about 1 1/2 miles west of Kelleys Island. The shoal still carries the vessel's name today. After repairs at the Detroit Drydock, she was chartered by T. F. Newman for the "fruit run" from the Lake Erie islands to Toledo and Cleveland. The "Eagle" transported tons of peaches throughout the 1890s. During the summer months, she continued to run excursions.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Price of "Progress"

The night of August 18, 1893, was like any other in Lindsey, Ohio – hot, still, quiet, with stars twinkling silently in the dark sky. Local freight train Number 74 sat motionless on the siding, awaiting the passing of the Pacific Express. Bound for Chicago, the Express was 15 minutes behind schedule as it steamed out of Fremont. Its two coaches and three sleeper cars were loaded with weary passengers, including the entire Chicago Colts baseball team. The Pacific Express throttled up and thundered down the tracks at full speed toward the sleeping village of Lindsey.

Lounging beside their silent locomotive, the crew of Local 74 waved at the Express engineer. Seconds later, the earsplitting sound of metal grinding against metal ripped through the night air. The ground shook violently; windows rattled and then broke.

Although the Pacific Express’ engine and tender and baggage cars had passed the switch safely, weakened bolts suddenly gave way, sending the coaches and sleeper cars careening up the siding directly at train Number 74. Cars crashed into the freight train’s locomotive with such force that it spun completely around. It then toppled on its side.

As the cars of the Express grated against the freight train, the coaches and sleepers were ripped open, hurtling passengers into the midst of the tangled wreckage. The tender of the freight was tossed into a carload of flour, cushioning his fall. But Number 74’s engineer, porter, and brakeman weren’t so lucky. They were crushed beneath the freight’s engine as it toppled on its side.

Six Fremont physicians arrived at the scene by special train. The sight that greeted them was horrific. According to the Fremont Democratic Messenger, “arms, legs, and heads protruded from the twisted wreckage.” Many of Lindsey’s 500 residents stumbled from their beds, dug through the masses of metal, and carried victims to their homes. Those with minor injuries were loaded on to the undamaged cars of the Pacific Express and sent on their way. John Boyer’s mortuary took charge of the dead.

At 3 a.m., a wrecking train arrived from Norwalk to remove the debris. Late Sunday morning, railroad officials viewed the scene. By two o’clock, the tracks were cleared and repairs completed. A short time later, the line was up and running.

Despite numerous deaths and severely injured victims, there was no investigation, no policy change, and no new safety measures implemented. Tragic as it was, such accidents were not uncommon in the 1890s. Americans at the turn of the century were fascinated with technology’s steam, power, and speed. Trains could transport goods cheaply and reliably and travel to the far reaches of the country in record time. “Progress” and “a better life” had their price. Sometimes that price was extraordinarily high.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Elizabeth Rice at Fort Snelling in 1889

Few wives of career Army officers enjoyed military life during the 19th century. Many found the primitive posts, harsh climate, and rough living conditions so unbearable they returned to live with families in the East. Although born into a life of refinement in Cincinnati, Ohio, Elizabeth Rice, second wife of General Edmund Rice, enjoyed the experience of living at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas; Ft. Keogh, Montana; and Ft. Snelling, Minnesota. Elizabeth wrote the following letter from St. Paul, Minnesota concerning General William T. Sherman, General Nelson Miles, and their families during a 4th of July visit in 1889.

Saint Paul – Thursday
July 4 [1889]

My dear brother: we have given up going with Genl. Sherman on his trip up the Red River and have decided to stay here until Tuesday when he will leave for Bismarck. They all tell me that it is not the season of the year to make the trip. The General is not coming to Keogh but will go to Bismarck and take a boat down the river. I must try and begin to tell you all we did yesterday. After all we did not go on the train but in a carriage. Genl Miles succeeded in getting a light carriage like ours (?) only with four seats inside. We did not start as early as most of the people so avoided the dust. Genl & lady, Genl Miles brother, and myself. Mr. Miles is a much older man than the General. He is president of the Westminster National Bank of Mass. He lost his only unmarried daughter a short time ago & the General persuaded him to take this trip with him. He is going home by the Yellowstone Park and California. Mrs. Miles says he lost his wife many years ago & was perfectly devoted to this girl of fourteen who has just died. She says he has a lovely home but it is to[o] desolate now that he cannot bear to stay in it.

He has traveled abroad and seems to be a very nice man. I tell his history all I know of it, for your benefit for I know you always like to know all about people. It is a ten mile drive to Minneapolis. We drove over the day & returned the other. I will send you a paper with an account of the performances yesterday if I can find one.

We arrived at the Grand opera (?) before the procession and secured good seats directly in front of the stage. Some of the first people we saw on the stage were our traveling companions the priests. The old gentleman proved to be the archbishop or bishop of Minnesota. He was called upon to speak, but he declined. I suppose because although he speaks beautiful English he is obliged to speak it very slowly. He had a very fine face - very different from the priest. We had very cordial pleasant bows from them. When Genl. Sherman arrived he came to the front of the stage & insisted upon my coming up but when I declined he said save a seat for Rachel. She will come & sit with you & she joined us with Col. Bacon. Genl. Miles occupied a seat on the stage. The Sec. of War quite not (?) ____ by his manner & what he said. I hope they reported his speech his manner was charming & you must hear him to appreciate what I mean. He is so ____ & has such a pleasant manner & good voice. General Sherman made a good speech & was cheered again & again when he came out & when his speech was over. He went to the Hotel for dinner. Of course he saw the fall of St. Anthony & the great mills – one of them makes 3000 bushels of flour in a day.

Ed ought to come here if he wants to make flour. I did not see the Hinkles & they say Mr. H. was probably not well enough to be there. We drove home via the Falls of Minehaha and Ft. Snelling – met Genl S & Miss S. and Col. Bacon at the Falls of Minehaha & we were with them last evening. They have gone out today to spend the day with Genl. Terry at Little Bear's. Will write on the trail - mail at Bismarck