Saturday, December 17, 2011

Exhibit: The Wildlife Art of Bob Hines

Ohio native Robert Hines (1912-1994) holds the distinction of being the only National Wildlife Artist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Hines developed his love of nature growing up along the verdant banks of the Sandusky River in Fremont, Ohio. Despite almost no formal art training, Hines’ innate talent led him to become an internationally recognized wildlife artist and a pioneer of the conservation movement. His work illustrated a weekly newspaper feature, and numerous wildlife guides and books – including those by author Rachel Carson (a close personal friend) and Robert McClung (of Grizzly Adams fame).

The Hayes Presidential Center created The Wildlife Art of Bob Hines in celebration of the 100th year of Hines’ birth. Set for exhibition February 15 through August 14, the exhibit includes an array of original artwork from private and public collections. It is made possible through sponsorship from The Fremont Co., Diversified Insurance and Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sidney Frohman Foundation Sponsors 2011 Hayes Center Onsite Visit for Sandusky City Schools

Hancock Elementary 4th Grade Students Tour the Hayes Center's Special Civil War Exhibit

In early November, students from Hancock Elementary are the first of nearly 300 4th grade students from five Sandusky City Elementary Schools to visit 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. The Sidney Frohman Foundation is one of six original Curriculum Connections sponsors. Students. teachers, and the Hayes Presidential Center were pleased that the Sidney Frohman Foundation chose to sponsor students' onsite visit again in 2011!

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 our students "a special opportunity to see the real thing! The historic past takes on new meaning for them! "

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

Civil War Lecture Series at the Hayes Presidential Center

Larry Strayer
Civil War: Battlefield and Homefront
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

In conjunction with its exclusive exhibit CIVIL WAR: Battlefield and Homefront, the Hayes Presidential Center hosts a series of three lectures in the Hayes Museum. Each lecture is free and open to all.

November 17
Center Executive Director Thomas Culbertson opens the series with his 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17 presentation Rutherford B. Hayes: Citizen Soldier. The lecture takes an in-depth look at what inspired a 39-year-old lawyer, husband, and father to enlist in the Army despite having no prior military training. Culbertson’s talk also examines the effects the war had on Hayes’ life and career.

December 8
• An archaeologist who has spent years researching on Johnson’s Island, discusses discoveries he has made at the site of a former Confederate prisoner-of-war camp beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 8. David Bush, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Historic and Military Archaeology at Heidelberg University. He has been excavating the Johnson’s Island site for more than 20 years. Recently, Bush authored a book about the camp titled I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island: Life in a Civil War Prison. The work combines letters written between a prisoner and his wife, with archaeological evidence Bush has unearthed. A book signing will follow the lecture.

December 15
• On Thursday, Dec. 15, Civil War expert and collector Larry Strayer shares the story of how he got involved in collecting Civil War memorabilia, and how his collection has evolved over 40 years in Battlefield & Homefront Exhibit - An Inside Look at Civil War Collecting. Numerous items from Strayer’s collection are on display in the CIVIL WAR: Battlefield and Homefront exhibit. Following his lecture, Strayer will invite participants to view the exhibit with him.

Major funding for CIVIL WAR: Battlefield and Homefront is provided by
Diversified Insurance partnered with Auto Owners Insurance.
Additional funding is provided by Croghan Colonial Bank

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Lest We Forget: Remembering Sandusky County, Ohio's Veterans

CBS Sunday Morning
On Memorial Day 2010, CBS Sunday Morning featured the efforts of Wayne Van Doren and his family to place American flags beside the grave sites  of veterans in six Sandusky County cemeteries. From Revolutionary War soldiers to the highest ranking general killed in the Civil War, McPherson Cemetery in Clyde, Ohio, is the final resting place for nearly a thousand veterans. Wayne has meticulously mapped the location of each so that on every Memorial Day he and his family can continue their tradition of honoring those who have served in America's wars.

Wayne Van Doren 
Fremont, Ohio's Oakwood Cemetery
Courtesy of The News-Messenger
Wayne has extended his reach. He hopes to honor each veteran buried in Sandusky County, Ohio by placing an American flag beside each grave. Wayne stated that there are 64 cemeteries in Sandusky County where veterans are buried. Above is a picture of Wayne in Fremont's Oakwood Cemetery that appeared in the September 16th, 2011 issue of The News-Messenger.  Wayne has been walking Oakwood Cemetery all summer, attempting to locate all of the veterans' grave sites. It is one of the largest in the county. Sadly, in Oakwood alone, there are 357 veterans' graves that do not have bronze flag holders beside them. Flag holders and an American flag are issued to veterans' surviving family members when veterans die. Each flag holder has the emblem that identifies the war in which the veteran served.

After learning of my attempts to discover Sandusky County's African American Civil War soldiers, Wayne took photographs of their gravesites while walking Oakwood. Below is the photo he gave me of David J. Vance's tombstone. Others that Wayne shared with me are posted on the Hayes Presidential Center's Civil War Research page, where short sketches of each African American Civil War soldier appears. (With the help of Charles Weiker, we recently discovered the service of two additional soldiers.  Both have been added to the page.)
David J. Vance
Oakwood Cemetery, Fremont, Ohio

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pvt. John Grabach: Third Ohio Cavalry at Lovejoy's Station

During a visit to Clyde, Ohio for a family reunion, John Grabach, then living in Grand Island, Nebraska, related his experience after saving the life of a wounded comrade at Lovejoy's Station during the Civil War. Grabach served in the Third Ohio Volunteer Cavalry. The "Clyde Enterprise" published his reminiscence in the January 12th, 1899 issue of the newspaper.

Pvt. John Grabach
1843 - 1924

John Grabach died November 13, 1924 in Portland, Oregon, where he was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic Post #12. His grave remained unmarked for 85 years until a government headstone was obtained and placed by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. The above photograph is courtesy of Randy Fletcher, who took the image at the Grand Army of the Republic Cemetery in Portland and placed it on Find A Grave. As a member of the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War, Mr. Fletcher worked to complete the renovation of this cemetery in 2009, which included the replacement of a bronze statue stolen more than forty years earlier. 
"Clyde Enterprise"
January 12, 1899

About the middle of August 1864, General Kilpatrick received orders from General Sherman to take such regiments of cavalry as he wished and to the rear of the Confederate army near Atlanta and destroy all railroads, so that it would be impossible for them to move out of the city by rail. On August 17th General Kilpatrick was ready to move, with five regiments of cavalry and about 3,000 men. One of the regiments selected was the Third Ohio Cavalry of which O.M. Mallernee, J. M. Kelsey, J. Setzler, Henry Grabach, Robert Benfer, Jacob Trott, Joseph Britenburg, Orrin Buzzell, and Theodore Rickey of Clyde [Ohio] and vicinity, also John and Augustus, brothers of Henry Grabach, and the late F. VanHorn of Monroeville, husband of Mrs. Elvira VanHorn of Clyde were all members. They were ordered to carry five days rations and none but sound men and horses were allowed to go. One of the survivors now living here tells the story of what followed in the following way:

“We started in the morning, going to the extreme right of Sherman’s army and far to the left of the Confederate army (under command of General Hood) marching all night and stopping early in the morning for an hour’ s rest and to feed, but made no fires to cook coffee. By this time we were in the rear of the Confederate army. Then we started again as fast as our horses could stand it, and when night came we again stopped to feed, but built no fires nor unsaddled horses. About midnight we struck the first railroad, which we tore up, built fires and heated the rails in the middle and bent them around telegraph poles to make them unfit for further use, and as soon as the job was done we went on as fast our horses could carry us.

Track of Confederate railroads destroyed by Union troops became known as "Sherman's Neckties"

About daylight we came to another railrodad at Lovejoy Station, where we again tore up the track and destroyed the rails, but before we were ready to move we found that the enemy were firing on our pickets from every direction. They had moved quite an army from Macon on the east and from Atlanta on the west, and before we were aware of it they had us surrounded and it looked as though the only thing to be done was to surrender. However, we found that General Kilpatrick was not the kind of a man who surrenders. When an aide from the rebel general demanded our surrender, General Kilpatrick replied, “Go back and tell your general that the government don’t furnish us horses to surrender to rebels.” He quickly formed us into proper shape for a grand cavalry charge for freedom, and at the command from a signal gun we were off with drawn swords and everyone shouting at the top of his voice. We did not have far to go before we met the Confederate infantry, which were at “charge bayonets to receive cavalry.” But we went on and on, over bayonets and men. No we did not all go on. Many were killed or wounded in this charge and hand to hand fight.

H. Grabach had his horse shot, but fortunately for him he found a horse without a rider, and he went on. By this time we were badly demoralized and it was necessary to halt and reform our lines and commands, and soon the command was again on the move, but unfortunately, the Third Ohio Cavalry was put on as rear guard. We counted off our thinned ranks by fours, and every fourth man held horses while numbers one, two, and three were deployed on foot as rear guard to hold the enemy in check and give the balance of the command a chance to retreat in good order.

While on this rear guard fighting we had many men killed and wounded, and among them was Lieutenant George Garfield, a nephew of General J. A. Garfield, who was wounded in the neck and shoulder, so that he was unable to hold up his head; but the comrades, among them John Grabach, who were near to him, put him into a rubber blanket and carried him back a little ways and then again used their guns upon the enemy. But we were so hard pressed that they carried him back further. He was losing blood and was in such a condition that without care he would have died in a short time. When Garfield saw they could not carry him further, he asked if anyone of them would stay with him, whereupon John Grabach informed him that he would stay and care for him. Grabach immediately gave his arms to Lieutenant Charles Kelsey, a brother to our townsmen, James and A. I. Kelsey, who was the last man to go. In a few minutes the enemy were there, and at once traded their poor shoes for Grabach and Garfield’s good boots and the next squad traded coats etc., but offered no personal harm.

After the escape of Kilpatrick’s force the wounded were picked up, both Union and Confederate, and all the Union men that were able to be moved were sent to Andersonville prison hospital, where John Grabach was installed as wound dresser.

Up to this time, no guard had been placed over Grabach, who was the only sound Union soldier. Only his duty to his comrades kept him seventeen days after the fight, Wheeler Forgerson, a cousin to our townsman, Tom Forgerson, bunkmate of Grabach, died from a wound received in the charge, and a few days later Lieutenant Garfield had so far recovered that he was able to be moved, and he was sent to Libby Prison, an officers’ prison in Richmond, Virginia, and the other wounded had died or were on the way to recovery. Then one day an order came to the hospital from Captain Wirz for all sailors and marine men to fall in for exchange, Whereupon Grabach made up his mind he was a sailor. But the officer in charge said there were too many, and he wanted only sailors and marines, and all others should fall out. Many fell out, but Grabach still insisted that he was a marine. When they arrived at Captain Wirz’s headquarters, the roll was called. Finally a name was called and no one answered, and soon another name was called without an answer. When it was called again, Grabach answered and also another soldier, whereupon an investigation followed and the other man was decided to be the right one. Captain Wirz ordered a guard to take charge of Grabach, and after the roll was finished there were four more men than they had on the roll, and Captain Wirz ordered the guard to take them to the guard house and put them in stocks, and pointing to Grabach, he said, “ and that _____ put him in the spread eagle stocks.” They were placed there but the guards were more humane than the officers and took them out of the stocks with a promise that if any of the officers came around they must at once be placed in the stocks again until they were gone.

Libby Prison
(National Archives)
Within a few hours an order came to send all prisoners in the guard house to the train, which was loading with prisoners, as they claimed for exchange, but the real object was to keep them from falling into the hands of General Sherman. In the night, the train arrived at Macon, Georgia, and here Grabach jumped from the train and dodged the guards, and before daylight was out of the city in the open country headed for our lines. After many days of traveling by night and hiding by day, and being fed by the escaped prisoners’ friend, the black man, he was retaken just before reaching our lines.

Again he was a prisoner, and this time he was taken to Millen, being the first of a lot of 35 to be put into this prison stockade, but in a few days it had been increased five thousand. One day after a few weeks of prison life he with a squad of others was taken outside of the stockade to carry in some wood. When the opportunity offered, Grabach dropped behind a big log and again made his escape, and commenced his lonely march by night and sleeping in woods and fields by day, and after many nights of marching, hunger, and cold he was again recaptured.

Again he was a prisoner of war and was being taken to Florida. While going through Savannah with other prisoners he again made his escape, this time by playing off sick, being apparently in such condition that he could not go any farther. Here in the city of Savannah for several weeks he was cared for by a German family and often went downstreet where almost every day some prisoners were being put aboard transports for exchange. One day he found an opportunity to fall into the ranks of prisoners for exchange. He got on board the transport as one of them with much difficulty. This time he was successful in gaining his liberty and in due time arrived in Annapolis, Maryland, and then came to his home near Clyde, Ohio, and in a few weeks rejoined his regiment at Gravelly Springs, Mississippi, where he was mustered out of the army in February, 1865, having been a prisoner about five months, and about four months after his term of three years service had expired.”

For several years after the war, he lived in Clyde, but for many years he has lived in Nebraska, which is now his home. For the past few weeks he has been revisiting this, the home of his younger manhood, and participating in the Grabach family reunion.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Family of George and Deborah Godette

Charles Weiker of Fremont, Ohio shared this story and these images of his family. At Find A Grave, you'll see further images and information posted by Godette family members.

James Godette, Jr.
The family of George and Deborah Godette’s French connection derives from Jean Gaudet, the progenitor of Gaudet/Godette descendants in North America. He was born ca. 1575 in Martaize Vienne, France. He and his family along with his brother Aubin Gaudet arrived in Port Royal, Acadia in 1636. Jean Gaudet was a farmer who raised cattle and sheep and cultivated his acres of land in the Annapolis Basin for over 30 years, caring and providing for his family in his new homeland. Jean Gaudet died in the year 1672 in Port Royal, Acadia.

Nearly a century later, between 1755 and 1762, it became a very tumultuous and tragic time for Acadians. It was in those years that the British authorities decided to enforce the deportation orders. Acadians were stripped of their rights and placed on overcrowded vessels bound for unrevealed destinations. The events were horrendous and marked the memories of the exiled and their descendants for decades to come.

Acadia, Annapolis Basin

As with so many of those who were exiled; George Godette’s definitive destination cannot be fully documented due to the uncertainties of acceptance and survival of the assorted deported.  What can be determined within his timeline of exiled events is his connection by marriage to Deborah George, whose family is documented to be living in Craven County, North Carolina as early as 1753. Deborah’s brother, Peter, was listed in a Company of Foot Soldiers commanded by Captain Abner Neale by Commission bearing the date of April 11, 1753 for the District between the Head of Slocombs Creek to the Head of Turnagain Bay.  The first known record in Craven County, North Carolina for George Godette, himself, is his being excused from paying taxes in September of 1780 due to the fact that he was crippled.

Among the children of George and Deborah Godette were Peter Godette and Deborah Godette. Deborah married Isaac Perkins, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War. He enlisted for three years, was granted a pension, which was repealed and later restored.

Peter Godette married Sarah Barber in 1797 in Craven County, North Carolina. They were the parents of John Godette, who married Clarissa Jackson. The laws of North Carolina allowed free people of color to have a license to carry guns. The names of John Godette and his sons William Godette and James Godette appears on lists dated September 1851; June 1852; and September 1854.

As mixed raced people they were free and had rights, but conditions before the start of the Civil War became unsettled and unsatisfactory for them. The relationships between ethnic groups was of a fluid nature among early working class people, before legalized slavery and stringent laws unnaturally and unnecessarily strained and defined color lines.

For whatever the reasons, decisions were made within the family of John and Clarissa Jackson Godette. Some of the family would remain in Beaufort County, North Carolina and continue their lives there. Those who chose to stay were: John and Clarissa Godette, their son, William Godette and his family; and their daughter, Ellen Godette Cannon and her family.

Those who chose to go with a group of 60 people for the migration to Ohio were three of John and Clarissa Jackson Godette’s children and their families: Elizabeth “Patsy” Godette Laughinghouse; James and Elizabeth Driggers Godette; and John and Linda Godette Blackwell. They left before the start of the Civil War and made their way northward to Ohio, settling in the communities of Oberlin, Pittsfield, and Kipton in Lorain County; Fremont in Sandusky County; and Elmore in Ottawa County.
Godette Family Home in Pittsfield, Ohio (ca. 1860s)
James Godette, Sr. and Elizabeth Driggers Godette; and two of their daughters, Henrietta and Josephine

They were true pioneers in the very sense of the word, as are many of their descendants to this day. Among them were two of the sons of James and Elizabeth Driggers Godette of Lorain County: William and Alfred Godette. The two brothers moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they joined the city’s fire department. William Godette joined in 1885 and rose through the ranks to captain during his 41 years of service. Younger brother Alfred joined in 1909 and died fighting a fire in 1921, the ultimate sacrifice for service.

William Godette, St. Paul, Minnesota

The new St. Paul Fire Department Headquarters and Station 1 is now named the William and Alfred Godette Memorial Building to honor their memories. It was formally commissioned and opened in September 2010

Alfred Godette
1874 - 1921
(Courtesy of Find-a-Grave)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Hughes Granite Company Created Ohio's Enduring Civil War Memorials

The name Hughes Granite is long gone from Clyde, Ohio, but the exceptional markers, monuments, and memorials the company created remain a physical presence throughout the eastern half of the United States. Carmi Sanford founded the company in the 1880s. After Sanford’s death in 1893, his brother-in-law William E. Hughes oversaw operations. Under his management, the firm flourished becoming one of the best-known granite companies in the United States.

The secret to Hughes’ success was quality. He purchased stone directly from quarries in Scotland, New York, and Vermont. The company employed as many as 55 master stonecutters, sculptors, and engineers. Its most skilled sculptor was James B. King who, like several other Hughes employees, came from Scotland to work for Hughes.

Located on East Buckeye Street in Clyde, the Hughes Granite cutting room featured the most modern tools for cutting, polishing, and carving. The end product was a beautifully executed, high quality, durable marker.

An astute businessman, Hughes also perfected the use of ventilation in designing mausoleums and crypts. His American Mausoleum Company constructed more than 100 mausoleums nationwide, including the Inglewood Park Mausoleum in Inglewood California.
Perhaps the company’s greatest success came when the state of Ohio selected its designs to memorialize its Civil War dead. Competing against 11 other firms, Hughes won the contract to create 34 monuments for Ohio’s fallen at Shiloh battlefield near Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. Employees described their efforts as a “labor of love and duty.” In addition to creating the monuments, the company agreed to deliver them to the site. The monuments were transported to Tennessee by rail and barge. Each 16-ton monument was raised from the river up the 100-foot bluff to the battlefield.

In the spring of 1902, during a ceremony at Shiloh, the state dedicated the monuments to its native sons. One Ohioan accurately predicted “the beautiful memorials… will stand and be admired by future generations when the memory of those who created them has been forever buried in oblivion.” And so it is.

Hughes Granite and Marble Company may be lost to time, but its inspired work lives on as part of the sacred landscape of Andersonville and the Civil War battlefields of Shiloh, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Antietam, and Chickamauga.

Read about the Hughes Granite and Marble Company in-depth at Sandusky County Scrapbook.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Anna Pittenger McMeens: Civil War Nurse

Anna McMeens (with purse) and Cooke Family Members
Anna Pittenger McMeens may have been one of the first nurses to serve in a military hospital during the Civil War. When her husband, Dr. Robert R. McMeens enlisted as the surgeon of the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Anna assisted her husband at the military hospital at Camp Dennison.

She traveled with him to Nashville, Tennessee, where he served as Acting Medical Director of the Tenth Division. He oversaw the Union’s 800-bed military hospital. Anna returned to Sandusky when her husband left Nashville with his regiment. She immediately began working with the Sanitary Commission to provide medical supplies for soldiers in the field.

Cooke Castle on Lake Erie's Gibraltar Island, 1901
She never remarried after the death of her husband in 1862. She traveled to Washington, D. C., where she worked in military hospitals for more than a year. Following the war, Anna McMeens managed the summer home of Jay Cooke, financier of the Civil War. Cooke Castle is located on Lake Erie’s Gibraltar Island.

A sketch of Anna McMeens in Woman's Work in the Civil War (published 1867) highlights her contributions during the conflict. It states that after the Civil War, and while at Gibraltar Island, she took part in missionary work among the sailors of Lake Erie.

If anyone can identify the organization or the Lake Erie's sailors missionary work in which Anna McMeens participated as early as 1867, I would appreciate hearing from you.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Coming North: Martha Laughinghouse Weiker

My search for photos of African American Civil War soldiers led to a conversation with Charles Weiker of Fremont, Ohio. He not only provided a photo, but also shared these photos and this fascinating story of another of his remarkable ancestors who came to Ohio, eventually settling in Sandusky County at the time of the Civil War…. 

Martha Laughinghouse Weiker holding son Charles. Son Walter stands at her side (ca. 1888)
Martha Laughinghouse Weiker was born in 1848 in New Bern, Craven County, North Carolina; the 2nd daughter of Ajax and Elizabeth “Patsy” Godette Laughinghouse. The family of freeborn mulattoes traces its history to Ajax’s great-grandfather, Andrew Laughinghouse, who actually wasn’t a Laughinghouse at all.

Around 1769, a shipwreck occurred along the treacherous shoals of the North Carolina coast. The only survivors of the vessel were a small boy and his small body servant. That child was Andrew, who along with his slave, was taken in by the family of Thomas and Patience Smith Laughinghouse of Beaufort County, North Carolina. When questioning the boy (who must have been well off because he traveled with a servant) neither he nor his servant, due to their young ages, could tell the Laughinghouse family what Andrew’s last name was. Andrew was raised as one of the family and adopted the Laughinghouse surname as his own.

Martha’s oldest family lineage is through her mother’s side, stretching to the saga of Margaret Cornish, who at the age of nine, was kidnapped from her homeland of African Angola in the Mbundu nation within the kingdom of Ndongo and was put aboard a Spanish slave ship. The ship was captured by an English pirate ship that took its selected human cargo to Jamestown in 1619.

Margaret Cornish, along with her generations of descendants, lived their lives through a myriad of changing laws in the English colonies that slowly and blatantly circumvented their rights because of their mixed bloodlines. But they persevered despite difficulties.

In time, laws and events would converge and create a situation for free people of color. Just before the start of the Civil War, unsettled and unsatisfactory conditions relative to slavery as practiced in the South, led to the organization of a group of 60 people who migrated to Ohio. Members settled in Oberlin, Pittsfield, and Kipton in Lorain County, Ohio; Fremont, in Sandusky County, Ohio; and Elmore in Ottawa County, Ohio. Patsy and her daughters eventually settled Fremont around 1863.
703 Ohio Avenue
Fremont, Ohio
Back Row (standing l to r ) Charles Weiker, unknown, Walter Weiker, Sarah Weiker Willey, William Dixon, Clara Weiker Dixon, Charles Cooper, Catherine Weiker Cooper, Gardner Willey
Second Row (seated l to r) unknown, unknown, Philip Weiker, Catherine Smith, Martha Laughinghouse Weiker, daughters of Clara Dixon Weiker, Clara Cooper
First Row (boys seated: l to r) Tom Weiker, Fred Cooper

In 1874, Martha married Philip Weiker at the Four Mile House. Following their marriage they located to a farm in Riley Township. Years later they moved into Fremont, where they built a house on the corner of Ohio Avenue and Mulberry Street. The residence still stands today. Philip and Martha had 10 children of their own. They also raised 2 other children.

Martha was a devoted member of the A.M.E. Church on Second Street for more than 50 years. She took an active part in church work, becoming an honorary member of the Missionary Society. After living a full life with family and friends, and perhaps, sometimes pondering over the miles and years before and after the migration that brought her family North, she passed away in 1932 at the age of 84.

A version of this article appeared earlier in Lifstyles 2000.

Monday, August 29, 2011

John Evans: Civil War Sailor

U.S.S. Carondelet
(Courtesy of the Naval Historical Center)

When attempting to document the Civil War service of Sandusky Countians, it was difficult and at times impossible to identify those who served in the U. S. Navy. Unlike infantry regiments that were largely formed from specific geographic areas, there were few clues leading to the enlistments of Navy personnel. Generally those identified came from post-war biographical sketches, county histories, obituaries, records of veterans’ organizations, service records, and extant diaries and letters preserved by descendants. A recently discovered obituary appearing in the January 26, 1899 issue of the “Clyde Enterprise” revealed the extraordinary naval service of Sandusky Countian John Evans. Evans resided on East Street in Clyde, Ohio, where he died at the age of 72.

John Evans was born in Ireland, May 1, 1826, of English parents. He entered the English navy about 1850, serving for six years, part of the time during the war between the allied powers and Russia known as the Crimean War, and was in the siege of Sebastopol. After the close of the Crimean War, he was discharged and came to America, settling at Sandusky, Ohio in 1857, where he lived until 1861. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy at New York December 18, 1861 and served for over three years, being in the Mississippi and Gulf squadrons under Porter and Farragut, taking part in the naval engagements at Island No. 10, April 8, 1862; Fort Pillow May 10, 18626; Memphis, June 5, 1862; Vicksburg, May, June and July, 1863; and in the Red River Expedition under General Banks, where the Navy under Porter saved Banks’ Army from complete destruction.

For meritorious conduct, he was promoted to gunners mate, and was discharged from the U. S. ship Carondelet as gunners mate in charge. On May 17, 1865, he enlisted in Company C, 5th U.S. Veteran Volunteers, for one year, and was discharged March 25, 1866.

After his discharge he lived in Fremont, Ohio, two years, then moved to Sandusky where on February 1, 1869, he was married to Mrs. Nancy E. Reed. One year later, they came to Clyde, which has since been his home. He wife died in 1887, since which time he and his daughters have lived in the home on East Street where he died.

Besides possessing a remarkable naval and military record, deceased was an industrious, hard-working man, who had the respect of all who knew him. One daughter, Maria Evans, and four step-children survive him.

The Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (Naval Historical Center) provides the following proud history of the Carondelet.

She was an ironclad river gunboat, was built in 1861 by James Eads and Co., St. Louis, Mo., under contract to the War Department; commissioned 15 January at Cairo, III., naval Captain H. Walke in command, and reported to Western Gunboat Flotilla (Army), commanded by naval Flag Officer A. H. Foote.

Between January and October 1862 Carondelet operated almost constantly on river patrol and in the capture of Forts Henry and Donelson in February; the passing of Island No. 10 and the attack on and spiking of the shore batteries below New Madrid, Mo., in April; the lengthy series of operations against Plum Point Bend, Fort Pillow, and Memphis from April through June, and the engagement with CSS Arkansas on 15 July, during which Carondelet was heavily damaged and suffered 35 casualties.

Transferred to Navy Department control with the other ships of her flotilla on 1 October 1862, Carondelet continued the rapid pace of her operations, taking part in the unsuccessful Steele's Bayou Expedition in March 1863. One of those to pass the Vicksburg and Warrenton batteries in April 1863, Carondelet took part on 29 April in the five and one-half hour engagement with the batteries at Grand Gulf. She remained on duty off Vicksburg, hurling fire at the city in its long siege from May to July. Without her and her sisters and other naval forces, the great operations on the rivers would not have been possible and Northern Victory might not have been won. From 7 March to 15 May 1864, she sailed with the Red River Expedition, and during operations in support of Army movements ashore, took part in the Bell's Mill engagement of December 1864. For the remainder of the war, Carondelet patrolled in the Cumberland River. She was decommissioned at Mound City, III., 20 June 1865, and sold there 29 November 1865.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Veritable Flotilla of Rare DART Boats at the Toledo Classic and Antique Boat Show August 27 and 28

The "Bootlegger," 1929 26-foot Dart

Sponsored and organized by Ramsey Brothers Restorations of Toledo, Ohio, the Fifth Annual Antique and Classic Boat Show took place on the weekend of August 27th and 28th. This year's featured boat was the Dart, a stylish vessel first built in Lima, Ohio, at the Indian Lake Boat Company and later at Toledo, Ohio by a group of investors headed by Admiral Webb Hayes, grandson of President Rutherford B. Hayes. Read more about the famed Dart boat by following this link to an earlier post where you can also see a 1928 video of the Hayes family in a Dart on Lake Erie.

Perhaps as few as 35 Darts exist worldwide. Thanks to the efforts of the Ramsey Brothers and Dart owners, visitors were treated to the rare opportunity of seeing FIVE Dart Boats in one location! The video clips immediately above and below are of the "Bootlegger," a 26- foot 1929 Dart. 

The "Bootlegger" 1929 26-foot Dart

Below is a video clip of an unrestored 22 1/2-foot Dart, once owned by the United States Coast Guard and used during Prohibition to chase down bootleggers hauling liquor across Lake Erie from Canada to the U.S. Owner Scott Ramsey displayed this great classic at the boat show.
Scott Ramsey's 22-1/2 foot Dart once owned by the U. S. Coast Guard

Check out the Youtube footage of Scott Ramsey putting his 1927 unrestored Dart through her paces on the Maumee! 

Two more rare Dart boats on view at the 5th Annual Toledo Classic and Antique Boat Show

Special thanks go to Ramsey Brothers Restorations for making it possible for so many to see these vintage boats that not only included the rare Dart, but also restored Lymans and Chris Crafts that are so much a part of the heritage of Great Lakes recreational boating. Owners came from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida to display their classics. The weekend show also included displays of historic Great Lakes lighthouses, shipping, postcards, books, and memorabilia; great food and music; and antique autos. 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

United States Mint Launches Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential $1 Coin

On August 18th, residents of Fremont, Ohio and the surrounding area celebrated the release of the new Presidential $1 Coin honoring Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. “The Presidential $1 Coin series connects us to the wellspring of our nation’s government and the many stories that unite us,” said Marc Landry, Acting Associate Director of Manufacturing of the United States Mint. “One of those is captured here at Spiegel Grove, the beautiful home where President Rutherford B. Hayes retired from elected office but remained a dedicated public servant, helping veterans, improving prisons and fighting for universal education.

Over 400 people joined Hayes Presidential Center Director Tom Culbertson, Sandusky County commissioners Terry Thatcher and Dan Polter, Fremont Mayor Terry Overmyer, U. S. Representative Bob Latta, and Ohio State Representative Rex Damschroder for the official coin launch.

Free dollar coins were available to children 18 and under who attended the ceremony on the front lawn of the Hayes home, while Fremont-based Croghan Colonial Bank was on site to exchange dollar bills for the new Hayes coins for everyone else. The bank had nearly sold out of the 12,000 coins it brought to Thursday's event, although the Hayes coins will be available at the bank's main branch.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Toledo Antique & Classic Boat Show: August 27 and 28, 2011

On August 27th and 28th, Toledo, Ohio's annual Antique and Classic Boat Show takes place at Toledo's Maritime Center at 1701 Front Street on the banks of the Maumee. It's a treat! You'll see some of those great vintage  boats from the 1920s to the 1960s that were so much a part of summer recreation on the Great Lakes. 

This year, the focus will be on the DART BOAT. From 1928 to 1932, Admiral Webb C. Hayes II, grandson of President Rutherford B. Hayes, headed a group of investors who built the famed Dart (first built at Indian Lake Boat Company in Lima, Ohio.) The Dart was offered in four models – an 18 ½-foot; 22 ½-foot; 26-foot and 30-foot, ranging in price from $1,500 to $5,000. There were three-cockpit, split-cockpit, open and sedan models to choose from. The queen of the fleet was the 30-foot Gold Dart with its 125 horsepower Chrysler Imperial engine. You can read more about the Dart on our earlier post by clicking on this link. You will also enjoy the displays of books, postcards, and artifacts of the Great Lakes as well food, music, and antique autos! It's a great way to spend the weekend!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Casper Miller: Sandusky County Ohio Civil War Soldier

Casper Miller
The above 16" x 20" image is believed to be that of Casper Miller of Ballville Twp. Sandusky County, Ohio. It was recently donated to the Hayes Presidential Center by Harriet Stiger Liles of Coral Gables, Florida. The photograph was given to Mrs. Liles in 1965 by one of Casper's granddaughters, Helen Miller Newman, the daughter of John Henry and Mary C. Miller. Mrs. Newman and Mrs. Liles taught at the Old Fort School in Old Fort, Ohio.

Casper Miller was born in Switzerland October 5, 1832. He came to the United States in 1854 and became a naturalized citizen. He married Mary A. Diehr March 4, 1858. Mary was born in Germany January 6, 1839. She was the daughter of John and Mary Diehr, also of Ballville Twp. Casper and Mary Miller were the parents of Louis, Willie, John Henry, and Rosie.

Casper died in Ballville Twp. Sandusky County September 13, 1910. Mary Diehr Miller died in Ballville Twp. February 6, 1917. Both are buried in the McGormley Cemetery.

A single individual by the name of Casper Miller appears on a list of Civil War draftees for Sandusky County. The document is part of the Local History Collection at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center. Casper Miller is believed to have enlisted as a private in Company C of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry raised largely in Sandusky County, Ohio.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Senator George Norris: Gentle Knight

Few Ohio children came in direct contact with the Civil War, but many who lived through those years were deeply affected by the conflict for the remainder of their lives. George Norris was one. Born not far from Clyde during the war’s first year, George was the youngest of 11 children and the only surviving son of Chauncy and Mary Mook Norris.

Of course, I had known that as a U. S. congressman and senator from Nebraska, Norris had exerted extraordinary power and influence during his 40-year career in Washington. What I didn’t know until reading his autobiography, “Fighting Liberal,” was the extent to which those childhood years had shaped his attitudes and motivated his every action throughout adulthood.

John Henry, Norris’ much older brother, had held a special place in their mother’s heart. Although she made John promise that he would not enlist, he eventually joined the 55th Ohio. At the Battle of Resaca, John wrote his mother that a bullet had pierced his leg. He assured her that it was only a minor wound, but word soon came that John Henry was dead from infection.
Norris Family Marker
York Free Chapel Cemetery
Courtesy of Don Heuring

Norris remembered that “my father’s death [some months later] intensified my mother’s grief over the loss of John. I never heard a song upon the lips of my mother. I never even heard her hum a tune. The song of life…. was silenced forever in the bitter grief and sorrow of those years between 1864 and 1867. The war ended, and the young men came back, but John slept in a soldier’s grave in the blackened southern countryside. There were times when it seemd that her heartache over her son never would pass.”

From that day forward, Mary Norris relied on faith, family, friends, and hard work. There were no government programs to serve as a safety net for families on the frontier, struggling to survive in an economy built on physical labor. As Norris tells it, not only did his mother spin, weave, wash, cook, sew, and can, but she worked in the fields and handled the family’s finances.

His childhood memories of his mother’s grief and “grim drudgery and grind which had been the common lot of eight generations of American farm women” never left him. That vision of loss and of so many grown old before their time drove Norris to find ways to improve the lives of America’s farm families in whom he believed so deeply.

Today it is difficult to comprehend that only 10% of America’s farms had electricity during those years. Norris knew that hydropower could dramatically change their lives. Tempered by childhood adversity, the “Gentle Knight,” as many called him, was up to the challenge. From 1912 to 1933, right through the Great Depression, he fought on, enduring presidential vetoes and resistance from his own party. In the end, he was victorious. The Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Electrification Act that soon followed, tamed the Tennessee River and brought flood control, hydropower, and light to thousands of poor farm families across a six-state region. One insightful journalist wrote that “the powerful senator had fought for the poor and the beaten down…and he seemed never to forget that in his own time he had been among them…” .

Louis Baus' Great Lakes Commerical Shipping Photographs

As an Ohio native and three-time governor, President Hayes held a deep interest in the state’s history. He was an early member of area historical societies. He collected original materials that help tell the stories of the people who settled and developed the region. Since the Hayes Center’s creation in 1916, collecting and preserving the area’s history has remained part of the institution’s mission.

Among the Hayes Center’s holdings is the Charles E. Frohman Collection. The wide-ranging archive of unique materials chronicles the lives of those who shaped the future of the Erie Islands and the communities of Lake Erie’s Western Basin. It is a rich collection of books, papers, photographs, and maps of which more and more are digitized. Through support from the Sidney Frohman Foundation, some 2,400 photographs now appear online at Lake Erie’s Yesterdays through OhioLINK’s searchable image database.

Recent efforts have focused on photographs of ships that once plied the waters of the Great Lakes. The photographs were taken and collected by Louis Baus. A long time Cleveland, Ohio photographer, Baus worked independently and then as a staff writer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A native Clevelander, Baus in his later years was fascinated by commercial shipping on the Great Lakes. As a member of the Great Lakes Historical Society, he spent many days traveling and photographing American and Canadian vessels.

Before his death in 1949, Baus had compiled 18 albums of more than a thousand pictures of Great Lakes ships. There are pictures of tugs, freighters, ferries, mail boats, lumber and car carriers, barges, and the ports and harbors they called home. His original black and white prints fill most of the albums, but Baus also collected drawings, pen and ink sketches, and photographs by others. For each vessel, he wrote a capsule history.

You can search Lake Erie’s Yesterdays for a picture of a single ship by entering its name or the entire collection by entering “Baus.” Whether viewing his albums in their entirety at the Hayes Center or online, one gains a sense of those vibrant days when vessels carrying wheat from the Great Plains, ore from Minnesota, and timber from Michigan dominated the Great Lakes. At the same time, one can’t help but be struck by the number of ships lost in storms, collisions, and groundings, taking lives and fortunes to the bottom with them.

Louis Baus’ passion for the region’s waterways extended beyond the Great Lakes. Between 1896 and 1933, he traveled and photographed the entire length of the old Ohio Canal - from Cleveland to Portsmouth. In 2004, the University of Akron purchased Baus’ collection of photographs of canal boats, crews, passengers, locks, and businesses along the canal ways. His more than 400 photographs can be viewed on the university’s website.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Sarah Ellen Drew, 1838 - 1940

Documenting the lives of African Americans of Sandusky County, Ohio is not an easy task! In depth research by Charles Weiker of Fremont, Ohio has identified some of the families. Many were related either before coming to Sandusky County or by marriage after their arrival.

One of the most well known in the community was Sarah Ellen Drew, wife of Thomas Drew, who came to Fremont in 1880. In March of 1933, Sarah, was interviewed by Juel Reed of the Fremont News Messenger. That interview provides a rare glimpse into the life of a child born into bondage in Frederick County, Maryland and enslaved in Loudon County, Virginia as a young woman during the Civil War.

At the time of the interview, Sarah, 95 years of age, was living alone at the home she and her husband had built at 541 Second Street in Fremont. Her husband had died 25 years earlier. She had also lost a son and a daughter.

Sarah was born into slavery on a plantation owned by the Crummel family of Frederick County, Maryland. She said, “I did everything around the farm – milked cows, rode horses, did all kinds of general work.” Sarah stated that later she “went into service across the Virginia line. There were lots of tobacco fields there – no cotton – they don’t raise it there – not far enough south.”

Sarah frequently went with her master and mistress to Baltimore and Washington, D. C. Shortly after President Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, she attended an affair at which he was present and had the privilege of shaking his hand. She recalled, “He was a wonderful man – not handsome – but so kind looking. We all loved him.”

Two months after the firing on Fort Sumter, Sarah heard the first rumblings of guns near the Loudon County, Virginia plantation, where she lived. “I can still see them bringing the wounded men in – wagon load after wagon load. Some of them were screaming and praying for someone to shoot them and put them out of their misery. Every church was full and they quartered them in every house. Even the place where I was in service had some. I remember seeing 15 of them on the floor of one room. And the way they were buried! They died like flies, and even yet I can see them burying men in boxes that weren’t fit to put a dog in they were so rough. They died so fast they had to get rid of the bodies in some way, I guess.”

When the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, Sarah returned home to her father, her mother having died the previous year. “We were crazy with joy. Remember, we were in bondage all those years, and the thought of being free was almost too much.”

Sarah’s three brothers fought in Union regiments. Immediately after the surrender, she received a letter from one of her brothers stating. “We ate breakfast in Richmond this morning and not a shot was fired. But the panic was awful. Women and children ran all over screaming. We had to order them inside the houses.”

When freedom came, her father moved on a small farm of his own, and a few years later, Sarah married Thomas Drew, who had come from Jefferson County, Virginia. Three months each winter, Sarah did housework for wealthy families in the vicinity. When one of them, the Raifsnyders, came to Fremont in 1880, Sarah came with them.

Recalling her arrival in Fremont, Sarah laughed, saying, “It was the furtherest I’d ever been up north. Do you know what impressed me the most – the board walks! I’d never heard they had them up here, but I never saw them before. Down south we had flagstones.”

Sarah recalled the celebration in Fremont the following spring when the Hayes family returned to Spiegel Grove. A short time later, her husband Thomas and their children joined her in Fremont. When the Raifsnyder family moved away, Sarah worked for the Stanley Thomas and Grund families.

She later worked for the Hayes family. She recalled, “They were grand people. I don’t know as there were any nicer white folks any place. Whenever they were short handed at the Grove they always called me. Sometimes I cooked for them and some times when they had big affairs I’d usher. And Mrs. Hayes! She was the most wonderful person to work for you could imagine. Why, I remember that several times she drove me home. They had a white horse – his name was Nimrod – and the carriage would bring me right up here to my door.” Henry Drew, Sarah’s son, also worked for the Hayes family. Application for probate of will of Thomas Drew by his widow Sarah Ellen Drew
She remembered the days when Colonel Webb Hayes and Fanny Hayes, children of President and Mrs. Hayes, were young. “After Miss Fannie married and went to Washington, she used to come back here to visit real often. She had a colored nurse for the baby, and she used to bring the nurse over here to visit me.”

In her final years, Sarah Drew lived for a time at the Sandusky County Infirmary. Benefiting from an “old age pension,” Sarah moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where she resided with her granddaughter, Sadie Whiteside. Sadie (born Sarah Ellen Drew) was the daughter of Thomas and Sarah’s son, Cornelius Henry Drew.

Sadie had married Leander Dixon, a son of William M. and Elizabeth Dixon. William M. Dixon was a Civil War veteran and member of Fremont’s Eugene Rawson G.A.R. Post. After the death of Leander, Sadie Drew Dixon married William Whiteside. Sarah Ellen Drew died at Sadie’s home in Oberlin in January of 1940 at the age of 102. Services were held at the Warren A. M. E. Church in Fremont, Ohio, where Sarah Drew had been a devoted and active member. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Fremont.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hayes Presidential Center Exhibit: Civil War: Battlefield & Homefront

The Hayes Presidential Center commemorates the 150th anniversary of America ’s Civil War with the opening of its exhibit, CIVIL WAR: Battlefield & Homefront on April 12th, the date that marks the first shots fired on Fort Sumter . The Civil War touched the lives of all Americans. More than 300,000 men, nearly a tenth of Ohio’s citizens participated in the war.

Through the holdings of the Hayes Presidential Center and the L. M. Strayer Collection, Battlefield and Homefront explores the wartime experiences that changed forever the lives of Ohio soldiers and the families and communities who supported them.

The exhibit provides visitors with a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and suffering of soldiers and families who lived through four long years of war.

On loan from Civil War expert and dedicated collector Larry Strayer are photographs, documents, and artifacts of Northern Ohio soldiers. Included are the field trunk and a rare canvas and wood cot that belonged to Dr. Robert R. McMeens of Sandusky who served with the Third Ohio Volunteer Infantry and became Acting Medical Director of the Tenth Division. McMeens’ name appears on the cot that was patented in 1858.

Although desperately ill, McMeens refused a furlough, believing it was his duty to follow his “friends in their fate.” On the night of October 29, 1862, Dr. McMeens performed two surgical operations on soldiers wounded at the Battle of Perryville. Hours later, he collapsed and died. McMeens’ possessions, including his cot, were brought back to Sandusky by his devoted attendant.

Following his death, his widow Anna cared for soldiers in hospitals in Washington, D. C. Featured in the exhibit is her autograph book that is a part of the Hayes Presidential Center’s holdings. The book contains more than forty signatures of prominent individuals including that of President Abraham Lincoln.

Through decades of research, Strayer has gained extensive knowledge of Ohio’s role in the Civil War, its regiments, and the soldiers who fought for the Union cause. Strayer says “that the families of Civil War veterans and their descendants were more inclined to save martial artifacts such as guns and swords rather than cups, spoons, bedding, and cots” that were necessities in soldiers’ daily lives. Although it may take years to accomplish, Strayer finds it especially rewarding to once again, bring together groupings of individual soldiers’ Civil War possessions.

CIVIL WAR: Battlefield & Homefront is made possible through funding from Diversified Insurance and Auto-Owners Insurance. Exhibit hours are 9 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday and noon until 5 pm Sunday. The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center is located at the corner of Hayes and Buckland avenues in Fremont, Ohio. The facility is affiliated with the Ohio Historical Society.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion, Port Clinton, Ohio

Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion

The above photograph was donated to the Hayes Presidential Center by the late Betty Neidecker, who was extraordinarily interested in the local history of Ottawa County, Ohio. Its origin is unknown, but it is identified as Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion that began as Company H, Tank Corps, Ohio National Guard. In 1921, Company H was designated the 37th Tank Company and assigned to the 17th Infantry Division. On September 1, 1940, the 37th became Company C and was combined with three other companies.

This photograph was believed to have been taken in late November 1940, at Port Clinton a few days after the company was inducted into federal service. The men were about to depart from Port Clinton at the New York Central depot. They were headed to Fort Knox. After training at Fort Knox and Fort Polk, the unit left San Francisco for Fort Stotsenberg in the Philippines, arriving November 20, 1941. A short time later, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Later that same month, the unit saw its first combat. Company C supported the allied retreat onto the Bataan Peninsula, continually battling larger enemy forces; enduring shortages of food, water, and medical supplies, and suffering from disease. On April, 9, 1942, at the fall of Bataan, they were captured by the Japanese. The men of Company C were subjected to the infamous Bataan Death March. Those that survived were held as prisoners of war for 3 1/2 years. Only ten of the local men who left in November 1940 survived the Bataan Death March and the horrors of Japanese imprisonment.

A Memorial Wall, designed by a group of 5th and 6th grade students of Port Clinton's Bataan Memorial Elementary School, surrounds the school's flagpole. The memorial was dedicated in the spring of 1992, the 50th anniversary of the Bataan Death March. Three of the six still-living survivors were present to memorialize the bravery and sacrifice of the men of Company C, 192nd Tank Battalion.