Sunday, April 29, 2012

Rutherford B. Hayes Exhibit on Display at The Ohio State University

President Rutherford B. Hayes

Legendary Ohio State University football coach Woody Hayes would not have had a place to work had it not been for a man who shared his surname.

Rutherford B. Hayes was governor of Ohio in 1870 when he urged the Ohio General Assembly to pass a bill creating a land-grant university under the Morrill Act of 1862. His persistence led to passage of the bill establishing the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College in Columbus - today known as The Ohio State University.

The Hayes Presidential Center and The Ohio State University's Rare Books & Manuscripts Library have partnered to create an exhibit Rutherford B. Hayes: Buckeye President. It is on display May 9 - August 26 in Thompson Library Room 165 at The Ohio State University (1858 Neil Avenue). In addition to exploring Rutherford B. Hayes’ connection to OSU, the exhibit tells the story of his life. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Monday - Friday and noon - 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Rutherford B. Hayes: Buckeye President includes artifacts from the Center’s and The Ohio State University's collections.

*Footnote: Rutherford B. Hayes and Woody Hayes are not related.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

U. S. Coast Guard Cutter Will Bear the Name of Great Lakes Sailor

Joseph Napier
Neidecker Collection
On March 2nd, the Bollinger Shipyards held a fleet dedication at Lockport, Louisiana, only the third in its history. Louisiana dignitaries along with more than 500 others were in attendance for the occasion. Under contract to Bollinger are 14 U.S. Coast Guard Fast Response Cutters. Each will be named for a hero who holds a special place in the Coast Guard’s celebrated history. Number Ten will honor the courageous Great Lakes sailor Captain Joseph Napier. He was the son of Captain Benjamin Napier, the Lake Erie sailor who waged battle for ownership of Kelleys Island. Losing out to the Kelleys, Benjamin Napier took his family west, following his brothers to Chicago.

There, son Joseph Napier became the city’s harbormaster. In the tradition of his seafaring family, Napier built, owned, and captained Great Lakes vessels. In 1854, the citizens of Chicago presented Napier with a gold watch for leading the daring rescue of the crew of the “Merchant:” during one of the city’s most violent storms.

Captain Napier eventually settled near St. Joseph, Michigan, where he was as loved and revered as his brother Captain Nelson Napier. When the federal government built its lifesaving station in 1874, Joseph Napier was appointed its keeper. Napier and his crew were responsible for multiple rescues on Lake Michigan.

According to the U. S. Coast Guard, “the most notable occurred Oct. 10, 1877, when the schooner “D.G. Williams” broke apart approaching the port in a storm.” The schooner's crew of six clung to the rigging as Napier and three of his crewmen rowed into the violent lake. The surfboat capsized on the first effort. The crew righted and boarded the surfboat and reached the “Williams,” rescuing two sailors. Heavy waves swamped the rescue boat on their next attempt, but the volunteers bailed the water, battled rough seas, and saved two more men. On their final attempt, the crew was thrown from the boat. Napier suffered a serious leg injury. One of the rescuers threw a line to Napier, who helped right the boat and rowed it alongside the “Williams.” The last two sailors were rescued.

The U. S. Life-Saving Service, the forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard, awarded Captain Joseph Napier its first life-saving gold medal. Today the Coast Guard station at St. Joseph is located on the exact site as the station Napier oversaw. Adam Kane, the current chief of the station, said, “Joseph Napier continues to serve as an inspiration not only to the crew but also the community.”

Bollinger Shipyards announced that the “Joseph Napier” would be completed in 2014 and assigned to Miami, where the fast cutter will perform search and rescue, drug interdiction, and coastal security.

Captain Morris Rees Remembers

Captain Morris Rees

Through the recollections of Civil War soldiers, we learn that they, like others who have served in combat, struggled with the haunting memories of their experience. One of those was Captain Morris Rees, the last surviving commissioned officer of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

Before the war, Rees lived near Rollersville, Ohio, surrounded by a large number of his Welsh relatives. He remembered that at the age of 23, he “had the war fever so bad” that he left his wife and child “and went to Woodville alone in the night for the purpose of enlisting.” So filled with patriotism was Rees, that he recruited his friends, neighbors, and relatives to join him in fighting for the Union cause.

But the Civil War was not the glorious adventure Captain Rees had envisioned. He endured some of the conflict’s most horrific battles, disease, wounds, and months of imprisonment. Rees survived, but many of those he had recruited did not. After the war, Captain Rees wrote that he had “often looked at that long list of names and thought how soon they were all used up, nearly all gone in less than a year.”

Among the many Rees recruited was his uncle Evan, who died shortly after enlisting. He left behind a widow and three sons in a fragile economic state. Perhaps most painful for Rees was the death of his younger brother John. Immediately after Captain Rees’ release from prison, he went directly to Andersonville where his brother had languished near death for more than nine months. With the war nearly at an end, Captain Rees gained his brother’s freedom by threatening the Rebel guard with his life. But John was so weak that he died before reaching home.

When the veterans of the 72nd gathered for reunions, they rarely recounted their victories and their heroic war deeds. Instead, Captain Rees and others became pre-occupied with compiling and publishing the names, death dates, and burial places of their lost comrades. As survivors, it was their way of honoring the suffering and sacrifice of their lost comrades.

Sharing their memories of death and loss was not enough. Rees and 16 Sandusky County veterans returned to the South in 1887. Rees recorded the condition of the cemeteries and the exact number of graves in each. Perhaps in some way, seeing the old battlefields and cemeteries brought a measure of healing to the captain. However, he remained deeply disturbed by the “thousands of unidentified dead.”

In time, Captain Rees and other veterans worked to erect monuments at home and on the battlefields of Shiloh, Antietam, Chickamauga, and Vicksburg. In this 150th year of commemoration, the monuments serve as vivid reminders of the suffering and sacrifice of so many who gave their “last full measure” in the defining moment of our nation’s history.

A version of this post appeared in Lifestyles 2000.

Haviland China Exhibit Opens May 15th at the Hayes Presidential Center

 The Gilded Age of Haviland China

In the early 19th century Americans turned to Europe when purchasing china. When importer David Haviland was unable to satisfy his customers’ tastes for highly embellished fine china from European manufacturers, good-old American ingenuity came into play. Haviland built his own factory in Limoges, France, to turn out the finest china in the world with artistic flourishes to satisfy his U.S. customers.

The Hayes Presidential Center gathers an impressive collection of some of the earliest examples of Haviland China (1865-1895) for display in its exclusive exhibit The Gilded Age of Haviland China. The exhibit, created in partnership with regional Haviland collectors, is set to open May 15, 2012, and continues through September 16. The Gilded Age of Haviland China is supported by funding from title sponsor - the Randolph J. & Estelle M. Dorn Foundation .