Saturday, March 21, 2020

Ohio's Urban Oases

On a chilly but sunny day in March, I went looking, once more, for the graves of several of my ancestors. In the middle of a small wooded area, I found their markers not far from the land they had first settled in the 1820s. Several of the stones were deteriorated or broken. Another was leaning against an ancient oak where a nuthatch began scolding me as I knelt close to read the inscription. Nearby, were several spring beauties just beginning to poke their delicate petals through a mass of fallen oak leaves. It was a quiet, serene setting. I could only wonder what had befallen so many members of this family at a young age.
Thomas Hodges

Ohio has some 3,300 cemeteries. Some as tiny as the burial place I was visiting while others cover several hundred acres. According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, all told, these resting places encompass nearly 65,000 acres. This size rivals Shawnee, Ohio's largest state park.

The preservation of Ohio's cemeteries has long been important to historians and genealogists. Some were on private lands. When families moved on, many were neglected, forgotten, plowed under, and even buried beneath homes, buildings, and highways.
Benjamin Sweet

Despite these losses, many have been beautifully cared for. And almost by accident, preserved with the graves are some of Ohio’s only unplowed prairie grasses and at least two dozen types of endangered plants. The huge Green Lawn Cemetery, south of Columbus, now classified as an arboretum, features nearly every tree native to Ohio. Some of the oaks are more than 300 years old!  

Twenty per cent of Ohio’s 190 big trees can be found in cemeteries, according to the Division of Forestry. Many of these are conifers – pines and spruce. To Victorians, always fond of symbols, evergreens represented eternal life. The Department of Natural Resources notes that these cone bearing trees are a blessing to winter finches that include pine siskins, redpolls, and purple finches. Toledo’s Woodlawn Cemetery is noted among birders for its abundance of winter finches.

We can be grateful for the Victorian cemeteries that feature trees, bushes, flowers, and even bridges. Their beauty brought so much solace to those grieving for their loved ones. Today, many of these serene spaces have become Ohio’s urban oases.


Friday, February 14, 2020

Pleasants Family of Mansfield, Ohio

James Pleasants
The nearby photographs are of James Pleasants (born 1851) and of James with brothers Thomas and Jasper. They are just two of many photographs in an album donated to the Hayes Manuscripts Department. 

Thomas, James, Jasper Pleasants
The Pleasants children were the sons of Isaac Pleasants and his wife Cassandra Harper. Isaac, born in Virginia in 1821, eventually crossed the Ohio River and lived in Cincinnati where he became a barber. Later, the family moved to Columbiana County. Following Cassandra’s death, Isaac brought his three sons and three daughters to Mansfield, Ohio, where he married a second time to Rose Amanda Abraham. Together, they had four children.  

According to Mansfield news articles, Isaac, who lived on East First Street, worked to recruit volunteers for Civil War service from the city’s Third Ward. He also headed the Union Colored Sabbath School and helped found the AME church in 1875.

James grew to manhood and worked as a foreman in a local box factory and then, like his father, became a barber. He spent time in Cleveland and Sandusky. However, he returned to Mansfield where he died of Bright’s disease at the early age of 36. Like his parents and several of his siblings, he is buried in the Mansfield Cemetery.

Clada Pleasants
Courtesy of Find a Grave

James’ youngest sister,Clada, a talented musician and newspaper correspondent, took part in an 1890 concert to help raise funds for John Brown’s daughter, Mrs. Henry Thompson, then living in California in near poverty.

More can be learned about the Pleasants family and Mansfield’s African American community at the Mansfield Memorial Museum.

Friday, January 10, 2020

A Breed Apart: The 8th Kentucky Cavalry

John Van Meter

 The 8th Kentucky Cavalry was formed during the late summer of 1862 and mustered into Confederate service in September. The regiment became one of General John Hunt Morgan’s handpicked cavalry units.
In June 1863, Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan left his Tennessee camp on a raid with nearly 2,500 men, intending to divert the attention of the Union Army of the Ohio from southern forces. On July 8, 1863, Morgan crossed the Ohio River at Brandenburg, Kentucky and entered Indiana against orders. He raided, destroyed property, and stole food and horses.  After his victory at the Battle of Corydon, Morgan headed eastward into Ohio where he terrorized its citizens. Pursuing him, was Union Brigadier General James Shackelford.
Weary and with Union forces closing in, Morgan headed for the Ohio River, searching for a ford. Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes and his 23rd Ohio troops made a night march and boarded waiting steamers. He met Morgan’s men at Pomeroy, but when the cavalry raider realized he was facing Union soldiers rather than local militia, Morgan took flight. On July 19, 1863, Morgan attempted to cross the Ohio River into West Virginia at Buffington’s Island. Union forces of Brigadier General E. H. Hobson and Henry M. Judah captured between 800 and 1,200 of Morgan’s troops. Some three hundred escaped across the Ohio River.
Most of the men of the 8th Kentucky were among those captured  at Buffington’s Island on July 19, 1863. Pictured here are Privates Jesse Spencer and John Van Meter. Both had enlisted at Winchester, Kentucky in the fall of 1862 

After several days at Indiana’s Camp Morton, they, along with hundreds of Morgan’s Raiders, were imprisoned at Chicago’s Camp Douglas, one of the worst Union prison camps. Captives suffered from malnutrition, disease, torture, and exposure. The guards considered them to be “a breed apart.” Excellent organizers and possessed of leadership skills, they frequently attempted to escape by tunneling, scaling the walls, and disguising themselves as civilians.

Jesse Spencer

Spencer and Van Meter both were recaptured after escape attempts. They survived Camp Douglas and at war’s end were shipped to Point Lookout, Maryland and then south to City Point, Virginia. Still defiant, many of Morgan’s Raiders refused transportation and walked to their Kentucky homes.
Spencer and Van Meter’s photos are two of 25 taken by Camp Douglas photographer D. F. Brandon. They are part of an album originally owned by another 8th Kentucky prisoner, but today part of the Hayes Presidential Library and Museums' Local History Collection..
For a civilian account of the events of Morgan’s Raid near Glendale, Ohio, read 9-year-old Katie Huntington’s letter.on an Ohio's Yesterdays post. Click on the link below

Saturday, December 14, 2019

The Remarkable Career of Fremont Ross’ Bob Shaw

The Remarkable Career of Fremont Ross’ Bob Shaw

Bob Shaw at The Ohio State University
Courtesy of Sportsmen's Blog

Fremont Ross has always had a legacy of developing superb athletes. I learned more about one of the greats from Mike Gilbert at this fall’s History Roundtable. It was Bob Shaw! Born in 1921, Shaw was a natural, who enjoyed a remarkable career that began with the Little Giants. He was not only a player in high school, college, and the NFL, but also served as a coach at all levels.

At Ross, he lettered 3 times each in football, basketball, and track. He was First Team All-Ohio in football and basketball and won the shot put and discus at state. Six foot four and 270 pounds, he went on to play right end both on offense and defense for Ohio State. In 1942, Shaw, under the legendary Paul Brown, helped the Buckeyes win their first NCAA National Championship. He also played on the track team that won OSU’s first Western Conference crown. In 1990, he was inducted into the Ross Sports Hall of Fame and in 1996 the OSU Athletic Hall of Fame.

Shaw served in WWII, but before heading overseas, he married Mary Katherine Hawkins. He fought in Europe with the 104th Infantry Division where he earned a bronze star. Bob later completed his education at Otterbein University.

Bob Shaw’s NFL career began in 1945 when the Cleveland(Los Angeles) Rams drafted him. In his rookie year, the Rams won the championship. He later played for the Chicago Cardinals, becoming the NFL’s leader in receiving touchdowns with 12 in 1950. Bob Shaw was the first player to catch 5 touchdown passes in a single game. He was All-Pro and played in the NFL’s first Pro Bowl. He went on to play for the Calgary Stampeders and the Toronto Argonauts before retiring in 1953.   

Shaw served as a receivers coach with the Baltimore (Indiana) Colts, Chicago Bears, the 49ers, and Buffalo Bills. He was with the Baltimore Colts in 1958 when they beat the New York Giants to win the NFL championship, which many have called “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”  

Shaw appeared in Brian’s Song, the movie telling of the deep friendship between Hall of Famer Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo, who died from cancer in 1970. He was part of the first coaching staff of the New Orleans Saints. He was head coach of the New Mexico Military Institute. In the Canadian Football League, Shaw coached the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Toronto Argonauts, and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats when in 1976 he was awarded Canadian Football Coach of the Year.

At the close of his professional career, Shaw and his wife and two children returned to Ohio’s Otterbein University, where he served as head coach from 1985 – 1987. He passed away in 2011 in Westerville, Ohio. Despite his extraordinary successes and many tributes, Shaw never lost sight of reality. He once said, “You know, you have to have a good sense of humor and you have to have humility in this business…”

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Plenty Coups Meets the "Great Father"

During the 19th century, tribal delegations traveled to Washington, D. C. to visit the president at the White House. The purpose of these visits was to negotiate new treaties and to impress tribes with the progress of America’s civilization. One of those who visited was respected warrior Plenty Coups, a representative of the Crow nation living in what is today Montana.  Because Plenty Coups could speak English, the tribe knew he could help them understand the negotiations. Later, Plenty Coups told about his visit in 1880 with President Hayes.

Plenty Coups wrote, “The President said that he had sent for us to talk concerning the future of our people. He said the he wanted us to send our children to school and that they would build a house and barn for each of us. He wanted us to learn to farm. He said they were going to build a railroad through the Yellowstone Valley, but that they wanted us to make peace with the other tribes in our part of the country.”

President Hayes asked Plenty Coups and his people to leave Montana and move to land in North Dakota.

Plenty Coups

“I refused because we did not wish to leave our country.  When the President asked my reasons, I said that in North Dakota the mountains are low and that I wanted to live where the mountains are high and where there are many springs of fresh water … I said that he had asked us to do many things, but that before we could give him our answer, we would like time to talk it over among ourselves.”

The Crow leaders felt they were being held hostage until they agreed to a “yes-treaty.”  While delayed, they visited Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home.

“I was one among many visitors at Mount Vernon that day, and yet there was no talking, no noise, because we were thinking of the great past and the unknown future. When people think deeply they are helped, and in the silence there I sent my thoughts to the Great White Chief in that other life. I spoke to him, and I believe he heard me. I said: “Great Chief, when you came into power the streams of your country’s affairs were muddy. Your heart was strong, and you led them through the war to the peace you loved … As you helped your people, help me now, an Absarokee chief, to lead my people to peace. I too, have a little country to save for my children.”

After two months, Plenty Coups went home. The Crow compromised and sold some land to the U. S. government, but refused to let the railroad or telegraph lines come through their hunting grounds. Plenty Coups visited Washington many times. Through his diplomacy and strong leadership, Plenty Coups preserved the Crow nation’s land.

This image (dated February 29, 2016) is courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery. Plenty Coups' headdress is being prepared for display at the Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater Display Room by Curator Roderick Gainer (left), and, Brent Orton (right), Chief Plenty Coups removed this war bonnet from his head and placed it on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November, 11, 1921, in tribute to the Unknown.
Chief Plenty Coups was selected as the sole representative of Native Americans for the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He gave a short speech in his native tongue in honor of the soldier and the occasion. He placed his war-bonnet and coup stick upon the tomb. They are on display in a case there to this day.

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Arrow: Lake Erie's Steam Passenger Vessel

Charles E. Frohman Collection

The “Arrow” was built in 1895 by the Detroit Dry Dock Co. of Wyandotte, Michigan. She was built for the Sandusky & Island Steamboat Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, who maintained ownership for nearly 30 years.

The steel passenger steamer was lighted with electricity and accommodated 900 passengers. She made trips to many locations on Lake Erie: Kelleys Island, Put-In-Bay, Lakeside, Sandusky, Middle and North Bass Islands, Marblehead, Cleveland, Detroit, Toledo, and Port Clinton.

Arrow, with full load of passengers
Charles E. Frohman Collection

Ownership transferred various times over her approximately fifty-year lifespan. In 1923, the North Shore Steamboat Co. of Chicago, Illinois took ownership and rebuilt the vessel. She burned on the Chicago River in April 1932, however the company maintained possession until 1934.

 Arrow's crew on Lake Erie
Charles E. Frohman Collection

Two years later Chester W. Armentrout of Monroe, Michigan purchased her.  He converted the "Arrow" to a barge in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in 1936. Benjamin O. Colonna of Norfolk, Virginia bought her in 1938. For the next five years, she operated on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterways between Norfolk and Savannah, Georgia.

In the midst of World War II, H. G. Williams of Jacksonville, Florida, bought her and converted the "Arrow" into a cargo vessel. Her name was also changed to “H-165” in that same year. She served continuously during the war, carrying cargo and assisting the U.S. Maritime Commission in salvage operations.

Finally, McCormick Shipping Corporation of Panama bought her and used her as a cargo vessel in the banana trade. The "Arrow" met her demise on August 9, 1948 when she wrecked on the Barrier Reef near Hunting Cay Light, Honduras.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Jacob Souder Holtz: Seneca County Ohio Civil War Soldier

Letter by Jacob S. Holtz, 164th ONG to his Mother
22nd June, 1864
Jacob Souder Holtz, son of Jacob P. and Susannah (Huss) Holtz of Pleasant Twp. Seneca County, Ohio, attempted to enlist in a volunteer regiment for Civil War service. Due to a heart condition, he was rejected until May 2, 1864.

As General Ulysses S. Grant came east to command all of the Union armies, he strengthened his forces with the seasoned Union soldiers garrisoned at the forts defending Washington, D. C. 

Grant called up national guard units to serve as replacements at the forts. Holtz enlisted on May 2, 1864 in Company H of the 164th Ohio National Guard. He was mustered in May 11, 1864 at Camp Cleveland. The 164th was composed of the 49th Ohio National Guard from Seneca County, Ohio and the 54th  Battalion, Ohio National Guard from Summit County, On the 14th of May, Holtz was sent with the 164th to defend FtWoodbury, a part of the Arlington Line. The regiment arrived on the 17th of May. Others from the 164th defended Forts Smith, Strong, Bennett, and Haggerty

While stationed at Fort Woodbury, Holtz suffered from typhoid fever. He died July 1, 1864 in the hospital at Fort Strong, Virginia. His father brought his body home for burial in the family plot at Pleasant Ridge Cemetery, north of Tiffin, Ohio.

                                                                                              Fort Woodbury, VA June the 22 1864
                                                                                              Dear Mother

I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that I am grunting a little with a cold but it is getting better. I do not know how I got it for I am very careful what I do. I think I will be all right in a couple of days. We are getting along very well. It is very warm and dry. There is not much news here now. It is one thing every day but I am willing to stand it if they leave us here  till our time is out. It is half out. It does not seem a great while since we left home. If I keep as well the rest of the time as I did the time that is gone I will be satisfied. A fella being here will have some little spels that is shure but if a fella takes care of him self it will not last long. I hope you folks are getting along well with the work. when you write  I want you to write how you are getting along with the work. I thought I would get a letter to nigh but did not. I gues I will tomorrow. I have nothing more to write. Write soon.

                                                                                           From your Son
                                                                                                      J. S. Holtz
                                                                                           My Love to all J