Category Archives: History

History research and essays

We keep this love in a photograph

It’s been so long, I think I’ll open with something light, before I even attempt to explain the title, the cryptic detail photographs, and this post that’s been ruminating since July.

brick road

brick road

So you’ve all probably seen those amusing picture+words images on Facebook. This morning, I saw this one that had a picture of an ordinary looking house and text that said this: I went by the house I grew up in and asked if I could go in and look around. They said no and slammed the door… Parents can be real jerks.

Ba-dum ching, right?

doorknob

doorknob

Lucky me, I don’t actually have that problem – neither the parents who are jerks nor the inability to re-visit my childhood homes, because my parents still own them both. (Actually, my mom once pointed out that my father currently owns every house he’s ever lived in, with the exception of the fraternity house at college…

stairs

stairs

When I saw that thing on Facebook this morning, I got inspired to finally sit the frick down and attempt to write this post I’ve been meaning to write since July. Trouble was, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say or how I wanted to say it. To be honest, I’m still not; but I’m sitting here, and I’m writing it, so that’s something.

I say I’ve been meaning to write it since July because that was when I was last able to re-visit my first childhood home. The second one, my parents currently live in; I know I’m welcome there any time, with or without warning, and I have my own key. Now the first one, where I lived from birth until age almost-11, is a different story. Yes, I said my parents still own it, but they don’t just keep it on hand, sitting empty, for funsies; they rent it out. And I don’t know all the ins and outs of the landlord/renter relationship, but I get that it’s not really kosher to just randomly traipse people through the place even if you do own it. So, I had to wait until the place was unoccupied for my parents to take me there, and that time came this summer. The place was between renters, and it stayed empty for a few weeks while some work was being done on it, and stars (and schedules) aligned and I was able to get in and see it again.

transom

transom

Kicking back to the rumination — as I said, I’ve been filing things away for this post for months — I am reminded of a presentation I saw my supervisor give a couple of weeks ago. She was speaking to a group of college freshmen about local history, “reading” photographs, and “sense of place.” She led them in a story circle exercise, asking them questions like: Where were you born? Where are you from? and What do you consider ‘home’? (These questions all sound very similar, but they have different connotations and may elicit 3 totally different answers from the same person.) In opening up the story circle portion, she showed two photographs on the screen – an historical photograph (circa 1900) of her grandparents’ farm in Indiana and then a more contemporary photo of the same house, courtesy of Google Maps streetview. When she showed the older picture, she said that it looked more like what she remembered, and then going to the newer photo she added, “I think I’d probably cry if I saw the place today.” You, too, huh?

Judging from her inflection in that statement about crying over the current state of a beloved childhood place, I think I was crying for that same reason when I saw my old house in July. I’ll not go into details, because for one, my father wouldn’t want me to, and for another, that’s really not what this post is about. Point being, though, this most recent time, I don’t think it would confuse anyone as to why I might have been sad.

pocket door

pocket door

But this wasn’t the first time I had seen it since we moved out. I know I visited it once when I was about 12 or so (a year or two after we left). And I had been inside again once a few years ago. Both of those times, there actually were renters in it, but Mom knew I’d been wanting to see the place again, so she asked, and they assured her they didn’t mind.

Now, I don’t remember being sad or how I felt at all that time when I was 12. But the time a few years ago, the place looked perfectly fine. In fact, it was Christmas time, and the placed was all decked out with meticulously done holiday decorations, and there was literally a beautiful Christmas tree in each room of the first floor. And yet I still started sobbing in the middle of the dining room. What the hell, right?

They even asked me – I can’t remember if it was my mother or my husband – why I was crying, and I remember saying, “I don’t know.” I also remember that I knew I would cry before I went, but I couldn’t put words to why.

fireplace

fireplace

So, going back to today and that joke image about visiting your childhood home. I didn’t include the image itself in this post (except to link to it) partially because copyright (boo) and partially because I didn’t care for the look and feel of it. I spent about 20 seconds Googling “the house I grew up in” to see if I could find something similar but more attractive, but I blew that off because I “saw a butterfly” in the search results. It was another image, explaining the Welsh word “hiraeth”:

hiraeth

hiraeth

What is this? A word that sort of explains missing times and places that don’t really exist anymore? (OK, obviously the house still exists, but the house as my house, the house of my childhood no longer does.) A little more Googling on the Welsh hiraeth also led to Portuguese saudade, as well. I think both of these are probably tinged with a bit more cultural nostalgia than what I’m attempting to express, but I thought they were both pretty interesting words that are at least as close as I’ve seen, if not quite right. (I should really cease being surprised every time I have a “there’s a word for that?!” moment. I’m sure there is a word for everything; I just don’t happen to know them all.)

fireplace details

fireplace details

So what’s with all the cryptic architectural detail photos? In case you hadn’t guesses, these are from the photos I took at my old house that day this summer. (Did you really think I wouldn’t want to take a few — or a few hundred — photos of the place? Have you met me? OK, well, actually, most of you maybe haven’t…but anyway. Yeah I like photos.) The house is over 100 years old, so it has some pretty neat woodwork and other things going on, so in addition to the wide shots of every room (EVERY room), I wanted some close-ups as well.

Finally getting to the point of all the things: what does the title of this entry have to do with anything? You probably recognized it as a line from the recent Ed Sheerhan hit, aptly called “Photograph” (lyrics, music video).

The day I went to see my old house, I got off work early (so I could get there before it got too late in the evening- as this house is 2 hours from where I currently live), and of course as I was starting up the car, I was thinking of what I’d be doing that afternoon, and the first song that came on the radio as I was driving away was that song. Now, I don’t think the song is actually about a house, in any way, but when I hear these lines, I think of that moment, and I think of my house:

We keep this love in this photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Our hearts were never broken
Time’s forever frozen still

The time you can’t visit anymore? The place you maybe can’t visit anymore? At least, not as it was then; it can never be just as it was then, ever again, even if the physical space remains.

We keep this love in a photograph.

Dining room door to kitchen (2015), overlaid with Dad & me in 1983

Dining room door to kitchen (2015), overlaid with Dad & me in 1983

Please forgive my epically amateur Photoshopping skills.

Looking through the dining room to the front hall (2015), overlaid with Mom & me in 1983

Looking through the dining room to the front hall (2015), overlaid with Mom & me in 1983

I haven’t scanned a lot of my mom’s photos – mostly only my grandparents’ – so I didn’t have tons to work with already on my computer…

Dining room (2015), overlaid with my sister's baptism day in 1984

Dining room (2015), overlaid with my sister’s baptism day in 1984

…but you get the idea.

Back yard (2015), overlaid with me and Grandpa on the swingset in 1985

Back yard (2015), overlaid with me and Grandpa on the swingset in 1985

This one might be my favorite overlay:

family room (2015), overlaid with my 3rd birthday (1985) - aka the only picture of me in my underwear that you will ever find on the Internet. also, my dad built those bookcases.

family room (2015), overlaid with my 3rd birthday (1985) – aka the only picture of me in my underwear that you will ever find on the Internet. also, my dad built those bookcases.

Not an overlay but I’m sharing anyway:

Christmas 1986 (no overlay - I didn't have a shot of this particular corner but I loved this picture so I'm sharing anyway)

Christmas 1986 (no overlay – I didn’t have a shot of this particular corner but I loved this picture so I’m sharing anyway)

We made these memories for ourselves.

I have this thing hanging in my living room that says: “Home is where your story begins.” I was thinking about that this morning, in trying to figure out what I wanted to say in this post as well. I remember thinking, “That’s not necessarily accurate, depending on how you interpret it.” (Cue ridiculously pedantic explanation.) Going back to the whole story circles thing from earlier, what you currently consider “home” may or may not be the same place that your story begins, especially depending on how you choose to begin or define “your story.” I wasn’t thinking about it that hard when I bought it, and so I interpreted it that your story (your life) begins (began) at a place you consider(ed) home. Home is where a lot of your life happens (or happened).

exterior of my childhood home, 2015

exterior of my childhood home, 2015

So, that place was home. That house was the backdrop for a lot of the moments of our lives, for a lot of years. In fact, before my parents even lived there, before they were even married, the house is literally the backdrop for some important moments, such as the following, because my mom grew up in the house next-door (the one on the right):

Left, Mom on high school graduation day; middle, Mom & Dad on Mom's graduation day; right, Mom showing off her engagement ring.

Left, Mom on high school graduation day; middle, Mom & Dad on Mom’s graduation day; right, Mom showing off her engagement ring.

And because my grandparents lived next-door to that house for several years, in a longer story I won’t get into right now, my grandmother had these photos showing the house shortly after it was first built and the family who lived in it for the first 70 years:

circa 1910?

circa 1910?

original family, circa 1910?

original family, circa 1910?

I wonder what they would think of the house today? I wonder what they might have thought about the house when we lived in it? It has certainly changed a lot over the last 100 years.

So. I wanted to write a little something to commemorate my recent visit to my childhood home. And par for the course, I instead wrote a lot of something. (Again, have you met me?) I couldn’t put my finger on what it is about the place that makes me feel the way I feel about it. A bit of “neat old house,” a lot of memories and nostalgia, a lot of just me being hyper-emotional about all things micro-history (and oh god, if we’re talking about my own personal micro-history).

I think I’m all poured out. I’ll leave you with one last questionable Photoshop job, and I think I’ll peace out:

exterior 2015, overlaid with historical photo ca. 1910

exterior 2015, overlaid with historical photo ca. 1910

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Ida Grady’s Sunburst Quilt: Tracing a Stitch through Time

In January 2009, my Aunt Jeannie sent me an antique quilt that had belonged to my Grandma Coriell.

The quilt, entitled “Sunburst” per a label stitched in one corner of the quilt top, is a hand-pieced, hand-quilted “scrap” quilt, approximately 75″ x 77″ (roughly queen-sized).  (Scrap quilts usually involve lots of small pieces and use up “leftovers” from other projects, and usually have a lot more “randomness” and variety than non-scrap quilts.)

Sunburst quilt by Ida M. Grady, 1934

“Sunburst” quilt by Ida M. Grady, 1934 (click to enlarge)

Detail of hand-quilted pieces on the Ida Grady Sunburst quilt

Detail of hand-quilted pieces on the Ida Grady Sunburst quilt (click to enlarge)

Although my grandmother did make quilts, we knew that she had not made this one. We knew because the quilt was “signed” by someone else—a woman named Ida M. Grady. It was also dated 1934, which, talented as my grandmother was with all things sewing-related, was probably a little early for her to have made a queen-sized quilt, as Grandma was 8 years old in 1934.

Hand-stitched quilt label Sunburst, made 1934, Ida M. Grady

Hand-stitched quilt label: “Sunburst, made 1934, Ida M. Grady” (click to enlarge)

By way of explanation, Aunt Jeannie said: “I hope you can find a place for [this quilt] or pass it on—Grandma could tell you who Ida M. Grady is. I think a relation of your great-great-Aunt Louise…?”

Unfortunately, as often happens, I waited too long to ask Grandma about Ida M. Grady. Before I “got around to it” with wanting to figure out the mystery of this quilt, my Grandma died in June 2010. My Grandpa didn’t know who the woman was, and neither did my mother. I do have other older relatives I could ask, but I’m not close with them to the point of actually picking up the telephone to just ring them up and ask.

Plus, research (rather than people) is really more my thing anyway. So I decided to see whether I could figure out who Ida Grady was on my own using some of my favorite tools for genealogy and local history research.

So, I made a mental list of what I actually did know about the mysterious “Ida M. Grady”:

  • Ida was definitely alive in 1934, and she was also most almost certainly an adult at that time, because she made this rather large quilt.
  • Ida seems to have at least known, and possibly been related to, my grandmother’s family.
  • Since my grandmother’s family has all lived in Portsmouth, Ohio, since pretty much the dawn of time (OK just since the mid-19th century), it seemed pretty likely that Ida Grady also lived in Portsmouth. It was a good place to start, at least.

So I searched the 1930 U.S. federal census records on Ancestry for an Ida Grady in Scioto County, Ohio.

There was one. Exactly one.

Joseph and Ida M. Grady, 1410 Offnere St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 1930 census (click to enlarge)

Joseph and Ida M. Grady, 1410 Offnere St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 1930 census (click to enlarge)

Ida M. Grady, age 67, wife of Joseph T. Grady (age 76). Residence, 1410 Offnere Street. (That is on the east side of Offnere, roughly across from Melcher Funeral Home, in the block just south of Greenlawn Cemetery.)

1410 Offnere Street, Portsmouth - recent image from Google Street View (the white house with red shutters)

1410 Offnere Street, Portsmouth – recent image from Google Street View (the white house with red shutters)

Brilliant!

At first, I thought there might be some connection to my grandparents with regard to the geographic location, as they had lived only 1 block away (literally one block east) at 1326 Park Avenue for over 20 years. But they didn’t moved to Park until 1963. (And like I said, Grandma was only 8 years old in 1934.) Might they have known Ida as a neighbor or gotten the quilt at an estate auction? I don’t particularly know my grandparents to have ever attended any such thing, but it was a possibility of something they might have done, especially if it was happening right around the corner.

Then again, Ida would have been pretty old in 1963 if she was 67 in 1930. So maybe not her. Maybe a descendant who inherited the house? Then again, my grandmother had 7 children in 1963, not a lot of extra money, and the ability to make her own scrap quilts. I can’t really see her buying a random scrap quilt at an estate sale.

Obviously, I kept looking.

I found Joseph and Ida Grady again on the 1910 census, living at 1416 Offnere. (I wonder if this was really a different house, or if there census-taker made a mistake or if there was some address renumbering. If doesn’t really matter.)

In addition to Joseph and Ida, the household also included their adult daughter Pearl Zeisler and grandson Howard Zeisler.

Joseph and Ida M. Grady family, 1416 Offnere St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 1910 census (click to enlarge)

Joseph and Ida M. Grady family, 1416 Offnere St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 1910 census (click to enlarge)

Wait… Pearl Zeisler. I know that name. Why do I know that name? I’ve heard it before… I’ve seen it somewhere.

On a picture. I’ve seen it on the caption of a picture. This picture:

Pearl Zeisler with Oscar's grandchildren, 1953 (photo # sc003_E3-0077, cropped)

Pearl Zeisler with Oscar’s grandchildren, 1953 (photo # sc003_E3-0077, cropped)

(Omigod, don’t you just love the look on her face?) The above photograph, from my Grandma Coriell’s collection (yes the same grandma who owned the quilt), is captioned as depicting Pearl Zeisler, along with several children from my grandmother’s extended family, in 1953. (I do have all the names — they’re on the photo caption — but in the interest of privacy, I won’t list them, though I will tell you that the part of the infant on the right was played by my mother.) According to my mother, this photograph was taken at the home of my grandmother’s father Oscar (apparently that chair is unmistakable). The children are (some of) Oscar’s grandchildren.

Finally! A link! I already knew that my grandmother’s family knew Pearl Zeisler—I have photographic evidence of it. And so now I have discovered that Pearl Zeisler’s mother was Ida Grady, the mystery-quilt-maker.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Then I found the Grady family on the 1900 census. They lived on Offnere Street, but 4 blocks further south, at 1015 Offnere. (Man, these folks really loved Offnere Street.) That would have been on the west side of Offnere, just south of U.S. 52-east, where the road dips down for the railroad underpass, and where that little strip mall has been all my life (and now includes a Family Dollar store, apparently).

There were Joseph and Ida and their daughter Pearl, as well as another daughter named Nina.

But wait, what’s this…? Check out who’s living next-door at 1017 Offnere:

Joseph and Ida M. Grady, 1015 Offnere St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 1900 census (click to enlarge)

Joseph and Ida M. Grady, 1015 Offnere St., Portsmouth, Ohio, 1900 census (click to enlarge)

If you’re actually related to me, you probably recognize the names and you might be doing a little dance in your chair like I did. If you’re not, you are probably slightly befuddled (were you expecting a dead president or something?), so I’ll explain.

William and Katie Emnett are my great-great-grandparents. Their son, little George O. (George Oscar– everyone called him Oscar), age 5, was my great-grandfather. His daughter Sally Coriell was my grandmother, the one who owned the Ida Grady quilt that started this whole quest. Oscar’s sister Louise (also listed above) was the “great-great-aunt Louise” that Aunt Jeannie thought was somehow connected to this quilt…

So Ida Grady and my Emnett ancestors were neighbors. I suppose that probably explains how they knew one another. I suppose they might have known one another first and chosen to become neighbors (that happens! ask my husband). Actually, Joseph was a boilermaker, and William was a stove molder. I admit I’m not really sure what either of these entails, but they sound like they could be part of the same or at least related industries. (They certainly sound more similar than, say, a stove molder and a doctor.) Anyway, I’m wandering off into real speculation here, so let’s return to the facts.

At that point, I was content to believe that I had found the connection. I had certainly found a connection. The Gradys and the Emnetts were neighbors, so they must have known each other. (I even had cute little visions of Nina and Pearl Grady baby-sitting my great-grandfather and his siblings.) And at some point Ida Grady gave one of the Emnetts a quilt, which was eventually passed down to my grandmother.

So you’d think, “case closed,” right? I actually kind of did think the case was closed, but I was still sufficiently interested in this Grady family as to keep searching for more information on Ida. For instance, who were her parents?

I found her death certificate on FamilySearch — she actually died in May 1935 at age 72, only about a year after completing the quilt. The death certificate listed her parents as Alexander Dunkin and Elizabeth…well, it looked like Dunderpre to me, but that didn’t make much sense.

Ida Grady's parents, as listed on her 1935 death certificate

Ida Grady’s parents, as listed on her 1935 death certificate (click to enlarge)

That just made me all the more determined to find other sources and find out what that funny-looking “D” word actually said.

Then I came across Ancestry member Karen Engleman’s online family tree, which included Alexander Duncan and his wife and their daughter Ida. (Without going into too much detail here about the parents, trust me, I did find some other things too, and this spelling of Ida’s mother’s name seems to check out.)

Ida’s mother was Elizabeth DeGear.

DeGear.

There’s that genealogist “spidey sense” tingling again. I know that name.

I clicked on Engleman’s tree listing Elizabeth DeGear’s parents. Peter DeGear and Catherine Hibsher.   OK, now I know I’ve seen these names before. So I clicked down the list of Elizabeth’s siblings until I found one that was further familiar— Mary.

Mary DeGear and her husband Nicholas Gable. I know those two. It has been a while since I was knee-deep in much genealogy, so although the couple was ringing a major bell in my head, I still couldn’t place them.

(I was away from my main computer, with my genealogy software, at the time, so I couldn’t just call up these people in the family tree software and get the link right away.)

Children. Did Engleman list any children for Nicholas and Mary Gable? Ooh! They did! Just one on the list, but it was the one I needed to snap my brain into gear enough to solve the puzzle: George W. Gable.

George Washington Gable. I remember this guy.

He died youngish. Like 40. I remember thinking it was kind of funny that his wife Frances Adeline Ingles married another George W. afterwards. George W. Bonzo. (I’d be willing to bet his middle name was probably also Washington, but I never did learn for sure.)

And this second marriage prompted what in hindsight is kind of a funny story, but probably wasn’t at the time. When my grandparents were first married, my great-grandfather Oscar said to them (as the story goes) something along the lines, “You know you two probably shouldn’t have gotten married, as you both have Bonzos in your family tree…” (Initial mental reaction: A little late to tell us now, pops, don’t you think?) As it turns out, although my grandfather was descended from a Bonzo, my grandmother is not—she was descended from this Frances Adeline Ingles and her first husband George Gable, not her second who was George Bonzo. George Bonzo was no relation to my grandmother. But his wife was.

So, getting back to the point at hand, let’s regroup. What have I told you in a roundabout way? If Ida Grady’s mother was Elizabeth DeGear, and my grandma Sally Coriell (who had Ida’s quilt) was descended from Elizabeth’s sister Mary DeGear…….then…..Ida Grady was in fact a distant cousin of my grandmother’s.

Oh, but it gets better.

Ida was related to my grandmother’s MOTHER Ollie. Frances Adeline (Ingles) Gable Bonzo was Ollie’s grandmother. Ida and Frances were first cousins.

But the earlier connection I found was to my grandmother’s FATHER Oscar, who lived next-door to Ida when he was a boy.

So there was a double connection between Ida Grady and my grandmother, the owner of Ida’s 1934 Sunburst quilt.

Here, this should help (when in doubt, draw it out):

The Ida Grady connection, handwritten diagram (click to enlarge)

The Ida Grady connection, handwritten diagram (click to enlarge)

(A teeny, tiny, romantic part of me has gone so far as to wonder—not even speculate, but just wonder—if Ida Grady could have even been the link that caused Oscar and Ollie to meet. Ida’s cousins bring little Ollie to visit and she happens to meet little Oscar who lives next-door. And in 1921, she married him. Stranger things have happened. Oh if only I had any proof! What a great story that would make. And it would certainly up the significance of Ida Grady and her quilt to me, if I could truthfully say, “Without this woman, 100+ of my relatives would never have been born, myself included…” But….pure dreamy speculation.)

I know this has been a long, convoluted entry. It was a long, convoluted journey, and you didn’t even have to hear the things that were only in my head. (OK, who am I kidding? You have totally heard — er, read — most of them…)

But I want to wrap things up with a brief but coherent biography of Ida M. Grady, the woman who made the antique quilt that “started it all”—-as coherent a biography as I was able to piece together (no pun intended) from various sources — which I should really list here, but in the interest of space…—in general, the sources were local government records on Ancestry and FamilySearch, Ancestry user Karen Engleman’s family tree, Ida’s obituary from the Portsmouth Daily Times (thanks for emailing it to me, Portsmouth Public Library!), and some data from Find-A-Grave. With a few edits, this comes from the information sheet I wrote up and submitted with Ida’s quilt for the Wright State University Women’s Center quilt show last week:

Ida May Duncan was born June 11, 1862, in Portsmouth, Ohio. Her father Alexander Duncan, a Scottish immigrant, died of tuberculosis in 1872, leaving Ida’s mother Elizabeth with a teenage son and 3 little girls. In 1881, Ida married Joseph T. Grady, a boilermaker. Ida does not seem to have worked outside the home; her occupation is always listed as housewife. She was a member of First Presbyterian Church, where she was active in the Missionary Society and taught Sunday School.

The Gradys had two daughters, Nina (b. 1883) and Pearl (1886-1974). Nina married Leonard J. Gehrling and lived in Ironton. Pearl married Fred J. Zeisler and seems to have lived in Portsmouth.

In January 1935, Ida fell on the steps at her home at 1410 Offnere and fractured her left leg. Ida died May 7, 1935, at Portsmouth General Hospital, from (according to her obituary) “complications following a broken hip and stroke of paralysis.” She was 72 years old and seems to have lived her entire life in Portsmouth, Ohio. She is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery, just up the street from her home.

Ida M. Grady completed this quilt in 1934, when she was approximately 71 or 72 years old, and it was probably one of her last accomplishments before she died in 1935. If she had not signed her name to the corner, I would never have stood a chance of learning anything about the quilt’s maker, who she was, or how she knew my family.

Ida Grady's Sunburst quilt on display at the WSU Women's Center Quilt Show, Jan. 30, 2015

Ida Grady’s Sunburst quilt on display at the WSU Women’s Center Quilt Show, Jan. 30, 2015 (click to enlarge)

Morals of the story?

  • Sign your art! If you make a quilt (or anything else), find an unobtrusive and non-destructive way to permanently add your name and the year
  • Document quilts (or any art) you make or that you have. (I’m talking about writing down more info about the item than you reasonably could — or should — attempt to record physically on the item itself. More details! Provenance!) Do this while there are still people around who know the info, whether that’s you or a relative. (The International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Nebraska has some handouts on this. I’ve actually started my own “Quilt & Craft Documentation Archive” for quilts and other projects I’ve made. But that’s another blog post.)
  • You can learn a lot even when you have what seems like just a little bit of information. Go forth and research!

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing this story unfold (again, no pun intended- ack, I’m terrible!) as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.

Recalling the Great Snow of ’94

It’s hard to believe that events I remember from my childhood are already reaching the “20 years ago” mark, but it’s true. And one of the biggest large-scale  (and by that, I mean, not specific to myself or my family) memories I have from childhood is what I’ve always thought of as “the Great Snow of ’94.”

That was 20 years ago this weekend. I’ve always remembered that it was the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day holiday weekend. I was 11 years old and in the fifth grade. We all knew when we left school on Friday that we were in for a holiday (MLK Monday is a holiday most places), but little did we know that a blizzard was about to turn our 3-day weekend into a 2-week vacation!

Great Snow of '94 #5

That’s me sitting on a swing in our back yard during the Great Snow of ’94. As an archivist, I cringe at the thought/speech bubble sticker, but I also know that somewhere at my parents’ house, the negative for this picture is safe (and unmarred) in a cabinet, waiting for me to scan it someday.

Great Snow of '94 #1

A portion of our back yard (that’s a trampoline, the net of which was at least 2 feet off the ground), during the Great Snow of ’94.

As I did not remember to research this at the local library when I was home for Christmas (which is really too bad, since I was there over a week and had plenty of time to do so!)   And I really wanted to include some true historical details about the storm, rather than just my own recollections.

I have had little luck finding information about this snowstorm on the Internet, at least not specifically pertaining to my hometown of Portsmouth, Ohio (on the Ohio River). I have found several links to information about northern Ohio and Louisville, KY (to which I will link at the end). I was just about to give up, when I finally came across Thunder in the Heartland on Google Books. (I knew of this book, and I even own a copy, but unfortunately it’s packed away somewhere.) Thomas Schmidlin’s Thunder in the Heartland: A Chronicle of Outstanding Weather Events in Ohio (Kent State University Press, 1996) is a fantastic source if you want a short overview of any remotely notable weather event from Ohio’s history. And that’s just what I needed!  (I was beginning to fear that my memory of “about 2 feet of snow” was a figment of my imagination until I found Schmidlin’s description.)

Here’s an excerpt of what Schmidlin had to say about (what I call) the Great Snow of ’94 (from pages 76-77):

January 1994 was an “old-fashioned” winter month in the upper Ohio Valley, with two exceptionally deep snowfalls followed by record cold on 19 January. Snowfall on Tuesday, 4 January totaled twelve to twenty inches from Marietta to Steubenville…

A greater snowfall arrived on Monday 17 January. This storm left six to ten inches across nearly all of Ohio but, again, the deepest snow was along the Ohio River. Portsmouth received twenty inches of snow, and thirty inches was reported at Lucasville. Twenty-two to twenty-four inches fell in Adams County, with fifteen inches reported in Piketon and Jackson. Snowfall intensities of five inches an hour were measured at Chillicothe.

Highways were closed Monday by deep drifts and abandoned cars in extreme southern Ohio. Nine south-central counties declared snow emergencies Monday morning, banning all but emergency travel and essentially shutting down the region. Temperatuers were cold, so the snow did [p. 77] not stick to trees and there was no widespread disruption of phone and electric service. Businesses assisted residents who could not get out in the deep snow. The pharmacy at Kroger’s in Portsmouth delivered medicine to customers who were unable to travel, according to the Portsmouth Daily Times. Southern Ohio Medical Center [the hospital in Portsmouth] employees were picked up and delivered to the hospital in four-wheel-drive trucks and rescue squads.

Major roads were reopened Tuesday, but rural highways of southern Ohio were blocked and families remained snowbound. The effort to clear side roads continued into Wednesday. Schools were scheduled to be closed Monday for Martin Luther King Day and remained shut all week in southeastern counties by the deep snow and temperatures below -25 degrees…

Snowfall during January totaled 45.5 inches at Newport and 33.3 inches at Marietta. These were among the heaviest snowfalls ever recorded in Ohio outside the Lake Erie snowbelt. At the Parkersburg Airport, five miles south of Marietta, snowfall totaled 40 inches during January 1994. This was a record for any month, exceeding the old record of 35 inches in November 1950. The January snowfall was more than had fallen in the entire past two winters combined in southeastern Ohio.

Wow, after all that detail, the comparatively small amount that my 11-year-old brain saw fit to commit to permanence seems pretty weak. Nevertheless, here are my recollections (and some photos, throughout this entry, which I was thrilled to realize I had on hand at my house, rather than being inaccessible—and possibly difficult to locate—at my parents’ house):

We actually lived in Minford, Ohio, a smaller rural town outside of Portsmouth; it was closer to Lucasville (7 miles away, mentioned in the excerpt as having 30 inches of snow!) than Portsmouth (14 miles away).

I remember that there seemed to be about 2 feet of snow (which is substantiated by the above excerpt); it was over my knees (as illustrated in the included photos!). I remember that simply walking through the snow (which was no easy feat) left these trailing paths like you were in some sort of a maze, because the snow was so high it almost felt like maze walls (maybe I made this association because I always loved doing mazes in those activity books when I was a kid).

Great Snow of '94 #7

As you can see, the snow was over my knees. I was 11. We had about 2 feet of snow in Minford, Ohio.

Great Snow of '94 #6

My younger sister, then 9 years old, wading through the snow.

When I asked Mom what she remembered about the snowstorms, those paths were the thing that stuck out in her mind, because my youngest sister was only 4 at the time, and following us in the paths we made was the only way she could get through the snow at all!

Great Snow of '94 #4

My youngest sister, age 4, diving into a snow drift.

Another snippet that Mom remembered was how concerned we were about our pet rabbit, a Californian bunny named Pretty (seriously) who lived in a pen (which I think had a wooden house part also) in the backyard. Dad was worried, so he went (er, waded) out to the rabbit house, expecting to find a dead rabbit, but when he finally unburied enough of the thing to see inside, she was just fine in there; the deep snow had created a sort of igloo!

When I read in that excerpt (above) that there were NOT widespread power outages from heavy snow and ice causing downed trees to break the lines, I realized that this was not something I had ever thought about before with relation to that particular snowstorm. I suppose if we HAD experienced a power outage, I would have remembered, as school was out for….two weeks, I think…and that would have been a long damn time to be without electricity when the temperatures were so cold. We had a gas furnace, but if the electric blower isn’t working, it’s still not much use; my parents do have 1 fireplace in the part of the house that we were living in at the time—it was still a work in progress—but I don’t recall if the fireplace itself was installed and working yet! A power outage certainly would have been a disaster in that storm!

Great Snow of '94 #3

Well it looks like there was plenty of snow on the trees in this picture of our back field, and yes, I’m fairly certain it was from the same storm. But yay for no downed power lines!

We did eventually want to go to the grocery store—and this is the only other particularly vivid memory I have from that storm—but the driveway, like everything else, was covered in 2 feet of snow. I remember my father plowing the driveway with the front-loader on his tractor. (I am thrilled to have a photo of this, which appears to have been taken by my aunt, who lived next-door, as I can see the metal porch supports from their house in the shot.)

Great Snow of '94 #8

Dad plowing the driveway with his tractor—my favorite photo of this event!

Great Snow of '94 #2

Believe it or not, there is a Dodge Caravan (left) and a Toyota Corolla (right) under all that snow.

Eventually, once the driveway—and the car—was cleared off, I remember getting into my Dad’s old Toyota Corolla and puttering down the highway to the local grocery store (about 1 mile away), only to (if I recall correctly) find that it was still closed due to the snow—I guess the employees couldn’t get there. So much for bread and milk!

I asked my husband what he remembered about the snowstorm, as he was also an 11-year-old in southern Ohio at the time—he actually lived in Lucasville. He seems to recall that he was at the local Boy Scout camp, Camp Oyo, that weekend for a winter camp-out (now known as Okpik, though he says they weren’t calling them that at the time). They were scheduled to go home on Sunday, and they actually did so, although they briefly considered staying another day…which would have had them stranded, as the majority of the snow fell on Monday. Thank goodness they went home when they did!   He said he remembers sticking a yard stick into the snow at their house in Lucasville and measuring almost 3 feet of snow (which again meshes with what the book said).

Pitiful selection of relevant items I found online:

What are your memories of the Great Snow of ’94?  I’d love to hear them! (Please include at least an approximation of where you lived at the time, since geography is important here.)

Revisiting old friends in the Archives

I got to revisit some “old friends” in the Archives at work today. These were old friends from the Dayton Metro Library, but they found me at my new job as an archivist at Wright State.

They weren’t living people or current friends; not really friends at all, if I’m being honest. But in a way, they felt like friends at the time, so I consider them that, still.

I’m talking about (long-dead) people whose papers I arranged & described. People who never knew me; who might not have even liked me (or I them) if we’d known each other in real life; but whom I hold in a special regard since I handled, (to some extent) read, and lovingly organized some of their most personal thoughts, little pieces of themselves committed preserved paper, and thereby history.

The first of the day today was David W. Schaeffer (whom you can learn more about in this biographical sketch I wrote about him in July 2012). A researcher, and relative of his, came to visit us today in the Archives from the Los Angeles area. She had found my blog post about him (the one linked above) last year, and we emailed back and forth a bit. I’m not sure how much help I could be, since basically all that I knew, I had poured into the biographical sketch already. But she wanted to meet me and see what we might have at the Wright State Archives that could help her during her research trip to Ohio. We talked about a few things, and I think she told me more about David than what I told her—for instance, that his middle name was Winters. The Schaeffers and Winters families were both early settlers of Germantown, so there seems to have been some connection there. After she left WSU, I believe she was on her way to Germantown. I’m not sure if that was the plan before she stopped in to see me, but I told her she really needed to check it out before she left the area (tomorrow being her last day in Ohio, she said). If nothing else, it would be a nice drive to Germantown at this time of year… (She had already visited the Dayton Metro Library and looked at David’s papers there.)

The second “old friend” that I ran into today at work was Horton Howard (read my biographical sketch of him from Aug 2012 on this blog), an early Quaker settler of Ohio—and sometimes doctor—whose daughter Sarah was married to Dayton canal engineer Samuel Forrer; all of these people (and many others) have papers in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection at Dayton Metro Library, which I processed in 2011-2012.

Anyway. I ran into Horton while hunting around one of our storage locations for some Sanborn Maps. I did eventually find the map books, and nearby was part of our collection of rare medical books. A large book with the name “Howard” stamped on the spine caught my eye:

Howard's rare medical books at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

Howard’s rare medical books at Wright State University Special Collections & Archives

And I thought, Oh that can’t be the same guy; that has to be a really common name, and I’m sure any number of “Howard”s have written medical books. Then I saw the book right next to it—about botanic medicine—and, recognizing it was a subject that Horton had in fact studied and written about, I pulled it off the shelf to look.

Sure enough, the title page said Horton Howard:

Horton Howard's Botanic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

Horton Howard’s Botanic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

So I checked the other one. Yep, Horton Howard:

Horton Howard's Domestic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

Horton Howard’s Domestic Medicine, at Wright State Archives

The publication dates through me for just a minute, knowing as I did that Horton died during the 1833 cholera epidemic in Columbus (as did his wife, a daughter, a son-in-law, and 2 grandchildren). But it turned out these were just reprints. One of them (I forget which one, sorry!) was like the seventh printing since 1832.

Now, I wasn’t QUITE as giddy about these finds as I might have been, since I had found the full text of the botanic medicine book online already and gleaned what I wanted to from it—-mostly from the fantastic preface that gives tons of info [block-quotes in the blog post] about Horton’s early life and medical knowledge (most of which was self-taught). But it was still pretty darn cool to see real life, 3-D copies of the works, complete with old school leather covers (which were in much better condition than I would have expected for 150+ year old books), hold them in my hands, and, I don’t know…..just remember good old Horton.

Just as an aside… I could visit Horton Howard and his family in one collection at the Wright State Archives anytime, but I already knew about that so it wasn’t a surprise: There are a few letters from Horton, his daughters Sarah and Mary, and a few other related people, in the Dustin/Dana Papers (MS-207). I have so far refused myself the indulgence of sitting down with them and just reading them all (even though there are only 10- just goes to show how busy I am)…but maybe one of these days! I’ve read so many pieces of that family’s story; it’s like found treasure when I stumble across pieces I didn’t even know where “missing” and are now found…

So, that’s my story for today. Hope you enjoyed it. Just goes to show, you never know when history will find you.

Intersects of History (or, a Tale of Freaky Coincidence)

History is full of intersections. The “story” of…well, everything…really is like this giant tapestry woven out of the lives and choices of people (all people), the occurrence of events, the development and course of ideas, and the circumstances of place, time, and situation. Some of the intersections of all these things can be fairly obvious, expected, or downright sequitur. And sometimes they’re not.

And sometimes, you are working in the Archives, minding your own business, churning out the day’s work—some of which, on this particular day, is rather unusual, versus what you normally do at your job on a daily basis—and you suddenly run across an intersection among two things you would have expected to be completely unrelated, and it gives you the goosebumps…

I had one of those days on Tuesday, September 17. Let me explain. (Bear with me on the “job duties” part.)

One of my primary job duties as Archivist for Digital Initiatives & Outreach at the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives is to manage and coordinate the use of social media for sharing the Archives and our collections with the world. Among the social media channels that we use for this are a couple of blogs (Out of the Box and Dayton Daily News Archive) and Facebook and Twitter (the latter two being recent additions – if you haven’t yet, you should go check them out and like/follow them! *notevensubtlehinthint*).

Part of what I do with these social media channels is plan their content. We post all kinds of things, but many times, I like to try to coordinate the social media content with a particular time period, date, or event in history. I love “today in history” posts—if we can think of them—and if they pertain to our “stuff” or our collecting areas (aviation, local history, WSU history).

So, that all being said…let’s get back to my freaky experience on September 17, which, let’s face it, is why you clicked on this post in the first place.

September 17, 1908, is widely recognized as the date of the first fatality from a powered airplane crash. (OK, maybe “widely recognized” isn’t exactly true, but everyone who works in aviation history knows this story! Or they should…) Orville Wright was demonstrating his airplane to the military at Ft. Myer, Va., when the plane crashed, injuring Orville and killing his passenger, 26-year-old Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge.

2013-09-17_selfridgetweet

I had this on the calendar to mention on September 17 for a while, and so I did so in the above tweet. (Later in the day, we also posted a great blog post written by my supervisor Dawne about the crash and about Orville’s sister Katharine. You should check it out; plus, it has more pictures!)

OK, so…that all being done, I turned to some other tasks on my plate. One of those tasks was to either locate, or otherwise procure, transcripts of a few Civil War letters from our Wallace Collection (MS-92). Long story short, when transcripts of the Civil War correspondence of William McKinney were made, somehow a couple of letters were apparently missed. This was noticed during the migration of digital versions of the letters (and transcripts) from one system to another, and we really wanted to have ALL the transcripts ready (better for access purposes because transcripts are keyword searchable, handwritten letters are not) before the formal launch of the new system.

SO, not being able to locate any existing transcripts for these two particular letters, I located the original letters, took a look, decided that the handwriting was pretty legible and that they shouldn’t take too long to transcribe, and sat down to transcribe those few items myself, so I could get them over to the Digital folks ASAP.

One of the letters I transcribed was this letter from William McKinney to his cousin Martha McKinney, circa 1862. (You can see the original handwritten letter as well as my now-completed-and-posted transcription if you click that link. Or you can take my word for things. Aren’t original documents grand? You don’t have to take my word for it; you can see the original evidence. But I digress…)

I had a bit of trouble with a particular line on the last page of the letter where the paper had been creased right through a line of text, so it was particularly worn and faded. William had been describing some of the sights during a recent stroll through Nashville, and he mentioned coming across one of the (Union) iron-clad ships, the…Carro…Cairo…what does that say? I wondered.

2013-09-17_thecairo

Snippet from William McKinney to Martha McKinney, ca. 1862, from MS-92 Wallace Family Papers, item # ms92_9_4_08, Wright State University Special Collections & Archives.

“Cairo” made more sense, but I wanted to be sure, so I Googled it to make sure. And the first thing that seemed promising was a National Park Service web site for the U.S.S. Cairo Gunboat and Museum in Vicksburg, MS. From this site I learned the thing I needed to know—that the word on the page was in fact “Cairo.”

I also learned that the U.S.S. Cairo was sunk in the Yazoo River in December 1862. I learned that it was raised again (in pieces) in the 1960s and eventually turned into a museum.

But, mostly fascinatingly…and strangely…I learned that the skipper in command of the U.S.S. Cairo was one Lt. Cmdr. Thomas O. Selfridge, Jr.

Yes, I “encountered” two historical figures named Thomas Selfridge on the same day—one of which being rather expected as I knew about that anniversary, the other being a complete surprise.

And if that wasn’t strange enough…then I was curious. Though I don’t have the stats to back this up, I’d wager that Selfridge isn’t a terribly common name. Well, it’s certainly not like if I had run across two “John Smith”s or something, anyway! I wondered if they were related…the Thomas Selfridge who commanded an iron-clad for the Union in 1862 and the Thomas Selfridge who died in a plane crash in 1908.

I didn’t have far to look to find that, indeed, they were. All it took was a quick trip by Wikipedia. Thankfully, the site is rife with pages about military men, whether they were super-duper important like Robert E. Lee or more of a blip on history’s screen (or a footnote on the page, if you’re a little more old-school).

Thomas Ethelon Selfridge (now I want to know where that middle name came from!), 1882-1908, the casualty in Orville’s plane crash at Ft. Myer, was the son of the Lt. Cmdr. Thomas Oliver Selfridge, Jr., 1836-1924. Another weird point of coincidence? Both men were 26 at the time of the history intersects described in this little story (the plane crash and the U.S.S. Cairo sinking).

And here’s the thing that makes me really wonder: How on Earth did I just happen across these two things on the same day? I mean, what the hell, Universe? It’s so bizarre.

On any other day of the year, I wouldn’t even spend too much time thinking about Thomas E. Selfridge (sorry, mate), but on September 17, it’s the obvious choice for a “today in history” about aviation.

And I don’t normally do manuscript transcription…ever. Heck, there are plenty of days (even whole weeks) where I don’t even so much as handle an actual manuscript, because the primary functions of my position don’t always require it. But on this particular day, I not only got to work with an original manuscript—a handwritten 19th century letter, no less, which is some of my favorite “stuff”—but I got to read it…really read it…as a legitimate work activity, because somebody had to do that transcript ASAP, and it might as well be me!

And none of it had (seemingly) anything to do with each other. The tasks were unrelated. The collections were unrelated. Even the reason we HAVE those two particular collections was completely unrelated. The Archives has items pertaining to the Selfridge crash fatality because of our focus on aviation history and the Wright Brothers. The Wallace Family Papers (MS-92), where William McKinney’s Civil War letter came from, is part of our collection because of its local history significance (the family lived in Clark County, which is one of the counties about which we collect local history).

You know I could go on and on. I have gone on and on. (If you read this far, I should bake you cookies. Er, no, biscotti: they’re the only cookies I can consistently make well because they’re meant to be hard.)

I should stop wondering, stop being surprised when I find bits of history that are related, even if they initially seemed so…completely unrelated. My husband is one of those people who likes to say “everything happens for a reason.”

Maybe sometimes the Universe just wants to remind us that all of history is woven together in one big story, driving the point home by showing you the relationship between two things you never would have guessed had any ties to each other.

Whatever it was, what an interesting day!

1913 Flood Survivors: A Before and After

My goal in this post is to show you some cool “before” and “after” photos (or at least before OR after photos) of some survivors of Dayton’s 1913 flood—no, not people, but buildings! I thought it might be of interest to highlight some of Dayton’s older downtown buildings that “survived” the flood and (perhaps even more impressively) still survive today (i.e., they haven’t been torn down in the interest of so-called “progress”- but that’s a whole other entry).

But before I dive into the photographs, I wanted to address the radio silence of the past nearly two months. I suppose perhaps I was a little bit “blogged out” after writing a zillion (or so it seemed at the time) posts about the 1913 flood on the blogs at work: if you haven’t already done so, check them out on Wright State U. Archives’ Out of the Box blog and the Dayton Daily News Archive blog.

And on top of being “blogged out,” I had rather run out of steam on the whole topic of the 1913 flood (and still kinda am, though I’ve set it aside for you today because I don’t want to put it off any longer). I’m a little sick of talking about it, to be perfectly honest! I know, I know! That sounds horrible. But for about a month it seemed like I was eating, sleeping, and breathing the topic—ok, not really, of course—and I did that because it was an extremely important event in Dayton’s (even Ohio’s) history, and the commemoration of that event deserved my full attention and to be “done up right.” And so I did. (If you don’t believe me, see my previous entry.) And I don’t regret that. But…I’d really love to not talk about it anymore for a while.

After this entry, of course.

And so…onward, as promised, here are some of Dayton’s historic downtown buildings that survived the flood and that can still be seen today. So the next time you’re downtown and you see one of these, I want you to gaze up at it, appreciate the fact that it’s been there 100+ years, and maybe muse about how long it took to shovel all the flood mud out of it…

[All of the before/flood photos are courtesy of the Dayton Metro Library‘s Local History Room. You can see all their 1913 flood photos online. The present-day photos are courtesy of yours truly, unless otherwise stated. For all photos, you can click on the photo to go to the associated Flickr page with more info.]

Doubletree Hotel (southwest corner Third & Ludlow- it was the Algonquin Hotel in 1913)
Third Street Post Office (now the Federal Building, south side of Third St., between Ludlow & Wilkinson)

Algonquin Hotel 1913 (Dayton Metro Library, 1913 Flood postcard #37)

Algonquin Hotel & Post Office, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, 1913 Flood postcard #37)

For a current photo of the Doubletree Hotel, check out this photo taken in 2010 by Flickr user Flyer E901; if he gives me permission, I’ll img src it here instead of just linking… Don’t ask me why I don’t have a pic of the Doubletree myself; obviously I was right next to it when I took this picture of the Federal building:

Federal Building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Federal Building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Conover Building (southeast corner Third and Main)
Memorial Hall (northwest corner First and St. Clair)

You can see them both in this flood photo below. The Conover Building is the really tall  building near the center of the photo (not the one with the clock tower- that’s the Callahan Bank Building); Memorial Hall is the rounded topped building in the upper right of the frame.

Main Street in Dayton, 1913 (Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #806)

Main Street in Dayton, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #806)

And here are two more recent photos of the Conover Building and Memorial Hall:

Conover Building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Conover Building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Memorial Hall, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Memorial Hall, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Emmanuel Catholic Church (Washington St.)
Sacred Heart Catholic Church (northwest corner Fourth & Wilkinson)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church
(Fifth & Bainbridge)

I couldn’t find great flood photos of these, so you’ll have to trust me on this when I show you these pics of the steeples in the distance that that’s really what I’m showing you!

Okay, in the pic below you can see Emmanuel Catholic Church — the two very tall steeples on the right of the photo. And actually, I wasn’t even going to include Sacred Heart in this because I couldn’t find a pic, but I realized you can see it in this picture: it’s the low dome in between the tall towers of Emmanuel and the single campanile-looking tower of Union Station at the far right. (And somewhere, I know I’ve seen a great panorama of Dayton looking south from about Deeds Point, and you can see Sacred Heart plainly, but I can’t seem to find that. Maybe it wasn’t a flood pic…)

Looking north from the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #911)

Looking north from the Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #911)

Here’s a recent photo of Emmanuel Catholic Church from Flickr’s catholicsanctuaries (used with permission):

Emmanuel Catholic Church (by catholicsanctuaries, 2012, used with permission)

Emmanuel Catholic Church (by catholicsanctuaries, 2012, used with permission)

And, in another “take my word for it” silhouette-type photo, here is Holy Trinity Church- the tall steeple rising up on the far right of the frame:

Fifth and Eagle Streets, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #996)

Fifth and Eagle Streets, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #996)

As for the “now” photo, I don’t seem to have a photo Holy Trinity (but here’s a  great one from Flickr user SyntheticTone).

But here’s one of mine showing Sacred Heart:

Sacred Heart Church, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Sacred Heart Church, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

These next three, the flood photos don’t show much of the building, so again you might have to take my word for it that it is where it says or that the building is in there somewhere (because I know it must be). The photos depict primarily the clean-up or debris.

It’s like people 100 years ago weren’t concerned that someday I might come along and wish I had flood photos of these building so I could write about it; how inconsiderate of them, trying to pick up the pieces of their lives and not taking enough photos. (Although, really, there are QUITE a lot of photos, even during the actual flood, which when you think about it, is kind of amazing.)

Dayton Arcade (Third Street entrance, between Main & Ludlow)

The Arcade is the building on the right in the photo below. You can probably recognize some of the stonework from the facade.

Dayton Arcade, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Flood Postcard #39)

Dayton Arcade, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Flood Postcard #39)

Dayton Arcade, Third Street entrance, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Dayton Arcade, Third Street entrance, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Dayton Daily News building (northwest corner Fourth & Ludlow)

See that bright white building in the background that looks kind of like a bank (there’s a great historical explanation for that, btw- another time, perhaps), just to the left of that bally lamp post? Yeah, that’s the DDN building.

Debris on South Ludlow St, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #799)

Debris on South Ludlow St, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #799)

Dayton Daily News building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Dayton Daily News building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Not sure how much longer the DDN building will look like this, though, since it was recently announced that Sinclair Community College is planning to incorporate the block into some kind of dormitory project; allegedly, the original (bank-looking) portion of the DDN offices will be “preserved,” though. So if you haven’t seen it before, you should go see it ASAP before it changes too much!

Delco building(s) (E. First St., east of St. Clair, now part of Mendelson’s)

Okay, full disclosure: I’m not sure the two photos I’m showing here depict the same exact building. There were several Delco buildings around the same area, and the one in this flood photo may not be the same as the Mendelson’s one I’m showing next. But you get the idea…

Flood repairs at Delco, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #1074)

Flood repairs at Delco, 1913 (Image courtesy of Dayton Metro Library, Montgomery County Picture File #1074)

Mendelson's building, 2011 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Mendelson’s building, from the rooftop parking lot at the Reibold Building, 2011 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

And finally, last but not least, here are three more buildings that I couldn’t find before/flood photos for, but trust me, they were around during the 1913 flood, and they are still around today:

Old Court House (northwest corner Third and Main, built in 1850)

Old Court House, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Old Court House, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Victoria Theatre (southeast corner First & Main, built in 1866 & rebuilt a few times afterwards)

Victoria Theatre, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

Victoria Theatre, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

United Brethren Publishing House (northeast corner Fourth & Main, built in the late 19th century; now called the Centre City Building)

United Brethren Publishing House aka City Centre Building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

United Brethren Publishing House aka City Centre Building, 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

(You can also see the back of the UB Building in the background of my “now” photo of the Conover Building above.)

*****

Well, there you go, folks- a little photo tour of downtown Dayton with emphasis on buildings that survived the 1913 flood (as well as humanity’s need for tearing down old buildings to build newer, usually uglier, ones). There are certainly others I could have chosen, most of them smaller and a little less grand, but there nonetheless.

Actually, here’s one such building (quite old), now that I think of it (a bonus!):

120 N. St. Clair St., 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

120 N. St. Clair St., 2012 (Photo by Lisa Rickey)

But I was trying to think of grandiose buildings that it would be easy to locate “before” (or flood) pictures of. I still seem to have failed at finding as many of those before photos as I really wanted, but nevertheless. It’s something. And I hope you enjoyed it.

1913 Flood Centennial

What kind of Miami Valley archivist would I be if I didn’t acknowledge the centennial of the 1913 flood on my history/archives blog?

This week marks 100 years since flood waters ravaged the Miami Valley, bringing widespread devastation to cities like Dayton, Piqua, Troy, and Hamilton, as well as many other parts of Ohio (including my hometown of Portsmouth). This particular flood was so severe in the Dayton area (which was rather used to floods) that area residents finally said, “We’re not going to just sit back and take this from anymore, Great Miami River!” Within months, a fundraising campaign generated over $2 million towards the creation what is now the Miami Conservancy District, a system of dams and other mechanisms that control the rivers and have successfully prevented flooding since its completion. (Hooray!)

I’ve worked in Dayton-area archives long enough to know that the 1913 flood has been remembered on many days and in many ways ever since, as an important event in our area’s history. But we do love anniversaries—and the 100th is a very special one, after all, since it’s such a nice, round number!

There’s been a lot going on to commemorate the 1913 flood this year. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve already been involved in so much of it that I damn-near forgot to even mention it here, because I feel like my “1913 flood commemorating” mojo is virtually exhausted by now! But like I said, what kind of Miami Valley archivist would I be if I didn’t say something on my own blog as well?

So…well…to avoid re-inventing the wheel here, I think I’ll just point you to some of the things that I and others have been working on…

Most of the 1913 flood commemoration activities that I was personally aware of are mentioned in an article I wrote for the Spring 2013 issue of the Ohio Archivist (the newsletter of the Society of Ohio Archivists- see page 28). But I certainly want to point your attention to the official commemoration web site 1913flood.com.

We’ve done some cool things where I work at Wright State, too—so much so that we’ve even dedicated an entire section of the WSU Special Collections & Archives web page to the 1913 flood. There are a couple of exhibits listed, one of which is a web exhibit done a few years back called The Flood Menace. There is also info about the 1913 flood traveling exhibit a couple of my colleagues created–what it is, pictures, how to borrow it, etc. There’s also a lengthy Resource List detailing what research materials about the flood can be found at WSU and other area archives. (Don’t forget to check out the neat flood stuff we’ve got on our Campus Repositoryinterviews with flood survivors, for instance!) Oh, and there’s also an in-real-life flood exhibit (that I just happened to make) on the first floor of the Dunbar Library from now until about June.

I think one of my favorite projects I’ve personally done to remember the flood is the transcriptions of flood diaries and letters that will be on the WSU Special Collections & Archives blog Out of the Box this week. (I just love letters and diaries; I can get lost in them so easily.) We’ll be following flood survivors Margaret Smell, J.G.C. Schenck Sr., Edward and Nellie Neukom, and Milton Wright (yes, that Milton Wright- father of the famous Wright brothers!), through their flood experiences, reading about those experiences in their own words. Where applicable, I’ve added some small explanations, and I also hunted up some great photos from our collection to help illustrate their stories. I recommend checking out this intro to the diary/letter series, and there will be daily updates from the writers from today through early April.

As you may recall, I have written about the flood here before. I wrote a blog post about it a couple of years ago: “Remembering the 1913 Flood” (March 24, 2011). Then there are those super-cool geo-tagged maps I made using Flickr and Geo-Slideshow [May 9, 2011], for the flood photos and postcards at the Dayton Metro Library (where I used to work). And don’t forget the 1913 flood before-and-after exhibit at the Dayton Art Institute, which, although mentioned in my SOA article and on the 1913flood.com web site, bears repeating because I was privileged to see it in February, and it is super-awesome.

Obviously, there’s plenty more out there besides what I’ve mentioned here. (And let’s face it, I’m going to be a little biased towards the projects that I’ve personally worked so hard on—certainly not to undercut how hard everyone else has worked on their projects, but this is my blog, so why wouldn’t I toot my own horn a bit?) There have been tons of really great articles about the flood and the commemoration activities in the Dayton Daily News (and I’m sure many other area papers) lately.

DDN writer Meredith Moss did a great spread about the flood in last Sunday’s newspaper (over one whole page in the print edition); you can read the online version here, and you might just see a few quotes from yours truly in it. (Normally, my supervisor and head of the archives Dawne Dewey answers the press inquiries, but a combination of circumstances—one being that Dawne was out that day and another being that someone told the reporter to ask me because I’d been doing a lot of flood activities lately—led to my name being the one in the paper this time.)

Well, I think that’s about all I have to say about the flood for now. I hope anyone with an interest in this particular part of Dayton’s history takes notice of all these projects and events going on this spring, because there’s lots of great stuff to experience and absorb….and it might be another nice-round-number-of-years (25? 50? 100?) before there’s so much terrific culture being dedicated to the 1913 flood once again.