Tag Archives: history

Visiting Kindred Spirits in St. Anne’s Hill

This past weekend, I attended a holiday homes tour in the St. Anne’s Hill historic district of Dayton. They hold their “Dickens of a Christmas Holiday Home Tour” fundraiser every other year (and in the other year they do a spring tour). You have a guided tour through the neighborhood, along with admittance to 6 or so beautifully decorated and cared for historic homes, mostly Victorian era. The tour wraps up with delicious bread pudding inside the well-known Bossler Mansion on Dutoit Street.

I had been on the Christmas tour once before (in 2011, I think it was), but the homes change from year to year, and it is worth repeating. I was particularly enticed to attend the tour this year because it was approximately 60 degrees, unlike the chilling cold and snow/freezing rain that I walked in last time. (Our poor tour guides in their Victorian winter dresses and capes were sweating it though!) I also chose a daytime tour this time, instead of an evening one, which made it easier to see what I was looking at outside!

I’m not going to tell you all about everything, and I don’t even have many pictures to share with you. After all, these are people’s homes, and although we were told that we could ask to take pictures and see if the owners would approve, I was just thrilled to be allowed inside at all..and quite frankly, I probably spend too much of my “tourist” experience looking through a camera lens, so in a way it was nice to just “be.”

You’re probably wondering what I came here to write about, if I’m not going to tell-all on tour details or show you photos of these gorgeous old houses in all their magnificence.

Well, there were a few snippets I want to share — these things that have stuck with me, following the tour. Most of these things have to do with the homes’ “stories” (you know how I love stories). In the interest of privacy, I will try not to “out” the owners or the house precisely, though if you were part of the tour (or are a member of the close-knit neighborhood), you’d likely be able to figure it out.

When you first enter each home, the owners usually have a brief introduction to share with you about the house — what they know about its history, what has been done to restore it, etc.

In one of these stories, the owner mentioned that his home had been lived in for several decades by a pair of unmarried sisters, prior to his acquisition of it. He said they didn’t do anything to the house for most of that time. So, on the one hand, they hadn’t made any improvements, but on the other hand, they also didn’t do anything BAD either. They just didn’t do anything, really…so they didn’t screw it up!

This story made me think of my Dad. I feel like I’ve heard him make a similar statement. The historic home I lived in when I was little (described in the previous blog post) had been occupied for decades only by two spinster sisters, whose father had the house built so it had only ever been in 1 family for its entire life of about 80 years. When my Dad got it, not a lot had been done to it over the years. Nothing good. But also nothing bad.

People do a lot of interesting things to houses, historic or not. The older the house, the wider the window of opportunity has been for someone to have done something interesting to it. Now, my high school best friend and I had an inside joke about the word “interesting.” One of us would say something was “interesting,” and the other would say, “Interesting like chocolate-covered grasshoppers, or interesting like So-and-So’s hair?” One was good, the other bad. (I’ll let you guess which was which.) But the point is, yes…sometimes people do good things to houses, and sometimes people do bad things.

Now of course, the homes we saw on the tour were all full of interesting good things. They’ve been loved — and lived in, some for 150+ years. Some had been “rescue” jobs, but they’re looking pretty good now (wonderful even!). Anyway, the point is — all of these homes, whatever their past, they are now being lovingly cared for by people who wanted a historic house to love and care for.

Believe it or not, that’s actually not quite where I’m going with my whole “kindred spirits” thing. I love old houses…to look at. I love to look at them. But I’m not sure I would love many of the realities of actually living in one. I want insulation and drywall and central air and brand new electric. Yeah yeah, I know you can put all these things into old houses, but it’s a lot harder.

Although, at least one couple on the tour actually did all that. When they purchased their house (for less than $10,000) several years ago, they said it was the neighborhood eyesore. It had not been well-loved for many years, and it needed a total gut-job (truly). (By the way, they bought it like 8 years ago and just moved in.) They kept a lot of it looking old — and even managed to keep a few original features, like the 1850s stair railing — but they also have drywall. (I know I probably seem to have this fixation with drywall, but let’s just say I’ve had enough of plaster walls from my 1949 Cape Cod, thankyouverymuch.)

One thing I remember thinking in that house was how much fun I think my uncles would have if I turned them loose on creating beautiful ornate woodwork that was actually new but made to look old. (Now would probably be a good time to tell you that my uncles are extremely talented finish carpenters as well as general contractors.) Or, maybe they would look at me like I was crazy. We’ll probably never know.

The house with the drywall and the 1850s staircase also featured a Christmas tree with a train running in a circle under it. The man said his father bought him that train for Christmas in 1949. “I was seven months old,” he said with a grin, “so you tell me who really wanted to play with a train.” That reminded me of Dad. And as if I needed another reason to like these people who had brought a 150-year-old house back from the brink and made it beautiful again, I noticed a copy of David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers on an end table. Kindred spirits, indeed.

At another house, addressing us from a few steps up the staircase (as most of them did if there was a staircase in the front hall, which was many of them), the owner started off by saying that when they agreed to be part of the tour, they actually didn’t really know anything about the home’s history (and they hadn’t been the ones to restore it either), so she wasn’t sure what she would tell us for the introduction.

I was just making a mental note to approach her later to let her know that the library (either the one where I work at the university or the public library where I used to work) had plenty of great resources to help them learn more about their house, if they wanted to…when whipped out a piece of paper and continued, “…but then we received this letter in the mail.”

Out of the blue, the great-granddaughter of some previous owners, who had lived in the home for 50 years and raised several children there, had written to them, with memories of the house and pictures.

Of course everyone in the room, including myself, ooh’d and ahh’d. I mean, what an awesome thing to receive a letter like that! What an awesome thing to have thought to write it. I would love a letter like that. “Here, have some history of a place that’s now special to you, that has also been special to me.” (Of course you can see why I would love something like that, even just a story about such a thing; seeing as how I basically wrote a love letter to my childhood home in my previous post.)

But not everybody would care about something like that. Some people might not be interested in receiving such a thing. And far more people would even think to write such a thing, let alone actually do it. Some might even call it crazy.

But not me. And not that woman telling us the story from her staircase. And I dare say not the other 30 or so tour-goers standing around me, making the same murmurs of awe that I was making.

So, standing in that crowded living room, hearing that story and mentally telling myself don’t cry in public don’t cry in public (and I succeeded), I think that was the moment that gave me the “kindred spirits” feeling I used in the title.

Historic homes people? People who love them and live in them? People who love them enough to drop $22 for a chance to see inside just a few? Yep, these are my people, and this is our jam.

I should have probably saved that revelation for the end, but I’m writing this as it comes to me, with very few notes ahead of time. And the last two items come at or near the end of the tour, so…

At one of the last houses on the tour, the couple who lived there had actually gotten into character, portraying the Victorian doctor and his wife who had previously lived in their house. That in and of itself was great, and they both looked fantastic. They even had a little exhibit on “quack” Victorian medicine!

But something about the wife kept giving me this de ja vu feeling. I couldn’t figure out what it was. Even her name seemed familiar to me. I noticed a certificate on the wall with her name on it and checked it out to see what it was for, thinking perhaps she was a fellow library professional or something like that, who I might have heard of somewhere. Nope, totally different profession. I thought maybe she was someone I had helped when I worked at Dayton Metro Library, as I did a lot more reference desk work there than I do now; I saw a lot more people, I’m sure.

It came to me a couple of days later, while I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep (isn’t that always the way?). She had been a library patron, but at the university library where I work now, not at the public library. (Well, I expect she went there too, but it’s not where I met her…) I looked in our researcher log to confirm. Yes, that was it! She looked so familiar to me because she had come in last summer to research for this house tour—she mentioned it specifically. (I wonder now if she recognized me. She probably just wondered why I kept staring at her.)

It’s a pretty cool experience any time you get to see the amazing results of something that you, as a librarian or archivist, “helped” with — whether it’s a published book, a school project, or in this case…a performance!

That was actually the anecdote that first occurred to me as something I wanted to write about here…and then I thought of the others.

And finally, without further adieu, no post centering on the St. Anne’s Hill Dickens of a Christmas holiday homes tour would be complete without a mention of the spectacular Bossler Mansion. And that I have a couple of pictures of.

Bossler Mansion on Dutoit Street in St. Anne's Hill Historic District, Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author) (click to view larger)

Bossler Mansion on Dutoit Street in St. Anne’s Hill Historic District, Dayton, Ohio, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author) (click to view larger)

As we were standing on the sidewalk in front of the home, one of the things our tour guide said about the house was that she had a special connection to it herself. In a previous life, the mansion had been converted into a multi-unit apartment building (this being an example of the “interesting” things people sometimes do to old houses). And during that era, her grandmother and her toddler-age mother had lived in one of the apartments. She said it was very emotional the first time she visited the room (yes, room, singular) that had been their apartment, and she got a little choked up just mentioning it to us. (Seriously people, stop making me almost-cry in public!)

So that’s the anecdote I have to share about the Bossler house. The true highlight of this stop on the tour, however, is the bread pudding (omigod, seriously so delicious) and the view of downtown Dayton out the little round west-facing window in the 4th story cupola. (Another reason I’m glad I chose a daytime tour this year!)

View of downtown Dayton, Ohio, as seen through the 4th story cupola of the Bossler Mansion, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author)

View of downtown Dayton, Ohio, as seen through the 4th story cupola of the Bossler Mansion, Dec. 13, 2015 (photo by the author) (click to view larger)

So I’ll just leave you with that.


They all add up

Hope that you spend your days but they all add up.  -One Republic, “I Lived”

I heard this song on the radio on the way to work this morning. Usually when I hear it, I think of my grandfather, because it seemed to be getting very popular on the radio around the time he died, just before Thanksgiving last year.

This morning, I was already thinking about Howard Forrer — yes, my favorite Civil War soldier.

There are certain dates that stick with me — the ones that are important enough to remember “there’s something about today” but not quite important enough that you are consciously aware of them before they arrive (like a loved one’s birthday or your anniversary or Christmas). The birthdays of my high school friends are like that. Or the anniversary of the day I graduated from college (the first time).

July 22nd is like that.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while (like 3+ years), you’ll probably remember Howard Forrer. If not, you can read about him here or  read a longer story version here in some entries from 2012.

Howard died July 22, 1864, in the Battle of Decatur, Georgia. He was a 23-year-old unmarried adjutant in the 63rd Ohio. Before he enlisted, he was a young teacher in Dayton, Ohio.

Sometimes I wonder what these long-dead people would think about my (our?) remembering them, researching them, spending any time thinking about them at all. Would they be pleased that anyone remembers them or thinks them worth remembering? Would they be annoyed (or worse angry) at our putting their lives under a microscope? Would they think we’re crazy for wasting our time — our lives, which we still have time to live — recalling theirs?

Would Howard think, Oh it’s nice that you find me so fascinating. I appreciate being remembered. I didn’t have any children, so I’m humbly pleased anyone even remembers my name.

Or would he think, What are you doing? I only got 23 years! All the things I didn’t do? You could do them! What are you doing thinking about me? I’m dead. Go out and do all the things!

(If I’d had access to more of his own writings, I might have some sense of the answer, but I didn’t…so…)

I like to think that people who in life had an interest in history themselves might “get it” — but obviously not every person a historian might research would have cared about such things.

I recently read the following lines in a novel (Rapture by Lauren Kate):

The past is important for all the information and wisdom it holds. But you can get lost in it. You’ve got to learn to keep the knowledge of the past with you as you pursue the present.

You’d think someone who gave the whole “carpe diem” spiel in her high school valedictorian speech might actually internalize the sentiment and not just understand the Latin.

But you’re also talking about the same girl who named her blog “Glancing Backwards” and remembers a certain Civil War soldier every year on the day of his death (and will remember him again in November on the day he was finally laid to rest in his hometown).

It’s hard not to get lost in things, especially when you really want to.

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.


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.


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 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.

Historical Sketch: St. John’s Reformed Church in Germantown, Ohio

The village of Germantown, Ohio, was founded in 1804, when several German families from Pennsylvania settled there. These families were members of the Reformed and Lutheran churches. In 1809, the settlers built a single church to be shared by both congregations. This church, built of logs, was located near the present site of Emmanuel’s Evangelical Lutheran Church on Warren Street.

Initially these services were conducted by traveling ministers, but after a few years, both congregations had pastors in residence: Rev. Thomas Winters[1] for the Reformeds and Rev. John Caspar Dill for the Lutherans. The congregations shared the log church for 20 years, alternating Sunday services every other week—a Lutheran service one week, a Reformed service the next—although families of both denominations attended services every week.

In 1818, Philip Gunckel, the town proprietor, began building a large new brick church at the corner of Market and Walnut streets, on the property where St. John’s Reformed Church currently stands. He sold half of the church building to Reformed congregation and the other half to the Lutherans, for $600 each. The new church building was finally completed in 1828, and the two congregations worshiped together happily for two years in the new building. However, in 1830, a dispute arose between the Lutherans and Mr. Gunckel (a member of the Reformed church), and the Lutheran congregation returned to the log church. Thenceforth, the two congregations worshiped separately, although they shared a common burial ground until 1879.

Rev. Thomas Winters served the Reformed Church at Germantown for about 25 years before retiring in 1840, due to old age. He was succeeded by Rev. George Long, whose pastorate was rather tumultuous. Rev. Long wished to introduce new measures into the Reformed church, such as prayer meetings, and when this met with resistance, he was ousted. The Reformed congregation was then split between those who followed the Old Measures (and remained at the old church) and those who followed the New Measures (and worshiped in a new congregation led by Rev. Long).

The New Measures church was short-lived, however. About 1845, their church building burnt down a few years later and then Rev. Long departed. Rev. Thomas H. Winters led the New Measures from 1846 to 1848, and a new church was built. However, when the congregation could not pay for the new church, it was sold at auction. The New Measures congregation disbanded, with most of its members joining the Methodist or United Brethren churches.

The Old Measures congregation—which, after the dissolution of the New Measures congregation around 1848, could be simply known as the Reformed congregation again—had continued to worship at the brick church on the corner of Market and Walnut streets. They continued to use this building, which had been finished in 1828, until the year 1866. At that time, the old building was dismantled, primarily by the work of the men of the congregation, so that a new church could be built, partially on the same site and partially on new ground.

The new church took 13 years to complete, partially due to financial problems. After the first floor was completed, the project ran out of money. The congregation worshiped in this basement room in the meantime, still waiting the completion of the second floor audience room. After Rev. P. C. Prugh became the congregation’s pastor in 1876, he and church trustee Henry Hildabolt set out to solicit subscriptions for the remaining funds ($3,000) required to finish the church. In a short time, they received the necessary pledges, and construction continued. The new church was completed in 1879.

St. John's Church completed 1879

St. John’s Reformed Church completed in 1879 (From a postcard in the collection of the Germantown Historical Society. Used with permission.)

In 1891, the church trustees purchased a property on the southwest corner of Main and Gunckel streets to be used as the first parsonage. This was used until 1899, when a new parsonage property on the northwest corner of Gunckel and Walnut streets (the lot behind the church) was purchased.

Hildabolt donations, 1897

Records showing donations by church members, including Henry Hildabolt, to St. John’s Reformed Church in 1897 (St. John’s Reformed Church Records, MS-042, Dayton Metro Library)

On Sunday, April 7, 1907, a tornado struck, and the Reformed Church sustained serious damage, including being partially unroofed. The damage was so severe that the congregation decided it would be best to demolish the building and construct a new one on the same site.

St. Johns Church unroofed 1907

St. John’s Reformed Church, which was unroofed in the 1907 tornado (From a postcard in the collection of the Germantown Historical Society. Used with permission.)

The cornerstone for the new church was laid on November 3, 1907. Within the cornerstone were placed several items, including a list of church members (including 261 names), as well as several other lists and documents.[2] The grand opening of the new church was held in the Fall of 1908. The formal dedication was held on June 1, 1913, after all the construction costs were either paid or pledged. The mortgage burning was held on April 17, 1921, after the total construction costs ($37,000) were paid off.

St Johns 1908 church

The St. Johns Reformed Church built in 1908 (From a postcard in the collection of the Germantown Historical Society. Used with permission.)

The 1908 church building is still used by St. John’s congregation today, although the denomination itself has gone through some changes. In 1934, the Reformed and Evangelical churches merged nationally and became known as the Evangelical and Reformed Church. In 1957, the Evangelical & Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Church merged nationally and became known as the United Church of Christ.

St John's United Church of Christ Germantown

St John’s United Church of Christ in Germantown (Photo by the author, 4 Aug. 2012)

Therefore, the former St. John’s Reformed Church is now the St. John’s United Church of Christ. This congregation, over 200 years old, has worshiped at the southwest corner of Market and Walnut streets since 1828.

[1] Rev. Thomas Winters was the father of Valentine Winters, a prominent Dayton banker. Two of Rev. Thomas’s other sons, Thomas H. and David, also became ministers.

[2] For a more complete list of the contents of the 1907 cornerstone, see Annie Hildabolt’s Centennial History.


Becker, Carl M. The Village: A History of Germantown, Ohio, 1804-1976. Germantown, OH: Germantown Historical Society, 1981. Dayton Local History 977.172 B395V.

Hentz, John P. History of the Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Germantown, Ohio, and Biographies of its Pastors and Founders. Dayton, OH: Christian Publishing House, 1882. Dayton Local History 284.1 H52.

Hildabolt, Annie. “Centennial History of St. John’s Reformed Church at Germantown, Ohio” (1914). St. John’s Reform Church, Germantown, Ohio, Records, 1843-1914 (MSS 25), Ohio Historical Society (Columbus, Ohio).

History of Montgomery County, Ohio. Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co., 1882. Dayton Local History 977.172 H673A.

Kerne, Charme. History of Germantown [1804-1954]. [Germantown, OH?]: [Germantown Sesquicentennial Historical Committee?], 1954. Dayton Local History 977.172 K39H.

Montgomery County, Ohio, 1990: A History Written by the People of Montgomery County, Ohio. Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Co., 1990. Dayton Local History 977.172 M78813.

St. John’s United Church of Christ. “About Us.” 21 Oct. 2008. Accessed 28 Aug. 2012. http://www.stjohnsuccgermantownohio.org/page2.html.


This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in August 2012 for the St. John’s Reformed Church (Germantown, Ohio) Records (MS-042) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.

Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original finding aid (which includes a name index), available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library or the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry.

Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 13 – Howard Forrer (Part E) – Final Installment

“Who will survive is known only to Him who ruleth all things well.”[1]


I began this “tale” with the story of Howard Affleck, a bright and promising young man from Bridgeport, Ohio, who, exactly one hundred and fifty years ago today (May 15, 1862), died from wounds he received at the Battle of Shiloh (Parts 1, 2, and 3). He was the first of the “Two Howards.”

We have traced the stories of Howard’s relatives in Dayton—William Howard (Part 5), Luther Bruen (Part 9), Howard Forrer (Parts 6, 7, 8, 10, and 11)—and his younger brother Edward Affleck (Part 12). Two—William and Edward—survived the war, living to old age. Three died as a result of the war: Howard Affleck died of his wounds after returning to his parents’ home (Part 3) and was subsequently buried in his hometown. Luther Bruen, also wounded in battle, died in a hospital at Washington, D.C., and his body was shipped home promptly for burial (Part 9).

But Howard Forrer…was killed instantly, July 22, 1864, on the battlefield atDecatur,Georgia. His regiment, which was retreating at the time, was unable to retrieve his body immediately, and by the next day, the townsfolk had already buried him.

Because of the ongoing war, even his family was unable to go and retrieve his remains. His mother later wrote in her diary: “We were obliged to leave him a year in Georgia…”[2]

Time marched on. The war continued. The Forrers’ new house in HarrisonTownship(near their daughter and son-in-law Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Peirce at Five Oaks) was almost complete.[3]

Howard Forrer’s remains would not come home toDaytonuntil November 1865, nearly 16 months after his death.

In the meantime, the Forrer family commemorated Howard by having his portrait painted from a photograph, at cost of about $125 (about $1,700 in today’s money). Several letters from Sarah Forrer to her daughter Mary in September 1864 dwell upon which photograph should be used, the precise shade of blue of Howard’s army coat, and the color of his hair and eyes.[4]

Based on Sarah’s descriptions and her mention of retrieving the photo negative from Cridland’s photography studio[5], I believe this may the photograph from which the portrait was painted:

Howard Forrer

Howard Forrer

In these letters about the portrait, Sarah frequently refers to her son as “dear Howie,” rather than “Howard,” which was what she nearly always called him in all of her writings prior to his death (all that I have seen and read, anyway).[6] Having read so many of Sarah’s letters, I noticed the change immediately. I’m no psychologist, but I couldn’t help forming a theory about the change in how she referred to her son:

I suppose a nearly 23-year-old army officer might have insisted that his mother treat him like a man and refrain from calling him by a childhood nickname. Sarah had often written of putting on a brave face for her son, playing the patriotic mother and pretending to be fine when truly she wasn’t. I imagine she still saw him as a child, as many mothers see their children even after the children are adults. When he died, he could no longer defend his adulthood; so in Sarah’s mind, he reverted ever more back to being her baby, her beloved little boy, “dear Howie,” whom she would never see again.

The Forrers of course continued to seek information about how they could retrieve their son’s body.

Samuel Forrer apparently wrote to A. C. Fenner, the Acting Assistant Adjutant General of Howard Forrer’s brigade, asking for his assistance with the matter. It seems that the state of the roads and railroads near Atlanta—not to mention Sherman’s March to the Sea and general “total war” on the South—greatly contributed to do with the inability to retrieve poor Howard’s remains.

A. C. Fenner wrote to Samuel Forrer on January 11, 1865:

…The R. R. was also broken up so that trains could not pass to Atlanta… Nov 15 the Army started on the recent campaign so that no opportunity has been afforded me of visiting Decatur Ga. Or getting any information from there since I was in Dayton. The troops who occupied it last[,] the 23d Corps[,] are as you have observed in Tenn. The R. R. south of [Chatt.?] Is all destroyed South of Kingston.

Of course all prospects of visiting the place is now out of the question until the Road is rebuilt which will not be probably till after the war.

I am extremely sorry it never was in my power to render such services in this case as know would greatly gratify you. My personal relations alone with Howard prompted me if it had been possible to have done all you had desired but the stern circumstances of war interfered…[7]

The Civil War finally ended with Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, 1865.

Although certainly relieved that the war was over, many on both sides still mourned what the war had cost. Among them were the sisters Mary Affleck and Sarah Forrer, both of whom had lost sons—the “two Howards” of this tale’s title: Howard Affleck and Howard Forrer—in the war. Mary’s letter to her sister Sarah on June 18, 1865, and the accompany poem, “The Hour of Northern Victory” by Fanny Kemble, illustrate the what a bittersweet victory it was:

…it almost seems as though the ‘Old bright days had all come back again.’ Will they ever come again? Not to thee, or to me, yet we may do much to brighten the pathway of the dear ones that are still left to us, and thus in some measure, relieve the ‘blackness of darkness’ that overshadows our own…

Has thee ever read “The Hour of Northern Victory” by Fanny Kemble? I think it one of the grandest things I ever read, and will bear reading again, so I have copied it for thee…[8]

The poem was as follows:

“The Hour of Northern Victory”[9]
By Fanny Kemble

Roll not a drum, sound not a clarion-note
Of haughty triumph to the silent sky;
Hush’d be the shout of joy in ev’ry throat,
And veil’d the flash of pride in ev’ry eye.

Not with the Te Deums loud and high Hosannas,
Greet we the awful victory we have won,
But with our arms revers’d and lower’d banners
We stand—our work is done! 

Thy work is done, God, terrible and just,
Who lay’dst upon our hearts and hands this task,
And kneeling, with our foreheads in the dust,
We venture Peace to ask. 

Bleeding and writhing underneath our sword,
Prostrate our brethren lie, Thy fallen foe,
Struck down by Thee through us, avenging Lord,—
By Thy dread hand laid low. 

For our own guilt have we been doomed to smite
These our own kindred Thy great laws defying,
These, our own flesh and blood, who now unite
In one thing only with us—bravely dying. 

Dying how bravely, yet how bitterly!
Not for the better side, but for the worse,
Blindly and madly striving against Thee
For the bad cause where thou hast set Thy curse. 

At whose defeat we may not raise our voice,
Save in the deep thanksgiving of our prayers,
‘Lord! We have fought the fight!’ But to rejoice
Is ours no more than theirs. 

Call back Thy dreadful ministers of wrath
Who have led on our hosts to this great day;
Let our feet halt now in the avenger’s path,
And bid our weapons stay. 

Upon our land, Freedom’s inheritance,
Turn Thou once more the splendor of Thy face,
Where nations serving Thee to light advance,
Give us again our place. 

Not our bewildering past prosperity,
Not all thy former ill-requited grace,
But this one boon—Oh! Grant us still to be
The home of Hope to the whole human race. 

Mary’s letter continued:

I have been looking over on the island [Wheeling Island], which is almost covered with tents of returning soldiers who are waiting to be discharged. A long train of army wagons passed through town a week or two ago, and another this morning. I feel thankful that so many of the poor fellows are permitted to return to their homes in peace but my heart aches to think of the thousands that never will return and of the one who was more to me than the whole army.[10]

By the time Mary Affleck wrote that letter, her son Howard had been dead for three years (Part 3). Her son Edward had been spent many months in a POW camp but had finally returned to her (Part 12).

In the summer of 1865, the anniversary of Howard Forrer’s death came and went, and the Forrers still had not been able to retrieve his remains, despite the war finally being over.

On September 25, 1865, over 14 months after Howard had been killed, Maj. Genl. Thomas granted the necessary permissions to Samuel Forrer:

Permission to disinter Howard Forrer's body, 1865

Permission to disinter Howard Forrer’s body, 1865

Permission is hereby granted to Mr. Saml. Forrer to disinter the body of Lieut. Howard Forrer now buried at Decatur Georgia & to remove the same by Express or otherwise to Dayton Ohio, provided the disinterring is made at once after Oct. 15, 1865, & the body is shipped in a metallic coffin.[11]

Samuel Forrer inquired immediately about the cost of train fares and metallic coffins, apparently writing to Genl. Gates Phillips Thruston, a Daytonian stationed at Nashville, on October 1. Thruston wrote back on October 13, stating that the fare from Daytonto Atlantawould be about $30 (about $425 today), and sending a price list for coffins.[12]

While Samuel Forrer was making his arrangements to finally retrieve his son from Atlanta, the U.S. Treasury Department forwarded the balance of Howard’s back pay to his father: $797.89. The pay was for the time period of December 31, 1863, through Howard’s death on July 22, 1864.[13] Apparently, he had not received any pay for several months, which was not uncommon.

Final pay of Howard Forrer, 1865

Final pay of Howard Forrer, 1865

That $797 in back pay amounted to about $11,000 in today’s dollars.[14] However, it most certainly did not amount to much of anything to the Forrers, compared with the loss of their only son Howard.

Samuel Forrer and his brother-in-law John Howard finally made the journey in November 1865 to bring Howard Forrer home toDaytonat long last. It was a bittersweet relief. The son they remembered was of course not the son they brought home. Sarah wrote of it a few years later:

…And then dear Husband and our dear, kind Brother John went and brought him home… There was nothing left but dry bones and some parts of his clothing, one piece showing his name written in indelible ink by me. They took a case with them and put the dear remains in and packed it with sweet pine boughs that it might carry safely. And so he came who left in health, radiant, enthusiastic… Oh, so lovely!![15]

The Dayton Journal published a notice on November 14, 1865, announcing that Howard Forrer’s remains had finally come home, as well as the funeral arrranagements:

The Lamented Howard Forrer, Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865

The Lamented Howard Forrer, Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865

The remains of the lamented Howard Forrer arrived here yesterday, in charge of the venerable bereaved father, Samuel Forrer, and John Howard, Esq. Lieut. Forrer was killed during a charge upon our lines near Decatur, Ga., on the 22d of July, 1864. He was truly an estimable and talented young man, and a gallant soldier. We cannot too highly honor the memory of the noble young men who offered up their lives for their country. The funeral of Lieut. Forrer will take place at the family residence, near Tate’s Mills, northwest of the city, at 2 o’clock to-day, and his remains will be interred at ‘Woodland.’[16]

On November 14, 1865, Howard Forrer was finally laid to rest inWoodlandCemeteryin his home town ofDayton,Ohio.

Howard Forrer's grave, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

Howard Forrer’s grave, Woodland Cemetery, Dayton

The tombstone inscription reads:

Howard, son of Saml. & S. H. Forrer. Adjt. 63rd Regt. O.V.I. Fell in Battle at Decatur Ga. July 22, 1864, in his 23rd year.

Young, lovely, brave, and true. He died a pure offering to duty and patriotism.


I think that a story like this one—not my retelling of it (I’m not that vain), but the original story itself—brings history to life, into focus, into appreciation and understanding. It’s not just names, places, and dates. It’s full of people (just like us!) and their choices, actions, emotions, triumphs, and tragedies.

This story began to unfold for me last summer, when I first started arranging and describing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood manuscript collection (frequently cited in the “Tale of Two Howards” series and available to researchers at the Dayton Metro Library). After months or reading and researching this family, I had this story writing itself in my head, as I went along. And I just had to share it.

I have tried my best to write this “Tale” as both a good history and a good story, and I hope I have managed to do so.

[1] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 6:12, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton.

[2] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[3] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 2 Sept. 1864, FPW, 4:6. A photo of the Forrers’ completed home can be found in Frank Bruen, Christian Forrer, the Clockmaker, and his Descendants (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1939), 96a.

[4] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 31 Aug.-27 Sept. 1864 [several letters], FPW, 4:6; Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[5] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 12 Sept. 1864, FPW, 4:6.

[6] Sarah Forrer to Mary Forrer, 31 Aug.-27 Sept. 1864 [several letters], FPW, 4:6.

[7] A. C. Fenner to Samuel Forrer, 11 Jan. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[8] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.

[9] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3; Fanny Kemble, “The Hour of Northern Victory,” in The Spectator: A Weekly Review of Politics, Literature, Theology, and Art (London: John Campbell), vol. 38 (1865), 6 May 1865, 497. The date of the original publication was May 6; the date of the poem was April 25.

[10] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.

[11] Maj. Gen. Thomas to Samuel Forrer, 25 Sept. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[12] Gates P. Thruston to Samuel Forrer, 13 Oct. 1865, FPW, 6:12; Will T. Hale, A History of Tennessee and Tennesseans (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1913), accessed 15 May 2012, http://files.usgwarchives.net/tn/davidson/bios/thruston307nbs.txt; Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[13]U.S. Treasury Department to Samuel Forrer, Certificate # 192284, 23 Oct. 1865, FPW, 6:12.

[14] Inflation Calculator, http://www.westegg.com/inflation/.

[15] Sarah Forrer’s diary, 27 Dec. 1867, quoted in Frances I. Parrott, “Sons and Mothers,” [undated], FPW, 32:4.

[16] “The Lamented Howard Forrer,” Dayton Journal, 14 Nov. 1865, pg. 2.

A Tale of Two Howards, Part 12 – Edward Affleck

A Dayton paper this morning with a few lines from brother John informed us of the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your only son. You all have my deepest sympathy, and I would…[say?] something to comfort you yet feel that any attempt at consolation would seem like mockery while my own heart is breaking for Oh! Sarah, we can learn nothing of the fate of our own precious one, and know not whether he is killed or captured…[1]

-Mary Affleck to her sister Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864


While the Forrers of Dayton mourned the tragic deaths of two of their own—Luther Bruen and Howard Forrer—in the late summer of 1864, the Afflecks of Bridgeport were anxiously awaiting news of the whereabouts of Edward, their youngest and only remaining son.


Edward Tullibardine Affleck was born August 23, 1843, in Belmont County, Ohio, the youngest son of Dr. John G. Affleck and Mary (Howard) Little Affleck. Edward, or “Ned,” as he was sometimes called in the family, was 18 years old, when his older brother Howard returned home the bloodbath at Shiloh, sick and injured, suffering horribly until his death on May 15, 1862 (see Parts 1, 2, & 3). Even as she grieved for the loss of one son, Howard and Edward’s mother Mary began to fear for the life of the other, her sister Sarah wrote:

Howard left us about ten this morning… Mary…is distressed for fear Edward is going to the war…[2]

Mary wished for Edward to return to Dayton with her sister Sarah Forrer, to attend school, visit, and otherwise take his mind off thoughts of enlistment. It is unclear whether Edward actually did this.[3] Nevertheless, much to Mary’s relief (I’m sure), Edward stayed on the home front—and not the war front—for the next two years.

Edward Affleck. Photo courtesy of the Martins Ferry, Ohio, Historical Society. Used with Permission.

Edward Affleck. Photo courtesy of the Martins Ferry, Ohio, Historical Society. Used with Permission.

However, Edward did join the Ohio National Guard, and in September 1863, his mother Mary wrote to her sister about it:

Edward came home from Newark a week ago today, where he had been eight days in camp, drilling. He is Adjutant in one of the state volunteer militia regiments, but is not to be called into active service unless the state is invaded. I don’t think there is much danger of that—from the rebels, but am afraid we will have trouble at the time of the election next month, there is so much bitterness of feeling between the Republicans and Democrats. Truly we have ‘fallen upon evil times’ and I am beginning to despair of peace in our day…[4]

In late April of 1864, the family received news that Edward’s Ohio National Guard regiment, the 74th Battalion, would be called up for active service. The 74th Battalion was combined with the 78th Battalion of nearby Harrison County to form the 170th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, organized in mid-May 1864.[5] Mary Affleck was quite upset when she learned that this was to take place. She wrote of the news to her sister Sarah on April 28, 1864:

I am heartsick and remain at home to brood over my troubles. It does seem as though they are never to end. Now my only remaining son is to be taken from me. The National Guard is ordered to leave next Monday and I cannot prevail upon [Edward] to send in his resignation, as he says it would not be accepted. Mr. Patterson will also be obliged to go unless he can procure a substitute. He is furious, and declared he will not go, and there is some talk of his brother going in his place.[6]

The “Mr. Patterson” to whom Mary refers is probably her son-in-law Benjamin C. Patterson. Incidentally, his name appears nowhere in the roster for the 170th O.V.I., although there is a George Patterson (the name of B.C.’s brother), although the age is about 8 years off. Who knows! Maybe it’s a completely different George Patterson, and B. C. procured a substitute instead; nevertheless, Benjamin C. Patterson did not serve in the 170th O.V.I.[7] Edward Affleck did go with the 170th O.V.I., though. His official enlistment date is recorded as May 2, 1864, although obviously he was in the National Guard before that, per Mary’s letter above (from late April). Edward served as a first lieutenant and adjutant for the regiment. His term of service was 100 days, the same as the rest of the men in his regiment.[8] The 74th Battalion, Ohio National Guard, was just one of many battalions that were called up for federal service in May 1864:

Over 35,000 Ohio Guardsmen were federalized and organized into regiments for 100 days service in May 1864. Shipped to the Eastern Theater, they were designed to be placed into “safe” rear area duty to protect the railroads and supply points thereby freeing regular troops for Grant’s push on the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia…[9]

Edward’s particular regiment, the 170th O.V.I., was first assigned to duty in and around Washington, D.C., arriving about May 22, and leaving for a new assignment in Sandy Hook, Maryland, on July 4.[10] Edward was apparently enjoying himself on his “safe” adventure, according to a letter his sister Harriet wrote on June 5:

We received a letter from Edward last Wednesday and expect another today or tomorrow. He was well and enjoying himself very much. Mother is afraid he will enjoy himself so well, that he will not be willing to come back.[11]

Edward happened to be in Washington during the same time that his Dayton relative (by marriage), Major Luther Bruen, was a patient at Douglas Hospital there, attempting to recover from wounds he had received in the Battle of the Wilderness (see Part 9). Edward apparently visited Luther at the hospital and wrote home about it to his mother Mary, who later wrote thus to her sister Sarah (Luther’s mother-in-law) on June 19:

I am very glad to hear there is a fair prospect of the Major’s recovery, and am much obliged to thee for sending me Augusta’s letters. I received one from her a few days ago, also one from Edward, from both of which I learn that his health is still improving. Edward has yet seen nothing but the “poetry of war,” and seems to be enjoying it greatly. I am afraid he will find it so fascinating that he will not be willing to return at the end of the hundred days—if[,] which I scarcely dare to hope, they are thus permitted to return.[12]

Two days after this letter was written, Luther died. And it seems odd that, even after visiting a maimed family member in the hospital (Luther’s leg had been amputated)—not to mention whatever other atrocities he might have passed between the hospital threshold and Luther’s bedside, that Edward could still see only the “poetry of war.” Perhaps Mary was referring to whether or not Edward had participated in any actual battles, which at that time, he probably still had not. Unfortunately for Edward Affleck (and his worried family), things were about to get very real and very un-poetic. Despite the intended (relative) safety of the National Guard units’ positions, many soon found themselves in not-so-safe locations after all:

…As events transpired, many units found themselves in the thick of combat, stationed in the path of Confederate Gen. Jubal Early’s veteran Army of the Valley during its famed Raid on Washington. These Guard units participated in the battles of Monacacy, Fort Stevens, Maryland Heights, and in the siege of Petersburg.[13]

The 170th O.V.I. left Washington, D.C., on the night of July 4 and headed for Sandy Hook, Maryland, where they joined with other regiments in the defense of Maryland Heights.

Harper's Ferry, West Virginia. View of Maryland Heights, [1865]. (Photo by James Gardner. Library of Congress)

Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. View of Maryland Heights, [1865]. (Photo by James Gardner. Library of Congress)

The following multi-part letter (July 17-25) from Edward’s mother Mary to her sister Sarah tells a little of Edward’s experience at Maryland Heights:

For more than a week we have been in a state of the most painful uncertainty respecting Edward. The last letter we received from him was dated July 3rd. He was then, with a portion of his regiment, at Ft Sumner, and the probability was, that they would remain there till their term of service expired. We have heard that they were ordered to Harpers Ferry the next day, but can hear nothing from them, and know not what has become of them.[14] 24th. This letter, as thee will perceive by the date, was commenced a week ago, but I was interrupted and could not finish it then. We have since received two letters from Edward, one written on the 8th at Maryland Heights, where they had been skirmishing several days with the rebels. None in their Reg’t were killed or wounded, though he says a ball grazed his sleeve, and another struck a tree just behind him, and ‘if it hadn’t been for the tree, his carcass would have stopped the ball’! The other was written on the 13th at the camp near Petersville. They were expecting to move every day. I have since heard that they have gone to Leesburg, where it is expected there will be more fighting. Several of the boys had a ‘sunstroke’ at Maryland Heights… [About July 18th] is the last we have heard from them, and are waiting in the most intense anxiety for what may come next, an anxiety that is shared by the whole neighborhood, as a husband, son or brother has gone from almost every family… There are but three weeks of the hundred days remaining, and I am beginning to hope, if the rebel bullets spare him, that we shall have him back with us before the summer is quite over, though generally my fears are stronger than my hopes. Do you hear from your Howard? And where is he? I am almost afraid to look over the lists of killed and wounded lest I should see his name among them. I rec’d a letter from Joan last week. She had seen a notice of Major Bruen’s death and requests me to say to you when I write, that they all sympathize deeply with you in your affliction…[15]

That part gives me chills. Note the date: July 24. She asked about Howard, not yet knowing that Howard Forrer had been killed in the Battle of Atlanta two days earlier. For that matter, Sarah Forrer did not know about her son’s death yet either. The Forrer family learned of Howard’s death from the July 29 issue of the Cincinnati Gazette (see Part 10). July 24 was a day of great consequence for Mary’s son Edward, also, though she did not yet know it. A week or two previously, the 170th O.V.I. had been attached to the forces of Gen. George Crook’s Army of the Kanawha, which met Jubal Early’s Confederate Army of the Valley near Winchester, Virginia, on July 24, in what was later known as the Second Battle of Kernstown [Virginia].[16]

Monday, 25th. We have just heard that the 170th were in the fight at Snickers Gap [Virginia] on the 18th. There were two killed and nineteen wounded in the regiment, but Edward’s name was not among them. It is reported here that Atlanta is taken by our forces, though it is doubted by some…[17]

Indeed, Atlanta was taken. And Howard Forrer died in the effort. Mary learned this before she wrote her next letter to her sister on August 4:

A Dayton paper [probably the Aug. 2 Dayton Journal article] this morning with a few lines from brother John informed us of the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your only son. You all have my deepest sympathy, and I would…[say?] something to comfort you yet feel that any attempt at consolation would seem like mockery while my own heart is breaking for Oh! Sarah, we can learn nothing of the fate of our own precious one, and know not whether he is killed or captured. The last letter we received from him was written on the 21st. They were then a few miles from Snickers Gap, where they had been in a fight and were driven back. After that he was in the battle at Winchester [Second Battle of Kernstown] on the 24 or 25 and we can hear nothing of him since. There too they were driven back, and nearly all the 170th Reg’t succeeded in reaching Harpers Ferry. Several of them have written home, but can give no account of Edward. They all think he is either killed or captured. Capt. Robinson writes that he was with him on the field of battle, and that they did not hear the order to retire till nearly all the other regiments had gone, and the rebels were close upon them. In the confusion of the retreat he was separated from his men, and when he got to the train (a wagon train I presume) he saw two men riding Edward’s horse, that he put them in a wagon and took the horse himself on which he escaped. When I heard of it I felt almost certain he had been killed, for I thought if he had been captured, they would have taken his horse also, but yesterday one of our boys came home who says he was not on his horse during the battle[,] that he left it in the rear with one of the boys who was sick, and that he fought by his side till they were ordered to retreat, and that they were together till just as they were entering Winchester, when Edward who had complained of not feeling well, told them he was unable to keep up with them, but for them to save themselves, and that was the last they saw of him. This gave me a little hope, for I knew his father had a brother and two or three sisters living in Winchester, and I thought it probable when he found he could not keep up with the others that he had taken refuge with them. When I mentioned it, the man said he recollected hearing Edward say when they were at Snickers Gap that he wished they were going to Winchester, for he had some relations there that he would like to see. He said, moreover, that as they were passing through W. the day before the battle Edward had inquired of someone where somebody lived, and had called at a house in town. This is the only hope I have for him, if he is not with them, it is not probable we shall ever know his fate. His father would go on, and try to find some trace of him, but this morning’s papers say the rebels have their headquarters in Winchester, and all communication is cut off—so we can only wait, and hope—though it is a very faint hope at best, and this suspense is terrible. I sometimes think I cannot bear it much longer—but still try to struggle on for the sake of the few that are left…[18]

The good news was that Edward Affleck was not killed. The bad news was that he did not escape to his relatives’ home in Winchester; he had indeed been taken prisoner by the Confederate army during the battle at Kernstown on July 24.[19] (Incidentally, Edward does not seem to have even been counted in the official “Return of Casualties” for the battle, which tallied only 2 enlisted men—and 0 officers—from the 170th Ohio as “captured or missing.” Edward, as the regiment’s adjutant, should have been counted as an officer.[20]) Eventually, it was realized that Edward Affleck had indeed been captured by enemy forces, and this news was relayed to his family. It’s not clear to me exactly how it was ascertained that Edward was in fact among those captured. Did the two sides exchanged lists of prisoners? Or were prisoners perhaps allowed to write letters? Because, from the sound of this letter written by Edward’s sister Harriet on August 28 1864 (a month after his capture), it sounds like they expected to hear from Edward personally:

We have been waiting for good news from Edward (before writing again), but as yet have heard nothing, except that he had been sent to Richmond, instead of Americus. Mother thinks she would rather he had gone to Georgia…[21]

The Civil War prison at Richmond—the infamous Libby Prison—was infamous even then for the “overcrowded and harsh conditions under which officer prisoners from the Union Army were kept.”[22] Remember, Edward was an officer: an adjutant, nothing too fancy, as far as officers go, but an officer nonetheless. Perhaps that is why his mother “would rather he had gone to Georgia.” I assume that by Americus, Georgia, they are referring to the Civil War prison better known as Andersonville, which was about 15 miles from the town of Americus. While Andersonville Prison was still obviously a horrible place, it does not seem to have had the reputation of officer abuse that Libby Prison did.[23]

Richmond, Virginia. Libby Prison, North side, Apr. 1865. (Library of Congress)

Richmond, Virginia. Libby Prison, North side, Apr. 1865. (Library of Congress)

(Actually, according to the Martins Ferry Historical Society, Edward was at Camp Asylum in Columbia, SC, and not brought to Richmond until months later.[24] But then why would his mother believe he was at Richmond?) Harriet’s Aug. 28 letter continued:

The report is that the prisoners taken before the first of Aug are to be exchanged soon—if it was only true what a burden it would lift off our hearts. Still as you say—we know that he lives and that is so very much of a comfort. Our trouble would seem worse if we had not you and yours to think about…[25]

Bad news about the prisoner exchange. Unfortunately, Edward had picked a bad time to get captured—a really bad time. Okay, so he didn’t pick the time, but it was a bad time, nonetheless. This was about the time that General Grant decided to halt all prisoner exchanges. Grant wrote on August 18, 1864:

It is hard on our men held in Southern prisons not to exchange them, but it is humanity to those left in the ranks to fight our battles. Every man we hold, when released on parole or otherwise, becomes an active soldier against us at once either directly or indirectly. If we commence a system of exchange which liberates all prisoners taken, we will have to fight on until the whole South is exterminated. If we hold those caught, they amount to no more than dead men. At this particular time to release all rebel prisoners in the North would insure Sherman’s defeat and would compromise our safety here.[26]

Edward would have to wait months before being considered for an exchange. The last part of Harriet’s Aug. 28 letter stated:

The 170th Regt will be home today—some of them came home yesterday and brought Edward’s trunk and sword. It gratifies us very much to see how much he is beloved by them all. In his trunk we found a short letter to cousin [Lida?] not sealed—containing his photograph. I do not know why he had not sent it. Mother says if he never comes home she will send it to her but will wait and see what he says if he does come…[27]

Indeed, Edward only had about 17 days left on his 100 days of service when he was captured. If he had not been taken prisoner at Winchester, he, too, might have been coming home on August 28. (The majority of the regiment was mustered out on September 10.) Or, on the flip side, he might have been one of whose who died of heat exhaustion or skirmishing somewhere between Winchester and home.[28] In February 1865, Edward was still imprisoned, and his mother wrote of her unsuccessful attempts to write to him, although apparently he was able to send letters out:

I have been waiting for news from Edward before writing to thee but have waited in vain. The latest was Dec. 9th though a week or two ago three or four letters came, written in November. He had rec’d none of ours but was confident many had been written, and asks us to send money and clothes to him. It is very disheartening to know that all our efforts to relieve him have hitherto proved ineffectual… I am anxiously watching the Exchanges, and think if he is still living that he will certainly be at home before long—but that terrible if still haunts me night and day, and the anxiety and suspense are almost insupportable… In Edward’s letter of Nov. 6th he says “Give my love to all our relatives in Dayton and tell them I am coming to pay them a visit some day—when this cruel war is over.” I wish some of you would write to him and send via Vicksburg, and perhaps among all our letters he may get one. He says he has never heard a word from any of us since the latter part of June, when he was in Washington…[29]

(Edward’s use of the phrase “some day” makes me think maybe he never actually did go to Dayton for a visit, previously.) Edward Affleck was finally released from Confederate prison in March of 1865. He was paroled at Coxes Wharf, Virginia, on March 10, and honorably discharged shortly thereafter.[30] Edward returned to his family in Bridgeport, Ohio. When Mary Affleck wrote to her sister Sarah again in June, it seemed that things were finally getting back to normal, with the war over, and her youngest son home safely:

[Edward] was gone ten or twelve days to Washington and Winchester, and is very busy just now, did not come up last night as I expected. He generally comes on Saturday evening, and stays till Monday morning, and then, with Harriet and the children here, it almost seems as though the ‘Old bright days had all come back again.’ Will they ever come again? Not to thee, or to me, yet we may do much to brighten the pathway of the dear ones that are still left to us, and thus in some measure, relieve the ‘blackness of darkness’ that overshadows our own… I have been looking over on the island, which is almost covered with tents of returning soldiers who are waiting to be discharged. A long train of army wagons passed through town a week or two ago, and another this morning. I feel thankful that so many of the poor fellows are permitted to return to their homes in peace but my heart aches to think of the thousands that never will return and of the one who was more to me than the whole army.[31]

The last letter from Mary Affleck during this time period indicates that, as Edward settled back into his old life, he got busy working (probably in a position as a clerk at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, the job he had held just before his military service):

Edward does not talk so much about a trip to Dayton as he did when he first came home. He has so much to do at the depot that he does not get up to see us very often, and when he does come, seldom stays more than an hour or two. It is a disappointment to [his younger sister] Mary, who had quite set her heart upon going…[32]

I wonder if Edward ever did manage to make that trip to Dayton? In the years after the Civil War, Edward Affleck had several occupations, including railroad clerk, wholesale coal dealer, bank cashier, and vice president of a dairy. In 1871, Edward married Laura Walkup, and they had four children. They named their oldest son after Edward’s brother: Howard Gladstone Affleck, II. Edward Affleck died January 27, 1911, in Toledo, at the age of 67.[33]

[1] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (hereafter cited as FPW), 35:3, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.
[2] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, FPW, 4:2.
[3] Sarah Forrer to Samuel Forrer, 15 May 1862, FPW, 4:2; Samuel Forrer to Sarah Forrer, 18 May 1862, FPW, 1:8.
[4] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 20 Sept. 1863, FPW, 35:3.
[5] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866 (Akron: Werner Co., 1889), vol. IX, 415.
[6] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 28 Apr. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[7] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 415-430.
[8] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 417.; American Civil War soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; U.S. Civil War Soldier Records & Profiles (database), Ancestry Library Edition. (The U.S. Civil War Soldiers database gives an enlistment date of Feb. 5, 1864; the other two sources state May 2. This is borderline irrelevant, though, because Edward was in the National Guard earlier than either of those dates, and his “enlistment” was a result of his ONG regiment being called up for active duty.)
[9] “Ohio Army National Guard,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_Army_National_Guard.
[10] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 415.
[11] Harriet Patterson to Sarah Forrer, 5 June 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[12] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 19 June 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[13] “Ohio Army National Guard,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohio_Army_National_Guard.
[14] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 17 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[15] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 24 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[16] “Second Battle of Kernstown,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Kernstown; Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 415; Report of Gen. George Crook, 27 July 1864, in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 37, Part I-Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 286.
[17] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 25 July 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[18] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 4 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[19] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 417.
[20] [Return of Casualties at Kernstown, July 24-25], in The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Vol. 37, Part I-Reports (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1891), 288.
[21] Harriet Patterson to a Forrer cousin, 28 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[22] “Libby Prison,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libby_Prison.
[23] “Andersonville National Historic Site,” Wikipedia, accessed 3 May 2012, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andersonville_National_Historic_Site.
[24] Martins Ferry Historical Society, “Edward Tullibardine Affleck,” accessed 3 May 2012, accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmfahs/cw-affleck.htm.
[25] Harriet Patterson to a Forrer cousin, 28 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[26] Gen. U. S. Grant to Gen. Butler, 18 Aug. 1864, quoted in Holland Thompson, “Exchange of Prisoners,” in Francis T. Miller, ed., The Photographic History of The Civil War, Vol. 4: Soldier Life and Secret Service, accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.civilwarhome.com/prisonerexchange.htm.
[27] Harriet Patterson to a Forrer cousin, 28 Aug. 1864, FPW, 35:3.
[28] Janet B. Hewett, ed., Supplement to the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Part II – Records of Events, vol. 56 (Wilmington, NC: Broadfoot Publishing Co., 1997), 270-271.
[29] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 15 Feb. 1865, FPW, 35:3.
[30] Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion, 1861-1866, vol. IX, 417; Martins Ferry Historical Society, “Edward Tullibardine Affleck,” accessed 3 May 2012, accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmfahs/cw-affleck.htm.
[31] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 18 June 1865, FPW, 35:3.
[32] Mary Affleck to Sarah Forrer, 30 July 1865, FPW, 35:3.
[33] Martins Ferry Historical Society, “Edward Tullibardine Affleck,” accessed 3 May 2012, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohmfahs/cw-affleck.htm; American Civil War Soldiers (database), Ancestry Library Edition; U.S. Federal Census, 1850-1910.