Tag Archives: local history

Scarlet Fever and Thoughts of Mary Howard

I’ve been thinking of this post for about 3 weeks now, but it seems even stranger to be writing now, in the midst of the increasingly serious COVID-19 pandemic. It was hardly a blip on my radar 3 weeks ago.

On the last day of February, which this year happened to be a Saturday and a Leap Day (Feb. 29), my family headed out for some errands and lunch. My 2-year-old son started acting slightly pathetic while we were in the restaurant; lying down on the bench and not wanting to eat. I thought he was just being picky (as usual) and that he was just tired (as it was getting close to nap-time anyway).

But when we got him home, we realized he had a fever. It was nothing overly concerning, as far as the actual temperature (maybe 101? I forget now), so we gave him some Tylenol and put him down for his nap. He seemed okay after that.

The next morning when he woke up, he had this fine, bumpy, reddish-pink rash on his tummy, back, and to a lesser extent on his cheeks.

Scarlet fever rash on a 2-year-old, 2020 Mar. 1

Scarlet fever rash on a 2-year-old, 2020 Mar. 1

I googled (yes Dr. Google) a some things (measles, even “rubella” having no idea what that even was); sent pictures to family members in the medical profession (“kids get weird rashes,” one of my nurse-sisters said); and speculated that perhaps I had failed to “find” a place where he had wet the bed (he sometimes takes off his diaper in bed — the joys of toddlers!) and maybe that was irritating his skin (so I washed all his sheets—again—and gave him a bath).

The next morning, the rash seemed better, and he didn’t have a fever, so I sent him to school (daycare). Well, he hadn’t even been there two hours, and I get a phone call from the school, saying he needs to be picked up ASAP: “We think it looks like scarlet fever.”

Scarlet fever? Is that still even a thing? Isn’t that like from the 1800’s and earlier?

It seemed like it was SO “not a thing” that it didn’t even occur to me to Google that one, the day before.

Well, spoiler alert: It was scarlet fever. Well, it was strep, plus the associated fever and red, sandpaper-y rash (which strep can sometimes cause), thus making it not just strep but “scarlet fever.”

Scarlet Fever! It’s Not Just For The 1800’s Anymore!

Apparently, scarlet fever has been making a comeback. (Weird.)

Thankfully, these days it is easy to treat with antibiotics, something that wasn’t invented until the 20th century. Consequently, all things considered, it wasn’t that big of a deal for my son. I’m sure he didn’t feel very good, but he took the medicine (with a little chocolate bribery), and he got better. And now he’s fine.

*****

But I just kept thinking of another mother and her babies, almost two hundred years ago, who weren’t so lucky.

*****

As you may recall, one of the last big projects I worked on at the Dayton Metro Library before I started working at Wright State University was to process the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Papers. And I wrote about the FPW Papers here quite a lot.

One member of that large, extended family, represented in the collection was Mary Howard, sister of Sarah (Howard) Forrer (whose husband was Samuel Forrer). I wrote a biographical sketch of Mary for the collection and posted it on this blog, identifying Mary as “the bearer of many sorrows.”

Well, most of those sorrows involved disease: specifically cholera and scarlet fever.  (Some involved the Civil War; see A Tale of Two Howards.)

In the summer of 1833, Mary (Howard) Little was a 24-year-old wife and mother of 3 (with another on the way). By the summer of 1834, she was a 25-year-old childless widow.

In July-August 1833, a cholera epidemic struck central Ohio and the Howard and Little families. In the span of a few weeks, Mary lost her husband Harvey Little, her two older children (ages 5 and 4), both her parents, and a younger sister, all to cholera. Mary was left with a 2-year-old and the new baby, who would be born in February and named Harvey Little Jr. after his deceased father.

Scarlet fever dealt two more blows to Mary in the spring of 1834. Around April 30th, the older of her two remaining children died from it; and on May 7th, the baby, less than 4 months old, succumbed as well.

This letter from Mary’s brother John Howard to his and Mary’s brother-in-law Samuel Forrer (husband of their sister Sarah) describes Mary’s situation on May 7, 1834, the day her fourth and final child died:

John Howard to Samuel Forrer, 1834 May 7, Box 36, File 8, MS-018, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Papers, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio (reproduced with permission)

John Howard to Samuel Forrer, 1834 May 7, Box 36, File 8, MS-018, Forrer-Peirce-Wood Papers, Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio (reproduced with permission)

The letter reads as follows:

Columbus, O. 5th Mo. (May) 7th 1834
Dear Brother,
At the request of Sister Mary, I write to inform thee of the death of Little Harvey, of the scarlet fever. Wm. Hance informed thee that he had been taken. He died this afternoon at about 5 o’clock, after having suffered considerably during the last two days. Medicine seemed to have no effect on him.– Although this is a very severe blow to Sister Mary, she sustains bears it with remarkable fortitude. She is considerably fatigued with nursing, though in other respects (tolerably?) well. She sends her love to you, and says she would like to see you & that Sara promised her she would come, if she could make it convenient. She has, for the last few days, been at Wm. Hance’s, at his very earnest request, and also that of his wife; they have both been, and still are, very kind and affectionate. I came here last evening and intend to stay until I see Sister Mary well settled somewhere.
Affectionately, John Howard
(To) Samuel Forrer

Poor Mary. I can’t even. “…after having suffered considerably during the last two days. Medicine seemed to have no effect on him…”

It’s the kind of thing that makes you really stop and feel grateful for all that’s been achieved in modern medicine since then, even if there is still more to learn.

And now, here we all sit, “sheltering in place” per the governor’s order, wondering “who’s next” for COVID-19 and whether that person and the medical professionals around them will have what it takes to fight it off.

*****

Special thanks to Jamie McQuinn and Martha Ballinger in the Local History Room, Dayton Metro Library, for quickly providing me with the scan of the above letter, from the collection, and permission to use it.

And special thanks to Jamie (my former supervisor there) also for the following good-natured tease in his initial response, which gave me a chuckle and a smile: “Just when you thought you could quit those Forrer-Peirce-Woods, they suck you back in again…”
Too right.

Bibliography & More Info:

Come & Hear My Genealogical Quilt Story on Jan. 29

"Tracing a Stitch through Time" with Lisa Rickey, Jan. 29, at 1:25 (click to enlarge)

“Tracing a Stitch through Time” with Lisa Rickey, Jan. 29, at 1:25 (click to enlarge)

Do you have an heirloom or antique item and wish you knew more about its creator or owner?  If the item is signed and dated, or if you at least know the name of the person rumored to be associated with it, you may be able to find out more—and an archives can help you!

I will be sharing my experience of one such research adventure this coming Friday, January 29, at the Wright State University Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies’ 3rd Annual Quilt Show Celebrating Quilt Stories.

In my presentation “Ida Grady’s Sunburst Quilt: Tracing a Stitch through Time,” I will describe how I researched the creator of an heirloom quilt. Given just a few original clues at the beginning — a name and date on the quilt itself, along with a vague sense that the quilter may have been a relative — I used local history and genealogy research to discover how the mysterious Ida Grady was connected to her family.

I will talk about some of the different types of historical records that were helpful and how the information contained in each one was applied to solving different pieces of the puzzle.

The antique quilt that started it all – “Sunburst” (1934) by Ida Grady – will be on display throughout the quilt show, as well as on hand during the presentation.

The presentation takes place on Friday, January 29, from 1:25 to 2:20 p.m. in 156C Student Union, Wright State University. The event is free, and the public is welcome. Visitor parking is available just outside the Student Union. To view the full schedule of speakers and activities for the multi-day quilt show & for more information, please visit the quilt show’s event page.

I hope to see you there!

(This post was modified slightly from the original post – also written by me – published January 22, 2016, on the Wright State University Special Collections & Archives “Out of the Box” blog.)

Sure it’s genealogy; it’s just not mine!

I don’t know what it’s been about the past few weeks, but I’ve been somewhat inundated with emails stemming from this blog recently. Now, when I say “inundated,” okay, it’s still only been about one a week or so. (I think there have been 4 or 5 separate reach-out emails in the past month.) But that still seems like “a lot” when sometimes it’s weeks or months in between receiving those kind of communications.

It was a variety this time, too:

  • One was thanking me for the Howard Forrer story. (You’re so welcome; thank you for enjoying it!)
  • One was: Can I use your  Bessie Tomlin article in this non-commercial digital history project I’m doing? (Yes you can, thanks for asking first, & your project sounds awesome!)
  • Two were family history related: Do you know anything about my rather noteworthy Dayton relative so-and-so? (No, actually, I don’t, but here are some suggestions of where else to look.)

I love these. You have no idea.

Not just because they make me feel like a rock star for (apparently) writing an interesting story or a well-researched history or bio sketch. But because it’s proof positive that there’s somebody else out there who cares about these people, places, and events.

Sure, hypothetically, I know that such people probably exist out there somewhere. And sure, I see the search terms on my blog statistics page that tell me people are looking for these things (and finding me). But when you sit down to actually take the time and write me an email — even if it seems half selfish because you’re really writing to ask me something — it makes  my day. And I’m happy to help you if I can.

But getting back to the title of this post. Over the past couple of years with the blog, based on the emails and comments I receive, usually with reference to the people I write about, I often have people asking me if these are my relatives. I guess it’s because they can tell that I’ve taken much care to write these lovingly detailed biographical sketches of them. After all, why would anyone do that if it wasn’t their own family?

Well, the short answer is that I did all that research in order to write the the biographical sketch portion of archival manuscript finding aids, and my boss gave me permission to re-post them here, my intention being additional discoverability for the collections. To write these biographical sketches, I used the collections themselves (duh, what better than a primary source right there in my hands?!) as well as genealogy research techniques to fill in the “Wait, who’s Aunt Sarah?”-type gaps. (You can read the longer versions of essentially this same explanation in my posts from May 21, 2012, and Sept. 2, 2011.)

But anyway—again—why would anyone go to such lengths to write these detailed, foot-noted, multi-page biographical sketches? After all–you caught me, fellow archivists–I admit they are probably longer and much more detailed than what was strictly necessary to fulfill my obligation of providing some biographical/historical context for the researcher via the finding aid.

But I can’t help it. I love these people. These wonderful, colorful, real people, who lived in the past, whose papers, whose stories, I’m holding in my hands (unless it’s photos- then in my gloved hands). They suck me in. I want to know them. I want to “get” them. Who are they? How do they fit together- with this “stuff”? with the other people they talk about? with the community where they live? Er, I mean, lived.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of genealogy anyway. My grandma got me started on it, and I’ve been interested in it — oh dear God, I just did the math at this very moment — over half my life. But unfortunately, I couldn’t write such detailed biographical sketches about most of my own ancestors (at least, ones from the same time period as the Bio Sketches I’ve written here), even if I wanted to — and believe me, if I could, I would.

But I just don’t know their stories. And I don’t have the diaries and letters and other documents needed to “fill in the blanks” in between the official records (birth/death records, census, city directory, etc.). The manuscripts I would need just don’t exist. Or, if they do, I haven’t found the relative that’s stowed them away yet.

So, if you’re one of my relatives and you’re holding out on me, now would be a good time to speak up, please. I swear I won’t try to guilt you into giving me the docs; I just want a look. (And probably some photocopies.)

And while we’re at it, same goes for the owner of Sarah (Howard) Forrer‘s diary. It’s mentioned in other sources, but it’s currently “lost to history.” If anyone has it, I’d love to see it.

And there I go again, getting wound up about the history of people who aren’t even my relatives. Which seems to baffle the genealogists who email me, thinking they must have found a distant cousin in this girl who has made such an effort to document the life of their ancestor (or great-uncle or whoever).

Nope. Just doin’ it for the love of history, folks. And for the love of these super-cool people whose “stuff” I’ve been charged with arranging, describing, and preserving.

But don’t worry. I don’t mind if you think I’m a distant cousin. And I promise not to laugh or anything when I have to tell you I’m not. Keep those emails coming. I’m always thrilled to “meet” someone, anyone—genealogist, historian, whoever—who still cares about these long-dead people that I’ve cared about. And if I can help you, I will, and I’m happy to.

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.

Five Oaks

Before it was a neighborhood…or even a park…it was a house. Five Oaks was the name that Jeremiah H. Peirce, a local lard oil manufacturer and later lumber dealer, gave to his 1854 home, apparently naming the estate after “five stately oak trees” situated on the four-acre property (Dayton History; Burroughs; FONIA).

I thought I would share some photos and information about the Five Oaks estate, as a nice, light entry for around the holidays.

This annotated map shows the location of the J. H. Peirce and boundaries estate in 1875. A lot of these old maps don’t show street names, so I’ve added the (current) street names to help you get your bearings in the map:

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

Location of Five Oaks, 1875

(You can view a high resolution version of the original Harrison Township map on Dayton Remembers, Dayton Metro Library’s digital images collection.)

Charles Sullivan, well-known in the Montgomery County Historical Society (now Dayton History) many decades ago, reminisced about the area in the late 19th century, mentioning two homes in particular that were off the west side of Forest Avenue (or, Tate’s Mill Road, in early accounts):

Opposite Shaw ave. a lane ran up to the home of Samuel Forrer, a two story brick, still standing. He was a well known civil engineer… He had six children and the descendants are still [1943] in the locality.

Opposite Neal ave. was the lane running up the hill to “Five Oaks” the residence of J. H. Peirce, a son-in-law of Samuel Forrer. He had 8 children and was in the lumber industry at the corner of Wayne and State now a railroad yard.

Here is a current Google Map showing the area now known as Five Oaks. The little green splotch of Five Oaks Park (northwest corner of 5 Oaks Avenue and Squirrel Road) is where the Five Oaks estate was originally. Samuel Forrer’s home was located on part of the Grandview Medical Center property.

And now for the really good stuff: pictures!

Since many of us probably have gingerbread on the brain right now, I thought it might be fun to share a different kind of “gingerbread house” — gingerbread in the sense of Victorian architectural embellishments. The Five Oaks house had some really neat “gingerbread” around its eaves, as you will see.

This photo, probably from the late 1860s or early 1870s — I suspect those two little boys are Jeremiah’s two youngest children, J. Elliot and Howard; the woman, probably his wife Elizabeth (who died in 1874) — shows what the Five Oaks mansion looked like in its early days:

Five Oaks, before the tower was built

Five Oaks, before the tower was built (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

About 1890, an addition, including a tower, was built on the north end of the house:

Peirce Homestead [Five Oaks]

Peirce Homestead (Lutzenberger Collection)

Here’s a wonderful cyanotypephotograph, showing roughly the same view but from a little further back, so you can see the trees:

Five Oaks cyanotype

Five Oaks (Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection)

After the tower was added, people sometimes referred to the Peirce house as “The Castle on the Hill” (Dayton History).

In a 1980 article about the Five Oaks neighborhood, long-time resident George Loney had this to say about the Peirce homestead (quoted from Burroughs):

There was still a lot of open land around here when I was a kid, and I sure remember that old Peirce castle. It really was a castle. The stones had been imported from Europe, there was a turret and what looked like a dungeon underneath. It was all hidden in the woods and surrounded by three ponds. Mr. Peirce used to hang a rope with a noose on it in the woods to scare us off. I guess we did get on his nerves–all the kids in the neighborhood used to sneak around there. Of course, the castle’s gone now…

The “Mr. Peirce” of this anecdote must refer to J. Elliot Peirce, the only “Mr. Peirce” that Loney could have known in his childhood. J. H. Peirce died in 1889; J. Elliot was his son. Members of the Peirce family lived at Five Oaks until the 1930s: J. H.’s second wife Mary lived there until 1929 along with two of J. H.’s unmarried daughters, Sarah and Elizabeth, both of whom died in 1930. I don’t think J. Elliot actually lived at Five Oaks with his family — Mary, Sarah, and Elizabeth lived there — but according to city directories, he did live very nearby  for a while, at 551 N. Old Orchard Ave., according to a 1919-20 directory; that same directory lists the others at “nec [northeast corner] Five Oaks and Old Orchard Ave.”

In 1946, the four-acre was purchased by the city for a park, and the house was razed (Burroughs; Dayton History). Five Oaks Park now occupies the land.

For more information on Five Oaks or the Peirce family, come see us at the Dayton Metro Library, Local History Room (basement of Main); or feel free to leave a comment on this blog. If photos are what you’re after, check out our Flickr set about the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection.

This post was written in advance on Dec. 17, 2011.

*****

Bibliography

Burroughs, Virginia. “Diversity helps keep Five Oaks neighborhood vital.” Dayton Daily News, 8 Aug. 1980, p. Z6-15. Available in Dayton Local History Room, Clippings File #3908 (Neighborhoods–Five Oaks).

Dayton City Directories. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio.

Dayton History. “Five Oaks.” Accessed 15 Dec. 2011.  http://www.daytonhistory.org/archives/who_fiveoaks.htm.

Everts, L. H. Combination Atlas Map of Montgomery County, Ohio. Philadelphia : Hunter Press, 1875. Dayton Remembers: Preserving the History of the Miami Valley. Accessed 17 Dec. 2011 through Dayton Remembers: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/; or, find in a library.

Five Oaks Neighborhood Improvement Association (FONIA). “Five Oaks History.” Accessed 3 Dec. 2011. http://www.fiveoaksdayton.com/credits.html.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402. Many photos from the collection can be seen at the DML Flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/photos/dmlhistory/.

Lutzenberger, William. “The Peirce Homestead.” Photo #0541. Lutzenberger Collection (MS-024), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. Photo available online: http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/lutzenberge/id/630.

Sullivan, Charles F. “The Covington Pike” (15 Sept. 1943). In Sullivan’s Papers, 425-437. Dayton, OH: Dayton & Montgomery County Public Library, 1995?. Available at the Dayton Metro Library, call no. 977.173 S949S. Transcription accessed, 15 Dec. 2011, at: http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/covington_pike.html.

A little Quaker love story, Revisited (Part 6)

I intend this to be the true final installment in my story of how Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard met in 1825 and married in 1826 without her parents’ consent, but you just never can tell. I keep finding things!

In my last entry, I attempted to riddle out the school Sarah was attending in Cincinnati when she met Samuel. I had to concluded that it was probably one or the other of two schools, but unfortunately I couldn’t make a clear decision between them. No matter…

I included a transcription of an interesting letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, discussing her schooling, from 23 Nov. 1825. It seems that sometime between Nov. 23 and Dec. 11, when he wrote his daughter another, very differently toned letter, Horton had probably caught wind of Sarah’s blooming relationship with Samuel. The Dec. 11, 1825, letter gives general news, mentions little about school, and offers the following parental admonishments:

Mother says…[for me to tell Sarah] ‘to keep to meetings, to be careful of the company she keeps and not throw herself away.’ This is the earnest solicitude of thy tenderly affectionate parents. It is the Counsel of the giver of every good and perfect gift. If thou art attentive thereto the blessings of everlasting preservation will be afforded and no good thing will be withheld from thee. We are anxiously expecting a letter from thee. Micajah [Williams] is here and in good health, says he rec’d a letter from [his wife] Hannah telling that you were well and that thou wast pleased with the School, all of which is very satisfactory… I intreat [sic] thee my dear Child, write frequently, and freely withhold nothing from us which would be interesting to us or interesting or desirable or useful or relieving to thy self…

Given that Micajah Williams knew Samuel, Sarah, and Sarah’s father (see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011) — and that Horton mentions Micajah has paid him a visit — it makes me wonder if he (Williams) was the one to tip off Sarah’s parents. In any event, it does sound like they heard about it.

To me, Horton’s letter sounds like the 1825 equivalent of: Watch out for boys [or in this case, men]. Don’t forget about church [especially since your new beau is not of our same religion]. You like your new school; remember how we sent you to school to get an education, not to meet boys [er, men]. And, of course, the classic: Is there something you want to tell us? [We already know, so spill it.]

I don’t know exactly whether Sarah ‘fessed up herself. I can only really go by the correspondence that I actually have.

I know that at some point Samuel asked for Horton’s permission to marry Sarah (see Part 1, Aug. 9, 2011) — which, although what I have is an undated draft, could not have been written very long after Horton’s Dec. 11th letter, because Samuel and Sarah did get married on Feb. 13, 1826 — apparently “without the consent of her much loved parents” (according to Samuel’s Feb. 13, 1826, letter to his new father-in-law Horton, informing him of his and Sarah’s marriage; see Part 3, Aug. 11, 2011).

At the time that I wrote Part 3, I had not yet finished processing the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection of manuscripts (from which all of these letters originated), so I did not know exactly how Sarah’s father reacted but speculated about how he seemed to have taken the news (see Part 3B, Aug. 13, 2011).

Since then, however, I came across a letter from Horton to Sarah and Samuel, dated 21 Feb. 1826, that I had not yet found when I wrote Parts 1-4. This letter, addressed to “My dear children” includes the following [brackets mine]:

I have just time to acknowledge the receipt of Samuel’s letter of the 13th instant  [the one informing Horton of the marriage] and say we shall always be glad to hear of your welfare and to see you as often as we can and wish you to come and see us whenever you can conveniently but considering the distance [between Columbus and Cincinnati] and Samuel’s engagements [as canal engineer, which involved frequent travel] we do not wish to press you to come sooner nor oftener than you reasonably can. I think it probable that in a month or six weeks I shall come to Cincinnati and possibly may bring some one or more of my family to see you, but do not expect it with too much certainty, as we may be disappointed. I wish you to let us hear from [you] as often as one at least in two weeks or at most every month. Give my love to Micajah [Williams] and Joseph Gest and their wives and all inquiring friends, not forgetting Judge Bates and the whole Corps of Engineers. I should be glad to hear how the engraver is getting on with respect to my map, how you are progressing with the Canal, when you expect to let out more to contractors, how much, &c…

Is it just me, or does that come across a little cold? We’d love to see you, IF we have time, and if all our schedules are not too busy. We might come in six weeks, but don’t get your hopes up. Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. Then again, he also obviously (as we can tell from the document) did not gush with excitement and congratulations either.

I suppose it probably was a shock. He sent his 18-year-old daughter away to college, apparently only just in September (or so it sounded from the Nov. 23 letter; see Part 5, Dec. 13, 2011), and in a matter of just a few short months (literally could not have been more than 5 months!), she has gotten married, and to a much older man her father disapproves of, no less, and won’t be coming back home! Really, when you put it that way, it sounds like Horton took the news pretty well!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tangent of history. I know I’ve enjoyed piecing it together (or at least trying to!). And what fun is a sleuthing out a story if you don’t share it?

Note: This post was written in advance, on Dec. 17, 2011.

*****

Bibliography

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402.

For more information on Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.

A little Quaker love story, Revisited (Part 5)

I’m on the trail of Samuel Forrer and Sarah Howard again. As I was first delving into their story, I wondered what Sarah was even doing in Cincinnati (where she met Samuel in 1825), when her family lived near Columbus.

I discovered that Sarah was apparently attending school there [see Part 4, Aug. 14, 2011]. , and the two seem to have met through a mutual friend, Micajah T. Williams. Forrer, a canal engineer for the Miami and Erie Canal (the construction of which had begun in that year), knew Williams by his association with the canal (Williams was one of the canal commissioners for the Miami and Erie canal). Sarah apparently spent some time with the M. T. Williams family (possibly even stayed with them while she was in Cincinnati), because Williams knew her father (both were Quakers who at one time attended the same monthly meeting, unclear whether there was another connection). She may have also been staying with Joseph Gest, by whose care her father’s 1825 letters were sent.

Both Williams and Gest lived near one another. According to Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, Williams lived on Fifth between Walnut and Vine; Gest lived on Walnut between Fourth and Fifth. [See a Google Map of that area.]

Based on the apparently frequent involvement of these men in Sarah’s life during that time period, I supposed that her school was probably nearby (and as I said, that perhaps she might have been boarding with one family or the other).

As this is really a matter of intellectual curiosity only, I decided I must be content to come up with an “educated guess” about where Sarah was attending school, since I could not find any reference to the school by name in either of Horton’s two letters to his daughter from the Fall of 1825, which seems to have been when Sarah enrolled there (wherever “there” was).

A letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah, from November 23, 1825 (from the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection), gives much insight into what Sarah was meant to be studying, if not where:

…Thou may remember that our friend Joseph Gest mentioned a probability of there being an opportunity of thy attending a course of Lectures on Chymistry [sic] and I should think well of thy doing so if it will not break in too much on thy other studies, which I think perhaps it would not. I wish thee to be particular in endeavouring to learn the art of painting or shading maps in as neat a manner as thou canst without spending too much time and learn what thou canst conveniently about making or mixing such colours as are not to be bought in Boxes as we shall probably want to paint or shade a considerable number of maps neatly if we can find [sale?] for them.

The calculation we were making that 30 dollars would answer to leave with thee at present included the cost of thy Cloak but as I bought and paid for the cloth to make it, and left thee thirty dollars, besides though wilt not be so short by ten dollars as we calculated and want thee to get what thou needs and not be too sparing of money but continued to be and appear respectable. If thou needs any advice with regard to Books or other things thou art not furnished with or with respect to learning or hearing Lectures or any other subject Joseph Gest or Micajah [Williams] or other friends will advise thee. Joseph will aid or befriend thee very Cheerfully and so no doubt will other friends. Thou may by inquiry perhaps understand nearly how long it would require to learn the French Language or the Lattin [sic] or both, if it should be desirable and advisable. Possibly we might spare thee longer than we had contemplated but as this is uncertain I wish thee to acquire what useful knowledge thou canst in three months or till spring. I now think of thy staying 6 months or until some time in the 5th month if I can but this is uncertain. I intend however that some of us shall write [over?] in two weeks and expect thee to write twice a month or oftener if necessary or thou thinks proper. And if thou should be sick don’t by any means suffer of want of a Phisitian [sic] but have one sent for and I will cheerfully pay the cost when I come.

And I hope my dear Daughter that thou wilt let nothing but sickness prevent thy regular attendance of meetings on first and week days with friends and walk worthy of the profession we make in the world. Neither shun nor be ashamed of the Cross. Often be retired in Spiritual devotion waiting upon, and asking counsel of thy Heavenly Father, so shalt thou ‘Secure to thy self that blessing which maketh truly rich and where unto no sorrow is added.’…

This letter was written 186 years ago, but still I can see familiar sentiments as today’s parent writing to a child away at school: here are my thoughts on your curriculum; try not to over-extend yourself with your course load; I’ve sent you some clothes money; if you get sick, please do see a doctor, and I’ll pay for it.

At first, I thought it curious that Horton was so insistent that Sarah acquire the skills of painting or shading, for maps. Then I remembered that Horton was a surveyor for the federal land office in central Ohio at that time. He probably drew a lot of maps. And he probably figured it would be handy if one of his children became adept at shading them in for him. (Little did he know that his daughter would soon be falling in love with a canal engineer and would never be moving back into her father’s home.)

Armed with the clues from the above letter (the other 1825 letter does not give any clues about education but hints at her parents’ knowledge of her “extracurricular” activities – more on that later) and an idea of the geographic neighborhood where Sarah seemed to spend most of her time, I set out to find out if there was a school she might have attended in that area.

In 1825, Sarah was 18 years old, so I figured I was probably looking for some kind of “college” level school. Also, given the time period, I guessed that she was probably attending some sort of “female” school.

In her article “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Jane Sherzer wrote (pp. 1-2):

The term, ‘higher education for women,’ in those early years…was higher in the sense of giving young women an education much beyond the common branches of reading, writing, and arithmetic. It differed from the colleges for men mainly in the substitution of French for Greek, and in the addition of music and art to the curriculum. The first institutions for the higher education of women were necessarily private, for, although the states had established colleges and universities for their boys, they had ignored the education of the girls and excluded them from all their schools.

Therefore, I searched the Cincinnati city directories for girls’ academies. In Hall’s 1825 Cincinnati Directory, only one girls’ school was listed: the Cincinnati Female Academy of Dr. John Locke. According to Ford & Ford, the academy had been established in 1823 and “was a school of high class and became very popular” (p. 174). As of 1826, the school was located on Walnut Street between Third and Fourth (so, nearby Sarah’s primary neighborhood), but I was not able to find any specific reference to where it was located from 1823-1826 (although I would imagine probably in the same area).

I thought Locke’s school must be a shoe-in for my “educated guess” until I read through Sherzer’s article, which mentions at least two other schools that allowed females during that time period.

One was the Cincinnati Lancaster Seminary, though I have ruled it out because it seems to have been affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. I can’t imagine Horton Howard sending his daughter to a Presbyterian school when they were Quaker — so Quaker in fact that he could not officially condone her marriage to a non-Quaker [see Part 2, Aug. 10, 2011].

The other was Pickett’s Boarding School (or Cincinnati Female College), which, although Sherzer says the school started in 1823 and was “especially popular” (p. 10), is not listed in the 1825 directory, though it does show up in Robinson & Fairbank’s 1829 Cincinnati Directory. No address is given for the school, though the Pickett brothers’ address is Sycamore, between Fourth and Fifth — so again, right around the same area.

I hoped perhaps the curriculum might help rule out one or the other — Locke’s or Picketts’ schools — but unfortunately, none of the curricular lists are explicit enough. Both of course had the typical female curriculum involving art, but it sounds like Sarah had options such as chemistry or Latin. In the sources I found, only Locke’s school explicitly mentions the availability of chemistry (Sherzer, p. 9); and only Picketts’ specifically mentions having Latin (Sherzer, p. 10; Ford & Ford, p. 174). In Locke’s school’s advertisement from 1825, a list of instructors and their disciplines is given, but that list includes neither chemistry nor Latin; of course, for that matter, it does not explicitly mention any sort of paper-based art form either, which seems odd.

And so, after all of that, I suppose I’ve still not quite solved the mystery of which school Sarah attended. However, I did sate my curiosity, by tracking down a couple of reasonably plausible possibilities: Locke’s “Cincinnati Female Academy” or the Picketts’ “Cincinnati Female College.”

In the end, what matters to Sarah’s story is not so much which school she attended or even necessarily why she was there (is it just me or does it sound like Dad wanted her trained up so she could help him with his map-making?) or even why she was in Cincinnati as opposed to somewhere else (what, didn’t they have any decent girls’ schools in Columbus?)… Those things (and consequently this entire post) are mainly just “matter of interest” details.

What matters is the fact that she was there…in that place…at that time…and that’s where she met Samuel Forrer, whom she married without her parents’ consent a few months later, and who would be her husband for 48 years.

We have, in the Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection, one other letter from Horton Howard to his daughter Sarah during that time frame — Dec. 11, 1825 — and its tone is much different. It would seem that Sarah’s parents had probably caught wind of her developing feelings towards Forrer by that point. I’ll share more of that later.

*****

Bibliography

Ford, Henry A., and Kate B. Ford. History of Cincinnati, Ohio. Cleveland: Williams & Co., 1881. Available online at Archive.org; or, find in a library.

Forrer-Peirce-Wood Collection (MS-018), Dayton Metro Library, Dayton, Ohio. This collection is publicly available for research at the Dayton Metro Library, Main Library, Local History Room, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, OH 45402.

Hall, Harvey. The Cincinnati Directory for 1825. Cincinnati: Samuel J. Browne, 1825. Available online from Cincinnati Public Library; or, find in a library.

Robinson & Fairbank. The Cincinnati Directory for the Year 1829. [Cincinnati?]: Whetstone & Buxton, 1829. Available online from Cincinnati Public Library; or, find in a library.

Sherzer, Jane. “The Higher Education of Women in the Ohio Valley Previous to 1840,” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 25 (1916): 1-22. Available online from the Ohio Historical Society.

For more information on Sarah Howard and Samuel Forrer, contact the Dayton Metro Library, or feel free to leave a comment on this blog.