Spring Break Road Trip – Revisiting Rumley

A few posts prior to this I wrote about my intentions of going back to Rumley, Ohio with my little sister.  This trip finally happened on our Spring Break.  It was kind of awesome and often hilarious.

Lil’ Amsters (as she will be referred to) came over to my house around 9ish and we prepped for the trip.  Camera (check), maps (check), notes (check), computer (check), and coffee (double check!).  We were set!

I drove.  This was probably for the best, despite the fact that I have an older car than Lil’ Amsters, and it often drives like it’s going to fall apart at any second.  I have recently (over the past 10 years) developed a car sickness issue.  It has gotten to the point where if I am not driving, I get super nauseated.  Sometimes even when I am driving, but the roads are super windy, I’ll still feel a little wonky.  If I’m in the backseat…watch out.  I will be moaning and whining within minutes.  The backseat of a large automobile, like a van, is almost unimaginable to me now.  Amy has her own car issues.  She has developed a fear of driving on the interstate in construction, or along walls, or near semis, which is pretty much MOST of the interstate.  In fact, as we were driving she told me a hilarious story of a recent trauma stemming from her fear, which culminated with the QOTD (quote of the day): ” …and that was when I realized I could never drive monks to the airport again”.  I laughed for like….20 minutes.

The longer we drove, the more I realized I think I built up Amy’s expectations for this trip.  She had her own story of a ghost town that she came upon in Arizona about 7 years ago.  It was an actual ghost town.  She could even wander in and out of the houses.  Super creepy and super awesome.  She said she even had a dream about our trip the night before.  In her dream a tornado had dropped a house next to her, on its side.  She really wanted to go searching through it but she wanted to wait for me.  That was sweet, even if it was a dream.

Piqua, Ohio

So we headed to our first stop.  Piqua!  The reason that I wanted to stop here on the way is because it was the last residence of a great great grandfather, Daniel Staudt.  As we drove through we were kind of stunned by some of the amazing neighborhoods in this random little town.  As we began to follow the directions towards our family’s home we realized he was not in one of these neighborhoods.  He was definitely on the other side of the tracks.  We found the house.  He died in 1935, so I’m guessing this was probably the actual house he lived in.  It doesn’t look newer than that.

 

621 Miami, in Piqua, Ohio. Last residence of Daniel Staudt, our great great great grandfather.

Photo of Daniel Staudt from old timey days. Date unknown.

His father, Simon, was a weaver.  One thing we noticed about Piqua was that there was a restaurant called Weavers and a blanket company right on the Main Street.  I’m going to have to look into that to see if there is any connection.

Sidney, Ohio

We drove on to the Shelby County’s seat, Sidney.  We loved Sidney.  What a strange and interesting place full of amazing architecture.  Also, I have not seen so many banks in one town square as I did there.  My favorite was this one.  I couldn’t stop looking at it.  It was just so insane!

Bank in Sidney. They promote "thrift". That colored section there, thats all TINY little tiles. It is also along the side of the building.

Some of the tile work on the wall of the bank closer up. Amazing! This building is covered with this stuff!

The following pictures include my other favorite spot on the square.  Please keep in mind that these two shops are right next to each other.  There is one shop that separates them.

The 4:20 shop. OBVIOUSLY not your average Smoke Shop. Doc Rob runs this place, as you can plainly see on the plywood sign.

I believe this is a Right to Life Thrift Shop? And there is a dance studio here as well? I am hoping the dance studio space is upstairs or something.

We weren’t crazy hungry yet so we headed to the library.  This is the first time Lil’ Amsters has done any research with me.  I think she was a little skeptical of being able to find anything here.  We got down to the basement, where all the local historical information resided, and found one man researching and two adolescent girls snickering about cute boys and books about vampires (oh, the girls were spontaneous singers, as well).

We found a WEALTH of information there in the basement.  In fact, the information I was mostly seeking out was about Rumley and the Goings/Goins family.  I found a book that was completely about the black communities of Shelby County, and specifically Rumley.  One of the biggest questions I was trying to answer was:  why did everyone leave?  And why did they leave at this time?  Turns out that was a question that a lot of people had.  This book provided a few different ideas, that were different from ones I read before.  This book suggested that maybe their southern style of farming wasn’t working in the north.  I am guessing this would have caused them to move elsewhere earlier since they were there for like 30-50 years.  Another suggestion was that they were irritated with all the white people moving into the area.  So this book suggested that the families in Rumley were racist and annoyed with white people and wanted to move where there were less of them.  This is unlikely since my family moved from Rumley to areas full of white people.  So these were both very strange suggestions.  Also, many of them had intermarried, soooo…  They were of mixed races.  Not really buying that argument.  So, we’ve still got a mystery.

Lil’ Amsters’ favorite part of the trip to the library was looking at the death record book, which includes the cause of death for everyone.  I’m going to admit, this is very entertaining.  I have to remind myself that these were real people and we shouldn’t be laughing at their demise but here are some of the good ones: killed while wrestling, yellow stomach, fits, confinement, drunkeness, teething, and sinking chills.

Another thing I learned was that a distant uncle, Salthial Goings, was a RASCAL.  I noticed before that he had been married a lot.  Well turns out he got divorced a lot.  In the divorce court records to a Sarah Goings, it states, “Goings, Salathial vs. Sarah A. Goings: Oct 1860.  Death of plaintiff suggested, action abated.”  Really?  By “suggested” do they mean “assumed”?  Or was he really THAT bad?

There was so much more at the Sidney library to be researched, but we didn’t have all day.  We spent about an hour there.  By the time we left my stomach was RAGING with hunger.  We headed over to a restaurant on the square called The Spot.  And it truly was.  They had some great malted milkshakes.  I felt like I had walked into a small town version of the Peach Pit.  That was a Beverly Hills 90210 reference for all those who didn’t catch it.

After lunch we continued around the Sidney square again and marvelled at the banks and weird businesses scattered about.  We drove out of town and headed to Rumley.

Rumley, Ohio

We stopped at Collins Cemetery first.  This is the “cemetery” I wrote about previously, which is actually just a weird slab in the middle of a field with a bunch of headstones stacked up and a memorial stone.  I am wondering if this was the spot of the original cemetery.  Are the bodies still buried here?

Stacks of headstones in the "cemetery".

View of Collins Cemetery from the road.

We took a few pictures and continued into “town”.

We stopped at the old schoolhouse which still stands there.  At the library we did find out that this schoolhouse was actually built in the 1890s, which means that none of our family went to school here, but it was still pretty old and kind of awesome.  Based on the context clues (beer boxes inside, huge BBQ smokers outside) this place is now used for a party spot.  A gathering place.  I’m just glad it’s being used and not being removed.

Lil' Amsters checking out the exterior of the Old School House in Rumley.

We moved onto the church and neighboring creek.  We learned from the books in the library that this creek was where the residents and churchgoers were baptized.  We wandered down to the banks and realized that they had recently had a flood.  We optimistically hoped to find some random remnant of the old village but there was not much.  We did find some bricks that were not stamped with a title, and wondered if they had been homemade in those parts, but they were pretty nice and seemed pretty newish.

Loramie Creek that runs through the north section of Rumley. The site of many Rumley baptisms.

We headed next door to the church and had a look.  The church had very little information about their actual structure.  I have no idea if it’s been rebuilt.  It has at least been re-sided.  Other than that I have no idea.

This is the Rumley Baptist Church. A memorial plaque to the old village remains on this property.

As Lil’ Amy looked around she got kind of sad.  She realized that there was really nothing left of the old village and no abandoned houses to rummage through.  We hoped to see some of the old roads or something, or some old foundations.  Nothing.  Seems that this area has been cleaned up and there is nothing left.  As we pulled off the main strip of Rumley we spotted something just beyond where the town would have been and pulled in.  Just what we were looking for!  And with no one around!

Having a little peek. Seems it is used for nothing now, nothing much in there but used bottles of alcohol. This place DOES seem like the kind of place to throw a good party.

Amy got her fix of abandoned properties and we moved on.

Houston, Ohio

Our Staudt relatives were buried in Houston, Ohio.  We found the cemetery after a series of near missed turns through back-roads Ohio.  One thing that I do appreciate in Indiana is that our road numbering system makes a little more sense than Ohio’s system.  In Indiana if you miss a road, you can always figure it out at the next road.  This is how the internal dialogue would go, “Oh.  Wait.  Did I miss County Road 400?  Lemme see, oh…here’s 450.  Oh, and here’s 500.  Yep.  Missed it.  Let me turn around and make this right.”  In Ohio, it’s more like this, “Oh my god.  If I didn’t have my iPhone I would be screwed.”

We found Houston and the church and the cemetery.  We had a lovely little walkabout the cemetery, till the wind shifted and the cow smell became very apparent.  The walk became less lovely, but we continued on.  We found the graves of most of my direct Staudt relatives.  Victory!

Headstone of Simon and Catherine (Oliver) Staudt in Houston Cemetery.

We hopped in the car and headed for home.  One of my favorite parts of the trip was soon to come.

Before long Lil’ Amsters was on the phone and I saw a sign for an Historical Marker.  I can’t pass a sign like that without inspecting.  I turned down the street and found something amazing, Bear’s Mill.  This is a still functioning mill that houses a shop where they sell the grain and cornmeal they still make.  They also sell the wares of Darke County, Ohio residents.  I ended up buying some Bear’s Mill blend coffee….and it’s kind of awesome!

Bear's Creek Mill.

We continued on through a few small towns. And then hit Indiana, and turned south on IN 227.

SR 227

What an amazing stretch of road.  If you love those little quick hills that bring your stomach up through your throat you will LOVE this road.  I was squealing for miles!  Literally miles.  Lil’ Amsters on the other hand was trying not to squeal as she was on the phone and was trying to not be rude.  She did raise her arms in the traditional roller coaster stance.

While on 227 we also drove through some wacky little towns as well as some amazing ones.  Whitewater, Indiana.  Strange.  That’s all I’m gonna say.  227 took us back to the interstate and we took the boring way the rest of the way home.  Lil’ Amsters complained that my car was going to fall apart and that I was driving too fast for it.  I was driving the speed limit.  Welcome to my life.

 

Rumley, Ohio – A Ghost town of sorts

Most of the time I think that my younger sister and I couldn’t be any more different, but we have a few very strange things in common.  We both used to have recurring dreams that involved tornadoes.  Mine were nightmares.  Hers were more fun, obviously.  We used to kick each other under the table during meals without even realizing it until we’d get yelled at for it.  We both enjoy playing “The Cleaning Game”. I won’t go into the specific rules of that one.  Another thing we have in common is our love for abandoned houses and ghost towns.    When I told her the story of Rumley, Ohio and how I longed to return to Shelby County and learn more about it, she was delighted, and wanted to come along as well.

Rumley doesn’t exist anymore.  There is a New Rumley, Ohio.  This incorporated area is known for being the birthplace of George Custer.  But Rumley…nothing.

My father is John Brown.  His mother is Gene Munn.  Her mother is Eva Hill.  Her father was Adam Hill.  His mother was Edna Goings.  Her father was Joel Goings.  Joel Goings was a free black man who, along with his brother Wesley, started his own village: Rumley, Ohio.  A cemetery still stands in the area where Rumley once stood.  Well…it’s kind of a cemetery.

Collins Cemetery - in honor of the pioneers of Rumley, Ohio. This "cemetery" sits on a concrete slab in the middle of a farm's field along a barely traveled road.

Joel did something very shocking for the 1830s.  He married a white woman.  Not just a white woman, but an Irish white woman, so she was most likely REALLY white.

Joel and Elizabeth (Cole) Goings had 11 children together.  Many of those children were born in Rumley.  They attended school here.  For decades they got married and had their own children here.  Suddenly, in the late 1860s and early 1870s the marriage records of the family were diminishing in Shelby County because everyone had moved away.

According to the reading I have done, it seems that many of those that lived in the black and mixed communities of Shelby County and Northwest Ohio were eventually run out of their own towns.  Around Rumley signs were posted warning of physical harm if Black residents didn’t take up residency elsewhere.  In Rumley this began around the 1860s, which was obviously a stressful time in race relations, right smack dab in the middle of the Civil War.

What exists of the town today is unfortunate.

Old Church. One of the only remaining structures in what was the town.

Informational plaque in front of the old Baptist church in Rumley.

And that’s about it.  A church and a cemetery on a slab of concrete.

My goal is to find out what happened to Rumley.  Did something happened that set off the racial tensions that lead to the mass exodus from the town?  This is something I am very interested in researching.   Maybe my little sister will come with me on my next trip.

Sad about genes

Genealogy makes you start to think more about genes…obviously.  When you see old pictures of family members you start thinking things like, “Wow!  That looks just like my brother!”or “Now I know where Bobby gets his red hair!”

There are some pictures of my mother when she was younger that look just like me.  It’s a little creepy actually.  My sisters used to tease me and say things like, “Wow, Erin!  What was it like in the 1950s?”  There is a picture of my grandmother from the 1940s in her town newspaper posing with some people from her class.  It’s almost as if my little sister had been transported in time and was sent to sleep with curlers in her hair.  SUPER creepy.

So every time I go out into the sun I curse my genes.  You see…I am white.  I am very white.  If I’m not wearing sunscreen I will burn in less than 15 minutes.  Even if I am wearing sunscreen…strong sunscreen….I will still burn.  It will take longer, but it will happen.  After researching my family tree it is upsetting that I had this good chance to get nice dark skin from my dad’s side but ended up with the white pasty skin from my mother’s side (a group of people who came almost primarily from the British Isles).

I have known for just over a year that my dad’s side is filled with many dark-skinned people.  The Goings family that orginated in Angola (as far as I know so far).  The Hill family, not descended from the Goings, is the same.  Henry Levi Dorton, a ggggg grandfather was sold into indentured servitude until his 31st birthday and was luckily released early after some untimely deaths of his “owners”.  Much of the census records of my family members of this branch into the early 1900s consider them “mulatto”.

Then there is my brach of Choctaw Indian, also on my dad’s side. Hannah Findley, another great grandmother of mine, had to go to court to prove that she was Choctaw to get her freedom from slavery.

My little sister, Amy, has great skin.  She tans in the summer.  She isn’t afraid of the sun.  She’s probably burned a couple times, but she has good coloring.  And then there’s me.  I get tan in one place on my body, my left arm (the driving arm).  It’s a slow building tan, but by the end of the summer it’s something to be proud of.  But then, of course, I’m convinced I am going to get melanoma.  I scrutinize the shape and color of every mole or freckle.

So how did Amy end up with this great color and then there’s me…the whitest white girl? This is why I am sad about genes.