What Will I Do on Summer Vaca?

We are on a balanced schedule in our school district now.  While I love having an extended Spring and Fall Break, I must say that I really do desire the time to actually be lazy in the summer.  We have just over a month and a half of summer break.  And while I should be delighted to have that time, I am already finding that it is already filling up.  So I am nervous about not getting in a genealogy trip.  I need to start planning now.  But here’s the problem.  I have so many places I would like to go that I’m not sure where I should focus.  Here are some of my options:

Trip 1: To Springfield and then Keithsburg (Mercer Co.), Illinois

This is more for Andrew’s family.  His Nelson branch ends here.  The problem is that we have no death date for James A. Nelson.  James was born in Kentucky, moved to Indiana where he married Sarah Heaton.  The two of them soon moved to Keithsburg and as far as I know this is where James ended.  Sarah is widowed by 1870.  James is found in the 1860 census.  So where is this guy?  He would have been 47 when the Civil War started, so I doubt that is what happened to him.  Anyway…the point is…I’ve hit a brick wall with this guy.  I am hoping a visit to the capital and the town where he lived might shed some light on this guy.  Pros:  1. Close to Indiana.  Not the longest drive in the world.  2. Right on the Mississippi River, so that could be awesome.  3. I have always wanted to go to Springfield and see all the Lincoln stuff.  Cons:  1. Keithsburg floods…and badly.  I believe that many Mercer County records have been destroyed. 2.  Not the most exciting drive in the world.

Trip 2:  To Union County, South Carolina.

This is my ultimate brick wall.  This is as far back as I have gotten in my Brown family.  Alexander Brown was born in here in 1761 to unknown parents.  He married Sarah Benson and moved up to Darke County, Ohio where some Browns still live today.  Of all the family limbs that I have wanted to trace back to the origin country, this is it.  It’s my surname!  Come on!  There was some speculation that Alexander may have been a Quaker and moved up to Ohio to get away from the slavery issues that plagued the south, along with many other Quakers at this time.  As we all know, Quakers were among the first people to denounce slavery and act on it, even in the north.  Good old Quakers.  I would probably need to stay in a town between Columbia (the capitol) and Union (county seat of Union County) to have the best chance of finding information.  Pros: 1.  I LOVE the south.  In fact the southeast part of this country is one of my favorite places to visit, mostly for the landscape.  I find it extremely beautiful.  And I don’t mind the heat.  2. It’s the Browns!  3. There seems to be plenty of cheap places to stay between Columbia and Union, particularly in Newberry.  Sumter National Forest is nearby, and might require a visit.  Cons:  1.) It’s much farther than Illinois.  2.)  It might be more difficult to find someone interested in going with me (mainly Andrew who hates the hot hot heat).  3.) If no one has figured out Alexander by now, can I? 

Trip 3:  Binghamton, NY and Guilford County, NY

This is an area that my Lacey/Burch/Burtch branch lived and worked.  What is most interesting about this area to me is that my gg and ggg grandfathers were architects here.  Many of the buildings that still stand in Binghamton were designed by them.  I also have quite the little mystery with my gg grandfather Mister Bascom Taylor Lacey (AKA B.T. Lacey).  He was 90 years old and living in East Stroudsburg, PA in 1956.  I am guessing he didn’t do a ton of moving around before this. He is not buried with his first wife (who was not even provided a headstone) and I can’t seem to find where his second wife is buried either.  I thought that because he family business (and much of the family themselves) were based in NY that I would be able to find some info on him after his death in Binghamton.  I could be totally off-base here.  Pros:  1. I know with certainty that the buildings my people built are still standing.  I will get to stand in them and admire up close.  2. It’s a very pretty drive to NY with the potential for lots of little stops along the way.  3. This B.T. Lacey mystery is driving me nuts and I would love to know where he was finally “laid to rest”.  Please someone find me a flipping obituary!  4. I could maybe combine it with the PA trip that I plan on definitely taking in July.  Cons:  1. Once again, a long drive.  Who knows how much gas will be this summer.  2. New York = expensive.  I know it’s not the city, but the closer you get to the east coast the higher the prices generally.  3. I am going to NYC this Memorial Day.  Going again seems a little overkill.

Places I will definitely be visiting:

  • Darke County, Ohio (Brown fam)
  • Rush County, Indiana (Boyce fam)
  • Wabash, Indiana (Oyler fam)
  • Marshall County, Indiana (Reed fam)
  • Hendricks County, Indiana (Sparks fam)
  • Eastern PA (my mother’s whole side of the family)

So…any ideas you guys?  Anybody know of any more pros and cons of each location?  I could use a little help deciding.

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.

A Long Darke Trip (Part 1 of 2)

I am in the middle of a little bout of unemployment.  I have some part-time work I have been able to do on the side, but mostly I am without work.  While having mini adventures during this time makes me feel guilty, so does sitting around looking for jobs and not finding anything.

So a few weeks ago I decided to travel out to Darke County, Ohio.  I believe it was a Tuesday.  Much of my family came from Darke County and the surrounding areas.  Oddly enough, Andrew’s mother’s side also had a chunk come from the same area.  I have looked hard to make sure there are no overlapping relations.  We’re all good here, kids.

I have a grandmother still in Dayton and I can’t tell you how many times I have driven to Ohio on I-70.  I wanted something more scenic, so I had an amazing drive across State Road 36.  I picked it up in Pendleton and took it almost all the way to Greenville, Ohio.  It was humid and early when I left which created this beautiful haze over the massive sprawling yards and farms almost the entire duration of the trip.  Taking 36 was a fabulous idea.  Good job, me.

I got to Greenville just in time for lunch and had a lovely meal at Bistro Off Broadway.  They did give me a weird look for eating alone, but maybe I was being self-conscious (but I don’t think so).

I headed to Garst Museum, an amazing little museum for the history of Darke County.  This is also the place where one researches the county’s family histories.  It’s the place to be.  When I walked in I paid my $5 and was told that there were two exhibits going on at the museum, one on Annie Oakley and one on Lowell Thomas.

This was great!  Annie Oakley is actually of distant relation to Andrew!  Lowell Thomas was actually my great-uncle (by marriage)!  I decided that I should get started on research first.  A small, fast-speaking, older woman gave me the instructions on how to begin.

Sign here.  I signed.

Write down the surnames you are researching.  Oh….hmmmm….lots?

It didn’t occur to me that I couldn’t just sort of browse and have things come to me.  My father’s side of the family and Andrew’s mother’s side have so many families from that area I wasn’t sure where to begin.

Let me show you.

Erin’s fams (surnames):  Brown, Munn, Ditmer, Hill, North, Surber, Niswonger, Staudt, Fryman, Harnsberger, Beam, Miller, Goings/Goins/Goens, Davidson, and Cartwright

Andrew’s fams (surmanes):    Bollinger, Crumrine, Bausman, Sink, Blocher, and Michael

I started with just two surnames on my side, Brown and Munn, and then one surname for Andrew’s, Bollinger.  I started with these names because I actually know people with these names.  I thought it might be a little easier.

I only had four hours till the museum closed for the day.  I started with Browns.  BAD IDEA!  I could spend an entire day on just the Browns.  TONS of information.

This was my first trip to a research facility to work on just family history.  I realized how much more information I could get if I travel.  Man…I have found the best hobby EVER.

There was only one other person who was in there the majority of the time with me.  About two hours into my research he says to me, “You’re not supposed to take pictures in here.” He did this mid-snap.  I gasped.   I’m not generally a rule breaker.  “Oh, but I thought I was allowed!”  And then he laughed at me and said he loves doing that.  Turns out I really wasn’t supposed to be taking pictures, but I don’t think he cared.  I didn’t read the instructional sign correctly.  Woops.

He asked me how my research was going and what names I was looking for (ancestry pleasantries).  I asked him if his family was from Darke County.  His wasn’t, but his wife was.  He explained to me that he is an author and that he was writing a book about a distant relative of his wife (I believe it was a great great uncle), last name Roberson.    This distant relative was the only man hung in Darke County, Ohio.  I was so excited to reveal my connection!  “That’s great!  My great great grandfather was deputized to find the only man hung in Darke County!”

It’s true.

Turns out that this man I was talking to in the museum was the writer of the article where I learned this little tidbit of information.  He said that after that article came out he started hearing from people all over the area with their own little tidbits of information.  He decided to write a book about it!  I can’t wait to read it.  I believe his name was Bill Stevens (the writer, not the hanged).  The link to the article written about this interesting event in Darke County History is included here:

http://dailyadvocate.com/main.asp?SectionID=108&SubSectionID=388&ArticleID=129708&TM=43764.42

The writer left.  I was alone again for a while and dug through folders till it was time to pack up.  I decided that I wanted to take a look at the museum’s exhibits before I left (I HAD paid to get in).  I walked through Annie Oakley’s and realized there was much too much to see in the 15 minutes I had.  Seems she was an amazing lady.  A good shot, anyway.

I walked into the next room and found a room dedicated to an exhibit of Lowell Thomas.

I didn’t know who Lowell Thomas was until I graduated from college.  In fact, the only reason I knew then was because he was an answer to a crossword puzzle from an antique magazine we were playing with at work.  The question was something about Lawrence of Arabia.  The answer was “Lowell Thomas” and I was like, “That’s my uncle!”  People just kind of looked at me in a sort of way that said, “Why is Erin so excited that she has an uncle named Lowell Thomas?”  And I kept going. “THAT Lowell Thomas is my uncle!  I swear!  My dad told me he was famous but I didn’t believe him!”

That’s the truth.  I was always suspicious of exaggerations, and assumed that this was one of my father’s.  But this is the truth.  My great aunt Marianna, a very interesting, friendly, and lovely lady who passed away earlier this year, married this Lowell Thomas in the 1970s after his first wife died.  She had also been previously married.  He didn’t live much longer and died in the very early 1980s.  If I ever met him (doubtful) I would have been much too young to remember such things.

So, for those of you who don’t know who Lowell Thomas is…

http://www.pbs.org/lawrenceofarabia/players/thomas.html

As I walked through the exhibit there were pictures of my Aunt Marianna in her younger years with this Lowell fellow.  Honestly I don’t remember ever seeing any of them before.  I turned a corner and there were condolence letters written to her upon his death from an assortment of characters:  Ronald Reagan, Art Linkletter, Isaac Asimov, and even Erma Bombeck.

Condolence letter from Reagan sent

Lowell and Marianna Thomas on Trip to China

Condolence letter from Isaac Asimov

It was a little surreal.