Soldiers Across the Centuries

Soldiers Across the Centuries: Colonel Bill Kennedy Tells the Story of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Colonel William H. “Bill” Kennedy presented a program about the role of the 29th Ohio Volunteer history in a recent Time Travel Tuesday program presented by the Conneaut Historical Society. Using a Power Point slides, photos, and documents, he told the story of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

The 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Radical Abolitionist Congressman Joshua R. Giddings founded the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, also known as the Giddings Regiment or the Abolition Regiment. Tradition has it that he and his assistants personally chose the recruits to ascertain that each of them passionately believed in Anti-Slavery.

The regiment was organized from August 14, 1861, to March 13, 1862 and remained at Camp Giddings in Jefferson until January 1862, when following orders, it traveled to Cumberland, Maryland.

The 29th saw intense action during the Civil War. It fought at Winchester, Port Republic, Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. In the spring of 1864, it fought at Dug Gap, New Hope Church, Dallas, Pine Knob, and Peach Tree Creek.

The 29th followed General Sherman on his “March to the Sea”, and up through the Carolinas. When the War ended, it participated in the Grand Review and mustered out of service in Cleveland on July 13, 1865. Other sources say it mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky.

The Regimental flag is displayed at the Henderson Memorial Library in Jefferson, Ohio.

The 29th Ohio Regiment at Gettysburg

The 29th Regiment fought in the Union campaign to halt Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North, ending in the Battle of Gettysburg, raging from July 1 to 3, 1963. General George Meade led the Union forces against General Lee’s smaller Confederate Army. The bloodiest battle of the Civil War, an estimated fifty-one thousand Americans were killed, wounded, or captured/missing. The Union suffered an estimated twenty-three thousand losses and the Confederates suffered nearly twenty-eight thousand casualties.

On the morning of July 2, 1863, the 29th Ohio relieved the 137th New York at Culp’s Hill at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, fighting the Confederates for over two hours. A stone monument erected at Culp’s Hill on September 14, 1887, honors the 29thth Ohio Regiment.

Soldiers Across the Centuries

Amos K. Fifield, M.D.

The son of Doctor Greenleaf Fifield and his wife Laura, Amos K. Field was born on February 14, 1833, in Conneaut, Ohio. After graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York in March 1855, Dr. Fifield practiced his profession in Conneaut. He lived there until the beginning of the Civil War.

On May 30, 1860, he married Maria S. Kellogg, daughter of Judge Abner Kellogg of Jefferson, Ohio. They had two children: Walter K. Fifield, and Catherine L. Fifield.

In 1861, Dr. Fifield joined the Army as surgeon of the 29th Regiment Ohio Volunteers and he was mustered into the United States service on August 25, 1861. He was present at its organization at Camps Giddings and Chase and left Ohio with the regiment. He fought in the first battle of Winchester where General James Shields defeated General Stonewall Jackson, and after the battle became superintendent of the Court House Hospital.

Dr. Fifield’s Court House Hospital patients were mostly wounded Confederate prisoners, and while he was amputating a soldier’s gangrenous thigh, he scratched himself with the point of his knife. The scratch became infected and for a time Dr. Fifield was in danger of losing his arm and his life. He went home to Conneaut to regain his health.

After just thirty days of recuperating with his arm still in a sling, Dr. Fifield rejoined the Army in the Shenandoah Valley to join the Union campaign to capture Richmond. He established hospitals and cared for the wounded at Port Republic and Alexandria, Virginia; Antietam, Maryland; Harper’s Ferry; Chancellorsville; Washington, D.C.; Aquia Creek, and Gettysburg.  At Gettysburg, he functioned as one of the chief operators during and after the battle, operating continuously for two days and two nights. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Dr; Fifield was ordered to New York City with a detachment of soldiers to halt the draft riots of 1863.

When the detachment returned to battle, Dr. Fifield joined the Army of the Potomac in Virginia, and then he served with General Hook’s Eleventh and Twelfth Army Corps reinforcing the Army of the Cumberland. During the winter of 1863-1864, the Doctor was in charge of the hospital at Bridgeport, Alabama with the Second Division, Twelfth Army Corps.

In 1864, at the beginning of the Atlanta campaign, Dr. Fifield was appointed Surgeon-in-Charge of the field hospital of the Second Division, Twentieth Army Corps. He remained in charge of this hospital during this campaign which historians consider one of the most lengthy and arduous campaigns of the Civil War. When his commission expired, Dr. Fifield was mustered out of the Army on August 25, 1864.

After his left the Army, Doctor Fifield resumed his medical practice in Conneaut. He died in 1882 and he is buried in City Cemetery in Conneaut.

Isaac Mills Dalrymple

On July 9, 1862, thirty eight year old Isaac Mills Dalrymple stood, gun at the ready, determined to hold his place in the line of Union soldiers fighting with the forces of General Erastus B. Tyler to advance to the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.  He was one of the soldiers in Company E of the 29th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The equally determined soldiers participating in Confederate General Stonewall Jackson’s Shenandoah campaign also waited at rifle ready to deter and hopefully prevent the Union forces from fighting their way their capital at Richmond.

In 1860, Isaac Mills Dalrymple, born on November 20, 1823 in Pomfret, Chautauqua, New York. He lived in Monroe, Ohio located in Ashtabula, Ohio with his wife Tressa,  20, and daughters Mariette, eight, and Alice, two. The 1860 census lists his occupation as “sawing.”

In the fall of September 27, 1861, he mustered into Company E of the 29th Volunteer Infantry on September 27, 1861, at age thirty-eight. He would not live to reunite with his wife and daughters. On June 19, 1862, now a Corporal, Isaac Mills Dalrymple was killed in action at Port Republic, Virginia. He was struck in the chest by a Minnie Ball.

There is no record of Isaac Mills Dalrymple in the Winchester National Cemetery. Since he died at the Port Republic battle, the custom suggests that he would have been moved to Staunton National Cemetery since Port Republic is closer to Staunton than to Winchester. Winchester National Cemetery was never used as a burial location for the Battle of Port Republic as was Staunton National Cemetery, but there is no record of Isaac being buried in Staunton National Cemetery.

Isaac may have been one of the many “unknown soldiers” buried in either cemetery. His widow Tressa filed an application for and received a pension in 1863.

Colonel William H. Kennedy

Colonel William H. Kennedy, U.S. Army Retired, of Conneaut, Ohio, served as a soldier in twentieth and twenty first century wars and peace.

Colonel Kennedy graduated from Conneaut High School in 1965 and from Bowling Green State University in 1969. Continuing his education, he earned a Master of Public Service degree from Western Kentucky University and graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College, the US Army Command & General Staff College and the Army War College.  He served for twenty-eight years in the United States Army and is a veteran of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf Wars.  He has commanded Infantry, Armor and Cavalry units in Germany, the United States and Kuwait from platoon rank through the rank of Colonel.

Colonel Kennedy has been awarded the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, the Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster, Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters and several other service and commendation medals, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the parachutist badge.

After retiring from the U.S. Army, Colonel Kennedy was the Program Manager of US Army sponsored training programs in Kuwait for deploying US Army & Marine Corps units to Kuwait and later enroute to Iraq from 1999 -2007. In 2011 he was the Project Manager North & East and Deputy Program Manager in support of the US Army in Afghanistan. Currently he is the Vice Chairman of the Conneaut Port Authority.  

Colonel Kennedy’s career spans two centuries, and his interest and empathy for Civil War soldiers illustrates the concept that soldiers transcend the barriers of time and are really a “band of brothers.”

At the end of his presentation, Bill expressed interest in starting a Civil War group and invited people to participate. Contact him for further information.

(Apologies to Bill Kennedy for being so late with the story of his presentation.  He was the first speaker in the Museum’s Time Travel Tuesdays programs and his presentation set an excellent precedent.)

The Cardboard Christmas Bear and the Music Stand

My Christmas legacy from my daughter Jill is a Christmas bear ornament, a music stand, music, her love the Great Lakes and other bodies of water and her life.

Jill made a cardboard bear Christmas tree ornament at a time when I believed as firmly as a whole note that she would care for me in a peaceful old age and lay my weary self to rest with a violin or guitar tribute. Probably both. Not that I spent much time thinking about my death, then. Life still had possibilities, although they were not as endless as they had seemed in my twenties, they were still there. I never thought about Jill’s death because I knew she would outlive me.

She did not outlive me.

Those words cover days and nights trying to continue as normal, not inflicting my grief on other people, but being drowned by it as surely as she was drowned while kayaking in that river. Ironically, she kayaked safely in Lake Michigan and in Alaska, but drowned in a river in Tennessee.

Silently, I added custom made lyrics and melodies to the Elizabeth Kuber Ross stages of grief. Most of the time, disbelief was more harmony than melody. For me, there was nothing more real than watching the wind blow Jill’s ashes over her beloved Lake Michigan. My grief composition included zombie days, sleepless nights, hamster wheels of regret, stiletto memories, and endless notes of sorrow, vibrating with things like taking her violin and guitar out of her camper, finding all of the music she had played including some of the music we played together.

The blue notes included her jeep, her camper, her diaries, her life. The grade school art and diaries and cards and her Christmas bear tore at my heart so savagely that I wanted to tear them up in little pieces to join the pieces of my heart. I did not tear them up. I stowed them away along with my music and shut the lid on the memories as firmly as I closed the lid on the piano. For good measure, I sat some books on the lid, both literally and figuratively.

Or I thought I had. Then I found Jill’s Christmas bear. She had tucked the bear in one of her elementary school diaries, the kind that says, “I love you mom from your doughter Jill.”

I held it to my heart wondering how many pieces a heart can break into before it dissolves completely. Memories seeped from under the closed piano lid and there we were again. The ear squeaking violin lessons in second and third grade, the fourth and fifth grade orchestra, bus trips downtown to the junior symphony orchestra. High school orchestra and band concerts. At home, her violin and my piano and accordion blended well enough for us to play together at a local nursing home for several years. We loved music together. We loved each other together.

Then her earthly music stopped, and my earthly music was so muted with grief that I did not think I would ever hear it full volume again.

I looked, really looked at Jill’s Christmas bear. Wasn’t his mouth open just the tiniest bit? Was he trying to sing? She overflowed her growing up years with songs like Angels Watching Over Me, Old MacDonald, and even some of Glenn Miller and other old songs that I loved to sing and play. Then she stopped singing in favor of playing her violin, and later her guitar and mandolin. I was afraid that adult life had reduced her songs to syllables and sixteenth notes.

Then I found the C/D she had sent me. She had written and played tracks of original music and had them professionally recorded. I listened, really listened to her C/D. She sang one of her original songs.

I transferred the bear from his paper hideaway to the Christmas tree. She loved Christmas, and I know that in the musical part of heaven where she lives, she is singing Christmas carols. I play her C/D often and listen to her voice. I know in the musical part of heaven where she lives, she is singing and playing many of her original songs. Christmas carols contain words like mother, child, joy, music, sing, and faith.

Faith says the music of the waves back dropped her trip to heaven. Faith says she is in the Christmas music I play and sing with my grandchildren. Faith says that Christmas sorrow can contain grace notes of Christmas joy. Even though through all of the Christmas carols I hear the refrain, “I wish she were here.”

Christmas songs also contain words like despair in I heard the Bells on Christmas Day. Sometimes despair is part of my grief song. Despair at the empty days without her visibly in my life. Faith says she is in heaven and faith and imagination say that she is singing and playing right along with me, but I still do not hear her voice on the telephone or enjoy her sitting across the table from me. Memories can crash like a fist on piano keys. Music and faith can work together in lockstep with grief, even at Christmas, but Christmas can be a twilight season amid all of the fairy lights and Christmas decorations.

There are words from the carol “It Came Upon A Midnight Clear….’for lo the days are hasting on… Sometimes grief hastens on, other times it lingers for a lifetime. Either way, grief is not something you move forward from. It is something you move forward with.

My daughter Jill left me a Christmas bear ornament and a music stand and her life here and in heaven. I have put her music on her music stand again and started to play it again. I scattered her ashes in Lake Michigan as she requested. I have resumed my love affair with the Great Lakes. Her Christmas bear smiles from my Christmas tree and when I open my ears and my heart enough to listen through my grief, I hear her playing along with me.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” A Christmas Carol and a Prayer for Peace

Noel and Gloria Regney wrote Do You Hear What I hear? a timeless Christmas prayer for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the Cold War

In October 1962, musician Noel Regney walked through the streets of Manhattan, the weight of despair in his heart reflected on the unsmiling faces of the people that he passed on the street. A war of words and maneuvers called the Cold War held the world in an icy grip, with the United States and the Soviet Union the principal combatants.

During these last two weeks in October 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were heating the Cold War to the nuclear boiling point in a confrontation over the Soviet Union installing missiles capable of striking most of the continental United States in Cuba, just ninety miles away. History labeled this confrontation the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Noel Regney Feels the Weight of Despair and the Lightness of Hope

Said the night wind to the little lamb, /Do you see what I see/Way up in the sky little lamb, /Do you see what I see/A star, a star, dancing in the night/With a tail as big as a kite, /With a tail as big as a kite.

Noel Regney felt terrified for his family, his country, and for the survival of the human race. He had fought in World War II and had experienced the fear and terror of war and death firsthand. Now he worried that the secure life he had built for himself and his family in the United States teetered on nuclear brinkmanship.

He tried to think about something else. Christmas, the time of peace on earth and good will, hovered just a few months away and a record producer had asked him to write a Christmas song. He later recalled that he thought he would never write a Christmas song because Christmas had become so commercial.

Then on his way home, Noel saw two mothers taking their babies for a walk in their strollers. He watched the two babies looking at each other and smiling and his mood lifted from despair to hope. Noel’s mind turned to poetry and babies and lambs. By the time he arrived home, he had composed the lyrics of Do You Hear What I Hear? in his head.

Noel and Gloria Shayne Regney Compose Do You Hear What I Hear? Together

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, / “Do you hear what I hear? / Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy, /Do you hear what I hear? /a song, a song, high above the tree/with a voice as big as the sea.

As soon as Noel Regney arrived home, he jotted down the lyrics that he had written in his head, and he asked his wife Gloria to write the music to match his words. The Regneys usually collaborated using the exact opposite method – Gloria would write the words and Noel would write the music. This time they switched roles.

Gloria Regney later said, “Noel wrote a beautiful song, and I wrote the music. We could not sing it through; it broke us up. We cried. Our little song broke us up. You must realize there was a threat of nuclear war at the time.”

Noel Regney Experienced War Firsthand

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king, / “Do you know what I know? /In your palace warm, mighty king, /Do you know what I know? /A Child, a Child shivers in the cold—/Let us bring him silver and gold.”

Noel Regney seemed destined for a brilliant music career in his native France. He studied at Strasbourg Conservatory and at the Conservatorie National de Paris. Then Hitler’s Nazi troops invaded France and the Germans forcibly drafted Noel Regney into the Army. While in the German Army, Noel joined the French underground. He collected information and warned French resistance fighters of upcoming attacks from the Germans, and he still wore the German Army uniform while he conducted his missions.

One mission in particular haunted Noel Regney. The French underground assigned him to lead a group of German soldiers into a trap so that French fighters could catch them in a crossfire. The memory of dead German soldiers falling to the ground haunted Noel. The French fighters suffered only minor injuries, and although Noel, too, was shot he sustained minor injuries. Shortly after the raid, Noel deserted the German army and lived with the French underground until the war ended.

After the war ended, Noel worked as the musical director of the Indochinese Service of Radio France from 1948 to 1950. After that he became musical director at Lido, a popular Paris nightclub. In 1951, Noel Regney left France for a world tour as musical director for the French singer Lucienne Boyer.

Noel Regney Moves to Manhattan and Marries a Musician

Said the king to the people everywhere, / “Listen to what I say! /Pray for peace, people, everywhere, /Listen to what I say! /The Child, The Child sleeping in the night/He will bring us goodness and light, /He will bring us goodness and light.”

In 1952, Noel Regney immigrated to the United States and moved to Manhattan. As well as writing serious musical compositions he composed, arranged and conducted music for many early TV shows and wrote commercial jingles for radio.

One day he walked into the dining room of a Manhattan hotel and saw a beautiful woman playing popular music on the piano. He introduced himself and in a month he and Gloria Shayne were married. Their daughter Gabrielle Regney describes her mother as “an extraordinary pianist and composer who has perfect pitch.”

Noel Regney and Gloria Shayne Regney composed music together and separately. The songs they composed together include Rain, Rain, Go Away, recorded by Bobby Vinton, but Do You Hear What Hear? is their Christmas classic masterpiece.

Some of Gloria’s popular songs include Goodbye Cruel World, and The Men in My Little Girl’s Life, and Almost There. In 1963 Noel composed Dominique, made world famous by the Singing Nun and in 1971, he wrote Slovenly Peter, a concert suite derived from a German folktale. In 1974, he wrote a five-part cantata called I Believe in Life. Gloria and Noel divorced in 1973. Noel Regney died in 2002 and Gloria Shayne Regney Baker died in 2008.

Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Robert Goulet, Susan Boyle, and Andy Williams are just a few of the artists that have recorded the more than 120 versions of Do You Hear What I Hear? in musical styles from jazz to reggae. Bing Crosby’s version in 1963 sold more than a million copies.

According to his obituary, Noel Regney favored the Robert Goulet version of the song.

“I am amazed that people can think they know the song- and not know it is a prayer for peace, but we are so bombarded by sound and our attention spans are so short that we now listen only to catchy beginnings,” he said in a 1985 interview.

“Listen to what I say, pray for peace people everywhere.”

Robert Goulet Version, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

Pentatonix Version, “Do You Hear What I Hear?”


Hump Day History to Wisk Away Weary Wednesdays! Jerry Janco

Mrs. Garrison

By Jerry Janco
This Bob Blickensderfer photo could resemble Mrs. Garrison,  although we don’t know what she really looked like.

I knew her only as Mrs. Garrison. Then, as now, it didn’t seem appropriate to call her by her first name, though I imagine it to be Edna, or Mable, or Gertrude…one of the old-fashioned names that are out of style. She was a tiny, old lady with long gray hair which she kept in a tight braided bun. Once, when I was delivering groceries to her place, she hadn’t had time to braid her hair and it was well below her shoulders and down her back. To me, it seemed so strange that she had to spend the time to weave the hair braid and then coil it on the back of her head. After all, both of my grandmothers cut and curled THEIR hair. That seemed easier and more flattering. But I don’t think Mrs. Garrison was concerned with ease or flattery. Pride maybe. She seemed embarrassed that I saw her with her hair down and it never happened again after that one time.

In all other things modesty prevailed, from her simple flowered house dress to her humble surroundings. Mrs. Garrison smiled a lot, but we never had much of a conversation. She had hunched shoulders which gave me the impression of someone who was used to hard work and tough times. She nodded more than she spoke, but in a friendly way. I delivered groceries to her from Picard’s Market As far as I know, she didn’t drive a car nor was ever actually in the store. Perhaps when she was younger.

Mrs. Garrison lived in a chicken coup that had been converted into a house shortly after the Depression. From the outside, it still looked like a coop. At its highest point the roof was maybe nine feet tall, and it tapered down to about six feet. It was a good twenty feet long but only ten feet wide. The original tongue and grove siding had been covered over with thick sheets of tar paper that had a brown-brick pattern in it. It was supposed to look like the real thing, but you knew it wasn’t. At least durable, it didn’t need to be painted. The entire south wall of the coup housed the large, paned windows. Chickens need plenty of heat and light to thrive, and the windows provided both. At some point, plastic had been stapled over the windows in order to keep the place warmer in the winter.

The interior looked more like a house, but the traces of the coop were still here. The ceiling had been painted but still had the downward slope of the roofline. There was a small, makeshift kitchen when you first entered. Surprisingly, a hand-pump was still intact from its coop days, and Mrs. Garrison’s only means for water in the kitchen. There was a single, cast-iron sink beneath the waterspout of the pump. She had hung a pair of curtains under the sink, so I don’t know what held it up. Next to the sink was the gas stove, one that seemed to match Mrs. Garrison’s age and condition…old and frail. A small cupboard was next to the stove. I have a feeling it was made from the remnants of the coup renovation, but I don’t know for sure. It looked homemade. The tiny refrigerator was opposite the stove, and next to it was a tall, white, metal cabinet with doors. Frankly, it seemed out of place since it couldn’t have been more than a few years old.

Throughout the kitchen the plank walls had been papered with a tiny floral print It was pink on a white background. Well, I say white. Over the years, and with help from the gas stove, the background had faded to a dull, dirty beige. You could still see the flowers, but they weren’t as prominent. The paper-tears between the planks didn’t help either. One of the south-facing windows was in the kitchen and in front of it was a small wooden table with a chair on either end. They were old, too. I don’t remember if it had a tablecloth, but I suspect it did.

The only thing that was hanging from the wall was an old picture of a young man with a beard. It was mounted in an oval frame and the glass that covered the photo had been molded to form an outward bow. I had never seen glass like that, and I thought it was unique. The man was tall and thin and dressed in what could have been a leather shirt. It had a row of fringe along the front. It reminded me of the image I had of a Kit Carson or other adventurer of the 1860’s, though I think the photo was taken at a much later date.

His beard seemed large for his face, as did the moustache, but it must have been the style at the time. He had long hair, too. It flowed out from the brimmed cap he was wearing. Though I’m not assuming that this was Mrs. Garrison’s husband, in any case, I felt it had meaning, as it hung above the sink and was one of the first things you saw when you entered her place.

Off from the kitchen in the downward slope of the coop, was a tiny bathroom. Beyond the kitchen was what she probably called the living room. I never had a reason to go there, and she never invited me there. Chances are she used the living room as a bedroom, too, though she may have been reluctant to admit it. I like to think she kept her blankets hidden and only used them when nighttime, winter winds tore the plastic on the windows, and she was dreaming of a young man with a beard.

Or not. Ah, but for the imagination of my youth. She may have just been thankful for a warm place.

The chicken coop is gone now. I suppose I could try to trace Mrs. Garrison’s history. The coop was on Earl Torrence’s property, and I think Mrs. Garrison was Mrs. Torrence’s mother. The Torrence’s lived in the big house next to the coop. They are all long dead now and the neighborhood has changed. Most of them never knew there was a coop or a Mrs. Garrison.

HUMP Day History to Wisk Away Weary Wednesdays! Bob Blickensderfer

Just An Empty Field

By Bob Blickensderfer

In 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression my parents and I moved to our newly built home at 630 Mill Street. It sets on the east side of the street, just across the street from the present-day Foursquare Gospel Church which was built on what was then just an empty triangularly shaped field bordered by Mill Street on the east, Peach Street running from Mill northeast to Carl Street, which formed the north side of the triangle.

The field sat empty except for the fall when fishnets were laid out along the northern area after the close of the annual fishing season. By early spring, the field was lying empty ready for exploitation by us boys in the area. Trenches were dug and covered with cardboard or discarded tin roofing to create world war style military bunkers.

The First World War had just ended twelve years earlier and there was many battles fought with dirt clods as missiles and toy rifles to ward off raids by the Huns against the heroic Yanks who invariably prevailed. When the war was over for the season, kites were in the air in the late spring and the flying of homemade model airplanes also saw action.

A ball field had been laid out – no dugouts or stands – just an open area where the local boys would get together to play pick-up games that were definitely not organized. When I got a new catcher’s mitt for Christmas, I wound up playing catcher, but then I became the proud owner of a neat fielder’s glove, much more to my liking.

Several of us had bats of various quality and a new baseball coming out of its cardboard box was a thing of beauty! The feeling of that unblemished horsehide cover! The smell of the leather! It seemed almost a crime to destroy that magic, but it would soon be put into play. Since a new ball cost fifty cents or so when the hard labor for a 60-hour week was about $30.00, the ball was used until it became a misshapen orb, sometimes held together with black friction tape to repair the frayed stitching and “innards.”

As summer approached September, football came into play, again just a bunch of us choosing up sides, and trying to pound each other into the dirt.

But our playing field turned into something special in late spring when the first billboards and posters proclaimed that a circus was coming soon – it was the city’s official circus field. We checked out the colorful scenes depicted on the advertising. What were their main attractions? Any Wild West show? What exotic animals were depicted? How many rings? (Very important to our ratings…three rings at least plus a menagerie) …

 Most of the smaller circuses traveled in an assortment of trucks and house trailers. Some of the large shows like Cole Brothers and Hagenbeck and Wallace came on the railroad, unloading on the New York Central siding across from the present-day railroad museum (the former NYC depot).

Our neighborhood gang was always on hand to make sure everything was done properly. A small party from the soon to arrive circus usually made an appearance at the field to check the facility. They looked over the field’s condition, shape size, and source of water. In the early evening before circus day, trucks began arriving from that day’s show to start preparing for the entire circus to arrive during the night.

We neighborhood boys were up early circus day to look everything over especially the animal trucks lining Mill Street opposite the field. The cages were covered for travel, but we could hear the sound of big cats nervously pacing and rumbling to themselves. It was not difficult to locate the trucks carrying the elephants, camels, and horses because of their larger size.

The trucks loaded with the various tents poles, seats, and myriad other props were already spotted around the field in areas close to where they would be used. Usually the first tent to be erected would be the food tent, so the “roustabouts” could have chow before beginning to put up the tents.

The larger animals were also allowed out and staked down so they could be fed and watered. I never saw animals neglected or treated badly, for each animal was an investment in money and care. One memorable circus took four or five elephants and ran the down Grove Street to Township Park so they could frolic in the lake, which they did with gusto. We kids ran along with them, as excited as the elephants who lay down in the water and really had a ball as all elephants love the water. What wonderful photos could have been taken, but in the 1930’s cameras and films were just too costly to record everyday events.

Our house had a water faucet near the northwest corner that always attracted circus people wanting a bucket or two of water for their own needs. Some rang the doorbell to ask permission, but they also helped themselves if we weren’t home, but my folks never seemed to mind.

The big top usually ran east and west along 12th Street, while the Midway shows and the main entrance were laid out north and south across from our house. We kids all watched as the well-rehearsed roustabouts quickly drove stakes, put up the center poles, laid out the big canvas and erected the big main tents. Then the seats were quickly assembled, and the side canvas secured. Other crews meanwhile were putting up the Midway tents and a menagerie tent, if the circus was big enough to have one. Inside the main tents, circus aerial wire walkers, and acrobats would be carefully erecting the equipment their lives depended upon. They performed at least twice each day.

A few circuses had “Wild West” shows after the main performance. I remember seeing one of my favorite western actors, Hoot Gibson, as a featured star in one show with his beautiful horse. How lucky can a young lad be?

Everything was usually ready to go by 11 a.m., with the first performance at 2 p.m. Since the Depression was affecting every household, the admission fees were very modest.

From Remembering, the newsletter of the Conneaut Historical Society

March, June, 2004

Honor the Merchant Marine in Every Port

Like all sailors, Merchant Marine sailors forge connections to each other and the ships and waterways they sail. Michael James Monahan, born in Covington, Kentucky, was no exception. The story of Merchant Marine machinist Michael James Monahan took place in different settings than Ashtabula and the Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum or lakeshore ports like Cleveland and Conneaut, but the connections are as solid as a ship’s anchor.

Ashtabula citizens Joe Cook and Wallace E. Wason, were two World War II veterans who were not in the Merchant Mariners, but were instrumental in creating the Merchant Marine Memorial in Point Park, a few oar strokes from the museum’s front door, and establishing the Ohio Valley Chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans. Cincinnati resident Bert Hinds, regional vice president of the American Merchant Marine veterans, told part of Michael James Monahan’s story in a manuscript from the Merchant Marine collection in the library of the Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum.

Michael James Monahan

Throughout the navigation ages, Great Lakes and ocean sailor casualties have washed home on beaches to be tenderly cared for by the people on land. Sailors in the Merchant Marine were among those casualties, especially during World War II. They laid down their lives with a will for freedom and many were fated to end their earthly voyages ashore in places that were not their original homes.

Michael James Monahan, originally from Kentucky, was one of these Merchant Marine sailors. In April 1942, his body washed up on St. Augustine Beach, and the coroner listed exposure in the Atlantic Ocean waters after a German submarine torpedoed his ship as his cause of death.

Michael James Monahan was born on June 7, 1893, in Covington, Kentucky. His father is listed in some documents as Michael James Monahan, and in others, Michael B. Monahan and his mother is listed as Mary Monahan. The same conflicting information appears for his father Michael’s birthplace. Some census records say he was born in Ireland and others in Maine. His mother Mary was born in Ohio. Michael had two sisters, Jeanette and Helen.

His World War I draft registration shows that Michael was born on June 7, 1893, in Kentucky. The registration information also reveals that he had light brown hair, blue eyes, a slender build, and was short of stature.

Census records and other documents list Michael’s birthday anywhere from 1893 to 1896. By the time Michael had completed four years of high school and was working as a machinist, the family had moved to Newport, Kentucky.

The 1920 Census puts Michael still living in Newport, Kentucky with his father Michael and his sister Jeanette. He worked as a machinist in a foundry.

By 1930, Michael had joined the Merchant Marine. The 1930 Merchant Seaman Schedule of the United States Federal Census locates his home port as Port Arthur, Texas and indicated he served on the Steamer Gulflight.

The partially sunken SS Gulflight

Launched on August 8, 1914, the Gulflight was an American tanker that the New York Shipbuilding Company of Camden, New Jersey built for the Gulf Refining Company, later to become Gulf Oil. The Gulflight left Port Arthur on April 10, 1915, with a cargo of gasoline in the tanks and barrels of lubrication oil bound for Rouen, France. A German U-boat, U-30,  torpedoed the Gulflight on May 1, 1915, in the Scilly Isles, making her the first American ship to be torpedoed during World War I. The torpedoing created a diplomatic firestorm which eventually moved the United States closer to declaring war with Germany in 1917.The German government apologized for the Gulflight attack, but did not stop its policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, a strategy which brought the United States into the War two years later after the sinking of the Lusitania and drastic changes in American policy.

The Gulflight did not sink, but instead her owners had her towed into port in the Scilly Isles to be evaluated and unload some of her cargo. After that, she sailed under her own power to Rouen to deliver her remaining cargo and then traveled to Newcastle-upon Tyne for repairs and returned to service.

The 1930 Merchant Seaman Schedule of the U.S. Federal Census located the Gulflight in Port Arthur Texas, and listed Michael James Monahan as associated with the ship. Somehow, he survived the torpedoing of the Gulflight.

In 1937, the Nantucket Chief SS Co. Inc of Port Arthur, Texas bought Gulflight and changed her name to SS Nantucket Chief. A year later, British registry Harris & Dixon Ltd. of London bought her, and they renamed her the SS Refast. On January 26, 1942, German U-582 torpedoed and sank the Refast south of St. Johns Newfoundland.

The 1940 Census listed Michael Monahan as living in New York City since 1935, and working as a machinist

By 1942, Michael was a crewman serving on the SS Gulfamerica. In 1942, the Benthlehem Fairfield Shipyards Inc. of Sparrow’s Point, Maryland completed its construction of the American steam tanker SS Gulfamerica. Operated by the Gulf Oil Company of New York City, she made Philadelphia her homeport. The Gulfamerica’s home voyage was scheduled to take her from Port Arthur, Texas to New York with a cargo of 101,500 barrels of oil.

On the night of April 10, 1942, she traveled unescorted about five miles off of Jacksonville, Florida. The lights of Jacksonville Beach Resort illuminated her in sharp relief, because the authorities had not imposed a blackout. Some of them had to be concerned, however, because shortly after 10 p.m., the Gulfamerica began to zigzag instead of steaming a straight course. Twenty minutes later, a German submarine U-123, Reinhard Hardegen, commander, sighted her and fired at torpedo.

Striking the number seven tank on the starboard side, the torpedo created an explosion and fire. The captain ordered the engines stopped and the ship abandoned and the Gulfamerica sent distress calls. The U-123 fired about twelve shells into the engine room on the port side with her deck gun, trying to destroy the radio antenna and the anticraft gun.

The abandoning ship turned into chaos, one lifeboat capsizing while another with the master and ten crewmen pulled away within ten minutes. Ten minutes later, another boat left holding just three men, while three others abandoned ship on a life raft. Later it, picked up two men from the water.

The torpedo blast and gunfire killed five men and fourteen more men drowned after they jumped into the water. Two officers, two armed guards, and fifteen crewmen were killed in the sinking and twenty-four crew members, and five Navy Armed Guard survived the torpedoing.

United States Coast Guard patrol boats rescued the survivors, taking them to Mayport, Florida. The Gulfamerica settled by her stern with a 40-degree list to starboard, but she did not sink until April 16.

. Michael James Monahan was not one of the survivors. His body washed ashore, and papers found on his body identified him. After the coroner finished identifying Michael Monahan, he was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Lorenzo Cemetery in St Augustine.

The sinking of the Gulfamerica jolted complacent business as usual 1942 authorities to think blackout measures. The U.S. government had been tardy declaring lights out, but Florida Gov. Spessard Holland acted quickly. On April 11, he decreed a “screenout” for coastal lights. By the end of 1942, blackouts and covered car headlights were part of America’s wartime routine.

The Grave with No Marker Acquires Markers and Memory

Five decades and three years passed, and the story of Michael James Monahan was nearly forgotten as was the service of Merchant Marine sailors either forgotten or unrecognized.  Then another Michael, Michael Grogan, a reporter for the St. Augustine Record, happened to be digging through some old newspaper files, and he found brief articles about a man’s body washed ashore on St. Augustine Beach and buried in San Lorenzo Cemetery.

His curiosity piqued, Michael Grogan visited St. Lorenzo Cemetery, and found the grave, but no marker. He visited the funeral home, found the old death certificate, and wrote a short article about the grave with no tombstone. One of the members of the St. Johns River Chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans living in St. Augustine read the story and sent it to John Lockhart, a director of the St. Johns Chapter. John Lockhart researched and discovered that Michael James Monahan had been a machinist on the SS Gulf America.

The funeral home personnel also read Mike Grogan’s story in the St. Augustine Record, and they placed a temporary marker on the grave of Michael James Monahan which the government later replaced with a permanent marker.

To further recognize Michael James Monahan,  the U.S. Maritime Commission and the War Shipping Administration named a Liberty Ship built at the J.A. Jones Construction Company yard in Panama City, Florida the SS Michael James Monahan.

The stories of Michael James Monahan and Michael Grogan impressed yet another Michael, Michael Gannon, a professor at the University of Florida. Professor Gannon found the stories of Merchant Marine Michael Monahan and newspaper reporter Michael Grogan so interesting that he traveled to Germany where he found and interviewed Reinhard Hardegen who lived in Bremen, Germany. Professor Gannon continued his research until he had enough material to write a book that he titled Operation Drumbeat.

Interviewing Reinhard Hardegen

Reinhard Hardegen

Professor Gannon’s interview with Commander Reinhard Hardegen gave additional perspective to the story. Commander Hardegen told Professor Gannon that after the torpedo struck the Gulfamerica, he closed in and used his deck gun to finish off the ship. He noticed that large crowds had gathered on the beach to watch the sinking and its aftermath. Onlookers soon thronged the highways leading from Jacksonville trying to get to the beach for a closer look.

 In a hazardous move, Reinhard Hardegen decided to maneuver around the tanker and attack from the landside, although silhouetted by the shore lights, the U-123 a perfect target for defensive fire. The shallow water also made it imperative for the U -boat to lie only 820 feet from the Gulfamerica which opened up the possibility of return fire or getting swept up in the burning oil fire. After spending some time firing the deck gun, with the Gulfamerica burning fiercely, Reinhard Hardegen decided to leave. Now planes droned overhead, trying to find the submarine with parachute flares and a destroyer and several patrol boats closed in on the water.

The aircraft forced the U-123 to crash dive to the bottom, only sixty-six feet down, and the destroyer USS Dahlgren dropped six depth charges. The submarine sustained heavy damages and convinced the destroyer would return for another attack, Commander Hardegen ordered the secret codes and machinery destroyed and his U-boat abandoned. As the commander, his orders were to open the tower hatch so the crew could escape using escape gear, but he was paralyzed with fear and could not finish the evacuation. Fortunately for Commander Hardegen and for unknown reasons, the Dahlgren did not drop any more depth charges and moved away. The U-123 made emergency repairs and limped away into deeper waters. Commander Hardegen told Professor Gannon, “Only because I was too scared was, I not captured.”

Bert Hinds, regional vice president of the American Merchant Marine veterans, who told part of Michael James Monahan’s story reported the belief of an anonymous Navy Armed Guard survivor who claimed that the real reason Commander Hardegen brought the U-123 about was that an offshore breeze blew the burning oil towards his submarine and by bringing the U-123 about, he kept his ship up wind of the burning oil.

Whatever his reasoning, Commander Hardegen did not fire on civilians and lived to tell his sea story.

The SS Michael James Monahan

In 1993, military authorities were concerned that time had made ammunition from World War II, the Korean War, and some cold war ammunition unstable, and they needed to destroy it. They created Operation Chase to achieve their goal. The U.S. Navy acquired several surplus Liberty ships which were loaded with surplus ammunition and missiles from the Military Sea Transport Service.

The Navy scuttled the first ship, the SS John Shafroth, west of the Golden Gate in deep water. The second Operation Chase ship, originally named Joseph N. Dinand, but renamed the SS Village, was also a Liberty Ship. It exploded shortly after sinking, registering on seismic charts of the Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

After these perilous beginnings, all the sinking ships in Operation Chase were fitted with charges to ensure that the cargo of the ships detonated, and these trials convinced officials to distinguish between manmade convention explosions, nuclear explosions, and natural seismic earthquake shocks.

The remaining vessels used in Operation Chase were Liberty ships: The SS Santiago; the SS Iglasias; the SS Isaac Van Zandt; the SS Horace Greely; the SS Corporal Eric G. Gibson; the SS Robert Louis Stevenson; and the SS Michael J. Monahan. The Michael J. Monahan was loaded with overaged Polaris missiles that had been stored at Charleston, West Virginia.

The Navy learned invaluable information about underground/underwater nuclear explosions from these tests and they conceivably could have been a deciding factor in keeping the Cold War contained.

Seaman Michael James Monahan

There are many ironies in the story of Seaman Michael James Monahan. He survived one torpedo explosion, he did not survive another torpedo explosion, and his namesake ship sank in another explosion. He washed up onto a Florida beach as a stranger, and the hands of kind strangers buried him. Strangers told his story and became his friends. Michael James Monahan’s story makes him a lasting friend to Merchant Seaman because it became part of the campaign to persuade the United States government to recognize merchant seamen as veterans, which it finally did in 1988.

Seaman Michael James Monahan, part of a brotherhood of mariners with stories to be told and retold.

The peace of St. Augustine Beach

(This article was inspired by information taken from Honoring the U.S. Merchant Marine and the U.S Navy Armed Guard of World War II

A Collection of the 40 Manuscripts about the U. S. Merchant Marine and U.S Navy Armed Guard during World War II published in Joe Cook’s Weekly column in the Ashtabula Star Beacon from May 9, 1997 through February 6, 1998.

Autographed front cover:  Best wishes to Wally Wason, co-founder of the Northeast Ohio chapter of the American Merchant Marine Veterans.

Joe Cook, September 14, 2000. This collection can be found in the library of the Ashtabula Maritime and Surface Transportation Museum.)

Three More Views of Tyler’s Trough

The Pause that Refreshes!
A drink of cool, clear water makes the trip much easier.
The Tyler Watering Trough on Old Main Road Hill. Placed in 1896, many a horse, rider, wagoner, and foot traveler enjoyed a pause that refreshed after a long, steep, climb. In 2002, it was sold to a private owner who moved it from Conneaut to the dismay of many Conneaut residents.

Thanking Veterans

(In living our daily lives, we often forget the people who sacrificed their lives to give us the freedom to live ours as we desire. Conneaut has a rich patriotic tradition from people on the home front as well as those fighting wars in distant places. We will feature a few of their stories from their respective wars. If you have a veteran you would like to be featured or are a veteran with story to tell, contact

Photo by Holly Mindrup

Dog Tags

Ageless, endless, Partner of war,

Dangling life and death – cold metal core,

Number and letters etched and aloof,

Until someone reads them for person proof!

Robert Goldsmith Recalls Days of Being POW

Wednesday, May 27, 1998

Conneaut, Ohio
Sincerely Marge   by Marge Tuttle (Gazette)

Although much time has gone by since the ending of World War II, the memories from that terrible era still remain in our minds. In this war, any men from our town and the surrounding area were involved and remember the experiences they will never forget. Three very well- known fellows from our town spent much time in German prison camps, and they remember well the hardships they endured while they were there.  They are Jack Sanford, who was at one time Conneaut Police Chief; Charles (Chuck) Marcy, a former Conneaut businessman; and Robert Goldsmith, who is well known by either Bob or Goldie.  He is now retired and owns and operates his antique shop on West Main Road.

At this time I would heartily like to say “thank you” to Bob Goldsmith for his utmost cooperation with me on the writing of the following true story!

When Bob joined the Armed Forces he was sent to various training camps. Upon bis request, he was trained as a ball turret gunner. This meant his position would be in the under belly of the B17 Flying Fortress.

His training took place at various locations before he was scheduled to go overseas by way of a six day cruise on the Queen Mary.

In 1943, Bob landed in Scotland, then was sent for training near London, where he joined a part of the 8th Air Force, and received training over and around England’s countryside.

On his first mission over Germany, his faulty oxygen mask caused him so much trouble he was hospitalized for two weeks.  In February 1944, Bob was once more in action with his plane and crew and given the target of an assembly plant in western Poland.  This mission was not successful due to weather conditions (cloud cover) so was ordered to make a return trip two days later.  On this trip they endured severe enemy bombing, badly damaging their B17.  When the engines burst into flames, they knew that jumping was all that was left to do.

At this point, he disconnected all of his equipment and made his way into the body of the plane. He was all set to be first to jump when he discovered a faulty buckle on his suit and motioned to drop back to the fellow behind him. When it came his turn, he noticed the gigantic hole in their wing, the result of an enemy 20MM cannon round that hit them.   

As Bob floated down on his first parachute mission, he was glad to see land instead of water as he had no idea where he was or what was coming up next. As he landed in a treetop, he saw a German guard with a gun in hand, pointed at him. Then there were more with guns and vicious dogs with looks on their faces that were anything but kind.  When the rest of the crew was rounded up, they were taken inside for interrogation. However, the pilot was missing.  He was said to have been shot to death as he tried to escape into a nearby woods.

The next move was a train ride to Southern Germany, and due to a schedule mix up, the whole crew was put into a local jail and in solitary confinement with rats for company. The prisoners were moved many times, each with another method of travel, from train compartments to being herded into boxcars. Conditions in these boxcars were terrible and lasted five to six days. During that time, there was the threat of our bombers all around which mounted their fear of being blown up by their own allies.

From this horrible journey, they were again put in solitary confinement.

When they finally reached the last POW camp, they joined many from other countries and began to receive Red Cross packages, which had some warm clothing, cigarettes, Spam, candy, and powdered milk. These, along with the POW diet of dried cabbage, turnips, a few potatoes, and horse meat soup was all they had to eat. Many lost a lot of weight.

Some of the fellows at this camp put together a makeshift radio from parts they bribed from the guards in exchange for American cigarettes, which were obtained from the Red Cross packages. With this they could get a bit of war news now and then.

As the Russians came closer, Bob’s camp was moved into the hold of an abandoned Japanese freighter. This was an awful experience as they all wee herded into the hold, packed together with the fear of being blown up.

Next, they were again packed into boxcars and sent to a camp near Berlin. Here, they were chained together in pairs and forced to march in the extreme cold for a long distance with German youth guards in command under the orders of a captain who was full of hate for them. He enjoyed such treatment as jabbing the buttocks and legs of the stragglers. They all feared the vicious unmuzzled dogs, as they knew if they fell behind it might mean death. Bob had a hard time as he also had to help his partner who had extremely sore feet. Here, rations were drastically reduced, and no mail came through from home.

At this camp, the Gestapo was in charge and would do all sorts of nasty things. One would be to hold inspection any time or night or day. They would tear everything to bits while the prisoners stood out in the cold. They then turned the lights out at night so they couldn’t see to put them back together.

Their next move was to a new camp where Bob joined some of his commanding officers.  Here, food was rationed even more as the Germans faced the fact that they were losing the war. A loaf of bread had to be split seven ways, and a fellow was lucky if he got any at all. Here, no Red Cross packages were received.

In April of 1945, when the Russians liberated their camp, it meant any changes for all of the men there. The drunken and trigger happy Russians made our boys uncomfortable, and even though they enjoyed viewing the countryside around them, they returned to the camp each night.

Each day they awaited the sight of our B17s to fly in after them, and what a sight is was when they did and then flew them to an airfield in France. Here, they boarded an old Liberty Ship for an 11 day trip home.

What a wonderful feeling it was for Bob Goldsmith to see that sign “Conneaut, Ohio” and pick up life again as he wanted to live it.

(His obituary in the Ashtabula Star Beacon says that after the war Bob Goldsmith went the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and In the 50’s actively painted local water color scenes. In the 70’s he started an antique shop in his father’s former Shell Gas Station on Rt. 20 in Conneaut. He retired from Union Carbide on June 30, 1981 after 25 years of service. He died Thursday, October 26, 2017, and he is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Conneaut.)

Picnic Picks from (Possibly) the Nineteenth Pierpont Picnic



Warren Man, Visitor at Picnic, Lived In Pierpont and Was Prominent In County


   Among the many visitors who were at the Pioneer picnic at Russell’s grove on Friday was the Hon. E. B. Leonard, of Warren, Ohio, who was at one time prominent in county politics and enjoyed the office of county prosecutor.  Judge Leonard, as he is known to his best friends, always enjoys this picnic and while not upon the program, pleased the assemblage more than a little by local narratives that were more or less familiar to the residents hailing from the south-eastern part of Pierpont township.  One of the hits of the talk by Mr. Leonard was of decidedly humorous vein and portrayed his story telling faculty to the best advantage.  It was relative to a “short distance marathon race” in which he was the pursued and the reason for the event was occasioned through the fact that he and a party of boy chums had participated a trifle too freely in the products of the berry patch of one Morrison, an aged resident of the same locality who occupied a place of vantage on the platform with the speaker and enjoyed the narrative hugely.


Old Resident, Very Widely Known, Attended Affair And Had Jolly Time

  While there were large numbers of men in advanced age at the doings at Russell’s grove Friday, one man in particular was present who enjoyed the festivities throughout the day.  F. D. Shipman, who has been a resident of the State Line for years and for whom the old post office near the picnic grounds was named “Ship” was one of the central figures.  Mr. Shipman is well known by the dance loving people as his rosined bow drawn deftly across the strings of his trusty violin has furnished the incentive for thousands of couples to trip the light fantastic.  Mr. Shipman is not in as good health as has characterized his many years of usefulness, but for all that he is still one of the most chipper of  “Old Boys.” Another one of his greatest pleasures was to follow the barkings of his hounds while pursuing big game and it is said that no man in this locality has bagged such big game.  A shot from his fowling piece usually brought to ground the object fired at.

More Picnic Picks

Attorney Gerald Hammond, whose shingle is hanging out at Youngstown, had the pleasure of renewing old acquaintances during the day. Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Colson were interested persons in the picnic.  Mr. Colson, who hails from Conneaut but now lives at Warren, Ohio, caused all sorts of annoyance to his wife by his insistence on remaining on the merry-go-round. If you don’t believe it, ask Herb.

One of the happier of the picnic visitors was one H. Barber, who, while in mature years, never misses this annual event and says, “I enjoy each one better.”

Many are the extremely funny happenings that occurred during the day, but one of the most unreasonable and silly outbursts happened to one of the autoists en route for Conneaut.  The one who was responsible for the outburst was a driver of a carriage, who wanted all the road and who had a personal dislike for “houtomobiles” of any kind.  He expressed himself in terms so strong that the air was blue for several feet.  It is to laugh.

   Dr. C. H. Maloney, wife and daughter of Warren, Ohio, were greeting friends all day, having driven up in their automobile. During the discourse of Judge Leonard the gentleman took occasion to deplore the money monopoly as it exists today.  “Down with the octopus,” roared the speaker, who looked right at genial “Bill” Wheeler, who had a distinct corner on ice cream.  It so surprised Bill that he dropped a cake on his hind foot and was forced to walk on crutches during the remainder of the day.

As an added feature to the well prepared program which was rendered, much interest was aroused by the fact that our friend to the south, Frank Follett, would osculate with all the babies present under the age of 54.  Mr. Follett is a brave man, but after 971 of the fairest ones had been so christened, to his utter dismay he lost his pucker.  No one was more disappointed than he.  But, he says he will be at the twentieth picnic.

One lady living on one of the main roads counted 700 teams and carriages passing a given point during the day.  Some picnic!

The Tale, Tragedy, and Timelessness of Tyler’s Trough, Conneaut Ohio

The Tale…

By1870, Civil War Veteran John B. Tyler had moved to Conneaut from his native New York, bringing his wife Emma Jane, their children and his driver skills with him. They settled on a farm near the Old Main Hill Road leading through the gorge that Conneaut Creek had carved with centuries of swiftly running water. John set to work farming, driving teams for himself and his neighbors while Emma Jane kept house and helped John make their farm prosper. The couple’s children included Richard, Mary, Hal, Edna, and August.

 After a sojourn in Chicago during the 1880s, John B. and his family returned to the farm in Conneaut. Even in the 1880s, Chicago had acquired the characteristics of a big city with tall buildings, and John B. and his family may have compared the height of Chicago buildings with the depth of the Conneaut Creek gorge snaking through the Old Main Hill Road.

As John worked through his farming days, he often interrupted his duties to help water the teams of horses that toiled up and down the Old Main Hill Road. A spring of sparkling, fresh water bubbled near the road and their drivers stopped to let the tired horses enjoy a drink of fresh water. Their destinations were a mixture of local trips and long-distance hauls to Buffalo or Chicago, because Old Main Road was a connecting thoroughfare between the two cities.

In 1896, John B., possibly with the help of his neighbors and thirsty teamsters, built wooden troughs to collect the spring water for horses and people passing up and down the steep hill. He began his plan of piping the spring water to the wooden troughs at the top of the hill by drilling eight feet into the ground, where he struck a bubbling spring branch. Then he laid a three-inch pipe to a well near his home just a stone’s throw away. He and his helpers built a wooden water trough measuring about four feet high and six feet wide, and then they piped water from the Tyler well to the wooden troughs.

It did not take John long to realize that that wooden troughs fell short of his expectations. Horse and wagon traffic and large lumber wagons rolling down the hillside jarred or bumped into the troughs and soon they showed signs of location damage. One day, a wagon hit a trough and it crashed into the gorge. John B. made up his mind to build a permanent water trough that could withstand wagons and people. He eyed a six by eight-foot boulder lying at the bottom of the hill and decided that would solve his problem.

An October 20, 1937, story in the Conneaut News Herald detailed John B’s next move. He hired West Springfield, Pennsylvania, builder Adele Hubbard to help him wrestle the rock the approximately sixty-five feet to the top of the hill. The two men borrowed two capstans and a hydraulic jack from Conneaut Harbor and after placing a jacket around the rock and using skids, they attempted to pull the boulder to the top of the hill. Their first two attempts came within a stone’s throw of success, but just as it reached the top of the hill, the boulder wobbled and then thundered back down the hill. On their third try, the men successfully settled the boulder at the top of the hill.

Then John B. Tyler’s son Richard (Dick) hired Charles Ferson Patterson, a stonecutter, to hollow out a basin in the rock for a water trough. Charles Patterson could not use dynamite because it would shatter the rock, so he decided to use chisels. After days and days of tedious, often back bending labor, he stood surveying a hollowed-out basin capable of holding enough spring water to satisfy thirsty horses and people. Charles Patterson and his wife Mary Adella and their children lived in Conneaut, and with many other visitors, they often stopped to enjoy his stone cutting handiwork at Tyler’s Trough. Many people finger- traced the letters that Charles Patterson had chiseled into the side of his creation:  J.B. Tyler 1896.

The caption under this picture stated that the Tyler’s Trough located on the eastern bank of the Gulf had once been a popular stopping place for people and horses to enjoy refreshing spring water. Time and re-routing had made the Old Main Route obsolete, but the trough was a community landmark and a fitting memorial to hard working citizens who helped built Conneaut. [1] 

For the next two decades or more, people and horses made traditional stops at Tyler’s Trough, and it became a loved landmark for Conneaut and Ashtabula County residents. Time flows like the spring water in Tyler’s Trough. As the horse and buggy jogged through the first decades of the Twentieth Century to meet the speeding automobile, Tyler’s Trough became olden times instead of an oasis. By 1924, the new Route 20 viaduct allowed traffic to bypass the stretch of Old Main Road where Tyler’s Trough had rested for so many years and it became less visible or remembered to passersby. Less visibility and the rising popularity of the automobile left Tyler’s Trough a solitary sentinel landmark on the hill, marked by graffiti, hidden in weeds and buried in memories. A great granddaughter of Charles Patterson, Mary Jane Jarvi and her daughter routinely weeded and watched over Tyler’s Trough and its now quiet neighborhood.

Time continued to flow like the spring water in Tyler’s Trough. Charles Ferson Patterson died in 1905 and he and Mary Adella are buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Conneaut. John B. Tyler died in 1911 and is buried in East Conneaut Cemetery. Dick Tyler died in 1952 and is buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Conneaut.

Eventually, new owners acquired the Tyler farm, and with it, Tyler’s Trough. In 2002, the new owners sold Tyler’s Trough to someone who moved it from the spot where John B. Tyler, Dick Tyler, Adele Hubbard, Charles Patterson, and probably helpers whose names have been swallowed up in history worked so hard to homestead it.[2]

Another great granddaughter of Charles F. Patterson, Kathy Grice Horwood, added more details to the story of Tyler’s Trough in a speech at the Conneaut Area Historical Society in the 1990s. The Society’s newsletter, Remembering, printed her story that she called “The Tyler Watering Trough.” Kathy’s version of the story has it that George A. Hubbard, a builder from West Springfield, told John B. Tyler about a huge stone that he had seen that would make a perfect trough for thirsty horses. The stone weighed twenty tons and measured nine ½ x 8x 5 ½ feet, so it presented an equally enormous challenge.

John B. Tyler hired George Hubbard to move the stone, a task that included lifting the stone sixty feet out of the gorge and settling it firmly on the roadside. John B. and George Hubbard had to obtain heavy timbers to make a track and use tackle blocks. John B. had to put in three loads of cobbles, three loads of boulders, and a dressed stone surface for the foundation so the stone would fit snugly into its berth and not roll down the hill. An opening large enough for someone to get under the stone and connect all of the pipes had to be left in the center of the foundation so the pipes could be hooked up to a spring to provide fresh cool water. John B. Tyler hired a Mr. Allyn to properly connect the pipes to the spring.

Next, John B. Tyler hired Charles Ferson Patterson, a mason, to create a trough from the huge boulder. Charles Patterson spent weeks chiseling the stone until he had scoured a basin four feet, five inches by five feet nine inches by two feet six inches to form the trough. Charles Patterson built a small shanty over the stone, working over ten weeks including all winter to create his trough. He completed the job and J.B. Tyler paid him $125.00. As a bonus and a good will gesture, Charles Patterson carved “J.B. Tyler 1896” into the side of his new creation.

 Fran Blickensderfer of Conneaut, a long time Historical Society member, drew this picture of Tyler’s Trough in 1991 for note cards that the Society sold at the Depot Museum.[3]

The final chapters of the Tyler’s Trough story continue the tradition of differing details and ultimately sad events with an ending that John B. Tyler and Charles F. Patterson might not have imagined.

The Tragedy…

Two stories in the Ashtabula Star Beacon detailed the fate of Tyler’s Trough in the first decade of the Twenty First Century. In the March 2002 Star Beacon story, Staff Writer Mark Todd wrote that neighbors reported that on Sunday afternoon Tyler’s Trough had been hauled away from the hillside it overlooked since 1896. A neighbor who checked on the trough, located on Old Main Road, Conneaut, every day since the sale confirmed that a crew took the boulder Sunday afternoon. The crew toiled an hour to remove the trough, estimated to weigh more than twenty tons.

Last week, Conneaut resident Cheryl Taylor, owner of the land where the trough rests, confirmed that she had sold the rock to an unnamed Ashtabula County resident who planned to use it as a memorial to his ailing wife.

Ed Wharton, president of the Conneaut Area Historical Society, said that everyone was upset. “There is now a big hole in our history. More than one hundred years of our history is gone,” he said. President Wharton and other Historical Society members were upset because the previous owner did not give them a chance to buy the trough or make other arrangements to keep it in town. “We’re disheartened the move couldn’t be put on hold for a few days,” he said.

President Wharton added that local officials, including State Representative George Distel, Democrat, Conneaut, had been asked to help. Ward Councilman Richard Showalter, whose jurisdiction includes the land where Tyler’s Trough rested, remarked that “it was taken out with no consideration for our community.” He said that he had contacted state officials and agencies when he learned that the trough had been moved. “I was disappointed not more had been done to stop the move until we had our ducks in a row,” he said. Council President James Lauer said he visited the spot where the trough had rested and had discovered no damage to the road or right of way. “You could go by and not realize any heavy equipment had been there,” he said.[4]

In a follow up story in the Ashtabula Star Beacon of May 31, 2002, Staff Writer Mark Todd pinpointed the whereabouts of Tyler’s Trough. According to Staff Writer Todd, local historians discovered Tyler’s Trough a few dozen miles south of Conneaut. It had been sold and relocated in March 2002, and now resided on private property around Garrettsville and West Farmington. They located a relative of one of the men hired to move the massive stone and eventually found it.

  Ed Wharton, president of the Conneaut Area Historical Society, said that the stone sat close to the road allowing Historical Society members to identify it without trespassing. “We have photos. The name and date etched into the stone is visible. It is the trough.”

Conneaut Area Historical Society members are planning to meet with the owner to see if they can negotiate the return of the stone. According to some reports, the new owner collects watering troughs and has a large display of them on his property. According to President Wharton, Historical society members learned the owner paid $5,000 for the trough and another $3,000 to have it relocated. Members will seek donations if they get a chance to buy back the stone. “We do not know if the person who has its knowns its historical value. He may not talk to us. Once it has left the area, it is going to be tough to get it back,” President Wharton said. [5]


Conneaut Area Historical Society President Ed Wharton’s 2002 words proved to be prophetic. In 2022, Tyler’s Trough still has not returned to rest comfortably on the Old Main Hillside of its birth and its creators John B. Tyler and Charles Patterson would be astonished to read the latest chapters in its story. John B. Tyler conceivably would pause in his planning, just momentarily and Charles Patterson, would lay down his chisel, but not for long and inquire as to the nature of the Facebook chapters of the Tyler Trough story.

More than a decade after the sale of Tyler’s Trough some of the latest chapters in its story have been written on Facebook, a medium that would have astonished its creators. Or perhaps they would not have been astonished after all. In 1896, radio telegraphy had already been invented and telephone, telegraph and automobile technologies were improving as speedily as the newfangled typewriter keys could produce a word. By 2018, Tyler’s Trough had been discussed, dissected, and debated on Facebook and advocates had created the Historic Old Main Stone Trough campaign, to restore Tyler’s Trough to its original home.

Why has the story of Tyler’s Trough endured through the Nineteen, Twentieth and into the Twenty First century? Some of the important reasons for its timelessness are community, continuity and civic and historical pride.

John B. Tyler and Charles Patterson considered community important enough to reach outside of their private lives to contribute what they could to the betterment of their community and their fellow citizens. Tyler’s Trough as a Conneaut community asset provides continuity between generations of citizens transcending the differences of time and technology and creating a connective sense of pride for the contributions their community has made to history.

Every community, whether it is located in a small town, large city, or the wider world, has an icon that expresses pride in community, whether it is a ground hog like Punxsutawney Phil, a gigantic wooden chair outside a town that manufactures chairs, or a stone watering trough on the top of a steep hill. When people stop in their weary tracks before they reach the top of their individual hills, the image and actuality of a Tyler’s Trough provides hope and history in the guise of a long, refreshing drink of water.

[1] From a story in the Conneaut News Herald, October 20, 1937.

[2] Information taken from Federal Census Records and Cemetery Records.

[3] From a speech given by Kathy Grice Horwood at the Conneaut Area Historical Society several years ago.

[4] Ashtabula Star Beacon, March 12, 2002

[5] Ashtabula Star Beacon, May 31, 2002

Pierpont Portraits

130 Years of Tradition:  Pioneer Picnic, Russell’s Grove

The 21st Century Pioneer Picnic is a three-day event that begins the last Friday in August. It started as a reunion for the Russell Groves family in 1890, and the tradition has survived and evolved into a generational community reunion that is part of the historical record of Pierpont and Ashtabula County as well as the region and beyond.

Moina Large noted in her 1924 History of Ashtabula County, Ohio,  that former residents of Pierpont “are loyal to the old town, and show their love for it by assembling year after year in Russell’s Grove, in one big reunion which has come to be widely known as the annual Pierpont picnic.  They come by the thousands and the meeting is always made a gala occasion. That is about the only exciting event of the year, unless something extraordinary happens to disturb the tranquil existence of the village. “

Automobiles Superseding the Horse Among the Farmers -Movie and Carnival
Attractions Added Much to List of Entertaining Features.

In speaking of the Pioneer picnic which was held yesterday at Russell’s grove, Pierpont, those who attended from this city, state that never before in the history of the annual affairs, has there been such a large attendance at the grove.  This was due, not only to the fine weather but also to the number of new attractions added this year and to the wide popularity gained by the picnic in years previous.

The Circa 1900 Versions

One feature which dispelled the conjecture that automobiles were playthings of city folk, was the fact that farmers for miles around with! cars representing almost every make, drove to the picnic with their families.  One spot that in years before had been devoted to the hitching of horses, was this year lined with automobiles.  The machines, however, have not altogether obliterated the horse and carriage for there were also thousands of these to be seen.  One businessman in this city stated that were all the carriages and machines put into a line they would almost reach from here to Pierpont.

Pioneer Picnic Day, Circa 1910-1916

In addition to the two “movie” shows which were new innovations this year, several of the shows belonging to the carnival which was supposed to have been in this city this week, were on the grounds.
Conneaut is Virtually Depopulated Today And Everybody is at Pierpont –Local

Merchants Making Big Displays on the Grounds

Derby Day!

Epsom Downs never had attractions for more people than has Pierpont today. All roads lead in that direction and never was the time when thoroughfares leading to the great English racecourse saw more activity than did the roads carrying pilgrims to the Pioneer picnic today. Early morning saw the first of thousands of visitors on their way to the picnic grounds and throughout the morning every thoroughfare was crowded.

Every conceivable conveyance was seen passing points of vantage along the way and many were the exciting scenes as this carry-all or that attempted to pass another.  Jollity reigned and the whole day will be one of merriment. Conneaut, of course, sent its full quota to participate in the festivities. But every other city, town, hamlet and village within a radius of twenty-five miles of Russell’s Grove is sending a somewhat similar representation.  The picnic will undoubtedly have the largest attendance in its history and it is expected fifteen thousand people will be on the grounds.

Conneaut, however, more than any other community, will be prominent at the

activities of the day. Conneaut merchants have contributed liberally in many ways to make the day enjoyable.  Simonds & Bennett, furniture; H. B. Kurtz, jeweler; and The Mitchell Hardware Company have big exhibits under canvas for inspection of the visitors. 

Other merchants are on the grounds and many are giving out souvenirs of some kind.  The stores in town today were practically deserted, the businessmen and their employees as far as possible joining with the other hundreds of townspeople to attend the picnic.

A Farnham baseball team crossed bats this morning and will again this afternoon with picked teams.  Conneaut people will take part in the other sports and everyone from here will be in some particular way interested in the occasion.

So early as yesterday morning every livery rig in the city was engaged to carry people to the picnic.  Auto after auto was enroute to the picnic at an early hour this morning.  Every other conveyance was likewise engaged.  Neighborhood parties were formed and big carry-alls engaged to carry fifteen or twenty people to the festivities, many rigs being gaily decked and the occasion was made an all day and part of the night pleasure trip.

The big feature of the afternoon program is a speech by the Hon. Hiram E. Starkey, Republican candidate for congress from the Nineteenth district of Ohio. (In 1916, Hiram E. Starkey of Jefferson served as a delegate from Ohio at the Republican National Convention.  He died on September 6, 1930 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Jefferson.)

A literary program will be given. Aside from the ball game will be moving picture and vaudeville shows, merry-go-rounds, shows and the usual fun makers. The whole occasion will be a gala one.

(Editor’s Picture and Note. The caption on this picture that I discovered in a file on Conneaut Historical Museum Pictures reads this way. From left to right: Floyd Martin, President Pioneer Picnic Association; Mrs. Martin; Mrs. Chester Childs at her 79th Pioneer Picnic; Mr. Childs. The date is August 30 with no year mentioned. If it were Mrs. Childs’ 79th Pioneer Picnic and they began around 1890, the photo possibly dates to the late 1960s. It was taken by John Tyler and is marked Conneaut Sunday Women, September 9th, so it probably ran in the Conneaut News Herald. If you have any information about the people in the photo, please email I strive to make the historical information on this website as accurate as possible and some of the sources are very scattered. Help me bring them together. Sincerely, Kathy.)

Pioneer Picnics 21st Century Style

An Ashtabula Star Beacon story by Warren Dillaway, noted that the 2016 Pioneer Picnic began the last Friday in August 2016, continued for three days and had expanded into an old fashioned festival with a family friendly basis, according to Pioneer Picnic Associate Trustee Mark Posey of Pierpont. Although Pioneer Picnic Trustees and planners did not know of any surviving Groves family members, they did not worry.

One of the conditions of holding the Pioneer Picnics in Russell’s Grove every year was that the grounds had to be returned to the Groves family if there was no picnic. Picnickers swore that there would always be a picnic or as Picnic volunteer Virginia Forbes of Pierpont put it, “We have it for the festival as long as we have a picnic,” she said. “There are no living members of the Groves family left we know of, but I’m sure they’d find one if we didn’t. We love doing it though, so there’s no chance of that.”

The Pioneer Picnic /Festival features its old-fashioned flavor with events like frog jumping, cross cut sawing, pedal tractor pull for kids, horseshoes, and old engine display. There are stage coach rides, a covered wagon, horse pulls, pageant for all ages, a Chinese and regular auctions, and life music.

Don Wakefield of Pierpont said he’s been coming to the Pioneer Picnic for more than 75 years. “My mother took me when I was a baby,” he said. “I love it and hope it runs another 120 years.”

An August 2022 story by Warren Dillaway reported the events of the Pioneer Picnic including cross-cut sawing, competitions, sack races and live music.

Julie Martin, Pioneer Picnic secretary, noted that she has been attending the celebration for 49 years, and that there is a group of ten to fifteen volunteers who plan and make the picnic a reality. She said that the picnic planning committee needs more volunteers to feature more activities. She added that she loves seeing people together and having a good time, especially children. She pointed out that there are plenty of opportunities for children to have fun, including pageants, games and rides on a horse drawn stagecoach.

Raymond Welsh, Historian, Musician, Timekeeper, Poet, Dedicated Conneaut Citizen

When Raymond Welsh was Young and Old and Contributing to Conneaut

Raymond Welsh, Historian

When Conneaut was Young

The Mail

Twice a day the mail carrier passes the home of Betsy and Jack with his sack of letters, magazines and parcels.  Historian Welsh was wondering if the youngsters knew how differently mail was carried in the early part of the 19th century, so he decided to tell them about the development of the postal service here.

For a few years after Conneaut was settled, there were no mail deliveries to this part of the county. It was not until 1803 that the first mail route was established, and this did not include delivery to Conneaut. It was five years later, in 1808, that Conneaut was given its first postal service.

How pleased the pioneers were with this service. The mail was carried on foot for several years until a carrier was hired to carry the mail from Ashtabula to Buffalo on horseback. In fair weather he made the round trip in twelve days, and in rainy, muddy weather it took fourteen days.

In spite of the poor roads, the early mail carriers managed to make their trips regularly, arriving at the various stations along the route with remarkable punctuality, although there were times that they had to swim the creeks to get the mail through on time.

In 1817, a change was made to carry the mail by stagecoach and Conneaut then received two mails a day, one from the east and one from the west. This service continued until 1852, when the railroads took over carrying the mail.

On October 12, 1929, the airport north of east Conneaut was dedicated and the first airmail was carried out of Conneaut by airplane.  On April 25, 1932, the new post office was dedicated at the corner of State and Broad Streets.

When Conneaut was Young

Indians and Early Settlers

At last Betsy and Jack were through with their evening work and they rushed in to see if Uncle Lem was ready to give them another story of the days when the pioneers first came to Western Reserve. Sure enough, the old man was seated in bis easy chair beside the fireplace waiting for his evening audience of two.

“One day 70 years ago, an old settler told me what the first white setters had found when they arrived in Conneaut after their long hard journey from the east.  I wounder if you’d like to hear about it. All right, then., I’ll tell you what that man told me long years ago when I was just a small boy.  

Where the business section of our town is now located, the first white men found a small village of Massasauga Indians. The word Massasauga means” mouth of a great river.” Their chief’s name was Macqua Medah which is an Indian word meaning “Bear Oil.” These Indians had built between 30 and 40 rude cabins in which they were living when the white men arrived. These cabins were roughly put together and were made of logs with large chunks of bark for roofs.

Chief Bear Oil came to the white men one day and ordered them to keep off a certain spot of ground under penalty of being scalped. The whites were curious to know why they were forbidden to walk on this particular piece of ground and were informed that it was the place where the Chief’s mother was buried. It was these Massasauga Indians that were found living here in the spring of 1798 when Aaron Wright, Levi and John Montgomery, Nathan and John King, Robert Montgomery and Samuel Bemis, the first permanent white settlers arrived.

One day there came to this white settlement which had been built along Conneaut Creek, a man named Williams who sold a rifle to one of the Indians. Williams was to receive in payment a certain number of pelts and had agreed to wait until the Indian could collect them. After making the bargain with the young red man, Williams changed his mind, returned to the Massasauga village and without the consent of the Indians, took the gun from the young hunter who prized it highly and who had intended to fulfill his part of the agreement. When the rifle was taken away from him in such an unfair manner, the Massasaugan  became very angry with the white man, and one day when Williams was passing along the trail west of the village,  the young Indian murdered him.

A white officer and a few guards from Presque Isle (Erie) came to Chief Bear Oil soon after and demanded that the Chief turn the murderer over to them for punishment. The old Indian refused to do so, and the officer and his men returned to their quarters for more guards as their party was far outnumbered ty the Indians of the village.

After the white men had departed, Chief Bear Oil and his tribe launched their canoes and paddled up Lake Erie to a place where the City of Sandusky now stands. When the officers returned from Presque Isle, they found the Indian village deserted. The Massasauga left Sandusky not long afterward and settled along the Wabash River in Indiana, never returning to their village on Conneaut Creek where they had lived in peace until the arrival of the white men.

(More “When Conneaut Was Young,” features and poems and music by Raymond Walsh to follow.)