South Pole Snow Cruiser

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.)

Conneaut’s Grand Old Lady Celebrated Her Life with Her Adopted Community

The Conneaut Harbor of Dorcas Welch Jones in 1910, when she celebrated her  102nd birthday.  Her son, Paul Jones, was a harbor fisherman.

April 21, 1909 – Happy 101st Birthday

Mrs. Dorcas Welch Jones, who lives in Conneaut with her son Paul and his wife Caroline at 615 Buffalo Street Extension, included celebrating her 100th birthday on her list of life wishes.  She achieved that goal on April 21, 1908.  Twelve months later, on April 21, 1909, she celebrated her 101st birthday feeling healthier and stronger than she had on her century birthday.

To commemorate her 101st birthday, “Grandma Jones,” as many of her friends and neighbors affectionately call her, took special pains combing her hair vigorously and slipping into her best black dress. She can dress herself and comb her hair and takes great pride in knowing that she is not a burden to her son and his wife. On this day, her birthday, she took special pains combing her hair and putting on her best black dress. She walked down the stairs alone, her heart beating with excitement, anticipating the visits of old friends and acquaintances who were coming in later to reminisce and share her birthday joy.

After breakfast, she opened the many postcards, cards, and letter from friends wishing her a blessed and joyous birthday. When the anticipated and welcomed guests filed through the house throughout the day, she greeted each one with a smile, a handshake and pleasant conversation.  

Family and friends noted that although Mrs. Jones had marked her 100th year, her faculties all remain finely tuned. The only exception is a slight decline in hearing the past year, that merely requires a slightly higher pitch of voice tone on the part of the speaker to enable her to understand the words perfectly.

Her memory remains excellent, and she recalls events that happened many years ago as well as remembering events of a year ago better than the ordinary person. Always fond of reading, she still reads often and since she recaptured her second sight 30 years ago, she does not need to wear glasses.

After suffering a sick spell two years ago, she began to walk with a cane, but she uses it effectively and gets around at a lively pace. She can climb up and down stairs alone as she had done on this birthday morning, and in fact, she could move around most places by herself. She said she felt as well today as on her birthday a year ago. Up until her sickness of two years ago, Grandma Jones spent much of her time sewing, and made most of her own clothes. After she recovered from her illness, she has lost her enthusiasm for sewing and has not used her needle very often in the last year.

Ordinarily, Mrs. Jones does not come downstairs in the morning; instead, she eats breakfast and lunch in her room, especially enjoying her milk. Grandma Jones loves milk, and it is one of her chief dietary pleasures. At night she sleeps with a glass of milk on a chair beside her bed, and often tops off a light midnight lunch with a glass of milk. She always dresses for dinner, looking forward to coming downstairs to enjoy a meal with her son, Paul, his wife Caroline, and whoever else is sitting at table. The 1870 Federal Census identifies Paul’s occupation as a fisherman and a hotel keeper and lists his wife Caroline, their daughter, Lydia, and three or four fisherman living with him.

Grandma Jones assured everyone that she felt as well or better on this birthday as she had on her birthday a year ago.

Longevity Creates Long History

Dorcas Welch was born in Marcellus, New York on April 21, 1808. She was the daughter of Daniel Welch. One of the several record discrepancies chronicling her life indicates that Daniel’s death certificate lists him as being from Vermont, but a Find-A-Grave Memorial (100709384) shows a Daniel Welch, born in Connecticut and buried in New York.

Longevity ran through the family tree of Dorcas Welch like Lake Erie waves. Her mother died at age 96. Her five brothers all lived to be over 90 years old and one of her sisters lived to be over 90 years old. She had a niece living in Auburn, New York who had reached the age of 82 years.

When Dorcas Jones was just four years old, the War of 1812 began, a conflict that would include her future husband. Henry Jones fought in the War of 1812 against British aggression in the fledgling United States.  Henry returned to Marcellus after the War of 1812, he and Dorcas Welch were married in 1827. In later years when she lived in Conneaut Dorcus would be one of the few widows in the country who received a War of 1812 pension, drawing his $55 pension for his service in the War of 1812. She always walked to town to draw her pension until about 1907. In 1830, their son Dwight was born, and their son Paul arrived on July 10, 1841 in Westfield, New York. The couple also had a daughter who died at an early age.

The 1855 New York State Census shows Henry Jones, 60, as head of the household; Dorcas Jones, 47, wife; Dwight Jones, 25, son; and Paul Jones, 15, son.

Fifteen years later, the 1870 United States Federal Census revealed that Henry and Dorcas Jones were living in Conneaut, Ohio, with their son, Paul, his wife, Caroline, and their daughter seven-year-old Lydia. Between 1870 and 1880, Henry died. The 1880 Federal Census lists Dorcas Jones as a widow living in Conneaut with her son Paul, her daughter-in-law Caroline, and their daughter Lydia. The record shows that on June 8, 1889, Dorcas filed a widow’s pension in Pennsylvania for Henry’s Civil War service in Company B of the 2nd Pennsylvania Cavalry.

The next two decades Dorcas lived peacefully with her son Paul and daughter in law Caroline. She celebrated her 105th birthday on April 24, 1913. The Carey Times of April 24, 1913, reported that Mrs. Dorcas Jones, the oldest inhabitant of Ashtabula County celebrated her 105th anniversary. The story said that her mental condition was good, “but she is frail physically and, on this account, did not hold her customary reception. She is able to see only her near relatives.”

Dorcas’s near relatives included her son Paul, daughter in law Caroline, two grandsons, Frank and Harry Jones, a granddaughter Mrs. W.W. Grant, and a great granddaughter Ruby Grant.

Conneaut Celebrates the Eternal Life of Dorcas Welch Jones

A New York Times story and stories in the local papers reported the next chapter in the life of Dorcas Jones.  The New York Times of October 25, 1913  pqge 13, noted that Mrs. Dorcas Jones, thought to have been the oldest woman in Ohio, died yesterday in Conneaut. She celebrated her 105th birthday last April 21st. The whole town will participate in the funeral ceremonies on Sunday.

The local Conneaut paper ran this story.

Grand Old Lady” of Conneaut Expired Last Night Without Warning – A Remarkable
Woman Who Retained Her Faculties to the Last.

“Grandma” Dorcas Jones, the ‘grand old lady’ of Conneaut, and one of the oldest women in the United States passed on at 4 o’clock yesterday afternoon. The end came suddenly, without premonitory indications. The flame of life died out without a flicker to signalize its extinction.

Mrs. Jones’ niece, Mrs. W. W. Grant had sent her supper to her room and the family then partook of their evening meal. After supper one of the family went upstairs after the dishes. Mrs. Jones was seated on the edge of the bed just finishing her repast, and suddenly expired.

The old lady had been in her usual health up to the time of her death, and was able to be up and around the room daily. She continued to dress and undress herself and comb her beautiful hair, of which she was very proud, and notwithstanding her great age her mental faculties were not noticeably impaired.

She was tenderly cared for by her son, daughter-in-law, and niece, who regarded her in the light of a rare jewel on account of her personality, her great age and remarkable preservation apart from the natural affection.

Dorcas Jones was almost a public character in the attention paid her by the community. She was a guest of honor on Memorial days, Old home Days and other public affairs up to within the past two years and she enjoyed and appreciated these honors thoroughly. She was especially interested in all matters pertaining to the G. A. R. and other organizations of veterans.

The death of Dorcas Jones hardly seems credible to the people of Conneaut, who somehow seemed to believe that she had found the fountain of eternal youth and had passed beyond the dominion of Death. Her recovery from pneumonia three years ago and the fact that each year found her apparently no nearer dissolution, strengthened this feeling.

Her private funeral services were held at the home of her son, Paul and daughter in law Caroline Jones, on Buffalo Street on Sunday, October 2, 1913, at 2 p.m. Reverend F.L. Johnson officiated and she was laid to rest in East Conneaut Cemetery.

Elisha Farnham and His Grandson Otis Abbott Fuller, Proprietors of Farnham, Fuller, and South Ridge Mills

Elisha Farnham

Elisha Farnham was of Puritan origin. His father  and grandfather fought in the Revolutionary War. He was born in Hampton, Connecticut on June 8, 1806, the sixth in a family of ten children. His parents were Thomas and Abigail Farnham. He acquired a good common school education. Since he was the oldest son, he had to go to work early to help support the family. He learned the machinists trade and was a skillful workman. In the fall of 1830, he packed his worldly possessions in a knapsack and came to Conneaut, settling on land by Conneaut Creek.

After the completion of his education he entered a machine shop in Pittsburg, and coming to Ohio about the year of 1825, journeying by stage from Pittsburg, he with Thomas Gibson bought the mill which had been built years before by a Mr. Jones. In time Elisha Farnham bought his partner’s interest in the enterprise, and also built in 1841 the mill now owned by Mr. O. Fuller.

 Before 1878 the dam for this mill was some distance further up the stream than at present, the overflow compelling a change of location, and the son Patrick erected two new dams in 1878, and these are still in use, as is also the mill, the only one now operated by waterpower on Conneaut creek.

Mr. Farnham married first Mary A. Ring of Conneaut, Ohio, on November 14, 1833.  She died August 11, 1849. She is buried in Farnham Cemetery. On January 30, 1850, he was married to Mrs. Harriet A. Sanborn. The children who were all born from his first marriage were:

D. Alphonso, born Jun3 5, 1835. He married Sophia Brooks. He was a soldier in the Union Army during the Rebellion, and he died while in the service on January 22, 1862.  He is buried in Farnham Cemetery.

Flora, born June 12, 1837, married popular sheriff T.S. Young.

Elisha Farnham gave his attention to his mills, consisting of grist, saw and carding mills, and during a number of years he also filled the office of justice of the peace and was a supervisor and a member of the school board. His politics were Republican, and he had fraternal relations with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. During the Civil war period he was connected with the “underground railroad,” and was an intimate friend of Ben Wade and of J. R. Giddings. At the time of his marriage he lived across the road from the present home of his son Patrick, and later built the house in which this son now lives.

His children were:

P. Henry born November 14, 1838.  Married May Mallory and lives in Conneaut.

May, born February 27, 1841, married Martin Reals.

Lydia E., born May 30, 1843, married C.L. Fuller, who is drowned in Lake Erie.

Emily, born September 21, 1847 married Waller B. Boss.

Mr. Farnham held many positions of trust and was for many years a township officer He was not only a worthy citizen but an obliging neighbor and an intelligent husband and father.

History of the Western Reserve, Volume 2 By Harriet Taylor Upton, Harry Gardner Cutler, Page 985

Grandson Otis Abbott Fuller, Sr. carries on the farnham milling tradition

Otis Abbott Fuller, Sr.

Prominent among the agricultural residents of Conneaut Township is numbered Otis Fuller, a member of a family which was founded in the community many years ago by Wesley Fuller who came from New York. He was the father of Asa; Maria; and Wellington. Asa Fuller was probably born in the East, about the year 1813 and he came with his parents to Ohio and landed in North Ridge. He always lived on a farm of which he owned several and his death occurred in 1885 when he had reached the age of 70 years.

His wife, nee Mary Ann Haviland, from Ohio died about three years later. Their family numbered the following children:

Cornell G. mentioned below. Omer, who died of typhoid fever just before his marriage was to take place; John W., who first married Emma Abbott and afterwards Julia Tinker Benton and he lives in Ashtabula, Ohio.

Willis a. married Effie Hardie and is a lumberman in Pierpont Township.

Vernon A. Whose first wife was Mary Hayward by whom he had one child. And his second wife Celia Hanson, by whom he had six children, lives in Port Huron, Michigan.

Herbert E married Ella Crosby and died in Houston, Texas.

Cornell G. Fuller was born in Monroe Township, Ashtabula County, Ohio, July 12, 1842 and he lived with his grandparents until his marriage on January 9, 1864 to Lydia E. Farnham who was born March 30, 1844. The children of this union are Otis A. and Jessie O, but the daughter died very young.

After their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Fuller moved to Sheffield Township, where the husband worked in the lumber business. Their home was afterward in Michigan for about three years and there Mr.  Fuller was drowned in Lake Huron while transporting lumber. This sad event occurring on September 20, 1875. He was a Republican in his political affiliation and Mrs. Fuller is a member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Otis A. Fuller of the above family was born in Sheffield, Ohio on December 5, 1864 and his district school training was supplemented by study in the high schools of Titusville, Pennsylvania and Jefferson, Ohio. He lived with his grandparents in Kelloggsville before his marriage and moved with them to Conneaut.

He was engaged in operating the mill which was built by his grandfather Elisha Farnham in 1841.This is the only mill now in the Conneaut stream operated by waterpower. Years ago there were several water power mills in this stream. The mill contains four turbines and was formerly operated by a tub or scroll wheel.

Mr. Fuller married, March 21, 1884, Lila E. Goldsmith, who was born in Conneaut September 19, 1866.

Their children are:  Leila E. who married Clarence Leffenwell, engaged in the wholesale fruit business in Cleveland; Bessie W., a  bookkeeper at the creamery in Conneaut; Willis A. on the farm with his father; Cornell G., attending the Conneaut High School; Robert Lee, attending the District Schools, and Otis Abbott. Mr. Fuller, a Republican, has served his county  as a supervisor. He is a member of the American Insurance Union, of the Odd Fellows Fraternity and of the Lone Star Order of the Grange.  Mrs. Fuller is a member of the Baptist Church.

History of the Western Reserve, Volume 2.  Harriet Taylor Upton  Chicago:  Lewis Publishing Company, 1910

Otis Abbott Fuller

(The son of Lydia E. Farnham and Cornell Fuller)

Born:  December 5, 1864 in Conneaut, Ohio

He died January 13, 1959

Died in Columbia, South Carolina

Buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Conneaut

His father was Cornell Goldsmith Fuller

His spouse Lila Goldsmith Fuller

Children:  Leila E Fuller Leffingwell

Robert Lee Fuller

Bessie Johnson

Willis Arthur Fuller

Otis Abbot Fuller, Jr.

Otis’s wife was Lila Goldsmith Fuller. Captain Leverett Barker Goldsmith (1871-1943) was her brother.

The Byrd Snow Cruiser Passes Through Ashtabula and Conneaut on the Way to Antarctica



The Ashtabula Star Beacon published
November 4, 1939, reported the Snow Cruiser’s Ashtabula visit this way:

Moving slowly between lines
composed of thousands of thrilled spectators, the giant Snow Cruiser built for
the United States Antarctic Expedition, passed through Ashtabula shortly before
noon today.

After days of anxious waiting
to view the behemoth of the highway, the crowds had their curiosity satisfied. All through Friday night many had waited sending telephone calls of inquiry that swamped the Ashtabula telephone company switchboards, the Star Beacon Office, City Police Station, and the highway patrol headquarters.

It was 11:20 this morning when the big machine hove in sight at the westerly end of Prospect Road. The crowds that had waited since early morning and rushed for places along the curbs. The crowd was thickest at and in the vicinity of the Amoco Service Station at 1520 Prospect Road where the big machine stopped for ten minutes for a check up of gasoline and oil. Automobiles were parked on both sides of Prospect Road and
filled adjacent streets for blocks near the station and along Route 20 from Painesville to Conneaut.

Immediately after the checkup, the giant vehicle started to move on its way through the city passing along Prospect Road through Five Points and following Route 20 to Conneaut.

Greeted by City Manager

When the machine stopped at the Amoco Station, Dr. Thomas C. Poulter and other members of the crew were greeted by City Manager William H. Flower and members of the Star Beacon staff who were invited inside the Cruiser.

Halted at Painesville Friday by a broken oil line, the Cruiser was repaired and started from that place shortly before 9 this morning. Early Friday night, announcement was made that the Cruiser would pass through Ashtabula between 10 and 10:45. As soon as this fact was bulletined, the telephones began to jingle and automobiles began to fill Route 20 and adjacent streets, every vehicle on its way to claim a position along the route.

The crowd along city streets, estimated at 15,000 waited. Then came word of the mishap that delayed the Cruiser’s progress. All through the night until 2 a.m., telephone calls
continued, and the crowd waited patiently. Then at 1:30 a.m. word was received that the Cruiser would remain at Painesville overnight, the crowd started to thin out. But a few hopeful watchers remained in their position until along toward daylight fearing they would miss seeing the snowmobile.

At Erie Tonight

Dr. Thomas C. Poulter, chief of the research department at the Armour Institute of Technology at Chicago, who designed the machine, said the Cruiser would be taken to the General Electric Company plant at Erie where it would lay overnight, until two new motors were installed and steering gear was repaired. It is expected the vehicle will not
leave Erie on her way to Boston until Monday.

Dr. F.A. Wade, scientist of the United States Antarctic Expedition, who is a cousin of Mrs. W.W. Woodbury of Jefferson, was not aboard the craft when it arrived at Ashtabula. He was recalled Friday and was sent to Boston to take charge of packing the expedition’s equipment. Dr. Poulter said that Dr. Wade was disappointed because he had hoped to ride through this county where he has a number of friends, among them City Manager William H. Flower, who was a classmate of Dr. Wade at Western Reserve Academy, Cleveland.

Machine Held a Success

Despite difficulties encountered, Dr. Poulter, who is in charge of the Cruiser, said that he believed the machine was a successful engineering and scientific enterprise.
“When a pioneer project like this is constructed, it must pass through a period
of testing and experimentation,” Dr. Poulter said. “We are satisfied with the results and believe that the machine will prove of great value in Polar exploration.”

Passing Through Conneaut

On his Conneaut History website, Andy Pochatko features Albert Phillips reminiscing about the Snow Cruiser’s passage through Conneaut.

Conneaut. October 1939. Early snow and biting winds have reminded some of
the city’s residents of an event that attracted so much attention in October
1939 that traffic jams and even pedestrian jams resulted.

The occasion was the arrival of the Snow Cruiser part of Admiral Richard E.
Byrd’s Antarctic Expedition which passed briefly in the city, enroute from
Chicago to Boston where it embarked on its history -making cruise. The huge
mobile equipment caused considerable stir on its lumbering way.

Although residents were soon to become accustomed to the convoys of heavy
equipment as the war in Europe flamed into action, the approach of the awesome
looking behemoth was reason enough for many merchants along Main Street to lock
the doors of their establishments and hurry across town in the middle of the

Curious Line Streets

As the 75,000 pound cruiser powered by two rather uncommon diesel motors and
covering nearly the entire width of Route 20 rolled into the city, cameras
clicked like the frantic typing of an overworked secretary. Pedestrians lined
the streets, six deep at some points, and when the cruiser finally appeared at
the intersection of Harbor and Liberty Streets, the crush of curious humans
nearly overwhelmed the crew members.  Several of the more daring citizens
took advantage of the crews departure to a local restaurant to examine the
ponderous machinery more closely.

Forewarned of the pending arrival of the cruiser, a throng of motorists
jammed the streets of the city late the night before its actual arrival. Police
struggled with the crowds, which finally dispersed.  However, the police
were not finished with the spectators, for the curious citizens continued to
telephone the police station as well as the fire department and the newspaper
office for information regarding the slow approach of the vehicle. Pranksters
and wits took up the banner and the favorite approach of the anonymous caller
was, “I’m Admiral Byrd, where is my cruiser?”

As the city settled down to comparative calm the day after the celebrated
visit, Erie turned out to view the giant. There, a Boy Scout ovation was
extended to Boy Scout Paul Sipple whose grandparents resided in Kelloggsville.
Sipple had been selected to accompany Admiral Byrd on his expedition into the
unknown wastes of snow and ice.

Ashtabula Star Beacon, Conneaut 50 Years Ago

Sunday April 4, 2004 (The date on the page is the date that it was first
published in the

Conneaut Herald in October1954, not necessarily the same week or month of
Star Beacon date.)

Date of Snow Cruiser in Conneaut

October 1939

South Pole Snow Cruiser

This Ray Gottfried photo shows Byrd’s Snowmobile in its true colors. The story will tell you why it needed a police escort during its journey across states from Illinois to Massachusetts.

On the way to Antarctica It Passed through Ashtabula County

By November 1937, Admiral Richard E. Byrd had already led two private expeditions to Antarctica that he and his backers privately financed. In the Admirals case, privately financed did not mean limited funds, since wealthy Americans including Edsel Ford and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. as well as the American public contributed generously to raise the more than $400,000 cost of these the first two expeditions. People in all walks of financial circumstances responded to the Admiral’s enthusiasm for his expeditions, charisma, and the lure of the largely unknown and unexplored poler region at the bottom of the world. He attracted generous backers for both his first and second forays into Antarctica.

FDR Makes Admiral Byrd’s Third Expedition, the United States Antarctic Service Expedition,  Government Issue

While planning a third expedition to the Antarctic, Admiral Byrd was delighted to learn that that the United States government decided to finance an official American Antarctic expedition. He was even more delighted when on January 7, 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt endorsed plans for a government sponsored trip with Admiral Byrd in command. In his order or November 25, 1939, FDR possibly with an experienced ear and eye to Antarctica’s strategic importance and the war clouds gathering in Europe, directed that they establish two permanent bases.

The East Base would be located near Charcot Island, Alexander I Land, or on Marguerite Bay, while the West base would be established near King Edward VII Land or alternatively at a site on the Bay of Whales or near Little America. Eventually, the Expedition established bases off of Little America and Stonington Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula. The expedition members were also directed to explore the Antarctic Coastline while conducting extensive geological, biological, meteorological studies.

When the Byrd’s Third Antarctic Expedition left Boston for the Antarctic on November 15, 1939, besides its 125-man human contingent, it had two ships, Admiral Byrd’s former ship, Bar of Oakland and the North Star, a 1,434-ton ice breaker and four airplanes. The motorized equipment also included a Light Tank and a Carrier, and an innovative hybridized car transformed into snowmobile with facilities on top for an airplane. The Admiral planned to use the fourth airplane, a single engine Beech craft, with his newest technological toy, the Snow Cruiser.

 Thomas C. Poulter Creates the Antarctic Snow Cruiser or Byrd’s Snow Machine

Admiral Byrd’s third expedition enjoyed the additional advantage of the experience and expertise of Thomas C. Poulter. Thomas C. Poulter had been his deputy commander of Admiral Byrd’s Second Expedition from 1933-1935, which gave him firsthand experience with the problems of motor transportation in the Antarctic. During the Admiral’s Second Expedition, second in command Poulter discovered that the crawler tractor, two Ford snowmobiles and three Citroen halftracks that made up the motor pool could move through the snow, but they could not cross the plentiful crevasses. They also were prone to bouts of water condensing and freezing in the fuel lines.

By the time the plans for the Third Expedition were being finalized, Thomas Poulter had become Scientific Director at the Armour Institute of Technology and he resolved to build a vehicle that could handle the conditions in Antarctica. He used his resources, both personal and financial to raise the $150,000 it cost to build the Antarctic Snow Cruiser in the Chicago shops of the Pullman Company in only eleven weeks during the summer of 1939.

The Snow Cruiser, also known as Byrd’s Snowmobile, or the Penguin, resembled an elephant or a dinosaur, measuring fifty-five feet, eight inches long and almost twenty feet wide. When the operator extended its wheels, it stood sixteen feet high, with a loaded weight of 75,000 pounds. The Snow Cruiser carried two 150 horsepower Cummins diesel engines which powered generators to run four seventy-five horsepower electric motors, with a motor driving each wheel.

 A Glance Inside the Snow Cruiser

Besides the control cabin, the Snow Cruiser featured a machine shop, four bunks, a laboratory to practice science, and a combination kitchen and darkroom. The rear of the vehicle contained space for spare parts and other items and 2,500 gallons of diesel fuel to provide for 5,000 miles of travel as well as 1,000 gallons of aviation fuel for the Beechcraft airplane riding on the roof. Enough food for an entire year completed the Snow Cruiser’s stores.

The Snow Cruiser’s capabilities ranked as impressive as its size in the mind of Thomas Poulter and looked the part on paper projections. It could do thirty miles per hour on a flat solid surface, climb a 37 percent slope and using its four-wheel steering could turn its own length and crawl like a crab at a 25-degree angle.

 The Snow Cruiser’s tires measuring ten feet in diameter were manufactured at the Goodyear Company in Akron, Ohio. Although the tires were as smooth as a silken smile, Thomas Poulter and his crew believed they could and would travel through the Antarctic snow with workman like traction. The Cruiser’s wheels were fashioned to retract, and workers attached sled runners to its bottom. According to its creators, when the Cruiser reached an Antarctic downgrade, the operator could retract the wheels and the Cruiser would slid down any challenging hill.

Thomas Poulter had firm ideas about crossing crevasses and Snow Cruiser wheels, as well. He set the four huge wheels on the Snow Cruiser with over seventeen feet of overhang at the front and rear. When the Cruiser encountered a crevasse, the operator retracted the front wheels, and the rear wheels pushed the Cruiser halfway across the chasm. Then the operator raised the rear wheels and lowered the front wheels to pull the Cruiser the rest of the way across the gap. The Beechcraft monoplane complete with skis, traveled on top of the Snow Cruiser, ready to perform aerial photography and explore the Antarctic.

Teetering Down the Highways, Including Routes Thirty and Twenty

Since the autumn season had already progressed into October, and the Snow Cruiser had to be at Boston Harbor by mid-November, Thomas Poulter and his four-man crew did not have time to test their vehicle for snow worthiness. Eager to meet their deadline, on October 26, they climbed into the Snow Cruiser in Chicago and began the first leg of their journey to Boston, Massachusetts. The road trip from Chicago to Boston took the Snow Cruiser through northern Indiana and Ohio, following what was then U.S. Route 30, then north to U.S. Route 20 to Erie, Pennsylvania, into New York, and finally, Boston Harbor.

The Snow Cruiser did not travel unnoticed. A machine twenty feet wide and sixteen feet high could not help but attract crowds of curious people in the small towns and cities along the route.

The Snow Cruiser traveling through Van Wert, Ohio

The Snow Cruiser also did not travel trouble free. The Snow Cruiser’s height and width made traveling the two lane, often unpaved roads and narrow bridges of 1939 America a sometimes-adventurous venture. Near Gomer, Ohio, in Allen County, Ohio, along the Lincoln Highway (Route 30), the Snow Cruiser’s hydraulic steering failed, and it ran off the Highway into a ditch, causing a three-day delay in its cross-country trek.

Along Route 20, Thomas and his crew had to stop in Painesville, Ohio, for repairs and at one point, rescue it from a muddy field after it ran off the road. After a few days of successful repairs in Painesville, Byrd’s Snow Cruiser continued along Route 20, stopping in Perry, Geneva, Ashtabula, North Kingsville and other communities along Route 20.

Ruth Tuttle of the Kingsville Library had this picture of Byrd’s Snow Cruiser.

The Snow Cruiser made it through to General Electric in Erie, Pennsylvania, for a few days’ worth of more repairs. Finally, the Cruiser and its crew were on the road again, through New York and finally, to Massachusetts.

People in Massachusetts were just as curious about the Byrd Snow Cruiser as those in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and the rest of the country. Crowds of people packed the route of the Snow Cruiser. At Framingham, Massachusetts more than 72,000 cars locked hoods and fenders in what the local papers described as “the world’s worst traffic jam.”

Finally, Thomas Poulter and his crew of four reached Boston Harbor in early November. With a sigh of relief, Thomas drove the Byrd Cruiser aboard the North Star and on November 15, 1939, the North Star departed for Antarctica.

Thomas Poulter sighed relief too soon.

The Snow Cruiser began to reveal its true operating procedures even before it touched Antarctic ice when the expedition arrived at Little America in the Bay of Whales. The workers had to build a timber ramp to unload it, and as they tenderly guided it toward the base, one of the wheels broke through the ramp. Thomas Poulter, ever protective of his creation, applied full power and the Snow Cruiser lurched across the ice with the cheers of the crew in the background.

The cheers of the crew froze in the air when the Snow Cruiser’s smooth, treadles tires would not move it through the snow and ice. They could get no traction, spinning freely, and sinking as deep as three feet in the snow. After trying chains on the rear wheels and attaching the two spare tires to the front wheels, the crew still could not create traction. After more experimenting, they discovered that the tires could achieve some traction when they drove in reverse. They drove the Snow Cruiser completely in reverse for their 92-mile journey.

Besides its lack of traction, the Snow Cruiser could not effectively navigate the ice and snow and crevasses that made up the Antarctic landscape. After the workers dug it out of several snowbanks, Thomas Poulter and his crew decided to make the snow work for the Cruiser. They covered it with timbers and snow and used it as a stationary home base for the scientists to conduct seismologic experiments, cosmic ray measurements and ice core samplings.

Thomas Poulter left Antarctica to return home to the United States on January 24, 1940, still convinced that his Snow Cruiser would eventually conquer the conditions in Antarctica. After Pearl Harbor, as the United States focused on World War II the government cancelled funding for the project and the Snow Cruiser spent the War buried in a snowbank.

After World War II ended, the United States Navy established The United States Navy Antarctic Developments Program in 1946-1947 or Operation HIGHJUMP, which began on August 26, 1946, and ended in late February 1947. Rear Admiral Richard E Byrd, Jr., USN, (Ret), Officer in Charge and his crew were charged with establishing Little America IV as an Antarctic research base. More than halfway through the operation, an expedition team found the Snow Cruiser and were astonished to discover that it needed only air in the tires and minor servicing to bring it to life again.

For a few weeks after turning the ignition and feeling the machine vibrating under their feet, the crew dreamed dreams of an operational Snow Cruiser. Their hopes snapped like a piece of ice breaking from an ice floe when they discovered that the Snow Cruiser still could not get traction and its other disadvantages had not changed during its snowbank burial in World War II.

Eleven years later in 1958, a bulldozer belonging to an international expedition uncovered the Snow Cruiser at Little America III. The expedition members discovered the long bamboo pole that marked the Snow Cruiser’s position, but the bulldozer had to dig through twenty-three feet of snow to unearth/unsnow it. The expedition members excavated to the bottom of the Snow Cruiser’s wheels and accurately measure the amount of snowfall that covered it since it had been abandoned.

When the Snow Cruiser’s rescuers looked inside it, the discovered that things were exactly as the crew had left them, with papers, magazines, and cigarettes resting in place. They too abandoned the Snow Cruiser to the frozen embrace of the Antarctic.

Later expeditions could find no trace of the Snow Cruiser. Rumor had it that the Russians had spirited away the Snow Cruiser during the Cold War, but no solid facts supported that theory. More recent scientific theories put the Snow Cruiser at the bottom of the Southern Ocean or buried more deeply under the Antarctic ice.

The Ross Ice Shelf constantly moves out to sea and in 1963, a large part of the Ice Shelf broke off and floating away, cutting Little America in half. Scientists are not certain which side of the ice shelf sheltered the Snow Cruiser, but most believe that it lies deep in the Southern Ocean.

The excitement and adventure of the Snow Cruiser also lies deep in the memories of Ashtabula County people who saw her lumber by on Route 20 to places most would never see but would remember in their adventurous spirits.

History of South Ridge Baptist Church, 2007

History of South Ridge Baptist Church

Information provided by the church

From the September 2007 Newsletter of the Conneaut Area Historical Society

Joan Barnett, Newsletter Editor     


On December 30, 1826, eight members organized the Free Will Baptist Church with Reverend Samuel Wise as their pastor. This meeting may have taken place in a schoolhouse then located in the cemetery on Center Road. In 1832, construction of a church building was begun, and in 1837 was finished at a cost of $2,000.

In 1839, a famous conference was held at the Free Will Baptist Church at South Ridge to determine the stand of the churches on the slavery question. At this conference, a minister was denied ordination because he owned slaves and afterward, “the South Ridge church, its pastor’s home and several other homes in the area became stations in the underground railway.” A vivid account of the part South Ridge played in aiding runaway slaves was written by pastor Rufus Clark sometime between 1851 and 1861.

In 1860, a bell forged in Cincinnati was installed. This bell, along with a memorial stained-glass window dedicated to South Ridge’s longest tenured pastor at the time, R.E. Benjamin, are the two remaining articles of the original edifice.

In 1891, the original brick structure was torn down and another structure built which stood until 1963. In 1911, the name was changed to South Ridge Baptist Church and in 1969, the church membership voted to disaffiliate itself with the American Baptist Convention. The historic white frame building was razed in 1963, when an educational building, fellowship hall, and kitchen were constructed north of the site and in 1972, the new auditorium, chapel and offices were dedicated. At the beginning of 1985, another addition of offices and conference rooms was completed.

In 1973, the South Ridge Christian Academy was founded, and a steel structure was erected housing classrooms, kitchen and gymnatorium. At this time, the old Farnham Elementary School and accompanying acreage, which borders the church property, were bought for additional classroom space and athletic fields.

In 1979, the South Ridge Bible Technical Institute was founded and later became Ohio Christian College, granting degrees in 15 fields of study. Also, in 1979,Conneaut’s FM radio station was bought and became another ministry of South Ridge. WGOOJ-FM now serves the area with 24-hour all Christian broadcasting. A Christian bookstore is located on the church property.

The church mortgage was burned on January 2, 1995, and the church became debt free. As of this year, current pastor, Dr. Roger P. Hogle, and his wife, Mottrie, have pastored the congregation for 41 years.

Conneaut Rails Across Lake Erie

Shadows slipping and sliding down the hill, following the slapping of the waves and the clanging of what? A ship bell? Muted voices float over the water. The slipping shadow materializes into the shape of a young girl. Springing to her feet, she walks the last few yards to the waiting schooner with her head held high and her heart beating in time with the waves. She proudly announces that her name is Ruth, as Captain Calvin Appleby holds out his hand. She takes it, walks up the gangplank and boards the Sultana. Ruth has started the last leg of her journey on the Conneaut Underground Railroad with the destination Canada and freedom.

Ruth symbolizes the many real fugitives who traveled over the maritime section of the Ashtabula County Underground Railroad. Conneaut, Ashtabula, and several of the other Ohio port towns on their way to Canada. Reaching Northern states like Ohio and port cities like Conneaut did not guarantee freedom for fugitive slaves. Slave catchers could and often did track them down and just as often would find willing northern accomplices who would turn in the fugitives for monetary award or simply because they believed that slaves were property instead of human beings deserving free lives of their own.

Hiram Lake and Ralph Wright are not anonymous, and neither is Ralph Wright’s community, South Ridge, later changed to Farnham and at one point in its history rivaled Conneaut in influence and population. The winds of Anti-Slavery shaped and transformed the slavery landscape in Ashtabula County, which had never been uniformly anti or pro slavery. Instead, the county was a mixture of Anti-Slavery, Pro-Slavery, and Neutral principles with its residents attempting to forge their lives through ideological flames and cooling neutrality.

The congregation of the Free Baptist Church stood a firm anti-slavery stance. The General Conference of Free Baptists took place at South Ridge, on October 23, 1839, with about 150 people attending the meeting and its aftermath. Dr. Wm. M. Housely from Kentucky had planned to be ordained as a Free Baptist, but he was rejected because he claimed three slaves and would not grant their right to liberty.

The General Conference extensively debated the slavery question. The church was crowded with diverse men and equally diverse opinions. Some counseled not to give so much light that it put out people’s eyes and injured the causes of both the Free Baptists and the slaves. Judge Moffit of Kelloggsville remarked that he knew Ohio people better than New England ministers and delegates and expressed concern that anti-slavery principles would bring disaster.

Lawyer Lovejoy of Conneaut, brother of Reverend Elijah Lovejoy of Alton, Illinois, spoke passionately for strong measures against slavery, arguing that it was a sin against God and a crime against man. He said that his brother’s blood was crying to slaveholders from the ground and that he would not be a dumb dog when lives were in such peril.

The Free Baptists voted to create a Conneaut Anti-Slavery Society, and the week after the General Conference adjourned, the people passed legislation establishing a preamble and constitution for the Society and began the work of feeding, clothing, and helping fugitive slaves escape to freedom. Free Baptists and citizens at large continued to defy the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. Some Northern States had enacted earlier versions of the Fugitive Slave law, passed in 1850, that intensified the risks of helping passengers on the Underground Railroad. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 allowed authorities to arrest runaway slaves anywhere in the United States and return them to their owners. It also stipulated that anyone helping runaway slaves faced fines and jail time.

Despite, the strict stipulations of the Fugitive Slave Act, the Ashtabula Underground Railroad, including the Conneaut stations, continued to operate. As well as Ashtabula, the Conneaut versions of the Railroad had deep ideological roots and dedicated workers, including Captain Calvin Appleby, Reverend Rufus Clark, Hiram Lake, Ralph Wright, and countless anonymous workers.

Ralph Wright of the South Ridge Free Will Baptist Church could claim most of the credit for convincing many members of the larger community to change their pro-slavery views or neutrality to abolitionist principles. Ralph Wright earned the title of “Abolitionist Missionary” by soliciting abolition and slavery informational pamphlets. He would gather his pamphlets in hand and travel from house to house, and because of his impaired vision, his friends, and neighbors out of pity, would read the pamphlets to him. Farmers, mechanics, millers, merchants, ministers, anti and pro slavery people – people from all walks of life would read his pamphlets to please “Uncle Ralph.” Based on their reading of Uncle Ralph’s pamphlets, several of them became Abolitionists.

Often, Ralph Wright would express his desire to see slavery abolished, but would sadly conclude that “the way the government is ordering its course, I do not believe I shall.” Ralph Wright did not witness slavery’s demise in America. He died April 30, 1860, almost a year before the beginning of the Civil War, and he is buried with many of his fellow pioneering citizens in Farnham Cemetery. He did not see the fulfilment of his dream during his lifetime, but he helped lay the Anti-Slavery foundation allowing many former slaves to live out their lives in freedom.

In his younger years, Marshall W. Wright operated as an active conductor in the Underground Railroad. The sheriff had freed one of his passengers, Lewis Clark, from his master on the Lake-Ashtabula County line. According to a memoir by Reverend Rufus Clark, the authorities blocked the Lake County portion of the road so the coach carrying Lewis and his master would be forced to return to the Ashtabula line and enable the sheriff to make the arrest within his limits.

The Conneaut Anti-Slavery Society selected him as a representative to the Ashtabula County Liberty Convention held in Jefferson, Ohio.

In his later years, Marshall became active in Ashtabula County politics, including serving as a marshal and a director of the county infirmary.

Reverend Rufus Clark

Reverend Rufus Clark, pastor of the South Ridge Baptist Church at three different times, harbored fugitive slaves at his house, also the church parsonage, which was located directly north of the church. Conductors on this branch of the Underground Railroad would transport fugitives into Erie County Pennsylvania to the Gould brothers in Springfield Township. Here they were less likely to be confronted by slave catchers or people attempting to prevent them from crossing Lake Erie to


Reverend Clark and later William Siebert recorded the names of some of the fugitive slaves who eloquently pleaded the cause of their people at the organizational meeting of the Conneaut Anti-Slavery Society. Milton Clark had logged just a few years of freedom from Kentucky bondage. John Girley had endured nineteen years of slavery and celebrated nine years of freedom. Garrett Smith of Peterborough, New York sent him to school and John had learned his lessons so well that over a seven-year span, he lectured in nearly every free state in the United States. A Mr. Clarkson had enjoyed only three years of freedom, and Henry P. Riley and his wife observed seven y ears away from slavery. During this time, they attended school in Oberlin for six months and developed their speaking skills to tell their story and the story of their people.

Quakers assigned the name Thomas Clarkson of Albemarle County, Virginia this name because they were afraid slaveholders would capture him if they knew his real identity. During his escape from Albemarle County slaveholders captured him and read papers that the Commonwealth of Virginia issued demanding his return to slavery. Foreseeing the possibility of capture, Thomas had acquired a lead ball fastened to his right wrist which he used as a slingshot to ward off his pursuers who soon allowed him to escape. The eloquence of the former slaves in speaking against the nefarious slavery system and the zeal of their converts helped spread and deepen the Anti-Slavery sentiment in Ashtabula County.

Tried and True Tracks to Freedom

Figurative and sometimes literal dirt and wagon tracks of the Underground Railroad branched out east and west of South Ridge, and people willing to act on their moral convictions aided passengers all along the route. The depots along the Underground Railroad route centered at the homes of Jacob Henton, an elderly Quaker, and his brothers, who lived in Salem in Columbiana County. The fugitives then would go to Honorable Leicester King, who lived in Warren in Trumbull County and then to George Hazelop, a merchant in Gustavus. The homes of Seth Hazes, a Hartford merchant, and Ralph Plumb, Esq. in Vernon were the next stop. Deacon Carpenter and Ansel K. Garlick were the Andover safe havens. In Kelloggsvile Albert Kellogg, Sidney S. Bushnell and Samuel Hayward who later became President of the Conneaut Bank were at the ready to help fugitive and J.W. Wright and Reverend Rufus C. Clark served at South Ridge.

The quality and quantity of pursuit often determined the route that the conductors would assign to the fugitives. If a master hotly pursued the runway slave, conductors would sometimes find it necessary to change from a direct to a roundabout route. If this were the situation, the runways were sent to the houses of J. R. or Stephen Gage in Sheffield, Ira Taft in Kingsville, Jacob Austin in Austinburg, or William Hubbard in Ashtabula. After a period of rest and when the conductors felt it was safe, they were smuggled to Cleveland or Detroit to cross into Canada. If the conductors felt it was safer to send the fugitives to Buffalo, they were sent to the house of William and David Gould in Springfield, Pennsylvania and onward to Buffalo for the Canada crossing.

Sometimes as well as changing from a direct line, the conductors had to zigzag between lines to escape the slavecatchers. If the slavecatchers or masters captured a fugitive severe punished usually awaited at his or her former home. Punishments included branding, cutting off body parts, or shooting. Most severe and often fatal punishments included being hitched to a horse and dragged at galloping speeds over sharp stones and rough ground. Conductors and station masters on the Underground understood what fate awaited recaptured fugitives and they willingly faced mobs and penalties for aiding and abetting runaways to speed them along the Underground Railroad routes to Canada and freedom.

For nearly six years the Conneaut Anti-Slavery Society went about its work quietly and diligently, from October 23, 1839, to April 21, 1845. During those years, the Anti-Slavery cause gained in political momentum until Society members felt the necessity for definitive political action. At its last regular meeting on April 21, 1845, President and lawyer Benjamin Carpenter, Esq. presented a list of the names from the Society to serve as delegates to the Ashtabula County Liberty Convention to take place in Jefferson on May 6, 1845. President Carpenter read a list of the appointed delegates who were:  Edward P. Clark; Reuben Sanborn; M.W. Wright; S.A. Davis; A. Thompson; Reverend FW. Straight: Hiram Lake; A. Moulton; Reverend E.P. Dickinson; and Loren Gould. The Ashtabula County Liberty Convention marked the transition of the Society’s work into political action and its members concluded that the work of the last six years had accomplished its purpose and rendered the organization obsolete.

Memories and traces of the Underground Railroad have survived into 21st Century Conneaut. The South Ridge Baptist Church survives in modern form as does the Hiram Lake House. A church member and one of the fist members of the Conneaut Anti-Slavery Society, Hiram Lake lived his beliefs. A busy stop on the Underground Railroad, his house featured a trap door in the kitchen which led to a secret cellar underneath where slaves could hide to escape their pursuers.

Some documents and some traditional stories list the David Cummins Octagon House as another Conneaut Underground Railroad stop, although there is some controversy about the date it was built.

Some sources say that the Octagon House was built in 1860 when the Underground Railroad still operated. The house opened onto Conneaut Creek which runaways could follow to Lake Erie and a waiting ship to take them across to Canada. A room at the top of the house provided a lookout for slave catchers, although it could hold just two people at a time. Other sources state that the Octagon House was not built until 1863 or later, too late for the Underground Railroad and a house before it was the real hideout.

Once the fugitives arrived at the Lake Erie beach, the next step on the Underground Railroad turned watery. Often a sympathetic vessel captain waited for them having been notified of the cargo by sympathetic citizens, and the fugitives would be welcomed aboard and safely hidden until the vessel was underway. Sometimes informers would notify the slave catches of the human cargo departing from the docks and they would battle with the determined runaways and their allies. Sometimes smaller, private boats would carry the fugitives across Lake Erie to Canada and there are even stories about desperate runaways commandeering or accepting skiffs and canoes to navigate across the lake.

Underground Railroad conductors and like-minded lake captains worked together to keep the routes stretching across the lake to Canada. Many of their names are lost to history, but some have survived. Captain Calvin Appleby is recorded as a conductor on the Conneaut Underground Railroad. Born on August 17, 1808, in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, Calvin W. Appleby became fascinated with sailing at an early age and when his family moved to Conneaut in 1826, he quickly became familiar with Lake Erie currents and waves. He also built ships and later navigated them on Lake Erie, transporting passengers between Buffalo, New York, and Chicago, Illinois. The Indiana and the Sultana were two of his better-known ships.

Calvin Appleby adamantly opposed slavery and enjoyed a close friendship with Benjamin Wade and Joshua Giddings. He and frequently carried fugitive slaves from Conneaut and other lake ports to Fort Malden in Canada.

A story in the Conneaut Reporter of February 21, 1861, highlighted Captain Appleby’s anti-slavery stance. President Abraham Lincoln traveled by train through Conneaut, two weeks before his inauguration on March 4, in Washington D.C. He spoke to the assembled crowd from the train, telling them, “I have lost my voice and cannot make a speech, but my intentions are good.”

He thanked the people for the kindly demonstration and as the cars commenced to move slowly forward through the crowd which lined both sides of the track, Captain Appleby, our fellow townsman, called out to him, “Don’t give up the ship” To which Mr. Lincoln responded, “with your aid I ever will as long as life lasts”

Since he died on August 6, 1880. Captain Calvin Appleby’s life lasted longer than President Abraham Lincolns life, but he did not give up the ship, he gave over the ship to countless runaway slaves that he helped to freedom. He is buried in City Cemetery in Conneaut, near Lake Erie where he transported so many slaves to freedom on the watery last section of the Underground Railroad.