Saturday, September 29, 2007

Way Down South in Dixie

Now it's fiesta time in Akron, Ohio,
But it's back to old Guadalajara I'm longing to go.
Far away from the strikes of the A.F. of L. and C.I.O.
How I wish I could get back
To the land of the wetback,
And forget the Alamo,
In Old Mexico. Ole!

--Tom Lehrer

Teasel with Web in Morning Mist
Taken 9/28/07 near Scio Ohio

Well, I didn’t get to Akron, and the strike was the UAW, but the truth is I almost lost it in Ohio. As in ready to sell the Volvo and fly home lost it. Part of that was the weather. Part of it was a cheap motel bed. Most of it was three weeks on the road and still no closer to resolving my issues.

I had one goal for Ohio—Mount Vernon, the seat of Knox County. According to the genealogical records I have, my great-great-great-grandparents lived in Knox County in the 1840s and had the first four of their children in this central Ohio location. What I didn’t have was the name of my 4th great grandparents. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to them as 3 and 4. 3 is William Spellman who married Celia McKown in 1842. They proceeded to have four children and then moved to northwestern Ohio. The 1850 census shows them all living in Defiance County, Ohio. My great-great-grandfather, William Allen Spellman, was born in Alliance, Ohio, in 1857. Alliance is in northeastern Ohio near Canton, and yes, Akron. The family moved around.

The major stumbling block I faced was that Ohio did not require any kind of legal documentation (birth records, marriage records, death records, etc.) before the end of the War Between the States. It’s all well and good to go hunting for bits of paper to prove lineage, but if those papers don’t exist, and NEVER existed, you’re pretty much SOL.

There was a Nathan Spellman who appears in the 1820 census in Coshocton County, Ohio, the county just east of Knox County. Inasmuch as one of the children of William (3) and Celia was named Nathan E, and inasmuch as the 1820 census shows that Nathan had two boys under ten, I made an educated guess that Nathan was 4 and father of William (3). Unfortunately, unless someone comes forward who has already done this research, I can’t prove a thing.

I did find two pieces of paper in the Knox County records. Nathan left a will which I read. He died in 1852 and left his estate to his unnamed wife and to one son, James. Not a word about any other children. This does not mean he had no other children. I already had found records that another ancestor had disinherited his entire family. It’s not unheard of. It could also be that Nathan had already given gifts to other children. Who knows.

The second paper I found was the written record the Justice of the Peace made when he married William (3) and Celia. This is major, especially since no record was required by law, but unfortunately, no parents were listed. Ohio records list the parents of the bridal couple only when those being married are under age. Still, I now know for certain that the marriage took place in Knox County.

Dome of the Coshocton County (Ohio) Court House
Taken 9/27/07 in Coshocton, Ohio

Driving across Indiana and now Ohio I had found that the roads bypassed the towns. This led to me driving across two states and never seeing a motel. Knowing that I was going to be spending a couple of days in Mount Vernon, I grabbed the first motel I saw, the Harcourt. I probably should have been concerned when the East Indian man who checked me in followed me to the room and kept asking if it was “ok.” All I want from a motel is a roof, clean sheets, and a bed. This room had all that, but the bed was so soft that by the second morning I could barely move. Everything that could hurt, hurt. My eyebrows hurt! This is not a condition I’m familiar with. It was at that point I felt like throwing in the towel.

I will also say that there may be good restaurants in Mount Vernon, but I didn’t find them. Breakfast was ok, but the coffee tasted like colored water. For lunch I stopped at an Italian restaurant that promised an “all you can eat” buffet. It has to be the worst Italian food I have ever eaten. One trip through the buffet line was more than enough. Dinner, purchased by an on-line friend, was Little Caesar’s pizza. I had wondered why everyone kept recommending the national chains. Now I knew.

On the other hand, I met wonderful people. After checking into the motel, I pulled the phone book out of the bureau and turned to the S section. There were eight listings for the name Spellman, four of them in Mount Vernon. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I called the first listing only to find that I was calling a widow who kept her husband’s name in the book. This is the same reason I still get calls in California asking for my father who died in 1988. The woman I spoke with was very helpful, but told me that she didn’t really know any family history. She suggested that I call her nephew, Larry.

Grave site of Daniel Decatur Emmett
Author of "Dixie"
Taken 9/26/07 in Mount Vernon, Ohio

Larry’s wife, Shirley, answered the phone and was very friendly. She had heard various family stories, some of which were the same stories I grew up with. We couldn’t prove anything, but my guess is that somewhere back in history, Larry and I share a common ancestor—maybe Nathan. Larry and I spoke on the phone, and he invited me to breakfast the next morning.

When Larry picked me up, he took me to a restaurant telling me that you could never count on getting a good meal. After breakfast, he took me on a tour of Mount Vernon, showing me the library, the records center and the main cemetery where his parents and his uncle are buried. We drove by the Rolls Royce factory. Rolls Royce? In Mount Vernon Ohio? Larry wasn’t sure what they did, but it was one of the largest factory compounds I’ve ever seen. He also showed me the grave of Daniel Decatur Emmett, Mount Vernon’s most famous native son. Emmett is the man who wrote the song “Dixie.” He was born and died in Mount Vernon. I’m not sure just when central Ohio became the “land of cotton,” but old times there are definitely not forgotten.

Larry retired from Flxible, the hearse and bus makers, and has enjoyed his retirement by traveling. He told me he was ready to continue on my journey with me. He also has become immersed in lapidary work, and pulled out a sample of bolo ties with polished stones. Handing me the bundle, he told me to take my pick. I now am the proud owner of a beautiful white and gold bolo with a polished pink granite stone.

Leaving Larry and Shirley, I headed to the Knox County Library where I found the reference librarians to be very friendly and helpful. The library had a good collection of Knox County histories and good genealogical records, but nothing that would help me either connect Nathan and William or disprove any connection.

After lunch, I headed to the Knox County Service Center where the Clerk and Recorder’s Office keeps all the old papers. The Genealogical Society also has an office in the center, and again the people were helpful, but my search was fruitless. The folks staffing the Genealogical Society office told me that on Thursday they would be in Newark, the seat of Licking County, and would be glad to help me with research there. Lots of Spellmans were active in Licking County history, and the third mill in the county was the Spellman Mill. One man, Timothy Spelman, was even involved in a scheme to print paper money back in the first part of the nineteenth century. Whether he was related to me or not, I have no idea.

One thing I did learn was that spelling is unimportant. I had been told this previously, but as every Spellman I know spells the name with two “l”s, I wasn’t sure if those who used only one “l” were actually related. Well both Nathan Spellman’s will and the marriage record I found for William and Celia, spelled the name with one “l.” Other records, including the census records used two. I guess back then people weren’t terribly concerned about spelling.

When I arrived in Mount Vernon, it was raining. Hard. There was lightning all across the sky. The rain continued off and on all the time I spent in town. I had a few moments when I would have been comfortable getting the camera out, but I didn’t take advantage of the dry moments. I’m sorry because the architecture in Mount Vernon is fascinating.

Newark had equally fascinating architecture, and equally hard rain falling, so since I could not find the library, I continued on to Coshocton where Nathan had appeared in the 1820 census. The library there was easily found but the reference librarian was a bit more suspicious than any I’ve ever met. She eventually let me into the “Local History” room with my notebook, and told me that Bonnie would help me. Bonnie did, indeed, help, and eagerly pulled book after book off the shelves searching in vain for any thing that might help my research. We found lots of Spellmans mentioned, but nothing of Nathan’s family. I’m about ready to give up.

The Serenity Tea Shop at 611 Main Street in Coshocton was everything I was looking for. Quiet, cozy, friendly, and a wonderful menu. I ordered the ham, mushroom, artichoke crepes with a cranberry salad and fresh-baked lemon bread. To drink I had a pot of Queen Catherine blend tea. Lord help me, it was all so good I had to order dessert too—half of which I left on my plate. The total bill, including tip, was a little less than $17.00.

There was even a floor show. The rain was falling so hard that the street in front of the tea shop (Steep Yourself in Serenity) flooded. It was great fun watching people pull up to the curb, get out of the car and sink calf deep in water. One woman we watched was walking barefoot up the street, holding one pump and feeling around in the deep water for the one that had washed off her foot. She never found it, as near as any of us in the restaurant could tell, and we all said “That poor woman” as we laughed at her dilemma.

First United Methodist Church
M.E. Church, built 1900
Taken 9/28/07 in Carrolltown, Ohio

I spent the night at the JJ Ranch south of Carroltown—the only gay guest ranch I’ve visited where I would be hard-pressed to find anything good to report. The ranch does have a nice hot tub, steam room and pool, and I took advantage of them all to work out the pain in my legs.

Friday morning dawned bright and clear, and as I was the only person alive in the campground for the first six hours, I took advantage of the weather and the solitude to do some hiking on Ohio’s back roads. Most of the pictures I took in Ohio were taken on this walk. Then it was back to the ranch to pack up, head out, and leave Ohio.

US 22 Bridge Crossing the Ohio River
Taken 9/28/07 in Steubenville, Ohio

I crossed the Ohio River at Steubenville, driving through Weirton, West Virginia and noting that Pittsburgh was only about forty miles distant. As West Virginia is only five miles wide at this particular point, I drove on into Pennsylvania, then headed south on Pennsylvania Highway 18, re-entering West Virginia east of Wheeling. I’ll save my West Virginia adventures for future “issues” of the blog. For now, I’ve spent entirely too much time boring you with my fruitless family searches.

No comments: