Sunday, January 6, 2019

Searching and Researching Muskingum County's Population Centers

Outside of the city of Zanesville, Muskingum County has (depending on the source you consult) somewhere between 45 (see Muskingum County, Ohio: Communities) - 105 areas (see Ohio Hometown Locator) of  settlement, each one designated as either a village, unincorporated community, or CDP (Census Designated Places). At least, that's the theory. The sources seem to agree on which population areas are villages and which are CDPs. When it comes to which places are officially referred to as "unincorporated" and which ones are just kind of "there", there is some agreement, but no, as I see it, clear agreement.

To add to the confusion, there are "historic" communities that continue to exist---or not---again depending on the source. And there are names changes to contend with. When I began doing research, well before online searches were even conceived, it was startling to find my paternal ancestors, known to have lived for generations in White Cottage, living in a place called Newtonville.

The designation of an area of settlement is determined by governance, as well as population density: Villages, like towns and cities, are incorporated, meaning they are self-governing entities; unincorporated communities are governed by the county, and do not have their own post office---usually.

Muskingum County townships
and selected population centers
CDPs are are artificial creations of the U.S. census bureau based on local residents' shared understanding of the extent of a named area. CDPs are unincorporated areas of dense population often located within or adjacent to the boundaries of a city, town or village. For example, East Fultonham is an unincorporated adjunct of the village of Fultonham. It is a settlement named and defined by the local residents. To simplify data collection, the Census Bureau has formalized East Fultonham's boundaries, although no actual boundary lines for the settlement exist.

During the coming year, I'll be tackling a bit of the history of as many of these population centers as possible. There is a fair amount of information about each of villages, the CDPs, and the official unincorporated communities, but I'm intrigued by the large number of places that are just "there", or that aren't there but once were, so I've got some digging to do.

I would appreciate any information about and/or photos of any of the following "just there" places. Please do not use the comment area of this blog to provide information. Instead, please contact me at,

  • Ashcraft Ford (historic, but might still exist)
  • Black Run
  • Bloomfield
  • Blue Rock (this is an area supposedly in the western part of Blue Rock Township)
  • Buckeye
  • Cannon
  • Drake
  • Elizabeth
  • Fairview
  • Frazier
  • Kieffer (historic)
  • Maysville
  • McDonald
  • Meadowbrook
  • Merriam
  • Opera (historic)
  • Riverview
  • Roberts
  • Rock Cut
  • Smith Mill
  • Stringtown
  • Wesley
  • Wortley

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Santa Claus and the Political Satirist

St. Nicholas was generous
but not cheerful
In "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" from its opening line) Clement Moore described Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus as a chubby "right jolly old elf". This was a distinct departure from the usual representation of Saint Nick as a thin, serious, monastic figure--the Christian bishop of Myra, Greece--or as the also thin, slightly less serious, "Father Christmas", an English creation based on the Old English god, Woden.

Father Christmas brought cheer
but no gifts
Moore's poem was published in 1822. Forty years later, a German-born naturalized American, Thomas Nast, listened as his wife read Moore's poem to the family. In the imagination of a political satirist and caricaturist who got his start as a war artist for Harper's Weekly, the Santa Claus we know today began to take shape. Nast's conceptualization first appeared in his drawing, "A Christmas Furlough", published on the front page of Harper's in December, 1863.

Over the next 22 years, Nast honed his idea of how Santa looked and dressed. Stout, white-bearded, cheerful Santa changed his costume color over the years, but little else. Before settling on a red suit around 1869 Nast clothed his Santa in green, then brown. Nast was also responsible for giving us the North Pole, the list of good and bad boys and girls, and letters to Santa. Nast used drawings of his own five children in many of his later Santa Claus illustrations.

Nast's bearded, slightly portly Santa dispensed both
good cheer and gifts to Union soldiers

 Ironically, the man who created today's well-known and beloved version of Santa Claus was best known for his highly opinionated and caustic political cartoons. He was so good at drawing attention to the criminal activities of the notoriously corrupt William Marcy "Boss" Tweed, that Tweed was jailed for the rest of his life. This earned Thomas Nast enough threats from Tweed's associates that he moved his family from New York City to Morristown, New Jersey for their protection. Nast's political cartoons were so persuasive, they actually influenced the outcome of six presidential elections between 1864 and 1884, earning Nast the nickname "The President Maker". It was Nast who popularized the elephant and the donkey as symbols of the two major political parties.

After he left Harper's in 1886, Nast fell into serious debt as a result of bad investments. In 1902 he applied for a State Department job. President Theodore Roosevelt, who admired Nast's work, appointed him Consul General to Guayaquil, Ecuador. Shortly after arriving at his new post, Thomas Nast contracted yellow fever and died five months later. His Santa Claus lives on.
Nast's brown-suited Santa Claus in a rag book entitled
"Santa Claus and his Works". The book has been
in my family since its publication in 1869.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The End of "The War to End All Wars"

"The Spirit of the American Doughboy"
at the Zanesville Courthouse*

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the armistice agreement that ended the hostilities known as "The Great War" or World War I. The Official Roster of Ohio Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the World War, 1917-1918 lists 2,062 Muskingum County men who served in the military during that war. (This database, which can be accessed at Muskingum County, Ohio Soldiers in WWI, gives the enlistee's name, residence, birth date and birth place.)

World War I was the result of military rivalry between Britain and Germany, leading to an arms build-up race, and the creation of complex military alliances. The excuse for the war was the assassination of the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, by a Serbian nationalist on June 28, 1914. When Austria declared war on Serbia, Austria's ally Germany was bound to enter the war on her side. Serbia's ally, czarist Russia, was bound to enter the war on her side. Russia's allies, Britain and France were bound to enter the war on her side. And so it went until 32 nations around the world were involved.

American soldier's postcard to Miss
Mary Neuman, Cameron, Texas
June 1918. 
 The fighting began in August and raged on until November 1918. While the Europeans literally dug in (this was the war famous for its futile trench warfare), Americans remained at home. President Woodrow Wilson had declared at the outbreak of hostilities that the United States would remain "impartial in thought as well as in action". Germany's policy of unrestricted submarine warfare, however, meant that American ships carrying goods to Britain and its allies, although flying the flag of neutrality, could be--and were--torpedoed and sunk; American Merchant Mariners and some civilians became casualties of a war in which they had no part. (The sinking of the R.M.S. Lusitania, a British ocean liner carrying American passengers, is often mistaken as the reason for America's entry into the war, but that incident happened in 1915. It was not the cause of America's entry, but the loss of civilian life began to change American's minds about neutrality.) Prompted by the assaults on American shipping and the interception of a secret communique between Germany and Mexico proposing an alliance between the two countries, Wilson went before Congress on April 2, 1917 to ask for a declaration of war against Germany and its allies.

In May, 1917, Congress initiated a military draft, requiring American men between 21 and 30 years of age to register for possible call-up to duty. There were three drafts in all; the last one required men up to 45 years old to register. (Ancestry has images of the actual draft cards at WWI Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.) Driven by patriotic fervor and extreme anti-German propaganda,  4,734,991 American troops entered the conflict.

French soldier's postcard to Mlle
Christina Renon, Duras, France
Date illegible
World War I was one of the deadliest wars in history. The 8,528,831 dead and 21,189,154 wounded are military numbers only. Civilian deaths from military action, famine and disease are hard to detail, but are estimated to be at least 7,000,000. In addition to these deaths, an estimated 50,000,000 people died worldwide between 1918-1919 as a result of the Spanish Flu that was spread primarily by soldiers returning home from the war. (If you have an ancestor who died during this time, it's very possible he or she was one of those influenza victims.)

German soldier's postcard
The world, especially Europe, was profoundly changed as a result of four years of war. The German Kaiser abdicated and Germany became a democracy; the Russian Czar abdicated and was eventually murdered, and Russia became communist. New nations were formed, mostly along ethnic lines, from the breakup of the Austria-Hungarian and the German Empires. The British Empire began to slowly break apart, creating new nations in Africa and Asia. The end of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) led to upheavals in the Middle East that continue today. In the aftermath of that war, social disruption in and economic ruin of Germany set up the conditions for the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. These, in turn, directly led to World War II, the deadliest conflict in world history (over 60 million combined military and civilian deaths). A great deal of the tension seen in the world in 2018 has its roots in the terrible "Great War" of 1914-1918. 

British soldier's postcard mailed to
Miss M. Hastings, Norwich, England
June 14, 1915
Here's the reality of any war we should all keep in mind. There are never any real winners; everybody loses in some way, shape, or form. Every side believes it is in the right, fighting to protect home and loved ones, and that God, called by whatever name, is on its side. I think nothing illustrates this better than these vintage postcards intended for soldiers to send to their sweethearts back home.

*Retrieved 11 November 2018 at

Saturday, October 20, 2018

You've Got Mail---Again

A few months ago, I wrote about how Rebecca Scholfield managed--without postal service in her area--to get a letter delivered to her sister who lived in Newton Township, Muskingum County. Rebecca sent her letter from her rural home in Clark County, Illinois in 1828. It would 68 years from that date before our rural ancestors enjoyed regular pick up and delivery of mail via the U.S. Postal Service, a service our town and city ancestors had enjoyed for decades.

A rural family in Westminster, Maryland gets mail.
Photo courtesy of the National Postal Museum.
On October 1, 1896, U.S. postal history was made, when an experiment, Rural Free Delivery (RFD), began in West Virginia. The service relied on custom-built horse-drawn wagons, which had first been tested in New York City and Washington, D.C. What made the wagons unique was that they were equipped to be, literally, rolling post offices. Each wagon carried three postal workers, one to drive and two to pickup, postmark, sort, and deliver the mail.

RFD expanded rapidly, and by 1902 was a permanent and much-valued service in rural America. The down-side of  RFD's success was the closing of small, fourth-class post offices. Over 18,000 small post offices closed between 1902 and 1912. But the mail, thanks to RFD wagons (and then trucks), went through.

RFD was a service that could cover long distances, and deliver those large packages from Sears and Roebuck to remote locations. However, more localized mail delivery of letters and small packages in rural communities required only a postal worker and a good horse, as in the photo below taken of a U.S. Mail carrier in the Chandlersville-Rix Mills area. If you look closely, you can see the carrier has a badge on his hat. This was required of all U.S. postal carriers, except for those working for the RFD, a fact for which no explanation has been provided. The badge, like a police badge, carried the postman's identification number.
A mounted U.S. Mail carrier in the Chandlersville-Rix Mills area about 1905.
The badge on his hat is similar to the one shown here.

For more information and photographs about the history of U.S. postal delivery, visit Smithsonian's [Virtual] National Postal Museum

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

School Days

Bluffdale School was built for grades 1-12 in the late 1800's
The 2018-2019 school year has been in session, in some places, for almost a month. For most of us, school was a memorable time in our lives, so it's not surprising that so many school memories are preserved in photographs. This blog edition is in honor of the new school year, and of my grandmother, Bertie Elnora Armstrong who taught elementary school at the Bluffdale School in Roseville from 1894 (when she was just 18 years old) until her marriage to Edward Milton McLean in 1908. By all accounts, she was a much-loved teacher. I remember Sunday afternoon visits with my grandparents frequently included a visit from an adult who had been taught by Grandma. When she died at the age of 95, several former students attended her funeral, and shared fond memories of her with the family.

I'm sorry that I can't identify any of the children in the photos, but if you had family member who taught at Roseville's Bluffdale School, or who attended elementary school there between 1894-1907, they might be in one of these photos.

Bluffdale faculty c. 1894
Bertie sits in the middle of the group

Bluffdale faculty c. 1900
Front row (L-R): Bertie E. Armstrong, Ola Daw, unidentified, Mabel Parrett, Fay Melick
Second row (4th from L): O. K. Parrett
Taken c. 1894

Taken c. 1895

Taken c. 1900

Taken c. 1905

Schools being a source of some nostalgia, you might find this link to photos of Old Muskingum County Schools interesting.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Boys of Summer

Abner Doubleday,
Major General USA
Baseball, considered America's Pastime, was invented by Abner Doubleday and first played in Cooperstown, NY on June 12, 1839.

The "America's Pastime" part is true, but the rest is mythology.

The game we like to think of as quintessentially American is a derivative of a British game called Rounders, which dates back to the time of King Henry VIII.  A German game called Town Ball also influenced the development of Baseball. An 1829 book (The Boy's Own Book) laid out rules for an American version of Rounders, variously calling it "Round Ball", "Base" and "Goal Ball".

In 1833, the Olympic Ball Club of Philadelphia was the first American ball club to adopt a formal set of club structure and game rules. However, Beechville, Ontario, Canada claims the first eye-witness account of a game played on June 4, 1838. Although that game had 5 bases, "innings" were used to determine the game's length of play (previously, length of play was determined by a certain number of runs), and a team was given 3 outs per inning. The first U.S. newspaper account of a Baseball game was published Sept. 11, 1845. The first official American Baseball club, The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, was formed by Alexander Joy Cartwright on Sept. 23, 1845. The rules drawn up by this club included many features of the modern game, such as 3 strikes, 3 outs, "fair" and "foul" territory, and the use of tags and force-outs to stop a runner rather than beaning him with the ball.

Local Base Ball team, White Cottage, Ohio, abt. 1912
Standing L-R: Edward Williams, Martin Thomas, Warren S. McLean, Foster Stine, and unidentified
Sitting L-R: Willy Pace, Clyde M. McLean, and unidentified
As you can see, Abner Doubleday doesn't feature in any of this, so how did he get credited? It was all on the written word of one man, and a commission appointed in 1905 to determine who really invented the game--Brits or their American cousins. Henry Chadwick (English) and Albert Spalding (American) had different opinions. National honor was at stake, so there is little doubt that when Spalding was assigned to choose the commission members, the intent was to stack the commission with those favoring Spalding's view. The commission issued a nation-wide (American nation, that is) request for anyone "who had knowledge of the beginnings of the game" to contact the commission.

Seventy-one year old Abner Graves of Denver, Colorado answered the call and wrote to the commission. Graves claimed to have gone to school with Abner Doubleday, and to have witnessed the (mythical) game (supposedly) invented by Doubleday of June 12, 1839 in Cooperstown. Only the school part had a bit of truth to it; both men had attended school in Cooperstown. Without any member of the commission ever interviewing Graves, his story was accepted on Dec. 30, 1907 as proof that Baseball was invented by an American. It mattered not to the patriotic commission members that: 1) Graves was only 5 years old at the time of the supposed game, so he might not be depended upon to accurately recall all the details he claimed to recall; 2) Abner Doubleday, a Plebe at West Point, was at the Academy on the day in question; 3) Graves expressed strong anti-British sentiments in the account he wrote for the commission and clearly didn't want the Mother Country to get any credit; 4) Doubleday, an avid journal-keeper, never wrote about baseball, except once when he requisitioned equipment for his soldiers; he certainly never claimed to have invented the game. Graves later murdered his wife and spent the remainder of his life in an insane asylum.

By the time a Baseball Hall of Fame was being proposed for Cooperstown (1936), many critics were debunking the Mills Commission's finding, and referring to the "Doubleday Myth". Still, Cooperstown became the site of the new museum, and opened its doors on June 12, 1939, the 100th Anniversary of an event that never took place. As if acknowledging the mythology of it all, the Hall of Fame never enshrined Abner Doubleday as the founder of the sport.

If you ever want to see vintage baseball being played, check out Ohio Village Muffins Base Ball


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Setting the (History) Record Straight

First draft of the Declaration
of Independence
Today, July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Wrong. Independence from Great Britain and King George III was actually declared July 2, 1776, a date John Adams said would be "the most memorable epocha in the history of America." What were you doing on July 2? Not setting off fireworks or grilling hamburgers, I'll bet. Nope, you're doing that today, which should only be remembered as the date on which the Second Continental Congress approved Thomas Jefferson's final edit of the document. On July 4, 1776, the delegates just voted; they didn't sign anything. (They hadn't signed anything on July 2, either.) The document we call the Declaration of Independence wasn't signed until one month after independence was declared--August 2. Such an important document had to be neat and clean and presentable. What was signed was a formal copy hand-written (probably) by Timothy Matlack, who was an assistant to the Secretary of Congress.
Formal copy signed August 2

Some Americans refer to this day as the "birthday" of the "United States of America". In the very literal sense, wrong again. Congress did not formally adopt our country's name until September 9, 1776. Prior to that, the commonly used name was the United Colonies.

Here's something of interest about July 4. On this day in 1826, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died. Respected colleagues during the revolutionary period, Adams and Jefferson had a major falling out and became political enemies during Adams' presidency. The enmity continued throughout Jefferson's presidency, but afterwards the two men renewed their friendship. That friendship lasted until their dying day, when Adams uttered his last words, "Thomas Jefferson still survives." Wrong. Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello. It was the 50th anniversary of the approval of Jefferson's final draft of the Declaration of Independence.
John Adams
October 30, 1735-July 4, 1826
Thomas Jefferson
April 13, 1743-July 4, 1826