Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for June, 2019

Riding the Rails – A Father’s Day Story

Rudy WencekHobo Rule No. 1: Decide your own life. Don’t let another person rule you.

Young boys thoughts often turn to adventure when they have nothing else to occupy their mind. Such was the case with my dad, Rudy, when he was a young teenager.

   His parents had died when he was but a young child so he lived with his sister and her family. At a very young age, he began working at Cambridge Glass Company and took pleasure in seeing the sand turned into beautiful glass objects.

   However, there were days when the glass company was not busy. Sometimes workers would sit outside and pitch pennies while waiting to see if there was a job for them that day.

   On days when there was no work, Dad often hopped on a train as it slowed down for the crossing near the glass plant. How he enjoyed the freedom to explore as he rode those trains from New York City to Chicago and all the places in between.

   This happy-go-lucky train hopper often told of the friendly people he met in his travels and the other ‘hobos’ who were riding the rails. They always shared their food, clothes and sometimes their cigarettes.

   Picture Dad in his ‘hunky cap’, gray work shirt and pants, and maybe a few dollars in his pocket. Perhaps he stopped in a hobo jungle to share a can of beans or mulligan stew with other wanderers. Life was simple on the rails so not much was needed.

   It’s interesting to know that in 1915 there were a million hobos in The United States. By 1930 when Dad was riding the rails, that number had increased to over two million.

   There were many ways of hopping on a train. They might find an empty boxcar, hop on between cars, grab a railing and climb to the top, or even ride under the train. These young and vigorous men had plenty of nerve.

   Clicking his fingers, Dad often said, “If I hadn’t met Kate, I would probably have ridden those trains all the way to the Pacific Ocean.” But marriage and full-time employment at Cambridge Glass Company stopped his riding the rails

   While Dad never rode the rails again, he still enjoyed driving anywhere Mom would go. Sunday drives always took us on adventures in every direction. Perhaps Dad set the stage for my being a gypsy.

This story was in our local newspaper as part of our Rainy Day Writers tribute to Father’s Day. It is a true story of his early life that my Dad liked to share with his grandsons. Dad went on to be co-owner of a local glass company, Variety Glass, so the glass industry played a large role in his life.

Old Stone Academy Opens Underground Railroad Exhibit

Freedom.

Its importance isn’t usually discovered until it is taken away.

Stone - Old Stone Academy

Stone Academy provided a place for Anti-Slavery meetings as well as the Underground Railroad.

Perhaps you have felt like running away from a bad situation. That’s how most of the slaves felt in their quest for freedom. The Underground Railroad helped them succeed in finding this special liberation.

   Even before the time of the Civil War, Anti-Slavery organizations were very active. A center of activity in Ohio was the Old Stone Academy in Putnam on the Muskingum River.

Stone - drive with timeline

The drive to the house has a timeline from the settling of John McIntyre in Zanesville until the end of the Civil War.

   While the Stone Academy served as a station on the Underground Railroad in the 1830s, that wasn’t the reason it was built back in 1809. The oldest building in Muskingum County was designed to be the new state capitol building. It was built by Dr. Increase Mathews, Levi Whipple and Ebenezer Buckingham.

   However, across the river in Zanesville, then a separate community, John McIntire and others constructed a building for that same purpose. Zanesville did serve as the capital of Ohio from 1810 to 1812.

Stone Anti-Slavery

“Coming to Blows” by Adam Chandler depicts the pro-slavery mob outside Stone Academy during an anti-slavery lecture.  Theodore Weld said, “Mob came, broke the windows and doors, tore off the gate and attacked me when I came out with clubs and stones…”

   The Stone Academy became a school and had public offices for several years. It was the center of abolitionist activity in Putnam with the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society holding state conventions there in 1835 and 1839. Both years, mobs of pro-slavery disrupted their meetings threatening to burn all of Putnam. The people of Putnam were very unpopular with their neighbors across the river in Zanesville.

Stone Notice to Slaves

This notice was posted as a warning to fugitive slaves.

   These abolitionists were mainly from New England and had a very strong religious background that made most of them desire to have equal rights for all. However, there was a section of this group that proposed sending the blacks back to Africa in the 1830s.

   The Stone Academy has been accepted by the National Park Service as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. There is a new Ohio historical marker at the Stone Academy.

Stone - Putnam Presbyterian Church

The Putnam Presbyterian Church served as a meeting place for Anti-Slavery meetings.

   Nearby the Putnam Presbyterian Church held many anti-slavery meetings. Their pastor was the brother of Harriette Beecher Stowe. One of their popular speakers was Frederick Douglass, an African American orator who spoke of slavery issues across the state.

   A story was published about Douglass in “The Anti-Slavery Bugle”, which told of his purchasing a ride from Columbus to Putnam to speak at the Presbyterian Church. Douglass paid $3 in order to ride inside the stagecoach that day, but when they saw he was an African American, he was not permitted to ride. He took the case to court and won an out of court settlement for $15.

Stone - Increase Mathews House

Increase Mathews House was another stop on the Underground Railroad in Putnam.

   The slaves who came through this direction were understandably not very trusting of the station masters. These brave souls took a lot of chances during their flight. They wanted above all else to be free.

   Nelson Gant was one of those freed blacks who settled in Muskingum County. He had to raise money to purchase his wife’s freedom as she was still a slave in Virginia. Gant became one of the wealthiest men in the county with a successful produce business, which originated that famous cantaloupe, the Dresden Melon. He worked hard and transported slaves in his wagons.

Stone - Jim Geyer director

Museum director, Jim Geyer, told many interesting stories of the early days of the Stone Academy.

   In speaking with Jim Geyer, museum director, he tells of interesting programs they are developing to attract more people to the museum and the area. There are several UGRR stops involved in the area, not just the Stone Academy.

   Jim and other volunteers are reaching out to the community with a power point presentation suitable for schools, civic groups or retirement communities. He serves as a step-on guide for bus groups that come to the area. They are taken to various places in the Putnam Historic District that have a part in the UGRR story. At present, they have six sites locally that were part of that UGRR. These were called “safe houses”.

Stone - Lett Settlement

Lett Settlement, located where the Wilds is today, was composed of “free people of color”.

   Soon they are planning to add another interesting spot to their tours – The Wilds! There the Lett Settlement consisted of a group of “free people of color” who later assisted the fleeing slaves.

   Since the Stone Academy has been filled with so much activity over the years, it is no surprise that paranormal activity is frequently observed in the house and in the area. They have one special program called “History, Mystery, and Unsettled Spirits” that speaks of this phenomenon as well as some folklore. Ghost tours are conducted and paranormal investigations continue.

   Henry Howell managed the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society and gave fiery speeches. The residents across the river were not happy with his speeches and came to burn his house down. Howell escaped but his dog was left behind. They found the dog later hung in the back yard. Claims are made that the spirit of the dog can still be heard barking today.

Stone UGRR safe homes

A wall display tells of the ‘safe homes’ for the Underground Railroad.

   One problem they have at the Stone Academy is limited floor space and they have been discouraged from attaching pictures and displays to the walls. There are few artifacts here but much information in the form of charts and pictures. Due to the limited space, exhibits in the hallways are frequently changed.

Stone dolls

These dolls were made by an anti-slavery advocate with a duplicate set being given to Queen Victoria.

   The best part of the tour are the stories told by volunteers, who are very knowledgeable about its history.

Stone closet hideaway

This closet held a trap door that led to the basement where a slave could hide.

   The building served as a station for the Underground Railroad. A popular feature is a hidden trap door under the staircase that led to the crawl space under the building where the runaway slaves hid.

Stone - found under stairs

These articles were found under the stairs of the trap door.

  In the 1870s, Stone Academy became the private residence of Elizabeth Robbins, well-known actress, activist and writer. Today it is home to the display of the UGRR directed by Muskingum County History and located in the Putnam Historic District.

   Freedom remains an important element of our lives today. May we remain a nation where our freedom of choice is never extinguished.

The Old Stone Academy is located in Zanesville, Ohio. From I-70, take Exit 155 to Underwood Street.  Best to use your GPS to 115 Jefferson Street, which is across the Muskingum River using the 6th Street Bridge. There is an easy access parking lot beside the Stone Academy.

National Veterans Museum & Memorial Honors All Who Served

Veterans front shot

This symbolic architectural design houses the new National Veterans Museum and Memorial.

Those who dedicated their life to serving their country in all branches of the service during its many wars are being honored at the new National Veterans Museum and Memorial in Columbus, Ohio. Opened on the banks of the Scioto River in October of 2018, you will learn of their bravery, fears and belief in the greatness of America.

Veterans Memorial

A memorial statue along the outside walkway remembers those who served.

   Symbolizing the strength of our nation’s veterans, the unique architectural design of the building rises from within in a circular fashion to show their service never ends. The top of the building meets at a point to indicate that all the branches of the service come together to protect our nation and our world. This building has been recognized for its special innovative design and contains 28 million pounds of concrete.

Veterans trunks

Open the lid of a veteran’s trunk and hear his story.

   While stories of famous leaders like George Washington, Dwight D Eisenhower and John Glenn are well documented nationally, the stories of lesser-known heroes are often only known by family and friends. The NVMM is going to change all that by sharing their stories with the public.

Veterans letters

Letters from home have always been important to members of the military.

   Visitors are taken on a narrative journey as stories are told about veterans throughout the United States. Letters, pictures, and personal items help make these stories come alive. Listen to the letters they wrote home. Some will bring tears of sadness…or relief that they survived.

Veterans Time Line

The Informational Timeline stretches from 1775 until today.

   The Exhibition Galleries follow the curve of the concrete structure, which shares a timeline of highlights from the Revolutionary War until the present. The walls are covered with information so you have to be selective in what you read or you could be there for weeks.

Veterans drum Revolutionary and Civil

Andrew Avey played this drum during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

   Talking to veterans at the museum was one of the real pleasures of the day. Many had not actually been in combat zones, but all felt an emotional attachment to those with whom they had served.

Veterans State Flags

The display of flags from all 50 states reinforces the fact that this is a national museum.

   Many tried to go out in the communities of the countries in which they were stationed to get a glimpse of real life there. Edward, a Marine who had served in Vietnam, went out with a missionary and played Santa for the children in their village.

Veterans Gear for Boot Camp

Veteran guide, Todd, explained the extensive, heavy boot camp gear.

   Todd, a veteran who is also a tour guide, shared his experiences in the Navy from 1965-69. His job was to patrol the coastline from Alaska to San Diego for Russian submarines. Another veteran, Dale, worked as a supply sergeant in the cold temperatures of Alaska where it was 59 below.

Veterans - Share Your Story

A special Share Your Story recording booth for veterans is located on the lower level.

   The Second Floor mezzanine features a Memorial Room to honor the fallen heroes. Here you will find a room where stories of the veterans can be videotaped for future generations. Many have relatives who have served but they don’t often like to talk about their experiences.

Veterans Memorial Grove

A Memorial Grove of American elms provides a place for reflection and relaxation.

   Outside the museum is a relaxing Memorial Grove consisting of American Elms, a tree that has given shelter to veterans since colonial times. This is a place for rest and contemplation with a beautiful limestone wall, a background symbolizing strength. Nothing relaxes more than water so the pool and cascades provide healing. Native plants appear throughout the area.

Veterans Wounded Veterans Memorial 2

The Wounded Veterans Monument recognizes all veterans – past, present and future.

   National Veterans Museum at 300 West Broad Street in Columbus Ohio is open to the public Wednesday – Sunday from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Over half of their visitors are veterans. People from all over the United States, Holland, Ireland, England and France have already felt the emotion of the museum.

   To honor our servicemen, all veterans and active duty military members are given complimentary admission and parking. The same is true for Gold Star families.

Veterans WWI flag

A National Guard unit, “The Buckeye Division”, carried this 48-star flag during WWI.

   Veterans have a special place in our world as many remain active in the community with a volunteer spirit. As one veteran said, “There was a reason we were spared…to come back and do something good.”

   We honor those men and women who have sacrificed to defend our country. They served to preserve our freedom.

Our freedom is not free. It comes with a cost.”

~Lydia Thompson, Gold Star Mother

Veterans OverviewThe new National Veterans Museum and Memorial is located at 300 West Broad Street in Columbus, Ohio just north of I-70. Once on West Broad coming from the east, go over the Scioto River and the museum is on the right-hand side.

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