Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Home again.

It's been a busy 2 days. I worked on research at the Sistersville Library, then we drove up to Wheeling for  dinner at the famous Coleman's Fish Market (I had their stellar fish sandwich) and browsing in the Center Market district of Wheeling with our young friend Anastasia before my storytelling performance at Wheeling's lovely city park in the evening.

We drove back to Sistersville through a tremendous thunderstorm that left us wondering from time to time where the road was. But we arrived at the Wells Inn safely and were soon tucked into bed as the storm cracked the skies outside. We had planned a midnight walk around town to get a feel for its older days but the storm effectively convinced us to stay indoors. This morning after breakfast we drove a few miles up the Ohio River to Paden City for more storytelling, and then back to Sistersville. I was on a quest to find, among other things, the old Wells cemetery, resting place of many of the founding family members of this pretty river town. We found the cemetery and were relieved to find that someone has been mowing it--online discussion indicated that this was not the case and we were prepared to find it overgrown with weeds. I could see that it had been in poor shape but that is slowly changing. I will post photos tomorrow.

I also wanted to drive around the town once more to just look at its lovely architecture and identify the original streets that were laid out by Sarah and Delilah Wells when they designed the town almost 200 years ago. I am working on some stories about this town so I spent more hours in the library and looking at microfilm. Reading newspapers from 1899 is more interesting than it may sound! For example, I read about:

  • the very active oil and gas drilling boom in daily newspaper reports
  • a boat loaded with nitroglycerin that was adrift in the Ohio River and causing great alarm
  • sleigh-riding parties
  • the passing of the city charter by the state legislature
  • three boys being lost while groundhog hunting who showed up safely some 10 miles from home
  • cucumbers and ripe tomatoes available at a store in March (where on earth did they get them in 1899?)
  • men falling overboard and drowning, being injured on drilling sites and in explosions of all kinds
  • several big fires
  • people leaving to go to the gold mines in Alaska
  • the formation of a local Women's Christian Temperance Union to combat the riffraff activities brought into town by the drilling boom
  • who was staying at the Wells Inn each day
  • who died from measles, typhoid, pneumonia, whooping cough and grippe
  • ... so much more.

I had read online a few days ago that there was a slave cemetery located at Ben's Run in the cemetery I visited last March--this is, apparently, one of the oldest cemeteries in the area. I remembered well its impact on me on that visit, and I remembered an area in adjoining woods that looked as if there might be unmarked graves hidden in the growth of trees and vines. Could this be the slave cemetery? We stopped on our way home to see. The online comment said that the slaves were buried at the "back corner" of the graveyard, but it was apparent that all corners of the fenced-in cemetery were occupied and marked. There was no "empty" corner, or plain stones that might have been markers for slave graves. The wooded area is too overgrown right now to venture into, so I will have to wait until fall to investigate further.

Tonight I sat out on the porch to read a small diary I'd found in the Paradox Used Book Store in Wheeling. The diary sporadically covered the years 1936-1938 was apparent;y kept by a young teen-aged man who lived in Wellsburg, WV, which is north of Wheeling. He recounted snow, Ohio River floods, trips to Cleveland, Pittsburgh and other places, his first driver's license and sadly, the death of his father to meningitis.

His brief entries provided a peephole into the life of a young man at a time when the Great Depression gripped the country but not his family as they enjoyed many outings to movies, went on picnics and drives and even attended the Ice Follies and the Great Lakes Exposition. At the end of his diary he listed all of the orchestra performances he had attended, and his list included all of the greats of his time. For a small-town boy his world was pretty cosmopolitan.

Tomorrow it's back to the real world: catching up the laundry once again, cleaning the house, doing some weeding, and posting more photos from the past eventful week. See you then!


A Vintage Green said...

Hi Sue;
I love your word pictures.
- Joy

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Joy. I was too tired to upload photos last night. Today I'll do a photo blog :)

Rowan said...

That old diary sounds so interesting - I love stuff like that. Old newspapers are fascinating too, I love the way that they used to list who was visiting the town and the obituaries can be a real mine of information - though only if you were pretty will off unfortunately, most of my ancestors didn't rate obituaries:)

Granny Sue said...

The diary entries are very brief Rowan but it's interesting that his family seemed to do all right despite the Depression. They even bought a new Buick! And he traveled a lot more than we might have thought people would do in those times. Funny how we have preconceived notions that are so far from the truth sometimes.

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