Barn on River Road

Barn on River Road 08-27-2014I was rooting through my Ohio photos trying to find something for Curator Jessica to use in a brochure or some such thing when I ran across this photo slugged “Barn on River Road,” taken in Athens (OH) county in August 2014.

When I was working in Athens, I went through a barn phase. There were lots of really pretty, well-kept ones in that area. This one still has a good coat of the traditional red paint. (Click on it to make it larger.)

Why are barns red?

Barn 05-06-1969Why are barns red, you might ask? Because they’re prettier against green grass, maybe? Actually, I ran across a whole bunch of links dealing with barn paint.


Grand Army of the Republic

G.A.R. Hall Frost, OH 08-27-2014 I was trying to come up with a Veterans Day post when I remembered this two-story building in Frost, Ohio, a place so small the census bureau classifies it a “a populated place that is not a census designated or incorporated place having an official federally recognized name.” Curator Jessica led me there on one of our rambles last year.

I knew GAR. stood for “Grand Army of the Republic,” but I didn’t know much about the rich history of the organization. [Note: I’ve see references that spell the abbreviation as “G.A.R.” and “GAR.” I’m going to standardize on the latter.] Click on the photos to make them larger.

The Civil War was different

G.A.R. Hall Frost, OH 08-27-2014The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War’s website explains it this way: In early 1866 the United States of America — now securely one nation again — was waking to the reality of recovery from war, and this had been a much different war. In previous conflicts the care of the veteran warrior was the province of the family or the community. Soldiers then were friends, relatives and neighbors who went off to fight–until the next planting or harvest. It was a community adventure and their fighting unit had a community flavor.

By the end of the Civil War, units had become less homogeneous, men from different communities and even different states were forced together by the exigencies of battle where new friendships and lasting trust was forged. With the advances in the care and movement of the wounded, many who would have surely died in earlier wars returned home to be cared for by a community structure weary from a protracted war and now also faced with the needs of widows and orphans. Veterans needed jobs, including a whole new group of veterans–the colored soldier and his entire, newly freed, family. It was often more than the fragile fabric of communities could bear.

State and federal leaders from President Lincoln down had promised to care for “those who have borne the burden, his widows and orphans,” but they had little knowledge of how to accomplish the task. There was also little political pressure to see that the promises were kept.

Organization founded in 1866

G.A.R. Hall Frost, OH 08-27-2014But probably the most profound emotion was emptiness. Men who had lived together, fought together, foraged together and survived, had developed an unique bond that could not be broken. As time went by the memories of the filthy and vile environment of camp life began to be remembered less harshly and eventually fondly. The horror and gore of battle lifted with the smoke and smell of burnt black powder and was replaced with the personal rain of tears for the departed comrades. Friendships forged in battle survived the separation and the warriors missed the warmth of trusting companionship that had asked only total and absolute commitment.

With that as background, groups of men began joining together — first for camaraderie and then for political power. Emerging most powerful among the various organizations would be the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which by 1890 would number 409,489 veterans of the “War of the Rebellion.”

Founded in Decatur, Illinois on April 6, 1866 by Benjamin F. Stephenson, membership was limited to honorably discharged veterans of the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps or the Revenue Cutter Service who had served between April 12, 1861 and April 9, 1865. The community level organization was called a “Post” and each was numbered consecutively within each department. Most Posts also had a name and the rules for naming Posts included the requirement that the honored person be deceased and that no two Posts within the same Department could have the same name. The Departments generally consisted of the Posts within a state and, at the national level, the organization was operated by the elected “Commander-in-Chief.”

[The Frost Camp #108 was chartered on January 25, 1892. It had been meeting unofficially in Guysville for about two years prior to gaining its charter. It became inactive during the Depression, and remained that way until 1997. Here’s a website with much more of the history of the John S. Townsend Camp #108.]

Five G.A.R. members were elected President

G.A.R. Hall Frost, OH 08-27-2014The GAR founded soldiers’ homes, was active in relief work and in pension legislation. Five members were elected President of the United States and, for a time, it was impossible to be nominated on the Republican ticket without the endorsement of the GAR voting block.

In 1868, Commander-in-Chief John A. Logan issued General Order No. 11 calling for all Departments and Posts to set aside the 30th of May as a day for remembering the sacrifices of fallen comrades, thereby beginning the celebration of Memorial Day.

Only one woman member

G.A.R. Hall Frost, OH 08-27-2014Although a male organization, the GAR admitted its sole woman member in 1897. Sarah Emma Edmonds served in the 2nd Michigan Infantry as a disguised man named Franklin Thompson from May 1861 until April 1863. In 1882, she collected affidavits from former comrades in an effort to petition for a veteran’s pension which she received in July 1884. Edmonds was only a member for a brief period as she died September 5, 1898; however she was given a funeral with military honors when she was reburied in Houston in 1901.

Blacks were welcome in the GAR

G.A.R. Hall Frost, OH 08-27-2014A Wikipedia entry says, The G.A.R. initially grew and prospered as a de facto political arm of the Republican Party during the heated political contests of the Reconstruction era. The commemoration of Union Army and Navy veterans, black and white, immediately became entwined with partisan politics.

The G.A.R. promoted voting rights for then called “Negro”/”Colored” black veterans, as many white veterans recognized their demonstrated patriotism and sacrifices, providing one of the first racially integrated social/fraternal organizations in America. Black veterans, who enthusiastically embraced the message of equality, shunned black veterans’ organizations in preference for racially inclusive/integrated groups. But when the Republican Party’s commitment to reform in the South gradually decreased, the G.A.R.’s mission became ill-defined and the organization floundered. The G.A.R. almost disappeared in the early 1870s, and many state-centered divisions – named “departments” and local posts ceased to exist.


Covered Bridge With a View

Palos Covered Brdige T$ 347 NE Glouster 06-28-2015Cape Girardeau county has its Burfordville Covered Bridge at the Bollinger Mill Historic Site, but Athens county in Ohio has the Palos Covered Bridge, a bridge with a view.

When you turn onto Red Rock, Township Road 347, the bridge over Sunday Creek in the distance looks pretty conventional. The Bridgehunter website, maintained by James Baughn, says the structure was built in 1876, restored in 1974 and, again, some time in this century.

Burfordville is longer

Palos or Newton Bridge - TR 347  NE of Glouster 04-18-2015The Burfordville bridge, with a total length of 140.1 feet, is quite a bit longer than the Sunday Creek bridge, which is only 78.1 feet long. The deck widths are about the same, roughly 12 feet wide.

Check out the window

Palos or Newton Bridge - TR 347  NE of Glouster 04-18-2015The window cut in the side has a practical purpose: a railroad track crosses diagonally across the road just beyond the bridge. Without the window, you wouldn’t know a train was coming until it was too late.

Bridge is open for traffic

Palos or Newton Bridge - TR 347  NE of Glouster 04-18-2015The Cape county bridge is closed to vehicular traffic, but you can still drive across the Palos bridge (also known as the Newton Bridge).

Congrats to Ida Dell

Palos or Newton Bridge - TR 347  NE of Glouster 04-18-2015Congrats to Ida Dell, who celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary on July 3 if you can believe the graffiti.

As always, click on the photos to make them larger.

Haunted? Moonville Tunnel

Moonville RR Tunnel 04-17-2015I did two posts back in April where I promised I was going to write about the allegedly haunted Moonville  railroad tunnel. (The first showed a spectacular orange sunset, and the other was where I tried, very unsuccessfully, to get Curator Jessica to play Padiddle by Urban Dictionary rules.)

Author and playwright Anton Chekhov famously wrote, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.” So, to keep from violating Chekhov’s Rule, here’s an account of our visit.

Located in least populated county in Ohio

Moonville RR Tunnel 04-17-2015The Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad was trying to find the most economical route to reach Cincinnati when a landowner named Samuel Coe offered a piece of his land for free if the road would go across his property to haul coal and clay off it. A deal was struck, and coal mines and iron furnaces dotted the area.

Even today, Vinton county is the least populated and most heavily forested county in Ohio. Back then, it was even more desolate. People who lived in Moonville had to walk two long trestles and go through the tunnel to get to the neighboring communities of Hope or Mineral. It was said that by 1920, five or six people had been killed walking the bridges or in the tunnel. The last fatality was in 1986 when a 10-year-old girl was struck by a locomotive on the trestle immediately in front of the tunnel.

Railroad workers said the line was the most desolate eight miles of track between Parkersburg, WV, and St. Louis.

Wanted me to squeal like a little girl

Moonville RR Tunnel 04-17-2015Curator Jessica has a kind of mean streak. I was sure she pumped me up with ghost stories, then lured me out to the tunnel just as the sun was going down so she could sneak up behind me and cause me to squeal like a little girl. To keep that from happening, I made sure to know her whereabouts at all times.

Click on the photos to make them larger. Maybe you can see a spirit I missed.

Two trains met head-on

Moonville RR Tunnel 04-17-2015With that kind of death toll, there are lots of candidates for the mysterious figure who shows up from time to time.

In 1880, according to one website, “On a cold November night in 1880, Engineer Frank Lawhead was taking the dark passage from Cincinnati to Marietta. He would have no more time than to blink at a light bearing down on him before his life was stripped away from him. The dispatcher failed to notify the train there was a second train coming toward them on the tracks. The train he was driving along the Marietta and Cincinnati route through the tiny town of Moonville would take a headlong trip straight into another train coming along the same tracks. He died, most likely, instantly along with the fire man on board the train.

The February 17, 1895, Chillicothe Gazette reported, “A ghost (after an absence of one year) returned and appeared in front of a freight at the point where Engineer Lawhead lost his life. The ghost is seen in a white robe and carrying a lantern. ‘The eyes glistened like balls of fire and surrounding it was a halo of twinkling stars.'”

Other theories

Moonville RR Tunnel 04-17-2015Another website lists a whole raft of possibilities: “The ghost of the Moonville Tunnel is one of those legends that’s based on historical fact but has been distorted by telling and retelling over the years. The major story is that someone–an engineer, a conductor, a brakeman, a signalman?–was crushed under the wheels of the train that used to go through the place. Apart from that basic fact, things get hazy. Was he drunk? Was he stationed in Moonville or was he a brakeman on the train? Was he an eight-foot-tall black guy named Rastus Dexter? Some sources say he was playing cards with other guys. It’s been said that he was a conductor murdered by a vengeful engineer who asked him to inspect underneath the train and then started it up. One source even said that he was trying to get the train to stop because Moonville was in the grip of a plague and was running low on supplies. His death was the end of Moonville.

This seems a little too romantic, especially since the actual newspaper article from the McArthur Democrat on March 31, 1859 tells a much more mundane story: ‘A brakeman on the Marietta & Cincinnati Railroad fell from the cars near Cincinnati Furnace, on last Tuesday March 29, 1859 and was fatally injured, when the wheels passing over and grinding to a shapeless mass the greater part of one of his legs. He was taken on the train to Hamden and Doctors Wolf and Rannells sent for to perform amputation, but the prostration of the vital energies was too great to attempt it. The man is probably dead ere this. The accident resulted from a too free use of liquor.’

A squeal-free zone

Moonville RR Tunnel 04-17-2015I will sometimes pick up strange vibes from places I go into, but the spirits were quiet that day in the Moonville Tunnel. Much to Miz Jessica’s disappointment, it was a squeal-free zone.

The tunnel is not the easiest thing to find, even with some detailed directions from a helpful waitress where we stopped for a late lunch. Don’t count on getting a cell signal out to help you, either. You are in a place with spotty service, at best. Here’s a site with a map and GPS coordinates.

I’d rather go down to listen to the ghost whistles from Louis Houck’s railroad that Reader Keith Robinson described.