As I prepare for the last leg of my Ohio travels, down to the banks of the Ohio in Washington County, one truth holds. Like an invisible fifth sense or a magnetic force, my desire to connect to family, place and history has rendered a wealth of now-time, and very human, connections. Ohio abounds with warm, generous people who love their history and work to preserve it. I have attracted them to me with uncanny genealogical serendipity.
When I attended the banquet where I was inducted into the Society of Civil War Families of Ohio, what uncanny coincidence made me sit next to a woman who had an ancestor who both served in the 36th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Creek and transferred to the same hospital in Baltimore, Maryland as mine? At the same banquet, after the induction ceremony, a second woman came up to me and said, “We need to talk.” Deb Root Shell, a generous, friendly example of Ohio hospitality, had Washington County, Ohio ancestors and, over a week of e-mails, provided invaluable suggestions, encouragement, and shared knowledge. (She is a writer and amazing researcher in her own right, with an important book and transcription project in the works. More on that, and maybe a guest blog later.) Sure, those connections are logical. I was at a Genealogy conference focusing on Ohio. But how about this.
After a hilarious interaction at Canal Lewisville, where I took pictures at the cemetery, and photographed the lots where my grandfather’s paternal grandparents lived, only to have a man run out shirtless in his pajama bottoms because he thought I was taking pictures for a foreclosure (long story…yes I got permission but from the wrong person), I drove, with a little zigging and zagging, to Oak Grove Cemetery, located on a backroad in White Eyes Township.
I was a little wary due to my previous encounter. It was right on someone’s farm. Music from a radio drifted out of a large work shed, so I walked up and peeked in. No one was there, not that I could see, and a big “No Trespassing” sign was stuck to the window, so I went back to take pictures. When a tall, lanky man ambled over, I worried. But, no need. We talked for a good 40 minutes about the history of the area. He loved his farm and the history of the place, and maintained the small cemetery, even apologizing for the condition of the well-maintained little place. (More on that when I get back and write out the details of what I found.)
Finally, the amazing story of the picture at the top of the page. I next set out to find the actual site of the saw and gristmill of Andrew Croy, my 3x great-grandfather. I knew the section, range, and township. I also knew it was a mile beyond Fresno, Ohio. (Yes, for my local followers, they have a Fresno. But it is a quaint little burg, not a city like ours.) I drove the back, winding, and undulating road to where I thought it was. Then, unsure, I pulled off…lost? A man pulled up next to me in a pickup truck. I felt more confident after my last experience, that is if it is possible feel confidently lost. I got out of the car and went up to explain. As I did a look came over him. He turned his head to the side.
“Follow me to my house,” he said. It turns out he owned the property on which the mill of Andrew Croy had stood. He invited me in. We shared. His wife had passed from cancer two years before, and he lived alone. We got in his “buggy,” a 4 x 4 Kubota, and he took me to the site he suspected the mill had been, now confirmed by my information. He showed me the barn, built in 1872. He had moved it from the road and renewed the foundation, saving out and including the old foundation date markers. It would have cost him less to just tear it down and build another, but… The Amish quilt marker on the barn was a duplicate of one of his ancestor’s quilts. Then he sent me off with a pint of his home rendered maple syrup. I don’t know how I will get it home, but I will. And I will write. Because now is as important as then.