Thursday, May 23, 2019

Try to Share a Story

Nell Bumgarner, 1898

I Cannot

There are stories I wish to share with you
To convey the essence, and feel, and charm
Of long-ago memories that live within me.

To write is my desire, yet I am hindered;
I have neither command of words nor expression,
Nor power to say what I would.

I lack the ability to select and condense;
I prefer to write as the snatches drift by.
I cannot tell you what's in my heart – but I'll try.

Nell Yeager Bumgarner, From Lucasville Lore

From the first grunts of cavemen to the texts of Twitter, words remain singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. But, words often “fail us.” Who, like Nell Bumgarner, has not felt great inadequacy to express themselves? Driven to communicate a memory or an idea, people often feel the lack the linguistic sophistication to produce a memorable bit of speech or writing. Yet, Nell understood that the effort of sharing a heartfelt expression is the overriding exertion that produces meaningful stories.

When people become comfortable enough to express their stories, their “one of a kind” bits of remembrance add to a meaningful diversity of style and voice. The particular voice they employ carries their own experience and unique personality. It is the author's duty not only to remain true to his or her own voice (the inside world), but also to maintain a veracity of his or her words to the audience (the outside world).

Trying” to communicate is usually achieved successfully when a person follows
a blend of conscious activity – reacting to stimuli through focused ideas – and unconscious activity – registering information and forming associations from sensory memory. Tapping into both the conscious and unconscious processes are treasure-hunting expeditions for speakers and writers. Fluency inevitably develops as people discover the freedom of setting out on this journey of discovery.

What The Subconscious is to every other man, in its creative aspect becomes, for writers, The Muse.”

Ray Bradbury

The conscious and unconscious minds have integrated social messages about appropriateness, safety, and quality of craftsmanship. If the conscious mind is allowed too much control, especially in the early stages of a project, a writer's work suffers. Images are not specific, metaphors become cliched or superficial, emotional truths and hard realities are avoided, and the work fails to live up to its potential.”

(Kate Arms-Roberts. “Writing at the Speed of the Unconscious.” September 13, 2013)

The story is the vehicle that transports the reader across borders of time, space, and imagination. Humans may not understand logic; however, they are ideally programmed to understand stories. From the beginning of life, stories are a fundamental unit of knowledge. As a foundation of memory, they are essential to the way humans make sense of their lives. Who, as a child, begged adults over and over for a story? All of us.

Storytelling also involves great listening skills. Listening is very powerful creative force in itself. American psychiatrist Karl Menninger explains: “The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward, and we want to sit in their radius. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” A story stimulates the imagination while engaging the listener's sense-making faculties – in short, it bonds those who participate in the activity.
“‘History’ is mostly ‘story.’”

Ken Burns, whose 19 films have garnered him a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Peabody Awards and four Emmy Awards

It has been reported that personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations. It it any wonder that an effective communication of history involves such accounts? American filmmaker Ken Burns understands the power of the personal story. Burns – The Civil War, Baseball, The National Parks, The Vietnam War – explains: “The elements of storytelling are always the same. You’re just drawn to a good story, whether a small one or a big one.” The point, Burns says, is that every story has characters – it’s just a matter of letting them breathe and tell their stories.

The people of Lucasville, Ohio, know Nell Yeager Bumgarner was a jewel of a storyteller who shared her writing and her conversations with so many folks for so many years. She left a historical record of great importance by simply overcoming any perceived hindrances of communicating her wonderful stories. In her own words, Nell “tried” to tell others what was in her heart. And, it was what was in her heart that mattered … and still matters.

This Bicentennial year a wonderful tribute to Nell Bumgarner and others like her who worked tirelessly to preserve Lucasville history would be for each of us to “try” to share a story … a story that could be saved and reread again and again. No one lacks the ability or the command to do this. We may convince ourselves that we aren't capable of doing this, but we all have our stories, narratives that others long to hear.

I am making a call for your contributions. No story is too small or insignificant to write. I hope you decide to do this – simply write your story and share it with the Lucasville Area Historical Society or with myself. Here is the address of the Facebook group:
My email is

I try to share my stories with you in hopes of building community. I so hope you will share one (or more) of yours with the historical society.

God made man because He loves stories.”

Elie Wiesel, author and Nobel Peace Prize winner

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Interviews: Speaking With the Greatest Generation


Twelve talented, energetic Valley High School students are working as local historians/interviewers for the OSU Folklore Studies Project in cooperation with Shawnee State University and the Lucasville Area Historical Society. Thanks to all who are collaborating on this project. Special kudos go to David Adkins for recruiting this amazing crew. And, of course, to Dr. Cristina Benedetti, Ohio State Instructional Specialist and Folk and Traditional Arts Contractor at the Ohio Arts Council, who organized the training and coordinated the project.

The following Valley students are working on the interviews:

Bre Call, Karsyn Conaway, Rylie Smith, Kathryn Wood, Evie Phillips, Jared Phillips, Kaity Howard, Bailee Day, Hutson Oyer, Nick Crabtree, Karrie Jarrells, and Amelia Slone.

The interviews are true field studies that will be cataloged and archived for historical research. They will become a permanent addition to the records of the universities and the historical society. The focus of this study features members of what is commonly known as the "Greatest Generation." Local citizens have graciously consented to be interviewed by the students. Work will be completed this summer.

“It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society 
has ever produced.”
Tom Brokaw

The Greatest Generation is a 1998 book by journalist Tom Brokaw that profiles those who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as those whose productivity within the home front during World War II made a decisive material contribution to the war effort.

The book popularized the term “Greatest Generation” for the name of the cultural generation before the Silent Generation. Demographers and researchers typically use the early 1900s as starting birth years and ending birth years in the mid to late 1920s.

“The greatest generation was formed first by the Great Depression. They shared everything – meals, jobs, clothing.”

    Tom Brokaw

Brokaw asserts, these men and women developed values of "personal responsibility, duty, honor and faith." These characteristics helped them to defeat Hitler, build the American economy, make advances in science and implement visionary programs like Medicare. According to Brokaw, "at every stage of their lives they were part of historic challenges and achievements of a magnitude the world had never before witnessed."

Brokaw credits the Greatest Generation with much of the freedom and affluence that Americans enjoy today. "They have given the succeeding generations the opportunity to accumulate great economic wealth, political muscle, and the freedom from foreign oppression to make whatever choices they like."

Despite these achievements, Brokaw believes the Greatest Generation remains remarkably humble about what they've done. He concludes, "It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices."

Brokaw himself admits that the men and women of this time made mistakes when it came to McCarthyism, racism and women's rights. Furthermore, some skeptics argue, the perceived "greatness" of that generation is due in part to the clear good-versus-evil nature of World War II.

Most agree, more than any other generation, the Greatest Generation planted their roots in the United States. For a half century before World War II, home ownership rates were consistently around 46 %. By 1950, that rate was 55 %. It had risen to 62 % by 1960 – stabilizing the U. S. economy.

That generation set high standards for their children and imbued in them the value of education. The average educational attainment of those born in the first quarter of the twentieth century was less than nine years; for the following generation (the children of the Greatest Generation), education attainment had grown to an average of twelve years—parents made sure their kids graduated from high school. More than 40 percent of baby boomers graduated from college; only 10 percent of their parents did.

Credit for the recovery after World War II and the U.S. ascendancy as the dominant world power of the latter half of the 20th century goes as much to the people of Greatest Generation as it does to its leaders.

Richard Sousa. “The Greatest Generation.” Hoover Institution. Stanford University.
November 9, 2010.

Clint Pumphrey. “How the Greatest Generation Works.” 2019.

Author Claude Davis offers commentary about characteristics of the Greatest Generation. Granted, the descriptions are generalizations. However, there is little doubt these hallmarks present valuable lessons practiced by our ancestors that we can use to guide our lives.

Things To Learn From the Greatest Generation:

When they made a decision, they accepted the consequences of it – good or bad. And if the consequences were bad, they looked for a solution instead of someone else to blame ...

They believed in make do and mend. If something was good enough, they wouldn’t even think of replacing it with a more fashionable, but unnecessary, model ...

They had a simple attitude to aspirations: If you wanted something, you worked until you’d earned the money to buy it. Taking on unnecessary debt was irresponsible; expecting others to pay your way was lazy ...

They would take quiet pride in a job well done, but work was a serious business, not just a status symbol. A job wasn’t something you did to feel challenged or fulfilled; it was something you did because it needed to be done. If you weren’t happy with it, that was tough; you gritted your teeth and got on with it ...

When they were faced with a challenge, they didn’t give up and feel traumatized. They looked for a way to overcome it. The farmers whose lands were blighted by the Dust Bowl didn’t sit back and wait for the government to help them; they moved to look for new jobs, even if that meant heading for the coasts …

To them, promises were something to be taken seriously – whether that promise was an employment contract, a marriage vow or a loan agreement – and a big part of someone’s image was how trustworthy they were …

They took life seriously. That doesn’t mean they didn’t enjoy their lives, because they certainly did – look at the movies, music and literature they created if you have any doubts about that. But they did know that you have to take the rough with the smooth, and that simply giving up when things got difficult wasn’t an option ...

They didn’t get stressed over things they couldn’t change. They didn’t obsess about trivial problems. And they didn’t over-complicate their lives. They found something that worked – a car, a style of dressing, a relationship – and then they stuck with it ...

And, most of all, the Greatest Generation were modest. They didn’t feel the urge to share every aspect of their lives with everyone they met (and social media would have horrified them!) They didn’t boast about their accomplishments, and shunned those who did.”

Claude Davis. “6 Essential Differences Between the Greatest Generation and The Ones That Followed.” October 26, 2017.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Lucasville Area Schools -- Learning In the Valley of Opportunity

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Benjamin Franklin

Here is old Ben with a quote so simplistic that it borders on the mundane. Everyone understands the value of a good education. It is the key to a successful life. A superior public education levels that playing field for all youth aspiring to achieve the ideal of the American Dream. It remains a passport to the future. Yet … maintaining a great educational system must never be taken for granted. The challenge is daunting.

How blessed is the Lucasville area to have a community that fully supports its excellent schools? This commitment is firmly rooted in the history of the region. The achievements of the institutions acknowledge the love the community maintains for its local schools. More than any other asset, Lucasville values its strong system of education. It has always supported superior educational development.

History of Local Education

In 1860 four different schools were organized in Lucasville and the surrounding area when Valley Township was cut off from Jefferson Township. They were as follows:
  • Johnson School, located north of Lucasville in Clifford. It later became the home of Ora Nickols.
  • Lucasville School, located on West Street, was on the site of the Esto Davis home. Later, it was moved to North Street and razed in 1952 when the VonLuhrte Buiding was erected.
  • Cockrells Run School, which later became the home of Shirley Lucas.
  • Marsh School, located on Rt. 23 in the first house north of Huston Hollow. This later became the home of Mrs. Justice.

A fifth school – the Egbert School – was added in September 1878. And, in 1858. a school was built north of Lucasville. It was described as “a small, inconvenient, two-room building.” No other information is currently available about that institution other than it is known that the structure burned down.

Millers Run School was added in 1878. It was located across from Miller's Run Methodist Church.

Together, the schools were known as the Valley Township Schools. Historian Nelson Wiley Evans wrote in the History of Scioto County, Ohio: Together with a Pioneer Record of Southern Ohio (1903)) …

Valley Township Schools are among the best in the county. The township pays fair wages to its teachers and has from 8 to 10 months school (assumed length of term). The Lucasville School is a sub-district but arrangements are made by which the principal receives better wages than the other teachers of the township. Pupils from districts near attend the Lucasville School after finishing the shorter terms elsewhere, and the class is quite large for two or three months in the spring … The principal C. D. Walden receives $82.50 per month; the other male teachers receive $40.00 and the females $35.00 per month. The average attendance is 30 pupils for each school. The school property is worth about $4,000.”

1905 marked the first graduating class from a four-year high school. The first graduates were Genevieve Hamilton Marsh and Eva Hemmans Thomas (and perhaps, Alfa Miles?)

Then, in 1909, the school building was moved to the location of the what would become the Legion Hall. It was later moved to the Davis home location. 1909 also marks the year Mr. Frank Alley took charge of the Lucasville schools. It was mainly under his leadership that a new high school building was built. He drew the plans for the structure. Alley is said to have “raised the class of Valley Township Schools from third to first place in the state.”

Local writer and historian Nell Bumgarner recollected …

By 1910 probably eighty students completely filled the one large room … By 1912, Valley Township consolidated. School buses – big wagons pulled by mules (some with heated bricks for little feet in winter) – brought students from outlying one-room schools to Lucasville.”

In 1911, a new, 12-room Valley Township school was erected on a piece of land north of the cemetery. It was used for both elementary and high school students. The structure had no inside restrooms but “the finest outside facilities.” Heating was still a problem, but the school had three science recitation rooms, three laboratories, and a study hall. The school was impressive for its time – reportedly “huge beyond imagination.” It even had boardwalks out front “to carry the muddy feet inside.” There was no auditorium as the old 1849 red brick Methodist Church served that purpose.

The Lucaville High School's three year course became a four-year course. The first four-year high school course graduated in 1912. Graduation exercises were held in the Methodist Church. Salutatorian was Roy Carley, and valedictorian was Nell Yeager.

Much credit was due to Professor Francis S. Alley, Louis McKinley, and “in a real departure in those days, one lady high school teacher, Miss Eulah Jones of Omega, Ohio.” In that year, a celebration and homecoming was held in the old Masonic Hall, home to “so many Decoration Day dinners, traveling shows, and class reunions.”

I discovered a story about Professor F. S. Alley in Brant's paper The Whittlers' Gazette. The Portsmouth Library has several editions of the wonderful publication on public view. And guess what? In Brant's newspaper I found a true gem for those who hold Lucasville schools near and dear. Allow me to share it with you ...

I went to our High School Alumni Banquet and had the pleasure of listening to an address by Prof. F. S. Alley. Professor Alley is past 85. He spent 48 years supervising schools in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky, seven at the head of the Lucasville schools. He is now a successful poultry raiser and lives on Cockrell's Run.

Contrary to precedent, Mr. Alley deliberately left a large city school to devote the rest of his active school life to work in the hills, in response to a call from the forward-looking, local board of education which had asked the head of Ohio State University to recommend the best educator in Ohio to assist in carrying out its revolutionary plans.

Under his leadership, Valley Township was the first in all Ohio to centralize its schools and establish a first grade, rural high school. Mr. Alley said in his address that he had never known of any other school that supplied free text books. So new and successful was the whole idea, Dr. Graham from Ohio State University paid the school several visits and made *lantern slides which he used in lectures and duplicate sets were sent to colleges in every state in the union, to South America, Canada, Mexico, and even to London, England. Mr. Alley has one of these sets in his possession.

Dr. Graham is now at the head of a department of our Federal Bureau of Education in Washington and no later than last summer, in a lecture before the 4-H Clubs of Ohio again told the story of the development of the Lucasville Schools.

It is significant that Mr. Alley who had lived in and was familiar with every nook and cranny of at least two states should choose from among them all to come back to the hills of Lucasville to make his permanent home. And the Whittlers' Gazette for one herewith pays tribute to his exceptional abilities and accomplishments. Proud indeed are we to call him a fellow citizen.”

* Lantern slides – a slide or transparency for projection by a slide projector or magic lantern.

(The Whittlers' Gazette. Official publication of The Whittlers' Clubs of America. National Headquarters Brant's Store, Main Street, Lucasville, Ohio. July 1930 Edition.)

With this link, I soon discovered an article from The Newark Weekly Advocate

One of the best examples of what can be accomplished in a centralized school through better trained teachers and more complete equipment is found in the school at Lucasville, Valley Township, Scioto County, Ohio.

The valuation of this township is but a million and a half dollars. Still, through the leadership of Superintendent F. S. Alley, a centralized school has been erected and a fine equipment for industrial work installed in the building.

A regular four-year course is given in the high school by three trained teachers, each of whom conducts a particular phase of the industrial branches, manual training, domestic science, and agriculture. A large basement room is divided into laboratories to aid in the teaching of chemistry, physics, biology, manual training, and domestic science. The manual training room contains 15 individual work benches and the domestic science room 10 individual stoves, two sewing machines, dining room table, and dishes. All counters, lockers, and tables were built by the boys in their manual training work.

There is also a room in the building which is frequently used for public lectures. Three acres of land space for a school garden and plans are being made this spring to set out shrubbery in desirable places about the grounds.”

(“Lucasville Valley A Progressive School. The Newark Weekly Advocate.
May 28, 1914.)

In 1926, Jefferson Township became part of a new Valley Rural School District created by the County Board of education.

A new Valley Local High School was started in 1954 on 12 acres on the Lucasville-Minford Road purchased from Paul Tomilson. The estimated cost was $500,000 aided by a federal grant based on the number of children of federal employees in the district. It opened for classes in the fall of 1956.

Of course, this brief history brings the reader to the Valley Local Schools era of the mid '50s through the renovation of the 1990s and into today. It is evident that the emphasis on education in the Lucasville area has been a vital attraction for its continued growth and prosperity. The schools remain a great source of pride for all residents. With an illustrious past, the schools continue to showcase the talented youth of the area. They are, indeed, the greatest resource of the future.

Move over, Ben Franklin. Allow me to end this entry with a quote from one of my favorite educators …

The more that you read, the more things you will know, 
the more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

– Dr. Seuss

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Methodist History -- Lucasville and Ohio

The first Methodist preaching in Ohio occurred in September 1787 in the eastern part of the state at Carpenter's Station, near Warrenton, Jefferson County. Rev. George Callahan, a Methodist preacher traveling the Ohio Circuit (lying in Virginia between Wheeling and Pittsburgh), was probably the first man to have the honor of preaching the first Methodist sermon.

According to historian Samuel Wesley Williams, there was a blockhouse at the station to protect the frontier settlements and …

Fifteen or twenty hardy backwoodsmen armed with rifles, tomahawks, and scalping-knives, stood on the outside of the assembly as protectors against an alarm. After the sermon was ended, a pressing invitation was given the preacher to visit Carpenter's Fort again, and he cheerfully acceded to the request.”

(John Marshall Barker. History of Ohio Methodism. Chapter 3. 1898.)

The long history of the Methodist Church in Ohio is replete with stories of its many significant congregations. Thanks to the dedicated preservation of these accounts by the church, the chronicles remain a valuable resource for local historians.

United Methodist Historical Society of Ohio

In 1839, at a time when the Methodist Episcopal Church in Ohio was only three decades old and still struggling on a frontier, a group of ministers from Ohio organized the Western Methodist Historical Society in Cincinnati for the sole purpose of preserving the records, manuscripts, memorabilia and books relating to Methodism in Ohio, an area bounded by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. This group eventually became known as the United Methodist Historical Society of Ohio.

In 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University was founded by the Ohio and North Ohio Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Delaware, Ohio. In the year 1858, following years of Society inactivity, Samuel Williams sent a letter to the Faculty and Trustees of Ohio Wesleyan University suggesting that the materials of the Society be housed at the University. Williams’ recommendation was adopted, and the collection was moved to the University in 1859.

On January 20th, 1911, incorporation papers for the Ohio Methodist Historical Society were drawn up and approved by the State of Ohio. In 1929, a rebirth of the Historical Society was seen under the dynamic leadership of Rev. Austin M. Courtenay and Dr. Russell B. Miller, Librarian at the Ohio Wesleyan University.

Today, original materials and many more comprise the collections of the East and West Ohio Conferences of The United Methodist Church, housed at the Archives of Ohio United Methodism at Ohio Wesleyan University. Members of the Society include church historians, as well as others who have a common interest in preserving the history of United Methodism in Ohio.

Every year an award is given to the outstanding East and West Ohio Conference Historian (currently on hold). Certificates are also given to honor significant church anniversaries (currently on hold). The Historian's Newsletter is published by the Society twice a year and there is an Annual Meeting and Historical Convocation held in April or May of the year.

Previous meeting themes have included United Methodism and Ohio's Bicentennial (2003), Celebrating the 300th Anniversary of the Birth of Charles Wesley (2007), So You're the Church Historian (2013), Early Methodist Circuit Riders in Southwestern Ohio (2015), Celebrating Your Church Anniversary (2016), Celebrating Women of Courage, Character, and Commitment in the UMC (2017), and Crossroads of Ohio United Methodism (2018).

In addition to topical workshops, there are practical workshops for local church historians such as "Preservation 101,” "Creating an Archive for your Church,” "Making History Come Alive in the Local Church,” "Caring for Your Church's Photographs,” and "Oral History Basics."

The major benefit of membership is the opportunity to meet and work with others who are preserving and writing about UMC history in the state of Ohio. Membership is especially valuable to UMC local church historians as they work to preserve their own church records in local church archives around the state. However, anyone interested in the history of The United Methodist Church in the state of Ohio is welcome to join the Society. You do not need to be your church's historian to be a member.

The Archives is located in the Special Collections department of Beeghly Library, on the campus of Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. Hours are 8:30-12 Noon and 1-5 PM, Monday-Thursday. During the summer months, it opens at 9 AM.

Emmanuel United Methodist Church

Emmanuel United Methodist in Lucasville, Ohio, has played an important part in the development of Southern Ohio. Its long history goes back to the early settlement of the Ohio frontier.

In 1848, the heirs of John Lucas, founder of Lucasville, decided to settle his estate and sold all the lots in Lucasville. The current church lot was purchased by Sarah A. Belknap (1787-1849), who came to Lucasville via the Ohio-Erie Canal from Vermont.

In April 1849, Belknap sold the property to the church, and a building was erected the same year. The bricks used to build the church were “fired” in the Lucasville vicinity. It was her daughter, Mary L. Belknap Moulton (1814-1896), who started a subscription paper and used the money to cover the cost for the building. 

​In the spring of 1849, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Lucasville was organized under the leadership of Rev. Sheldon Parker and Rev. L.A. Atkinson. The Rev. John Stewart was the presiding Elder. The new church became a part of the Piketon Circuit, First District.

In 1850, the first Sunday School was organized. Again, Mary L. Belknap Moulton secured funds for the first library and also became the first Superintendent. In the early 1920's, plans were initiated to build a new church with more room for social activities. The current church building was dedicated on July 1, 1928. For many years, the church remained a part of a circuit, but later (1950) it became a separate charge.

On April 23, 1968, Methodists united when The Evangelical United Brethren Church and The Methodist Church joined together to form The United Methodist Church. The Lucasville Emmanuel United Methodist Church is a member of The West Ohio Conference and Shawnee Valley District.

​Descendants of Dr. Daniel and Sarah Ainsworth Belknap and their daughter, Mary Belknap Moulton, continue to worship at EUMC, volunteer in the community, and dedicate their lives to spreading the Word of God.

Interesting Historical Note – In 1999, the Ohio Methodist Historical Society's Historian of the Year Award Winner was Marilyn Lyles of the Emmanuel UMC in Lucasville.

Lyles (August 27, 1929-March 11, 2015) was the daughter of the late Esto and Winifred Massie Davis. She was a retired nursing instructor, teaching at the Lima Memorial School of Nursing and Kellogg Community College for 30 years. Marilyn was a 1947 Valley High School graduate who later received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the Ohio State University and her Master's in Nursing from Western Michigan. She also served as the Choir Director and Historian at Emmanuel UMC.

"Holy Club." "Bible Moths." "Enthusiasts" 

These are just a few of the names people called Charles and John Wesley and those gathered around them before anyone called their group a movement, let alone a church. Charles and John Wesley are considered founders of the Methodist Movement that led to what is now The United Methodist Church.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

The Importance of Local Historical Societies

Haystack Hill, Looking Down on Lucasville

“If history were taught in the form of stories, 
it would never be forgotten.” 

― Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

Some of the best historians are not noted authors or college professors. They don't necessarily work in the field or hold positions in museums, government agencies, or libraries. Instead, they are John and Jane Does of all ages who share a love for the study of the past. They do their reading, collecting, and researching through small local historical societies that are dedicated to protecting and preserving historical records and interpreting the past to the public. Put in simpler way, these local nonprofits preserve great stories.

It is not unusual to find important family documents throughout local homes, locked away in old chests, glass front book cases, and family albums and journals. What some may consider trivia, local historians view as key artifacts for understanding the past. Many residents not only possess items of interest but also store vital information that provides great historical significance.

Elizabeth Fuller, librarian at the Westchester County Historical Society in Elmsford, New York, says, ''In the past, historical societies were run by old ladies who used to just sit in their lovely little houses and wait for somebody to knock on the door.”

Today that is changing. Those who run the societies are beginning to see themselves and their buildings as keepers of a culture – not simply as repositories for birth records and torn photographs. They believe they have a right to expect that those things will be taken care of and displayed in a professional manner.

In fact, in Westchester, the Bicentennial in 1976 generated such a flurry of interest in the Revolutionary War that the State Education Department recommended in 1982 that all fourth graders learn the history of their communities. The historical society serves as a vibrant, important source for local and state history.

Historical societies don’t just document local history. They also work to preserve historic buildings, cemeteries, and other structures in the areas. They frequently partner with other like-minded organizations to save these environments. And, to improve awareness of local history, the societies run outreach efforts that appeal to younger generations – these educational opportunities teach youth to become better stewards of their own environment.

Local historical societies offer incredible benefits to communities large and small. Here are some important benefits of generating an interest in local history ...
  • History introduces people to critical skills of evidence and argument – (1) It develops contextual understanding and historical thinking. (2) It encourages engagement with continuity, change, and causation while emphasizing the skills to interpret accurately and communicate clearly complex areas.
  • History nurtures personal and collective identity.
  • History helps build the foundation of a vibrant community through family stories, tribal traditions, and civic commemorations.
  • History teaches people about their responsibilities to each other and to their community.
  • History is a catalyst for economic development while helping attract talent, tourism, and business.
  • History helps people envision a better future – it encourages people to express opinions, listen to others, and take action.
  • History inspires leaders while providing role models who can help others navigate the complexities of modern life.
  • History, saved and preserved, serves as the foundation for future generations in an active, civic community.
Local historical societies help transform communities from places where we live into places that we love. They support the diverse cultural experience by taking direct action and inspiring broad public support for all residents – the varied people comprising a certain population. The organizations are all about sharing a common existence.

Many of us get interested in “local history” at the passing of our parents or of other significant elders. Invariably, we wish we had taped their stories, or had at least had taken notes about their lives. After their passing, we understand that how they lived through important events of their days does matter – their memories of ordinary life are the most poignant histories of all, stories that should be preserved and shared with others.

We must meet the responsibility of preserving local history. This presents a tremendous challenge in an hurried age when historical societies are, in a sense, competing with all sorts of other fashionable educational and entertainment opportunities. Historical societies need to modernize their outreach and seek, new and effective means of engaging citizens of all ages.

When we “find something of ourselves” in the past – in buildings, stories, papers, photos, artifacts – we better value the importance of historical engagement and preservation. Also, then, we appreciate the great value that lies in our ability to offer primary sources such as eyewitness accounts and intimate personal observations of events and time periods free from interpretation by historians and authors. Each of these primary sources offers a unique, original perspective. And, each of these bits of history solidifies our human connections. Through the examination of the past, community historical societies strengthen present and future generations.

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny 
and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” 

― George Orwell

Note of Interest: The Lucasville Area Historical Society strives to collect, preserve, and share the history of historic Lucasville, Ohio, founded in 1819. The society's interests include the areas around Lucasville, extending into Jefferson, Morgan, Rush, and Clay. Click here: Townships.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Cemeteries -- Their Importance to Social and Cultural Values

Show me your cemeteries and I will tell you what kind of people you have.”

-- Benjamin Franklin

Cemeteries are more than places of remembrance: they are outdoor museums. These sites present a collection of unique artifacts that have remained in their original context.
Cemeteries are among the most valuable of historic resources in that they are reminders of various settlement patterns, such as villages, rural communities, urban centers, and even ghost towns. They can reveal information about historic events, religions, lifestyles, and genealogy. And, of course, names on grave markers serve as a directory of early residents and reflect the ethnic diversity and unique population of an area.

It is clear that cemeteries are dynamic, reflecting changing cultural institutions, social values, and regional ethnic identity. All cemeteries encode social and cultural values reflecting specific choices; therefore they provide insight into how people lived.

Cemeteries and their symbols guide us into the past. They are not just where the dead reside, nor are they static snapshots of older views 
and attitudes about death.”

Illinois Historic Cemetery Preservation Handbook

Citizens must hold reverence for these sacred places. Increased urbanization, along with a dilution of respect and reverence for cemeteries, has resulted in their destruction by development, neglect, abandonment, and vandalism. All burials, whether of people rich or poor, famous or unknown, deserve respect and protection. It behooves a community to hold dear these places where past residents find their final rest.

When cemeteries are ignored and allowed to deteriorate, and markers are damaged or destroyed, society loses important information about the past. Ultimately, an important part of ourselves is lost. Preservation efforts are more successful and vandalism decreases when adults and children become familiar with the information learned from cemeteries.

A Serious Consideration Perhaps Overlooked

Lawn care is the most time-consuming, and, if not done carefully, potentially destructive maintenance activity in historic cemeteries. Could some maintenance practices actually be harmful not only to the grounds but also to humans who walk these areas?

Physical damage when moving can be devastating. Mowing between tight spots with a large riding mower deck is destined to cause some damage. Best practices include using a smaller, push mower between particularly sensitive features, and outfitting riding mower decks with protective bumpers. Low-cost options include using fire hose padding or a foam swimming “noodle.” Additional damage is caused by riding over low stones or coping, especially when the blade height is set low.

As a time-saving measure, herbicides are sometimes used around the base of features to remove unwanted grass and weeds. In most cases, the use of herbicides for this purpose is not recommended, as salts within the herbicide can wick into the stone (especially soft stones) and cause spalling and deterioration.

The removal of vegetation also exposes soil around the base of the grave marker, which, in a heavy rain, can cause soil splashing that may result in staining. Herbicides and fertilizers can corrode metal fences, plaques and statuary. In addition, the overuse of these products often results in unsightly messes in the landscape – the beautiful aesthetics of cemeteries.

Herbicides also present the problem of drift. Drift is the uncontrolled movement away from its target area. Drift can occur in two ways; particle drift or vapor drift. When small spray droplets move long distances due to wind, it is called particle drift. Vapor drift is when a pesticide volatilizes or evaporates into the atmosphere and moves off site and damages non-target plants.

The most important thing to remember is that the applicator is responsible for pesticide drift, even if environmental conditions are the cause. And despite what you may think, it does not take much chemical to cause damage onto a nearby crop. For example, grapes can be damaged by 2,4-D at up to 100 times less than the labeled rate for controlling weeds!

To minimize particle drift, it is recommended to use air induction nozzles, and/or low pressure nozzles, in addition to spraying in low winds. It is suggested to use amines instead of esters in warm temperatures for this reason.

Herbicide residues may persist in the soil and affect susceptible crops for one or more years following application. Herbicide injury symptoms on sensitive plants can occur from exposure to low soil concentrations. Herbicide carryover can cause crop injury ranging from minimal to complete crop loss or plant kill. Injury problems have typically arisen where normal breakdown of herbicides has been inhibited by factors such as drought and pH.

In addition, one other consideration must be addressed with herbicide use. Chemical Trespass and Involuntary Exposure Chemical trespass means that chemicals have moved from the target area onto someone else's property. This creates the potential for involuntary exposure and concern about residues on a neighboring lawn, garden, or a child's or a pet's play area.

Misuse of herbicides can have very costly effects. In 2015, nearly half of 167-year-old Salt Lake City Cemetery (41 acres) was damaged when a city employee accidentally sprayed much of the landscape with the wrong kind of herbicide. The extensive repairs cost the city between $250,000 and $600,000.

Most importantly, health risks with herbicide application are real concerns. Several organizations have evaluated cancer risks associated with common herbicides like glyphosate in recent years. These assessments consider epidemiological, toxicology and genotoxicity studies. The potential carcinogenic properties of glyphosate are the subject of widespread scientific debate.

In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded that “Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans”. The IARC’s study aimed to identify hazards that can result in cancer outcomes but did not consider the risk of exposure to doses that are likely to occur in the environment. Put another way, the IARC asked “Can glyphosate cause cancer under any circumstance?”

Based on this criteria, other probable human carcinogens included red meat, late-night work shifts and indoor emissions from burning wood. In 2016, the EPA evaluated the carcinogenic potential of glyphosate and concluded that glyphosate was “not likely to be carcinogenic to humans at doses relevant to human health risk assessments.”

In contrast, the EPA assessment accounted for the likelihood of exposure in order to quantify carcinogenic risks. Based on review of epidemiological studies, the EPA found no evidence of association between glyphosate exposure and numerous cancer outcomes but indicated more data was needed to determine association between glyphosate exposure and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

And …

Researchers from the University of Washington evaluated existing studies into the chemical -- found in weed killers including Monsanto's popular Roundup -- and concluded that it significantly increases the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of the immune system. Glyphosate raises the cancer risk of those exposed to it by 41%, a new analysis says.

"All of the meta-analyses conducted to date, including our own, consistently report the same key finding: exposure to GBHs (glyphosate-based herbicides) are associated with an increased risk of NHL," the authors wrote in a study published in the journal Mutation Research.

Moreover, the chemical has triggered multiple lawsuits from people who believe that exposure to the herbicide caused their non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In 2017, CNN reported that more than 800 people were suing Monsanto; by the following year, that figure was in the thousands.

One high-profile case against Monsanto was that of Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014. In August 2018, a judge ordered Monsanto to pay Johnson $289 million in damages, an award subsequently reduced to approximately $78 million after Monsanto appealed.

The proper, safe maintenance of cemeteries is costly but necessary. It is evident that preserving these historic places is a challenge we must face. Why? No one can deny their importance to the people … all the people. A most sacred trust is achieved when a community strives to preserve these beautiful areas. They are living environments that lift our humanity in their natural grace and simplicity. 

Kurenn (Sisler) Hisamoto: “Signs of an Earth Democracy in Lucasville Ohio”

In 2008, Kurenn (Sisler) Hisamoto, former Lucasville resident and Valley High School graduate, penned a paper for the California Institute of Integral Studies titled “Signs of an Earth Democracy in Lucasville Ohio.” Her study is a fascinating view of the land in the Scioto River Valley and how it impacted the lives and the economy of its inhabitants from the beginnings of human settlement.

In her work, Hisamoto cites the work of Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva who suggests that many of today's religious and ethnic conflicts are rooted in the dominance of the market economy. Shiva has spent much of her life in the defense and celebration of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.

Shiva proposes that a market economy is the natural opposite of a sustenance economy, for a sustenance economy is “rooted in its ability to sustainably produce, distribute, and consume the the resources necessary to support human life.”

While sustenance economies are usually local efforts, Shiva proposes that they are at the heart of a new type of global system that would “sustainably connect the world.” She calls this system – which (1) promotes sustainable and equitable use of the earth's resources, (2) mandates pervasive respect for all beings, and (3) pledges a united effort to ensure peace and compassion across the globe – an Earth Democracy.

The Earth Democracy of the Shawnee

In her work, Hisamoto explains how the locale of present-day Lucasville, Ohio, was once the home of the Shawnee, a group who practiced a Native American Earth Democracy in the thriving heartland of the native nation. She explains ...

If change can occur here it could prove to be prodigiously cataclysmic, for what resides in the heart of America can influence the rest of America's body.

The notion that the Ohio country is the heartland of the country was shared by indigenous inhabitants in the area. Prior to the time the European American settlers named the Midwest the heartland, the Shawnees of southern Ohio viewed their land as the heart of the earth.

According to the Shawnee prophet, the Great Spirit told the Shawnee told the people that 'the earth had not yet a heart as all men and animals and that he would put them, the Shawnees, at the Shawnee River for the heart of the Earth.'

The area of the heartland as a case for supporting an Earth Democracy's existence in America is the small Ohio town of Lucasville. The Ohio country where the Shawnee once practiced a sustenance economy is a pivotal place. Many of the dominant cultural beliefs in America today had their beginnings there, and it was there that the two very different economies – the sustenance economy and the market economy – clashed. Whoever won the heart of America here, determined the future body of America. In the short term, it was the market culture that won, and the market culture removed the Shawnee from the Ohio Valley. However, the question that remains is whether the heartland of America can ever return to pumping a culture of sustenance or if it must forever beat to the rhythms of the now-dominant market culture anthem.”

What comprised this system so reliant on natural resources to provide for basic needs through hunting, gathering, and subsistence agriculture? The word “reciprocity” – the exchange between social equals – certainly applies.

The Iroquois and the Shawnee shared many parallels including a gift economy – a reciprocal giving away of belongings that generates an egalitarian community. This is strongly evidenced by the popular trails used for trade that facilitated the gifting network. The Shawnee may have also practiced Iroquoian environmental conservation techniques such as crop rotation and forest management.

Both Iroquois and Shawnee myths speak of a female Creator who leaves the sky in order to place the earth and its land and seas on the back of a turtle. Called “Grandmother” or “Sky Mother,” the Creator brought with her the Three Sisters – corn, beans, and squash. Originating in Mexico, these three crops were carried northward, up the river valleys over generations of time, far afield to the Mandan and Iroquois who, among others, used them as trade goods.

The three crops benefit from each other: corn provides external support to beans (a climbing plant), and beans in turn are nitrogen fixing from the atmosphere into the soil, while squash, which grows by spreading on the ground, suppresses weeds by blocking them from receiving sunlight.

Both Iroquois and Shawnee cultures practiced distinct gender roles – women planted the seeds, weeded, harvested the crops, and also gathered fruits, berries, and nuts. Men cleared the forests for planting, hunted, and fished. In this manner, the females were “Keepers of the Fields” and the males were “Keepers of the Forest.”

Farm plots in both cultures were on common yet divided land. Shawnee families had rights to fields, but the fields were grouped together and planted collectively. There is also evidence of a common plot for ceremonial purposes. Many important Shawnee ceremonies were tied to the agricultural cycle: the spring bread dance at planting time; the green corn dance when crops ripened; and the autumn bread dance to celebrate the harvest.

A well-documented migration pattern supports that the natives practiced a crop rotation route. The Shawnee were a very far-ranging tribe, so they interacted with many different nations. To the north, the Shawnees were allies of the Delaware. Further to the south, the most important neighbors of the Shawnee tribe were the Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Creek people.

As Kurenn Hisamoto proposes, it is important to understand the Earth Democracy of Native American Lucasville. This early cultural history provides important lessons for modern residents. Our stewardship of the land today requires us to be environmentally conscious, communally integrated, and practical in the face of a challenging market economy. We truly have a heritage of necessary reciprocity in the face of economic challenge.

The “ghosts of a sustenance economy” linger, not to haunt but instead to provide. Kurenn reminds us that there is great potential for Lucasville, a place in the heartland where traces of both a sustenance economy and an Earth Democracy still exist. Earth democracy recognizes that we share the earth and remain its caretakers. Perhaps in doing so, we can better understand how to create and empower ever-greater networks for change.

(Kurenn Sisler. “Signs of Earth Democracy in Lucasville, Ohio: Looking at the History of a Small Midwestern Appalachian Town to Determine the Future Potential of an Earth Democracy.” California Institute of Integral Studies. 2008.)

A note from Kuenn (Sisler) Hisamoto:

I have a B.A. in English with an emphasis in High School Education, and I have an M.A. in Women's Spirituality with an emphasis in Feminist Philosophy and Eco-feminism. I am pretty much a Jill of all trades with several interests. I am a certified Doula/Midwifery Assistant, an amateur herbalist and permaculturalist, a yoga instructor, an educator, and administrator.”

"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.

When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."

Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation