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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Ohio History Sketches

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 8, 2007

"Ohio History Sketches" is a book published in 1903 as part of Ohio's Centennial Celebration.


It says that it was prepared by F.B. Pearson and J.D. Harlor.  It was common to use initials instead of the first name for authors of a century ago.


The book was published in Columbus by the Press of Fred J. Heer, which gives a librarian a clue.


Heer was the publisher of state supported printings at the turn of the last century.


It turns out the book was published by the State Department of Education in cooperation with the Ohio Archaeological and Historical Society, for use in "school, home, and library."


The introduction of the book, written by then-Governor George K. Nash, states, "There is nothing better calculated to arouse the patriotism of our youths and incite them to the duties of good citizenship than the study of our national history."


Stated in 1903 phrasing; that is probably correct, but not completely realistic for today's youth.


The Table of Contents lists people important to Ohio history as of 1903.


The list contains people found in today's Ohio history books, such as Arthur St. Clair, Mad Anthony Wayne, Phillip Sheridan, and William McKinley.


The list also contains people of importance to 1903 that have faded from the forefront of Ohio studies in 2007.


An unknown name to me is Thomas Corwin.


He came to Ohio in 1798 with his father and later served in the Legislature, was elected to Congress, was Governor of Ohio, U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and Minister to Mexico before his death in 1865.


His biography states that he "had very meager school privileges which he made up for by careful reading."


"What education he got in his boyhood, he got largely by pluck."


That use of "pluck" relates to pick, pull, or grasp, as in reading a book.


Interesting stories are related about another Ohio Governor, William Bebb; as well as Congressman Joshua Reed Giddings.


Thomas Ewing was a resident of Athens County, migrating by the way of West Liberty in 1798.  Very few Ohioans of the 19th century were actually born in Ohio.


The story of his pioneer life is fascinating.  He owned a big kettle, a little kettle, a bake oven, frying pan, and a pot with a hole that had been mended with a button.


Wild meats were cooked together and cut into morsels and eaten with sharpened sticks.


Corn, wheat, and wild fruits and berries were staple to the pioneer diet.  Mr. Ewing also mentioned his love of books, often loaned and borrowed among neighbors.


I found the biography of William Henry Harrison to be the most interesting by the depth of information.


Today, President Harrison is always mentioned as serving the shortest term in office, only 30 days.


Actually, he served a rich life in pioneer Ohio in both the military and politics.


This book demonstrates that while history doesn't change, the emphasis and focus of history is modified over time, with some thing related to the "shelves in the back."