Monday, August 17, 2015

Crawford County Farmer Was Great-Grandson of President

Crawford County Farmer Was Great-Grandson of President                by Alan Borer

            Being the son or grandson of a president of the United States can be a double-edged sword.  In our time, we have seen the son of a president take the White House for his own.  But being a presidential relative is no guarantee of success in politics, business, or anything else.  It depends of course on how you define success.  A modest descendant of a president may have a very satisfying life.

            Our second President, John Adams (1735-1826), had an impressive resume:  Lawyer, diplomat, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Vice President, President, and inveterate correspondent.   He had five children.  Among his descendants are presidents, legislators, diplomats, and in one case, a farmer in northwest Ohio.  This is part of his story.

            Eli Adams (1803-1888) was born in Massachusetts near Boston, but grew up in Cayuga County, New York.  In 1814, his father Ephraim Adams relocated the family to Ohio, settling first on the Huron River near Sandusky, then in Seneca County.  When his father died in 1820, Eli worked for wages on local farms.  He revisited family in New York, the returned to Ohio and settled in Crawford County’s Texas Township, buying an 80 acre farm.  Texas Township is just east of the Seneca County line.

            Adams married a local girl, Mary Andrews, in 1827.  They built a log cabin, and, like many pioneers, had to scrounge for their living, hunting squirrels and getting milk from the cow each brought to the marriage.  One day, two Indians surprised Eli while he was hoeing his corn patch.  The Indians got very close before Eli saw them and, startled, he ran for cover, which “seriously amused” the Indians.

Eli and Mary had eight children.  Mrs. Adams died in 1875; by then the couple had retired to Bloomville in Seneca County.  Eli died in 1888, living his last years in the hamlet of Sulphur Springs with his son, S. E.  When his funeral procession wound its way back toward Bloomville and passed Bucyrus, the local newspapers covered the story.

A few lines of writing by Eli Adams survive in a letter he wrote regarding, of all things, sheep.  In 1851, Adams wrote to a neighbor on whose sheep he was checking:

I have seen your sheep this morning & salted them   your sheep is doing very well all but the lambs . . . I have had the second trip to see your Sheep to day     Mr Tucker some of your lambs look bad   they must have good care or they won’t live   …--  I have been looking Around to day for pasture and find non[e]

We are not sure of Eli Adams’s relationship with the owner of the sheep.  There was only one man named Tucker in the Census of 1840 in Crawford County, an Ephraim Hubbard Tucker.  He lived in the neighboring village of Sycamore, within shouting distance of Texas Township.  If Ephraim Tucker was owner of a flock of sheep, he may have asked Eli Adams to check on them, or possibly hired him to do so.

That brief letter, and a few obituaries announcing his relationship with John Adams, are about all the paper trail Eli Adams left behind.  He is buried in Bloomville’s Woodlawn Cemetery, far from the grave of his presidential ancestor.   John Adams helped found the nation.  Eli Adams knew how to look after sheep.  Eli Adams was 23 years old when John died in 1826.  I don’t know if they ever met.  Would they have had much to talk about?  Probably.  John Adams had “the heart of a farmer,” made his own compost, and retired to a farm called “Peacefield,” where he carefully directed the crops and plantings.  Irascible as he often was, John and Eli Adams had some things in common.

[Beside the letter, quotations also came from History of Crawford County and Ohio (Chicago, 1881, and Corliss Knapp Engle, “John Adams, Farmer and Gardener,” Arnoldia  61,  pp. 9-14.)

New Riegel Town Marshal Had a Flair for Drama

New Riegel Town Marshal Had a Flair for Drama                               by Alan Borer 

[The New Riegel Moose Hall as it appears today.  Not much has changed, at least on the outside.]

 Photo by Lloyd Borer, 2015.

      Almost every small town in Ohio had a “town marshal” a century ago.  They had many of the same duties and responsibilities as a chief of police does today.  In villages, the town marshal was the entire police force rolled into one person.  That person was not necessarily trained in law enforcement.  They were often political appointments, or were named marshal by their toughness, bravado, or willingness to accept an occasionally risky job.

William Henry "Harry" Kauffman (1886-1951) was the town marshal in New Riegel in Seneca County in the 1930s.  New Riegel, a farm hamlet of about 300, was never a hotbed of criminal activity.  Yet there was an occasional need for a marshal, and Kauffman fit the bill.  The village blacksmith for many years, Harry was an imposing physical specimen, with many years of shoeing farm horses as exercise.  Everyone in a small town knew what everyone else did all day, and that made for good stories.  Here are a few:

Much of what passed for entertainment at this time was held at the New Riegel Moose Hall.  The Moose lodge clubbers had a dance hall above and a saloon below.  In 1934, one of the offerings of the Moose was “Montana Meechee and his Cowboy Band.”   Wearing cowboy hats and real spurs, on a stage ornamented with saddles and lassos, the band played an early form of country and western.  Fiddles, guitars, piano, bass, and drums, their concert was well received, with an audience so large there was no room for dancing.

Marshal Kauffman, who occasionally played guitar, asked “Montana” if he could join the band for a few sets.  Meechee, who didn’t want the marshal digging into his past, agreed.  Harry rushed home, and returned with a white shirt and a black suit.  His playing was received with great applause.  Whether that was because of his playing or because he was a local boy is not recorded.

In 1935, Kauffman directed a play, a melodrama about a jilted sweetheart.  Nick Borer was the MC; Harry did not act in the play but was the producer/director.  The play as performed under Harry’s leadership was perhaps more towards the comical than dramatic.  Most memorable however was Harry playing two pianos at the same time.  Locals differ on whether it was two hands or hands and feet, but it was quite a show.

1936 brought “Chief Gray Eagle” and his medicine show to New Riegel.  Gray Eagle, a Cherokee, traveled with his wife and daughter, who tap-danced between sales pitches.  The Chief, dressed in a business suit, sold a line of products called Mo-Tee-Na, which included cough medicine, salve, tooth powder, and the like. 

One night, the chief was doing a good business when Ross, one of the section hands on the railroad, came to the Moose Hall.  Half-drunk, Ross started yelling at the Chief.  “You’re nothing but a fake.”  Gray Eagle politely asked him to calm down, but Ross continued to holler.  The Chief asked Marshal Harry to intervene.  Harry told Ross to go home, but he refused.  Harry lunged at Ross, who ducked.  Harry roared, “OK, you are going to jail.”  The fists flew between two of New Riegel’s strongest men.  Gray Eagle got the audience to turn around so he could continue his spiel, but the fight went on.  The Marshal eventually dragged Ross to New Riegel’s one cell jail.  Ross was released the next day.  No trial or judge; Ross’s pounding head the next morning was punishment enough.

Harry Kauffman worked in art iron later in life.  He could sometimes be seen in shabby work clothes singing, “I’m in the mood for love” at the top of his lungs as he walked down the street.  Kauffman knew that he was a character in a village full of watchful eyes.  Whether singing, acting, or fighting such crime as there was, Harry was part of the village scene, and enjoyed his role in life.

[I wish to thank Ray Schindler for sharing his memories with me.]