Robert T. Rhode

Robert T. Rhode
Robert T. Rhode

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Distinctive Museums 1: The Daniel Gebhart Tavern and the Old Log Post Office

Judy Wuerstl, tour guide at the Daniel Gebhart Tavern Museum in Miamisburg, Ohio, has an uncanny knack of knowing when to talk about the fascinating artifacts on display and when to wait quietly while visitors discover items they want to know more about. Nestled beside the tranquil Miami River, the tavern is a large, fully restored log structure. It even has its original stairway, with deep depressions worn in the treads from many years of foot traffic.

The Daniel Gebhart Tavern in Miamisburg, Ohio

When my dear friend and co-author Eleanor Y. Stewart and I visited the tavern, Judy entertained our many questions and listened intently to our observations. Our visit took place on a perfect day with summer breezes wafting through the windows from the river. We could readily imagine the boatmen from the river and from the canal stopping at the tavern in the early 1800s.

Judy Werstl, Heritage Village Coordinator

Among the numerous displays is a coverlet with the year 1835 embroidered in the design. In that year, Mark Twain (his real name: Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was born in the now-inactive town of Florida, Missouri, thirty-nine miles from Hannibal, where his family moved when Sam was four years of age. In the same year, Obed Hussey tested the first successful reaper in Springfield Township of Hamilton County, Ohio.

Interior of Daniel Gebhart Tavern with Eleanor Y. Stewart

The tavern may predate 1811, the year when its license was approved in Dayton. A scant sixteen years earlier, the Treaty of Greenville was secured, ending Indian resistance in the Northwest Territory. Members of the Miami tribe continued to live on the west side of the Miami River for some time after the treaty was signed.

Upstairs at Daniel Gebhart Tavern

The tavern stands where it was built—that is to say that it has not been moved to the location, known today as Heritage Village. On the same grounds stands the Jacob Kercher Pioneer Home, which has been moved not far from where it originally stood. The home is another log structure, but it boasted lap siding and interior walls of plaster. The first floor replicates a nineteenth-century schoolroom, and the upper story features a children’s museum.

Model Log Cabin, Upstairs in Jacob Kercher Pioneer Home

The Miamisburg Historical Society deserves tremendous credit for rescuing and restoring such significant buildings, and the community shares the credit for donations of time, displays, and monetary gifts.

General Store and Old Log Post Office in Franklin, Ohio

Just to the south of Miamisburg in the town of Franklin stands another important log structure, the Old Log Post Office, or Log Cabin Post Office, which also served as a general store that was established in 1802 by John Noble Cumming Schenck. When Eleanor and I visited the post office, we were pleased to meet Harriet E. Foley, author of several books on the history of the area. Several years ago, she graciously helped me to research my article on the 1913 flood. Volunteer guide Mary Nenninger gave Eleanor and me the background on the two-story building, which we then toured.

The Great Miami River Side of the Old Log Post Office

Fresh air wafted through the open windows as we examined the structure, which gives visitors insights into life within log cabins long ago. We recommend that readers time their visits so that both the Daniel Gebhart Tavern and the Old Log Post Office can be toured on the same day.

Dear Friend and Co-Author Eleanor Y. Stewart Seated Near Historic Post Office

Saturday, December 2, 2017

My Father Said ... 6

During our conversation on the 27th of November in 1997, my father, Joe Rhode, explained the meaning of the old-time abbreviation LCL: “Less than Carload Lots,” which, as Dad said, “meant that railroadmen had to unload one or more items—but not an entire carload—from a railroad boxcar. They hated doing this. They quit around the early stages of World War II, and small businesses, individuals, and mail-order companies had to resort to trucks.” Harley McDonald, “the station agent for the CA&S, said he sometimes saw the railroad car, which he knew to be carrying a shipment or package destined for unloading at Pine Village, go past as many as six times. It would go back and forth twice, or three times, up to the sixth time when, finally, the package would be unloaded. McDonald knew which car it was on because he [knew] the number on the car. McDonald told people that, when ordering from Chicago, they should request routing from Chicago by the Illinois Central. McDonald said that the C&EI was so unreliable that you could not predict when your freight might arrive. The Illinois Central would get the freight to the CA&S much more reliably.”

My Sketch of Harness Terms Dictated by My Father

My father continued, “A CA&S boxcar could hold 2,000 bushels of wheat. Until Pine Village had a scales, the man filling out the bill of lading would write SWL&C, which meant Shipper’s Weight, Load, and Count—a disclaimer.” In a conversation on the 28th of June in 1998, my father said that coal was “loaded into a boxcar, then brought to Pine Village. A man would have to throw it out by hand to get to the floor. [Then he could] slide [a] scoop along the floor. A man could pitch out fifty-five to sixty tons of coal from one car in two days.”

Before my father’s memory, “Pine Village had a drayage business,” as Dad said to me during a conversation on Christmas in 1997. “Men could haul goods to the stores from the railroad or would haul heavy pieces of furniture. This business ceased sometime around World War I.”

Charlie Russell, the husband of my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Alma Russell, “apprenticed as a telegraph operator at the railroad station in Pine Village.” McDonald “told Charlie … [to] get a job with a major railroad. [The] Nickel Plate hired him to work on a part of the line that had been the Lake Erie & Western Railroad. He first went to Gibson City, Illinois, or, more accurately, the Gibson Transfer, a large railroad yard near Gibson City. [His] title would have been ‘agent.’ Then he came to Templeton, where he replaced the retiring Nickel Plate agent. Charlie remained there until he retired.”

Photo Courtesy of the School of Mechanical Engineering and Purdue University

Purdue University, located in West Lafayette about twenty miles east of Pine Village, planned to build a railroad museum. Dad said that “the incomplete museum contained many items, including cabbage-stack locomotives of various descriptions, passenger cars—some with leather tops—and other locomotives showing the progress of technology.” Dad recalled “a weathered frame building on the old campus” that “held all of that rolling stock. Someone donated a large locomotive to Purdue that was not part of the museum. I remember seeing it at about the time I was a junior in high school. It was for instructional purposes. It [had] drive wheels mounted on rollers and running at thirty or forty miles per hour.” Dad must have seen the roller-mounted locomotive about three years before Purdue closed its locomotive testing facility.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

My Father Said ... 5

During our conversation on the 27th of December in 1996, my father, Joe Rhode, said that a few farmers in the vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana, sold their wheat straw to the “Straw Board,” common name for the Lafayette Box Board and Paper Company at the foot of Chestnut Street, “which used decent yellow straw to make boxes.” Dad added that the straw could even be “damp—but not rotten and black.” As nearly as I can tell through research, “strawboard” (also “straw-board” or “straw board”) in my father’s generation was used principally for a corrugated liner in cartons and boxes.*

Similar to the Lafayette Box Board and Paper Co. in Indiana—
The F. R. Lewis Straw Board Factory in Flint, Michigan

According to my father, trucks from the Indiana Wagon Company, on the southeast corner of South Street and Earl Avenue in Lafayette (about two and a half miles east from the Lafayette Box Board and Paper Company), took bales of straw from Pine Village to Lafayette in late fall and early winter. “The trucks … were gas-powered on hard rubber tires and were known as ‘Indiana’ trucks.” My guess is that the Indiana Truck Corporation of Marion, Indiana, built the trucks, although my father implied that the Indiana Wagon Company had manufactured them or had assembled them. I mention my uncertainty because my father was seldom incorrect, and I clearly recall his implication that the Indiana Wagon Company had built the straw-hauling trucks. I have yet to find evidence that Lafayette’s Indiana Wagon Company manufactured trucks.

Another conversation took place on the 18th of October in 1997. My father said, “One cold winter day in 1928 or ’29, Uncle Charley and I went to a farm near Ladoga to look at a rusty tractor, a 12–20 Case crossmotor. Uncle Charley bought it. He had been told about it by [his wife’s] brother. Uncle Charley’s mechanical genius was challenged by this near-lemon. In the early fall of 1930, Uncle Charley got a Waterloo Boy from the Evans farm, then owned by Thomas Donahue, just south of Oxford. The Evans farm is that beautiful dairy farm.” My father continued, “One son [in the Donahue family] became an MD; the second, a dentist—both in Lafayette—and the third farmed the land of the Donahues. I eventually bought a [Minneapolis–Moline] with a manure scoop from the son who was a farmer. Our family, thus, had two tractors a generation apart [that] had been owned by Donahues.”

My father remembered, “The Case was used only for spring plowing and disking. Corn picking was not yet done by a tractor, so the Case remained idle much of the year. As soon as Charley got the Waterloo Boy,” which was better than the Case, “he hauled chicken houses with it. Charley died shortly after buying this two-cylinder Waterloo Boy. The Case and the Waterloo Boy were the first two tractors in my family.”

* As I could find no photograph of the strawboard company in Lafayette, I substituted an image of a similar business in Flint, Michigan. I am indebted to this blog:

Saturday, November 18, 2017

My Father Said ... 4

My father, Joe Rhode, loved to talk about the days when threshing wheat was powered by steam engines. When Dad was growing up and when he became old enough to run an engine, his uncle Charley Cobb, who ran several engines in the vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana, taught Dad how to run steam. I ran my Case steam engine at shows for nineteen years, and I can attest to the fact that learning to run a steam engine is a steep learning curve! On the day after Christmas in 1996, my father recalled the days before his uncle had begun my dad's training in the operation of a steam engine: “My mother rarely would get up early enough to let me go with Uncle Charley [her brother] to the threshing. [Charley left to fire the engine] before dawn, you see. I had to wait until my grandfather could take me to see the Reeves engine later in the day.”

One of Fred Albright's Rumely Rigs in Pine Village, Indiana

My father continued, “The Max family’s Advance engine was scrapped as junk.” Incidentally, I have made sour milk drop cookies from Elsie Dowden’s recipe, which was handed down to me. The recipe came from Elsie’s mother. Elsie most likely baked the same cookies for the threshing crew surrounding the Advance engine on Jay Max’s ring.

The Other of Fred Albright's Rumely Engines

Dad said, “One of the [two] Rumely engines burned in a shed fire at ‘Oklahoma.’” An area of houses near the grain elevator was nicknamed “Oklahoma.” The two Rumely threshing rigs were owned by Frederick “Fred” J. Albright (1876–1965). Fred’s brother, Joseph R. (born 1861 or 63), ran one of the engines. My father remembered Fred as the owner of a grocery store in town. Although I have no proof, I think that Fred and Joe are standing beside the Rumely engine in a photograph that Eric Brutus gave me. Early one summer, a fire destroyed the shed where the engines and threshing machines were housed. Residents of Pine Village speculated that children had set the blaze. My father said that at least one of the engines and probably both threshers were lost.

Maybe Fred and Joe Albright Standing Near Rumely Engine

Dad also told of a Keck–Gonnerman steam engine that was purchased new in 1928 by the Fleming family south of West Lebanon. “It threshed for four years then sat unused for eight or nine years,” Dad said. “Then it was cut up for scrap during World War II.”

Fred Albright Threshing Near Pine Village, Indiana

On the 28th of November in 1996, my father told of a Huber steam engine north of town: “[The] water tank on the Huber was a wood-stave tank with a thin metal skin, which had rusted away on part of the bottom edge of the tank. I saw the tank smoking when the engine was threshing on a hot summer day of barn threshing at a tall barn in a low area where the heat was trapped. It was on [my grandfather] Tom Cobb’s farm. The engineer was Jake Kiger, an easy-going guy, not excitable. He was slow moving, but every movement counted. He had a white mustache and would whistle through it. I was five or six years old. The water wagon would pull up, and a hose from the injector would be placed in the water wagon. Water was used directly from the water wagon until the water hauler decided it was time to go get more. He would take a hose from the nozzle at the bottom of the water tank in back and insert the hose in a small livestock tank beside the engine. He would fill that livestock tank then take off for more water. The hose from the injector (with a brass screen) would be placed in the small livestock tank. Joe Williams also used a small livestock tank with his Reeves outfit. No one got excited about the Huber water tank when it began to smoke—except me [because I was] afraid of fire. Probably, Jake … started some kind of ejector to fill that tank so it would not get too hot.”

Joe Rhode Beside Joe Williams' Reeves Engine Being Run by Charley Cobb

While we were seated at the kitchen table, my father gave me instructions to sketch maps of threshing rings and sawmill engines around our hometown.

Joe Rhode Near Reeves Engine Threshing on Joe Williams' Farm

On my father’s birthday in 1996, Dad discussed the so-called “bucket run,” which began at the Builta farm, “went west to Edgar Akers, out the angling road, up Lovers’ Lane [for the] first two houses on that road, back west to the next road to Perry Short’s farm, back down west to the place just west of my grandfather’s, then back to [State Route] 26 to where Jim Dill lived (Burgoyne Davis owned the farm), on to where Sherman Carter lived, to Andrew and Martha Rhode, to the next house—Doc Fenton’s (rented by Earl Simmons)—on west to Dave Hale’s on the north side of the road, to ‘Toss’ (a pronounced abbreviation ‘Thos.’ for Thomas) Young, then back to the creek road to do little jobs for small farms owned by Burl McDonald, Ed Shoults, Fred Dowling, Ed Bowman, Orval Maxson’s place, Bill Cox, then  up the road to the north to Bill Milligan. Men carried dinner in a dinner bucket instead of the women having to cook a big threshing dinner. They used basket racks on the bundle wagons. This run hired Jack Strickler to thresh for many years but hired others, [such as] Jake St. John. Joe Williams did it two years in succession while someone filled in where he [usually] threshed.”

My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 1

My father explained, “Bucket-run workers had two feed boxes on the two back corners of their basket wagons and did not take their horses inside people’s barns along the run but fed the horses from the wagons. The sills extended back farther than normal to hold the feed boxes.” As my father fondly recalled the lavish threshing dinners that other rings offered, he said, “It must’ve been the least pleasurable to work on the bucket run of any run with which I was acquainted.”

My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 2
My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 3
My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 4
My Chart of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 5
My Diagram of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 1
My Diagram of Threshing in the Vicinity of Pine Village, Indiana 2