Monday, June 25, 2012

Mary Worthington Macomb House

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

On our trip to Ohio this spring, Joann and I stayed one night in Chillicothe, Ohio. I had several historic locations marked for us to investigate, and I thought these would make good first light photo opportunities. Little did I know that we would still be in town nearing lunch time!

One of these locations was the historic Mary Worthington Macomb house which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The house sits in an industrial area of town on the banks of Paint Creek.

Mary Tiffin Worthington was born in Virginia (present day West Virginia) in 1797. She was the first child of Thomas and Eleanor Worthington. The following year, her family moved to the Northwest Territory. (The Northwest Territory existed from July 13, 1787 until May 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio. It included all of the land west of Pennsylvania and northwest of the Ohio River.)

Being from an affluent family, Mary and her younger sister Sarah attended boarding schools in Kentucky and Maryland, and Mary attended one of Dolly Madison’s tea parties at the White House.

When Mary chose David Macomb for her husband, her father did not approve. Even though he was from a prominent family, he was considered lower in society.

The land where the house was built was originally owned by Nathaniel Massie. A later owner of the land began building the two story sandstone house in 1813, and the house was completed two years later. The year the house was finished, Mary’s father, the future Governor Thomas Worthington, bought the property.

By 1819, David’s poor management of their finances forced them into debt and their belongings were sold at public auction. For a time, Mary and her family lived in this house which was owned by her father.

In 1825, David moved the family to Tallahassee, Florida. In 1835, hearing of a promising life in Texas, David moved the family again. Mary became ill on the trip to Texas and never recovered. She died in Texas in 1836 at the age of 39. David also suffered from failing health and was despondent over Mary’s death. He committed suicide a year later. They were buried in the wild woods of Texas and their graves have never been found.

The property in Chillicothe, on which the house stood, was converted for commercial use. By 1845, there were multiple new buildings around the structure including a frame building and a slaughterhouse. Those buildings are now gone, but the house remains, standing silent as a testament to early Chillicothe settlement.

If only these were the sort of things we learned in history class. Memorizing dates didn’t mean as much to me as being in front of these old historic locations and then learning something about the lives of the people who lived there.

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

I Eats Me Spinach!

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

On the last day of our 10-day trip to Ohio a few weeks ago, we had our biggest day as far as the number of photos taken. As usual, we had been out before first light and we were pushing hard to capture as much as we could while making our way across Indiana.

The thing is, Ruth had planned so much stuff for us to see in Indiana that I had shot roughly 475 photos before noon and we were still only about 35 miles from the eastern edge of Indiana. So we decided we’d better start covering some serious ground in order to reach home that night.

One thing, though, that Ruth and I can’t resist is an old schoolhouse. So, in spite of the fact that we had decided that we needed to get moving, we stopped to photograph an old brick school that might not be there the next time we visit Indiana.

We pulled up in front of the school and it was looking pretty rundown. I said to Ruth, “This should only take a few minutes because I don’t think there are too many angles I can get here.” I took a couple of shots of the entire school, then the bell tower, and then the front of the school.

In spite of the poor condition of the two doors on the front of the school, I found the arches above them interesting, so I pulled in close for another shot. Then, as usual, I couldn’t resist at least looking inside. I often peer in through the doors of old buildings to see what’s inside and there’s usually nothing but deterioration.

In this case, however, I was surprised to find a wall full of graffiti. And even more surprising was that Popeye the Sailorman was staring back at me. I laughed, and then took quite a bit longer to capture Popeye since it was poor lighting and a bad angle. I’m sure Ruth was thinking, “Sure, only a few minutes…that’s what she always says!”

If you’ve ever watched the old Popeye cartoons, you know that, at the end, he sang, “I’m strong to the finish ‘cause I eats me spinach! I’m Popeye the Sailorman!” Toot! Toot!

Happy Shunpiking!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lenora Church, Southeastern Minnesota

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

Joann and I took our first trip to southeastern Minnesota in August of 1997. We wanted to visit several mills and wander around a little to see what else we could find. We picked up some travel literature and as Joann photographed along the backroads, I paged through the county brochures to see what historic sites were highlighted.

The Filmore County brochure mentioned the historic Lenora church, so we decided to make that one of our stops. We took a few photos that day and continued on our way.

During our next several trips to Minnesota, Joann asked if we would be near the church again, but it didn’t fit into our other plans. Finally, in the fall of 2011, we managed to make it a part of our trip, and this time we came away with many more photos and a little bit of history about the church.

When Minnesota was still a territory, Methodist circuit riders brought religion to the area. They would travel on horseback on their circuit and preach in barns, cabins, and fields. One of these camp meetings was in the future location of Lenora which sometimes had crowds of 2,000 or more. Families would come to the meetings bringing provisions and would stay for days or weeks.

Elder John l. Dyer envisioned the town of Lenora with a grand church. He donated 40 acres of his claim for the church. The plans were to have a large church with an academy in the basement. Work began on a stone building in 1856 and continued until the next spring with money he raised by selling lots in the town of Lenora. The financial Panic of 1857 was hard on the Great Lakes region and many people became discouraged by the pioneer life and the financial hardships. Many pulled up stakes and returned to their previous homes in the east.

Dyer also left, and the church was abandoned with half-finished stone walls which stood for the next eight years. By 1865, prosperity had returned to the area and a stonemason began work on the current Lenora church using the material from the original stone walls. This new, smaller church was completed in 1866 and was dedicated by the Reverend Daniel Cobb.

Lenora, like many towns, pinned their hopes for the future on the railroad coming through their town. When the railroad bypassed the town in the 1870’s, the community declined, and by the late 1920’s, the Lenora Church was closed as the townspeople moved to other local parishes.

The church sat empty and abandoned until the Lenora Cemetery Association and the Newburg United Methodist Church began caring for the old church and kept it from ruin.

Today the church has services for special occasions, and can be used for other meetings and functions. The church has no electricity and is heated by an old wood stove. Light is provided by oil chandeliers and lamps in wall sconces and on windowsills. There is also an old-fashioned reed pump organ and the original pews.

As we hunt up and photograph these old locations, we often wonder what life was like back then. Visiting this old church gave us a small glimpse into pioneer life in Minnesota.

Happy Shunpiking!

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ahead of the Storm

By Joann M. Ringelstetter

At the end of April, Ruth and I were on our way to Ohio to spend a week photographing on the backroads. We spent the first day photographing our way across Illinois. The following morning, after spending first light at Fowler Park near Terre Haute, Indiana, we began heading east toward Ohio.

Our first stop after the pioneer village at Fowler Park was a red round barn in Vigo County. As I began to photograph this barn, the sky began to turn a deep blue. After leaving the round barn, we pulled up to a stop sign and I glanced back to see the ever darkening sky. And then I noticed how dramatic the sky looked behind an old red barn. So I got out and captured a few images.

As we continued down the road, a few raindrops began to hit the windshield. But as we drove, it seemed as if we were getting ahead of the storm and the rain stopped.

We turned onto a gravel road and soon passed what appeared to be an abandoned house, although the grass had been mowed. Again, I looked back and thought that the dark sky behind the weathered old house would make a striking image.

I knew, however, by the rumbling of thunder that we were barely staying ahead of the storm. And we had plans to capture an abandoned brick school that we didn’t want to miss, so I wasn’t sure I should take the time to photograph the old house.

What made us decide to stop was what we saw next – a big tree with a tire swing hanging from it and a ladder for climbing up into the tree. This brought back some great childhood memories of tree swings and tree climbing, so we just had to stop.

Our next stop was the old brick school, which was overrun by vines and beginning to collapse. It had a wonderful bell tower that started at ground level and rose above the school roof.

By the time I got out to photograph this tired old school, I could tell that the storm was nearly upon us and the wind had begun to blow quite strongly. This meant that it would do me no good to try to use an umbrella. So I headed away from the car with just my camera and tripod in hand.

I worked quickly, especially when I saw lightning flashing in the distance. The entrance to the school was originally covered with a small porch-like structure, which had begun to collapse. There was also a concrete plaque on the front of the bell tower, but I couldn’t make out the name of the school.

I had hoped to capture a few more angles of this once lovely building, but a sudden downpour sent me running to the car. By the time I reached the car, I was a bit soaked, but happy that I had managed to capture a few images before the storm finally caught up with us. It continued to rain for the next hour or so, but the remainder of the day was a gift of even, overcast lighting, for which we were truly grateful.

Happy Shunpiking!