Sunday, January 09, 2011

Knapsack 1-13

Notes From My Knapsack 1-13-11

Jeff Gill

Twelve Years Old in Granville – 1863

[2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War,
and Licking County will have a number of events honoring our many
local connections to those momentous days in our nation's history;
this story is based on one of those ties.]

1863 -- Ellen wondered where her father was today.

They got letters from him at odd intervals, and some of them referred
to previous letters that clearly they had never received.

Right now, she and her brothers and sisters were only certain that he
was in a state called Tennessee, which was very hard to spell.
Spelling was not Ellen's favorite subject at the old octagonal
schoolhouse, down Centerville Street just past Clouse's lane, but in
general she liked schooling, just not as much as she loved her father
and worried for him.

He was an officer, and she always envisioned him bravely leading his
men at the front of a charge, but even a twelve year old knew that
the front of a charge was no place for a father of six.

Mother Ruth always seemed the very picture of grace and calmness, but
she looked like a little girl herself when a letter arrived from
Father. The younger ones were still taught at home, but Ellen was
walking back from school. She felt very fortunate that her walk every
day was not even a full mile each way; there were children, and young
ones, who had to walk some four or almost five miles from the Welsh
settlement out in Sharon Valley, and they had the steepest part of
their journey one the way home.

From Tannery Hill overlooking Clear Run, it was level all the way to
the schoolhouse and back. To make the short jaunt into the village
meant you dipped into the valley, waded or skipped from rock to rock
across the crick, then scrabbled up the slope and around the shoulder
of Mount Parnassus to get to town.

In town were shops and stores where candy could be found and news of
the war in the South, but out here on Centerville Street, you could
get dried apple slices, fresh milk, toasted nuts, grilled fish, and
stories about the fearsome "alligator" on top of the hill to the
north. They went into the village for church on Sunday, but for the
most part, they had everything they needed right along their two
miles of heaven from Clear Run to the Newark turnoff, down alongside
the old feeder canal to the aqueduct.

It was good to go to school, but it was even better to head home
where you could freely ask Mother questions about what you had
learned: Had she ever been to Baltimore? Did a clipper ship really
travel faster than a horse and carriage? Were there actually
factories that extended for blocks, filled with metal machinery that
took in raw material and produced useful gear at the other end?
Boston, Massachusetts sounded like a city full of marvels, and
Faneuil Hall to boot, where Samuel Adams and John Hancock once spoke.

Perhaps one day she would see it for herself.

Perhaps one day she would teach children in a school, like Miss
Aylesworth did, sitting at her desk opposite the door, with the
remaining six sides lined with desks, the older scholars in those
privileged seats, the younger perched on the seat extended outward
from the front. These two concentric rings of students were the
entire world of education for Ellen, but she knew there was more to
learn beyond Centerville Street.

Then a voice she almost mistook for her younger sister, but was her
mother calling out at the house on ahead: "Ellen! There's a letter
come from your father!"

[Ellen Hayes went on to teach, and after five years saving her pay
attended Oberlin College, then ultimately taught astronomy and
mathematics at Wellesley College in Massachusetts; she ran for state
office and published her own newspaper, and before her death in 1930
wrote of her childhood in "Wild Turkeys and Tallow Candles," still
available in Granville.]

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