Thursday, May 12, 2011

Notes From My Knapsack 5-19-11

Jeff Gill

Where It All Can Be Found


One of the early and best indications that my little series of "Twelve Years Old in Granville" had struck the mark I was aiming at has been people asking me where they can read more about the background and history of the stories I've been telling.

Yes, they are an outgrowth of the fact that my own son is twelve (but not for much longer!), and to some degree, they are a reflection of the hard fact that school tours and field trips are fading from the landscape, even as young people and families feel more and more distant and alienated from the landscape in which they live.

So, being a storyteller, I decided to address this by telling stories, ones that I hope children and parents can read and hear together, putting themselves in the shoes or boots or moccasins of the previous inhabitants of these valleys and hilltops.

It begins, without a doubt, in the pages of "Wild Turkeys and Tallow Candles," the wonderful 1920 memoir by Ellen Hayes, still available at the Granville Historical Society and at Reader's Garden. Anyone who has read through her recollection of growing up in the house still standing, just west of St. Edward's, can tell you what a wonderful piece of writing that is.

Even if you have no knowledge of or history with Granville, it is a delight to read about a childhood in the years mostly just before the Civil War. I've tried to write in the spirit and sense, if not exactly the style of Professor Hayes' first person masterpiece.

The Robbins Hunter Museum preserves a number of fragments about the builder of the Avery-Downer House, our 1842 Greek Revival marvel that stands in such bright and hopeful contrast to the hard life Alfred Avery knew back in Granville, Massachusetts and in the first days of the colony here. Ann Lowder wishes someone would write a longer piece about the fatherless boy who grew up to become a mercantile marvel, and yes, I get the hint!

To go back to the earliest residents of Raccoon Creek's banks, I am as always indebted to Brad Lepper, and particularly his award-winning "Ohio Archaeology," still in print, with wonderful artist's depictions of what life among the artifacts we have today would have looked like more fully back then.

There is much detail that can be gleaned from books hard to find on shelves, but easy to peruse online: Henry Bushnell's "The History of Granville, Licking County, Ohio" from 1889, and N.N. Hill's "History of Licking County, Ohio" of 1881, both of which owe an obvious debt to Henry Howe's "Historical Collections of Ohio," originally written in 1847 & revisited in 1888.

And again at the Granville Historical Society, they not only have a few copies still for sale of William Utter's "Granville – The Story of an Ohio Village" from 1956, but will be happy to sell you copies of their bicentennial achievement: "Granville, Ohio: A Study in Continuity and Change."

Isaac Smucker, Mary Hartwell Catherwood, Minnie Hite Moody, Charles Browne White and other writers long ago; Dee Ann Wymer, Bill Dancey, Tony Lisska, Dale Knobel, Flo Hoffman, and of course Dick Shiels have shared generously of their ongoing researches and knowledge of this "most eligble part" of Ohio.

There is much more one could learn about this valley nestled below Mount Parnassus, and the service of the Muse Calliope does not allow just sipping at her wells: "A little learning is a dang'rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a story at, or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment