Friday, October 26, 2012

THE HANGING TREE OF GEM CITY


            The name is forgotten, maybe because those who remember simply want to forget.
            But the memory lingers like a child’s nightmare, the repressed one deep in the seat of the subconscious, this one deep in the woods outside Toronto, taking one deep in time, back to Camp Crumb, where time seems to cease.
            The tale of the Hanging Tree has been passed on from generation to generation until now it looms high with other urban legends.  Is it truly legend, a myth worthy of the lunatic with the prosthetic hook, or just another haunted forest yarn to scare schoolboys on pitch dark, campfire nights?
            As the legend goes, a distraught man hanged himself near the cliffs at Camp Crumb sometime during the 1930s.  Camp Crumb is situated a quarter-mile up Sloane’s Run along the northeastern base of Wallace Hill.  During the latter decade of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th, it was a popular site for picnics and other outdoor excursions.  Hundreds of initials tattooed into the bald gray beech trees still attest to this day how popular Camp Crumb once was. 
            These ancient gray trees cast gentle shadows of upon a terrace tasseled with ferns rimming bench-sized sandstones velveted with moss and lichens, a site during the day Zen-like, an ambience tranquil enough to meditate.  But after the sun goes down…“That’s where a man hanged himself,” s said Dick Walker, who has lived all his 54 years in Toronto. 
"My mother and some old-timers told me how the man hanged himself with a chain at Camp Crum and 
that he remained missing for two weeks until his dog drug his hand home.  When the search party 
arrived at Camp Crum all they found was the man’s head swinging from a chain wrapped around a 
limb of a beach tree near a cliff.”
His late mother told Walker the hanged man’s name, but he can only remember the gruesome details 
and that the man worked for Mike Henry probably during the 1930s at the White Front Café.
“I heard too many people talk about the Hanging Tree to pass it off as some campfire tale,” Walker 
said.  “Besides, something is weird up there at night. Just makes your skin crawl.  Me and five other 
guys tried camping out there overnight when we were young, but it’s just too spooky.  Plenty of other 
guys have tried sleeping out up Camp Crum and nobody can claim he made it to daylight.”
“I remember one night like it was yesterday, said Pat Daughtery about an adventure he shared with 
Walker at Camp Crumb.  “There were six of us laughing up a storm, telling stories and suddenly we 
heard a chain clanging high in the beech trees.  We took off so fast we forgot to pick up our beer.”
“We called it the Hanging Tree,” said Joe Nemitt Sr. recalling boyhood excursions to the tragic site.  
We got scared quickly and didn’t stick around long.”
Some old-timers believe this lightning-charred beech tree is the notorious Hanging Tree of Camp Crum.    Others claim  the victim boosted himself upon "Scaffold Rock" before completing the deed.  
“I wouldn’t camp out there with 50 guys and two kegs and a bucket of holy water,” added Daughtery, 
“and I bet no one else would last there more than a couple of hours.”

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I, too, tried camping out at Camp Crumb.  I did not last two hours.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

THE MYSTERIOUS INDIAN ROCKS OF BROWNS ISLAND





                                    
                                                                   


            The age-old adage regarding art says that every picture tells a story, but regarding the Indian Rock art of the Upper Ohio Valley, every picture portrays a mystery.
            The native American representations are called petroglyphs, which are crude images of wildlife, humans and symbols scratched or pecked into the surface of large flat sandstones lining the shores of the Ohio River and other sites across the country.  Some of the more renowned local petroglyph sites include Smith’s Ferry, Babb’s Island, old Dam Number Eight and the head of Brown’s Island, although evidence suggests, the two-mile mid-water flood plain could have centered four different petroglyph sites.
            “Rock Art chronicles the long histories, the hunting ceremonies, and the religions of diverse native peoples, “wrote James D. Keyser and Michael Klasser in Plains Indian Rock Art.  “They reveal their relationships with the spirit world and record their interaction with traditional enemies and the earliest Europeans.”
            Native Americans considered boulders prominent features of the landscape, and the Ohio, itself a Native American name, meaning river with whitecaps, or just simply beautiful stream, was a major route of transportation and trade centuries before the first Europeans arrived.
            Archaeologists have often calculated the time periods when the Native Americans etched their work in rock, ancient peoples ranging from Hopewell, Adenas, woodland and modern Indians, but often have been left with only educated guesses of the true artists as in the case of the late James L. Swauger of Ohio State University, who studied the local petroglyph sites in 1969.
            “Babb’s Island is the only site investigated in Ohio which holds water bird figures,” Swauger wrote in Petroglyphs of Ohio.  “It’s affinities are with Brown’s Island in W.V. and Smith’s Ferry in Pa.  The generally more sophisticated artistry of the carvings on these sites, as well as their common possession of water bird figures suggest a ‘school’ of petroglyph artists working along this 30-mile stretch of river.”
Swauger also theorized that the local rock art could be attributed to Mongahela Man, also called proto-Shawnees from 1200 a.d. to 1750 a.d.
Work by Charles Whittlesley suggests otherwise.  Or perhaps he knew of a site other than the Brown’s Island one, recorded in the archaeological ledgers as site 46HK8.  Whittlesley noted in the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal that Newburgh founding father Michael Myers “saw from the south shore of the river, opposite the head of Brown’s Island, an Indian at work on the flat rocks.  He shot the Indian, and, getting to the island on a raft, he saw effigies of animals, among them that of a deer which the Indian had partly executed.”
Using the Deer Rock incident as conclusive evidence, Whittlesley went on to write.  “It is nearly demonstrated that they are not the work of the Mound Builders unless that race and the historical Indian are one.”
Indeed, on the last page of Dr. E. R. Giesly’s epic poem about Myers, Stalwart Auver, is a drawing of a boulder with 1797 on top, and below this date are several crude drawn images.  What they represent is indistinguishable because of the poor quality of print.
One petroglyph site overlooked by Swauger was thought by antiquarian James McBride to be situated above the old Half Moon Farm on the West Virginia side.  On July 4, 1838, McBride crossed the river from Cable’s Eddy, present day Pottery Addition.
“We found the rock lying on the Virginia side of the river.  It lies about three feet above low water mark, having a flat surface of about nine feet by seven inclining a little toward water.  It is of hard stone, and all over the surface are various figures cut and sunk into the hard rock.  Amongst these figures are rude representations of the human form, tracks of human feet representing the bare foot and print of toes as if made in soft mud, tracks of horses, turkeys and a rabbit.  Several figures of snakes, a turtle and other figures not understood.”
During that period existed another landmark bearing the title “half moon,” a wing dam opposite the head of present-day Hancock County and perhaps the petroglyph about which McBride wrote sat farther north than the farm on the big bend of the river.
“One (carving) represents a wild turkey and is about life size,” wrote Joseph B. Doyle in History of Jefferson County.  “Stretched across its neck, apparently in flight, is a wild goose with neck extended at full length.  The heart of the goose is indicated by a small circle, with a line extending to the head.”
Other figures carved into this rock included a fox, a bear and some outlines of feet.  Doyle wrote that the rock bearing these figures stood at the upper entrance of Holliday’s Cove, now downtown Weirton.
One of the prominent Indian carvings upon the Brown’s Island site that James L. Swauger had investigated were two sand hill cranes approximately four meters square.  Curiously, like one goose at the Half Moon site, the heart of one crane is represented by a small circle with three lines running to the neck.
Petroglyphs at Smith's Ferry, Pennsylvania.  These flat rocks abounded on shoreline before submerged by modern dams.
Sandhill cranes petroglyph of Brown's island.
Could this petroglyph site and the other three be one and the same or four separate sites?  Perhaps even archaeologists will never know because these sites and the others along this 30-mile stretch of history have probably been permanently submerged with the erection of the modern high-rise dams.

Monday, May 7, 2012

THE NATION'S FIRST WORLD WAR I MONUMENT

GUIESSEPPI MORETTI
THE COUNTRY'S FIRST WORLD WAR I MEMORIAL

                                   


                       


            Despite its Canadian name, Toronto, Ohio has always been a city of patriotism and fierce national pride as currently displayed by its array of American flags lining its streets.  But never was Toronto’s patriotism more fervid than when it unveiled the nation’s first monument dedicated to the American soldiers and sailors who had fought in World War I.
            It was November 11, 1919, Armistice Day, one year after hostilities of the great war had ended that as many as an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 people amassed in Toronto streets, which were decorated with patriotic colors from one end of the river-edged town to the other.  These spectators watched a parade of 3,000 marchers, led by 250 soldiers, sailors and marines, trailed by the Toronto band, various civic organizations, as well as 800 school children all carrying tiny American flags.
            After the paraded concluded, the soldiers marched to town square where the War Commission awarded the servicemen bronze medals and made a few speeches, and then the honored defenders and public dignitaries crossed Market Street to the First Presbyterian Church where they ate a chicken diner prepared under the direction of Mrs. Mary Hanna and assisted and sponsored by the Daughters of America.
            After diner, the servicemen stepped outside under mild mid-autumn weather across to town square as the shadow of the five-ton statue canted eastward under the two-o’clock sun.  A large white cross now loomed on a platform before the veiled monument and standing before it were eleven girls clad in white, clasping a red rose, each girl representing the ten fallen sons and one fallen daughter of the Toronto area.
            The crowd of 3,000, settled and quiet, watched with eager anticipation a Miss McClean draw the cord encasing the ten-foot high monument that many of them had personally contributed to financially.  As Miss McClean swept her arm toward the glistening bronze statue, the crowd erupted into resounding applause.
            Present at the unveiling was Guiesseppe Moretti, whom the Toronto War Board had commissioned to sculpt the monument, of which the artist stated, “It represents the glorious liberty with the American soldiers and sailors by her side.”
            Moretti, 62 years of age at the ceremonies, was an Italian émigré who had gained fame in America for his public monuments cast in bronze and marble, most notably his work “Vulcan” in Birmingham, Alabama, still the largest cast iron statue in the world.  Other important works of his included the Stephen Collins Foster memorial and the entrance to Highland Park in Pittsburgh, where he had resided much of his life.
            Moretti was known as an eclectic personality who always wore a green tie.  Undoubtedly he was wearing his trademark color as he stepped off the podium, standing before the towering five-ton memorial he had completed in just six months.
            Next United States Congressman Benjamin Frank Murphy took the platform.  Murphy, a Republican representing the district, won election for six successive terms.  He gave a brief speech of welcome to the crowd and servicemen and then introduced keynote speaker William D. Upshaw, recently elected by Georgia voters to Congress.
            A son of a Confederate soldier and a staunch Southern Baptist, Upshaw was a strong supporter of the temperance movement, so much, in fact, he was known as the “driest of drys.”  Prior to his election to Congress, Upshaw served as vice president for the Anti-Saloon League and was instrumental with making prohibition a Georgia law by 1907.
            Upshaw, suffering from a spinal injury that occurred at age 18, and now 52, leaned upon crutches as he addressed the crowd with his passionate deep Southern drawl.  “I congratulate Toronto, Ohio on being the first community in America to erect and dedicate a monument to the glory of the living and the memory of the dead who fought for the safety of America and for the living of the world.”
            After several minutes of continued praise for the town’s patriotism and for its being a role model as an American melting pot, Upshaw segued into sermonizing upon the other war that was threatening the individual’s freedom.  “…in order that America may be kept clean for them—for those who come back to us in buoyant manhood or stagger back to us maimed or blind, reaching out their hands for encouragement from the nation for which they offered their all.  We have learned that if it required a sober citizen to live well and teaching this vital lesson to the nations now new-born in their freedom from autocracy, but still shackled by the slavery of drink, is America’s new mission to the peoples who have been set free.”
            Ironically, Upshaw’s visit to the Gem City failed to influence the citizens’ attitude toward consumption of alcoholic beverages because a little more than 50 years later in 1970, a poll conducted by “Time Magazine” listed Toronto the city consuming the most alcohol per capita in the United States.
            In 1932, Upshaw ran as presidential candidate for the Prohibition Party against Franklin D. Roosevelt, who favored the repeal of prohibition, and was overwhelmingly defeated.
William D. Upshaw
Lamplight Assisted Living Coming to Toronto soon.
            In 2004, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument was restored by the Toronto Beautification Committee and accepted in the National Register of Historic Places.




KAUL FIELD REVISITED


                  Hallowed is the ground where the glinted steel spikes of summer and autumn once trod in the north end of Toronto.
This small piece of earth, Kaul Field, where the bowling alley currently sits parallel to the 1100 block of Fifth Street, served as home field for some of Toronto’s most revered sports heroes, including Pick Nalley, Gabby Kunzler, Clarke and Gordie Hinkle and Hook Comer.
         Soon after the turn of the Twentieth Century baseball became vogue in the Gem City, with a semi-pro team, the Toronto Athletic Club, dominating most local nines.  At Kaul Field, the TAC hosted other semi-pros from the area and sometimes others of higher caliber.
         “The Pittsburgh Pirates came barnstorming into town along with Honus Wagner,” John Petras said.  “I can’t remember who won, but yes they did play in Toronto.”
         Petras, now resides in Royal Oak, Michigan, is the son of John Petras Sr., who was a member of the TAC before World War I and played alongside Pick Nalley, Wenzel Straka and other founding fathers of baseball in the Gem City.
         A wooden fence enclosed Kaul Field then, but sometime around the 1920s the only wooden structure remaining was the grandstand framing the home plate area at the site approximately where the cul-de-sac is today on Fifth Street.
         It was this period that Toronto resident Tom McKelvey remembers well.  “Kaul Field was used for baseball in the summer and football in the fall,” McKelvey said.  “We had church leagues five nights a week, Monday through Friday.  Every church had a team.  The best team was always St. Francis, who we called back then the Mickeys”
         McKelvey also has fond memories of the semi-pro football club, the Toronto Tigers, when professional football was at its infancy and germinating in northeastern Ohio.
         “The Toronto Tigers played their games at home in the fall months in front of good crowds,” McKelvey said.  “The train pulled in across the field and the opposing players and fans stepped off; then walked to the field.”
         According to McKelvey, the Toronto Tigers and their opponents played with fierce competition, locals occasionally being replaced by ringers--college athletes playing for dough under aliases.
         “I heard two Ohio State players came in playing for 100 or 200 dollars.  Fats Henry came in from Washington and Jefferson.  Henry would later play for the Canton Bulldogs and become inducted in the Hall of Fame”
         Some of the Toronto standouts included the Ferris brothers and Hook Comer.  Comer had a short stint at fullback with the Canton Bulldogs alongside Henry and the great Jim Thorpe.
         Toronto High School also staged its football games at Kaul Field prior to 1930.  McKelvey’s father, Tom Sr., took young Tom to watch his first game, a match-up between Toronto and Warwood.
         “There were no lights back then,” McKelvey said.  “The games were held in the afternoon.  There were ropes stretched along the sidelines to keep us from coming onto the field.”
         Kaul Field was used for other endeavors beside sports during that era.  McKelvey said a traditional ox roast was held at the grounds around Thanksgiving Day.
         “I remember the kids from the north end ice skated in the winter there,” Vince Exterovich, a 1942 THS graduated said.  “There was a pond, actually a marshy area that froze over during the winter.  Mostly north end kids skated there.”
         Exterovich resided at Sixth Street back then, considering himself a south ender.  Today, the line separating the two ends of the Gem City runs east to west along Main Street, making the southern end larger in area than the older north.  All of Sixth Street today is located what is considered the north end.
         “The south end wasn’t developed in those days,” McKelvey said.  “It was mostly farms and Sloane’s.”
         During the Forties and the Fifties, with the emergence of Little League at newly built Memorial Park and the development of the south end with its new schools, Kaul Field was reduced to a sandlot until it ceased to exist at all with the construction of Toronto Lanes around 1960.
T-formation from the Toronto High School band on Kaul Field.
1913 Toronto Athletic Club
         “The field was very important,” McKelvey said.  “It was our arena.  Kaul Field was the center of outdoor sports for Toronto back then.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

1940s Aerial Photos of Toronto

The former Jeddo, Ohio and Follansbee Steel.  Note the village of Jeddo across from the north of the mill and the farmland before the construction of S. C. Dennis School.  At the lower left of photo are remnants of the dam once as the Dike.  It ran diagonally from the tip of Brown's Island to just downstream from the mouth of Jeddo Run.
South end view of Toronto Power Plant where a town once named Calumet sat.  At top of picture, barely discernible is Dam Number 9.
The former Stratton Clay works sat where the present day Lime operations of the W.H. Sammis Plant are.  Just left of center is Stratton Heights, minus the park.
Overhead few from north of old Toronto Power Plant and old Route Seven.
At lower left just showing is old St. Francis Convent across from new convent built around 1960.  Also, below old overhead bridge are houses standing along Railroad Street and a chemical plant on lot where present fire hall stands.  Prominent along lower Jefferson Street are vacant lots.  Note across the river is East Toronto, still with residencies.