History

Wood County Courthouse has countless stories to tell

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   What do Jimmy Hoffa, Ronald Reagan and the KKK have in common? They all visited the Wood County Courthouse – for far different reasons, of course. The grand Wood County Courthouse, which is recognized by many as an architectural wonder with ornate stonework, has seen more than 120 years of trials, political rallies and people coming in to do everyday business – pay taxes, get marriage licenses, attend public meetings. Though he’s unlikely to give himself the title of courthouse historian, Wood County Auditor Mike Sibbersen is the official most people turn to when they want details about the grand structure. He can rattle off details long forgotten by others, but being an auditor and a stickler for details, he frequently checks his facts as he talks about the courthouse. The courthouse has been the site of some dubious distinctions. Many know the story of Carl Bach who killed his wife, Mary, in 1881 with a corn knife. He was reportedly angry about his unsuccessful farming efforts and being forced to sleep in the barn. Bach was the last man to be executed by hanging in Wood County, next to the previous courthouse on the same site. Tickets were sold to the public event, and a special execution edition of the newspaper was published. Remnants of the murder – Mary’s withered fingers, the corn knife used to chop them off, and the rope used to hang her husband – were on the display for years at the county historical museum. A lesser known fact is that the sheriff who presided over the…

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Museum’s WWI exhibit puts visitors in the trenches

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A century ago, American doughboys were being sent overseas to fight in World War I. Wood County farm boys, many who had never been outside the county, were shipped over to battle in the trenches. To commemorate the county’s involvement in WWI, the Wood County Historical Center has dedicated its entire museum space this year to the “War to End All Wars.” The exhibits look at the war overseas, the local boys who served their nation, and the families they left behind here in Wood County. Many of the items on display have been loaned to the museum by local families, whose ancestors served. Others have come from American Legion posts in the county. “We are very, very grateful,” said Holly Hartlerode, curator at the historical center. “We are here to share story.” Many of the legion posts throughout the nation are dwindling in memberships but are teeming with historical artifacts of past members. “This is important,” Hartlerode said. “We can become a depository for their memories.” The WWI exhibit is the first time that the entire museum has been devoted to one period in history. The self-guided tours start with an explanation of how WWI started. Because the war seems almost like ancient history to some younger visitors, the exhibit includes some interactive portions to keep the attention of guests. One of the first rooms on the tour offers a game with maps, portraits of world leaders and questions about who are allies and who are enemies. “The average person was affected by the actions of these fellows,” Hartlerode said pointing…


BG foundation gives grants to community groups

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Community organizations were given grants earlier this week to bring music, sports, reading and more to Bowling Green. The grants, from the Bowling Green Community Foundation, are intended to help the very young to the very old, and everyone in between. The annual grant program began after the 1993 BG Leadership class started the foundation in order to help local groups serve the community, explained Cal Bowers, president of the foundation. “What you’re doing speaks to the vibrancy of our community. You’re at the core of it,” said Bowling Green Mayor Dick Edwards. This year’s grants total $29,000 for 14 different projects. “That’s an impact to this community,” Bowers said. Following is a list of all the projects awarded grants. BG Area Community Bands – $2,250 for a community band festival. “This is our 10th year as a community band. We feel we have become a staple in the community,” said Ardy Gonyer. “We’re very grateful for the support of Bowling Green.” Thom Headley explained the grant will help the band put on a concert with a guest conductor on May 6. BG City Schools – $1,000 for One Book BG literacy program. Two third grade teachers, Jeni Niekamp and Jonelle Semancik explained the grant will help the schools purchase books for every pre-kindergarten through fifth grade student. The reading program unites families and the community around one common book. “It’s created to promote a love of learning,” Semancik said. BG Parks and Recreation Department – $5,000 for the natural obstacle course. Ivan Kovacevic, of the parks and rec department, said the…


Cornel West sings the praises of Dr. King at BGSU

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Martin Luther King Jr. is no Santa Claus. Cornel West, an activist and philosopher, told his audience at Bowling Green State University Thursday night,  to resist efforts “to defang him,” to make King some lovable figure, a benign old man with a bag of toys on his back. “Don’t Santa-Clausify, my brother,” West said. “In a celebrity-scented culture, so obsessed with feeling comfortable … we just want to hear something that makes us feel good. If that’s the case you got the wrong Negro with Martin Luther King Jr. He wanted you to feel empowered, challenged, so you can straighten your back up.” As beloved as the civil rights leader is today, he was not in his time, West said. Right before his death, 72 percent of Americans disapproved of King, and that included 55 percent of African-Americans. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover considered him “the most dangerous man in American.” King was a “love warrior,” West said. “Justice is what love looks like in public.” He fought against systematic racism, and also opposed the Vietnam War and militarism. He believed “poverty was a form of tyranny.” The indifference to humanity that led to dropping bombs in Vietnam was tied to the indifference to the poor in this country, whether they are poor blacks in the inner city, or Latinos in barrios or impoverished white in Appalachia. “There’s a connection between militarism on one hand and the indifference to the plight of our poor brothers and sisters on the other,” he said. That lesson has not been learned. Not when the U.S. has launched…


BG women fight to keep rights they already won once

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many of these women already did their marching. They marched against the Vietnam War, for the Equal Rights Amendment, for reproductive rights, and for gay rights. But this weekend, they will be returning to the streets in Washington, D.C., and cities across the nation to fight the same battles they thought they put behind them years ago. “I’m stunned that we’re fighting this fight again,” said Ginny Stewart, of Bowling Green, who will be traveling to Los Angeles to join in that city’s march with her 87-year-old mom. Though billed as “women’s marches,” the gatherings are open to anyone worried about the direction of the nation under Donald Trump, who will be sworn in as president the day before. “We’re in peril. Our women’s rights are in peril,” Stewart said. “I hope the message is sent that we’re not going to sit back and let this happen. We will be heard. We won’t sit back.” A dozen women from Bowling Green sat down Monday to share why they will be marching on Saturday. They come from different professions – a teacher, a business owner, a realtor, an art gallery director, a librarian. But they share far more than their gender. They are deeply troubled by the direction of their nation and they aren’t going to sit quietly as the progress they fought for is lost. Debbie Dalke said the march has given her a positive focus beyond inauguration day. “This has made it more bearable.” “I remember protesting the Vietnam War, so I’m a regular,” Dalke said. “There are too many groups…


Reviving King’s spirit of seeing ‘glorious opportunity’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Arto Woodley isn’t big on labels. Not deadbeat dads. Not thugs. Not rednecks. Not baby mamas. He is big on respect. As a child, Woodley remembered when his family was the second black household to move onto Nebraska Avenue in Toledo. A woman from the heavy Polish neighborhood approached his mom and asked what she wanted to be called. Negro? Colored? Black? His mom stood tall and replied, “You can call me Mrs. Woodley.” Decades later, Mrs. Woodley’s son is now the one to stand tall. On Friday afternoon, he stood at the podium as the keynote speaker for the 28th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Lutheran King Jr. Tribute in Bowling Green. Woodley also isn’t big on giving up. Where some see roadblocks, he sees glorious opportunities. Woodley, a scholar-in-residence for civic and social responsibility at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, has served in higher education, social services, government and ministry. He received his first degree at Bowling Green State University, where he traveled around the country with then BGSU President Paul Olscamp to recruit first generation college students. “This place made me,” Woodley said. “I came here a young man, but I left here a man and a professional.” Woodley chose the title of a book by King for his talk: “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?” “Aren’t we facing that very same thing?” he said to the crowd in the library atrium. “We look at these times and think we’ve never seen it before.” When people reflect back on King, they often remember his speeches and marches. It…


Old one-room school gets new home on the farm

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The historic one-room Zimmerman School taught a lesson in patience Wednesday. In two hours, the school had crawled almost one-third of a mile across a corn stubble field to its new home. The Wood County Park District decided to move the 1892 brick school from its home at the corner of Carter and Nelson roads to the site of the Carter Historic Farm one country block to the north. The move was done across farm field rather than down the road. “We don’t have to worry about wires or the traffic,” explained Neil Munger, director of the park district. But there was nothing quick about moving the 210-ton building. As the school inched its way across the field, a skid steer kept circling it to move steel plates from the back to the front of the building so the tires did not sink into the soil. The person controlling the process sat next to the school and moved a joystick to direct the route. The destination was a spot dug out in the field behind the Carter Farm, with the footer already there waiting. Once in place, Munger said the final tuck pointing and repair work will be completed. “It will be better than ever,” he said. The one-room school will be an easy trek from the farm, so kids visiting can walk to school, “just like Sally used to,” Munger said. The building was moved by Wolfe Building Movers, of Indiana. Officials from company took one look at the structure, and said “absolutely, we’ve moved bigger things than this,” Munger said….