Wood County Historical Center

‘Poor farm’ exhibit examines historical safety net for ‘worthy poor’

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News Long before there were safety nets like nursing homes, food pantries, subsidized housing and hospitals, there were “poor farms” to care for those who were old, sick, lame, or blind. Despite being labeled “poor farms,” they were not places of despair, according to a new exhibit at the Wood County Historical Center. In Ohio, all 88 counties had poor farms, starting in the mid 1800s to 1936 when public charity transitioned into more modern day social services. Wood County’s poor farm was located on County Home Road, southeast of Bowling Green. The sprawling building remains there today as a historical center. To commemorate the 150th year of the opening of the county poor house, a new exhibit will soon open at the center – “For Comfort and Convenience: Public Charity in Ohio by Way of the Poor Farm.” By all accounts, Ohio’s poor farm system provided a gentler life for the old and sick than many states, according to Holly Hartlerode, curator at the historical center. Curator Holly Hartlerode with old photo of residents at former Wood County Poor Farm. “We are not the only state that had a poor farm system, but we were very successful, which we’re proud of,” she said. “It is my deepest goal as curator that people do not see places like this as negative,” Hartlerode said. When Wood County’s poor farm opened in 1869, there were no public safety nets in place. “There was no social welfare, so where did people go? How do we best care for people?” Hartlerode said, noting society’s struggle. The model for the poor farms caring for paupers came over with the colonists. Based on the British workhouse system, almshouses were erected in New England, and many state constitutions offered public charity relief. In Ohio, the almshouse system was modified to fit the needs of its citizens. After the Civil War, states began to look at the best ways to provide comfort to those in need, at the convenience of those charged with dispensation of public charities. Every county in Ohio had…


Living history – Kazoos, ‘marriage mill’ and speakeasy raids

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   During Prohibition, Lizzie Fuller led raids on local speakeasies. During the Great Depression, Wallace Kramp and his farmer friends started the local “penny auctions” to save neighboring farms after foreclosures. And Georgia Sargent Waugh led the Kitchen Kazoo Orchestra of a local homemakers group. Their stories and more will be part of the 15th annual Wood County Living History Day on Sunday, Aug. 26, at 2 p.m., in Oak Grove Cemetery in Bowling Green. Local residents will portray citizens interred in Wood County cemeteries or those who had an impact on Wood County’s leisure time of the 1920s and 1930s. The citizens selected this year were chosen to coincide with the “leisure time” exhibit at the Wood County Historical Center & Museum, “The Return to Normalcy: A Life of Leisure in Wood County.” The annual Living History Day draws a crowd to the cemetery because it gives a glimpse into everyday people who lived in Wood County, said Kelli Kling, director of the Wood County Historical Center. “I think it’s popular because the people being portrayed are real people,” Kling said. “It’s not necessarily the celebrities. It’s people just like us, who made an impact on Wood County.” This year’s portrayals include people with intriguing hobbies or occupations. For example, Georgia Waugh and her kazoo orchestra. “That’s such an unusual thing,” Kling said. “There will actually be a performance at the event.” Also portrayed will be Paul Fuller, who had a role in the Bowling Green “marriage mill.” “Bowling Green was an area where a lot of people passed through to get married,” Kling said. “There was a bit of a competition going on” to see who could marry the most couples. Then there’s Lizzie Fuller, who grew up in a strict Christian household in Grand Rapids, where travelers frequented on the canal boats. She was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which considered alcohol an evil. So she led raids on speakeasies, where alcohol was sold on the sly during Prohibition. “She felt it was her duty to protest against…


Kling grows into job as county historical center director

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Kelli Kling wasn’t a born history buff – but she has definitely grown into one. Love of history was an acquired taste for Kling, who is the new director of the Wood County Historical Center. “I did not appreciate it when I was younger,” she said of history. But her 15 years as the assistant to the director and as marketing and events coordinator at the museum have turned her into a history geek. “I have learned so much working here,” Kling said. “Every day I learn something new.” It may have been the museum – which was formerly the county’s poorhouse – that lured her love of history. “There is really something magical being so connected to the community and understanding the history, and how it is connected to today.” As director, Kling is able to look back to the days of historian Lyle Fletcher, who made it his mission to preserve the old county infirmary for future generations. “I feel like from the very beginning people in the county saw the value of this place,” she said. Next year, the Wood County Historical Center will revisit the original purpose of the site – long before it was turned into a museum. The center will focus on all the county poorhouses in Ohio, with a photo gallery shot by photographer Jeff Hall showing the current status of all the sites. Wood County’s preserved poorhouse is quite a rarity, Kling said. “Some of them are empty fields or modern buildings,” she said of other counties’ former sites. “I’m very excited about the poorfarm exhibit because it delves into the history of this place,” she said. Then in 2020, the historical center will help celebrate Wood County’s bicentennial. “We do have a lofty plan in place for our exhibits and programs,” Kling said. The historical center is well respected for its exhibits, including the current World War I focus. “I do believe the museum is already a leader in the history field,” she said. “We want to continue on that path so that…


Americans squeeze in leisure time between WWI & WWII

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Americans were ready for a break after World War I. Unaware of the impending Great Depression and then World War II, Americans were ready for leisure when their boys came home from “the war to end all wars.” They were ready to have some fun. During the decade after WWI, the first Miss America Pageant was held, the Little Orphan Annie comic strip came out, Kraft created a new version of Velveeta cheese, and the first loaf of pre-sliced bread was sold as “Sliced Kleen Maid Bread.” Life was good. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade started using giant balloons, 7-Up was invented, and George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was played at Carnegie Hall. This era of leisure is the focus of a new exhibit opening today at the Wood County Historical Center. The exhibit celebrates the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI with “The Return to Normalcy: A Life of Leisure in Wood County, 1920 to 1939.” The exhibit will run concurrently with the museum’s look at Wood County’s role in WWI. The WWI exhibit opened in 2017 to honor the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, and both exhibits will remain on display until Dec. 1. The new exhibit was inspired by Warren G. Harding’s 1920 presidential campaign platform “The Return to Normalcy.” Visitors are welcomed to the exhibit by a recording of Harding reading his famous speech that was credited for helping him win the presidency. Holly Hartlerode, museum curator, is hoping visitors can relate to the images and sounds of those years. Old radios play hits from that era, like “Minnie the Moocher” by Cab Callaway, “Shim, Sham Shimmy” by the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra,” and “Red Lips, Kiss My Blues Away.” Radios became the family entertainment center in that era, playing programs like the “Jack Benny Show,” the “Lone Ranger,” and “The Shadow” featuring Orson Welles. Those programs kept families glued to the radio listening for the next adventure. The radio programs playing at the museum exhibit include those type of shows, plus a…


Christmas truce was moment of peace in brutal WWI

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wars have always churned out scores of stories, some true, some not. One story that stuck from World War I is the Christmas truce of 1914 – when troops on both sides left their miserable trenches to spend one magical day celebrating the holiday with their enemies. Though many of the details have grown foggy over the decades, there is much truth to the truce saga, according to Michael McMaster, educational program coordinator for the Wood County Historical Center. McMaster recently presented a program on the Christmas truce of 1914 during one of the historical center’s “teas” at the museum which has dedicated its entire site this year and next to WWI and its impact on Wood County. “It’s not a question of if the Christmas truce occurred,” McMaster said. “It is a question of how the Christmas truce occurred.” One of the reasons the details may be so thin, is that the truce was unsanctioned by leadership on either side of the war. In fact, the commanders disapproved of the truce, believing it could soften their troops. But it occurred in spite of censure from the higher ranks. The men in the trenches took it upon themselves to cautiously reach out to their enemies for a one-day reprieve from fighting. “It was a spontaneous and unofficial truce,” McMaster said. In 2005, a Scottish soldier at age 109 recalled the truce that he witnessed as a soldier. “It was a short peace in a terrible war,” McMaster said the man remembered. WWI had started in July of 1914, and fighting on the Western Front had been particularly brutal between August and December. This was the first time that trench warfare was used so extensively. In August alone, an estimated 75,000 French soldiers had been killed. The Germans were poised to take Paris, but the French dug in. Before long, the German fatalities numbered 40,000, McMaster said. By December, there was a stalemate, with 12,000 miles of Allied trenches, and 13,000 miles of German trenches. “There was almost no movement of this line,”…


Have to deal with guts to get glory of jack-o-lanterns

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   As Breanna Serrato reached into the pumpkin and pulled out the guts, she got a huge grin on her face. “I love it, actually, getting messy. The squishiness of it,” the 17-year-old from Bowling Green said. Not everyone shared those feelings. At a nearby picnic table, Jessica Nekoranec, of Risingsun, grimaced as she scooped out the juicy innards. She was enjoying the carving, but the “sticking your hand in – not so much,” she said. Nearly 40 people picked out pumpkins Thursday evening for the annual jack-o-lantern making sponsored by the Wood County Park District. The pumpkins were carved at a shelter house on the Wood County Historical Center grounds, where they will be put on display for the annual Folklore and Funfest this weekend. Some came armed with their own carving equipment, accessories and definite ideas for their pumpkin art. Others just let the spirits take them. With spooky music playing in the background, the carvers got to work. “I thought at home what I’m going to do before I got down here,” said Pam Douglas, of Portage. Her plan was to turn the pumpkin into Mickey Mouse, with two Folger coffee can lids acting as the big mouse ears. “He may not end up looking like Mickey Mouse, but that’s my plan,” she said. Mary Grzybowski, of Bowling Green, won last year for carving a cat. She was hoping to repeat that winning design. “I had an idea, but it’s not turning out right,” she said. Grzybowski wore her gardening gloves for the task – more out of habit than due to the gooey guts. “I’m a gardener, nothing bothers me,” she said. Sheila Kratzer, of Bowling Green, had no grand plans for her pumpkin. “Just your basic jack-o-lantern,” she said. But she was hoping for good placement on the historic center grounds for the Folklore and Funfest. “You don’t want to be by the outhouse,” she said with a smile. Kratzer’s friend, Monica Bihn of Bowling Green, was struggling with her pumpkin design. So Kratzer offered a bit of…


Living History Day remembers service in World War I

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News World War I took its toll on Wood County. Seventy-three young men, some still teenagers, died while in service in the war. All were remembered Sunday at the Living History Day at Oak Grove Cemetery. They were clerks, teachers, and many farmers and farmhands. When the United States entered the war in 1917, they answered the call by local recruiters to enlist, and they headed to France. But the majority of those who died in uniform in the war never made it to France. Disease, especially pneumonia and influenza, were as much an enemy as Germany. Those attending the annual event heard from them, or their bereaved parents. Those not given full presentations had their lives and deaths encapsulated in a few sentences and read solemnly by a troupe of high school students, not much younger than the dead soldiers. That so many of the family names were familiar, only brought the tragedy of the war closer to home. The first to go over there was a woman, Margaret Lehmann. She joined a contingent of Red Cross nurses at the beginning of the war in Europe in 1914. She was portrayed by Cassie Greenlee, with a script by Hal Brown. First, Lehmann was stationed in France. There they saw how trench warfare, living in constant wet conditions, claimed the lower extremities. Infection set in quickly. “Our nurses do what we can to help them,” the nurse said. When her six months were over, and Lehmann could have returned home, she realized that “I knew somehow there was more I could do.” She was then moved to Serbia to a hospital with capacity for 554, but with about 900 patients. These were the wounded from both sides of the conflict – Germans as well as French, Serbians, Gypsies Russians and more. Disease swept through the hospital. ”It’s easy to lose heart and lose hope,” she said. Still “we had an impact. We made a difference.” When Lehmann returned to Bowling Green, she continued her work organizing and raising funds. Vernon Wymer, who was portrayed by…


Historical center hosts demonstrations and picnic

(Submitted by Wood County Historical Center & Museum) Enjoy free family fun and historic demonstration at the Wood County Historical Center & Museum on Saturday, June 24 – Sunday, June 25 for Demonstration Days Weekend. The Historical Center is located at 13660 County Home Road in Bowling Green and both the event and museum offer free admission all weekend. The Wood County Amateur Radio Club (WCARC) will hold their annual Field Day in the Boom Town area of the Historical Center grounds at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 24, and if weather permits, through the night until Sunday at 2 p.m. The Wood County Board of County Commissioners will recognize the work of the Wood County Amateur Radio Club with a proclamation on Saturday, June 24, at 3 p.m. Every June, more than 40,000 Amateur (Ham) Radio operators throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate radio science, as well as their importance to our communities. Field Day is a nationwide exercise sponsored by the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) as a means to practice emergency communication procedures using temporary antennas and emergency power. In the event of a disaster, hams are ready and able to set up communication facilities on short notice almost anywhere. Other demonstrations will include a pioneer picnic and 1860s-era outdoor games on Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. The public is welcome to pack a lunch to enjoy on the grounds alongside costumed interpreters. The museum will also be open from 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday with free admission as part of the Demonstration Days festivities. Details about other upcoming Demonstration Days and Museum Events is available online at woodcountyhistory.org and gobgohio.com, or by calling 419-352-0967.


Pipeline forced to pay after bulldozing historic home in eastern Ohio

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Rover Pipeline will be financing some historical projects here in Wood County as punishment for demolishing a historic structure along its route in another county in eastern Ohio. The historic Stoneman House built in 1843 near Leesville, Ohio — which was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places — was demolished by the Rover Pipeline, a company building a natural gas pipeline across Ohio. Since the Rover line will be crossing through southern Wood County, a portion of the penalty Rover was forced to pay will finance some historical projects here. On Thursday, Wood County Historical Center Director Dana Nemeth will present a couple ideas for the funding to the county commissioners. The money could be used to make repairs in the historic asylum on the grounds of the county historical center. The building has some water problems causing damage to the walls. The funding could also be used to provide additional and more effective signage around the museum grounds. The pipeline money may help free up historical society funding for other projects at the Wood County Historical Center, according to Nemeth. “It looks like we might be able to do more restoration on other buildings since we have this money,” Nemeth said. Those buildings may include the site’s powerhouse and the hog barn. Any proposals for the funding must be submitted to the state historic preservation office. “As long as they give their blessing, it should be good,” Nemeth said. Rover tore down the Stoneman House before notifying the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, even though the commission had identified the building as a concern. On Feb. 23, 2015, Rover reportedly filed its application for the project, which included a commitment to “a solution that results in no adverse effects” to the historic structure. But the house was torn down in May 2016. After learning that the house had been torn down, preservation office staff said Rover should provide financial assistance to the state preservation office for local preservation needs. The company agreed to pay $2.3 million to a…