Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Death of Quentin Roosevelt


This lonely grave on a broad plain hard by the little village of Chamery, near the city of Reims, in France, will ever be sacred to American young manhood because it contains the remains of one who embodied in his own person to an eminent degree those qualities of heart and soul which led so many thousands of them to cross the seas and to face for their country's sake death and mutilation in a foreign land. 

Quentin Roosevelt, the youngest of Theodore Roosevelt's children, a lieutenant in the 95th American Aero Squadron, First Pursuit Group, fell in single combat with a more experienced adversary, at Chamery, near Reims, on July 14th, 1917. Although new to the flying game he had but three days before won the Croix de Guerre by a daring exploit typical of the man. While scouting over the German lines he became separated from his companies and, on dropping through a patch of cloud, found himself in the rear of six German machines. Prudence dictated an about face and retreat, but it was never Roosevelt's way, to retreat, and he resolved to attack. When within shooting distance he opened on them with his machine gun and had the satisfaction of seeing one of the enemy lurch to a side and fall. Instantly veering in a wide arc he flew for the Allied lines, pursued by the five remaining German planes. Bullets flew overhead and on every side, but fortune was with him that day and he escaped without a wound. 

One of our own doughboys, in the cap and ulster we so well remember, stands by Lieutenant Roosevelt's grave in silent tribute to the dead, as many Americans will stand in the years to come. 

-Inscription on the back of Keystone View Company's stereopticon card depicting the grave of Quentin Roosevelt (Roosevelt's death date is actually July 14th, 1918)

Quentin Roosevelt's death at the tender age of 20 provides us with a unique glimpse into how Americans viewed not only the Roosevelt family, but World War I as well. As I read this small piece, the first thing I noticed was that the writer lists Quentin as Theodore Roosevelt's youngest child. It was certainly common knowledge that Roosevelt had had a daughter, Alice, with his first wife, Alice Lee, who died shortly after the birth of her daughter in 1884. Perhaps the author meant that Quentin was the youngest of Theodore and Edith Carow Roosevelt's children. Or, could the author have been omitting Alice from his statement because of her keen ability to attract scandal? It is impossible to know...

The writer's statement also glorifies the service of Quentin and other doughboys without giving in to the shocking brutality and seemingly needless loss of life that came with World War I. We aren't given an account of Quentin's death, but his heroism in other instances is documented in detail. Making sense of his death by emphasizing the heroism he had shown, great service he had done for his country, and example he set for other young men to follow was integral for justifying the great loss of life. 

The death of Quentin Roosevelt came about after he was shot down by German Fokker Chasse airplanes while he was out on a patrol in his Nieuport 28. The plane in this photo is quite similar to the one Roosevelt flew: 

Roosevelt was buried where he fell by German soldiers, which is the gravesite that is depicted in the photo (One of his original burial crosses is also displayed at The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, OH). In the 1950s, his body was exhumed so it could be buried next to his brother, Ted, who perished during World War II. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Zoar's Society of Separatists: Equal in Life and Death

The village of Zoar lies in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, about half-way between Cleveland and Pittsburgh, on a branch of the railroad which connects these two points. It is situated on the bank of the Tuscarawas Creek, which affords at this point valuable water-power. The place is irregularly built, and contains fewer houses than a village of the same number of inhabitants usually has; but the dwellings are mostly quite large, and each accommodates several families. There is a commodious brick church, a large and well-fitted brick schoolhouse, an extensive country tavern or hotel, and a multitude of sheds and barns. There are, besides, several mills and factories; and in the middle of the village a somewhat elaborate, large, square house, which was the residence of the founder and head of the society until his death, and is now used in part as a storehouse.

Zoar is the home of a communistic society who call themselves "Separatists," and who founded the village in 1817, and have here become quite wealthy. They originated in W├╝rtemberg, and, like the Harmony Society, the Inspirationists, and others, were dissenters from the Established Church. The Separatists of southern Germany were equivalent to what in New England are called "Come Outers"—protestants against the prevailing religious faith, or, as they would say, lack of faith.

These German "Come Outers" were for the most part mystics, who had read the writings of Jacob Boehm, Gerhard Terstegen, and Jung Stilling; they cherished different religious or doctrinal beliefs, were stigmatized as fanatics, but were usually, I judge, simple-hearted, pious people, desirous to lead a more spiritual life than they found in the churches.

Taken from The Communistic Societies of the United States by Charles Nordhoff
(Read more here)


The community of equals which existed in Zoar from 1817 to 1898 came to be because of a rebellion against the Lutheran church in Germany. The Separatists who came to Zoar found truth in the works of a man named Jakob Bohme. Bohme was a mystic, meaning that he believed that each human being had the capability to communicate with God on a personal level, outside of and independent of the church and its minsters. A quote from Bohme's work The Way to Christ summarizes his beliefs perfectly:

For he that will say, I have a Will, and would willingly do Good, but the earthly Flesh which I carry about me, keepeth me back, so that I cannot; yet I shall be saved by Grace, for the Merits of Christ. I comfort myself with his Merit and Sufferings; who will receive me of mere Grace, without any Merits of my own, and forgive me my Sins. Such a one, I say, is like a Man that knoweth what Food is good for his Health, yet will not eat of it, but eateth Poison instead thereof, from whence Sickness and Death, will certainly follow. 

What this passage points out is that a belief in Christ is not enough for a Christian. Humans have the power to realize they have fallen from God's grace, and they can show their struggle against evil through the deeds they do and choices they make. This belief was very different from most German Protestants who believed in the concept of sola fide (Latin for "by faith alone). This concept tells its followers that they have fallen from Christ and nothing they do can save them. Their only salvation is through belief. One could be a model citizen under this belief, but unless they had complete faith in Christ, they were damned. The German Separatists saw value in their deeds and counted them as part of their salvation. Their rejection of sola fide led the Separatists to:

  1. Reject baptism and confirmation (Being a mystic, one had a personal relationship with God that no church or clergy could give to you; it had to be undertaken personally, through personal prayer and your own works and deeds) 
  2. Practice pacifism (Killing or fighting another human being was a deed that showed you were against God's Word ; to reject killing was to show that you were personally fighting against the evil and sin brought into the world by Eve) 
  3. Celebrate no religious holiday, other then the Sabbath (Simplicity was a hallmark of the Separatist's beliefs, and removing holidays that weren't directly laid out in the Bible from their repertoire allowed for more focus on God) 

These beliefs led to years of hardship, physical abuse, and uncertainty for the Separatists. When they finally came to settle along the Tuscarawas River in 1817, they became a communal settlement purely through circumstance. As individuals, the roughly 200 settlers could not afford to make a living. They decided to make a community of goods in order to survive. This decision and their choosing of Joseph Bimeler, a charismatic orator and teacher, as their leader, probably saved the community. Every person in the community was an equal, and everyone worked to serve everyone else, and was taken care of by the community in turn. A bakery made loaves of fresh bread for every man, woman, and child. Sugar, cloth, and other goods were passed out according to need. Crops were grown and distributed evenly. The Separatists truly believed in the importance of their daily work in the eyes of God, and made sure that they lived as equals and cared for each other with a spirit of kindness, charity, and forgiveness. This equality they grew to rely on and take solace in extended beyond this life. 

When death came for one of the Separatists, the earliest settlers wanted to be as equal in death as they were in life. Zoar Cemetery, which is a short drive from the present day village, has an expanse of seemingly unused burial ground. No headstones or decor of any kind mark this space as being the resting place for any person, but the first to be buried in the cemetery decided to forego any kind of marker. These simple people rest peacefully, all equally decorated by the autumn leaves that have begun to fall. 

Zoar Cemetery: Here, in what has been described as "God's Acre", is the final resting place of the members of the Society of Separatists of Zoar (1817-1898) as well as today's descendants and residents. The early Zoarites' simple religion forbade headstones, believing all were equal in death. These early burials, including fifty who perished in an 1834 cholera epidemic, are to your left. The headstone of Zoar leader Joseph Bimeler was erected later

In the 1860s, the Separatists began using wooden markers, now deteriorated, and eventually limestone and marble memorials. The early graves were laid in chronological order, not in family plots. Three additions in 1900, 1925, and 1996 have enlarged the cemetery. The road, which formerly followed the shore of nearby Zoar Lake, was changed to its present location in 1925. 

However, the outside world made its way into the community. When the Civil War broke out, young men from the community wanted to fight. They had never known the Germany where their parents and grandparents had seen bitter religious persecution, and could not understand why their parents were heartbroken by their willingness to fight for their country. As more and more of the outside world crept in, the worldly beliefs that were taking a stronger hold in the community began to be reflected in the use of burial markers. The earliest markers were made of wood, and impermanent, but even this small change was evidence of a changing of beliefs in the community (Joseph Bimeler had died in 1853, a decade before the wooden markers went into use. So, it can be said that a lot of the religious zeal of the community died with him).

The grave of Joseph Bimeler. The headstone was erected long after his death. Would he have appreciated having such a huge stone marking his burial place?

An example of one of the several remaining wooden headstone, with no etchings or markings of any kind still visible

Another wooden gravestone

As the 19th century wore on, wooden headstones turn into simple stone markers adorned with both 5 and 8-pointed stars. In Christianity, the 5-pointed star is symbolic of the nativity and the star that marked Christ's birth. The 8-pointed star is symbolic of regeneration and baptism, which could be viewed as a departure from the Separatists initial rejection of baptism.

A 5 and 8-pointed star on a headstone

Another 8-pointed star

Another 5-pointed star

By 1898, the communal nature of the village had fallen apart, and everyone voted to have property and wealth dispersed into private ownership. Today, many of the buildings serve as part of the Zoar Village Historic Memorial and Museum. There are also shops and private residences that house around 75 people in the village. I visited on a rainy fall evening, and it was still beautiful and full of the energy of those who settled it. Zoar has actually been threatened by a failing levee, and if the levee fails, the village will flood. The history that would be compromised and destroyed with the neglect of the levee is frightening, and I encourage you to read this and inform yourself on the subject: 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Last Journey of Abraham Lincoln, and The 2015 Lincoln Funeral Train

The death of Abraham Lincoln came at twenty-two minutes past seven in the morning on April 15th, 1865. He had been shot by John Wilkes Booth on the evening of April 14th as he enjoyed the play My American Cousin with his wife, Mary, and companions Clara Harris and Henry Rathbone. When the president drew his last breath in a simple lodging house near Ford's Theatre, plans to honor the dead president went into action. America had just emerged from a horrendous civil war, and the death of the man who had reunited the country was almost unimaginable.

What did the American people feel when they learned that they had lost their president? We had never lost a president to assassination before, and Lincoln had become so much more than an elected official. Lincoln was the final casualty of a bloody civil war, a war that brought about "... a new birth of freedom" (In the words of Lincoln himself), and upheld the belief that all men are created equal. The ideas Lincoln stood for took root in the hearts of many Americans. The peace that Lincoln had worked to create was now uncertain, especially for African Americans, who had looked to Lincoln to protect and progress their cause. No one knew what would happen now that the Great Emancipator was gone. Before anything else could be done or thought of, Americans wanted to pay their respects to the fallen president. 

After a period of visitation and state mourning in Washington, Lincoln's body departed the capital on April 21st. He was to be carried by train on a nearly 2 week long journey that would take him home to Springfield, Illinois. The route the train was to take was very similar to the trip he took upon his inauguration:

(Lincoln's inaugural route is in black, while the funeral train procession is a dashed line)

A funeral of this scale and grandeur was unprecedented in the U.S. The funeral train that bore the president home consisted of 9 cars, one of them being a personal car constructed for Lincoln that he never used in life. In death, the car was transformed to hold not only Lincoln's casket, but that of his 11 year-old son Willie; they were to be interred together (Willie died in 1862 at the age of 11). The car underwent a transformation, and was covered in black bunting and draping. It is said that a light shone upon the casket in darkness so it was constantly illuminated. A lone engine steamed ahead of the funeral train to ensure that the track was clear, and the funeral train never went over 20 mph to avoid accidents.

Schedules, such as this one, were distributed ahead of time so mourners could gather to see the train pass by:

Crowds gathered along the tracks for a glimpse of the train as it passed by. People from all walks of life were brought to the tracks by crude and sturdy roads alike. They built huge bonfires to illuminate the night and better see the funeral train pass. When the funeral car stopped in large cities, Lincoln's body was seen by hundreds of thousands of Americans. An embalmer traveled with the funeral procession in order to keep Lincoln's body as presentable as possible. It must have been a moving experience, waiting in the night while making fellowship with neighbors. Then, the sound of a steam engine would over power the crackling of the bonfire and harmony of the hymns being sang...

After Lincoln was laid to rest, the train car that had taken him on his final journey was not preserved. The car saw many different owners, and eventually was destroyed in a fire in 1911. A replica of the car has been built, to nearly 85% accuracy to the original. The car is truly amazing, and the men who built it over a four year period are very proud of their creation. No plans or photos of the interior of the car exist, so it took great care and hard work for the car to be rebuilt. The car has been travelling the country in honor of the 150th anniversary of the president's death. If you have not yet seen the car, the schedule and information can be found on this website:

Endeavors such as this one bring history to life! When you think of history as it was lived and as though it is still happening, that's when you gain a real appreciation for it. A tangible link to the past helps people appreciate history as being a part of our present instead of one dimensional facts and figures in a dusty textbook. As you enter the car, a replica of Lincoln's casket lay inside, just as it would have in 1865. Seeing even a replica of the casket moved me, and made me consider how the hopes and dreams of the America of the 1860s could have been reduced to this black box... or were they? Lincoln's death, to me, showed that his dedication to freedom, truth, and the preservation of the Union did not die with him, and lived on in others who read his words and lived his principles.

I thank the Warther Carving Museum and everyone who helped bring the train to Dover. The only thing better than seeing the train was seeing children get excited to learn about Lincoln and history in general! 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Jonas “Der Weiss” Stutzman: Jan. 31st 1788-Oct. 18th 1871

Jonas Stutzman was the first settler and Amish person to come to Holmes County, Ohio. He came from Pennsylvania and settled in present day Walnut Creek in 1809. Stutzman built one of the first sawmills in the area and had a crossing bridge in Walnut Creek named after him in 2009. It was not until later in his life that he gained the eccentric reputation that he is known for today.

It was in 1849 that Stutzman had a revelation and wrote a manifesto about the second coming of Jesus Christ. He felt that the second coming was upon us, and would occur at some point in 1853, in Holmes County! Stutzman wanted people to repent and adhere closely to the Amish interpretation of Christianity; he specifically wanted Catholics to give up communion. A huge wooden chair was built by Stutzman because he knew that Christ would need a special chair, befitting of His holiness, to sit in while He judged souls. Stutzman kept the chair with him at all times, just in case. The chair now resides at the Amish & Mennonite Heritage Center (Behalt):

Stutzman also began dressing all in white, and he is the only Amish person to ever do this. He wanted Christ to be able to tell how pure and holy he was just by looking at him. This is how Stutzman gained the nickname “Der Weiss”, or “The White”. Stutzman preached to his friends, family, and neighbors about the urgency and imminence of the second coming until the day he died. The Amish church did not see Stutzman or his message as a threat, since he never gained any followers, and was allowed to stay a member of the church throughout his life.

Upon his death in 1871, “Der Weiss” was buried in a family plot on a parcel of farmland in Walnut Creek. Unfortunately, in 1964, ownership of this farmland changed and the cemetery was razed. Some of the markers and remains were moved to the Walnut Creek Mennonite Cemetery (As you travel along 39 through Walnut Creek, towards Sugar Creek, it’s located on a large hill on the left hand side of the road, just behind Walnut Creek Cheese), but it is impossible to know how many headstones and graves were not relocated. The location of Jonas Stutzman’s remains is unknown, but a new head stone was erected for him at the Walnut Creek Mennonite Cemetery. A historical marker was also erected in his honor on CR 114 in Walnut Creek.

His newly erected headstone says:

"Der Weiss"
Jonas Stutzman
Born 1788        Died Oct. 18 1871

Jonas Stutzman was the first white settler in Eastern Holmes County. He arrived in the Indian territory during spring of 1809. He provided the first sawmill, was a teacher, and in his later years, dressed in white (weiss) clothes. In 1849, he wrote a booklet predicting the Lord's return in four years, then built an oversize chair for the Lord. Jonas was buried in a hillside family cemetery south of Walnut Creek. That cemetery was razed in 1964 and some remains and markers were relocated to this cemetery.

Sponsored by German Culture Museum Board     1994

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saltillo's Headless Angel of "Death"

Nestled in a peaceful pocket amidst the quiet hills and forgotten back roads of Ohio's Amish country lies a small, rural cemetery. The cemetery itself would seem unremarkable to most, except that it is home to what you could call a local legend. As you approach the cemetery, it comes into your field of vision atop a hill, alongside a country road that is mostly marked by Amish buggy tracks. The sign for Salem Cemetery is worn from years of Northeastern Ohio weather:

As your gaze meets the cemetery, most of the stones are small and humble, a hallmark of rural Holmes County cemeteries. Soon you will see a most out of place, prominent pillar, a memorial for the Conrad family, on which a ruined but glorious angel rests. The angel's head, wings, and hands have been smashed; she is zigzagged with green spray paint as well: 

A flurry of legends surround the angel, who is often referred to as "The Angel of Death". If one is brave enough to gaze upon her at the stroke of midnight, she is said to turn her head and look in the eyes of the unfortunate person who is fated to die next. After her head was broken off, the story evolved to say her head materialized to give you the stare of death. A full story can be read here:

On my visit, I noticed nothing out of the ordinary. The wind whistling through the pine trees may have been a little eerie, but there was no angel flying to greet me on that gusting breeze! An addition has been made to the original marker to depict how the angel originally looked:

The whole cemetery is in sorry shape, with a large tree having toppled over most of it and been left to lie on broken tombstones:

Feel free to make your own visit to the cemetery and the angel of Saltillo, and make your own conclusions. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Tuesday which dawned like any other...

... however, March 1st, 1692, would see the beginning machinations of the Salem Witch Trials, a gruesome catalyst in early American history. The day began by examining Sarah Osborn, Tituba, and Sarah Good for supposed witch marks. These marks could be any sort of mole, birth mark, or other physical abnormality. Sarah Good's own husband, William, actually sought out Goody Hannah Ingersoll, who was performing the search for said witch marks, to tell her of a peculiar mole Sarah had near her right shoulder. How had Sarah come to being held as a witch and her fate being further sealed by her own husband?

Sarah Good began life as Sarah Solart on July 21st (July 11th, O.S.), 1653. Her father, John, was a relatively successful innkeeper. Upon his death in 1672, however, Sarah received no sort of inheritance from his estate. At this point, her fall into poverty slowly began. When Sarah married a laborer and former indentured servant named Daniel Poole, they accrued a great deal of debt due to, I would assume, Sarah having no inheritance to contribute to the marriage, and/or Daniel's lack of earning power (I do not know where their debts came from, as I could not find a solid answer in the texts I have seen). When Poole died in 1682, Sarah inherited his debts and her new husband, William Good, became responsible for them, as well. By 1692, the couple was homeless because creditors took what little they owned, including all their land, in order to pay back the debts they inherited from Poole. The people of Salem knew Good as a pushy beggar by the time accusations of witchcraft came about. Her social status sadly made her a likely target for blame when Abigail Williams and Betty Parris were asked to name who afflicted them in the middle of their screams and contortions. 

Sarah's fall into poverty, in a society which placed an unhealthy value on self penitence and hard work, was her biggest downfall. Being different from the majority of God fearing, strict, and unyielding Puritans was not easy, and Sarah Good paid with her life, and the life of her infant daughter, Mercy. Mercy was born while Good was in prison, and died shortly before her mother was hanged on July 29th, 1692 (July 19th, O.S.). Even Good's other child, four year-old Dorothy, was imprisoned on suspicion of witchcraft. Sarah maintained her innocence and that of her daughter until her end. We can only hope she found peace after the trauma and utter cruelty that brought about her demise. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Collinwood School Fire

The shrill bell of a fire alarm and a practice evacuation can be an annoyance during the work or school day for many. However, these precautions save lives, and came about in large part due to the tragedy that was the Collinwood School Fire. 

March 4th, 1908, Ash Wednesday, started out like a normal school day for the teachers and students at Lakeview Elementary in Collinwood, which is now a part of Cleveland. Ruddy, smiling children were at their desks, ready to learn, not knowing what would happen next. Around 9:00 am, the building was engulfed in flames when an overheated steam pipe caught a wooden joist on fire (Or when an overheated boiler in the furnace room ignited loose timber... I have read different accounts of what sparked the blaze). Half of the children and teachers escaped, and the other half were trapped inside. Those who were trapped were unable to get out due to a fast spreading fire, large, wooden stairwells fueling the fire, and frightened children who blocked exits that were too small to begin with. Within a half an hour, fire had swept through the school and killed 172 students, teachers, and rescuers. By the time Collinwood's fire department arrived, the building was nothing but charred bricks. 

As the ruined building cooled, tender care was taken to remove the bodies of victims to makeshift morgues for identification. 19 of the teachers and children could not be identified, and their remains were buried under a memorial to all who perished at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland:

Depending on your perspective, the angel is either comforting the children as the fire approaches, or caring for the souls of the children who perished. 

After the disaster, fire codes in schools became top priority across the country. Warning systems, evacuation plans, clear exits, steel fire escapes and frames for buildings, etc., all became required in schools and other buildings. 

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