Mount Vernon viaduct in 1910

This vintage postcard shows the viaduct in downtown Mount Vernon in 1910.

MOUNT VERNON -- Vintage postcards are a hoot, once you get past the creepy feeling of reading other people's mail.

This postcard was an actual photograph, custom made for use as a postcard, making it a rare and high-quality image. The postmark on the card is from 1 p.m., May 9, 1910, and it is possible that the photo dates from only slightly before that, judging by the leafed-out trees.

An advertisement for Owl brand cigars is visible on the side of the building just beyond the bridge. Interestingly, a close look shows that this building is not the familiar Buckeye Candy building, but rather an earlier, shorter predecessor. The older building was soon to be demolished as most sources indicate the Buckeye Candy building, more properly known as the Kelser-Dowds building, was built by 1911.

This postcard turns out to be from our old friend Ada Grassbaugh, the housewife who wrote the information on the postcard, also from 1910, that allowed me to piece together the story of how she and her husband left Brinkhaven after the 1913 flood in my column “Postcards from the Brink.”

Again, here, she's writing to her friend Bertha Reese in Columbus. She informs Bertha that their friend Amelia Zellers is now working at the State Sanitarium in Mount Vernon.

But if this picture is from the spring of 1910, Knox County was having an unusually dry spring, judging by the amount of water absent from the Kokosing River underneath the bridge. If there had been a drought, it was ended by a line of violent thunderstorms that crossed the northern part of the county on Sunday, May 1, with dangerous lightning.

In Waterford, a house and a barn on different farms were destroyed by fire triggered by the lightning (which is further proof that it had been dry).

In Fredericktown, three women were sitting on the porch at the William Cover house, watching the storm roll in at about 5 p.m. Lightning struck a tree so close to the porch, it knocked the women out of their chairs and left them sprawled on the floor, stunned. They were otherwise unharmed.

In other news from around the time of this photo, the Democratic Banner ran a very indignant report about a tobacco-spitting vandal who baptized significant portions of the B & O Depot.

“The fact that there are some very vicious, unclean and unsanitary persons in existence was made plainly evident at the B & O passenger depot Monday,” the article tutted. “An unknown man, probably a traveler while waiting for his train, took a large chew of rank, black tobacco and proceeded to chew it with great gusto. In a few minutes he deposited a large quantity of the tobacco juice from his mouth on the west side of the newly calcimined smoking room.”

I had to look up “calcimined.” Turns out, it's just a $10-word for “whitewashed.”

The article continued: “The act was done purposely for it would of (sic) been impossible for him to spit on the place he did by accident. Shortly after this first act of vandalism, he walked to one of the numerous chewing gum vending machines in the depot and expectorated another quantity of the black tobacco juice on the machine.

"Not satisfied with his work, he then went out into the general passenger waiting room and left his usual mark on the drinking fountain. The man was not detected at his work by any official of the railroad or would have been placed under arrest without a minute's notice.”

We can only hope Ada Grassbaugh didn't run into the tobacco-spitting bandit in her travels around town. Or, if she did, maybe a photo-postcard will show up someday telling the tale.

Today, the viaduct remains where it has stood since 1892, still overlooked by a tobacco advertisement, still weathering storms.