FREDERICKTOWN -- It pays to keep a sharp eye out for potential material for a local history column.
One recent Sunday, after I led a true crime bus tour in Cleveland, I stopped at a postcard show being held at the VFW in Brookpark, Ohio, on the way home. I found one vendor who had a number of Knox County-related cards, so it was looking like I might have a few useful finds, nothing that exciting.
Then I stumbled across a gem: a real picture postcard from an event in 1914, featuring two adorable little boys standing in front of the crowd lined up along the street. The names weren't identified, but the date was.
I thought, “I have to have this card for History Knox.”
I flipped it over and looked at the price. Gulp! The rarity of a real photo card with specific date in a specific town drove the price up to $45. But it was essential. Since I was investing in future columns by buying a bunch of cards, I decided some good old-fashioned haggling was the order of the day.
After negotiations on the pile of postcards, I got the vendor down to $30 for the picture card. Sold!
The event was a Fredericktown homecoming day that was held on Sept. 16, 1914, the date the photographer etched on his plate. The boys are standing near the Rexall Store on Main Street. I have another postcard about that store which I will feature in an upcoming column.
If anyone knows the identity of the boys or the man passing near the camera, please contact me here.
According to a pair of reports in The Democratic Banner, the homecoming was a big event, drawing a crowd of over 5,000 people, described by the correspondent as the largest crowd ever assembled in the town.
Two bands, one from Marion and one from Waterford, entertained the throng with music. The baseball team from Lexington took on the locals twice that day (and defeated them both times).
Farmers flocked to a speech by Mr. Wing of Mechanicsburg, Ohio, who gave a talk on the Scientific Raising of Alfalfa. Now, lest you think that this simply proves the old adage that an expert is someone giving a talk more than 50 miles away from home, Joseph Wing was actually a major agricultural figure.
He pioneered the use of alfalfa as a feed hay in Ohio, and spoke widely about it. He died just a year after this speech, and was later posthumously inducted in the Ohio Agriculture Hall of Fame. The original section of the Mechanicsburg Public Library was dedicated in his honor.
The main event for Fredericktown Day was an amazing giveaway that local merchants had been planning that whole year. Starting Feb. 1, participating merchants had been giving out tickets with every purchase made. The stubs were all gathered in a large revolving drum, mixed up, and then 18 winning tickets were drawn.
Howard Follin of Bellville won the grand prize, an automobile. A little genealogical digging turns up the fact that Howard was a 23-year-old farmer who lived in Perry Township, outside of Bellville, who had just recently been married.
What a windfall that free automobile must have been for their budding family!
Fredericktown's Oran Shaffer won a piano, Kirk Fletcher of Butler won a buggy with rubber tires, R. A. Dickson won a set of dishes, Miss Attie Schroeder won a stove, John S. Barton won a kitchen cabinet, Mrs. M.W. Shipley won a rug, Mrs. Harry Wharton was a set of harness, John Kanaga won a new suit of clothes, Mrs. Mary Divilbliss won a Kodak camera, John M. Lewis won a lawn mower, Mrs. Fred Amos won a clock, Joseph Bechtol won a washing machine. Others won shoes, umbrellas, a free subscriptions to the newspaper.
I would sincerely appreciate it if local merchants would give away a free automobile today, because on the way home from the postcard show in Brookpark, mine overheated with a stuck thermostat, and I'm currently driving a loaner.
I'd even settle for the piano, provided it's road-worthy.