Thursday, August 30, 2012

It's the End of an Era

Today marks the demise of one of the most prominent landmarks in the East End -- Highland School. This school has gone through many changes during the past 15 years or so.  After no longer being used as an elementary school, the school became home to one program after another including an Inland Waterways Program, a Montessori School and later the East End Heritage School. My Dad lived directly across the street from the school and attended it during his elementary years.

Despite several attempts to repurpose the building, none of these efforts came to pass.  Located in the flood plain of the Ohio River, it was difficult to obtain financing. I'm told there were restrictions about how big the footprint of the building could be and deed restrictions from a large underground pipe behind the building.  Empty and abandoned for several years, the last coup de gras (deathblow) came from vandals who removed gutters and downspouts allowing the building to be overtaken with mold. It only took a little over a week. Pictured is the transition . . .

The Beginning of the End
Photo Credit:  Bryan Phillips

Earlier Today (8-30-2012)
Photo Credit:  Bryan Phillips

Later Today
I spoke to the man from O'Rourke, and he told me that it will be another month before everything is cleared away.  They are recycling rebar, concrete, and everything that can be salvaged. If you look carefully at the picture in the bottom right, you can see the roof-line of my Dad's former home. I can't help but wonder if it will be next.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Paddlefest 2012

Paddlefest 2012
This past Sunday in Cincinnati, over 2200 people took to their canoe, kayak or other non-powered mode of transportation and paddled down the Ohio River from Coney Island to the Public Landing -- a trip of eight miles.  Unfortunately, no matter what I did, I couldn't capture it as I would have liked because I needed a telephoto lens.  Just take my word for it -- it was fantastic. One of the stated purposes is to celebrate the resource that the Ohio River is to our community.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The East End - Guest Author Dorothy Weil

Several years ago, I read a book The River Home by Dorothy Weil. It touched me.  In the process of writing this blog, I've repeatedly recalled some of the images of the East End and the Ohio River that Dorothy so poignantly described. One chapter, in particular, discusses the educational experiences of the so-called "River Rats" from one Cincinnati neighborhood.

Today I wrote to Dorothy and asked permission to share one chapter with you.  She graciously agreed to allow me to do so. If you love her writing as much as I do, take a few minutes to visit her website, to learn about her and the books she has published. She has also assisted in the production of several videos about life on the river and in the East End.

So with Dorothy's permission, I share with you "The East End."

The East End
School was a big Victorian building between Eastern Avenue and the railroad tracks. It was the oldest school building in the city, with wooden beams in the gym and chutes to slide down as fire escapes. We all longed to try them, but fire drill was just a march through the halls and onto the playground.

The playground was only ten feet from the trains that chugged through regularly, throwing soot over everything. When we kids played kickball we came away looking like end men in a minstrel show. Also in the blacktopped yard were the "shacks" where the "dumb kids" went. These were separate barracks manned by the strongest and most fearless teachers and populated by the hopeless.

There were smart kids and dumb kids, fat kids and skinny kids, bad kids and good kids. One of the boys in my sixth-grade class was a Down's syndrome child; the other children called him Dopey after the dwarf in Snow White and teased him without mercy. Howard, a tall, handsome boy, had a horrible smell, a smell so bad no one would be his buddy in line or take his hand. No one did anything to help these children. Our teachers were old maids, usually with iron-gray hair. They dressed in subdued colors and sensible shoes. They loved their subjects and encouraged the alert and motivated. They had no interest in social problems or the unprepared. Howard probably never knew what was wrong.

Every kid had a nickname, usually based on his or her worst feature: there was "Tits," a boy who had pronounced breasts, and "Wharthog" and "Meatface," both struggling with pre-teen acne. I was dubbed "BBD" for "Big Butt Dorothy."

We were seated by level of achievement. I was soon competing for the first seat in the first row by the door. Poor Howard brought up the rear in the last seat in the last row by the window. In between were rows of dozing kids as the teacher lectured on the Constitution and "Initiative and Referendum."

Even singing class was hierarchical: the sopranos were "Bluebirds," the altos and tenors were "Robins," and the basses and lower-voiced were "Crows," a nomenclature that obviously favored the higher registers.

In spite of my standing in the class, or maybe because of it, I felt out of place. I was a new kid on the block once again, a kid who talked like a book.

Though I might have been smart, I was still a "River Rat." I hated writing down my address: "Boat, Foot of Donham Street." I wanted a house number and a street name, something solid and respectable. Everyone else lived in secure homes that stayed put on the small, shady streets of the East End, while I hiked up to school from the river. 

I spent hours in the library at the corner of Donham and Eastern reading Louisa May Alcott and the Brontes. The Brontes gave me romance, but Alcott gave me more solid dreams. I wanted to have a family like Jo's: intelligent, peaceful, loving and living in New England in a shingled house with lilac bushes and apple trees. Half headachy from print (I was always suffering various aches and itches) and due for dinner at the yacht club, I would walk a block down Donham, then often be held up by a stalled freight train. To get by, I would climb under a coupling or crawl under a car, fully prepared to hit the dirt and lie flat if the train started.

The kids of the East End were quite aware of the area's low-class reputation and soon taught us not to mention where we were from if we went outside the neighborhood, to the skating rink or downtown: "Just say you're from Hyde Park or Mt. Lookout." 

In spite of the neighborhood's lack of wealth, the part of the East End around McKinley School was quite pleasant, like a small river town. There were shade trees along Eastern and some houses with historic charm. I was chosen to appear on a radio program featuring school children from various neighborhoods, and learned that the East End was originally called Columbia and was the first community in the city to be settled. The riverfront was once the town of Fulton, where steamboats were built. We had a pioneer cemetery near Lunken Airport and historic residence built by Benjamin Stites, an East End founder.

Clustered around the school on Eastern Avenue were a supermarket, a beauty parlor, a clothing store, a bank, a movie theater, a post office, a diner, several bars, a chili parlor and an old-fashioned notions store with pull-down stools. Everything families needed could be found there.

In the days we lived there, people paid little attention to the river, unless it flooded or gave up a dead body or did some other asocial thing. We roller-skated and hung around in the school yard. There were parks in the lower East End, toward town, but we never went to Turkey Ridge or below because the kids there were rumored to be really tough. 

Mom warned us to stay away from tough kids and told me not to let the older boys get me alone anywhere: "They may have desires you younger children don't know about." True, there were a couple of boys in the school who shaved or had chins black with stubble, but they could be avoided. We ran pretty free in our nearby streets, never worrying about bad areas or hoodlums. We went to the movies, Jim and I, at night, along with some kids who lived right next door to the coal yard near the tracks.

Back down on the river, I practiced kicking the kickball in the field above the marina. More than anything, I wanted to be a good player, but I was never more than a bunter. Occasionally, I wandered over to the woods where the shanty boaters lived. Nettie and Annie went to McKinley, and their brother "Pig Iron" was receiving his education in the shacks. Their boat, an old scow with no motor, was moored among the willows. Their bathroom was a seat over the water and a bar of soap on the rope.  The family grew their own vegetables on the small bit of land where they moored, and they kept chickens. Clarence, the father, fished for their dinner and made his own "raisin jack." He and the other shanty boaters "rolled coal" for their stoves from barges that were tied off across the water. The minute a tow boat left a barge full of coal on the ice breakers -- to be picked up later -- and puffed out of sight, an armada of small boats surrounded it. Clarence, along with his cohorts, was out in his skiff filling it with chunks of coal. He would come back from a raid so weighed down, the oarlocks of his boat were at water level.

Mom though shanty-boaters interesting and colorful and encouraged me to make friends with them. But when Daddy got wind of my visiting them, he forbade me to go back. To a steamboat man, the shanty boaters were thieves, riff-raff, no-account.

As usual, I depended on company from Jim, who was willing to let me tag along with him until more interesting male companions came along. Mom needed my services to help cook. Chopping cabbage for coleslaw, our usual salad, and frying pork chops were chores I enjoyed. I hated trying to make "oleo margarine" look palatable, like butter. We squeezed a tiny glob of red dye into a pound of white lardy stuff and kneaded it in. We did everything to the accompaniment of the radio, our one link besides school with the world beyond the river. We sang along with the endlessly played soap ads: "Rinso white, Rinso bright / Birdies sing all day long." We would never forget the slogans: "Ipana for the smile of beauty, Sal Hepatica for the smile of health."

Soap operas played constantly: "Backstage Wife," "Lorenzo Jones," "Just Plain Bill," "Life Can be Beautiful."   I believed in the last one, utterly.

Dorothy Weil, Author

Note: I would love to read your comments, as I am sure Dorothy would, too.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Stowing Away on the Delta Queen!

Delta and Mississippi Queens moored upriver during Tall Stacks
It's the Friday before Derby Day, and I can't help but be transported back to my life 32 years ago.  Picture a newly-divorced, single parent of 22-month-old little girl.  I was still trying to cautiously navigate the waters of my new phase in life.

My family had a love of the Delta Queen.  After all, it was a historic steamboat whose home port was Cincinnati (at that time).  My youngest brother, Don, worked on the Delta Queen after high school and before college.  He became friends with the Cruise Director, Terry Sevrens. Thus began a long friendship between Terry and our whole family.

Mom (in center waving) and Terry (far right) depart on a Derby Cruise

Terry introduces the calliope player.

Mom and Terry
My mother was widowed and making her way in uncharted territory, too.  She had always loved Derby Day (usually throwing a party to celebrate the blooming azaleas, mint juleps, and, of course, a horse race). This particular year, she decided to indulge herself and book a four-day round trip on the Delta Queen to coincide with the Kentucky Derby.  Terry, who had more than a passing interest in my mother, was sure to provide her with a good time.

Don and Liz on a separate trip
We all went down to the river to see my Mom off on her great adventure.  Just as we were about to leave, Terry asked who was going to "stow away" and use the top bunk in my Mom's cabin. After acknowledging that this was a totally crazy idea, it was decided that I would be the stowaway.  My toddler daughter was handed over to my brother, Don, who agreed to watch her and drive down to Louisville the next day and pick me up. I don't know what we were thinking, as there was no preparation, no diapers, no change of clothes for my daughter, and Terry could jeopardize his job if I got caught.

I WAS IN!!  I can't tell you everything that happened in one post, but I can tell you it was one of the most risk-taking adventures of my life, and one I cherish.

The Delta Queen in 2012

So today is the anniversary of that great adventure.  The Delta Queen is no longer plying the rivers between Cincinnati and New Orleans.  It is docked "permanently" in Memphis, Tennessee. Due to the wooden construction of its superstructure, Congress would not extend its waiver to continue operating as an overnight passenger steamboat. Thus ended an era.

American Queen docked near Showboat Majestic
Port of Cincinnati

I made my way to the riverfront to take in the newly-refurbished American Queen. The boat made its way to Cincinnati last night, following up a steamboat race with the Belle of Louisville and the Belle of Cincinnati. The Belle of Louisville "won."

Port of Cincinnati, Ohio
May 4, 2012

I'll be thinking of Mom, Terry, the Delta Queen and the Derby all weekend. Now all I need is a mint julep.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just My Luck!

I have a new-found friend, Bryan Phillips, who has a facebook page on Cincinnati's East End, Columbia-Tusculum and Linwood. If you have an interest in this old Cincinnati neighborhood, his site is a gold mine.  Since meeting him I've been able to have a few lunches with other "old" East Enders who have helped me get a better understanding of the neighborhood that defined four generations of my family.

People from the neighborhood are constantly sending Bryan pictures and information for his page.  Bryan knows I have a wish list:
  • Locating a picture of my great-grandfather's house on Gladstone.
  • Any pictures on Eastern Avenue (Riverside Drive) from the 2200-2500 block.
  • Pictures of the old homes on the street that now is Columbia Parkway.
  • A picture of the house on the riverbank behind St. Rose Church.
Today he struck gold!  A follower of his page, Gary Sunday, made five more 1937 flood pictures available for the site. A short time later, I got a phone call from Bryan. He knew this picture would get me going.

1937 Flood - Pictured is Highland School
My grandparent's home is to the far right with the chimney in view.
Photo Credit:  Gary Sunday and Bryan Phillips

When I first saw the picture, I thought the house was the building just behind the telephone pole.  My brother, however, recognized an unmistakable pattern in the brick work of the chimney. I still remember being shown the "line" about four inches below the ceiling that marked the crest of the flood.  Paint could never completely cover it. Other pictures that we've seen of the flood show water levels that are not nearly as high.

Gary had some other priceless pictures in his collection.

St. Rose Church and School
My Joneses lived on the river bank BEHIND this church in the 1870s.

At the  height of the flood, the city was no longer able to pump water to the residents.
This building is now surrounded by an unattractive wall 3' higher than the high water level of the '37 flood.
From Torrence Rd. looking west on Eastern Ave.

Looking west with St. Rose steeple on the far left.  All of the houses no longer exist.

There are a few more pictures on my "wish list". Why do I feel so hopeful?  It takes a community.
Thanks Bryan and Gary.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dad and the River

Dad and his canoe
It's hard to believe, but my Dad, John Thomas Jones, died 34 years ago.  He was only 57 years old.  So I write this at such a disadvantage.

Ramp from behind school to river

We know Dad LOVED the river.  After all, from the time he was nine years old, he lived in a house directly across the street from the river.  It was in full view.  The property for his school, Highlands Elementary, backed up all of the way to the bank of the river. In fact, a couple of decades ago his former school housed an "Inland Waterways" vocational program for high school students who learned the skills necessary to work on the river on barges, tows, etc.  They trained on a barge called the Marilyn McFarland that was moored just behind the school. Every graduate had a job waiting.

Tow and barge from behind St. Rose Church with northern Kentucky in the background
It's hard to imagine the river he knew as a child.  The river is so different today. One of the main differences is that the river pool stage is double what it was then.  During the summer, the river often became too shallow to support navigation.  I remember Dad taking us down to look at a "wicket dam" just before it was to be removed.  (I checked -- the last wicket dam was removed in 1963.  I was in the 8th Grade). Two new dams were opened, Meldahl and Markland, effectively creating a 95 mile navigational reservoir with a much deeper pool stage.

I also remember that Dad was completely intrigued with the river when it flooded.  I still remember being terrified when we drove down to the river's edge to check out a flood.  I was absolutely convinced that the emergency brake on the car would not hold and that we were going to be swept away in the rushing water.

When Dad was a boy, the river was his playground.  He used to talk about taking his canoe out into the river and riding the "rollers" churned up by the passing steamboats and tugboats.  Based on the previous post, I can just imagine that he was afforded a lot of opportunity to do this because of the multiple trips made back and forth to Coney Island each day during the summer.

Dad's canoe was a casualty of becoming a "family man."  When he and Mom were married, he sold his canoe in order to enable her to buy a sewing machine.  Despite his new priorities, his love for the river was not diminished -- just postponed.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Island Queen and Coney Island

If you were a "Baby Boomer" in Cincinnati and white (I was shocked to find out that African-Americans were kept from the park until the '60s) you went to Coney Island.  It was THE amusement park in this area.  It was located on the banks of the Ohio River, had a nice picnic grove, amusement rides, a man-made lake, and a HUGE swimming pool.  It was the place to go, and our family went once every summer with our Ryan cousins.  Little did I know that not only our parents, but also our grandparents, probably participated in this tradition.

My uncle, Tony Scardina, is pictured eating watermelon in the picnic grove area of Coney Island.
  He later married Margaret Ann Jones, my Dad's sister.
Photo Credit:  East End, Columbia-Tusculum, Linwood Facebook page

Coney Island has an interesting history.  You can read about it by clicking on this link. There were a few facts that really surprised me.  Get it's earliest start as a picnic area in 1886, the land had been purchased by two steamboat captains.  As part of their business model, guests were transported to the park by steamboat.  As the park continued to make a variety of improvements, the first Island Queen steamboat was built at a cost of $80,000 and began transporting passengers in 1896.  The boat could transport 3000 passengers at a time. Unfortunately, the original Island Queen was destroyed by fire moored in Cincinnati when fire spread from another steamboat moored along side her.

Two other steamboats were temporarily placed in service while a new Island Queen was built. This boat, built at a cost of between $300,000 and $400,000.  It was christened in 1925 and served until 1947.  It was on this boat that my parents met. From the picture below, you can see how often the boat was scheduled to make the trip a few miles upriver.

Photo Credit:  Don Prout/
Permission to share on blog requested.

From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
Note the "lighthouse" at the entrance near the top of the ramp.

This second Island Queen has a place in the memory of almost every resident of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky between 1925 -1947. Unfortunately, like the first Island Queen, this steamboat also burned.  According to the website, the fire started when a welder's torch was lit near the oil storage tanks.

The Island Queen burning in 1947 in Pittsburgh.
From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

A piece of Cincinnati history, and the personal history of my parents, was lost forever in that fire. Little did they know at the time the role another steamboat, the Delta Queen would play in our Jones family history.

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Wiki:
Coney Island Central:
White, John H., 1933-. The Island Queen : Cincinnati's excursion steamer / John H. White and Robert J. White. 1st ed. Akron, Ohio : University of Akron Press, 1995.

Friday, April 6, 2012

How Mom and Dad Met

Virginia Ryan and Johnny Jones courting
Setting the Scene: World War II has ended, the "boys" are home, and there is a pent-up demand for finding a husband and starting a family.  My mother used to say that during her prime dating years, the only guys available were married or classified IV-F (men deemed physically, mentally or morally unfit to serve).

So how to find a husband -- Being a "good, Catholic girl" it seemed logical to try to meet men at the Newman Center.  The Newman Center was designed to serve the needs of Catholic students attending non-Catholic Universities. The University of Cincinnati had a vibrant chapter headed by Bob Kroner. Coincidentally, Bob grew up in the East End and was a friend of my father.

One of the popular activities of the time was to take a riverboat ride to Coney Island on the Island Queen.  The boat had a great ballroom and it only cost 25 cents to ride from Cincinnati to Coney, a few miles upriver.

Credit: The Island Queen, Cincinnati's Excursion Steamer, by John and Robert White

The U.C. Newman Club decided to sponsor a dance on the Island Queen. Bob Kroner was President of the Newman Club. He and Dad were great friends and neighbors and Dad tagged along with Bob on a regular basis. Never mind that Dad was neither a U.C. student nor Catholic. Given my family history, it seems only appropriate that my parents would meet on a boat, on the Ohio River, that literally passed by the Jones home on its way upriver to Coney.  Perfect!!!

Well, they must have made an impression on each other because within a couple of years they were married and well on their way to becoming parents of what would become a very large family. Serendipitous? Fate? You tell me.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

East End Residences

Click to Enlarge
If there was any doubt that "A River Runs Through Us," click on the map above and trace the Joneses through their homes in the East End.  Beginning in the 1840s, my Jones family gradually moved from the city center, to E. Front St. and settling in Fulton, now the East End. For more than 100 years, the family lived within a one-square mile area of the Ohio River. Here is the route they took:

1) Frame house on the riverbank located 250' southeast of St. Rose Church.

2) Charles Henry and Rachel purchased their two-family home at 2316 Gladstone Ave.

3) Charles "Fred" and Norine (my grandparents) rented from their Uncle Tom and Aunt Ella Jones living at 2269 Columbia Ave.

4) My grandfather purchased what was to become the home where my father and his siblings grew up at 2424 Eastern Ave. (now Riverside).

There were a couple of intermediate homes documented in the earlier pages of this blog, but these were the primary locations.  In addition, Rachel's mother and my gg-grandmother, owned a home on Collins Ave., also discussed in earlier posts.

The East End had (and still has) it's own culture.  It was largely a working-class neighborhood with both white and black residents.  Many of the white residents have Appalachian roots.  Many of the black residents came to the area from southern states as part of the great migration to the north in search of better opportunities.  It's one of those neighborhoods that gets in your bones.

Over the past couple of decades, the neighborhood has been going through a great deal of transition. Many of the homes have been torn down and are gradually being replaced by upscale homes and condominiums.  This trend started in the area closest to downtown and continues to move east.  The name of the street, Eastern Ave., was changed to Riverside Drive to reflect the area's new upscale image.

We were surprised to see that my father's home is now part of a group of homes that will probably be torn down in the next six months.  It's unclear what will happen with the school located across the street. You can see the sign on the porch column placed there by the developer.

But our East End story isn't going to end quite yet.  After all, my Mom and Dad haven't met yet -- and you just know that that is going to have something to do with the river . . .

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dad's Military Records

After a long wait, I finally got copies of Dad's military records.  Most of the records for World War II veterans were destroyed by a fire. I wrote for them once and got a form letter telling me of this. Other vets told me I needed to ask for his DD-214. It is a document produced at the time of a veteran's separation from service that summarized their service. It took four months, but the records finally arrived.You can click on these images to enlarge.

This document interests me because it verifies certain things I thought I knew.

  1. Dad did not complete high school.  It says the last grade completed was 10th Grade.  It also identifies his high school as West Night High School.  The last year of attendance was 1937.  Interestingly, it appears as if he stopped attending in the same year as the 1937 Flood.  Also, we have to remember that these were the years of the Great Depression.  Perhaps he worked during the day and attended school at night.  Tim and I went to the library and looked at the yearbook for West Night High School for 1937.  Dad was not a senior and we could not find him listed, although it is clear that the program was academic in nature.  I remember Dad attended "trade school".  I don't have any specifics on that.
  2. Pre-draft, Dad's job was truly that of a laborer.  He assisted in trolley maintenance but also "scrubbed out street cars."  Tom still has a $5.00 bill he kept his entire life that he found while cleaning a street car.
  3. He did have training in Colorado.  Dad used to say that when the conditions were right that he could pick up the WLW-T Clear Channel radio station from Cincinnati in Colorado.
Dad received a ribbon with a Bronze Star, a Good Conduct Ribbon and a Distinguished Unit Citation. Although his job was to load bombs on planes and some aircraft maintenance, his unit was responsible for some of the most important battles in Europe.  When he was discharged, he had the rank of "Corporal."  I love seeing his thumb print and that all-too-familiar signature. Below is a document recording his ranks and pay rates.

Sadly, they also sent a copy of the application for Dad's military headstone following his death in 1978.

I was glad to receive a copy of his Honorable Discharge papers.  Dad had a copy of this and I've published it before.  To keep the file complete, I post it again here -- with pride.  He was part of the Greatest Generation.

If you are interested in reading more about the 44th Bomb Group and the Flying Eight Balls, go to this link in the Jones Family Matters blog  Should you want your own copies of these records, just click on the print friendly button and print them out.

Note:  After a comment (see comments) received from John Darby, I decided to do a little research on the Lowry Base in Colorado where Dad was trained.  Here is a link:  There is a lot of additional information on this base which is now used only for administrative functions.  It has an interesting history.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Episcopalian? Presbyterian? Catholic? Man of God

At the Jones Family Christmas, I asked my siblings what religion our Dad had practiced as a child.  A few facts were beyond dispute:

  • My Dad was raised as a Protestant in a family that was divided -- girls were raised Catholic and boys were raised Protestant.  There was a reason for that and you can read about it here.
  • My Dad's father, Pop, was Episcopalian.  Both he and his son Charles were buried from the Christ Cathedral, downtown.
  • Dad's brother, Bob, converted to Catholicism, not telling his father, after marrying a Catholic.  He was buried from Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church.
  • My father spent his entire adult life attending Catholic Church with his family.  He was a member of the Holy Name Society and a very active parent in the parish.  He was a "Boy Scout Committee Man." He attended church every Sunday and worked multiple jobs so we could attend Catholic Schools.
  • He never "converted."  Fr. Allison came to the hospital as Dad was dying and gave him communion. Dad asked if this meant he was "a convert."  Fr. Allison replied that he didn't think he ever needed to be converted.  Good answer.
  • My Dad would get teary-eyed every time he heard the song "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" -- a favorite of his mother.
  • We all recalled being told that he was raised Presbyterian.  But how did this make sense?
My brother, Dan, said that he remembered Dad taking him down to a church on Eastern Ave. and that he was surprised how many of the church members immediately recognized him.  I started trying to identify Presbyterian Churches that had once been located on Eastern Ave. and came up with this one.

The former Sixth Presbyterian Church, 2106 Eastern (Riverside) Ave.
When I showed Dan this picture, it was exactly as he remembered it.  It went through several transitions and is now abandoned and listed for sale.

The debate about Dad's religious affiliation continued until my brother, Tim, found this among Dad's keepsakes. It's amazing that one pin can hold so many answers.  Not only is it clearly a "Presbyterian" pin, but we think it was a reward for Sunday School attendance.  A careful look shows an S.S. above the crown which we think may stand for "Sunday School."  Under the crown are the words "Second Year."  There is an additional attachment indicating three years of attendance.

My sister, Karen, had this picture of our Dad.  I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know it was him. Now that's a picture a mother would love.

In Tim's little container there was an additional pin.  This one seemed to symbolize Dad's "good citizenship" in school. Both of these artifacts must have been important to our Dad because he kept them his entire life.  I think they are indicative of the life he lived -- a religious man of good character and citizenship.  We are lucky to have had him as our father. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Taking a Second Look

Six months ago I wrote a summary of a presentation given by Doug Magee for the Hamilton County Genealogical Society. I wish I had paid more attention to my write-up.  While researching my Joneses in the East End, I have relied heavily on information derived from Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and Cincinnati City Directories accessed through the Virtual Library of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. One of the things Doug mentioned during his talk was that the library had a digitized copy of the Decennial Tax Valuation of Cincinnati Real Estate.

As genealogists, we know that the 1890 U.S. Census was destroyed in a fire and does not exist.  We must make use of other sources to put together our story.  Since this tax valuation was published in 1892, I neglected to realize the contribution this book could make to my research.

I knew my early Jones family members lived on the banks of the Ohio River behind St. Rose Church. You can read about it here. Years ago I researched this property.  I knew that Nancy Torrence had inherited this property from her father, George Torrence.  My ancestors lived on Lot 10 and she had donated Lot 11 to the Archdiocese of Cincinnati for St. Rose Church.  I believed that she continued to own this land and that my relatives were renters.  I did not immediately recognize, therefore, that the 1892 Tax Valuation would have a lot of relevance for me.  THAT ASSUMPTION WAS SO WRONG!

Lot 10 owned by Nancy Torrence
Note small building on the riverbank.

The Tax Valuation lists the value of real estate by Cincinnati Wards in existence in 1892.  There is a value for the land and for any structures on the land.  There is a description of the Ward boundaries.  The lot pictured above was situated in the First Ward.

I then looked for property owned by Nancy Torrence and found this:

From the table above, you can see that Lot 10 had a land value of $1570 and a building value of $170! I knew that this house, located on the riverbank, flooded nearly every spring.  As a comparison, I looked up the property values of other family members in the area.

In 1892, my g-grandparents, Charles Henry and Rachel Adela Jones, owned a two-family home on Gladstone (then called Fulton) that had a land value of $380 and a building value of $1220. The total value of both properties is very close ($1740 vs. $1600) but the values are reversed.

There was one more surprise. Cincinnati City Directories list Rachel's mother, Mary Elizabeth Wainright, as living in the home of her daughter and son-in-law, probably taking care of the children. Rachel died of  "consumption" in 1892. I knew when my great-grandfather remarried eight years after his wife's death, his mother-in-law took up residence in a home she owned around the corner on Collins (then Woodburn).  Despite the listing of her residence on Gladstone, the tax records showed that she also owned the property on Collins.

Although I've not been able to find a picture of this home, I know that the lot was only 30' across the front and that, typical of its time, there was no indoor plumbing.

Given what I was able to learn about my family from a year when there was no census, you may want to consider this resource. What's especially great is that all of this research can be completed with your laptop in a recliner (at least that's how I did mine).  Enjoy!