The Ribbon Mystery
by Vera Marie Badertscher
(From an article that originally appeared at Ancestors in Aprons)
I was faced with a mystery. What was the Holmes County Loan Committee, 1888?
It all started with this ribbon, one of two used by my great-great-grandmother Emeline Cochran Stout in her crazy quilt.
My mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser, had told me that the ribbons belonged to my great-grandfather “Doc” Stout (1845-1910), a Killbuck, Ohio doctor. I jumped to the conclusion that he served on a fundraising committee for Holmes County’s centennial. But the date–1888– didn’t seem right. Holmes County was founded in 1825, not 1788, There was not even a state of Ohio until 1808. So what was this?
I went to one of my favorite places on Facebook, the page staffed by the Holmes County Library’s Genealogy and Local History Department, called Our Town: A Holmes County, Ohio Local History Project. They had recently announced that they were compiling a list of events that took place in Holmes County, using the local newspapers from as far back as the 1800’s. I posted the ribbon and asked if they had information. Within hours, they had supplied photos, articles and some surprises.
An AHA! Moment
The first article the library posted described the meeting of the Holmes County Loan Committee in Millersburg.
Ah-ha! This was a women’s committee, and men were an afterthought. So perhaps the reason there are TWO ribbons in the Emeline crazy quilt, is that my great-grandmother, Hattie Morgan Stout (1842-1928), was on the original committee, and great-grandfather, Doc Stout, was a johnny-come-lately.
Furthermore, we learn from the newspaper article that the Holmes County exhibit was part of a State Exposition. But what was being exhibited? Another newspaper article made that clearer.
This article, again from the Holmes County Farmer, says that the Centennial Loan would open on July 25 (1888) and continue for a week. All articles were to be in Columbus by August 8. Then we learn how enthusiastic the people of Holmes County were. By Monday evening there were more than 50 items loaned, including a Bible over 200 years old. The committee wanted “modern, new , pretty and interesting” things as well as antiques. The committee needed potted ferns (because heaven knows you could not do anything fancy in the 1800’s without a bunch of potted ferns).
Entertainment and activities for children were all part of what you’d get for your admission price of five cents.
In August, 1888, The Holmes County Farmer ran a sort of review of the Exhibit which had been held at the County Court House in Millersburg. “…one might well imagine that Cinderellas’s godmother had been there with her fairy wand, so great had been the transformation wrought in the last week.” Don’t you love the understated way newspaper reporters wrote in the late 1800’s?
On the north were ancient items, as old as 500 years old, “old, quaint, dainty, pretty, beautiful.” A large room had been divided into a hall, bedroom and parlor, each furnished with all sorts of beautiful household items. The next room featured a “dinning(sic) room” with complete table setting. Across from that modern dining room was another set up as it would have been 100 years before, and a horticulture exhibit.
Out of that room and to the left was an exhibit of old-fashioned costumes, and then ahead another room represented art and industry that was so overwhelming, the reporter gave up “…there is so much and so great a variety, we cannot hope to describe it. It must be seen to be appreciated.”
Then there was a pioneer room with old-time things. In Agriculture Hall, the large stage was most tastefully draped with American flags and buckeye branches. This stage held entertainment in the evening by musical groups and “the broom brigade”–synchronized marchers. During the day, ladies demonstrated how to “schutch, hackle, card and spin” flax and wool. In fact, the layout and the items on display make me think of the Smithsonian Institution’s original building (built just thirty years earlier).
I have gone into some detail here to impress upon you what a BIG DEAL the Holmes County Loan was. The County’s population at that time was just shy of 21,000, so a huge percentage of families must have contributed to the Loan.
But What Were They Celebrating?
If it was not the centennial of Holmes County, and not the centennial of Ohio, whose birthday was it? The mystery is revealed when another reference from the Holmes County library reveals that Holmes County is part of a 100th anniversary of the founding of the first settlement in Ohio, Marietta, a town on the Ohio River.
The Ohio Centennial Exposition in Columbus
Of course the Columbus exposition was even bigger, including a Civil War encampment of 100,000 veterans and 150,000 of their wives, children, and friends. They gathered in the state capitol, which at that time had a population of 120,000.
Now the ribbons in the crazy quilt mean so much more than they did originally. I learned from all of this that the former school teacher, Hattie Morgan Stout, and her husband, Killbuck doctor William Cochran Stout, were deeply involved in community affairs. The research reveals my ancestors’ involvement not only in an exciting county-wide project, but their part in a statewide project. And what a thrilling project it was.
And by the way, does anybody know the meaning of “schutch” in spinning? (Hackle is a kind of comb, in case you needed help with that one.)
Information about the Holmes County Loan Committee and the Ohio Centennial Exposition celebrating the founding of Marietta Ohio, came from the Our Town: A Holmes County, Ohio Local History Project, and includes articles from the Holmes County Farmer and from the book “Columbus 1860 to 1910,” by Richard E. Barrett .
The ribbon pictured at the top is part of a crazy quilt in the author’s possession, made by Emeline Cochran Stout.
Thank you to Ms. Badertscher for sharing this piece of research with us. If you have an article or essay you’ve written about something pertaining to Holmes County, Ohio history and would be willing to share it with the Our Town blog, let us know and we’ll consider it for publication.