A Time of Terror

Eckert, Allan. A Time of Terror: The Great Dayton Flood. Dayton, Ohio; Landfall Press, 1981 (1965)

Though not as prominent today, the books of Allan Eckert (1931-2011) are still some of the more well-known works in the last half century dealing with Ohio: among them the Frontiersman series, the Tecumseh biography A Sorrow in Our Hearts, along with the scripts for the outdoor dramas Tecumseh and Blue Jacket (no-longer in production).  Today, we will look at A Time of Terror, his 1965 historic narrative of the March, 1913 Great Miami flood and the damage it did in Dayton.  You may have seen it in the news or are good at subtraction, but this is the 100 year anniversary of the devastating flood that caused havoc throughout the state and ended the last days of the canal system in Ohio.

Eckert’s connection with Ohio was happenstance.  He finished his enlistment in the Air Force while stationed at Wright Patterson Air Force base and he stuck around.  After attending several schools in the state and working for the Dayton Journal Herald, he settled down in the western part of the state for much of the rest of his life.  It was during this time, still located within the Dayton area and working now as a full time writer with the successful publications of two novels dealing with extinct animals, that he started researching the day-to-day events of the disaster.  What he ended up with was a nature story that looked exclusively (not much backstory) at the hour-by-hour events from Sunday the 23rd to Sunday the 30th.   Continue reading

Discovering Ohio Wines

Gentile, Roger L. Discovering Ohio Wines.  Columbus, Ohio; Enthea Press, 1991.

Some time back, I said that someone should write a reference book about Ohio wines and winemakers.  Little did I know that Roger Gentile had already done so, be it two decades ago.  Because a great deal has changed in the Ohio wine scene over the last 20 years, Discovering Ohio Wines is a historic document.  But, it has its virtues for the wine historian.

When Discovering Ohio Wines was published in 1991, a new generation of Ohio winemakers was becoming established.   While the pre-Prohibition wine  industry in Ohio is very extensive (Ohio was third largest wine-producing state in 1909 [16]), the industry hit a sweet bottom in the 1950s with many of the old wineries closing up shop.  During Prohibition, many wineries switched to growing Concord exclusively for juice and jam products.  Tastes were changing, where Joe Winedrinker wanted a California Pinot Noir over a Lake Erie Pink Concord. Continue reading

200 Years of Progress

Roberts, Carl V.  200 Years of Progress: A History of Dayton and the Miami Valley. Dubuque, Iowa; Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1978.

The Miami Valley, or Miami Country, is an ambiguous creature.  Vaguely the land surrounding the Great and Little Miami Rivers, I have seen this region defined as simply Dayton Metro to extending into Indiana (Wayne County) and as far north as Lima.    Roberts’ 200 Years of Progress uses 17 counties in Ohio from just north of Cincinnati (Butler County) to Lima (Allen County).  Though over 30 years old, I have not found a better history of the elusive Valley.  Not a great social history (still looking for that book), but a good record of who moved here, what business was done, and a recount of famous events and residents.

There is a great back story (told in Arnold Rosenfeld’s Introduction) to the publication of 200 Years of Progress.  Finishing up a distinguished career at The Dayton Daily News, Roberts worked a year researching the history of Dayton and the Miami Valley for the bicentennial publication of the newspaper. (That is July 4th, 1976).  That would have been a good year.  The newspaper was then edited and 200 Years of Progress was released a few years later.

While Dayton and Montgomery County is the centerpiece of this work, I would recommend looking at Robert’s research of the other 16 Counties.  Very little of Ohio was settled/incorporated at statehood in 1803.  Only ten counties were created when Ohio became a state and eight more (four counties  in Miami Country – Montgomery, Butler, Greene, and Warren) were created in the first session of the General Assembly.  The early development in Miami Valley (and much of Ohio) was county creation, which Roberts meticulously details involves setting up a courthouse and jail.    (And then replacing the old jail and courthouse).  Robert’s other uniform description for county’s are agricultural production, population, and largest employers.

He has some great histories of business and services.  The history of Elder-Beerman (to 1976, of course) is a find and browsing through the chapter on medicine (hospitals, dentists, podiatrists, osteopathic doctors, and chiropractors) contains unique researched information.  Seriously, Dayton’s first chiropractors were John J. Schueller and Daniel Morgan in 1908.  Where are you going to get that information.

I would love to see an a new definitive history of the Miami Valley written.  This may be hard, as I think the idea of the Valley is passing as older distinct regions are getting blurred together.  Until that day, we have Robert’s bicentennial creation, which I would encourage Miami-Valleyphiles to seek out at their local library.

The Ohio Guide

Federal Writers’ Project. The Ohio Guide. New York; Oxford University Press, 1940 (1946 printing).

There is a good chance that your local library may have The Ohio Guide, which was compiled by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration (WPA) and originally published in 1940. This book is part of the American Guide Series, which ended up covering ALL 48 states along with many cities and regions. If so inclined, reading it should not be limited to historians and academics.

The Ohio Guide is broken up into three main parts; historical and cultural essays, articles about major cities (and Oxford, which is described as a typical Ohio college town), and 23 driving tours one could take (following the pre-Interstate national and state highways). There are also eight collections of photos, that come across now as propaganda of ideal communities. (My favorite being ‘The Farm’ and ‘In the Towns’).

Approaching its 70th birthday, The Ohio Guide is more of a historic document than textbook. Not a modern academic study, there are no citations for any of the information provided. Continue reading