Oberlin Heritage Center Blog


Posts Tagged ‘oberlin history’

January 1861: Secession and Speculation

Thursday, January 20th, 2011


The opening month of 1861 was one of growing tension and conjecture throughout the country and, certainly, in Oberlin. As five states (Mississippi on the 9th; Florida on the 10th; Alabama on the 11th; Georgia on the 19th; and Louisiana on the 26th) joined South Carolina in seceding from the Union, both the North and South speculated on the fragility of a perhaps irreconcilably broken America and, not so much if, but when, the country would descend into civil war.

In its first weekly installment of the year, The Lorain County News, Oberlin and Wellington’s local paper at the time, hesitantly asked, “Should not the North Arm Itself?” in response to news of Southern efforts to drill soldiers. By the middle of the month, the News was already soberly writing of “The War Begun”:

“However much we may regret that the fair fabric, which our noble fathers erected, is to be divided against itself, the fact that civil war has begun, and the permanent division has begun to be, cannot be overlooked.” (The Lorain County News, 16 Jan. 1861, p.2, c. 1.)

Oberlin residents were saddened by the likelihood of an American civil war, but they also believed that the “domineering spirit of slavery” was one that could not ever be reconciled, and that war was, in fact, the best and only opportunity for a solution to the “irrepressible conflict” of interests in the country.

On January 12, Oberlin’s own James Monroe (a Ohio State Senator from 1860 to 1862) in his address to the Ohio Senate opened with this remark in regard to the state of the Union: “A fine old author says, ‘Agree with your friends when you can; differ from them when you must.'”

And so war seemed unavoidable, even necessary; but as Monroe later in that same speech passionately spoke of, the notion of an impending Civil War was utterly heartbreaking to most Americans:

“We may be Democrats or Republicans, Conservatives or Radicals, but we are all Americans…Is there a heart in these bosoms that does not thrill at the words, home, country, native land? Which of you desires to see a single star blotted from the dear old flag? Or to see that flag trailing in the dust, soiled and dishonored? Whose blood does not run at the thought of such a calamity? …Not one, sir. These hearts are American hearts.” (The Lorain County News, 30 Jan.   1861, p. 1, c. 3, 4.)

And yet, the inevitability of civil war was encroaching on all the hearts and minds of Americans this month, 150 years ago.

Questions? Comments?

Please email Karyn at cw150@oberlinheritage.org

Sources Consulted:

Hansen, Henry. The Civil War: A History. New York: Signet Classics, 2010; The Lorain County News. 2  Jan. 1861, p. 2, c. 1.; The Lorain County News. 16 Jan. 1861, p. 2, c. 1.; The Lorain County News. 30 Jan. 1861, p. 1, c. 3, 4.

Prelude to the Civil War: The Election of 1860

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

This year (2011) marks the beginning of the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War—perhaps the most defining and critical event in our country’s history. Oberlin’s involvement and sacrifices in the war were considerable. The Heritage Center is initiating a blog series on Oberlin in the Civil War to highlight some of Oberlin’s brave and innovative men and women, its home front developments, and its military participation. You will find that Oberlin from 1861 to 1865, as per usual, was progressive, inspired, and full of ordinary people doing extraordinary things!

Reform, Progress, and Advancement on the Eve of the Civil War

The presidential election of 1860 is arguably the most infamous in our country’s history. With the confirmation of Lincoln’s presidency Oberlin’s vastly Republican populace was overjoyed, but the Union itself was irrevocably shaken. On December 20th, South Carolina announced its secession from the Union, and with the coming of the new year war seemed imminent.

For months before the November election day, Oberlinians were actively promoting Lincoln and the Republican cause. The Lorain County News (Oberlin and Wellington’s weekly newspaper at that time), for instance, rarely mentions Stephen Douglas or the Democratic party, and then, only in a negative sense; but it did avidly publish promotional articles on Lincoln, Republicans, and every citizen’s duty to vote Republican with great frequency. A rather humorous example is given below:

“REPUBLICAN!
Are you going on a journey?
Are you going to be married?
Are you going away to teach school?
Are you going away for anything?
IF SO,
Don’t go until after Election! Save your Vote—it will be needed.
Respectfully Yours,
THE PUBLIC GOOD”

-The Lorain County News, 3 October 1860, p. 2, c. 2.

On Election Day, November 6th, 1860, as The Lorain County News had been promulgating for months, Oberlin men did go out and vote overwhelming Republican, as did Lorain County and Ohio as a whole.  Perhaps most interesting, though, to a modern reader of Oberlin’s local newspaper, is a small article at the bottom of page two delineating the protest of a considerable number of Oberlin ladies desiring the right to vote at the polls. The editor writes kindly of their endeavor, but firmly states “American politics” is not a realm for women. While the article elicits shock and even laughter at its now “antiquated” sensibilities, it illustrates well the strong feelings and need for involvement and progression by a portion of society in the Civil War that is often overshadowed by the battles and soldiers:  the women.  The suffragist movement was gaining momentum at this time, and the progressive Oberlin women were, of course, right on top of it. Hats off to you, ladies!

Reform, Progress, Advancement

Two or three dozen ladies, married and single, appeared at the polls in this enterprising village yesterday and offered to vote. Owing to some unaccountable omission in the copy of the constitution which was read to them, or owing to the want of gallantry manifested by the judges of election, or owing to a general, floating idea about “spheres” and so forth that prevails to quite an extent, or owing to some other untoward, unlucky, and unfortunate circumstance the ladies did not exercise the right of suffrage.

We think we are progressive, we trust we are generous, we believe we are liberal, we hope we are destitute of gallantry, we desire to be reformatory, in theory at least, we solemnly aver that we are both a phil-anthropos and a phil-gunikos, but, bless you ladies! Don’t vote. Not that we are afraid of having masculine prerogatives taken away, masculine patents interfered with, or masculine rights whelmed, devoured, and swallowed up in a resistless ocean storm of reformatory and aspiring crinoline,–not at all: but ladies don’t vote!

Soberly, we honestly believe that there are some rights, important ones, of which a woman is deprived, but we have yet to be convinced that the right of suffrage is among the number. There is yet room for expansion inside the much talked of “sphere” without walking out at the gap of the ballot box. –We would be glad to see the atmosphere of the hustings purified,–not, however, at the expense of contaminating the womanhood of our country. Women should hesitate long lending their influence to a movement, which if it could ever prove successful, would bring their sex into contact with the most debasing of civilized life—American politics.

Again, God bless you, ladies! But don’t vote.”

The Lorain County News, 7 November 1860, p. 2, c. 3, 4.
 
Comments/Questions:

Please contact Karyn Norwood, the AmeriCorps Civil War 150 Leadership Corps Volunteer at the Heritage Center, via email: cw150@oberlinheritage.org.

Researching Women Physicians in the 19th & 20th Centuries

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

By Chloe Drummond (Oberlin College class of 2012)

This Winter Term, I wanted to stay in Oberlin and work locally. I hadn’t had an internship position for Winter Term before and I thought that working for the Oberlin Heritage Center would be a great opportunity to learn a lot about Oberlin, conduct in-depth history research—something I hadn’t really done before—and give my time to an organization that does a lot for the Oberlin community that I have grown fond of. And let me tell you, I think my Winter Term has been incredibly fulfilling. Not only have I met wonderful people who are truly passionate about their work, but I have learned to use resources I hadn’t previously known about.

I have been working on research about women physicians who practiced in Oberlin in the 19th and 20th centuries. I have found interesting information ranging from specific details such as a person’s physical features and notes about communication preferences, to broader context, such as the environment in which women practiced medicine at this time in U.S. history. Because of the centuries I was dealing with, it was tricky to find a lot of specific information that wasn’t recorded by Oberlin College. For example, I was unable to track down day-to-day practice information of the physicians who had private offices. I was, however, able to find a lot of information on the physicians who worked for the college. I believe that my work, as tough as it was to find information, has only scratched the surface. With more time, and by looking at different school records, city directories and hopefully other good pockets of sources, more information on these women will be revealed. It has been an interesting project because I have learned a lot about Oberlin College’s early physical education programs and in general, the kinds of work that women physicians were confined to in the early stages of allowing women to practice medicine in the United States. Personally, I have developed research skills that I know will be useful later on. I am hoping that the Oberlin Heritage Center can make good use of my project.

Tell the World; Oberlin is a Preserve America Community!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

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What are the places in and around Oberlin that you think are most deserving of preservation?   Why? 

Send a comment or try our online survey

The City of Oberlin recently erected a sign on route 511 at the city limits that announces Oberlin’s important designation as a “Preserve America Community.”  Preserve America is a federal program that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage.   The program seeks to foster a greater shared knowledge about the nation’s past, strengthen regional identities and local pride, and increase local participation in preserving heritage assets and supporting the economic vitality of communities. 

Oberlin became a Preserve America Community in 2004 after a lengthy application was submitted that was prepared by the Historic Preservation Commission and City Planning Commission with assistance from the Oberlin Heritage Center.  The application provided extensive documentation to demonstrate that Oberlin protects and celebrates its heritage, uses its historic assets for economic development and community revitalization, and encourages people to experience and appreciate local historic resources through education and heritage tourism programs. 

Oberlin is one of very few communities in the United States that is not only a Preserve America Community but also the home of a non-profit organization that has been designated a “Preserve America Steward.”  The Oberlin Heritage Center earned the Preserve America Steward designation earlier this year for its excellent volunteer programs to preserve heritage and culture. 

Oberlin is featured in a color photograph on the cover of a new brochure about Preserve America which was distributed at the National Trust for Historic Preservation conference in Nashville, Tennessee in October 2009.

 As of October, 2009, there are 795 communities, neighborhoods, counties, and tribal communities in the United States that have been designated as Preserve America Communities.  There are 13 Preserve America Stewards.  For more information, visit the website:  www.preserveamerica.gov

So back to our opening question for you: What are the places in and around Oberlin that you think are most deserving of preservation?   Why?  We want to know!

 Online Survey

 

Morgan Street Bridge Railings

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

 Morgan Street Bridge Railing at the Oberlin Heritage Center

Restored Morgan Street Bridge Railings
Installed at the Oberlin Heritage Center

Last spring Oberlin Heritage Center volunteers, including Walter Edling, Bert Latran, Dick Holsworth, Charles Pope and George Clark rescued and refurbished the century-old iron railings that had been removed from the Morgan Street bridge over Plum Creek.  This was a huge undertaking which took several months and included some heavy lifting help from members of the Oberlin High School football team.   The refurbished railing has been installed along the Oberlin Heritage Center brick heritage trail, just south of the Jewett House at 73 S. Professor Street.  

 

We are nominating this project for a history award and are seeking letters of support and comments about why and how this project provided a real service to the community.   We’d love to hear from you.

We are also still searching for photographs that show the bridge at its original location.  If you have any and are willing to lend them to be scanned, please let us know!