Tempus fugit - time flies. A year ago at this time, I was a little known beginning blogger who had a catchy handle that may have garnered some early attention. A year ago, I had posted only a dozen or so local history pieces. Today, I am more versed in our county's history and more appreciative of those that came here before me. A year ago, I had few story ideas other than the knowledge gained while volunteering for 15 years at the Fairport lighthouse. Today, I have posted some 112 blogs celebrating our county's contributions to American history. In twelve months, one can go from nobody to somebody, from merely familiar to suddenly called upon. One does not always recognize what may be happening. A News-Herald blog posted here. A Lake County Visitors Bureau blog posted there. A local Civil War program presented last spring. A 'DAR' presentation given in early summer. A lighthouse tour given here, a foghorn demonstration given there. A year blogging about Lake County history is like a wave washing up on Headlands or Fairport beach. Only after it recedes do you fully appreciate all the local gems that it leaves behind in the sand.
Isn't that one of the main reasons we continue to celebrate our past? To see which new persons will earn their way into our consciousness? A year ago, I did not know the story of Perry's Ann C. Whitman. She was the confidential secretary to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and later V.P. Nelson Rockefeller. A year ago, I did not know the story of Lewis and Milton Clarke. The brothers were free men falsely enslaved during the early 1800's. Their 1843 visit to Madison in support of abolitionism led to a episode that eventually became a part of Uncle Tom's Cabin lore. Harry Coulby resided in Wickliffe and even served a term as mayor. This Czar of the Great Lakes and his mansion 'Coulallenby' are even more fascinating to read about.
In history breakthrough performances don't just happen. Claude Foster and Robert Manry, both of Willowick made history. Foster was a pioneer during the early automotive era while Manry's nautical feats eclipsed his Cleveland journalism experiences. Eber Howe founded the Painesville Telegraph (1822-1976) but this abolitionist saved over a hundred people in his day. General Jack Casement may have been a famous Civil War leader but his trans-continental railroad abilities united two coasts. The first local medical college in Willoughby (1834-47) eventually led to three famous Ohio institutions, Lake Erie College, CWRU, and the OSU medical school. Dr. Amy Kaukonen became Ohio's first women mayor when she took office in Fairport in the 1920's. Her election into public office (subject to some debate) may also be the first in the United State's local election histories.
Think of the now familiar nicknames that would have meant nothing to me a year ago. The 'Penny Players' are a part of the history of Lake County's famous Rabbit Run Theater. Margaret Hamilton WWW was a Painesville resident and local educator. Uncle Dan has historical marker #43-15 celebrating his contributions to Americana.
The best thing about 2011 drawing to a close is the knowledge that somewhere another citizen is doing what is necessary to become known by this time next year. He/ she is vowing to rededicate him/herself to a cause. My New Year's column last year called upon each person to make a resolution that could be carried out. I asked each reader to resolve to volunteer a few hours of their time to a non-profit historical society. Each volunteer hour you donate is a gift. It is a gift that connects you to our past and allows you to be an 'eyewitness' to the ever evolving history that is Lake County.
Let this coming year be better than all others. Remember to resolve to volunteer. And most importantly - CARPE ANNO! - seize the year
Historic Lake County Alliance members - Eastlake Historical Society, Fairport Harbor Historical Society, Historic Downtown Willoughby, Indian Museum, James A Garfield NHS, Kirtland Temple, Lake County History Center, Madison Historical Society, Perry Historical Society, Rabbit Run Community Arts, St. Hubert's Church, Wickliffe Historical Society, Willoughby Hills Historical Society, Willoughby Welcome Center