Postcards from Grafton
The Bivins Murders

The Bivins Murders

August 9, 2021

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One of the many articles reporting the murders of Benjamin Bivins, his wife Sarah, and their daughter-in-law Laura Brownell Bivins on January 31, 1865 by their son David F. Bivins. This article appeared in the Painesville Telegraph on February 9, 1865. Only The New York Times mentions Almira Hart by name in the reporting of the crimes.

 

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Courtesy of Family Search and Find a Grave

 

It's our season one finale and we're going out with a bang. In this episode, Kari is revealing the story behind a triple homicide to Fred. While the murders happened in Michigan, the motive was located right here in Grafton, Ohio. The Civil War, railroads, women's education, and the illustrious Hart family of Grafton are all discussed to paint a full picture of the murders committed by David F. Bivins in 1865. The catalyst for this episode came in the form of Bivins' autobiography which was donated to the Library in the summer of 2020. You can explore Bivins' autobiography and more historical documents by visiting the Grafton-Midview Public Library, or by checking out our digital collections at www.gmplibrary.org/localhistory. We want to hear your ideas for our second season. If you have a question or topic that you'd like us to explore, be sure to email us at postcardsfromgrafton@gmail.com

 

After editing this episode and hearing Fred comment on how young David F. Bivins was when he died in prison, I did a little more digging. The Bivins murders appear to be pretty notorious folklore in Michigan with various mentions of them in scrapbooks and newspaper articles ever since they occurred. In 1970, the Detroit Advertiser and Tribune reported that Bivins died of "stricture" and "mortification." In the episode, you'll hear us discussing how Bivins deserted the army during the Civil War because of chronic diarrhea. What exactly did they mean by stricture in the 1860s? The old medical term referred to the narrowing and inflammation of the intestines or rectum; mortification was another term for gangrene. 

Genealogy Gems, Part 2

Genealogy Gems, Part 2

August 2, 2021

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Cohosts Fred and Kari holding one of the Ancestry DNA Test Kits you can win by listening to the Genealogy Gems episode and emailing the code word to postcardsfromgrafton@gmail.com.

What would prompt six librarians to discuss salvia bubbles, murder, Native American princesses, and faraway travels? Genealogy of course! Four more GMPL staffers agreed to chat with us about what may be lurking in their family trees and take Ancestry DNA tests: Miranda Emery, Kim Null, Nancy Caithaml, and Ben Cottom. Do their results confirm their family stories, or bust their family folklore? What do they plan to do after learning their results?

Just like our first genealogy episode, you have the chance to win an Ancestry DNA test kit! Listen to the code word given by Maggie during this episode and email it to postcardsfromgrafton@gmail.com by October 30, 2021. Two lucky people will be randomly selected to win. By testing a saliva sample, Ancestry DNA looks at the entire genome of a person, about 700,000 markers, to provide a genetic ethnicity profile. Ancestry DNA maps your ethnicity going back multiple generations so you can see what region your ancestors are from or how likely you are to have a certain heritage, and it helps identify relationships with potentially unknown relatives by matching your DNA with the other 18 million members of Ancestry.    

Old Fashioned Christmas

Old Fashioned Christmas

July 26, 2021

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Beginning in the late 1970s as a way to highlight the businesses along Main Street, Old Fashioned Christmas has developed into a yearly Grafton tradition. We’re chatting with Tami Mullins of the Library and Tami Smith of Smith & Schmidt Agency: Allstate Insurance about this much loved community event. Both have been involved in the planning process of Old Fashioned Christmas for several years and as we say at the top of the episode, it’s so much more than snowflakes and candy canes. From picking a theme to finding the perfect Santa and Scrooge to organizing the food, ice sculptures, reindeer, and raffles, it takes months of planning and many volunteers to bring the event to life. Topics in this episode include a lighted tractor parade, hot dogs, holiday windows, and what businesses we’d love to see along Main Street (Hint: A coffee shop).

To find the most up-to-date information about Old Fashioned Christmas, please visit the event’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GraftonOFC/.

To reach Tami Smith with Allstate Insurance, please visit the Allstate website at https://agents.allstate.com/smith--schmidt-agency-grafton-oh.html 

For more pictures and articles about Grafton festivals and traditions, please visit our digital collection at https://library.biblioboard.com/anthology/c180afc7-8beb-48c5-aab2-dd36041539e3/collections/masonry.

Meet the Farmers

Meet the Farmers

July 19, 2021

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We've been thinking a lot about food and farmers. When you drive through the Grafton area, it’s hard not to notice the large fields of farmland or a tractor traveling down the road. With the COVID-19 Pandemic we’re cooking more at home, and questioning our shopping and dining habits and the origins of the food on our plates. Less than 2% of the U.S. population has a role in food production. We’re chatting with three farmers in our community: Hannah DiVencenzo, and Jason and Angela Schriver. They are passionate and committed to growing livestock and crops in ways that are good for their families, their community, and the climate. Our conversation includes organic farming practices, the impact of technology and regulations, the Lorain County Farm Bureau, and how the farming tradition can be continued with younger generations.    

 

Hannah and Joe DiVencenzo currently sell eggs, whole pasture-raised chickens, and honey. Their farm, Healthy Harvest Organics, is located at 16397 Island Road, Grafton, Ohio. They can reached through their website, email, and social media channels below:    

www.healthyharvestorganics.com

healthyharvestorganics@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/HealthyHarvestOrganics

https://www.instagram.com/healthyharvestorganics/

 

Jason and Angela Schriver are third and second generation farmers respectively. Jason took over his family’s farm in 2000 and farmed conventionally for 16 years. In 2018, the Schrivers transitioned to organic agriculture and were certified organic (row-crop). Jason has been on the Lorain County Farm Bureau Board for 5 years, and currently serves as Vice President. Angela is currently serving as a supervisor for the Lorain County Soil and Water District. Over the past several years, the Schrivers have become active in public policy concerning agriculture, including meeting with Ohio State Senators and members of Congress, and making oral comments during the National Organic Standards’ biannual meetings. The Schrivers have focused primarily on declining organic integrity, particularly how large commercial farms have used their lobbying power to whittle away standards and fraudulent organic products, especially those entering the market from overseas. The Schrivers have hosted a State Soil and Water Supervisor Field Day at their farm in addition to an organic field day for the Community Farming Outreach Initiative. They have recently opened their farm to the public for walks along their 40 acre sunflower field. The Schrivers can be reached through their social media page below:

https://www.facebook.com/SchriverFamilyFarms/

For more information about the Lorain County Farm Bureau, including events, farmer profiles, membership, and more, please visit https://ofbf.org/counties/lorain/.

Behind the Stacks at GMPL, Part 2

Behind the Stacks at GMPL, Part 2

July 12, 2021

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Miss Katie and Miss Kari showing off the new 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten train in the summer of 2020; and Miss Maggie, Miss Katie, and Miss Kari celebrating the arrival of caterpillars in spring of 2021.

 

We had a little trouble getting Fred's microphone to sync this episode. His voice carries, but there are a few moments where Katie and Kari's laughter drown him out. This is what regularly happens in the Youth Services Department, but nonetheless we apologize for any listening inconveniences.  

A lot of things happen in a library, like having storytimes in an old bank vault. Or discovering a dozen donuts in the wall when renovating. Or finding an abandoned kitten during a summer reading kickoff. Or a global pandemic that flips everything upside down. To complement our previous conversation with GMPL veterans, this episode features two of the newest members of the Library, Katie Corcoran and co host Kari Mariner. Katie and Kari discuss what brought them to GMPL, what youth services look like behind the scenes, and what it’s been like to be a librarian during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Harriet Spitzer spearheaded efforts to organize a free public library to serve the Grafton community in the early 1940s. In 1944, the Grafton-Midview Public Library was chartered as a school district library. The Library was housed in the Grafton School on Elm Street for a couple decades before moving to a vacated bank building on Main Street in 1971. In 1991, a renovation expanded and updated the building. The Grafton-Midview Public Library is one of seven independent public libraries in Lorain County and serves approximately 24,000 residents in Grafton Village, Grafton Township, Eaton Township, and parts of Carlisle Township and Elyria. For more information about GMPL, visit https://www.gmplibrary.org/.    

Behind the Stacks at GMPL, Part I

Behind the Stacks at GMPL, Part I

July 5, 2021

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Library3.jpgOne of our guests this episode, Tami Mullins, at GMPL back in the day.

 

We had a small technical issue this episode. Around the 2 minute mark when Tami is discussing summer reading, Kari's microphone cuts out. It lasts until around 04:22 when we replaced the batteries. We apologize for the inconvenience! 

 

A lot of things happen in a library, like having storytimes in an old bank vault. Or discovering a dozen donuts in the wall when renovating. Or finding an abandoned kitten during a summer reading kickoff. Or making dozens and dozens of chicken paprikash meals as part of a levy campaign. This episode features three Grafton-Midview Public Library veterans, Tami Mullins, Lauren Baldwin, and co host Fred Backstrom, chatting about what library land is really like.

Harriet Spitzer spearheaded efforts to organize a free public library to serve the Grafton community in the early 1940s. In 1944, the Grafton-Midview Public Library was chartered as a school district library. The Library was housed in the Grafton School on Elm Street for decades before moving to a vacated bank building on Main Street in 1971. In 1991, a renovation expanded and updated the building. The Grafton-Midview Public Library is one of seven independent public libraries in Lorain County and serves approximately 24,000 residents in Grafton Village, Grafton Township, Eaton Township, and parts of Carlisle Township and Elyria. For more information about GMPL, visit https://www.gmplibrary.org/. Make sure to check out the Grafton-Midview Public Library collection on Biblioboard for more pictures, newspaper articles, and documents at https://library.biblioboard.com/anthology/1f1c6db4-f8ed-49f3-bbd6-8ce90158f8db

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1965 Palm Sunday Tornado

1965 Palm Sunday Tornado

June 28, 2021

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On April 11, 1965 a tornado tore through the Village of Grafton at 11:23 pm. The tornado that hit Grafton was part of a larger, infamous outbreak known as the Palm Sunday Tornadoes. Over the span of 12 hours, 37 tornadoes were unleashed on Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. The outbreak claimed 260 lives, 140 in Indiana alone, and caused millions of dollars in damage. In Ohio, 55 people died. The town of Pittsfield was completely leveled, a bus on Interstate 75 was flipped upside down and smashed, and electric and telephone failures throughout the state lasted from Sunday night through Monday, making rescue and cleanup efforts difficult. While houses were blown across streets and severely damaged, Grafton luckily experienced few serious injuries. This episode we’re chatting with Nancy Caithaml. Caithaml was only a first grader when the Palm Sunday Tornado hit Grafton, but she has vivid memories of the experience. She shares what it was like to seek shelter, how her home was damaged, the community’s cleanup efforts, and how the tornado continued to impact her and her family long after April 11, 1965. Caithaml’s story was featured in the book The Night of the Wicked Winds: The 1965 Palm Sunday Tornadoes in Ohio by Roger Pickenpaugh. You can check out a copy to read at the Grafton-Midview Public Library. If you are interested in more firsthand experiences of the Palm Sunday Tornado and the months that followed in the Village of Grafton, check out our Voices of Grafton oral history collection online at https://library.biblioboard.com/anthology-collection/06d343dd-9170-4da0-b2d4-ce0b3119497f/bd173390-5c51-4a04-9247-e2d8aee95a56. Below is a photo of Caithaml's home after the tornado hit, and the recovered dress both her and her mother wore on their wedding days. 

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Dairies, Cemeteries, and the Arts

Dairies, Cemeteries, and the Arts

June 21, 2021

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Author and artist Renee Durkee Atkinson holding her book Rum Run.

 

Oel_Durkee_Senior_s_Homestead7bzvm.jpgThe Durkee Farm during the 1870s.

 

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The Orchard Cheese Factory at the corner of Butternut Ridge and Durkee Road. Atkinson's great-great grandfather and Civil War veteran Oel Durkee stands in front. 

 

Our special guest made a of couple errors when chatting with us (It happens when there's so much to discuss!) First, there are four Revolutionary War soldiers buried at Butternut Ridge Cemetery in Eaton Township, making it the only cemetery in Lorain County to have that many. Second, the Civil War Centennial observation at Butternut Ridge Cemetery, when the Cemetery was presented with it's award, took place in 1960, not 1860.   

We’re talking with a true Renaissance woman who blends her love of history and nature into her many creative pursuits: Renee Durkee Atkinson. Atkinson is a sixth generation farmer and has raised horses, sheep, cows, and crops over the course of her life. She is an award-winning artist with a fondness for painting historical barns and animals, and she is a published author. She is actively involved with the Butternut Ridge Cemetery in Eaton Township and loves visiting Civil War sites. In this episode Atkinson shares with us stories of the Durkee family and the struggles experienced by farmers in our community; the ways in which the Butternut Ridge Cemetery honors veterans and some of the famous people buried there; the inspiration behind her paintings; and details about her upcoming novel based on the diary of a Civil War soldier. Fred and I walked away from the conversation truly inspired and we hope you do too.

Atkinson’s first book is called Rum Run. In 1928, Rusty loses his job as a Lake Erie tugboat deckhand and can no longer afford his charter boat business. Out of desperation, he turns to the Trapani family and begins hauling grape juice. After several successful trips, Al Trapani offers Rusty the chance to run illegal alcohol from Canada. Atkinson brings the Prohibition era to life, and illuminates a piece of history that takes place right in our backyard in gorgeous detail. Rum Run is available at the Grafton-Midview Public Library. For more information on Renee Durkee Atkinson, visit her website at https://www.rcdurkee.com/

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Four generations of Durkees on the family farm, 1962. From left to right are Atkinson's great grandfather, Elza; grandfather, Orin; father, Duane; and brother, Derek. Atkinson's great-great grandfather, Oel Durkee, purchased the land in 1834. The above photograph accompanied an article on the Durkee Farm's history in the Elyria Chronicle Telegram on October 4, 1962.

 

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Grafton Train Tower, watercolor. This work was painted before the train tower was moved and the statue added. The large oak tree stood to the left of the present day laundromat. The Elyria Saving and Trust Bank in downtown Grafton purchased the original painting and Atkinson has sold smaller prints of it over the years.

 

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Ron's Barn, watercolor. 

 

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Atkinson hiked the Black Hills and drew the abandoned mines she came across. This piece is Holy Terror Abandoned Mine, South Dakota, pen and ink.

 

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At Pond's Edge, Wood Ducks, acrylic. 

Genealogy Gems: Part I

Genealogy Gems: Part I

June 14, 2021

What would prompt four librarians to discuss salvia bubbles, comfort food, faraway travels, and black and white photographs? Genealogy of course! GMPL staffers Maggie Noble, Tami Mullins, Crystal Samol, and Pam Myers agreed to chat with us about what might be lurking in their family trees and take Ancestry DNA tests. Do their results confirm their family stories, or bust their family folklore? What do they plan to do after learning their results? Let us help you build your family tree. You have the chance to win an Ancestry DNA test kit! Listen to the code word given by Maggie during this episode and email it to postcardsfromgrafton@gmail.com by July 14, 2021. One lucky person will be randomly selected to win. By testing a saliva sample, Ancestry DNA looks at the entire genome of a person, about 700,000 markers, to provide a genetic ethnicity profile. Ancestry DNA maps your ethnicity going back multiple generations so you can see what region your ancestors are from and how likely you are to have a certain heritage, and it identifies relationships with potentially unknown relatives by matching your DNA with the other 18 million members of Ancestry. Don't forget that Grafton-Midview Public Library has a variety of research databases to assist you in your genealogy pursuits. Visit https://www.gmplibrary.org/index.php/dbases to access HeritageQuest, Fold3, and more resources.  

Old Grafton School

Old Grafton School

June 7, 2021

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Artist studios. Concerts. Community theater. Historical exhibits. Monarch butterfly garden. Community garden. The vision that Carlee Mahajan has for the Old Grafton School on Elm Street is ambitious and creative to say the least. We chat with Mahajan about the history of the school building, how she acquired the property, the work that has been completed, and the work that remains to make the space a true community hub for artists and events. To learn more about the Old Grafton School, including construction updates and events, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/oldgraftonschool/ 

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In 1934, the Grafton School Board began investigating the possibility of constructing a gymnasium as a Civil Works Administration project; Grafton had a championship-winning boys basketball team, but the elementary school on Chestnut Street was too small of a space for practice. In 1935, the vision evolved from a basketball practice space to an entire new school building with a price tag of $125,000. Voters approved a $70,000 bond issue for the new school and the Public Works Administration covered the rest. Construction quickly began at the intersection of Elm and Mechanic Streets, and the building’s first elementary students began their schoolyear in 1936. In addition to an auditorium-gymnasium that could seat 500, the school building included a large cafeteria and kitchen, locker rooms, a chemistry and physics laboratory, art and music rooms, and a room equipped with sewing machines, kitchenettes, and a stage for home economics and public speaking. The Elm Street Elementary School officially closed in May 2005 when three new elementary schools were built in the community.

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