Postcards from Grafton
Dairies, Cemeteries, and the Arts

Dairies, Cemeteries, and the Arts

June 21, 2021


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


Oel_Durkee_Senior_s_Homestead7bzvm.jpgThe Durkee Farm during the 1870s.



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


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.



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.



Ron's Barn, watercolor. 



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.



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 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 to access HeritageQuest, Fold3, and more resources.  

Old Grafton School

Old Grafton School

June 7, 2021


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: 


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.

Postcards from Grafton Official Trailer

Postcards from Grafton Official Trailer

May 28, 2021

We know the power of stories. And we know that history is more than just dates and names on a page. We're two history-loving librarians from the Grafton-Midview Public Library exploring the most fascinating people and places in our community and everything in between. This podcast is made possible by the Grafton Village History Association. 

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