Rural Ohio, Circa 1900

Somehow, I inherited the position of family archivist. I’ve hauled boxes full of old photographs, slides, diaries, personal papers, and other items around the country for decades. One of the items I treasure is a simple spiral-bound notebook containing my grandmother’s handwritten recollections of her life growing up in rural southern Ohio.

Corna Mae Trout was born in Deavertown, Ohio, in 1890, married George R. Ross in 1913, and died in Clermont, Florida in 1987. Her mother died when she was only seven, so she was raised by her father and his parents. She and her younger sister, Wilda, lived with their paternal grandparents so their father, a country doctor, could adequately care for his patients.

Culture Clash

My next book is about the clashes between 19th century Euro-centric, east coast colonists moving west and several nations of Indigenous peoples living near where grandma grew up. The book explores the age-old story conflicts about competing assumptions and agendas regarding appropriate use of land. Grandma’s recollections date to about a century after white settlements started populating the Ohio Valley. She made no reference to Indigenous, probably because by the time she was growing up,  nearly all of the Indigenous people had been driven out of the territory.

None-the-less, I thought readers might enjoy this glimpse of a by-gone era in a place rich in both history and progress. Within a short drive of Deavertown you will find both the newly designated World Heritage Earthwork mounds and construction for the new Intel chip manufacturing plant. The past meets the future in some exciting ways in southern and central Ohio. What follows is my transcription of my grandmother’s notes, edited only slightly for clarification.

Grandma’s Recollections

When I sit in a doctor’s office waiting and I look around my memory brings into my mind the office of my Father. In 1900 I was at home and in about 1912 I helped father in his office and in many other ways. We lived in a village with no pavement or any good sidewalks, only sand and mud, and in summer dust. We were about 8 or 10 miles from good hospitals. Father always had two good horses and I learned how to hitch a horse to buggy by lantern light. We had no electricity and only heat by coal.

Father had office hours but country folks always come in afternoon and at other times if they were in the village. Pay was another thing, 50 cents as I remember, and often some form of things such as they had.

Pharmaceuticals and Automobiles

Drugs was another thing as there was not a drug store around. Father had a private room lined with shelves and drugs. Drug salesmen came by so often to see what he needed. Father mixed a lot of his medicine or taught me how and then I put it up in capsules.

Father had the first automobile in that part of country, a Buick. Now we had two horses, a buggy, and a run about. A gasoline tank and a garage had to be added. No roads – only gravel and mud.  We had a telephone of sorts. I can remember country folks calling up to see if the doctor would be out their way that day as they wanted to come to village or on to Zanesville and their horses were afraid of the automobile.

Sometimes Father would go by horseback to the country where it was hard to get to. One time he went on Bess (a horse). He knew the country well and if he could cut across fields, he could save so much time. Well, he came to a rail fence, and he got off the horse and over the fence and turned to Bess to follow him over. Well, Bess went over and turned and jumped back and Father laughed when he told me. Bess was a wonderful horse and I drove her many miles. Sometimes Father would get into trouble with his car and telephone, and I would get a call, then Bess and I would be on our way to help him.

Rural Emergency Service

Sometimes people had to be taken to the hospital in Zanesville and how to do it was a problem. There was no ambulance in the country. I remember one young man where the family put him in blankets and went into storm in a sled with hot stones around him. Then they took him to Zanesville about 12 or 14 miles from out in country. He lived for days. The doctors thought he would not.

The life of a family doctor is something else. The doctor. is always looked up to. One night I answered the doorbell of the office and as I opened door a young man stepped in holding one hand wrapped in a burlap sack and blood dropping through. Father taught me to never get excited and to always listen to him and do just as he told me. It was a great experience and great help in later life.


That’s all she wrote about that portion of her life. My grandfather went into banking, a career that eventually moved them to Cleveland where he worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Grandma taught in a one-room school house for one year. She had to give up teaching when she married.

Sometimes when I’m frustrating waiting for traffic lights to turn or human beings to come on the line, I think about the life she lived and know that I really would not want to turn back the progress over the past century.

How do memories of your grandparents influence you?

Thank you for reading along. If you’ve enjoyed this bit of rural Ohio history, you might also enjoy  my posts on Substack.

I write about a variety of topics, but focus on how our history influences our present and informs our future.

Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold.; Mary Brewster’s Love Life
Autographed copies are available on my website.

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