Wednesday, March 16

Finding My Ancestor's Log Cabin


A month or two back my sister Beverly posted a photo she had taken in the 1980’s of our Grandmother Lucy Curtis’s birth place. (My great grand parents home)

It was a photo of a log cabin somewhere near Chillicothe, Ohio: My father’s dad and mom, and his grandparents, were from Chillicothe.   Our family on my father's side have been in Ohio since late 1700's to early 1800's and are one of the First Families of Ohio.
Most of my older siblings had taken the drive with my father when I was very young, but I never go to see the log cabin and have only heard stories.

I was so thrilled to finally see a photo of Grandma Lucy’s homestead. 
I asked my sister Beverly if she could remember where the cabin was located or if she could remember directions. 

Her directions were as follows:
Beverly: “You get off the highway going into Chillicothe where the high mountains are (those are supposed to be the ones in the Ohio seal) and instead of turning right, you go left and then turn left on the winding road on that mountain on the other side of the freeway into Chillicothe. There was an old store there we passed. It was on a back road and they made hay I think in that field. "
The 1980's photo of my great grandparents cabin,
and where my grandmother grew up
Not much to go on and there are dozens of winding country roads, and now 5 Chillicothe exits off U.S. Route 23. The “mountains" or hills she spoke of ARE the hills in our state's Great Seal of Ohio, but  they run for quite a ways along Rt. 23.
According to historical lore, the seal was based on the eastern view from Adena, the home of Thomas Worthington near Chillicothe.
Adena, home of Thomas Worthington, Chillicothe, Ohio

Not thinking we would ever really find the log cabin, I figured it would be a fun adventure day.  What were the chances anyway?  The cabin would most likely have been torn down by now, or collapsed and lying in a rotting rubble pile.  But I am always up for an adventure, (some of you know this) and I find the most interesting things on day trips around Ohio!

And what a day it was! My nephew Adam has Thursdays off, and we had been talking about driving to Chillicothe to look for the cabin for a few weeks, but mostly we just wanted to see what we could get into and do a little “ploring” as we sometimes call it. My daughter Alexis came along too. It was a chilly rainy day, but that did not dampen our exploring spirit.

I had been thinking long and hard about Beverly’s directions and tried to match them up to the 1980’s roads and exits, not the ones that are there now, over thirty years later.
Our father took us on many drives to Chillicothe, so I remember the exit that was there when we were little, Which is the Main Street exit.
As Adam, Alexis and I neared Chillicothe they wanted to turn off at different exits, but I let them in on my reasoning. And, I said: "if I’m wrong, we can turn around and try another exit."

We took the Main Street exit, and when we came to the light we turned left, going away from Chillicothe. So far so good. We crossed the bridge going over the Scioto River, and immediately there was, you guessed it, a winding country road. We turned left, mostly because it ran next to the river, which was swollen huge and nearly over its banks.

We had already stopped at road closed signs earlier in the day, and hiked back to look at the flooding in other areas and to take a few photos.

As we were all staring and commenting on the flooding to the left, a huge bright yellow sign caught my eye to the right. It was a sign announcing SEYMOUR Rd coming up to the right. We all starting talking at once and agreed we MUST be on the right track. The road went thru a tunnel under a hill and opened up into a beautiful valley.

We drove slowly back until the dead end, and then up and up a sloping driveway to an old farm house and barns. I decided to knock on the door and find out if there were any Seymours in the area.

My maiden name is Seymour; my grandmother Lucy Curtis married my grandfather Alonzo Harvey Seymour. Our quest on this day was not to find the Seymour family markers or home but the Curtis’s,  this was just an added bonus.

As I approached the wrought iron gate I noticed on the fence surrounding the old farm house a sign. It was metal and the letters were cut out which said W. SEYMOUR. I was ecstatic! (Alexis says I was “all jacked up”) And the view from this hilltop farm was amazing. You could see the entire town of Chillicothe. We knocked on the door of that house and 5 others in that valley until finally a man came out of a pole barn. I told him who I was and what I was looking for. He told me,
“Well everyone in this valley is a Seymour."

Wow! Were we in fact related to these Seymours? Could they tell us where Lucy’s birthplace was?
Oh my gosh!  He took me into the pole barn to talk to his wife, who did a lot of Seymour genealogy, and Adam and Alexis came along.

We talked for maybe 45 minutes to an hour, going over family trees, trying to describe the cabin in the photo and who it was that was born there, and how they were related to me.  At some point I remembered to tell them about the old store that was supposed to be near the road we needed.

Finally, a light went off or so it seemed and he said “I think I know what cabin you’re looking for, it’s not much to look at, but it may be it.” There was a store, he said, made in an old house, but it burnt down several years ago. A new store was built in its place.

We saw that store right before turning on the road near the river.
What a stoke of luck!
They gave us directions to what they thought might be my great grandparent's log cabin, and told us it was owned by the family next to it. We exchanged email addresses, thanked them and we were on our way: back down though the valley, through the tunnel under the hill, out onto the road near the river.

When we reached the store, we turned left onto the road near the store and then into the parking lot. We went in for salami, cheese, ham salad, corn chips, drinks, one slice of peach pie, candy bars for Alexis and for Adam (he has a weakness for it), a box of caramel corn.
You knew there was going to be food somewhere in this narrative, didn’t you?

On with the story. With our bellies full, we turned back onto the road and drove until we came to a T in the road, and turned left. We passed many side roads and forks in the road but wasn’t sure which one it was. We could have been driving forever! One of the roads, for some reason I thought it might be it, I remembered some of the details of where to turn. The kids said "NO, keep going, that’s not it.” We drove for another 2 or 3 miles and I said “I’m turning around, I think that road was it”. We went back.

My nephew and I, March 2011

2011 Photo of my great grand parents log cabin

After about 1 mile and a few bends and curves in the dirt road, there was the log cabin, the cabin in Beverly’s photo! We decided to go back to the house next to the cabin and ask permission to look and take photos. I knocked on the door 5 or 6 cute little doggies came barking and the owner opened the door about 2 inches and asked me to come in.
I told him who I was and that the log cabin was my grandmother’s birth place. He said he had a bull and cows in that pasture and could I come back another time, once he moved the cattle.

My old black pup
We talked for 40 to 45 minutes, some inside, then moved outside. He told me his father purchased the land in the 1930’s, and that he had just lost his son in 2008. We had shared grief having lost a family member, his grief much more than mine. He told me about his cattle, that he raised a baby calf recently when its mother died in birth, and that that calf didn’t want to be with the other cows, but wanted to be where he was. He told me he has all the little doggies because they are rescue dogs, were abused so he and his wife took them in. He also had a really old dog outside, with arthritis, that so reminded me of my old black pup that it brought tears to my eyes, and does while I’m writing this.

He told me he gets lots and lots of people claiming that the cabin is their family birth place. He asked and I again told him how I was related to Lucy and that her last name, maiden name was Curtis. He stopped and looked at me, then told me there is a grave yard at the top of the hill behind the cabin, and all the names on the tombstones are Curtis! Goosebumps.
He believes the house and graveyard are historical landmarks.

He said when he was a young boy he and one of the Seymour boys, Jean Seymour, who is gone now, would climb over Seymour Hill to play together, that their fathers were both farmers.
I’m sorry, I said, did you say that one of the Hills is named “Seymour Hill?
The surprises just keep coming!

He told me that the guy who owns the new little grocery store came by one day and told him the cabin is his birth place. I said, well could be, if he married into the family, but I would say it is the Curtis homestead since it is their graveyard that is on top of the hill.
He told me the graves are from the early, mid and late 1800’s. My great grandparents could be buried there!
We agreed I would call him in April when the weather is warmer and he has a chance to move his cattle.

I can’t wait!


March 2011
Kids are such a pain, they insist I add that my husband Bill called me a couple of times to talk and I may have missed a road because of it,
God knows they didn't know where in the hell they were, lol

Note:  I have removed some of the names and street locations in the story for privacy.


Anonymous said...

My name is Joe Curtis, and my Grandpa was born in that cabin. If you go into the Court house you might still be able to find old land deeds and court paper dating back to 1860s, The Curtis Family owned a lot of land. My father and I also traveled down Seney Rd and talk to the old man who told us he had a bull in the field. I use to have a lot of papers and documents of our Family history but have gotten lost over the years. I myself live in Chillicothe and can be found on Facebook.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Hello Joe, nice to meet you! So we must be distant cousins? I went years ago to Chillicothe to research records and found a few birth and death certificates. I would love to see what you have uncovered if you can located the papers. I also want to visit the Curtis graveyard that is on the property if for nothing else but for photos of all the graves (and names) to do more research. I'll look you up on Facebook. I also found cousins living on Seymour Road and they have done lots of genealogy and have it on which I have not gone to yet.