It’s Interview Time for Mom!

http://www.reporter.net/news/local_news/county-native-releases-history-book-on-boone/article_8ede061d-9e3b-571c-807c-e98923223348.html

Being interviewed by your old hometown newspaper sure feels like a big deal. Both “Boone County, Images of America” and “The State of Boone” release next month. I sat down last week with Elizabeth Pearl of The Lebanon Reporter at the “Tornado Starbucks” for a chat. Here’s the article she wrote from our 30 minute convo–clearly I yack as verbosely as I write

When Kassie Ritman was a senior in high school, she and a group of friends decided to sneak out one night and paint graffiti on the Lebanon water tower.

The girls asked a group of guys to come climb the ladder and paint “79” — their graduating year — over the “Friendly City” logo emblazoned across the water tank.

But the guys never showed up, so around one in the morning Ritman and her friends gave up and went home.

Years later, while researching a forthcoming book about Boone County, Ritman learned a disturbing truth about the land the water tower stood over. Beneath the grass and soil lay the unmarked graves of Lebanon’s earliest citizens.

“We had no idea,” Ritman said, “but we were standing over a thousand of bodies.”

Ritman was born at Witham Hospital in 1960, and grew up in what she calls “the last house in Boone County” before the Hendricks County line. She attended Lebanon schools and was a 4-H member. Until she started working on the book, titled “Boone County,” she thought she knew all the legends about the area.

She quickly found out that she was wrong.

“I would challenge anyone to see if some of the things in there don’t surprise them,” Ritman said. “Because a lot of it threw me for a loop.”

Ritman has lived in Indianapolis for most of her adult life, but she still comes to Boone County for the annual fair, and to get her hair cut by a high school classmate. She feels a strong bond with the place where she was raised and where she still has many friends, she said.

So when the opportunity came to write a book about the area, she leapt at the chance. Ritman, who worked as an interior decorator and owned a coffee shop in Broad Ripple, has always loved to write and explore family history and genealogy. Last year she approached Arcadia Publishing about a historic house in Indianapolis.

The publisher said no, but told Ritman about a few other projects they needed someone to work on. Ritman quickly agreed when they mentioned her home county.

“I told them I grew up in Boone, and I’d love to do it,” she said.

The book, which will be released Aug. 15, is part of the ubiquitous “Images in America” series, which publishes works on small towns and special topics across the country. Until now, the series includes 117 books on Indiana, none of which covered Boone County or any of the towns within it.

Ritman began working on the book, which will be largely pictorial, in September. Over the course of her research she visited the Heritage centers and libraries in Lebanon, Thorntown and Jamestown and spoke with longtime area families who knew the legends and had photos of the county.

“This has been several months in the works,” said Phyllis Myers, genealogy and local history librarian at the Thorntown Public Library. “We went through all the photos we have and the written documents in the library. A lot of that stuff has not been included in a book before or anything like this.”

The book includes more than 200 photos and covers the years 1840 to the 1980s, Ritman said. In it, people can find information on many facets of life in Boone, including details about famous and interesting graves and the history of medical care in the county. One early hospital shown in the book refused to treat “the insane or contagious.”

http://www.reporter.net/news/local_news/county-native-releases-history-book-on-boone/article_8ede061d-9e3b-571c-807c-e98923223348.html
The Water tower boasts the slogan “The Friendly City” keeping watch over the hundreds of pioneers buried at its feet.

The story behind the lost cemetery beneath the water tower is also included in the book. The cemetery, called Cedar Hill, was opened in the 1830s. By the end of the Civil War, it was overflowing and unkempt, and eventually abandoned after the opening of Oak Hill Cemetery in 1872.

In 1954, the James Hill chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution took over the cemetery and removed the grave markers, most of which were broken, lost or illegible. The gravestones were available for the public to take, and those unclaimed were taken to the dump. By most accounts, 1,000 of Boone County’s earliest residents were buried in the old cemetery, Ritman said.

Ritman’s book — which she is publishing with a companion piece, “State of Boone,” that focuses on stories rather than photos — comes at a good time for the county, said Eric Spall, local history specialist at the Lebanon Public Library’s Heritage Center. The last book about the county was published in 1984.

“We told her it was definitely time for a history book,” Spall, who helped Ritman with the library’s vast archives, said. “There should be a lot of interest in the county on history of this type, with that local flavor. You won’t find the more detailed stuff on people’s lives in histories of the whole state.”

One of the things Ritman enjoyed about researching Boone was the amount of unique information and people to come out of it. She herself grew up surrounded by that history, and most of the time didn’t know she was surrounded by it. As a child, she remembers finding Native American arrowheads in fields and showing them to her friends.

“We traded arrowheads like town kids traded marbles,” she said. “We had no idea these were from 5,000 years before Christ.”

For Ritman, part of the fun of writing a book like this is that she gets to learn about the place where she was born, and in the process hopefully teach current residents about their home. The book is on-order at the Thorntown and Lebanon libraries, and Ritman said it will likely be available other places around the county as well. She plans to do signings and events around the county a few weeks after the book is released.

“This is such a unique place. People from Lebanon are different from people from Zionsville, who are different than people from Jamestown,” she said. “To play on what Vonnegut said, everywhere you go there is a Hoosier doing something. It’s the same for Boone County. Everywhere you go there is a someone from Boone County doing something, usually something really cool.”

How to buy it

The book “Boone County” is available at amazon.com and http://www.barnesandnoble.com/.

Praise the Saints and Dish Up the Dirt

wpid-img_20140825_103611.jpg There’s always a black sheep in every family.

If there isn’t…well, somebody must have scared ’em off long ago !

There was a certain aunt in my hubby’s family who was evidently removed from the planet at some point.  I stumbled upon her on an early census.  She lived at home with her parents and two brothers until she was about 20.  Then all of a sudden she is married, and widowed within about a year.  Hmmm.  His death certificate (signed by her) states his cause of death as homicide, fatal gun shot wound.  His body was claimed by his parents and I as far as I can tell, was hauled back to Tennessee.  See ya Robert !  That’s around the time that Aunt Mary walked off the face of the earth.  Poof!  Gone.

Now heaven knows, my bloodline is not Saint-laden.  I am probably descended from more than my share of bootleggers, moonshiners, batterers and hatchet murdering types than I care to claim.  A couple of them even got caught!

Honestly, one end of my gene-pool had a real “thing” for smacking others in the head with a hammer. I can’t imagine it was their fault. Maybe hammers were just laying around waiting in those days…maybe it’s what most women carried in their handbags…maybe they didn’t know how to “use your words” to settle differences. I’m not really sure, but as far as I’ve found, none of them ever seemed to have been ever proven directly fatal.

Some tales are a bit less violent, but illegal nonetheless. Like the bootlegger faction of the family who warehoused their stock on underground shelves dug into the sidewalls of the outhouse. Bathtub Gin was the (out)house specialty. When a buy order came in, one of the kids was lowered down the hole–yes, that hole–by rope to retrieve the merchandise.

I would like to think that the customers sat on the front porch  or maybe stood around on the curb chatting while their order was being filled from the “stockroom”. But, who knows, maybe they didn’t give a…

Well, you could guess where that was about to go!

So think aloud around the table today and dig up a few of your “less than suitable for Sainthood” stories. You could start by Googling some names of cousins or other “contemporaries.”   They could be more recent than you think!

Who knows what you may or may not find. But if it’s ‘juicy’…you know what Mom always says:

Maybe someone should write that down!

 

Managing the “Help”

PD_0140Once the stories start flowing and your paper ghosts are wriggling with life, you may find yourself with a lot of volunteers. Now is the time to be extra creative. Use all the help that is offered ! Rather than seeing enthusiastic volunteers as “Johnny-Come-Lately-Bandwagon-Jumpers,” consider how their eagerness to help could add to the richness of the ultimate end product.  Collaborating this way will make your work an “of the people, by the people” sort of outcome for your family tree.

Think about a special talent aunt Susan can contribute. She might well be the biggest gossip in 3 counties…so use that!  You can always debunk / confirm later.  But for now, pull up a chair, turn her on and let her rip!  Don’t stop with the volunteers who step forward !   Everyone knows there is an unwritten code of honor among thieves, however that code pales to the closed -community of cooks who hold the family recipes!  When buttered up and coddled. cooks may be moved to show heart and dig out family recipes to share.   They could also be put on the task of beating secret recipes out of others within the inner circle of the kitchen.  Artsy types could be put to work designing a cover for the finished product, or Illuminating  pages.  The scholarly would enjoy collaborating  with each branch to create a representative family crest (see  a later posting for info on this). The hoarders (God bless us everyone!) can be assigned to photo finding, or heirloom display.

Get them all working together as a team . Once your dear hoarder has unearthed Grandmama’s wedding china, perhaps there’s a shutter bug just waiting to document those very heirlooms from every angle. Clearly, there’s no reason to pass over your clan”s computer geek!  They could join forces with the children in a google scavenger hunt of mapping and street viewing ancestral homes.   And, if the Saints are smiling upon you, may you find yourself in the fortunate position of being related to one or more retired couples who just love to travel.  If you can engage their enthusiasm and wunderlust they may become the boots on the ground you’ve always wished for to find and photo far away monuments or records.

The more the merrier… really !  However you scheme (or choose to use)  the willing participants,  don’t hesitate when they offer.  Really pull out all stops to let their experience count !  If several family members  become truly vested in this work (with a very specific task assigned) the hype will be bigger and the end result will have broader appeal.

You and I both know that there has to be an invisible lid on this “doling out of jobs” in order for it to work.  Play your hand a bit close.  Be sure to explain that in order for you to be an effective writer and compiler of your collective story, you will need certain things from all of them.  Timelines, confidentiality, steadfastness of the untiring persuer…and all suggestions in written form and sent to your email or mailbox.  You’ve got to be able to focus on the big task and trust that as the adults they are…they will keep noses to the grindstone and complete their mission!  Independent of you.  Ask your mother. .. don’t bug me to death…  tend to your own knittin’… implied but unsaid 🙂

It’s always a  fine line when families are called to work together.  Delegating  fairly and effectively without being seen as bossy is a dance on the tightrope.  But if you can stand to let them help, you will be rewarded in the end.  After all, families are like…well you know…everybody has one !

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