Saturday, August 24, 2013

Thoughts in a cemetery

Today on my way down Ohio Route 7, I stopped at the Swan Creek Cemetery, where my mother is buried. She passed away 20 years ago this week, and I still miss her.

While I was there, I checked the dates on the grave markers of her parents and her paternal grandparents. My mother was the only one of the four children in her family who was born on land. The others were born on the Ohio River. I saw the grave of my grandfather, who had a dish boat, and my great-grandfather, who I am told operated a ferry near the spot where he is buried. He died in 1902, so the ferry would have run in the 1800s.

The idea of the ferry got me to thinking how bridges had changed the interaction of communities on opposite sides of the Ohio River. Around here, there were no highway bridges across the Ohio until the1920s, so if you wanted to cross, you had to take a ferry. From what I gather, there were several ferries. But they weren't as glamorous as the packet boats and the early towboats, so I have seen relatively few photos of them.

Around 1909, one of my ancestors was killed by a train as he slept off a drunken Saturday night along a railroad track. His obituary said at the time of his death, he was building a barn in Glenwood, W.Va. That's across from Swan Creek Cemetery. I thought of him as I stood near my great-grandfather's grave and pondered how communities on opposite shores must have had fairly close economic ties in the days of ferries. With easy access to autos and bridges now, those ties are long gone. I know of no interaction ever between the people Swan Creek and of Glenwood unless they work at the same factory in the Huntington WV or Point Pleasant WV areas. There's little reason for them to. There's a convenience store in Glenwood, but people in Swan Creek can drive a few miles down the road to one in Crown City, or to the Dollar General store there.

Is that way elsewhere along the river, where communities on opposite shores once had people taking the ferry back and forth, but now they almost don't know the other exists?

It's one of those things I think about when I have too much time alone, but not enough time to go look up the answer in someone's genealogy chart.