Monday, October 13, 2003

Builder by birthright.

I don't get to talk much to my dad anymore. He's lost his voice, and we only have about 30 seconds at a time for him to spit out whatever he thinks is important at the moment, then we have to wait for another day. Lately, he's been tossing me little bits and pieces of the family tree, trying to get me to chase up more information about his side of the family. We already know a lot of the family history--at least one branch of his family came over in the 1700s (my mom once thought about signing me up with the Daughters of the American Revolution in hopes of getting college scholarships for me, thank god she never got around to it), and one of my ancestors fought in the War of 1812 under Commodore Perry. That seems pretty cool.

Even more cool, though, is to discover that straight up the branch of the family tree that gave me my last name sits a builder and building contractor, my great, great uncle August, born in Saxony, moved to Ohio in 1866. As it turns out, I've probably even seen some of his work: He was given a contract in 1890 to remodel the state capitol building in Columbus, Ohio. According to his obituary, during his life he "took pride in the fact that he had built 15 churches and 40 school houses. The German Lutheran, English Lutheran and Methodist Episcopal churches, Second National Bank, Y.M.C.A., Kearsley residence, Chesney residence, of his home town of Bucyrus, the Ohio Wesleyan university building at Delaware, the Espiscopal church, the Indianola Methodist church, and the St. Philips churches at Columbus, being some of his edifices. At the time of his death he was just completing the $25,000 residence for Mr. Creith, the Columbus lumber man, and buildings all over Columbus mark his activity in the contracting line; in one year his contracts in Columbus amounting to $250,000."

Right now we're planning a road trip to Bucyrus for Thanksgiving weekend. My great grandfather's home doesn't exist anymore, neither does the planing mill that gave all the carpenters and furniture makers in my family their starts, but some of the other buildings designed by my uncle are still standing. And I'd like to find the cemetery and take some photos of the family burial plot for my dad.

At least I know now from whom I got my greed for power tools. That's not a bad legacy to inherit, I say.

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