July 6, 2014

Willard Bishop's Model T Camper: 52 Ancestors

In the spring of 1929, Willard Bishop faced a dilemma. With an auto garage business and growing family in Garrettsville, Ohio, he liked to get away to go fishing whenever he could. A few years earlier, he’d bought a vacant lot on the hillside shore of Lake Milton, about 20 miles away. But where could he and his fishing buddies sleep when they wanted to spend the night there?

Lacking the resources to build a house, Willard fell back on what he knew best: automobiles. Born February 21, 1892, he had started tinkering with cars as a teenager, and landed a job as a mechanic by 1917.[1] Why not build a little cabin on wheels?

Willard enlisted the help of a friend, blacksmith Welty Root. The lack of a blueprint didn’t discourage them. They cleared out a bay in Willard’s repair shop and got to work.

Willard Bishop's Chrysler-Plymouth garage and dealership, Garrettsville, Ohio

Starting with an old four-cylinder Model T Ford, they removed everything except the engine, windshield, and front seat. They constructed a box to fit over the bare chassis. Inside they built two sets of bunks, and installed an icebox and sink. A small table and chairs completed the setup. Willard wired it with electric lights and cut out windows. It was tight, but four people could sleep safe from the elements, wash up, and keep some food brought from home. 

There was just one problem. The contraption was too high to get out of the garage.

Their only recourse was to cut several inches off the top of the camper. Willard’s head nearly touched the ceiling of the new top. Even then, it wouldn’t clear the garage door. So they let the air out of all the tires, and with the help of a few other fellows, crept the motor home gingerly out of the garage.

Willard Bishop, left, and Welty Rood with their homemade Model T camper

With the tires re-inflated, Willard and Welty drove the homemade camper slowly over the winding road out of Garrettsville. They passed through the town of Newton Falls, continuing down narrow County Line Road to Lake Milton. There was no hurry; it would be her only voyage.

Positioned proudly on the lot, the camper reigned over the lake below. With the addition of an outhouse and fire ring, Willard and his buddies could fish, eat, and sleep in comfort all summer. After a long winter, it sat there waiting to welcome them back.

Soon Willard’s kids were clamoring to go to Lake Milton, too. He started taking his three boys fishing and boating with him. The shack, as they called it, was too crude to suit his wife, Annah, and their daughter. Willard eventually bought a factory-made motor home for the ladies and himself, leaving the shack to the boys. The new one even came with a kitchen.

Willard and his daughter with the store-bought camper, about 1937

Willard's son, Bob, showing off his catch 

In 1940, Willard sold his property and purchased two nearby lots, one of which held a small 1928 cottage. While the cottage still required use of an outhouse, it felt luxuriously spacious compared to the campers. Now the family could enjoy quiet mornings overlooking glass-still water, hot afternoons of swimming, and lingering twilights all summer. Willard usually stayed in Garrettsville to work during the week, joining them on weekends.

The old Model T shack made the move, too. Its hand-cranked engine sprang to life even after years of disuse. Willard kept it for storage for a few years, finally taking it away during World War II. Although it would be forgotten until the discovery of a photo decades later, its legacy was firmly established. Willard’s son and his wife, their children and grandchildren still gather at the lake for a family reunion every summer. And while a bathroom was installed in 1983, the place is no bigger than before. Leading to another dilemma: where does everyone sleep?

Ah, what Willard would have given for one of these modern beauties, with their slide-out sitting rooms, full kitchens and baths, and queen-size beds.

Then again, maybe not.


© Shelley Ballenger Bishop 2014

The blog series “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” is coordinated by Amy Johnson Crow, CG, author of No Story Too Small.

[1] “U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database and digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com: accessed 1 July 2014), card for Willard Hiram Bishop (Portage County, Ohio); imaged from Family History Library microfilm 1,851,082, citing NARA microfilm publication M1509.

July 4, 2014

June 19, 2014

OGS 2015 Call for Papers

Can you believe it’s June already? Seems like the weeks are flying by at warp speed!

I certainly don’t want to rush things any more, but there’s an event next spring that I’m getting excited about. The Ohio Genealogical Society will be holding its next conference in Columbus (my city!) from April 9-11, 2015. The last time it was in Columbus, in 2011, over 700 people attended. I know I had a lot of fun.

Right now it’s still early stages. The Call for Papers went out in April, and I received this reminder a few days ago:

Just a reminder to speakers: the July 1 deadline for Call For Papers for the 2015 Ohio Genealogical Society's Conference  is a little less than two weeks away. If you have not yet submitted your proposals, we hope to hear from you soon. The cornerstone of a great conference is a great programming, and we can’t wait to see the terrific presentation ideas you have to offer for the 2015 “Ohio: Your Genealogical Cornerstone” conference!

The OGS Conference will be held April 9-11, 2015, at the Sheraton Hotel on Capitol Square in Columbus. The complete Call for Papers can be found at http://www.ogs.org/conference2015/index.php.

I’m eager to see what the line-up of speakers and programs will be. OGS always attracts such great speakers. I hope they'll have a few presentations about how to use DNA results for genealogy. I’ll post more information about the conference in the coming months, as things are announced. After all, at the rate we’re going, next April will be here in a flash!


June 15, 2014

Father's Day Wishes

Wishing a Happy Father’s Day to my dad, my father-in-law, and all the fathers reading this. Enjoy your day!


June 6, 2014

The American Cemetery at Normandy

Omaha Beach, 2012
This is a rerun of a post I wrote following a visit to the American Cemetery, in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy.

American Cemetery Normandy France

Humbling. Sobering. Awe-inspiring.

Perched high atop a cliff overlooking the rugged coastline of France, the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial is a place that defies all superlatives. Everything about it is staggering: the size, the number of graves, the way the sheer beauty of the place contrasts with the desperate battle that waged just below, on Omaha Beach. Looking out over the English Channel on a peaceful day, it's hard to imagine the bloodshed of June 6, 1944.

Visitors enter through a museum that tries to bring some of that enormity down to size. A video tells the stories of a few individual soldiers. World War II uniforms, ration packs, medical kits, letters, equipment, maps, photographs, and more depict the build-up to D-Day and the execution of Operation Overlord. The museum alone could absorb half a day of contemplation. And somehow, it still doesn’t prepare you for what’s next.

For beyond the museum doors lies a sea of green grass and white marble headstones, seemingly without end. Stretched out in neat rows are 9,387 Latin crosses and Stars of David, each marking the final resting place of an American serviceman. Many are unknown. A reverent hush lies over the place as visitors wander through, some looking for a special grave, some just trying to take it all in. There is no doubt that this is sacred ground.

The markers are engraved only with the person’s name, company or division, state, and date of death. Perhaps, as someone suggested to us, it was believed that including the date of birth would make the cemetery seem overwhelmingly sad. We were reminded that 60 percent of the Americans who perished in Europe were sent back to the states for burial, so the ones buried here represent only a fraction of the total losses.

The Memorial, which sits in front of a large reflecting pool, features a striking statue depicting “The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves.” Engraved tablets record the names of 1,557 missing in action, while stone maps show the positions of the D-Day landings and air operations. Fresh flowers at the base of the statue express gratitude to the sacrifices of the World War II generation. The families of Dachau concentration camp victims and survivors send a new arrangement every week.

Memorial American Cemetery Normandy

Two American flags fly proudly over the cemetery. At the end of each day, the flags are lowered, one at a time, while a single trumpet plays Taps.

It’s a sight and sound I hope I never forget. Thank you, all who served, and especially those who rest today in Normandy.


© Shelley Bishop 2013. 

May 31, 2014

Jacob Roush and Philip Roush, Virginia Militiamen: 52 Ancestors

Two hundred and thirty-nine years ago (almost to the day), two of my 6th-great-grandfathers took a bold step. The spring of 1775 had brought troubled times to the American colonies. Relations with Great Britain had grown increasingly strained. In early April 1775, the battles at Concord and Lexington confirmed that there was no turning back. The rumblings of discontent had sprouted into outright confrontation, and the American Revolution was underway.

Patriots in Virginia, as in other colonies, quickly formed local militia companies to protect their homes and fight for the cause of American independence. Jacob Roush and Philip Roush were among the men who enlisted in the Dunmore County Militia, under the command of Capt. Jacob Holeman, on May 29, 1775.

I first found evidence of Jacob and Philip’s service as I worked on my application for the Daughters of the American Revolution. The DAR uses the transcription of Jacob Holeman’s enlistment roster in Revolutionary War Records Virginia by Gaius M. Brumbaugh as its source.[1] This is an excellent derivative source, and I’m grateful for it. But as genealogists, we’re urged to seek the original source whenever possible. So that’s what I did when I visited the Library of Virginia during the recent NGS 2014 Conference in Richmond.

Wow. What a thrill to see the list itself! (Even though it’s a negative photostat, and still technically a derivative, it's as close as I’m ever likely to get to the original.) Somehow, holding it made the excitement of that long-ago time, and the power of the commitment these men made, seem like a tangible thing to me. It was no small thing to fly in the face of the royal government and pledge your loyalty to the colonial militia. Their lives, and the security of their families and livelihoods, were on the line.

The two-page document is titled, “A List of the Mens Names in Dunmore County Militia under the Command of Capt. Jacob Holeman.” On the second page, after the names, is the official decree: “By Virtue of the Power and Authority to me given as Lieutenant of the County of Dunmore I do hereby Enlist the with Nam’d Men under the Command of Capt Jacob Holeman. Given under my hand this 29th day of May 1775.”[2] (I’m still working to decipher the flowery signature of the official who signed it.)

A few of my observations about the list, some of which aren’t readily apparent from the transcription in Brumbaugh’s book:
  • The men are listed in three columns. All names on the first page are written in the same clearly legible handwriting; there are no signatures. A few names are crossed out, as though they were later removed from the roster. On the second page are 15 more names, written in a different hand, that appear to have been added after the official declaration.

  • In Brumbaugh’s transcription, the names are in alphabetical order, and the last name is given first (i.e., Roush, Jacob and Roush, Philip). On the original list, the names appear to be in the order that the men presented themselves. They are not in alphabetical order, and the first name comes first, just as it would be said aloud.

  • While many of these men were German, the spellings of their names were anglicized, probably according to how the scribe heard them. Rausch, which morphed into Roush, is spelled Rouse in four places here (brothers Philip, Jacob, Henry, and John Jr.). Zirkle, commonly seen as Circle, is spelled Cirkle (Andrew, Michael, and Peter). The surname Durst, which became Darst in later generations, is spelled Dirst (Abraham and Isaac—Abraham Durst is my 7th-great-grandfather). Clearly, spellings were not yet standardized.

  • Crease lines are evident, indicating the document was folded. A portion of the second page bears the address, “To Capt. Jacob Holman Dunmore County,” as though it was to be delivered to him. (no “e” in Holman in the address)

The Library of Virginia's terms of use preclude me from posting a picture of Jacob Holeman’s List here, and I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize the chances that others have to view, photograph, and copy the document for their personal use. So I’ll share just a small portion of the list where the names of Philip, Jacob, and Henry Roush appear, to give you a sample of the beautiful handwriting. Philip’s name is just above the fold, with some wear evident.

I’ve heard we should seek the original record for the sake of accuracy and completeness. That’s fine and well, but from my experience, I’d add: do it for the sense of connection it gives you. Seeing an original document brings your family history alive in a way that a published transcription simply can’t do. And sometimes that history is just so cool, isn’t it?


© Copyright 2014 Shelley Bishop
The “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” series is coordinated by Amy Johnson Crow, CG, author of the blog No Story Too Small.

Related Posts:

[1] Gaius Marcus Brumbaugh, Revolutionary War Records Virginia (1936; reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1995), p. 607-608.
[2] Shenandoah County, Virginia, Dunmore County Militia Roster, Captain Jacob Holeman’s Company, 1775; accession no. 21127, “Dunmore County Revolutionary War papers, 1775-1814,” Box 53, 2 leaves; Library of Virginia, Richmond.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...