Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A Rainy Day Woman and the Ohio Canal

My great grandfather was a potato and sweetcorn farmer in Independence, Ohio until the 1960's, when operation began to dwindle as Gramp and Gram aged. Over the course of the 70's, they both died and my family was forced to sell the farm to the Federal Government via eminent domain in order for it to become part of the National Park system. I was just a kid and didn't understand, but all the adults were furious.

Today, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park--the only National Park in Ohio--houses some of the best preserved sections of the Ohio and Erie Canal. The National Park Service worked closely with the Cleveland Metroparks in order to seamlessly join the two parks where they abut in Brecksville, Ohio.

Although parts of the Metropark wind through commercial and industrial areas, the National Park is completely pristine. My family's farmland is free from parking lots and residential development. It is preserved, although all of the farm buildings were razed except the original farm house (built in 1850, shown with my great great grandmother Mary Vaughn Doubler in the mid-1800's above and as it looks today on the right). The ramp to the barn that my great grandfather Fred Doubler built along with his brother Dan some 70 years later is also still there. They carved "F DOUBLER" into one of the stones.

There are very, very few descendants left, but I'm still standing. And believe it or not, sometimes the government does something right. I am profoundly thankful that I lived long enough to see and understand this rare gift of preservation. When I walk over this land, I tell my kid what I remember of my great grandparents. I tell her about sweetcorn. I tell her about the arrowheads my father found here. And all my dead kin, they walk right along with us.

"Every once in a while," I say as we step through the lush forest next to the riverbed, "the good guys win." My dad his dad and my great grandfather nod.

These two parks are so brilliant in their execution, they bring me to my knees. I tried to capture some of what I love about this little strip of earth in my column* this week. So come with me, and walk along the towpath of the Ohio and Erie Canal.

*For my new readers, I am a regular print columnist in the Cleveland Free Times. "Rainy Day Woman" publishes (for the most part) every other week. I always link the column here in the Owner's Manual, although my introductions aren't always this elaborate.

Some companion photos to the column:

Brecksville Road Bridge and wooden CSX railroad spur traverse the Cuyahoga River.

What lies between Interstate 77 and the Ohio and Erie Canal.

CSX Shortline Bridge and the Southwest Interceptor traverse the Hidden Valley overhead. The smaller blue pipe is a gasoline pipeline on it's way to the BP Bradley Road terminal, where guys with shirts with name patches swing valves and keep the petro in the pipes. One of those guys is my very own Goat!

A backhoe moves through the scene overlooking the Cuyahoga River.

The Goat takes a break under the massive Interstate-480 Bridge, although no picture does this structure justice.


Jesus Toast said...

THat is awesome, it rocks that you know you family history and rocks even harder that you can go someplace at see remnants of that history standing in front of you.

Lets make out.

Carol said...

I have been to this park. Nearly got hypothermia riding my bike in the rain there. It is a beautiful piece of our nation. Next time I am there I will remember your ancestors. . .

The I-480 Bridge is an engineering marvel and in NO way detracts from the surrounding area.

BeDrinkab1e said...

I've only recently started reading your page. And I have to say I like it a lot. I just wanted to comment on how cool it is that your grandparents house is still there and nearly untouched. I can tell you how much it sucks to see those sort of things deteriorate. My grandparents lived right next to me and my parents all my life. After they both died the new owners tore apart all those old places that I loved. So even though I think you realize this, cherish the ability to still have something like that around. Later!

whitenoise said...

Great story.

MERK! said...

okay, honestly, I didn't read this one. I just skipped to the bottom so I could type 'love canal'.


Mone said...

What a great story and cool pictures, Erin. If I ever get a chance to fly over there you'll have to show me all of it. Are there really snakes and turtles in the wild? Are those huge or small turtles? Oh o.k. you were just teasing :)

Hal said...

This is one of the coolest things in Cleveland! I'm glad we hung out there last year.

Erin O'Brien said...

JT: I have all sorts of stuff and it is cool, really cool. I have a newspaper article from 1939 about Gramp Doubler stumbling upon native American artifacts while doing routine digging on the land. About the other request ... you're supposed to be talking in code! Remember?

Carol: It's wonderful to hear that you've done the trail. I hope others do it and experience that bridge. I did my best in the article, but you just can't describe what a strange, cool, bewildering thing it is to interact with something so massive.

BeDrink: Welcome and thanks for the kind words. Sorry about your grandparent's place. But it sounds like you have great memories and they can't take those away.

WN: Thanks. And there is more to tell.

Merk! Okay, that's about enough, mister. No pudding for you!

Mone: I will show you all of it. There is absolutely snakes and turtles and herons and deer and foxes and skunks and beavers ... the list goes on. The cool thing is that the park is in the city. It's true!

Hal: Didn't we have a blast that day?

EVERYONE! Click here to read about Hal's visit to Cleveland. There links to all sorts of other great posts as well.

Carla said...

Very cool! It looks like a lovely place and it's nice to have a place to put with the memories.

BV said...

That is just so neat. I'm off to read your column.

EBEZP said...

That's awesome Erin! Some great pics as well. Nice 1!

Ms Baroque said...


Erin O'Brien said...

Carla and BV and EBEZP and Ms. B: Thanks for reading and for the compliments as well.

sxKitten said...

That's a wonderful story, and I'm envious of your preserved history. My family are tale-tellers (much to Dean's dismay, as we tend to tell the same tales over and over again) but there's very little of our history that's still standing. Dean has a more permanent past, some of which we toured this past week. If you ask him nicely, he'll probably write about it.

Jesus Toast said...

Dear Ms. Person,

I would like to help fix your home made soup.

Signed, Donald Sutherland

Erin O'Brien said...

SxK: Off to anacronyms to see what's cooking!

Ms. Person said...

Dear Donald Sutherland,

Please bring a nice long crusty baguette and some good quality oil with which we may slather it.

Let's hope we can allow the soup to simmer a bit longer this time. Perhaps we shouldn't stir it quite so vigorously and employ the slow cooking technique we discussed earlier.


Ms. Person