Column: A memorable — and cold — arrival in Worthington in 1872
Editor’s note: Former longtime Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen died Dec. 27, 2015. We will continue to publish previously run “Isn’t That Something” columns on Saturdays, until further notice, as a tribute to Crippen and his knowledge of local and regional history. The following column first appeared Sept. 2, 2006.
WORTHINGTON — I looked forward to September. I don’t enjoy heat, especially that bundle of heat, humidity and drought which was July. I told a couple of people, “Next year I am going to trade July for two Aprils.” They said they were with me.
A couple of times I watched people playing in the sun. They bounced balls and leaped. Sweat streamed. They laughed. I said to one, “I just can’t enjoy that.” I was told, “I don’t enjoy it either.”
It seems to me this is a time for a chilling story. Prepare to feel cool.
Dr. George Moore was Worthington’s first doctor. He arrived ahead of the railroad. Recently I was reading an account from 1921 that had nothing to do with Dr. Moore but — tacked to that account — was the doctor’s story of his first trip to Worthington.
This is a rare, historic tale. I am going to let the doctor tell it:
“I decided to wait until spring to come out (from Ohio) and look things over, with a view of exercising my homestead right and taking up my residence in the embryo city of Worthington. So it transpired that on the 25th day of January, 1872, I stepped from the train at St. James, 56 miles up the road, the end of the railroad at that time, and went to the hotel for the night, intending to push on to Jackson the next day with the mail carrier.
“A storm came up in the night, the air was full of snow, the mercury 15 below zero, and the wind blowing a gale when I awoke. Coming downstairs in the morning, as I entered the office, two men accosted me, one saying, ‘You’re going to Worthington, ain’t you?’
“‘Well, what do you think about starting out in this storm?’
“I asked, ‘Is the mail going?’
“‘Then so am I, as I am headed for Worthington, my time is limited and I have none to waste.’
“The reply came back, ‘He’s a tenderfoot. If he can stand it, we can.’
“I had with me an ordinary overcoat and a heavy woolen shawl of four thicknesses, such as men wore in those days, and arctic overshoes. After breakfast, we bundled into a sleigh and drove to Mountain Lake, 15 miles away, stopped to change the mail, then — driving down under the river bank — headed for Jackson, another 15 mile lap, which we reached in time for supper. Followed by another night in a border hotel.
“The mercury in the morning still registered 15 below and the wind and the snow content of the air were unchanged, but with undaunted mein, albeit with an internal shudder, I answered Capt. Miner’s question, ‘Want to start out, Doctor?’
“‘Certainly I do. I want to get to Worthington, as I am slated to be back in Ohio on the 29th.’
“So the Captain called to Joe Thomas, his son-in-law, and said, ‘Bring around the ponies, Joe, and we’ll be off.’
“Capt. Miner, whose back was [broad], sat in front of me, in the uncovered sleigh, and furnished an admirable windbreak…
“There was no road, only an unbroken expanse of snow, but the Captain would wave his hand this way and that occasionally, to guide the driver on his way…
“Presently Miner spoke. ‘There’s the halfway house.’
“I lowered my shawl and peeped out to get a glimpse of the mansion but could locate nothing but snow. Suddenly the team stopped by a slight mound…
“‘Want to go into the house, Doctor?’ I said, ‘Sure.…’
“We went down a few steps and entered a dugout to find a man dying with consumption, his wife and five children … in a room seven by 16. Six feet high. Warm enough, yes — but, my!
“Arrived at Worthington about dark, finding a city consisting of, small freight depot, a hotel (at 10th Street and 3rd Avenue) and 11 other structures. Of course things were decidedly primitive…
“I sat down with Capt. Miner, who was one of the locating agents, and with the aid of a … map, selected my homestead, the SE quarter of Section Four, Worthington Township, sight unseen…
“Early the next morning I was on my way east. I reached home in due season…”