Several friends have remarked that they were surprised to learn that I was one of the panel of speakers at the Johnson County Historical Society a couple of Saturdays ago. The occasion was the opening of an exhibit featuring stories of the towns of Johnson County.
Nobody was more surprised than I was!
Our Solon History Group had put together some photos and text for the project at the request of the project organizers and I had pretty much considered the whole thing done and over with. We were now beginning to collect and sort photos and material for a pictorial book on Solon history.
Because I live in the country, things that come in the mail sometimes arrive a day later than expected, so I was not too concerned when my Solon Economist didn’t arrive until Thursday afternoon. I didn’t do more than glance at the paper until Friday when, much to my amazement, I read that Sandy Hanson and I were going to speak at the opening of the exhibit the next day.
Public speaking isn’t exactly my favorite activity but, as I don’t suffer from stage fright and I would be available on Saturday afternoon, I was glad to be included. The real problem was that I’d had no time to prepare what I would say. There wasn’t time to compare notes with Sandy, I had no idea how many other people would be speaking, what we were expected to talk about, or how much time would be allotted to each of us. To top it all off, I was asked to speak first, so there was no way for me to get clues from the other speakers.
As it turned out, I got a couple laughs, a smattering of applause and a few people stopping to talk to me afterward, so I guess I was at least in the ballpark. I was somewhat disappointed at the absence of familiar faces, other than one or two who know me from this column. We had a pretty sizeable crowd there for the exhibit, nearly every chair in the meeting room was occupied and most of the delicious refreshments disappeared in short order. If there were other people there from Solon, they were not familiar to me, or didn’t come near enough for me to recognize them.
I’ve no way of knowing, but I suspect the majority of the people there were involved in some way with the project – either members of their town’s historical group, or friends and relatives who had been urged to attend. Perhaps there were too many other things going on that day. Graduations and graduation parties, a chance to get some overdue yard work and gardening done; or maybe a lack of sufficient publicity was to blame.
The County Historical Museum is a grand facility, modern and accessible with convenient parking. I was impressed with the quality and extent of the exhibit and excited by a suggestion to meet with other history groups in the county on a quarterly basis. I’m sure these groups could benefit each other and that it would help us all to better see and appreciate the roles our respective communities play in the larger picture of Johnson County.
I discovered, in looking at some old township maps that were on display, that the schoolhouse that once sat at the corner of our farm was called Burr Oak School. I might have guessed as much, had I thought about it. When we bought the 160 acres in 1971, there was a sign on the barn that declared this was Burr Oak Farm. I had been told there had been a schoolhouse at the far southeast corner, along what is now Wapsi Avenue, and a little way south of the Morse road. I don’t know when the building was torn down, but by 1971, there was little evidence that it ever existed. When we discovered we were not farmers, we sold the majority of the farm and the barn has since been torn down, but I still think of what remains as Burr Oak Farm.
If anyone has photos of that schoolhouse, or memories of going to school there, I hope you’ll get in touch with me or the Solon History Group. We are seeking pictures and information about the country schools in our area, long-time businesses, churches, Century farms, families that helped to settle the area, colorful anecdotes and interesting stories about people and events that are part of the history of our community. The Solon history group meets at the Solon Library on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 1:30 pm. Persons with information to share, people seeking information, or those who just want to help are always welcome.