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Published: Monday, 8/29/2005

B.G. cemetery denizens portrayed

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Dorsey Sergent shows off an original painting by William Jordan, who is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery. Dorsey Sergent shows off an original painting by William Jordan, who is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery.
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BOWLING GREEN - John Dimick didn't know a whole lot about his great-great-grandfather, Joseph C. Lincoln, until he was asked to portray him for a living history program yesterday at Oak Grove Cemetery.

He talked to his mother and other relatives. He did some research at the public library and read through some things left behind by Dr. Lincoln, a Bowling Green physician, druggist, and banker.

Among the artifacts: a well-worn pharmacy book with handwritten recipes for things as varied as elixir potassium bromide and battery fluid.

"I wondered why a druggist would make battery fluid, but I was told that because they had all of the ingredients, [so] that's who people went to," Mr. Dimick said after the program.

Dr. Lincoln, who nearly died from injuries suffered on a Civil War battlefield, and nine other "residents" of the city-owned Oak Grove Cemetery told their stories - and offered bits and pieces of local history - through the mouths of their descendants and, in some cases, historians who never met them. Nearly 200 people gathered at the cemetery to hear the tales.

Christie Raber, director of the Wood County Historical Center, was able to gather some first-hand accounts of children touched by the life of Nellie Repass by talking to Wood County Commissioner Alvie Perkins. Miss Repass, who lived from 1876 to 1940, was the first telephone operator in Bowling Green but was better known for the 32 years she served as matron and superintendent of the children's home in Bowling Green, where Mr. Perkins spent a bit of his childhood.

In her job Miss Repass taught the children good manners, made sure they had clean clothes for school, gave them all chores to do, and, when necessary, took them to the furnace room in the basement for a paddling, Ms. Raber explained.

John Eschedor uses props to describe his great-great-grandfather, Edwin Farmer, during the living history program. John Eschedor uses props to describe his great-great-grandfather, Edwin Farmer, during the living history program.
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One young man who was caught out in the front yard where the children were instructed not to go was spanked as any child would be, she said, "even if they are a future politician, maybe even a county commissioner."

The Oak Grove V.I.P.s, while generally successful, had their share of hardship.

Larry Rittenhouse of Fenton, Mich., portrayed his father, Arthur "Shorty" Rittenhouse, a plumber who married a woman with five children in 1930 in the middle of the Great Depression.

They and the older children worked hard so that they could buy their own home. Eventually they did - a former streetcar that had traversed the Interurban electric rail line from Toledo to Findlay.

Mr. Rittenhouse was able to buy the car for $100 and have it delivered to a lot on Niederhouse Road. After a bit of work, the seven Rittenhouses made it their home.

"I left the brass bell on the front of the streetcar, and the girls' boyfriends would ring it when they came to call," Mr. Rittenhouse said in his father's voice.

Kay Sergent, a member of the committee that organized the event, said all 9,000 or so people buried at Oak Grove no doubt have a story to tell, but the 10 featured guests were impressive.

"I was amazed myself at how much these people contributed to this community," she said.

The Wood County Genealogical Society, which started the Oak Grove living history program last year, plans to have a third program next year and eventually might expand it to some of the other cemeteries in the county.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-353-5972.



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