SWANTON -- In 1953, the 15 children of William and Amanda Osterhout and all their progeny came together in Swanton Memorial Park for a day of food and games. On July 15, the Osterhouts will once again gather in the same park for their 60th annual family reunion.
Usually about 100 to 150 of the Osterhout clan attend, but organizers are hoping for increased turnout in this landmark year.
Among planned activities are the auction of a quilt depicting William and Amanda's 15 children and the dedication of a park bench engraved with the names of William and Amanda Osterhout.
"People in the area will read it, and it will be something permanent we'll see at all our reunions," said Lonnie Henricks, a grandson of William and Amanda who has a 4-inch Osterhout family crest tattooed on his upper arm.
The Osterhouts will also carry out cherished annual traditions, such as an egg toss and a watermelon eating contest, along with a potluck dinner.
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Reunion attendees can purchase paperbound copies of the Osterhout family history. It was compiled 30 years ago by Sharon Relford, another descendant of William and Amanda, who searched through library archives and combed through graveyards in the area to get birth and death dates off tombstones.
All the hundreds of Fulton County Osterhouts can trace their lineage back to Jan Jansen van Oosterhout, who came to America from the Netherlands in the early 1600s aboard a ship called, in Dutch, The Spotted Cow.
The first Osterhouts migrated west to Fulton County in 1851.
"I hardly ever found anyone exciting in all that research. They were all just down-to-earth farmers, just normal hard-working people," said Ms. Relford.
She did come across one distant relative who served in the Revolutionary War.
"He was imprisoned by the British army in a church basement, and he dug an escape tunnel out of jail, using a hog's jawbone." He was freed when the tunnel was nearly done, Ms. Relford said with a laugh.
The Osterhouts have continued to chronicle their family history by updating books with new births, deaths, and marriages upon arriving at the reunions each year.
Still, the number of Osterhout descendants in the area has meant the family sometimes discovers unknown relatives right beneath their noses. "I went to high school with a cousin and didn't even know she was related to me until I saw her at the reunion," said Juanita Barnes, the daughter of Trudy Barnes, a granddaughter of William and Amanda.
Family members also have spread across the country.
"It's a lot of postage when we send out the invites. That's for sure," said Ms. Barnes. Sending letters to states including Arizona, California, Texas, Louisiana, and Maryland makes up the bulk of the reunion committee's annual expenses.
The distance does not deter many Osterhouts from attending. Mr. Henricks journeyed from Arizona and Ms. Relford will travel from South Carolina.
Mr. Henricks, Mrs. Barnes, and Ms. Barnes have all been involved with the reunion planning committee, which holds elections each year.
"As long as people keep coming, we'll keep doing it," said Mr. Henricks.
Contact Sophie Broach at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6210.