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BOWLING GREEN — After noticing a few dirty dishes stacked in the kitchen sink, a relative asked Irene L. Vanscoder if she was feeling better.
She hadn’t been sick, was her reply.
Lately, family history, not housekeeping, takes priority for the Bowling Green resident.
Hers is a large family, and hers is a tight-knit family.
With an ache that never goes away, she still misses her mom, Louise Klorer Nash, who died when Irene was 6 years old.
Mrs. Vanscoder always uses her middle initial when giving her name. She explains, voice halting, breaking with emotion. “The ‘L’... for Louise. ... It is all I have left of her.”
She treasures each puzzle piece she finds as she pursues her family’s history. But she admits, “When I get into this, nothing else around here gets done.”
A recent discovery in her collection of family memorabilia, a class photograph, will be featured during the Fulton County Fair in the former Lutz School on the fairgrounds.
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“I’ve always had that photograph since I was a little girl. I don’t know who took it. It was in a bunch of old photos of my aunts and uncles,” she said, noting who is who in the photograph, including her mother, then a pretty girl in a white dress.
Relatives on both sides of Mrs. Vanscoder’s family attended class at the Lutz School.
Mrs. Vanscoder was one of 12 children, all born in Fulton County. Of them, only Mrs. Vanscoder, 82 in October, and her brother, Charles, 88, who lives in Bellevue, Ohio, survive.
After finding the photograph, she contacted John Swearingen, Jr., director of the Fulton County Historical Society in Wauseon, asking for details on the school. In turn, he asked about her interest in the building. And one thing led to another.
It’s tough finding memorabilia from the township schools. “We’re losing evidence of these little schoolhouses all the time. Used to be one every two miles. That was the rule ... no child should have to walk more than a mile to school,” he said.
Historical society documents show the school was built between 1868 and 1888, and it later was moved and used as the Swancreek Township Hall and as a voting site.
In 2001, after construction of a new township hall, the old building was donated to the historical society and is now preserved at the fairgrounds. The fair opens today for a week-long run.
During the fair, township trustees from across the county will staff the building where the historical society will host “1864 at the Fulton County Fair” as part of its Hell & Homefront initiative, which highlights the Civil War through Fulton County eyes.
Featured will be a mock event in which 1864 cabin residents are upset over the recent Ottokee courthouse fire, and the boys held in the Andersonville, Ga., prison. The commissioners want your vote at the town hall to move the county seat to Delta. The courthouse fire sparked talk that folks from Delta or Wauseon torched the courthouse to get the county seat relocated to their community.
Fairgoers can cast votes in an original voting booth, circa 1940s. It will be interesting, decades after the fact, to learn people’s opinion today, Mr. Swearingen said.
A copy of the Lutz School class photo, donated by Mrs. Vanscoder, will be displayed in the building. The photo is tangible evidence of what went on before the township schools in the county were eliminated through consolidation that ripped people apart and created a divide, he said. Some students were assigned to Swanton, others to Delta, and still others to Liberty Center.
A Liberty Center High School graduate, Mrs. Vanscoder recalls many years when she and relatives went to the fair. After harness races, they polished off the day with a family picnic. “I had no mother. I stayed with my sister and her family, and going to the fair was glorious for me.”
In recent years, her relatives have walked through the old building on the fairgrounds. However, she said, until now, they didn’t know it was the former Lutz School where their ancestors learned reading, writing, and arithmetic.
It is lost to time whether lessons were taught to the tune of a hickory stick.
Contact Janet Romaker at: email@example.com or 419-724-6006.