Not familiar with the project? Start here:
A simple cardboard file box on a shelf was the end of a recent search in the Worthington Cemetery Project. We are in the process of filling out the application for an Ohio Historic Marker that will be placed on the road adjacent to the field where the cemetery is. A Defiance College students Alexandra Bevins, Caia Bevins and Tyler Taylor have joined the project through the McMaster School Scholars at Defiance College with the guidance of Stephen Bare, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of History and Angela Sosebee, Director of Marketing and Public Relations.
Alexandra has written the statement of significance based on our research, the KYK9 search and the GPR survey. We must provide a bibliography of the information sources. One of the important resources is the W.P.A. Survey and the notes that were taken at that time. It was in 1936 that the cemetery was visited and a description of what was found as well as priceless information regarding the reason for and the namesake of the cemetery, Archbold Worthington. Although the notes list the name of the reporters, C. Cadwallader and C. Gish, it does not list where the survey is kept and how exactly to cite this source.
I contacted the Defiance County Genealogical Society to ask where the original source of these copies was. The person that found this is now deceased, but it was recalled that she may have gotten them from the Archives at BGSU (https://www.bgsu.edu/library/cac.html). Many historic collections are held in those archives. I have visited there and was able to look at many items that were in the personal collection of Wild Bill Davison, the renowned jazz musician from Defiance. We were able to borrow some of those items for display in the week leading up to the Jazz Festival a few years ago.
I contacted one of the archivists and was told that they do not have the W.PA. Records. I searched their online catalog and found a reference to the WPA records. It was titled “The W.P.A. Records Survey: a guide to the unpublished inventories, indexes and transcripts”. The catalog record stated that it was not BGSU owned, but instead was at the Hayes Ohio Reading Room. This meant it was at the Rutherford B. Hayes Library in Fremont, Ohio. I called that library and spoke with a librarian who pulled the book from the shelf, and it was simply an index that was published by The Society of American Archivists in 1980 that lists where the unpublished survey records were located for each state.
The Works Progress Administration was created to give employment to people during the Depression. One segment of the WPA surveyed cemeteries in each county, recorded notes and spoke with local citizens regarding the history of the cemetery. The records were not published as a National Resource because the WPA was terminated in 1942 due to the demands of war. It was hoped that it would eventually be completed. What was done was given to many repositories to hold. The book that I found was an index of where each state’s surveys were kept. The Ohio surveys were given to the Ohio Historical Society, the Ohio University Library and the Western Reserve Historical Society. This index is also included in the Hathitrust Digital Library among many other historical volumes and can be viewed here https://www.hathitrust.org/.
All of this is great information on the history of the WPA Project, but still does not explain where the originals of the copies are today. I did another search in the BGSU Archives and found a book titled “Defiance County, Ohio Cemeteries” and in the description it stated that it was a “compilation of forms generated in the 1930s for the W.P.A, this collection is a photocopy of originals stored at the Hayes Presidential Center (LH202)”. This was exactly what I was looking for!
Renee Hopper, Adult Services Manager at DPL, and I made a trip to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, Ohio. We called ahead to let them know that we were coming and that we wanted to view the original W.P.A. Survey documents for Defiance County. It is much appreciated if people contact them ahead of time if they know what they are looking for (https://www.rbhayes.org/main/research-collections/). The library is free to use. The museum and home of Rutherford B. Hayes do require an entrance fee. President and Mrs. Hayes are buried on the grounds at Spiegel Grove as well. It is a beautiful, wooded property and the library is very impressive. From inside the library, the home of President Hayes can be seen. We didn’t visit it on this day but will make a future visit and include the home, museum and grounds.
They brought us the box containing the files of records from the W.P.A. Survey. It was very unassuming and looked much like the archival boxes that we have in storage at Defiance Public Library. It contained file folders with the original documents that were created during the surveys. Cemeteries of Defiance County was just one file. Others were such headings as Flora & Fauna, Archaeology, Folktales and Churches to name a few. Some of the documents were typed and some were handwritten. Some were on the old version of typewriter paper that was so thin it was translucent. There is no camera usage allowed in the library, but copies can be made. We took advantage of that and made copies of several documents for this project and others. The history that was recorded in 1936 is amazing and I am so thankful that Defiance County was one that was completed before the program ended.
We have a scheduled Zoom meeting with Eric Hubbard next week where he will go over the results of the GPR survey with us. The next blog will follow soon with all of that information to take in. The goal of dedicating a marker for Worthington Cemetery is getting closer! All of this combined community effort has been humbling to be part of.