Posted on November 23, 2020 at 2:19 PM by Melissa Dalton
As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, it’s important, especially this year, to think about why we come together on this holiday. This year, the holidays are going to look very different for many people. Instead of large family gatherings, many are scaling back and only celebrating with those that live in their household. Others are taking their gatherings virtual so that they still can see family, even if they cannot gather in person. I’ve also heard that there are several people skipping the cooking, and ordering from local restaurants!
The concept of “thanksgivings”, or traditions of giving thanks and celebrating a healthy harvest, are noted throughout history. Many cultures celebrated victories in war, successful harvest, and even the end of drought. Variations of thanksgiving have been celebrated nationally in the United States since the Revolutionary War, but it wasn’t until the Civil War that it became more common. President Lincoln, in an attempt to give thanks during a difficult time, proclaimed that Thursday, November 26, 1863 be celebrated as Thanksgiving Day. Since this act, the holiday has been observed annually, although the traditions varied regionally.
Harper’s Weekly, 29 November 1862 (Greene County Archives)
Harper’s Weekly, 13 December 1862 (Greene County Archives)
Most presidents succeeding Lincoln declared the final Thursday of November as Thanksgiving. However, 1939 had five Thursdays, and Franklin D. Roosevelt declared the fourth Thursday as Thanksgiving. Some historians claim that he did this to allow for an additional week of holiday shopping during the Great Depression. His break from tradition didn’t sit well with everyone, and not all states followed his lead. In 1940 and 1941, Roosevelt continued this break with tradition, declaring the third Thursday Thanksgiving. Due to this, Congress decided to pass a joint resolution to permanently fix Thanksgiving – making it the fourth Thursday of November. It passed both the House and Senate, and on December 26, 1941, Roosevelt signed the bill into law.
Today, many of the traditions we see have a long history. Two of the most notable are the Thanksgiving Day Parade and Football! What we now know as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was started in 1924, with the oldest parade associated with the holiday being the Philadelphia’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which started in 1920. Another well-known Thanksgiving Day tradition is football. This tradition dates back to just a few years after Lincoln’s declaration, with Yale and Princeton playing on the day. Thanksgiving later became the day for collegiate championship games. As such, when the professional football league, what is now called the National Football League (NFL), was established in 1920, they immediately adopted the day for themselves – with the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys playing on Thanksgiving each year.
No matter what your plans for this Thanksgiving Day, we wish you all a happy and safe holiday!
Until Next Time!
Posted on November 19, 2020 at 11:16 AM by Melissa Dalton
I am not a World War II history buff. I know the basics, but I didn’t take any history courses specific to the War. But, when Joan sent me a copy of a letter from the War Department notifying a father of his young son’s death, I couldn’t help but want to learn more. This week, we share the little we learned about Jobe Elbert Lyon’s life before the war, but also what he likely experienced as a soldier and POW.
Jobe Elbert Lyon was born on February 23, 1925 to Jobe E. Lyon (Sr.) and Mary (Shank) Lyon. As he shared a name with his father, the family called him Elbert. Mary’s family, the Shanks, were from Beavercreek Township, but the young couple made their home in Dayton as Jobe worked as an electrician for Delco. When Elbert was only 10 years old, his mother died after a brief illness (Fig 1). After Mary’s death, her father, George, named Elbert as a beneficiary of his trust. George Shank died on December 6, 1938, and as such, Elbert was to receive $1500 at the age of 21 (Fig 2).
Fig 1. Obituary for Mary A. Lyon (Ancestry.com)
Fig 2. Will of George Shank (Greene County Archives)
Elbert was a 1943 graduate of Stivers High School in Dayton, Ohio and worked as a meter reader for the Dayton Power & Light Co. On March 19, 1944, Elbert, like many young men of his time, enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was assigned to Company G, 422nd Infantry Regiment, 106th Division, known as the Golden Lions (Fig 3).
Fig 3. Registration Card for Jobe E. Lyon (Ancestry.com)
The 422nd Infantry Regiment arrived at the Schnee Eifel area of Germany on December 10, 1944 to relieve the 2nd Infantry Division, and were joined by the 423rd Infantry Regiment. This area was in the Ardennes Forest and was a supposedly quiet front, which was thought to be ideal for the young and green regiments. However, on December 16, 1944, just days after arrival, the regiments were attacked by the Germans. The battle, commonly known as the Battle of the Bulge, ensued for four days, and the regiments were surrounded and cut off from the other units and supplies. As such, on December 19, 1944, Colonel Descheneaux of the 422nd and Colonel Cavender of the 423rd, surrendered their regiments to the Germans. Among the captured was PFC Lyon.
After the Battle of the Bulge, many of the captured Americans were taken as prisoners of war (POWs) to various German prison camps. In particular, thousands were imprisoned at Stalag IV-B (not far from Dresden), which is where PFC Lyon was taken. The WWII POW Data Files from the National Archives provides some details about Lyon and his time in the POW camp. Elbert and his fellow American POWs likely arrived in late December 1944. We aren’t sure of Elbert’s condition upon arrival to the POW camp (we aren’t sure if he was injured during battle or not), but there were many instances of frostbite, starvation, and brutality at the camp. Sadly, PFC Lyon died as a POW on February 25, 1945, just two days after his 20th birthday. His father was notified by the War Department on September 4, 1945 (Fig 4), and had a headstone erected on the family plot at Beavercreek Cemetery to memorialize his son and his ultimate sacrifice (Fig 5).
Fig 4. Letter from the War Department to Jobe E. Lyon, Sr. (Greene County Archives)
Fig 5. Headstone for PFC Jobe E. Lyon at Beavercreek Cemetery (FindAGrave.com)
In 1949, Elbert’s body was returned to the United States through the WWII Dead Program (now the Defense MIA/POW Accounting Agency). PFC Jobe E. Lyon was buried in Arlington Cemetery on July 28, 1949. Today, we honor his memory and sacrifice (Fig 6).
Fig 6. Interment form for PFC Jobe E. Lyon at Arlington National Cemetery (Ancestry.com)
If you are interested in learning more about the 106th Division and the Battle of the Bulge, I read an informative article on the National WWII Museum’s website, written by a top WWII historian, Dr. Robert Citino: https://www.nationalww2museum.org/war/articles/fall-golden-lions.
Until Next Time.
Greene County Archives
The National WWII MuseumFig 1.
Posted on November 13, 2020 at 2:37 PM by Melissa Dalton
Our blog this week is taking a different approach. A couple of weeks ago, Robin came across an insert in one of the Civil War Medical Pension Books, and it invoked some curiosity amongst us. What she found was a blank O. H. Oldroyd Certificate for the purchase of a book titled The Words of Lincoln (Fig 1). The purchase of the book was to “preserve for historic purposes the house in which Lincoln died, until such time as it is purchased by Congress, or the Patriotic people of America.” Who was O. H. Oldroyd, and what was his involvement in preserving the house in which Lincoln died? All it took was a quick Google search to learn a great deal about the fascinating Ohio native, and his admiration for our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln.
Fig 1. Certificate of Purchase of The Words of Lincoln (Greene County Archives)
Osborn Hamiline Ingham Oldroyd was born in 1842 in Ohio (and you’ll likely notice that his initials also spell OHIO). Oldroyd took great interest in Lincoln during his campaign for the presidency, and his esteem for the man only grew with Lincoln’s election as the 16th U.S. President.
At the age of 19, Oldroyd enlisted in the Union Army at Camp Chase, joining Company E, 20th Ohio Infantry. He spent four years in the Army, all the while writing of his experience, and collecting Lincoln memorabilia. Although Oldroyd wanted to continue his service in the Army, he was mustered out in 1865 due to his asthma. As such, Oldroyd took up a post at the National Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, Ohio as a Steward (Fig 2). Oldroyd married Lida A. Stoneberger on April 23, 1873 and the couple had one child, Daisy.
Fig 2. 1870 Census of National Soldiers’ Home in Dayton, Ohio (Ancestry.com)
Oldroyd’s fascination with Lincoln continued to grow, and he moved the family to Springfield, Illinois in 1880. As soon as Oldroyd learned that the former Lincoln home was available for rent, he jumped on the chance, moving his family into the home in 1883. Oldroyd’s collection had grown exponentially, and in 1884, he converted the first floor of the Lincoln home into The Lincoln Museum. Then in 1885, Oldroyd published portions of his writings of the Civil War, titled A Soldier’s Story of the Siege of Vicksburg, which provides accounts of the 65-day campaign (Fig 3). Oldroyd’s time in the house weren’t without controversy. Robert, Lincoln’s son, still owned the home, and he apparently wasn’t a huge fan of Oldroyd or his practices as Oldroyd avoided paying rent, yet charged entrance fees into the museum. However, the family remained in the home for ten years, even after Robert donated the home to the State in 1887. However, in 1893, Oldroyd was replaced as custodian, so he decided to move his family and personal collection to Washington, D.C. to the Petersen House.
Fig 3. Image of cover of reprint of Oldroyd’s book, A Soldiers’ Story of the Siege of Vicksburg (Amazon.com)
The Petersen House is located opposite the Ford Theatre and is where Lincoln died (Fig 4). Oldroyd gained permission to live in the house and run a museum on the first floor. The federal government bought the Petersen House, but allowed Oldroyd and his collection to remain in the home. Oldroyd continued his celebration of his favorite president, and published another work titled The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1917. The book was an almost instant success.
Fig 4. The Petersen House (Wikimedia Commons)
In 1925, Oldroyd sold his Lincoln collection, containing roughly 3000 items, to the U.S. government for $50,000. Even after selling the items, Oldroyd was permitted to remain in the home. Osborn H. I. Oldroyd died in 1930. Just a year after his death, the collection was moved to the Ford Theatre.
Even with some questions about Oldroyd’s practices at times, his actions may have saved many of the items from use and deterioration. Ultimately, Oldroyd is credited with making one of the largest contributions to the history and memory of Lincoln.
So, once again, we learn that the Archives holds some strange and fascinating things – and we just never know what sort of stories we might learn from our collections.
Allen, J. D. (1963). Documenting the Lincoln Museum Collection. The American Archivist, 26(4), 463-467.
Greene County Archives, www.greenecountyohio.gov
Hartley, A. (2020, Jul 22). Eccentricities from Our Archives: The Man Who Collected Lincoln. Ford’s Theatre. https://www.fords.org/blog/post/eccentricities-from-our-archives-the-man-who-collected-lincoln/.
Library of Congress, www.loc.gov
McAndrew, T. M. (2008, November 19). The first Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum: How a deadbeat huckster saved history. Illinois Times. https://www.illinoistimes.com/springfield/the-first-abraham-lincoln-presidential-museum/Content?oid=11451890.
Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Osborn_Oldroyd_in_front_of_Petersen_House,_1925.jpg