Recently, I was going through some old family items that should be passed on to a younger generation or given to a historical society. One of the things I found was a three-volume set of the history of the Western Reserve, written and published in 1910 by Harriet Taylor Upton.
On the inside page was written, "purchased in 1910 by John P. Parker," my father. He would have been 13 or 14 at the time. I'm not sure where he got the money to buy these books, because they were no doubt expensive.
As I flipped through the many pages, I was interested in the experiences of the hardy pioneers who settled our area from about 1800 until the early 1900s. Trumbull County in particular got me engrossed in reading the stories, which were written in an easy-to-read style. Somehow, I didn't get very far in going over the other things in my collection.
Both people and communities and their history were included in these three volumes. The first one, where I spent most of the time I had, told a lot about many of the communities in several counties in the Western Reserve area.
An interesting one was about the oil "boom" in Mecca, or what was commonly known years ago as "Meccy." Maybe some of the old timers in Mecca can even remember the days of "Meccy."
Early settlers in that township soon recognized that there was oil in the ground around them. It would show up in wells and springs. They considered it a disadvantage because of the bad taste. Some collected enough oil to burn and others to sell.
The first drilled well was in West Mecca on land owned by a William F. Jeffries. As soon as word got out about the well, an oil boom developed. A community sprung up that became known as "Dixie." Many small homes were built, and people came from all over the country to get in on the boom. Gambling and drinking were common because there wasn't any form of entertainment in the area.
When the oil boom fizzled out, the community of Dixie soon disappeared. Many of the homes were torn down or moved to Warren. It would be interesting to know where the community was - probably around West Mecca somewhere.
My grandparents used to keep a supply of "Meccy" oil on hand to put on cuts and bruises. It was considered to have medicinal qualities, and they declared it helped. They also used it on cuts and sprains on their horses.
Then there was the story about a rattlesnake hunt in Braceville. A group found out that there was an area that had a lot of these snakes. So they armed themselves with pointed and forked sticks and went on a hunt. They found them in large numbers, and the story says they were surrounded by the snakes. But they got busy and soon chased the snakes up a ledge. Some were as large as a man's ankle and more than 5 feet long, as the story goes. Apparently there were also a large number of black snakes in the bunch, and they get big and long but are one of our beneficial snakes.
The men collected all the dead snakes and counted 486. They considered their day a success. Other groups went on hunts later, and the population was soon practically eliminated. I' m going to check with my Braceville friends to see if they have been on any snake hunts lately.
Nothing was said in the history about the large number of snakes in the swamp area of North Bloomfield of along the Grand River.
I have only started to explore these histories. Maybe someday I will get back to going over the other things to see what should be done with them - after I explore more of the history of the Western Reserve. I will also have to decide what to do with these books that are in excellent shape if no one in the family wants them. Perhaps a library could use them.
Parker is an independent writer for the Tribune.