There’s no place like home. Perhaps with as much vested interest as people take in seeking out their own face in a photograph of a crowd, knowing “I was there,” we may also derive the same recognition when perusing maps of childhood homes. At one point, we were, after all, “there.”
I can’t pretend to know what home was like for my mother-in-law’s ancestors. I know very little about her father, John Ambrose Flowers of Perry County, Ohio. I know even less about his father, Joseph E. Flowers.
I do, however, still have a copy of an undated plat map for the township in which they resided. In a visit to the Perry County courthouse many years ago, I had asked what I thought would be the impossible question: “Can I have a copy of that?”
“That” was the plat map. Oversized, bound in a large hard-cover volume, it was the unwieldy type of untouchable relic from the past that was suitable only for archiving—not for releasing to the unwashed public.
Though the clerk might have considered the question unusual, she thankfully found a way to accommodate my request. Asking if I “minded” having the copy broken up into two eleven-by-seventeen pages, she set to work producing a facsimile.
I was elated—until I considered how I would preserve that photocopied document. Just the trip home from Ohio presented challenges. This is just not the size for which one simply runs to the stationery store for a manila folder. And once home, where to store it? (Thankfully, my sister-in-law sent me a beautifully ornamented wooden box in which it fits perfectly, along with other treasured papers.)
Keeping such a record stowed away, however, defeats the purpose of using the document. This next consideration received its answer last January when my Genealogy Angel loaned me her Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner. See, now I have a digitized version of the plat map, and you can see it, too.
That’s a good thing, because I want you to visualize what I am talking about when I mentioned yesterday that so many of the families in Perry County are intertwined.
Though you don’t (yet) know all the surnames involved in this Flowers family, when I let my eyes wander across the page, I start noticing something: Hey! These surnames are all somewhere in my genealogy database! Somewhere across the years, these neighbors started becoming in-laws, and wedding bells blended quite a few of the old, recognizable family lines from that plat map.
On this map, I saw Gordons, Hammonds, Deans, other Flowers families, and many, many Sniders. The singular calligraphy drew me in, and tempted my eyes to wander over the geographic details: a proposed railroad winding its way across properties, perhaps on its way to the Saltillo Coal company where John Ambrose Flowers later worked; several spots labeled “coal bank.” Roads and creeks meandering freely over the land disregarded the strict adherence to the grids that comprised each sector.
On the section labeled “22,” I saw the name, “Jos. Flowers.” Nestled in between the N. Hammond property and several sets of Sniders—including the inevitable alternate “Snyder” spelling—this spot was the one our family’s ancestors called home. I could see the lower portion of the Flowers property bore the legend, “Coal Bank,” and remembered my mother-in-law’s mentions of an oil rig on the property.
Relative to the other parcels, I could see it was a sliver of land. The number below the name, if meaning the number of acres, showed this to be a 45 acre parcel. For suburban homeowners today, that would seem an unmanageable amount of land; for farmers of those days, in which land grants had once been obtained in 160 acre parcels, it might not be sufficient for a decent-sized business operation. Indeed, the size—and the surrounding labels of “Snider”—made me wonder if this was a concession to Joseph Flowers on account of his bride, the former Anna Maria Snider.
Of course, that was conjecture on my part. I didn’t even have a date for this plat map I had gotten so many years ago. I guessed it was from the 1800s, but I had no idea when.
Thanks to the wonders of digitization and the Internet, what never had previously been accessible in ways other than the sheer act of personal travel can now be obtained with a click of a mouse. I decided that my chances of finding my plat map on a website somewhere might indeed be quite possible nowadays.
And that, indeed, is how it is. Consider this Clayton township plat map I discovered here, dated 1859. Gaining my bearings by first locating that section 22 that Joseph Flowers eventually called home, I see that the whole area belonged to Jacob Snider. While there were many Snider men in Perry County back then, it is most likely that this Jacob Snider was Anna Maria’s father. At that time, Joseph Flowers would have been only sixteen—eight years prior to having gotten up the gumption to ask Anna’s father for her hand in marriage.
The same website that featured the 1859 plat map also provided a scanned copy of one for 1875. Looking at that map, it turns out it is a copy of the same original from which I gleaned mine, thus providing me a date for my document. Some things are indeed better late than never—especially in the case of those early research years when details such as these slipped the mind in the face of exciting discoveries.
Spanning the time from the 1859 map until the map of 1875, it may indeed have been so: that plat maps show the family names intertwining, buying and selling property to arrange for married children to still remain close to home. While no one would actually have shopped for a bride using a plat map, the end result seems much the same. Familiarity, it seems, does not breed contempt. It breeds grandchildren.