Finalist: Sharen Bowers
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During one of my family history research quests at the Ohio Historical Archives/Library, I was fast forwarding through microfilm of an old Scio, Harrison County, Ohio newspaper, The Scio Weekly Herald, looking for an obituary. I would stop occasionally and check the date when a headline caught my eye. “Scio Boy’s Sad Death” it read. And a sub-heading, “Found in Urbana Bleeding and Unconscious.” The first sentence stunned me. “The remains of Charles Mellish arrived here on Panhandle 10 yesterday.” I immediately realized that I was reading an article about my paternal grandma’s brother, my Great-uncle Charles, whose fate I’d never known.
The story told how young Charles had left Scio two weeks earlier with his cousin to take a team of horses to Oblong, Illinois. The boys planned to stay and find work. As it turned out his cousin stayed but Charles wanted to come home. He had no money so he tried “riding the rails.” Charles got as far as Urbana, Champaign County, Ohio where he met his tragic end. He was struck in the head with something very heavy as to leave him with a severely fractured skull, unconscious and near death. He was found beside a boxcar on a cold, rainy May morning in 1908 lying face down in a pool of blood.
They tried to save him but he passed a few days later without ever regaining consciousness. A follow up article in the Citizen and Gazette Urbana, Ohio newspaper, told of the murder investigation, my great-uncle’s injuries graphically (I just cried inside) and a possible suspect who they released due to lack of evidence. What left a lump in my throat was an account of how the good citizens of Urbana, under the leadership of Irving Armpriester, took up a collection to pay for the transportation of the body back to his poor family in Scio for burial. Fortunately, they had found a letter in Charles’ pocket with his name and address on it. Charles carried no other identification.
I believe Charles wanted me to find him that day in the archives. How else can I explain that I just happened to stop on the page of his story while whirling through the microfilm? Charles is buried in Grandview Cemetery in Scio, Harrison County, Ohio in an unmarked grave. I hope to locate his grave and buy a headstone. Charles was only 18 years old but I don’t want his life to go unnoted. I found Great-uncle Charles in the archives and I never want him lost again.