I Found It in the Archives Finalist: Marty Davis Cottrill

Touching the Past

Marty Davis Cottrill
While researching my Beers ancestors who had helped establish North Columbus, I found a book about the Bull Family, who had lived near David and Elizabeth Schlegel Beers. The book featured sketches of several circuit riders who had served the congregation of Clinton Chapel, where my ancestors attended. (The book was Early Clintonville and Grove City and the Bull and Smith Families, by Nancy J. Pendleton, 1997.)

One circuit rider, Uriah Heath, reportedly served Clinton Chapel in 1838-39 and again 1848. I knew my ancestors Solomon (David’s son) and Eliza Pennington Beers had joined a Sunday school class there in 1839. The Pendleton book indicated that Uriah Heath knew the Bull family well. Did he know my Beers ancestors, too? The book also reported that Uriah Heath kept a diary—and that this diary was at the Ohio Historical Society Archives!

I set aside an afternoon to visit the OHS Archives, hoping the diary was still available. What would it be like, I wondered, to hold this volume that was 160 years old? Before I knew it, the archivist delivered the old book to me at one of the tables set aside for viewing such works. I put on the gloves I was given and turned the pages carefully, intent on finding a date that brought Uriah Heath into contact with my ancestors. The information I had for Solomon’s wife Eliza Pennington Beers showed that she had died at age 38 in 1848, possibly of cholera. (It was a hard life; three of her five children preceded her in death.)

I scanned the pages for July 1848, the month that Eliza had died—and was rewarded with Uriah Heath’s handwritten account of his visit to the Beers family the day after Eliza had died:

“July 21 1848 . . . Mrs. Beers was lying dead, having departed at ten o’clock last night. The family feel desolate and much afflicted. May the dispensation of the Providence of God be sanctified to the good of the survivors.”

I was mesmerized by this journal entry by a caring person who had seen and talked with the family of Solomon and Eliza Beers. I spent two hours with that diary and deeply appreciate the chance to “touch” my ancestors’ lives through the words of the pastor who visited them at a crucial time. Thank you, OHS Archives!

Marty Davis Cottrill


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3 Responses to I Found It in the Archives Finalist: Marty Davis Cottrill

  1. Marty’s piece is memorable. Loved the image of her gloved hands reverently touching the reality of her ancestor’s lives through pages she turned.

  2. Jim Mazzeit says:

    I just read the essay by Marty Cotrill. I tried to give it 5 start in the vote. The stars are so close together that I am bot sure if I did or not.
    jim mazzei

    • ohiohistory says:


      Thank you for commenting on Ms. Cotrill’s essay. Official voting for the “I Found It In the Archives” contest closed on July 28th.

      L. Wood, Curator for Visual Resources

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