Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Mary Huntley and The Freeland Subsoiler

Back in January --- in a post entitled "Where in the world was Freeland?" --- I wrote about a forgotten place of that name in Section 4 of Warren Township, post office and an informal community center from 1854 until 1865. 

This week, while moving items back into the museum library, I pulled out what so far as I know is the only surviving physical trace of that place, a handwritten document entitled "The Freeland Subsoiler," newsletter of the Freeland Farmers Club dated March 29, 1867. The "editress" (and scribe) was Mary Eveline (Allen) Huntley.

The newsletter consists of 12 closely-written pages (three ledger sheets folded in half) sewn together that most likely were passed from household to household in the neighborhood since it seems unlikely that more than one copy per issue was produced (there were no photocopiers or scanners back in those days, remember). It looks as if someone spilled something on the document at some point, but although a couple of pages are stained it is in very good condition and entirely legible.

The newsletter contains essays, poetry, letters to the editor and brief news items about the neighborhood. Some, true to the purpose of the club, were related to agriculture. It came to the society many years ago with a small batch of papers saved by Mary's son, Clark W. Huntley.

It's hard to explain, in the 21st century, exactly what a 19th century farmers club was --- but there were hundreds of these neighborhood organizations dotted across the state at the time. Many, including the Freeland Farmers Club, were registered with both state and national departments of agriculture.

They were largely social, but programs generally centered on agriculture-related topics with homemaking thrown in for good measure. Many of the clubs sponsored modest neighborhood annual fairs and/or cooperated with other clubs to sponsor county or regional fairs.

The news items are hardly earth-shattering, but kind of fun to read. Here's the text of one headlined, "The Great Panorama," reporting on a traveling show that apparently had set up in Chariton.

"We were out to see the magnificent Panorama, which was very interesting & quite life-like. The bombardment of Fort Sumter & a peep into Aunt Sallie's Cabin were worth looking at. We regret that more of our friends were not in Chariton, but most of our officers with their families were there, which of course occupied the front seats, so if any more had come, they would not have had a very good chance to see the performances." 


Mary, an Ohio native, was 27 when this edition of The Subsoiler was produced. She had married Capt. Lyman Southard Huntley there during 1860 and they came to Lucas County with their eldest son, Willard, immediately after Lyman was mustered out following three years of Civil War service in the 96th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Their home was in Section 10 of Warren Township, about a mile and a half southeast of Freeland.

Mary died at home in Warren Township during 1922, age 82. Capt. Huntley followed four years later, during 1926, at the age of 88. They along with many family members are buried in the Chariton Cemetery.

As Freeland faded from Warren Township's collective memory, the neighborhood where the Huntleys lived came to be known as Amity after a school by that name as well as Amity Methodist Chapel. And during the 1880s, Mary's son, Clark, followed in his mother's footsteps. We have a few copies of his own handwritten "Amity Argus" in the society's collection, too.

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