The story of Columbus, over the years, has been told in many different ways, and all sorts of people have been the storytellers.
Some of the city's historians have been well-educated and well-trained. Alfred Lee had a degree from Ohio Wesleyan University when the Civil War came along. Wounded severely in the Battle of Gettysburg, he later served as a secretary and counselor to President Hayes. His two-volume, 1,500-page history of Columbus to 1892 remains one of the best histories of its kind.
Several local, amateur historians -- and occasionally not-so-local ones -- have tried to tell the story of the city as they understood it. Among my favorites is Lida Rose McCabe, whose "Don't You Remember" (1888) was a fact-based fictional account of the early days of the capital city.
Then there are storytellers. They make no claims of being historians. They simply have memories to share, and they're looking for a place to share them.
One of those people was Carlos B. Shedd. The Shedd family had been living in Columbus for about 20 years when Carlos was born in 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War. The Shedds were grocers by trade and had opened their original store at Main and High streets. In time, the Shedd family moved to a larger building on North Front Street and their company became a wholesale grocery business.
A lifelong resident of Columbus, Carlos Shedd was looking for something to do after, in his words, "spending fifty-five years at a desk." In his case, that something to do became writing an occasional column of reminiscences for the Columbus Citizen about the Columbus of his youth in the late 1800s. The stories he tells bring to life the people and places of a small town that was about to become a big city.
The importance of Shedd's work is in his talent for detail. He not only remembered prominent people and places but also had a remarkable ability to recall the common as well -- common things such as dusty roads:
"Let me turn your old-time readers back some 70 or more years (to the 1880s) to the old days of mud and dusty roads we had before the era of paved streets. These streets had from three to five inches of dust on them and what a picnic for the wind. All the main streets had three or four sprinkling carts going continually up and down them to keep the dust down and what fun we boys had trailing along behind them.
"We would take off our shoes and stockings, roll up our pants to the waist and follow along behind them. Often when playing around at Town and Seventh streets we would look up North Seventh Street and see what we thought was a storm cloud coming. It turned out to be nothing but a herd of some 25 or 30 head of cattle being driven from Neil's stock yards, up by the railroads down to the slaughter houses, then located in the south part of town. Everybody had to run and close their windows when this occurred as it would take at least an hour for the dust to settle and woe be to the one who had left his gate open and some stray cow would wander in stamping all over the front yard and flower gardens before he was driven out."
Then there were the hitching posts:
"Almost every yard in town had one or two of them on the curbs. Today, as far as I know, there are only two left, one in front of my home on East Broad Street and one in front of the old Taylor homestead a few squares farther east.
"These posts were generally made of wood, but some were made of stone and some of iron. They stood anywhere from two to five feet high and what fun we boys had jumping over them. In order to jump over the very tall ones, you had to start about four feet from the post. But woe unto the boy who failed to make the grade, got stuck on top and tore his pants.
"I can just remember when the old Deshler Bank, at Broad and High facing Broad Street, had a row of trees in front. Under them were two wooden posts, quite far apart joined by a long rail. I believe they called them hitching rails. This style of post came in handy to tie up to, while one did his banking and shopping."
In 1951, a collection of some of Shedd's articles was published as a pamphlet called "Tales of Old Columbus." It can be found in several area libraries.
Carlos B. Shedd died in 1956.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.