Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was raised on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan, now part of the Detroit Metropolitan area. As a young man, Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He began to collect Edison memorabilia and then just kept collecting all types of objects related to innovation and history. Ford was himself an inventor and held 161 U.S. patents. Of course, he’s best known for establishing the Ford Motor Company in 1903, making the first Model T in 1908, and then because of demand introducing mass production including the first motor assembly line. If you’re interested in an overview of the museum or more details of his life, here’s the site: https://www.thehenryford.org/
Some highlights on display: The Kennedy Car, the 1961 Lincoln in which President Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963; several artifacts from Chicago’s Century of Progress held in 1933-1934 which my Grandparents Lohr, Great-Grandfather George Lohr, and my Father attended; a diner hauled in from Hudson, Massachusetts where Doug and I enjoyed ‘real’ milkshakes; a history section on Women’s Rights, actually the lack of them; and, of course, more cars and contraptions than anyone could imagine and not just Ford vehicles. The highlight for me was the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery Alabama. Doug and I sat in Rosa’s seat on the bus as a guide talked about that event.
Then we went outside to Greenfield Village. It was a cool windy day so we had the area almost to ourselves. The guides stationed in the buildings were so glad to see someone that they told us numerous stories. The original Ford Home is there, along with the Wright Cycle Shop from Dayton, Ohio, where Wilbur and Orville Wright performed much of their research, design and construction of the first successful airplane, the Wright Flyer; the Heinz House (actually horseradish was their first item produced and ketchup came later) built in 1854 in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania; and, a reconstructed/replica building originally in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where Edison performed many of his inventions—1,093 U.S. patents plus more worldwide— including developing the light bulb and first phonograph. A guide demonstrated one of those first phonographs from 1878. Ford was very wealthy and quite eccentric: He actually had a crew collect as many of the boards from the original research lab as could be located, moved those to Dearborn along with dirt from around the original building because Edison and his workers threw failed experiments out the windows. The dirt was sifted through to get the broken treasures and put them back together. (Well, that was the story anyway!)
After the day at the museum, our plan was to drive to Toledo, Ohio, and stay in a historic bed and breakfast there. Well, we drove to Toledo but ended up at the best-rated hotel at 3-stars in Toledo, a new Renaissance. As the voice on the GPS took us into a very rundown area of Toledo, Doug wondered where I was taking him. We located the bed and breakfast which was historic all right, but not in a positive way. The innkeeper met us there and gave us a tour of the first two floors—the upper floors are still being redone and the place is for sale. We decided to pay for the room but stay elsewhere as we didn’t think it was a safe area. Skip Toledo if you’re in the region although we did have a good seafood meal at a restaurant along the Maumee River.
The next day, we drove to South Bend, Indiana. Our plan was to go the Studebaker Museum. When I planned the itinerary, there was no notice on the website that the museum closed for a few days every year in April so that the vehicles could be moved for a charity function. Today was one of those days. Here’s the website if you’re interested in what we didn’t see: https://studebakermuseum.org/
Doug was disappointed, but the receptionist told us that we could tour the Oliver House as the head guide was still at work. The Oliver family was famous for the invention of the chilled plow and the nearby plant produced farm equipment. Oliver solved the problem of soil sticking to a plow because the metal was cooled rapidly—chilled—so that the blade had a hard smooth surface. By 1900, the manufacturing plant was producing about 300,000 plows a year.
Built in 1895-1896, the Oliver Mansion is quite unique because the family left the house and almost all the furnishings to the museum. Apparently that was the easiest way to eliminate family inheritance arguments! The plus for the museum and tourists is that the 38-room mansion looks like it did when the last family member lived there. The family also left funds for the maintenance of the home and garden. If you want to see and read more details: https://historymuseumsb.org/see-do/historic-house/
After the tour, we got back into the rental car, set the GPS for our bed and breakfast and proceeded to drive almost one block to The Oliver House. This beautiful b&b with accommodating owners, Alice and Tom, was originally the home of one of the Oliver daughters—Josephine Oliver Ford and her husband George Ford. If you’re interested in the b&b or the history, please check https://www.oliverinn.com/
Next door to the Oliver House is a restaurant in the original 24,000 square foot home of the Studebaker family built between 1886-1889. The building is now called Tippecanoe Place: http://www.tippe.com/ We just walked across the lawn and up the short driveway next door for our dinner.
After a lovely breakfast on April 19th at Oliver House, we set out on the interstate on our way to Mount Carroll, Illinois. As we drove, we were surrounded by semis, the most we’ve ever seen on any highway. The traffic was heavy, but we arrived in Mount Carroll in time to meet extended family on the Lohr side for lunch.
My Great-Grandfather, George W. Lohr, was born in Centre County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Mount Carroll, Illinois, with his family when he was three years old. One of his older brothers, Solomon (Sol) Lohr, remained in Mount Carroll. The people we met for lunch and a visit are descendants of Sol.
Two of my Great-Grandfather’s brothers were killed in the Civil War. The photo on my home page shows a monument to the soldiers from the Mount Carroll area including Israel Lohr (May 6, 1841 - May 5, 1862), buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri, and Jeremiah Lohr (1839 - August 1, 1862), buried at Columbus, Hickman, Kentucky.
My Great-Great Grandparents, Jacob Lohr (June 10, 1819 – July 3, 1904) and Margaret Anna Emerich Lohr (October 26, 1817 – August 25, 1905) are buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Mount Carroll. We visited their graves as well as those of several other extended family members.
Then we went to the home of one of my Mount Carroll relatives where we looked through photo albums and family history documents. They made copies of several obituaries, letters, and other print materials. As well, they gave me two photos that I had never seen before: one of my Grandfather Lester Lohr in his christening gown and one of my Great-Grandparents and their young family, including my Grandfather, before they left Illinois for South Dakota and then Canada in 1900.
In the late afternoon, Doug and I drove to Galena, about 45 miles northwest of Mount Carroll where we checked in at the Jail House Inn: https://jailhillgalena.com/ This luxury bed and breakfast has been totally renovated and is owned and operated by a cousin's son of my relatives in Mount Carroll, only on the other side of the family. Anyway, this building was used as a jail for 100 years, and the room we stayed in had initials of some of the prisoners still carved in the beams. We’ve stayed in many bed and breakfasts around the world during our travels, but that was our first time in jail! And, what a luxurious jail it was with every detail considered.
Galena is a resort town and although it was quiet because it was April and the weather was cool, we were told it gets very busy on weekends and holidays. We spent some time walking around the town the next morning after a three-course breakfast in jail and then drove to O’Hare Airport for our trip home.
Thanks for reading this travelogue.