Friday, November 16, 2012

A Time and Place Record of Oscar's Travels

After reading the series of nine letters that Oscar Langford wrote to the Fredonia Censor in 1925, I have reconstructed, and verified as much as possible about his wanderings.
Oscar was born in 1837. When he was about 15, in 1852, the Griswold family left him on his own. He stayed briefly with the Cushing family, and then lived on the streets for awhile until the Griswolds returned and took him in "for a season".
"Pa" Griswold gave him money for a train ride to Erie, Pennsylvania, to pursue barrel-making in 1853. While that particular career did not pan out, Oscar did find employment as an apprentice printer in Erie. He tells us that the printing firm in Erie had another publication in Lyons, Iowa, and that he was there in 1854.
Then his travels begin in earnest. He goes from Lyons, Iowa, to Davenport, Muscatine and Keokuk and in Iowa courtesy of his stern wheel steamboat adventure. Then he finds his way to into Missouri, stopping at Hannibal before ending up in St. Louis. From there, he heads back north, through Illinois, with stops at Alton and Carlinville. In Wisconsin, his last midwest state, he goes to Zanesville, Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Two Rivers.
From there he catches a boat across the Great Lakes to Buffalo, with a stop at Mackinac Island, Michigan. Once in Buffalo, he stops home in Fredonia, then goes back to Buffalo, visits Syracuse, Lockport and Seneca Falls.
These travels all occur between 1853 and 1861.
In Seneca Falls he joins the Union Army in the spring of 1861. His Seventh New York Regiment passed before the White House and President Lincoln on April 25, 1861. Lincoln had only been inaugurated six weeks earlier. According to historian Allan Nevins, "Under a bright sun, the trim ranks of the Seventh were soon marching up Pennsylvania Avenue, whose sidewalks filled magically. The men kept soldierly step under their unstained banners, and when their band struck up onlookers danced delight. On they came, past Willard's, past the Treasury, through the White House grounds, and under the very eaves of the mansion. Lincoln emerged to wave them a greeting, the happiest-looking man in town. As an Illinois man remarked, 'He smiled all over.'
He also heard political speeches from Henry Clay, Winfield Scott, Daniel Webster, William H. Seward and Stephen A. Douglas.
Another significant event he had a front row seat for, where the Civil War riots in Dayton, Ohio. These are also well documented events.

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