Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More

Fips, Bots, Doggeries and MoreFirst place in the Nonfiction History category of the Ohio Professional Writers Association’s 2012 competition.

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Henry Rogers was a miller and farmer who lived and worked in Mount Pleasant, Ohio, outside Cincinnati, nearly all his life.

In the late summer and fall of 1838, at the age of 32, Henry, his wife, and her parents traveled from their home to New York City via horse-drawn wagon.

Henry — a literate businessman with diverse interests living in a time and place that was undergoing substantial social, political, and economic change — kept a daily journal of at least the east-bound portion of this trip.fipsandbots

His intent in maintaining this journal, he stated, was “to mention all interesting subjects and things that come under my observation.”

True to his word, Henry recorded observations of and thoughts about the landforms and waters he crossed, soils and their agricultural potential, crops, buildings and other architectural features, mills and other forms of industry, places and institutions with tourist appeal, and emerging transportation facilities.

The social and political environment of the times, as well as the health and comfort of his party — both humans and horses — as they traveled eastward, were also commented upon in the Journal.

Some 150 years after Henry’s trip, his great-great-great-granddaughter, Tracy Lawson, received a typewritten copy of his journal as a gift — and almost immediately found herself falling into what became an extensive, diverse exploration of the content and context of the document.

Over the years, she delved into archival materials, public documents, genealogical records, family lore, and the social, political, and economic history of Henry’s world.

Then, 13 years into her research, she – along with her young daughter Keri —bench-marked the exploration of Henry’s journal by retracing his route from south-western Ohio to northern New Jersey. Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More is a milestone in Tracy’s passionate and still unfolding exploration of the life and times of one of her ancestors — a person Tracy identifies as one of America’s “Real People.”

“It is amazing how much I learned as I researched Henry’s journal and wrote this book,” Tracy says, “and this project has given me a new appreciation for the individuals from Henry’s time who used their skills and ingenuity to build America into a great nation.  I would encourage anyone with access to family letters or journals to embark on their own journey into the past and see what they can discover about their family history.”

Click here to see a scrapbook of images from the book.

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Reviews

Don’t let the title fool you: Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More belongs on every Granville [OH] bookshelf. Before getting into the details, let it be known the book has some compelling local connections, the first being an excellent account of travel in the 1830s, much of it over the National Road in Granville’s own backyard.

Second, there is Tracy Lawson, the Bexley [OH] author lucky enough to find her ancestor’s account of the journey and bring it to life again in this book.

Lawson’s story and that of her ancestor are brought together in a nicely illustrated softcover edition by Granville’s own McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company.

Rare indeed is the person with a written link to an ancestor reaching back over 170 years. Henry Rogers, the author’s great-great-great-grandfather, made the journey from Mount Pleasant to New York City in the summer and fall of 1838. Lawson wisely divided her book into two sections, the first being Henry’s account of the original eastbound journey, and the second being a highly readable version of her own modern-day adventure in his footsteps.

The Ohio wilderness had been tamed by 1838, so Henry’s route was without privation or danger. In fact, he passed through places familiar to us in 2012, including Cambridge, Norwich, Gratiot, Reynoldsburg, Kirkersville, Hebron, Luray, Zanesville and Columbus.

It was in Norwich that Henry received a “fip” (one-sixteenth of a dollar) in change from the toll collector (you’ll have to read the book to ferret out the Bots and Doggeries).

Importantly, many of the specific sites he encountered still exist and are within easy reach, including the Smith House Tavern in Mount Sterling (now Smith House Antiques), the famous Zanesville Y Bridge, The Golden Lamb Inn in Lebannon, and several bridges over old sections of US 40 just west of Zanesville.

Travel tip: Don’t miss the exquisite S-Bridge over Fox Run.

I predict this book will inspire family field trips (and student reports). Many of the local sites are an easy hour’s drive (or less) from Granville, and are opportunities to walk on and touch local history.

Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More is readable and well-illustrated, with equally absorbing sections on Pennsylvania and Maryland. Extensive end-notes and throughtful sidebars leave nothing unanswered, and a fine bibliography caps everything. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

– Rob Geiger, Granville Sentinel, July 26, 2012

 

Times are constantly changing, so one man’s view may reveal just how far we’ve come. Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More: Explorations of Henry Rogers’ 1838 Journal of Travel from Southwestern Ohio to New York City discusses the work of Ohio miller and businessman Henry Rogers, who on his trip between the two regions, kept a journal, sharing what he saw in detail, and distant descendant Tracy Lawson provides an intriguing exploration of his work. Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More is a strong pick for American history collections for its very personal touch.

– The Midwest Book Review, The American History Shelf

 

Travel diaries are among the most important sources historians have for drawing pictures of the past, as travelers often make descriptive observations of things locals take for granted. Henry Rogers’ journal of his trip from Cincinnati to New York in 1838 offers us a wonderful series of Polaroids of town and country life in the Midwest and Northeast in the antebellum era. Rogers’ journey occurred at a particularly significant moment in the history of the early republic, just as improved roads and canals drew Ohioans out of isolation and into a wider social and economic world. Much of his trip followed the National Road, the first federally-funded inter-state road, and among the most important roads of the era in accelerating social and economic change. The journal is presented in its entirety, supplemented with explanatory notes and useful illustrations.

Rogers’ great-great-great granddaughter Tracy Lawson has done a wonderful job puzzling out the meaning of some of the obsolete language in the diary and supplying a context for understanding Henry’s experiences and times. In a second section, Tracy Lawson describes her 21st century retracing of Henry’s route, documenting what remains of Henry’s world.

Anyone interested in the history of everyday life in the decades before the Civil War will find Fips, Bots, Doggeries and More a delightful read. Anyone on their own journey into their family’s past, struggling to make meaning old family artifacts and documents, will learn a great deal about how to do it by following Tracy Lawson’s journey.

– William Kerrigan, Cole Professor of American History, Muskingum University, New Concord, OH, June 2012

 

A wonderful and fascinating look at America in the early 1800s. For those interested in the day-to-day life of travelers during that period nothing does it better than than this book.

– Elias Castillo, Redwood City, CA, July 2012

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