Curt Dalton is one of my heroes. If you live outside of the Dayton, Ohio area, you probably have never heard his name, but in the circle of those of love Dayton history, Curt is quite an icon. His official job is as visual resources coordinator for Dayton History, the official name of Dayton's historical society. However, he is also an author of several books about Dayton, as well as the creator of the website Dayton History Books Free Online (http://www.daytonhistorybooks.com/index.html). You don't have to love Dayton, Ohio to love this site.
The first time I came into contact with Curt was through a series of resource books he created that I just happened to stumble upon while shopping one Christmas. They were in a group of books, thrown into a heap on a table at a discount bookstore. They didn't look like anything special. The covers looked like a strong construction paper with ink sketches and an inexpensive binding. I wasn't sure what they were at first, until I opened them up. On each page were names, listed alphabetically, along with dates and page numbers. They were resource books that someone named Curt Dalton had painstakingly created from Dayton newspapers and various other local publications. He had listed the names of those persons about whom articles had been written and photographs had been published. Not only that, he told me the name of the publication and page number where the information could be found. I think I made an audible gasp when I realized what I had in my hands! Quickly, I opened the books to look for Norris, Routsong, Swadner, Suman; the names of those branches of my family that were rooted early in Dayton. To my delight, there were several articles listing members of the Routsong family. I quickly picked up the rest of the books. There was only one copy of each book, and they were now going to belong to me!
My next step was the library. The Dayton-Montgomery County Public Library in downtown Dayton has a large local history room with microfilm copies of the publications to which Curt had referred. Armed with my new books, dates, and names, I headed for the librarian. I found several small articles, and some group pictures where it was hard to pick out my family member. However, there was truly one gem among them. On page 5 of The Dayton Daily News on 4 August, 1908, was a family photograph and story about my great great grandfather, Henry Mathias Routsong and his wife, Clarinda Swadner Routsong. My great grandmother, Elizabeth, was not in the picture, but her brother was. I was so excited I could hardly contain myself.
Here is what the article said:
Eighty Four Years Old and Has Never Been on a Railroad Train
Representatives of four generations of the Routsong family were gathered Sunday at the home of Lester Routsong, Rural Route No. 2 on the Dayton and Lebanon Pike. In the party were the oldest representatives, H.M. Routsong and wife Mrs. Clarinda Routsong, aged respectively 84 and 82; their son, William A. Routsong, aged 56, their grandson, Lester Routsong, aged 30, and great-grandson, Harold Routsong, aged 8. This was the first occasion for the assembling of the entire family together for a number of years. H.M. Routsong, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Routsong, was born near Dayton and has lived on the same farm for the past 84 years. His parents came to Ohio when it was almost a backwoods, from Middletown, MD. Evidently, the family is what is commonly termed long-lived for he has two sisters, Mrs. Caroline Swadner and Mrs. Rebecca Emmert, who are aged 82 and 80 respectively. At the age of 26, he was married to Clarinda Swadner. Eight children were the result of this union, of which only three survive. For a man of his years, Mr. Routsong is most spry and active. He works daily on the farm. To rusticity and the quiet of farm life, Mr. Routsong is peculiarly wedded, and this same feeling has been instilled in most of his descendants. When a very young man he rode to Dayton to see the first train. While he has, of course, observed several trains since, he has never in his life ridden in a railroad coach. A conclusive proof of his unusual strength was demonstrated about 8 years ago when he was on the petit jury. During that time he made 37 trips to the city on foot.
This was just the jolt I needed to jumpstart my family history research. If this was here, what else was out there, just waiting for me to find it? I haven't stopped searching and it's because Curt Dalton cared about Dayton History enough to spend his valuable time creating that book for people like me, and that is why he is my hero!