More about Rosella’s personal and family history . . .

Her grandparents, Ebenezer and Martha (Hammond) Rice were originally from Massachusetts and arrived in Green Township, Richland County, Ohio, in 1810, by way of Vermont, New York and Licking County, Ohio. Ebenezer carved a farm out what was then wilderness. Rosella was the eldest child of Alexander and Sarah “Sallie” (Johnson) Rice, who met and married on this frontier in 1825. She would have three full siblings — Rosina, Reuben and Isaac Johnson — who would survive to adulthood. Their mother died in 1841, and Alexander married the next year Mary Van Scoyoc, who died in 1854, leaving Rosella with two half siblings, Russell Bryte and Ida Josephine, to raise along with her own daughter Lily May. Rosella never married and for the rest of her life assumed the responsibilities of the woman of the house on her father’s farm. She died in 1888 in the same house in which she was born just outside Perrysville, Ohio, although her interests, correspondence with her fellow writers and occasionally train travel took her far beyond those walls.

 

Her obituary in the Mansfield Shield and Banner reflected the status she had achieved at home: “Our town seemed almost paralyzed Wednesday morning, June 6th, when it was told from house to house that Rosella Rice was dead! Her illness had been so brief, and she was so much loved, that the news came to each family like a personal calamity. A sadness was over the entire community, and grief was depicted on every face.”

 

A more complete genealogy of the Rice family, along with a sampling of her stories, appears in the book, “Rosella Rice (1827-1888,” written by Mary Jane Armstrong Henney and published by the Ashland County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society. There is a link below to this chapter’s website, where you can order this book.

 

It’s safe to say Rosella began writing in her teens, because her letters and then articles began appearing in the Ohio Cultivator, published in Columbus, in 1845. Her poems and stories also were being published in local newspapers about this time. Richland County historian A.J. Baughman, whose own grandparents grew up alongside the Rice family in Green Township, wrote in a 1900 Mansfield News article that these early attempts “were so well received by the public that she soon received remunerative offers from eastern publishers. She was for many years a regular contributor to Arthur’s Home Magazine and other magazines.” In addition to her own name, she wrote for Arthur’s under at least three pseudonyms: Pippsisaway “Pipsy” Potts tucked household hints in her stories; Chatty Brooks ran a boarding house for young women and aimed her advice at them; and  Mrs. Sam Starkey, who’s described as “a gossipy old lady” but full of humor. She wrote one novel in 1859, “Mabel, or Heart Histories: A Tale of Truth.”

 

A complete bibliography of her work has not yet been compiled, but a memoriam in an 1888 issue of The Housekeeper said her stories also appeared in the Indiana Farmer, Interior, Watchman, Journal and Messenger, Presbyterian Banner, Household, Housekeeper, Little Corporal, Toledo Blade, Western Rural and Woman’s Journal. She also wrote children’s stories for The Children’s Hour and The Little Corporal.

 

Rosella Rice’s works do not appear in any literary collections or curriculums, although there is a growing appreciation of the “local color” women writers of the 19th century, who include the much more famous Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe. A good introduction to these women, although it does not include Rosella, is “Home Material: Ohio’s 19th Century Regional Women’s Fiction,” 1998, Bowling Green State University Popular Press, by Hiram College professor Sandra Parker.

 

Yet, what she wrote 150 years ago remains quite readable and entertaining today. She was a popular writer in every sense of the word, and her stories are conversational and full of personality. Many are also full of that local color and historical details to which this website is dedicated.

Perrysville and Green Township . . .

Rosella Rice was born in Richland County, Ohio; died in Ashland County, Ohio; and never moved out of the same house. Genealogists are familiar with that phenomenon. While Richland County was created in 1808, Ashland County didn’t come along until 1846, carved out of parts of Richland, Wayne, Huron and Lorain counties. So Green Township, like Rosella, started out in Richland County and became part of Ashland in 1846.

 

But settlement in Green Township took place even before either county was formed when the Delaware Indians in 1782  built Armstrong’s Town, better known as Greentown. While this village was burned during the uneasy first days of the War of 1812, white settlers arriving as early as 1809 lived peaceably alongside the Indians for three years and for a period of time after the war ended and some Indian families returned. Perrysville, the township’s only white town, was laid out according to statements by the Rice family and others, in 1812, although the plat map did not get to the courthouse until 1815.

 

The Delaware signed another treaty in 1817, giving up more than 8,000 acres or reservation land in the township and opening up additional federal land sales in the early 1820s. By the time of Rosella’s childhood, the Indians were gone, but plenty of people who remembered the earliest days of settlement remained to tell the stories… and Rosella was listening. And later writing.

 

Find links to other websites with more local history below.

Other local history sites and resources . . .

· Ashland County Ohio OHGenWeb Project

· Ashland County Chapter, Ohio Genealogical Society

· Ashland County Historical Society

 

· Richland County Genealogical Society

 

· Richland County USGenWeb Site

 

· Greentown  Yahoo Group (must be a Yahoo member)

 

· Butler-Clear Fork Valley Historical Society, P.O. Box 186, Butler, OH 44822. Museum archives, 43 W. Elm St., open every Wednesday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Museum open house the first Sunday of the month, 1-4 p.m., April through October. Tours by appointment.  The archives has material relating to Rosella Rice and her family. For more information, contact the curator, Peggy Mershon, at 419-989-1679 or marwelmer@aol.com

About us and more on why we created this website . . .

My name is Peggy Mershon, and I’m now the curator of the Butler-Clear Fork Valley Historical Society. My background is in newspaper journalism, and I’ve been involved in local historical and genealogical organizations for many years.

 

I first learned about Rosella Rice from Mansfield historian and genealogist Mary Jane Armstrong Henney, who was born and raised in Ashland and from childhood heard stories about and by Rice. She spent many years researching the writer, talking with descendants of the Rice family and collecting material.

 

Then this year (2011), the Butler museum received a large donation of family papers from a great-grandson of Rosella’s youngest sister, Ida Rice Wilson, and I learned that Rosella’s only daughter, Lily Rice Stahl, had lived in Butler, in fact only two doors down from where I live now.

 

It also turned out that several Rice descendants had been interviewed not only by Henney for her book but also by Bill Jones of Cincinnati, who was collecting information more than 10 years ago for his Johnny Appleseed Heritage Center project. He of course was particularly interested in Rosella’s connection to and writings about Appleseed.

 

Both Bill and I now serve on the board of the Greentown Preservation Association, dedicated to preserving the history and the site of the Delaware Indian village near Perrysville

 

Jones also had collected many of Rosella’s stories – the old-fashioned way by photocopying originals in university libraries -- and introduced me to her several historical series. I read and collected these stories not in libraries but on-line, thanks to services that have scanned and made available many early uncopyrighted publications. But I also wanted to make it even easier to find and read Rosella Rice’s historical work, combined with biographical information on the author -- hence this website. I hope the research will continue and the website will grow. Anyone with information to add may contact me at the Butler museum address above or by the email address or phone number listed there.

© 2011 Peggy Mershon                                                                         Contact at marwelmer@aol.com