Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the War. Volume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.
The “field trip” was talked about for a long time.
It began with a stop at Union Station where Miss Osbun explained how to read timetables, buy a ticket, and know which train to board.
They also talked about the three train lines that intersect in Mansfield, and the fourth line that goes through Shelby and Crestline.
Several of the students had been on trains, including Natalie, who had traveled with Mama and Mother to Boston last summer, stopping in Gettysburg briefly to see the old Burns farm and Father’s relatives.
Many liked to talk of excursions to Canton and Lima, and even nearby Bellville and Mt. Vernon.
Then, before starting the task before them, Miss Osbun marched everyone across the track to the Tremont House, to enjoy a piece of pie, made by Mrs. Leech.
Mr. Leech ran the hotel, which was the loudest hotel in the county, located next to three train lines as it was. Only deaf people could sleep peacefully, and then only if they didn’t mind being shaken out of bed every half hour.
But it was the food that Margaret Leech made that drew people to this end of town, from all over the county, and even the country.
“It’s said that the train lines schedule an extra long stop so their passengers can get a meal here,” Miss Osbun said, as the students dug in to their special desserts.
“It’s really good,” one of the boys said, although with his mouth full of pie, it sounded more like “iph yubub moof.”
Miss Osbun did not have to tell him not to talk with his mouth full; her look got the message across.
“And the coffee, considered the best between New York and Chicago,” she beamed. “Although you can just take my word for that.”
“How do you know all this?” Ella asked.
“Family friends,” Miss Osbun said.
“And great customers,” Mrs. Leech added.
“All right, everyone, finish your pie and let’s start up the hill; we have a lot to do. This should have been your reward at the end of the trip, but I couldn’t wait,” Miss Osbun giggled.
Miss Osbun is a lot more fun when she’s not stuck in the school building, Natalie thought.
I suppose I am, too.
The group put their horses in a livery stable near the Aultman-Taylor Manufactory. For 10 cents, each horse was groomed and fed, while waiting for the riders to return.
As the students walked south up Main Street, they started breaking off in their groups of three. Once they reached Fourth Street, they headed in three directions.
While the Square was known as the center of town, Fourth and Main, two blocks north of the Square, was understood to be the business center of town. Three of the newspapers had their offices at that corner and every sort of store on the first floor and professional office on the second floor could be found within sight of that intersection.
The third floors were generally reserved for private flats, where people lived.
Miss Osbun and Natalie knew that this was the moment when everything would either come together, with information gathered, and donations given, or it would fall apart, with the students distracted by all the interesting things to see.
“What will you do with this time?” Miss Osbun asked Natalie.
I hadn’t really thought about it. It’s my idea and I didn’t leave anything for me to do.
“I don’t know,” Natalie said, a little flustered.
“Then let’s go up to the Square and you tell me what you would like to see happen there. I know you have been listening in as your Mother and Miss Vasbinder talked.
“Did you know Miss Vasbinder taught me violin lessons?”
No, I didn’t.
“Me, too, although I was not her best student.”
“Nor was I,” Miss Osbun said. “I would listen to your mother play in church and wish I could do that, but the strings and my fingers just did not get along.”
“My Mama plays well, too, learned from her Father,” Natalie said. “Maybe she can teach little Johnny because I’m not going to be playing for dances anytime soon.”
“Just dancing at them,” Miss Osbun smiled at her.
She knows about Roscoe!
“You all will be soon enough,” she added.
Am I allowed to talk girl talk with my teacher?
“So, have you danced with anyone a lot?”
Oh, I hope that’s not bad to ask.
Miss Osbun smiled.
“Maybe. All right, yes.
“In fact, can you keep a secret?”
I can, but I might not.
“This is my last week as your teacher. I am getting married in August, and we are moving to a farm in Minnesota, actually he is already there getting the crops into the ground.
“This is why I thought this would be a good project for us to finish on together.”
I can’t wait to tell the kids. Oh wait, I think I just promised to wait.
“But will you tell everyone that?”
“Closer to the end next week, I think. Thanks for letting me tell you, and thanks for not telling the others. You understand I hope.”
I understand that I have to be careful what I say for the next few days, to anyone.
“Sure, I understand.”
Eventually, the small groups started returning. Each one seemed even more enthused than the others and Natalie could see something good was about to happen.
“Mr. Glessner said he will be happy to donate the scavenger hunt rules and questions, enough for each student,” Harriet said. “All he wants is to put ‘Compliments of the Shield and Banner’ across the bottom.”
“And we have lots of information from Fourth Street, and the promise of coupons for a free Sasparilla from Mr. Bigalow’s Drug Store for everyone that completes it,” Clara said.
The other groups brought similar results.
Finally, Walter showed up, alone.
“All the newspapers will run the story, when we get something in paper to them,” he said.
“Where are the Maurice and Ritchie?” Miss Osbun asked.
“They, well, stopped for more, well, research,” Walter stammered.
I knew it!