Letter written by John Bentz to Charlie, circa 1930.

“While I have not sent you a letter I often, often think of you in your most delightful home there on the bank of dear old Alum Creek. How dear that little stream was to me. I think I knew every stone and tree from below Main Street Bridge to the Water Cure. The old bridge (covered wooden bridge) that spanned the creek on Broad Street was the place I visited most frequently. Many and many a time I’ve taken my dog and walked out there after dark to the east end of the bridge and sitting on the top board of a bit of fence that was put there to keep people from falling into the water, I would spend an hour or more listening to the katydids, the songs of the crickets and other dear little people of the night that made it all so delightful and interesting to me.

I started for the bridge one night when it was unusually dark. As a man had been murdered in the bridge above the “Water Cure” only two days before, I was prepared for anything that might happen. As we entered the bridge the darkness was intense. When nearly through, a deep menacing growl right in front of me nearly raised my hat. Instantly, my revolver spoke, and you should have heard the boards in the floor of the old bridge rattle as that big dog left for a safer location. The night was very still, and on reaching the end of the the bridge, the sound of his feet hitting the pike came back to me as he journeyed on.

O, the happy, happy days I have spent at Alum Creek, fishing, swimming, skating and boating with George and Hugh Hardy, Harry Fern and others. Were they happy days? Yes! That was youth and no more days like those have come to me. But I am glad life is not the same all the way along. I am glad I did not miss anything the years brought me. So we rejoice for it all.

In those days, game was very plentiful and all through the section where you live Henry Houstler and I have hunted quail, rabbits and meadow larks. Just east of your home there were two fine orchards owned by Albert McCollough. Occasionally we called on the orchard.

Last Summer a ride on a Main Street car took me to the creek, where I made a sketch. It was a delightful day, and wanting to see some of the old familiar places I started northward. It has been many years since I had passed that way with my dog and sketching outfit, and I was in no way expecting the change that was coming to me. On reaching Broad Street, to my great surprise, the old bridge (wood covered bridge) we loved so much was gone, and was succeeded by a broad steel structure, containing neither art, beauty or romance. Going on I hoped to find the Nelson Mill, but such a change had been made that I could not decide where it had been located. Then it seemed to me the Dam must surely be there. But on reaching the place where it had been, not a tree, stick or stone – not a vestige of any kind was left of it.

Then came to my mind the giant sycamore whose great branches and foliage shaded us as we dived from its roots, and bathed in the pool beneath it. So, I journeyed on to the place where it once so proudly and magnificently stood only to find it too had disappeared. In its place an unsightly retaining wall had been erected. It made me feel sad and disappointed, for I had expected to see many of the old places.

I do not expect to see the modern Alum Creek Again. It has no charm for me. By the aid of the drawings I made out there when a boy, and from which the enclosed ones are made, I will occasionally live again those old days, and think of the boys who were with me and loved it all as much as I did.

***

I tried to find some of the folks I knew, but could get no trace of them. I asked a man who was building a house near where Nelson’s mill stood. He could not tell me, but directed me to a man in a filling station near the bridge, saying that man had lived around there for twenty years. I told him that would not do, that I wanted to talk to some one who had been living for fifty years in that vicinity. Could find no one I knew in those days so long ago.”

(This excerpt is from a letter written around 1930 by John Bentz, contributed to the Bexley Historical Society. The artist lived in Leonia, New Jersey and makes reference in his letter to doing some portraits of distinguished persons. He mentions having a brother living in Columbus, OH and possibly joining him at the next reunion of the Cadets here in Columbus.)

Adapted from article Edited by Edward L. Hamblin
Bexley Historical Society President, 1997-2002
Originally published in Historical Herald, December 2005

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