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Me and My Mammoth

Eleanor Burrell, last of a pioneer family

NEWS ARTICLE from THE MORNING JOURNAL, 1-18-01, By RON VIDIKA, Morning Journal Writer

"Mammoth exhibit puts visitors into Ice Age

The exhibit opens Jan. 26 [2001] and runs through March 25.

SHEFFIELD VILLAGE -- The Lorain County Metro Parks is offering the public a chance to step out of their back door and into the Ice Age.

No, not your ice-slicked driveway, but the real thing.

''You're going to step through a time machine and into the Ice Age,'' said Gary Gerrone, naturalist at the French Creek Nature Center, 4530 Colorado Ave., discussing the center's first exhibit of the new millennium entitled, ''The World of the Mammoth.''

Gerrone said the contract to display the robotic animal exhibit was signed last spring and actual work began on it in November.

With the help of animatronics and a keenly realistic atmosphere central to that time period of 20,000 years past, the exhibit transports visitors into the world as it was lived on the green, plant-and-life sustaining edge of the receding glacier that swept over our landscape two millennia ago.

The exhibit opens Jan. 26 and runs through March 25.

''The Wisconsinan Ice sheet came through northern Ohio about 20,000 years ago, right in our backyard,'' said Gerrone. ''If the glacier were here now, we'd be a mile deep in ice.''

Gerrone added that most of the animals in the exhibit once lived in the proximity of our backyards, noting that, ''We're still in that last Ice Age, we're just in the last, receding part of it.''

This marks the seventh expansive, entertaining and educational exhibit at the center. Its 3,500-square-foot Ewing Hall has become a prehistoric netherworld, crawling with odd-looking predators, from incredibly small horses (called Hyracotheriums) and gigantic birds of prey (called Diatrymas) to ominous, saber-toothed tigers.

And, of course, on hand is the namesake of the exhibit and predecessor to the modern-day elephant, the giant, woolly Mammoth, complete with curled and terrifyingly long tusks.

A replica of a woolly mammoth is part of the exhibit.

Also on exhibit in the center's hall is an authentic skull and leg bone of a Mammoth uncovered in this area.

''The Mammoth skull was discovered in Brownhelm Township on the French family farm in the late 1800s while digging a ditch. The leg bone was found while digging a sewer trench on Vine Street in Oberlin, probably during the same time period,'' said Gerrone.

Once the exhibit is through, the skull and leg bone will become the property of Oberlin College, said Gerrone.

Gerrone said the life-like nature of the beasts, including the 20-foot-long Giant Sloth and the 13-foot-long Giant Armadillo, are the animatronic creations of Kokoro Dinosaurs, Inc., of Woodland Hills, Calif.

''You only need to feed the beasts electricity and compressed air and that's about it,'' said Gerrone.

Also highlighted in the exhibit is a cave family of Southern Apes (called Australopithecus), whose combinations of ape and human features make them a likely ancestor to later humans.

Visitors to the exhibit will be surrounded by the whirling sounds of snowstorms and high-pitched winds and the eerie whines and hungry growls of the creatures themselves, as they twist and turn, eyeing visitors with ravenous eyes and baring dagger-like teeth as they pass by them.

A Diatryma, whose name means "Terror Crane", is a gigantic bird of prey from the early Eocene (40 million years ago).

Gerrone said the $60,000 cost of the exhibit will be covered by the estimated 60,000 people who visit the Lorain Metro Parks' French Creek Nature Center and pay the center's $1 entrance fee.

Nancy Toth, a naturalist at French Creek, with paint brush in hand, elaborated on the exhibit yesterday as she put finishing touches on the glacier itself.

''The glacier represented here moved about a 100 feet a year,'' said Toth. ''The animals moved ahead of the glacier. What we're simulating here is where the glacier ended and the greenery continued, and where things lived in pockets of greenery.''

Once the exhibit ends, it will be shipped to a museum in Texas.

Exhibit hours for ''The World of the Mammoth'' are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, with hours extended to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

Programs are available for school, youth and community groups free of charge. Otherwise, there is a $1 entrance fee to the exhibit.

The exhibit is at French Creek Nature Center (4530 Colorado Avenue in Sheffield Village). The exhibit opens Jan. 26 [2001] and runs through March 25.

Exhibit hours for ''The World of the Mammoth'' are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, with hours extended to 8 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

Admission is $1. Many public programs are scheduled for schools, scouts and other groups. For more information call 440-949-5200 or 800-LCM-PARK."

(c) 2001, The Morning Journal

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"Michael Socha always dreamed about becoming a marine biologist. But he s a long way from the ocean.

Today, Socha, who has let his long curly hair and beard grow even longer and wilder, dons a furry suit and boots and hoists a club. All in the name of work and fun.

You can meet the naturalist-turned-caveman in his latest puppet production, "Me and My Mammoth," at the Lorain County Metro Parks.

Thirteen years ago, when he was hired as a naturalist, he did the traditional slide shows: wildflowers, hummingbirds, tree identification. But soon his work turned into child's play - specifically, puppetry - to teach kids about the world around them.

When he was given those marching orders, Socha was incredulous ...

Initially, Socha led a band of volunteer puppeteers who taped shows. But the taping was cumbersome and limiting, because the timing had to be perfect, Socha says.

Eight years ago, they decided to do live puppet shows instead ...

From now through March 25, Socha and his sidekick, Tim Fairweather, will repeat the puppet show nearly 100 times.

The duo has worked on nearly a dozen different shows and is always the No.1 requested program, says Dan Martin, dIrector of the Lorain County Metro Parks ...

A case in point: their recent 40-minute puppet masterpiece in conjunction with the Metro Parks "The World of the Mammoth" exhibit. While Socha strolls before youngsters playing the not-so-dumb caveman, Fairweather works behind the scenes operating puppets: a huge woolly mammoth named Hairy, Scruffy the singing Wolf, Johnny Ice Cube and the Cubettes ...

Between the humor and quick-witted jokes are the morsels: Mammoths grew to 14 feet, weighed 20,000 pounds and lost their teeth six times over their 80-year lifespan ..."

E-mail: cgilfether@plaind.com

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NEWS ARTICLE from The Chronicle-Telegram, 7-17-02, By Dan Harkins

``Metro Parks plan museum's grand opening

SHEFFIELD -- Capt. Jabez Burrell and his family arrived here in 1815 to find a heavily wooded area with a future full of possibilities. They settled on a hillside near the Black River spotted with locust, buckeye and black walnut trees. They spent their days like many early settlers did: farming, hunting, buying as much land as they could.

The Burrell family willed its house to the Lorain County Metro Parks. It has been turned into a museum, which will open Aug. 3 [2002].

They never left that plot of land. And they won't for many years to come.

Early last year, the only remaining direct descendent, Eleanor Burrell, was buried along with the rest of her family at Garfield Cemetery, but the Lorain County Metro Parks went to work turning the property into a place to learn about the old times.

Metro Parks Director Dan Martin said the house was willed to the park district in 1969, along with the nearby French Creek Reservation. One condition of the will was Eleanor Burrell and her sister, Doris Burrell, could live out the rest of their lives there.

The museum will have its grand opening at noon, Aug. 3, the same day the Burrells have held their annual family reunion since 1874.

The wallpaper is new. The walls are freshly painted. Air conditioning was installed. Everything else is the same ...

The house, built in 1820, shadows a cheese house once used as shelter on the Underground Railroad. Every room in each is stuffed with artifacts.

Matt Kocsis, Metro Parks historian, said he feels like a kid in a candy shop ...

Kocsis plans to have the museum pay tribute to each of the five generations who lived and died in the house, each one has their unique story, he said.

Remnants of the past are everywhere.

A fire gutted the house in 1895, and the stone that anchors the front door bears a crack that will stay to prove it.

Shelves are stuffed with books crumbling at the spines. Sepia-toned photos stare out from oval frames. A lamp and end table were a wedding gift to Harry and Rosa Burrell in 1894. Eleanor and Doris sack dresses from the 1950s are hanging in a closet. The area's first post office was operated out of a tall desk downstairs.

"They don't make furniture like they used to. Do they?" said Linda Paull, French Creek's manager.

The atmosphere outside the home also lends itself to a trip back in time, Paull added. Cinders from the steel mill across the river were used to line the driveway, just as they always had been ...

The house will be open for classroom and group tours, as well as special events.''

Contact Dan Harkins at dharkins@chronicletelegram.com.


"Eleanor Burrell, 95, last of pioneer family

SHEFFIELD VILLAGE -- Eleanor B. Burrell, 95, of Sheffield Village, died Sunday, Jan. 21, 2001, at the New Life Hospice of St. Joseph Residential Center, Lorain.

She was born Dec. 26, 1905, in the red brick house (Burrell) homestead, Sheffield Village, built by her great-great-grandfather Capt. Jabez Burrell in 1820.

Capt. Burrell and Capt. John Day, both of Sheffield, Mass., bought the township from William Hart, of Saybrook, Conn., in January of 1815. They soon left Massachusetts and headed on their pilgrimage.

They arrived at the dwelling of Wilber Cahoon, in Avon Township, Nov. 11, 1815. They then followed down French Creek, without a trail, and explored what was to become Sheffield Village, selecting lots for themselves and friends.

In 1820 Capt. Burrell built the red brick house, which was a home for the Burrell family for five generations. Eleanor Burrell was the last in the line of the original pioneer family.

In 1964 the Burrell farm, home and property were sold to the Lorain County Metropolitan Park District. Most of the original farm purchased by Jabez Burrell is now part of the French Creek Reservation.

J. Daniel Martin, executive director of the Lorain County Metropolitan Park District, described her as a modern progressive woman who traveled and had a career. ''She was a grand lady. We hated to loose her.''

The historic Burrell homestead, once a stop on the Underground Railroad, will be open to the public, probably next year.

Eleanor Burrell had moved to Cleveland for many years before moving back to Sheffield Village in 1984. She had attended a one room schoolhouse and graduated from Lorain High School.

She was employed in the printing, promotional and advertising fields until her retirement in 1984.

She enjoyed travel, photography and genealogy work.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Harry Clifton and Tempe Garfield Burrell; brothers, Edward, Dwight and Kenneth; and sisters, Doris and Virginia ...

Chaplain Bill Tumbleson of the New Life Hospice will officiate. Burial will follow in Garfield Cemetery, Sheffield Village.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Historic Burrell Homestead Fund, c/o The Community Foundation of Greater Lorain County, 1865 N. Ridge Road, East, Suite A, Lorain, 44055."


"Underground Railroad Connections

SHEFFIELD VILLAGE -- A historic ship captain and a noted Sheffield Village home on the Black River played crucial roles in helping escaped slaves flee to Canada prior to the Civil War.

The last stop along a route in Lorain County before freedom in Canada was the Burrell homestead on East River Road in Sheffield Village, along the banks of the Black River.

The Burrell family would hide the runaway slaves in a barn behind their big, red house until they could make the run to Canada.

Although the barn is no longer there, a red banner in a window of the house marks its location as an Underground Railroad stop.

As a historian for the Lorain County Historical Society, Thomas Hoerrle has stories about how the slaves were helped to Canada. One of those stories is about the Burrell homestead and the ship captain.

''At the bottom of the grain house they had cubby holes and openings. Robbins (Burrell) would take them down at night, to the river,'' Hoerrle said.

Capt. Aaron Root ''would sail them down the river to Charleston (Lorain's former name), and about 20 miles out they were safe under the protection of Queen Victoria, which means Canada,'' he said.

''The other way (Robbins Burrell) got them to Canada is through a false bottom of his wagon. He would take them to Captain Root,'' Hoerrle said. ''No one would think twice about him because they would think he was just a farmer on his way to market or something.''

The Underground Railroad refers to the effort -- sometimes spontaneous, sometimes highly organized -- to help slaves escape along northbound ''railways'' that were operated by anyone who offered assistance. The network provided an opportunity for sympathetic white Americans to play a role in resisting slavery.

Runaways had little food or clothing and normally walked at nightfall and rested during the daytime. They received food, shelter, and money at ''stations'' about 10 to 30 miles apart, which was the distance a healthy man could travel on foot, or a wagon carrying several slaves could cover at night.

Eleanor Burrell, the last member of the family and last inhabitant of the house, would tell her friend and caretaker, Mary Ann Wargo, stories passed down from generation to generation. Eleanor Burrell died at age 95 on Jan. 21 [2001].

Hoerrle called Eleanor Burrell ''amazing.''

''She could sit next to you and tell you what the gossip was in 1915, then turn right around and tell you what happened yesterday,'' Hoerrle said. ''I found her truly amazing, for a woman in her nineties.''

About the homestead, Wargo said, ''It was stop 100.''

''It was a known fact'' that the house was used by the Underground Railroad, but ''no one ever wrote it down, because if they did and there was proof that they helped anybody, they would go to jail. One of the (Burrell) ancestors, in his obituary, his son said that his father was active in the underground railroad,'' said Wargo.

The Underground Railroad in Ohio had nearly 3,000 miles of routes criss-crossing the state, most bound in a northeasterly direction. It reached its greatest level of activity in the 1840s, and historians say more ''stations'' or stops existed in Ohio than in any other state. Historians believe at least 40,000 slaves passed through the state.

According to Hoerrle, the Burrell home is the oldest brick structure in the county, and was occupied by the same family for 185 years.

''The house was built in 1820, but the Burrell's moved to the area in 1815,'' he said. ''They lived in a little cabin nearby until the house was built. It has to be some kind of record for a family to live in the same home for so long.''

After slaves would pass through Burrell's stop 100, the trip up the Black River to Capt. Root's dock, behind where today's post office on Broadway in Lorain now sits, it was just 20 miles to freedom, according to Hoerrle.

''Twenty miles out into Lake Erie and the slaves were free and safe, under the protection of Queen Victoria,'' he said.

The Burrells operated their portion of the Underground Railroad expertly, said Wargo.

''They never kept any record of how many slaves went through or where they came from or anything like that, but they would get word maybe from a messenger, I think,'' she said.

''They would get word that they would be coming and when they would be coming, and they didn't write anything down, it was all word of mouth. It was the last stop.''

Hoerrle has researched the Burrell family genealogy dating back to 1696.

A revised Fugitive Slave Law in 1850 declaring that federal and state officials as well as private citizens had to assist in the capture of runaway slaves meant northern states were no longer considered safe havens for runaways. Because of that, land and water routes were extended into Canada.

Robbins Burrell, along with his brother, Jaybez Lyman Burrell, used to hide slaves in the grain house or barn in the back of the expansive farm, said Hoerrle.

''Directly southwest of (the cheese house) is where the grain house stood,'' he said, noting that it was standing until the 1960s.

''The Underground Railroad went on for 20 years there. The house was raided several times, but fortunately they didn't find anything because Mr. Burrell, meaning Robbins, was too smart for them.

''A couple of times he would con them. What he would do is invite them into the house, wine them and dine them and tell them off. The marshals would think that he was a good Christian farmer, not mixed up with the radicals of Oberlin, when he was,'' stated Hoerrle.

''He and his brother were mixed up in it. Mr. Burrell would probably tell them off, probably using the Bible, that slavery was wrong. They would just think, `Mr. Burrell is a good law-abiding citizen,' that he wasn't (hiding slaves).''

Capt. Jaybez Burrell, Eleanor Burrell's great-great grandfather, built the Sheffield Village house, and she lived in it with her sister Doris, said Wargo ...

Lorain County and the Burrell family have other ties to the Underground Railroad.

The Burrell-King House in Oberlin, 315 E. College St., another legacy of the Burrell family, also was a hiding place for escaped slaves trying to get to Canada. Jaybez Lyman Burrell once lived in the house, and Hoerrle said there is a trap door nailed shut in the dining room that he believes leads to a place where escaped slaves were hidden.

Jaybez Lyman Burrell was an abolitionist and a charter member of the Oberlin College board of trustees.

Hoerrle said there is a dry water tank underneath the trap door where the slaves hid. He theorizes that the Burrell's probably kept their dining room table over the secret hiding place, thinking that that would be the least likely place for slave hunters to look when they came around. ''They probably had a rug over it,'' Hoerrle said.

''When I went through the house, I didn't think much of the trap door, but when two other friends in Oberlin mentioned it to me, that's when I thought it was probably used for that,'' Hoerrle said.

Pat Murphy, of the Oberlin Historical and Improvement Organization, said the Burrell-King House was also the residence of former Oberlin College President Henry Churchill King after the Burrell family lived there. King lived in the house until the 1930s, she said ... ''

Staff writer Jim Harper contributed to this story

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