There was a time when local author Dale E. Shaffer didn't care much for history. That was 19 books ago.
By JON BAKER
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
"Salem: A Quaker City History," by Dale E. Shaffer (Arcadia Publishing, $24.99)
SALEM -- As a child, Dale E. Shaffer didn't care much for studying history in school. It involved memorizing a lot of dates, which "wasn't very much fun."
His attitude changed when he became an adult. Two decades ago, the former educator was asked to write an article on the history of the Fourth Street School, which he attended as a child.
After that, he was hooked. Since that time, he's written 19 books on local history.
His latest, "Salem: A Quaker City History," came out in June. Its focus is on Salem's role in the making of America.
Shaffer says the work has nationwide interest, because of its emphasis on the role Salem played in the Underground Railroad and the women's suffrage movement.
The city was founded by Quakers from the eastern United States who brought with them a steadfast opposition to slavery. They were also active in many of the reform movements of the 19th century.
Numerous Salem residents were involved in the anti-slavery cause, Shaffer writes. Among them was Marius Robinson, who was tarred and feathered in Berlin Center in 1837 for advocating the rights of slaves.
George W. Lucas, a free black who settled in Salem in the 1850s, was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, transporting fugitive slaves to Cleveland and other Lake Erie ports on their way to freedom in Canada.
Shaffer said several homes still standing in Salem were used as stations on the Underground Railroad.
Salem was also the site of the second woman's suffrage convention in the United States, held at the Hicksite Friends Meeting House on April 19 and 20, 1850.
In writing history, Shaffer said he likes to tell stories, not just repeat names and dates.
"History is more interesting if you can tell a story," he said.
His new book is packed with stories from Salem's past.
One tells about John Allen Campbell, who as a 15-year-old sneaked into the woman's suffrage convention. The speeches he heard there left a deep impression on him.
As an adult, he was appointed governor of the Wyoming Territory by President Ulysses S. Grant. While governor, Campbell signed a bill in 1869 giving women the right to vote; his was the first state or territory in the country to do so.
Another story involves Edwin Coppoc, a Quaker born near Salem. Coppoc participated in John Brown's raid on the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., in 1859.
He was captured, tried and convicted on treason charges and hung in Charles Town, W.Va., on Dec. 16, 1859. Coppoc's body was brought back to Ohio, where it was eventually buried in Salem's Hope Cemetery.
Other chapters detail Salem's involvement in the Civil War, the development of railroads and streetcar lines in the city, and Salem's growth as an industrial center.
At one time, Salem was known as the "label city," because the first gummed labels in the country were manufactured there, Shaffer writes.
The last chapter deals with small-town memories.
"It gave me an opportunity to include things about downtown Salem that aren't there anymore," Shaffer said.
A busy downtown
In the 1930s and '40s, downtowns in communities like Salem were busy places, "like a fair," he said. People went downtown Saturday night to shop or watch a movie.
Shoppers enjoyed eating popcorn, peanuts and ice cream cones while the Salvation Army Band played. "It was really festive, but it's all gone now," he said.
The book is amply illustrated with photographs from Shaffer's private collection, from photos given to him, and from the Salem Historical Society.
Shaffer has nothing but praise for the historical society, where he said he got much of the material for his book. He said the society has an outstanding museum -- four buildings "filled with artifacts, documents and photos."
"Salem is fortunate to know a lot about its history," he said.
The prolific author has already begun work on his 20th book, which will be titled "Salem, Ohio: Its Unique History." Shaffer said this new book will elaborate on subjects discussed in the current book. Also included will be a chapter detailing Salem's involvement in the temperance movement.
About the author
Shaffer has a bachelor's degree from Kent State University and a master's of business administration from Ohio State University.
After teaching at Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va., he earned a degree in library science and worked at libraries at Glenville State College in West Virginia, Ocean County College in Toms River, N.J., and Capital University in Columbus. When he retired, he returned to Salem.
X"Salem: A Quaker City History" can be purchased from the Salem Historical Society at (330) 337-8514; Arcadia Publishing at (888) 313-2665; and at Aaron's Book Store in Salem and Barnes & amp; Noble Booksellers, Boardman.