Cover Story: Local Resident Enjoys a Kaleidoscope of Interests
By Jennifer Sauers
Can you imagine a time when mastodons roamed Hyde Park Square? This ancient fact is just one of many notable historic accounts that Hyde Park resident Esther H.M. Power has uncovered and shared.
Esther H.M. Power is standing next to a piece of fabric art with a note identifying “THOTH, the Egyptian moon‑god, patron of science and literature, wisdom and inventions; the spokesman of the gods and their keeper of the records; also known as the keeper of divine archives and patron of history.” This description also fits Esther, whose life has been filled with discovery thanks to her curiosity and diligent research
Esther, who currently resides at Marjorie P. Lee Retirement Community, has been curious about history and the natural world since childhood. Travel to sites like Stonehenge, England or New Grange, Ireland have further fostered this interest. Her inquisitiveness, along with her ability to research and write, led to her avocations in archeology, local history, genealogy and natural history. “I count myself fortunate that people with interests in these areas have crossed my path and sparked my enthusiasm.”
One of those fellow enthusiasts was a geologist who shared his knowledge of Native American artifacts during Esther’s early years in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Together, they scoured nearby cornfields to gather “points” - old spears, knives and other sharp objects. These treks sparked Esther’s interest in archeology and, in fact, led to 20 years of volunteer work at the Cincinnati Natural History & Science Museum Archeology Department. Although she took history courses in college, Esther learned much about archeology on the job, and it spawned an even deeper passion for the history of places and objects.
While working in the museum’s lab she helped process material that arrived from the field by carefully washing, categorizing and cataloguing artifacts. Sometimes Esther would assist in the field, too. She recalls attending a salvage operation prior to the construction of the Zimmer Power Station when the team assessed the area for Native American artifacts. “Even though it was a chilly and rainy November day,” Esther remembers, “I thoroughly enjoyed it.” She also assisted with digs at the prehistoric Native American site in Madisonville, and joined an excursion with the Natural History Museum to study dinosaur relics. The group traveled from Flagstaff, Arizona through the Rockies and up to Canada.
Along with her affection for the natural world, Esther has been keen to genealogy since she was a pre-teen. “I found my ancestors fascinating. Using family records, I could trace one of them back to the Revolutionary War which made it even more exciting.” Her mother, who kept files of their family history, also encouraged her daughter’s budding enthusiasm by answering Esther’s questions. Even today, Esther continues researching her family tree and enjoys its challenges as well as its discoveries.
“I like to document history,” says Esther and, in addition to her interest in genealogy, she enjoys studying and writing about the communities in which she has lived. While living in Terrace Park, the mayor, who was aware of her interests, invited Esther to volunteer as the town’s Records Coordinator, which involved rescuing dusty boxes in the basement of the municipal building. Bringing her genealogy and organizational skills to the task, she became the “keeper of the archives” for seven years. Her immersion in the town archives contributed to several writing projects.
For instance, she served as a Research Assistant for the book A Place called Terrace Park, written by Ellis Rawnsley and published in 1983 to mark the centennial of Terrace Park. She co-authored another book, published in 2007, titled Terrace Park: From Unsettled Land to Incorporation 1789-1893. Other projects she undertook during her years in Terrace Park included a presentation to the Terrace Park Women’s Club entitled “Who Was John Smith?” (He lived in a log home on land that later became Terrace Park andwas one of the first two U.S. senators elected from Ohio in 1803) and wrote papers on five of the historic Ferris homes, residences of a family of early local settlers.
Her interest in civic history was roused yet again when she moved to Marjorie P. Lee. She questioned what predated the building and who had lived there.
“Who was Mr. Shaw? I wondered,” says Esther, prompting her to research and write An Untold Story of The Street Where We Live – Shaw Avenue in 2013. In Esther’s paper, she notes that Marjorie P. Lee sits on land formerly known as “Shaw Farm” - 94 acres of mostly undeveloped land Robert and Mary Shaw purchased in 1838. Their daughter, Louise, lived on a parcel of the property (near where the Hyde Park Center for Older Adults is now located) in the late 1800s.
While laborers were sinking a cistern on Louise’s property, they made a fascinating and unexpected discovery - mastodon bones. Esther wrote, “Parts of at least three mastodons were found including a jaw, leg and ribs…The bones are now in the Natural History Museum at the Cincinnati Museum Center and known as the ‘Shaw Mastodon’.”
Another way in which Esther has shared her zest for history with Marjorie P. Lee is through her enormous postcard accumulation. Over the years she has collected thousands. “When I was a child I saved postcards, and later I bought postcards as memories from my travels. I find the history of postcards exciting.” Each month, she prepares a seasonal postcard exhibit for the residents, staff and guests of Marjorie P. Lee. Not surprisingly, Esther has also published articles on postcard history in magazines like Antique Trader. Like an archeologist, she carefully uncovers, sifts, analyzes, and shares historic creations for many to enjoy.