Today, we bring you one of Sylvia Henricks’ “Remembrances.” You can read more of Sylvia’s columns weekly in The Franklin Township Informer, or in her book From The Ash Grove (available directly from the FTHS, and via the web site).
At right is a photograph of the “lake” on the Acton Camp Ground. You can see it is a more modest expanse of water than last week’s photo. (If you can identify the lake shown last week, please call the Informer or me.) This lake originated when, in the late 1800s, the directors of the camp ground decided to construct it as a means of fire protection and for recreation. They dammed up the creek that runs through the grounds near the corner of Southport and Acton Roads. The camp ground papers include a list of cottage holders who made $5 and $10 contributions toward the cost.
The Society has two photos of the lake, about 6 x 8 inches in size, sepia toned and mounted, similar, but taken from slightly different angles. They are the work of amateur Acton photographer Oscar Meacham (1871-1944). The late David Meacham, Oscar’s son, was one of our long-time Society members. He gave us many of his father’s photographs, a few of his glass plate negatives, and some of the film processing equipment he used..
David also wrote a biography of his father of which the Society has a copy. Oscar became head of the family when his father, a medical doctor in Acton, became ill and died at age 53. Oscar was 17. “He dropped out of the Acton Academy and went to work for the New York Central Railroad as a telegrapher at the Acton station. Later he was an operator of Dix Tower (Dix Road, Acton), and of a tower near Cincinnati, and was the Station Master of the Acton Depot.”
Oscar Meacham was also an amateur photographer. “He built a studio or ‘gallery’ behind the family home at 7735 Swails Street (then Washington Street). He attended photography school and photographers’ conventions at Winona Lake. He made many portraits. He took pictures of people, places and things using his studio camera mounted on a folding tripod. He took ‘trick pictures’ of himself as well… He traveled around the countryside on his bicycle with his camera, taking pictures of people lying in their coffins as requested by their families. (This was a custom of that time.)”
We have Oscar Meacham – and his son David — to thank for many of our early photos of the Acton area. A favorite is one of a Big Four engine standing in front of the Acton Depot. Oscar is in that photo, David told us, standing at the front, with his hands on his hips.