Remembering Ruth

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By Janet Shailer
Southwest Franklin County Historical Society

Ruth Sawyer Jividen would have turned 99 years old on June 8. Sadly, the woman I considered to be the grande dame of Grove City passed away on April 14.

I was privileged to have known Ruth over a 50 year period of time. My first memories of her were sitting at my paternal grandmother Ruth Kanode’s kitchen table in the early 1960s drinking coffee and laughing. It was a scene I would witness many times. Ruth’s lively spirit and gentle cordiality was a real inspiration to me. There was always a twinkle in her eye.

After my grandmother died in 1990, I continued to visit Ruth upon occasion until two years ago when her hearing loss and declining health became an obstacle. At the end she used an old fashioned hearing horn and hand written notes to communicate with people. Even at that, she loved for people to visit her.

Ruth was truly a unique character. She was the only child of Clarence and Relieffe Grant Sawyer and would die as the last direct descendent of Hugh Grant Sr. and his wife Catherine. The Grants were Jackson Township’s first settlers in 1803 and their iconic legacy is scattered around Grove City even today.

Adam G. Grant, known as A.G., is probably the most notable member of the Grant family. His business skills and unwavering energy were legendary. He owned a general store, an ashery and a brick and tile factory. He organized the village’s first bank, oversaw the village’s first sewer system. He brought the interurban electric railroad, known as the interurban, to his hometown. He petitioned to build the first subdivision in Grove City, the Beulah Addition, which he named after his daughter, Ruth’s great-aunt. He built Beulah Park as the village’s first community recreational facility. He brought the first bicycle to Grove City. He donated property for schools and churches.

It was into this lineage that Ruth was born in 1915. The two-story brick home that the Grant family constructed on Crushed Stone Pike (now Haughn Road) in the 1840s became her domain. The bricks used to build this home were made from clay found on the land. Each brick was made by hand, dipped in water and laid on the ground in rows for the sun to dry them. If you searched around Franklin County, you would find a limited number of structures still standing built by this process.

There were very few houses along the road as Ruth was growing up and, being an only child, she had to devise ways to entertain herself. It was the beginning of a lifelong love of two things – dolls and animals.

Her close friend Ann Reynolds told me that once Ruth took a baby pig, painted its toenails, pierced its ears and put a bonnet on it. Then she put the pig in a baby carriage and wheeled it around. She knew how to enjoy life.

For a number of years her parents had a riding academy on the grounds. Budding equestrians would ride along paths on what is now Sawyer Drive and Sawyer Court before that part of the homestead was sold for a housing development in the early 1960s.

The dolls are another story. Ruth’s upper floor was full of dolls – most of which served as substitute companions when childhood playmates weren’t around. One of those dolls still sits in the upper level window in the front of the house. The doll is looking west down Park Street (once known as School Street) toward the 15.5 acres of original Town Center land that Hugh Grant, Jr. sold to town founder William Foster Breck. I think of it as a symbol of the Grant family checking over the town that they helped to establish.

In the spirit of her great-great uncle A.G. Grant, Ruth owned several businesses with her first husband Lem Seymour. After he passed away she married Dale Jividen and they, too, owned businesses.

Her social calendar was always full. Ruth was a charter member of the Southwest Franklin County Historical Society, a 50-year member of Rebekah Lodge, a long-time member of the Grove City Civic Club and the Evans Senior Center. Until last year Ruth still attended card parties at the Grove City Community Club.

Ruth always enjoyed going to church and I remember the many times I saw her and her mother sitting beneath the inspiring Good Shepherd window in the sanctuary of St. John’s Lutheran Church. Ruth always greeted visitors and new members with that special twinkle in her eye.
During the last decade of her life, I visited with Ruth several times. She loved the fact that I had grown up to be a writer and thrilled when I handed her a copy of my book “Grove City” co-written with Laura Lanese. The book is a testament to the Grant family’s imprint on the town they helped to build into a bustling city of over 36,000 residents.

Ruth and I talked several times about what would happen to her historic homestead once she was dead. I, like many others, encouraged her to make a deal with Grove City so that her home and grounds could be preserved for generations to come. Ruth signed the paperwork to sell her home to the city just a few weeks before she died.

In the future, the Grant Homestead will become a museum so that students and visitors can see how people lived during Ohio’s infant years.

English philosopher and historian R. G. Collingwood once said, “The value of history is that it teaches us what man has done and thus what man is.” Thanks to Ruth, an important early chapter in Ohio pioneer history will not be lost.

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