If you are a recent newcomer to town, like myself, you may not know the tragic history of the Ames Factory fire, which took place here in town in 1866. You may not know that ninety-nine child workers died in the fire and that their remains were hidden in a distant location in the woods. One could only surmise this was done to avoid scrutiny, allowing the Ames family opportunity to continue to prosper with their tannery operation.
Yesterday, Question Mark police discovered the remains of several individuals in a cave in the Question Mark woods. At the moment, evidence suggests the remains may belong to the missing children.
It is hard to imagine something like this happening in a town I have come to love, but it forces me to recognize that there is something about this place that prefers not to confront complex, uncomfortable moments in history.
Like the rest of Ohio, and perhaps the United States, Question Mark seems unwilling to engage the many ways our painful past continues to influence the present. In disregarding these historical difficulties, we allow similar tragedies to recur again and again. As we’ve seen in the case of the Ames Factory fire, other horrific fires have continued, most recently the Cellcon fire in 1998 and the wedding dress factory in 2022.
In order to acknowledge the past and shape a future together, we will be holding a brief memorial for the children who died in the Ames Factory fire this afternoon at 5pm. Mayor Zisk and Town Council member Tom Weathers will each make remarks. I dearly hope everyone will consider attending.