A Tale of Two New Year’s Days

Pioneer Raft on the Little Miami
Pioneer Raft on the Little Miami

One of the benefits of studying local history is the gift of perspective. Events that at first appear random begin to fit like puzzle pieces into a larger narrative.

For example, here are two very different New Year’s Day events, widely separated by time:

The first describes the arrival of the original pioneers to the land that became Terrace Park, led by the intrepid Revolutionary war veteran, Captain Abraham Covalt.

“On New Year’s Day, 1789, the Captain, his wife and ten children, and 33 other of his party left Bedford County, Pennsylvania. They made their way down the Ohio to their new home, traveling in two flatboats. One of these carried, besides agricultural implements, a number of the first cattle, horses, sheep and swine that had yet been bought to the country of the Miamis…. For want of better accommodations, a tent was raised on the banks of the little Miami. The women and children huddled in their indifferent shelter against the bitter cold and sleet of that memorable winter while the men went up the valley to make a clearing and construct a fire.” (Excerpt from an article by Stan Miller from The Village Views May 1969.)

Polar Bear Plunge, 2013
Polar Bear Plunge, 2013

Fast forward 226 years and there is an announcement in the December 2014 Village Views for the “Third Annual Terrace Park Environmental Group Polar Bear Plunge”, scheduled for New Year’s Day 2015. A description of the 2013 event reads:

“A crowd of perhaps 25 jumpers gathered on the shore at the end of Oxford Avenue at high noon while a much larger and warmer crowd of supporters stood above … The forecast was “chili with a 90% chance of bloody Mary’s when residents of all ages braved the winter waters to kick off the New Year”. (Excerpt from an article by Steve Early from The Village Views February 2013.)

My first reaction to these stories was that Terrace Park residents of today have things so easy that they can afford to get cold and wet just for fun. And that these brave settlers were more noble and worthy of respect.
Then I realized that the Polar Bear Plunge was part of an effort to protect the natural environment. When Abraham Covalt encountered this land it was a vast wilderness bursting with resources that must have appeared invulnerable to human activity.

But over the next 226 years, as trees were cut and the landscape became a patchwork of roads and buildings, there was a change in perspective.

Today, Terrace Park exemplifies a community with a respect for the natural environment, with our stately street trees, Village Green, bike trail and Wilderness Preserve. Like the Covalt party, we are here because we want to live upon this wonderful little piece of land.

(Reprinted with permission from the February 2015 issue of “A Walk in the Park” Magazine)