I cannot say Newport without specifying that it is in Ohio and upriver from Marietta. I explain that it is a beautiful little community on the Ohio River, and I try to describe the house in which my grandmother lived. I close my eyes and see the magnificent spiral staircase. I "hear" the laughter and shouts of the Torner children. My grandmother, Florence May, was the second child and first daughter of William and Jennie Torner. She lived her first three decades in this stately home high on the hill.
Our family made annual visits to Newport. My great uncle, Norris Torner, and his wife, Marjorie, welcomed us with angel food cake and ice cream. They knew we would arrive on the last Saturday in May. There was no need to call. We were family, and we just appeared at their door in the early afternoon.
Uncle Norris allowed my brother and me to play on the school bus that was parked to the rear of the lot. My brother and I raced to the cistern to take turns pumping until water ran from the spigot. The house overlooked the Ohio River. Uncle Norris had a captain's chair and a grandfather clock, and my father told me that they were from a steamer. My father also told me that our family had a long history of river travel.
We made the short drive from the Torner home to the Newport Cemetery and looked at the graves of my grandmother's parents. Had I looked around the cemetery, I would have seen names that tell a story and give roots to my being. I would have seen the markers going back seven generations, to the early settlers, John and Mary Greene. I would have known that my direct line would trace through their son Richard. I would have seen the marker of Isaac and Sarah Adkins, their daughter Mary Rebecca and her husband, James Brown Greene. I would have known that John and Mary had ten children, five sons and five daughters, and that they traveled from Rhode Island to eventually settle in Newport.
I should have looked around at the stones and noticed that the Greenes of the Delta Queen were buried close to my direct ancestors. Perhaps I would have asked more questions, drawing on the memories of stories that should have been recorded. Perhaps my grandmother would have told me of the time she and two other women ran across five adders in the cemetery. Perhaps she would have told me of the reunion that was held in 1908 at the home of Junius Greenwood.
It was a glorious day, the eighth of July in 1908. Stories were told of the family's history, tracing it to 1202 in North Hamptonshire, England. Fast forward to John Greene, Surgeon, who came to America in 1635, just fifteen years after the arrival of the Pilgrims. Then, generations later, John and Mary Greene set out on their journey to Ohio.
The family stories were kept alive and told in 1908. Our stories have been passed along through oral history, newspaper articles, and bound publications.
It is our goal to share the stories of the families who settled in Newport so long ago. The families lived as neighbors. The first settlers carried the names of Battelle, Dana, and Greene. Their sons and daughters played together, studied side by side, and joined in marriage.
What do we ask?
We ask that you send us your stories. We ask that you remember your Newport ancestors and that you celebrate the rich heritage with which we have been blessed. Hidden in our memories, in our attics, and in our scrapbooks are stories that should be shared.