Earlier this week on our Facebook page we shared this delightful picture of a Springfield woman who was vital to our local history.
There were a few guesses (Clementine Buchwalter, Lillian Gish, Mrs. Jeremiah Warder, and Orpha Westcott), but no one got the answer….
This is Miss Zoe Johnson, a name associated with much of the county’s history found in the historical society’s archives. A lifetime Springfield resident, Zoe was born in 1879 to Ortha and Mary Helen (Randolph) Johnson. Aside from the scant information found in her 1962 obituary and her listings in the Springfield city directories, very little is known about Zoe, but to those of us who have been through many different collections in the archives, her helpful essays and spidery scrawl are well known. Her occupations listed in the directories over the years included seamstress, secretary, stenographer, and clerk, but it was her time as a research worker for the W.P.A. Historical Records Survey and as part of the Federal Writers’ project that helped to preserve much of our county’s history.
Between the years of 1936 and 1941 she collected bits and pieces of historical information on all sorts of local subjects, yet she gained very little (if any) acknowledgement. For more than 30 years Zoe’s research papers sat untouched with the historical society until they were surveyed and organized by David M. Butera in 1972. Her papers include typed essays on dozens of subjects, , news clippings, transcripts, W.P.A. survey sheets on cemeteries and churches, handwritten notebook pages (some in undecipherable shorthand), and hundreds of scraps of paper, littered with more of her notes. Much of Zoe’s collected historical information was used in the 1941 Springfield and Clark County W.P.A. guide.
We truly appreciate Zoe Johnson’s hard work to record our local history! The delightful 1899 photograph of her at Antioch is the only image we have. To give you an idea of the breadth of the topics she covered, here is a link to the archival collections the contain portions of her research materials:http://bit.ly/1jOe33x.