Lisa Swickard says history is her passion. Now, just days away from the release of "Weathering the Extremes," the first book of a two-part series, it seems evident Seneca County history is Swickard's zeal.
Swickard said the book, which focuses on the 1936 heat wave and the other floods of Seneca County, is a companion to "Calamity and Courage: Tiffin's Battle During Ohio's Deadly 1913 Flood" and also will be the first book of her disaster series.
"I did the 1913 flood book last year; that started out being a chapter in this book, and it took on a life of its own," Swickard said.
Children and adults gather on Perry Street following the 1883 flood.
The low-lying area of Mechanicsburg (Charlotte, Union, Russell and Front streets) after it was inundated during the 1883 flood.
People gather on what is left of the Perry Street bridge during the flood of 1883.
Writing "Weathering" began two years ago for Swickard and was completed through extensive research, she said.
"I didn't know the 1936 heat wave existed. I was going through microfilm at the library and stumbled upon it," she said.
Eleven people in Seneca County were killed during the heat wave, which consisted of eight straight days of temperatures of more than 100 degrees.
Swickard is to be at Paper & Ink, 98 S. Washington St., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today to take orders for "Weathering" and to sign copies of "Calamity and Courage."
It was the worst in local history, she said.
"Air conditioning had just been coming into play," Swickard said, but had not yet reached homes in Seneca County.
To battle the heat, residents had to rely on metal fans or drive to the country.
"It was bad. I couldn't imagine that," she said.
Many of the deaths were attributed to heat stroke, and several were recorded to have happened in the New Riegel area and Jackson Township.
"One guy in his 40s from New Riegel went out to help in fields, had a heat stroke and died the next morning," she said.
A 17-year-old honor student who was to attend Heidelberg College on a scholarship also died during the heat wave. Swickard said he had gone swimming in a quarry because of the heat and drowned.
"There's a couple of real gut-wrenching things," she said.
Crops and livestock suffered during the heat wave, and even the new Bettsville School caught fire after an internal combustion in the science lab.
"It was that hot. It got up to 106 degrees, and in other cities in Ohio, it got up to 110," she said. "That's unreal, even by today's standards. And to have it go that long, that had to have just been horrid."
In the other floods section of her book, Swickard explores several floods that hit Seneca County from 1822 until 1937, excluding the 1913 flood.
Swickard said there are few records of some of the flooding, but she was lucky to come across the writings of a local historian.
"There were no official records, just word of mouth," she said.
A lot of the information also focuses on the flooding of Mechanicsburg (the area of Charlotte, Front, Union and Russell streets).
A chapter also is dedicated to the 1937 flood, the worst summer flood in history.
Just like her book on the 1913 flood, "Weathering" includes several photographs and local advertisements from the period.
"It's not quite as dramatic as the last book, but it's an important book in its own right," she said. "It's the first time all of the other floods have been put in a volume."
A co-author of six other books about Seneca County history, Swickard said she started writing books about 10 years ago. She attributed her interest in local history to her grandmother.
"My grandma was one the best historians," she said. "She would take me to cemeteries when I was little. She took a real human slant to it."
Taking the human slant has helped Swickard in her research and in completing her books, she said.
"If you can get (the) human aspect into it, it's amazing," she said. "It's real interesting. It's like a little treasure hunt once you go through research and you find things you never expected to find."
Swickard said it's even more of a thrill to find names of people you know.
The final volume and second part of Swickard's disaster series will focus on tornadoes and the blizzard of 1978, an era of history she favors.
"You can go all the way back, or you can do what is happening today, but there is so little written about 20th century (history)," she said.
The book will feature a lot of oral interviews, she said.
Swickard said "Weathering" likely is to be released in the next week, and she is in the process of taking orders.