Henry S. Beidler was a member of the Union Army during the Civil War, and as a lieutenant, led a group of black soldiers from the 51st U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment in the fight against the Confederacy.
Beidler’s possessions have been passed down through his family for generations, and they have now found their way to Melaine Mahaffey’s antique store in the Short North.
Mahaffey, an Ohio State alumna who has owned and operated the antique store Mary Catherine’s for more than 30 years, said coming across memorabilia like this is extremely uncommon.
“This is a crazy find, I’ve never had anything like this,” she said. “If I didn’t know the family I probably would have never been able to get my hands on it.”
While helping her friend Mary Schwartz, Beidler’s great-great granddaughter, organize her parents’ estate, Mahaffey stumbled across a bunch of Beidler’s things and immediately realized she had found some very unordinary and historically relevant items.
Mahaffey said what makes this collection particularly impressive is how rare it is to see one soldier’s collection all in one place.
“We have the whole collection because you don’t very often get to see that many items in one spot from one soldier,” Mahaffey said. “We want to show it to the public and then sell it privately.”
Since this collection is such a rarity, Mahaffey and Schwartz want to keep it all together. None of the items that will be displayed are currently for sale on an individual basis. The showing is a chance for people to see the collection, not make purchases.
The women said they are hoping to sell the collection in its entirety to a collector who will keep all the items together and preserve Beidler’s legacy.
Beidler was a decorated soldier who fought with the Union Army from 1861 to 1866, starting as a private and ending up as a lieutenant toward the end of the war.
After uncovering Beidler’s belongings, Schwartz said she has a newfound appreciation for her family’s history.
“It’s just been a trip, a historic treasure just going back and finding all of this,” she said. “The fact that we had all this, we didn’t know. Just three weeks ago we went out in my father’s barn and we just kept finding more and more stuff.”
After years of not knowing much about her family’s history, Schwartz’s eyes have been opened.
“Out of honor and respect I’m noticing there is a lot to look at and be aware of,” she said.