Shelby Ohio Authors


 Background Shelby post cards were published during her years in Shelby.

"Auntie May" Steinbrueck was still running a boarding house and restaurant located next door to (James) Hissong & (Carl) Maxwell's saloon. Dawn's cousin, Gretchen Steinbrueck, Auntie May's only child who was then a senior in high school, would be Dawn's companion at 121 1/2 North Broadway.
Auntie May's boarding house - ShelbyMuseum Photo

It was an ideal place for a boarding house due to the proximity of two major railroad lines: the B & O and the Big 4. The crossing of these railroads formed a junction just west across Broadway where the main Shelby Depot was located. This hub of transportation possibilities - trains, interurban, and horse drawn rigs - must have been very stimulating to a creative, adventuresome 14 year old. The daily unending excitement of railroad activity - the trains, passengers, railroad men, and drifters, some of whom would find lodging at her Auntie's house - could stir the imagination. There was seemingly continual motion in the small community of "Irishtown" just across the Big 4 tracks (north on both sides of North Broadway) with the constantly changing population of hoboes that wandered into the area from their camps under the railroad bridges. This window into a "new" world was just outside her front door and her resulting visions of distant unknown places that could be explored and the characters she met would all later contribute to Dawn's Ohio novels. For now, Auntie May, recognizing her talent, encouraged her to write and continue keeping her diaries.
Later, Dawn would write in a 1915 diary, "There was Auntie May, laughing, handsome, understanding, wholly sympathetic Auntie May. She gave me music lessons and thought I had genius and when I wrote crude little poems and stories she cherished them." 1
Later in life Dawn's younger sister Phyllis stated that Auntie Orpha May (Steinbrueck) "deserved most of the credit " for her success. 1
With this increased freedom and the realization that someone recognized, respected, and encouraged her abilities, Dawn's confidence grew and the results soon became obvious.
Photo c. 1910

In her junior year at Shelby High School, she played a leading role in the class play "The Mouse Trap" and was also on the staff of the school newspaper, the "Dictograph." The following year she would become the editor of the "bigger and better" paper, "The Tatler" (meaning Spectator). It was a monthly school paper published October 1913 - May 1914.
Shelby Museum

An early indication of Dawn's acting talent appeared in The Daily Globe - March 5, 1913:
"Shelby Girl Came Near Being Member of Show for One Night
"Miss Dawn Powell, a Shelby lady, rehearsed with the Fortune Hunter Company Monday and was ready to take a leading part in this attraction Monday night, but the member with tonsillitis recovered sufficiently to take her part. Monday morning the manager of the company and a conversation with Steve Dalton said one of the ladies was ill and might not be able to go through with her part in the evening. He inquired if Dalton knew of a young lady who could take the part for the evening. Dalton referred him to Miss Powell and the manager called on her. She consented to do what she could and the company held a rehearsal. Miss Powell took the part nicely and the manager was mighty well pleased with the talent she displayed in picking up the part and entering into the spirit of the play. Miss Powell would have been a member of the Fortune Hunter Company for one night had the actress not recovered and reported for duty before the house opened."
Not all the Daily Globe articles were of that nature - The Daily Globe - October 27, 1913:
"High School Girl Injured When She Jumped From Interurban Car
"Donna Powell, a member of the local high school, was painfully injured Saturday afternoon at about 4:30 o'clock when she jumped from the steps of an interurban car. Miss Powell and another high school chum boarded the car near Tucker avenue. The car started up and when it reached High School avenue, she jumped from the steps. She was thrown to the ground with considerable force and sustained a badly bruised knee. She was able to walk to her home. Some of the young people are in the habit of getting on moving cars, and this incident should be a good lesson to those who are inclined to disobey orders."
Between the publication of these two articles an event significant in Shelby's history occurred. On March 25th, 1913, Shelby suffered what is still considered its worst flood. Dawn's high school as well as many downtown businesses and homes along Black Fork Street were badly damaged.
Shelby High School - March 26, 1913

This was the third (and worst) flood in fifteen years and something needed to be done! Perhaps if we'd straighten the river and dredge it out. . . .
1. Abstracted text from “Dawn Powell - a biography”, by Tim Page, Henry Holt and Company, 1998.
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