Today is not Presidents Day in Ohio. It is Washington-Lincoln day. The day was official named in 2001. This was codified to clarify the days on which laws can and can not take effect.
Just down the street and around the corner from the Warren County History Center is this old pre Civil War mansion.
The mansion is part of the museum during the summer and December. It is a beautiful old building over looking Lebanon, yet still hidden away enough to be hard to fully see.
The Mansion is small and has only 8 rooms. The building is bigger than its structure. The history of the Mansion connects life during the 19th century and the 20th and 21st centuries efforts to preserve it. The tour is very informative and expands the eight rooms to the include the history of the land and Lebanon. The guides are very informative and willing to answer any questions. Take at least and hour to tour the Mansion and grounds. The view from the top of the hill is one of the best in the area. The Mansion and History Center can easily be done in one day with time for lunch at one of Lebanon’s many eateries.
Through out the year the Glendower puts on a few festivals and around the end of the season holds a civil war encampment. They even try to time it to fall during the Smithsonian’s Free Museum Day so that every one can enjoy it. In December they decorate the Mansion for the season. Both are very popular events.
Warren County History Center Museum
105 S. Broadway, Lebanon, OH 45036
While not as big as the Cleveland History Center, Carillion Historical Park, or the former Cincinnati Museum of History, the Warren County History Center Museum is large enough to tell the story of a town that once was on track to be larger than Dayton, Ohio.
The museum is more of a collection of historical artifacts than a straight story of the region. This works out well. A straight story would be interesting to some people but not much more than a few founders names. The collection of artifacts works to envelope the visitor in the era. The artifacts are so well arranged that they blend together into a theme more than stand out on a pedestal. The overall feeling is walking through rooms and lives from the early settlers to the roaring 20’s.
The basement houses the older collections. The first room is filled with early inhabitants artifacts and rocks from before any human was in the area. From there one steps forward into the cabin of the Butterworths, early settlers to the area. The cabin is on par with any living history museum in the state. The artifacts so well arranged and taken care of that it felt as if the father of the house was about to come back at any moment for dinner. Outside of the cabin room is a large collection of equipment that the settlers and early farmers would have used to conquer the land and turn Warren county into the agricultural treasure it has become. Surrounding the farm equipment are window displays that house artifacts from the time period. They are themed to every aspect of life from the mundane grooming to the occupational, like journalism, finance, and funeral arts. The lower level also contains the transportation wing with a collection of a few vehicles used to move people around through out the history of warren County. On the way out of the basement is the dark and forbidding Underground railroad exhibit. The dark room only has the sounds of the night time creatures and the light of a distant house. Slowly the lights rise to reveal a display on the work done by Warren county residents to help slaves from the south escape to freedom. Included are maps of stops on the underground railroad and displays telling about how Warren County and Ohio dealt with the issues leading to the Civil War. This room is a must see.
The first floor is the one of the largest rooms and is the “Village Green.” This room is set up with display windows around the outside that resemble a town center. Each display recreates a shop that would be found, with real artifacts of the citizens of the time. This is where the theming and curation of the museum really takes off. Each display is surrounded by a facade and filled with artifacts that make it feel like looking into a shop window. The back room of the first floor is the temporary exhibit space with an ever changing collection of exhibits.
Upstairs is a balcony that surrounds the “Village Green” with two main rooms on each side. The main balcony feels like an overflow for not yet used items, but the 2 side rooms are some of the best of the Museum.The front room contains the 1920’s era “house.” The “house” is just a collection of rooms with items from the era. Included are mannequins with period clothing. While the rooms could feel like just a spattering of items, as with the rest of the museum they are so well themed that one is transported to the era and location of a 1920 warren county big wigs estate. The back room is the Shaker exhibit. The exhibit is one of the best exhibits on shaker life outside of a dedicated museum. Each artifact tells the story of Union Village that was just 4 miles outside of Lebanon. “There is great beauty in harmony” was a saying of the Shakers and the exhibit’s simple but well documented form helps to recreate this simple way of life.
One of the greatest parts of the museum was hidden through out it like a treasure hunt. The “Gruesome but Truesome” exhibit are small placards in the windows that tell the more macabre details of the items inside. The information is well placed and parents with small children do not have to worry about items scaring them. Teens and the more adventurous will love to read about the larger story behind the museums collection.
Over all the Warren County Historic Center is a medium sized county museum with nothing extreme or major to set it apart from the larger city museums. As we say “A museum must tell a story, not just be a collection of artifacts.” The center shines with what it does with what it has. Every artifact is carefully placed, maybe not to tell a story, but to transport the visitor back in time to a different era.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this post with the Glendower Historic Mansion.
Ohio citizens and visitors to our state have gone to the local parks for almost 150 years. They enjoyed the waters and the trails. They have hiked through the forest, or strolled through the meadows. Some loved them so much they remained long after they should have. These are a few tales of haunts from around the state. Some are from the parks themselves, most are from the history the parks are trying to preserve. (links to locations in orange titles)
The land was originally owned by Lemeul Punderson. After he and his wife’s deaths it changed hands, eventually being owned by Karl Long. On the site he decided to build a 29 room mansion for his wife. This was in 1929. The great depression soon followed and wiped out his fortune. He died before the mansion was finished. In 1956 the state took over the site and has run it as a lodge and conference center since.
In 1976 a band of gypsies told what is considered the first ghost story about the place. They reported seeing a dark seaweed covered shape emerge from the lake. This happened only a year after a teenage girl drown in the lake. Guest and Workers have been telling strange tells of the location ever since. Footsteps echo and pounding on doors can be heard when no one is around. Lights flicker and chills can be felt through out the old section. The grand spiral staircase is said to be haunted by a civil war veteran. The tower was the location of a many a story of a man who is said to be looking for a lost rocking chair. The Windsor suite is probably the most haunted section of the grounds with multiple figures inhabiting the room.
Beaver Creek State Park
Beaver Creek park is one of the parks that was preserved for it’s history along with it’s natural beauty. At the site is the remains of the old Hambleton mill. It’s grain was shipped via the canals that criss crossed Ohio. At the mill an old lady is said to keep vigil. Her name is Ester Hale. She is said to be seen on many night. Also along the canals is “Gretchen’s Lock.” Named after the daughter of the man who built the lock. His daughter caught malaria, came down with a fever and chills and rambled on about returning to their home land of Holland. Eventually she passed away and the family decided to return to Holland after the lock was built. They stored Gretchen’s coffin in the lock until they left. On the way back across the ocean a violent storm took their lives and they along with the coffin were lost at sea. It is said that the ghost of Gretchen returned to the last place she was at rest, inside the lock. Gretchen’s is not the only haunted lock in the area. A former keeper who died from a lightning strike while on duty is said to haunt “Jake’s Lock.” At the right time one can see him with his lantern bobbing a long on duty.
John Bryan State Park / Glen Helen / Clifton George
Located by village of Yellow Springs the gorge makes up one of the best preserved, and prettiest, areas of central western Ohio. The area traces its roots back to the original Adena Mound Builders and later the Shawnee. Nearby was Old Chillicothe one of the important sites of the Shawnee, with famed leader Tecumseh visiting often. In the late 19th century, when residents feared that the growing amusement park industry would take over the land, they decided to preserve it. Now it is 3 interconnected sites that showcase the beauty of the glacial carved region.
With such long history the sites are bound to have some never leaving visitors. In John Bryan an old hermit visits the area around the west gate. Willie the hermit drown when he and his horse tried to cross the overflowing river at the bottom of the gorge. He is still heard whistling his happy tune. In Glen Helen it is said that the girl who the preserve is named after can be seen playing after hours. She loved the area so much that her father donated the land to the local college to keep it as she remembered it. Some say she loved it so much she may never leave. Clifton George and the connected John Bryan have large cliffs that lead to the Little Miami river below. From the top one can see the danger of a fall. Many a person have gone out for a walk without ever coming back. Some on purpose, some by accident, and some for unknown reasons. It is said that the woods are best visited in groups at night.
Lake Hope State Park
Located in the south east, considered one of the most haunted parts of the state, and the nation, is this amazing park. While not as popular as the nearby Hocking Hills and Old Mans Cave, this park has one of the most famous eerie places in any state park, Moonville Tunnel.
The story goes that during the heyday of the old mining town of Moonville supplies were delivered daily by train. One night a brakeman fell from the train and was crushed under the wheels. He was taken to a nearby doctor but his injuries were too severe. It is said that if one looks out at night they can see the red signal lamp swinging in the wind to warn of the on coming train. Or is it to warn the many other people who have been killed by trains in the area? A man was killed coming home from buying groceries when he fell from the bridge he was attempting to cross. Another man died attempting to jump from the train early. A man, with the help of liquor, decided to sleep on the track. A search of the McArthur Democrat newspaper, the newspaper of the area at the time the train and town were bustling, will bring up many more stories.
The tunnel is located off the Moonville rail trail. There is a high water trail down the road. This path will lead around the creek that runs high most of the warmer months. The tunnel itself is a run down popular area. The walls are lined with graffiti and trash. Even in the light of day the area is creepy and scary. The idea that the ghost of a lost railroad worker, or a local citizen, becomes almost a guarantee once one has visited the area. Well worth the hike.
Hocking Hills is one of the most visited parks in Ohio. Every weekend when the weather is good the parking lot is full. But how many people know of the strange happenings in the area. The early Adena Indians, who built the Mounds in Ohio to bury their dead, some in the park. The inhabitants forever protecting that which they were buried with. The area was also inhabited by local American Indian tribes, including the Wyandot, Delaware and Shawnee, following the Adena. It is said that on a still night one can still see them roaming the area. One of the most noted areas for this is Conkle’s Hollow. This is where, as legend goes, many an American Indian was hung for robbing the settlers passing through.
The most famous and most visited area of the park is Old Mans Cave, with a good portion of visitors not even know that there is more to the park than this one gorge. The Hocking Hills section of the Buckeye trail, and North country national trail, winds through the gorge and passes by many a haunted spot. Old man’s cave was named after Richard Roe, a hermit who lived in the cave with his hunting dogs. He was not the first settler at the site. Nathaniel and Pat Rayon, two brothers, built a cabin on top of the ridge and lived out their days there. All 3 are buried in the cave area of the park. Late at night campers have said to have heard Roe’s dogs hunting, with some saying you can even see him walking the area looking for them. Further down at Rose Lake a woman searching for her son fell of a cliff and died. Hikers and fisherman say they can still hear her calling out to her lost boy. Along the trail around Ash cave a shy lady from the 1920’s has been know to creep around following groups of hikers.
By the nearby Logan Lake State Park is Scotts Creek Death Hole. Named for the underground cavern that draws water, and anyone caught in in its current, in from above. In 1887 a newlywed couple was pulled under while trying to cross. The horses can still be heard and the young women seen trying to find her husband.
The whole southern region is well forested and a good place for anything to hide. Almost any boy scout, hiker, or camper that has spent a night will have a story about some strange noise they have heard. Some claim to know what the noise came from. they say it was the most famous cryptid, the ape man known as Bigfoot. But that is for another post.
Every city or major building seems to have some ghost these days. Stories the owners and residents seem to tell and retell. Stories that have become so famous that people want to visit the locations they happened in. This can be a problem during the autumn months when the weather turns colder. People get out and expect to see the scary locations, even if the location doesn’t want them too. Some places shy away from the stories to try and discourage this. Other full heartedly embrace the stories and actually use them to their benefit. These are the locations that offer haunted tours.
Finding the right tour can be tricky. When going on a tour do not expect to find a ghost who will pose for a picture. These are not haunted houses designed to scare you. Expect a more refined historical walking tour. This is what makes the haunted / ghost tours so fun. Even if the ghost that the tour talks about is not real, the history of why people still talk about it is. When looking for a tour look for ones that mention history or stories not just experience. The best tours, and hardest to get a ticket to, are offered by the local organization. The prices seem to be lower and all the proceeds go to help the local group. Some offer a cool lantern or candlelight tour filled with stories. These are the best for setting the mood of the story telling. If you just want a cool walk through hidden areas of local museums or villages haunted tours are a great option for this too. Many location use the fall haunting season as an fundraising event and will go all out. Companies that offer the tours have better date options and more refined tours, but seem to lack the local flare that comes with a non-profit organization. We recommend starting early and trying to get a local tour. They seem to be of lesser known places and haunts.
Many places hold these tours and we can not hope to list them all. If you want to find one in your area google haunted tour and your town or even your favorite location. You never know what you might find.
By the time you read this (as of 2017) most of the tours will be filled, free ones can fill up in hours, and others in days. Some do not offer tickets till October or a few weeks before hand. Take a chance and see if they are openings, but always remember them for next year.
http://www.northernohiotourism.com/ghostly_things.htm – A good list of places by the lake
http://columbuslandmarks.org/event-calendar/ghost-tours – a good list for Columbus
http://oldetownghosttours.com – Dublin
http://www.ohiostatehouse.org/news/2017-haunted-statehouse-tour-tickets-now-on-sale – The Statehouse
https://www.friendshomemuseum.org/copy-of-purchase-ghost-tours-class – Waynesville
https://www.hauntedcincinnatitours.com – Cincinatti
http://www.woodlandcemetery.org/tours-and-events – Dayton’s most haunted cemetery
http://athenshistory.org/asylum-walking-tour/ – Athens, one of the most haunted cities in America?
http://www.ohio.org/events/haunted-hocking-weekend – Hocking Hills
The National Football League is the major professional Football organization in America. It honors its players with induction into its Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. With no team and the 130th in the nation for population size, the question is asked “Why is the NFL hall of fame in Canton?”
The first players to be payed to play football were William Heffelfinger and Ben “Sport” Donnelly. They were payed by the Allegheny Athletic Association. By the 1920’s great players were payed ever increasing amounts. Some were even “poached” from other teams during the season with a higher salary offer. This led to confusion, bidding wars, and rising costs. Something was needed to be done.
On August 20, 1920, in Canton, Ohio, representatives of the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians, and Dayton Triangles, all Ohio based teams, formed the American Professional Football Conference. Later it would change its name to the American Professional Football Association, after adding more teams from across the nation. These teams worked out an agreement on player “poaching” and helped to stabilize costs and talent across the league. On October 3rd the Dayton Triangles defeated Columbus Panhandles in what is considered the first NFL game. On June 24, 1922, in a meeting held in Akron, Ohio, the APFA, became the National Football League. For the next two years the Canton Bulldogs would win the league championship making them the first team in the NFL to do so.
Fast forward 40 years: The NFL had a long history and no Hall of Fame or other museum dedicated to it. Canton took this too heart. The local newspaper, the Canton Repository, pushed for it. They believed the only logical site was in Canton. It was the site of the original meeting. It had a historic powerhouse team. It was in Ohio the state where the first NFL game was played. The city was determined to get the Hall and on January 25, 1961 William E. Umstattd made a formal bid. A few months later the League agreed with what the city and awarded them the Hall. On September 7, 1963 the Hall opened and has been honoring players ever since.
Some places in Ohio are run by local history groups. Some places in Ohio are important enough for the Ohio History Connection to get involved. A select number of places in Ohio have even gotten the National Parks service to recognize them. One place in Ohio is run by the local, state, and national historical systems, The Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African American poet at the turn of the 20th century. He wrote in both dialect and standard English. Dunbar became famous as a poet after self publishing Oak and Ivy, his first book, in 1892. After the popularity of the book he began to tour around the state, then then the nation, and finally England. At the height of his career in 1902 Dunbar bought a house in Dayton for his mother. After he started to suffer medical issues he moved in to the house with his mother. On February 9, 1906 in the house he had bought for his mother Paul Laurence Dunbar died of tuberculosis.
The House was bought by the state in 1936 and turned into the first state memorial to an African American. It was later in the century that people started to notice his works effect on the larger literary world. Maya Angelou even named her first book after a line in Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.” In 1962 the house became a National Historic Landmark. 30 years later it was incorporated in to larger Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park when the park was created.
The Paul Laurence Dunbar House Historic Site is a small location with just the house and accompanying visitor center. The center contains a short film on the life of Dunbar, a few of his artifacts, and information about the history of the house. The House itself is a small 2 story building common of the area. Together the entire site can be visited in 1.5 hours.
While that may seem to small for a journey to the area, the House is only .5 miles from the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park’s Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center. The center contains more information on the life of the printers of Dunbar’s first Newspaper, Orville and Wilbur Wright. One could easily spend an entire morning visiting both the Paul Laurence Dunbar House and Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center, grab lunch at one of the areas great restaurants, and spend the heat of the afternoon walking around Woodland Cemetery where both the Wright Brothers and Paul Laurence Dunbar are buried. With the Carillon Historical Park, National Museum of United States Air Force, and the rest of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park one could make a long weekend in Dayton. Even being rewarded if they go to enough places.
The history of Recreational Vehicles took a turn when Wally Byam acquired the Bowlus Company, took the door moved it to the side and created the Airstream Clipper. For about the next 16 years, except for a period during the war years, Airstreams were only manufactured in California. In July 1952 a factory was opened in Jackson Center, Ohio. In 1979 the California plant was closed, leaving Jackson Center as the only place in the world where the unique trailer is produced.
The Factory is located in Jackson Center and is just down the highway from Armstrong Air and Space Museum. The tours start at 2pm and leave enough time in the morning to go the museum and have lunch at Al’s Woody’s Diner. The Airstream Factory also is a fitting location with the museum because NASA used Airstreams as Mobile Quarantine Facility for the returning Apollo 11 crew.
The Factory tour starts at the Service center. The center is where Airstream gifts and parts can be bought before the tour. This is where the guide will have each person a pen (a great souvenir ) to sign a wavier and give out ear and eye protection. The tour is on the actual factory floor and protection is needed.
The tour starts with a brief history of the company before heading outside. On the way to the main factory the guide will show some of the campers parked outside. This is not a museum tour or a Dealers lot. Wally Byam’s Gold trailer, “Stella’s Gold Airstream,” is there but the rest are finished trailers about to be sent out and not really for display.
Inside the factory the noise can be loud at places. The earplugs protect visitors ears but also block out the guides voice. To get around this one member of the group is given a portable speaker. The guide can be heard from the front and back at most times, even over the noise of the factory. Sometimes the noise and spread of the group will make it hard to hear.
The tour goes through the process of constructing an Airstream from the ground up. Well more from sides to the floor to the internals. While it might not seem like much at first. Eventually the trailer comes together to the memorable shape. After the trailer is weather tested it is ready for interior. The interiors and wiring are added and the final product is ready to ship.
Overall the tour is a little under 2 hours depending on the size of the group. The distance is walked can be close to a mile. The process of building one of the most memorable trailers on the market is fun to see and the price (FREE) can’t be beat.
When we went the second factory building was being retooled for the next model years line of bus style touring coaches. Expect an update when we get a chance to return.
On the final Monday in May America takes the time to honor those who died in service to its armed forces. This tradition started in 1868 when former Civil War soldiers decided to decorate the graves of fallen veterans. While the custom is a long held tradition around the world, this time was different. So many soldiers had died in the recent Civil War, and so many families effected, that having a single day to do this helped to bring larger importance to the act. It wasn’t until 1971 with the enactment of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that the day created a yearly 3 day weekend.
To honor the veterans who gave it all here are some road trip ideas that have a military background. Some can be completed in one day some might take two. A great site to learn more about Ohio historical places and come up with you own trips is http://touringohio.com
Northwest Ohio and the War of 1812:
Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis National Historic Site – Fallen Timbers was the site of a major battle between American Indians and the newly formed United States of America. At the treaty of Paris in 1783 Britain gave the USA all of the land east of the Mississippi River. This include the Ohio Country. The American Indian tribes living in the area felt that they had no representation in the matter and that the land was still theirs. This led to the Battle of Fallen Timbers. At this battle American Soldiers fought the natives who were supplied by British from Fort Miamis. The defeat of the American Indians led to the Treaty of Greenville (see Garst Museum Below).
Fort Meigs – This fort with stood 2 attacks from the British and defended the Ohio country during the War of 1812. This is a full standing fort with a visitors center.
Rutherford B Hayes Presidential Library and Museum: The home and Museum of The former Civil War General and 19th President. For more information see our review.
Southwest and the Civil War
William Henry Harrison Tomb – The resting place of the 9th President and Ohio Indian Wars Veteran. He was the first president to die in office and is still the short serving person to have held the office. See our review here
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center – This museum is dedicated not only to the Underground Railroad and the struggle of American Slaves, but the struggle of all people for equality, even in modern times. The museum is a powerful testament to the struggles that lead to the Civil War.
William Howard Taft National Historic Site: The birthplace and boyhood home of the 27th President. Governor of the Philippines following the Spanish American war, Secretary of War, and Commander in Chief gives this site some great military background. See our review here
Land of Grant : Grant Birthplace and Grant Boyhood home and School House – The 18th President and commander of the Union armies during the civil war. Visit where he was born, grew up and learned. See our review here.
Fort Jefferson – The site where St. Clair retreated after his defeat.
Garst Museum – Dedicated to the history of Darke county this museum tells the story of the Treaty of Greenville and the role it played in shaping Ohio. A nice large museum with lots of artifacts from the area. See our review here.
Fort Recovery – The site of the two largest and most important American Indian battles, The Defeat of St. Clair and the Battle of Fort Recovery. St. Clair had 900 of his 1200 men killed, about 1/4 of the US army. It is also the site of the fort that was built after the battle. It was this fort that allowed the US to win the next battle and led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville.
Fort Steuben – Built to protect the surveyors of the northwest Territory. The Fort has a visitor center, full wood fort and large grounds surrounding it.
Fort Laurens – Site of the only Revolutionary War battle in the state.
McCook house – Home of the “Fighting McCooks.” Major Daniel McCook and his 9 sons and 6 nephews fought before and mostly during the Civil War.
The McKinley Presidential Library & Museum – The Tomb of William McKinley, the 25th President, and commander and chief during the Spanish-American War. Next to the tomb is the Library and Museum which house exhibits on the natural world, Stark County, and the life of the president. See our review here.
What’s larger than a bread box?
The Garst Museum in Greenville Ohio is larger than your average local history museum. This museum, while not as big as Carillon Historic Park, Cleveland History Center, or the former Cincinnati History Museum, is not small. The multiple wings of the building are crammed full of interesting artifacts and history.
The museum starts by telling the history of the most famous event in Darke County, the signing of the Greenville Treaty. The treaty was not signed right as either side entered the area, but after societies were built and battles fought. The museum does a great job of setting up that history. With plenty of artifacts of the time and information to describe and explain the use of the artifacts. So much information that it can almost get overwhelming. The Garst fortunately uses multimedia displays to break up the text and to give a bit of living history too.
Darke County did not end on August 3, 1795 and neither does the museum. The museum continues on to tell the story of two of the areas most famous children, Annie Oakley and Lowell Thomas. The Annie Oakley National Center houses pieces of Annie’s own effects. Not just the guns she fired as a famous sharpshooter in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, but clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, trophy’s and so much more. The center helps to break apart the myth of Annie Oakley as tomboy and show her real life as complicated as it was.
The Lowell Thomas section tells the life of the globe trotting man who made Lawrence of Arabia famous. The Garst Museum goes beyond the story of the desert and tells the whole life of the man from birth, with the Lowell’s Birthplace outback, to his death.
Most of the rest of the museum is dedicated to the history of Darke County as an average American county. Inside of small rooms set along the walls are vintages of American life. Displays of what a kitchen, beauty shop, dentist office, and more would look like are filled with actual artifacts from said places. Along with the small rooms is another large room filled with more leftover pieces. This room is a great place for grandparents to take kids and teach them about the items they saw in their grandparents houses or even used themselves.
The upstairs houses one of the best displays of military uniforms in the state. With cases of uniforms and other memorabilia from almost every war the country has been in. All donated by local citizens or their families.
The Garst Museum in Greenville works hard to live up to the “Best History Museum” award it was given by the Ohio Magazine and it shows. This museum is a great visit for people of all ages, even if you don’t live in Darke County.