Appalachian Heritage Preservation & Celebration in Ohio’s Hill Country

A major focus of OHCHA’s work has been to seek out and recognize “inspiring practices” throughout our 32-county region.  This has resulted in more than 80 Heritage Awards being given to a variety of organizations and individuals who make Hill Country a special place to live and visit. They do this by valuing our history, culture and natural environment. Enjoy the journey we have taken by reading the stories of our award recipients below. This event is co-hosted annually at the Ohio Statehouse by Heritage Ohio and Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area.

Look back through the years and learn about the outstanding preservation work of the locals who keep Ohio’s Appalachian Heritage alive. The honorees each year give a snapshot of some of the bright spots in Ohio’s Appalachian region.

Honorees at the 2022 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon
Watch a recording of the 2022 event.

2022 Success Stories

The Tabler Town People of Color Museum, located in eastern Athens County, was inspired by David Butcher’s genealogical research, and tells the story of his family and others who called this region of free Ohio home.

The Lynn Auto Drive-In
theater in
 Tuscarawas County is the oldest drive-in in Ohio and the second oldest continuously operated drive-in in the world. When Rich and Jamie Reding took over, it became a four-generation family business that allows community members to “see the stars under the stars.”

The aim of
Ohio’s Appalachia Country
is to market and support Appalachia’s rich culture. For 15 years, this consortium of 32 counties has worked together to demonstrate both the potential for and the economic impact of tourism as a successful economic strategy for Ohio.

The John Gee Black Historical Center in Gallia County is helping to ensure the preservation of tradition, culture, crafts, music and art of African Americans in Southeastern Ohio and to educate our diverse people about African-American traditions.

The Monroe (County) Arts Council showcases and develops artists and the art created in the hills of our beautiful countryside, preserving and respecting our past culture as well as sowing seeds for our future. Music, dance, and all forms of art are celebrated, and unity is cultivated through creative expression.

The Noble County Historical Society offers tours of two properties listed in the National Registry of Historic Places — the Historic Jail Museum building and sheriff’s residence (built in 1882) and the Ball Caldwell House and Barn (built in 1832). The society also supports historical education programs for children and adults throughout the county.

The Castle Historic House Museum
Washington County is a Gothic Revival brick home built in 1855. The Castle, which opened to the public in 1994, offers a wide array of musical events, workshops, lectures, and special programs for the community.

Sam Jones Model Citizenship Award: Patty Mitchell, Passion Works Studio
Patty Mitchell of Athens County, is founder and CEO of Passion Works, a collaborative community studio that supports artists with and without developmental differences to make art together.   The distinctive, brightly-colored Passion Works Flowers, are the ”official” flower of Athens. Product sales have reached nearly $3 million.

2021 AHL HonoreesHonorees at the 2021 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon

2021 Success Stories

The Homestead Music and Arts Festival in Crooksville brings a community event filled with music, art, and nature tucked into the Appalachian hills of Perry County. This festival is high-quality, affordable experience, featuring free camping and activities.

The Bowen House
provides southeastern Ohio with opportunities for diverse cultural enrichment and positive social activities while remaining committed to historic preservation in Hocking County.

Sarah Arnold is owner and founder of Clutch MOV, an online magazine and social media presence that gives coverage to Mid-Ohio Valley’s dynamic culture, lifestyle and communities.

Fairfield Heritage Association
was founded by seven Fairfield County women in 1962 to preserve the old homes of Lancaster. It has expanded to include the operation of the Georgian Museum and Sherman House Museum, and to  promote the preservation of sites and history in Fairfield County.

Howard Peller, designer, craftsman, artist, and farmer of Living Willow Farm in Muskingum County has created woven, ceramic, steel, and wood products in the Appalachia Ohio region for almost four decades. Howard works with historic and cultural techniques that were once part of Ohio’s rural craft economy. He is currently working both nationally and internationally to create living sculptures and woven products from the willow he grows on his family heritage farm near Roseville.

Maddie Fraioli, a ceramic and textile artisan has been creating pottery in Muskingum County for more than 35 years, creating a body of work that is informed by both the traditions of the Appalachian Bluebird potters and the subsequent industrial innovations of the American Art Pottery movement. She passes on these folk-art craft traditions in her community through education and continued practice at Rosehill Pottery.

Beverly Gray, a historian and co-founder of the David Nickens Heritage Center in Chillicothe (Ross County), preserves local and national African American heritage and culture.

Trevellya Ford-Ahmed, PhD, Communication/Media Board Director for the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preservation Society is working to restore and repurpose the120-year-old church in Athens County into a Cultural Center so this pillar of the Black community will not be lost.

Sam Jones Model Citizenship Award: Ada Woodson Adams, Past President of the Multicultural Genealogical Center
Ada Adams was recognized for her work as a lifetime member and president of the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Morgan County. During those years, Adams helped document, preserve and share the histories of Black, Native American and other under-appreciated Americans.

Full Group
Honorees at the 2019 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon
Watch a recording of the 2019 event.

2019 Success Stories

The Sugar Bush Foundation works with Ohio University in Athens County to improve the quality of life for people living in Appalachian Ohio. They have helped fund many projects, from recycling in Chillicothe and Rural Action’s Zero Waste initiative, to supporting Habitat for Humanity in Millfield, to creating new pigments from acid mine drainage in Corning. Most recently they have lent support to the launch of the Winding Road Network, a project OHCHA manages. These projects share their beliefs in creating cultural shifts to sustainable practices, both economically and environmentally. 

D-Day Conneaut
located in Ashtabula County, is an annual, highly realistic, and educational reenactment of the WWII European Theater of Operations and the D-Day Normandy invasion. Hundreds of re-enactors from across the United States and Canada assemble on the 250-yard-long beach and sloping adjacent terrain, which closely resemble Omaha Beach in Normandy, France. This project, along with the North Coast WWII History Museum, invites visitors to take part in living history as a way to learn about, remember, and honor the sacrifices made on D-Day.

The John Rankin House is one of the best-documented and most active Underground Railroad “stations” in Ohio. Located in Ripley (Brown County), Ohio, and built in 1825, The Rankin House was home to abolitionist and Presbyterian minister John Rankin, his wife Jean, and their 13 children. It’s estimated that over 2,000 slaves seeking freedom stayed with the Rankins, sometimes as many as 12 at a time. Here, visitors can learn how the Rankin family and their neighbors in Ripley and other nearby communities helped the enslaved on their path to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

As the Special Collections Manager at the Library of Marietta College, Linda Showalter has worked to preserve and share the history of the College and Marietta. She has helped students, faculty, community members, and scholars, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, whose recent book The Pioneers features the history of the establishment of the Northwest Territory.

The Leetonia Coke Ovens in Columbiana County are a complex of 200 Coke Ovens constructed around 1866 by the Leetonia Iron and Coal Company, which was later renamed the Cherry Valley Iron Works. The beehive coke ovens were built to turn coal into coke by removing impurities from the coal. The coke was then used as fuel for the furnaces that produced iron and steel. The Cherry Valley Coke Ovens site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. 

Located in Cambridge in Guernsey County, Dickens Victorian Village celebrates Victorian Era culture each holiday season, from November to December.This innovative public art exhibition is enjoyed by families, couples, and groups alike – an experience that engages the senses as you explore the charming streetscape, striking historic architecture, and eclectic shops and eateries of Cambridge. Visitors are invited to stroll amidst over 92 scenes of 180 lifelike figures representing classic scenes, including Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, the town crier, groups of carolers, a bucket brigade, lamplighters, school children, street peddlers, and Father Christmas.

Individually, Deanna and Ivan Tribe have had distinguished careers with Ohio State University Extension and the University of Rio Grande, respectively, and whether in the field or in the classroom the two have spent their time sharing the culture of Appalachia. Born in Vinton County, Deanna’s passion for Appalachian culture is nowhere more on display than in her book Vinton County, published by Arcadia Press. For Ivan, the cultural story has also been reflected in his writings, particularly those involving Appalachian and country music. He’s authored or co-authored 12 books all related to the heritage, culture, and music of the region. For over 32 years, the two have hosted on WOUB-FM radio both the bluegrass program, D28+5, and the country music show, Hornpipe and Fugue. The Tribes continue their commitment to the region through involvement in the Vinton County Historical and Genealogical Society.

Sam Jones Model Citizenship Award: Bruce and Gay Dalzell, Southeast Ohio Musicians
Bruce and Gay performed with and met one another through the Appalachian Green Parks Project (AGPP) in the mid-1970s. According to Gay, the purpose of the project was to “acquaint people with traditional Appalachian culture through music and drama as a way to celebrate the region’s heritage.” The group interwove the region’s rich history into their performances. The Dalzells firmly believe in the transformative power of music and the ability of music to build a stronger sense of community. Their impact can be felt in their hometown of Stewart as they have taught music lessons and led various workshops at the Federal Valley Resource Center. They perform annually at their Christmas Benefit show that benefits the resource center. 

2018 Group PhotoHonorees at the 2018 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon

2018 Success Stories

Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park works to preserve and share archival materials and machinery from the mining industry. Located just outside the village of New Athens, Ohio, their grounds are open for the annual “Old Construction & Mining Equipment Show,” and they hope to soon acquire land and open a permanent “Mining and Energy Museum.”  OHCHA member Brian Coulson has been a tireless devotee to this project along with many others in Harrison and surrounding counties.  

The Decorative Arts Center works with the community of Lancaster to create exhibitions, arts education, and architectural preservation. The Center houses its own collection of artifacts, showcases artworks through exhibits, and has art classes and workshops for all ages. Located in a beautifully restored Victorian mansion, the Center is part of an impressive museum district in this Fairfield County seat.  In 2017, the Center supported OHCHA’s regional brands initiative by hosting and Artists of the Winding Road A to Z exhibition.   

Federal Valley Resource Center has a mission to preserve the historic Rome Canaan School Campus in Stewart in Athens County. The Center hosts a variety of public performance and education programs, including sewing classes, bluegrass jams, and square dances.  Repurposing abandoned schools is challenging work throughout Appalachia, and Federal Valley has demonstrated tenacity and sustainability in their work.

The 84-mile Scenic Scioto Heritage Trail was established in 2007, and is located in Scioto County. Attractions along the trail include the recently restored Otway Covered Bridge, the Philip Moore Stone House, and the Kalanu Native American Cemetery.  Connecting regional residents and visitors to our stories through trails, is an excellent strategy for gaining and educating audiences through active experiences.  

Tom’s Ice Cream Bowl is a beloved Zanesville landmark, and they have been serving their own homemade ice cream, treats, and meals since 1948, resisting modernization by keeping its original design and ambience intact. Tom’s is not only a great place to eat, but has been a vital part of the Zanesville community over many generations. It serves as a community gathering place, sources local and regional ingredients, and even once hosted a wedding!  The Tom’s experience has received national attention and has contributed to the authentic tourism economy in Muskingum County.  

The Union Hall Theater is a performance and event venue located in Chesterhill. Dating back to 1908, the theater was originally part of the early twentieth century Chautauqua educational performance circuit, and was also a movie theater. Now, volunteers have worked to preserve the building, and the theater hosts many live events that feature hometown music and local festivals.  The Annual Blues & Ribs Festival each July is a key attraction in a community where the mayor and his son are skilled musicians.

The Frederick Kindleberger Stone House and Barn is a historic farmstead near village of Clarington in Monroe County. The house and barn were built in 1873 and 1883, and were listed in the National Register in 1980. Gary and Marjorie Baumberger now own the house and barn, and work to maintain and preserve these unique structures. Barns and farmsteads are disappearing from our Hill Country landscape. Recognizing those who save and restore these structures for future generations are critical to our region maintaining its cultural and built heritage. 

The Sam Jones Model Citizenship Award: Cheryl Blosser, Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council Member and Historian
Serving as vice president for the New Straitsville History Group and as a research historian for the Little Cities of Black Diamonds Council, Blosser is a passionate advocate for the maintenance of Appalachian Ohio’s heritage. Her work is helping to give strong meaning to towns that have been poverty-stricken since the departure of the coal companies and is helping to bring visitors to the region to learn these important American stories.

Honorees at the 2017 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon

2017 Success Stories

Adena Health System was honored for their revitalization for the Carlisle Building in the heart of Chillicothe after a devastating fire and calls for demolition.  The building is now at the center of the town’s revitalization, reinforcing this Ross County community’s role as Ohio’s First Capital. The building now houses visiting medical students and physician residents.

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway was honored for offering historic train excursions for more than 40 years and becoming an important tourist railway in Ohio.

Appalachia Ohio Alliance was honored for conservation and preservation of southeastern Ohio’s land resources, including working with landowners who wish to place their rural acreage into a land trust for protection from development. A few noteworthy achievements include helping to conserve the Hocking Canal Lock and partnering on an Ohio bat conservation project. 

Dr. John Maddox, the founder and curator of the Underground Railroad Museum, was honored for his tireless work collecting the articles, memorabilia, and other publications that make up the museum’s collections. His work in organizing the exhibits at the museum offers a vivid insight into slavery and the Underground Railroad in Ohio.

Murphin Ridge Inn founder Mary Cosset was honored for preserving a beautiful inn on 142 acres of farmland and opening it up for visitors to experience life among the Amish craftspeople who build furniture and sell baked items nearby. Additional cabins and a lodge compliment the Inn and its exquisite meal offerings providing a valued historic experience for visitors to Adams County.  

The New Straitsville History Group (NSHG) was honored for their work preserving the abundant history of this coal mining community. The group saved Robinson’s Cave, the meeting place for the founders of the United Mine Workers, and run a museum filled with local history artifacts collected by members. The NSHG provides guided tours to the cave and other New Straitsville landmarks by appointment.  They work closely with Ohio University to catalog and protect their substantial archive. 

Located in Oak Hill, the Welsh-American Heritage Museum was recognized for its role in preserving and presenting artifacts of Welsh families, and for keeping Welsh culture and traditions alive in the region.  Jackson County was a center for Welsh immigration in the late 1800’s as Welsh miners flocked to southeastern Ohio. The Museum works with local school to keep Welsh singing competitions alive.  

The Historic Zoar Village was established by German immigrants in 1817. The village thrived for more than 80 years and its current residents still live in some of its original buildings. The local citizens group who took over operation of the site from the Ohio Historical Society over a decade ago, has done outstanding work in maintaining and interpreting this Ohio landmark.  

The inaugural Sam Jones Model Citizenship Award went to its namesake, Sam Jones. He was recognized for his work with youth in the Glouster Area at the historic Sam’s Gym, Ohio’s oldest boxing venue established in the 1930s.  Sam’s brilliant support for his community includes teaching many of the town’s children to believe in themselves. Sam also raised thousands of dollars for textbook and supply purchases at Trimble Local Schools via his annual Boxing for Books matches.

2016_Honorees_Group PhotoHonorees at the 2016 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon

2016 Success Stories

Cindy Arent shared that the story of the National Museum of Cambridge Glass stands as a symbol of Cambridge history. It houses a superb collection produced by The Cambridge Glass Company from 1902 to 1958. The original museum was destroyed by the flood of 199, which led to it being closed and the building sold. But thanks to the hard work of many, most of the glass was rescued. Club members raised the necessary funds to acquire the current building in Cambridge.

Honoree Martin McAllister represented the Edge of Appalachia, one of the largest privately owned preserves east of the Mississippi River. The name comes from the location on the western flank or “edge” of the Appalachian Escarpment. It consists of 11 unique preserves. Four of these sites have been recognized as National Natural Landmarks—a testimony to their national significance and ecological importance. The Cincinnati Museum Center worked with The Ohio Chapter of the Nature Conservancy, to protect these areas for more than 50 years.

Margaret Bonamico shared that “Trumpet in the Land,” written by Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Paul Green, brings to life the Ohio frontier during the Revolutionary War. Performed in the same hills from which this story is born, Trumpet in the Land is a thrilling and passionate story of a peaceful people’s influence on the war and the tragic events that encircled the founding of Ohio’s first settlement, Schoenbrunn.

Christine Hughes, owner of Athen’s Village Bakery & Cafe, has a goal to sustain community and provide exceptional dining by using locally grown organic and Fair Trade products. The Village Bakery’s business makes the connection between food, water, energy, social justice and the health of our local and global communities.

Honoree Angela Feenerty came from the village of Mount Pleasant (est. 1803) to share how the community’s people played an important role in the antislavery movement and the Underground Railroad. Built in 1814, Mount Pleasant’s Quaker Yearly Meeting House is a National Historic Landmark which was the first Quaker yearly meeting house west of the Alleghenies.

Diana Johnston shared the success of the annual Spring Literary Festival, held in McArthur (Vinton County) during the month of April, featuring three days of events including musical, dance, and theatrical performances; guest speakers; book signings; discussions and readings. The festival is designed to provide local residents with direct contact to writers, scholars, and artists of national and international renown.

David Baker represented Roscoe Village, located in Coshocton, which is a restored Ohio and Erie Canal town. Canals are an important story in Ohio’s development during the 19th century.  Past their useful life after the railroads came, canals were forgotten. Edward and Frances Montgomery dreamed of seeing the charming village of Roscoe restored and funded this project which has become one of Ohio’s top tourist destinations to shop, eat, learn, and have fun.

Mitch Schumacher shared the success story of The Ohio River Ferryboat Festival which celebrates the Fly Ferry that has operated since 1817, between Sisterville, West Virginia, and Fly, Ohio. The Ferry is the only ferry still operating on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and one of only four still on the Ohio River.  The festival is a collaboration between two states, two counties and two communities.

Bradford Smith is president of Sewah Studios which was founded in 1927 by Mr. E. M. Hawes and began operation in Marietta. In naming the company, Mr. Hawes spelled his last name backwards and for no particular reason, added the word studios. The company was purchased by the Smith family in 1954. They cast the iconic historic road marker signs which can be found in all 50 states and many foreign countries.

Andrew Bashaw shared the story of the Buckeye Trail which consists of over 1444 miles winding around Ohio, reaching into every corner of the state. The Buckeye Trail Association is managed from Shawnee, and is a network of volunteers who maintain trails along back country roads and through the small towns. The Shawnee section of the Buckeye Trail is often referred to as the Little Smokies, it features some of the most specular views seen anywhere in the state of Ohio.

Dr. Anita Jackson shared the story of about the historic homestead, preserved by The Nelson T. Gant Foundation. It was once the home of Nelson and Anna Marie Gant, former slaves who built their home in the Zanesville, and gradually acquired 300 acres of land surrounding their home. Today, the house is a historical, educational, cultural facility which honors the legacy of Nelson T. Gant for the building of character and community pride.

2015 HonoreesHonorees at the 2015 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon

2015 Success Stories

In 2015, Tecumseh Outdoor Drama, Columbus Washboard Company, Weasel Boy Brewing, Ludowici Tile, Crumbs Bakery, Snowville Creamery, and Stewart’s Opera House told their success stories. The Emancipation Proclamation Celebration in Gallia County celebrated its 152nd year and its president, Andrew Gilmore talked about the hard work that brought their success.

Stuart’s Opera House, in the heart of Nelsonville

Jackie Welker talked about the road to creating the Pomeroy Blues Fest. Artist Alan Cottrill, whose bronze sculptures grace the sidewalk on Zanesville as well as a park in Shawnee, Ohio, the Artists of the Winding Road exhibit at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster, and around the country, discussed his artistic journey and how his Appalachian heritage has shaped it. Anne Cornell also told the story of the Pomerene Center for the Arts‘ Coshocton Art Park, located across from the Coshocton County Courthouse.

2014 Success Stories

Statue of Thomas Edison by Alan Cottrill. The statue sits in Washington D.C., in Congress’ Statuary Hall Collection.

In 2014, Appalachia Heritage Luncheon attendees heard success stories from the Multicultural Genealogical Center, Millersburg Brewery, McClain High School, the Southeast Ohio Astronomical Society, and the John & Annie Glenn Museum Foundation. Attendees also heard about the heritage preservation that went into the beautiful Portsmouth murals on the 2,000 foot flood wall and in other parts of the city.

Deana and Marvin Clark, the owners of the Ohio Valley Opry, talked about their successes in their 14th year owning and operating the opry located in the Twin City Opera House in McConnelsville. The Opry, which takes place on the third Saturday of every month, brings classic Appalachian music to Morgan County.

The Statehouse Atrium also heard the success story of Bird Watcher’s Digest, started by a husband and wife in Marietta in 1978. The owner of the Marietta-based artist collective, Resolve Studios, talked about the art that celebrated Appalachian heritage.

2013 Success Stories

The Dennison Railroad Depot Museum

The 2013 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon moved into the larger Atrium space at the Ohio Statehouse. Attendees heard success stories from the Buckeye Hills Economic Development, the Marietta Main Street Project, Fairfield County Historical Parks, Casa Nueva Restaurant & Cantina, the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum, the Perry County Historical Society.

Honorees Sunday Creek Watershed Group and Rural Action were honored and told the story of cleaning up acid mine drainage and their work to improve water quality. Ralph Alexander told the success story of the John T. Wilson Homestead, first giving a short summary of the incredible life of soldier, congressman, senator, and Adams County benefactor, John T. Wilson. His home has been beautifully preserved and functions as a bed & breakfast today.

A sun catcher made form recycled bottles by the Glass ReFactory.

Belmont Technical College‘s preservation training program was also honored for producing preservation-trained graduates. Attendees also heard the success story of Georgetown, Ohio, company, the Glass ReFactory, which uses recycled bottles to make sun catchers. Attendees also heard the success story of Rendville Artworks, located in Rendville, Ohio.

2012 Success Stories

In 2012, the Ohio Statehouse played host to shared success stories from the Hocking College school of Natural Resources Dean Ken Bowald, who discussed the importance of interpretive guiding. Also sharing success stories were the Historic Fort Steuben, the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, Zane State, the Main Street Downtown Revitalization Project, the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District, the Zanesville Y Bridge Arts Festival and the Markay Cultural Arts Center.

Y-Bridge, Zanesville, Ohio
The famous Y- Bridge in Zanesville

The Ancient Ohio Trail, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Ohio’s breathtaking Native American earth works, like the famous Serpent Mound, was honored and Paw Paw Festival Founder Chris Chmiel explained the wonders of Southeast Ohio’s darling fruit, the Paw Paw. ACEnet was honored yet again and Leslie Schaller, their current director, told the success story of the Athens Farmer’s Market.

Stick around until the end of the awards and success stories to hear Julie Zickefoose, a nature artist and writer from Wipple, Ohio, describe in beautiful, poetic terms, what Appalachian Ohio means to her.

2011 Success Stories

serpent mound aerial
An aerial view of Serpent Mound

Watch a recording of the 2011 Appalachia Heritage Luncheon

Alma Hoops & Rick Crooks (Perry County) — Arts Heritage Award
Alma Hoops and her son Rick Crooks have made many numerous contributions to the arts in the Crooksville area of Perry County.  A retired school principal and artist, Alma is not afraid to try new things. As owner of Collectors Art Gallery she organized a 20-acre Quilt Show that put the arts scene in the Crooksville area on the map.  She is one of the organizers and leaders of the Crooksville Art Council which sponsors regular Arts Walks in this town that was once the pottery center of the United States.  Most recently she has played a key role in forming a theater group for her county.
Her son Rick Crooks is an accomplished metal sculptor whose whimsical works grace the Collector’s Art Gallery and many arts events that take place in southeastern Ohio.  Overcoming blindness, Rick’s art work is not only popular among those who collect outdoor art, it is an inspiration to other artists who deal with physical handicaps.

Tecumseh Outdoor Drama (Ross County) — Community Heritage Award
The Tecumseh Outdoor Drama portrays the epic life story of the legendary Shawnee leader as he struggles to defend his sacred homelands in the Ohio country during the late 1700’s. The huge outdoor stage of the Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre in Chillicothe, Ohio affords the audience a unique viewing experience. Sheer spectacle surrounds you with a herd of galloping horses, live military cannon in action, and the most dazzling battle sequences offered live on the American stage.
Tecumseh Outdoor Drama puts on 74 shows per season, staged this theatrical production more than 2,800 times to over 2.4 million visitors. Tecumseh employs 60 actors and technicians at any given time and has afforded many an actor significant opportunities over almost four decades. This professionally produced outdoor drama was written by seven-time Pulitzer Prize nominee and Emmy recipient; Allan W. Eckert. Tecumseh’s reputation for artistic excellence in performance, staging and design has garnered international acclaim. Other outdoor dramas have begun, enjoyed long runs and have expired while the Tecumseh Outdoor Drama continues to tell this important story of Ohio’s heritage.

Pioneer and Historical Society of Muskingum County — Community Heritage Award
Founded in 1890, the Pioneer and Historical Society of Muskingum County is a small, membership-based, nonprofit organization committed to the principle that knowledge of its past is an essential element of a healthy and successful community. The organization is funded by the generous support of past and present donors but seeks to move forward with a strong collaborative effort that includes increased community and corporate involvement.
The Society owns and operates museums in two of Muskingum County’s oldest and most historic buildings, the Stone Academy and the Dr. Increase Mathews House. The following programs and services focus on maintaining a collection of artifacts and educating the public about our community’s past.

  • Guided museum tours
  • A community outreach initiative, called “The History Has Left the Museum”
  • A local history library and archives
  • Lectures and other programs of historic interest, held regularly at the Stone Academy, free of charge and open to the public
  • Publications Historically Speaking and the Muskingum Journal, featuring articles about local history
  • A  Military Room exhibit opened at the Dr. Increase Mathews House telling the many stories of men and women from Muskingum County who fought in our nations wars
  • The 200th Anniversary of the Stone Academy: a Celebration of Local History included programs about the Underground Railroad, the early history of Putnam, architectural tours of the Putnam Historic District, special museum tours, guided tours of historic Woodlawn Cemetery (2009)
  • P&HS led a community-wide recognition of the 200th anniversary of Zanesville’s days as Ohio’s second capital city. The Zanesville 1810 Project included a celebration weekend, a lecture series, a new self-guided tour of historic downtown Zanesville (2010).
  • After extensive documentation, in 2011, the Stone Academy garnered national attention in the anti-slavery movement and Underground Railroad and was accepted by the National Parks Service for inclusion in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. 

Muskingum County Community Foundation — Community Heritage Award
Founded in 1985, Muskingum County Community Foundation (MCCF) has granted $10 million to programs and projects in Muskingum County. Since Moving to the Putnam Historic District, the Community Foundation’s greatest impacts have been the renovation of an 1840s home into the Putnam Underground Railroad Education Center (the PURE Center) on Woodlawn Avenue, and the restoring of a dump site on the Muskingum River into a park similar to the Spangler Park that graced the space in the early 20th Century. The Community Foundation helped the Nelson T. Gant Foundation acquire the Gant Homestead on the National Road (Route 40) just west of the city line. This home was owned by an ex-slave who became a wealthy and highly regarded businessman and civic leader in the late 19th Century. The property is currently being renovated.
The Community Foundation and Hocking College sponsored the creation of 100 seven-foot-tall Weller-inspired vases designed by Alan Cottrill. Most were sold at auction to provide an arts fund for local arts groups. Some are exhibited downtown and in Crooksville. The remaining vases are in a circle on West Main Street next to the Y Bridge on property donated to the Community Foundation.
Near the vases at the confluence of Licking and Muskingum Rivers is the site of the first known trading post in Muskingum County. Nearby was the ferry that crossed the Muskingum River. The Y Bridge, rebuilt in 1984, is the home of the Y Bridge Arts Festival. August 5-6, 2011, is the third Festival. The first might have not taken place without a last minute donation from the Community Foundation. In 2008, the Community Foundation purchased Armco Park, a 40-acre park next to Ohio University Zanesville, and leased it for $1 a year to the Muskingum Family Y. The most recent project the Community Foundation has undertaken has been to raise $5 million for a new recreation center. MCCF acted as Fundraising Counsel for the 7-month campaign that reached its $5 million goal the previous June 29.

Adams County Retired Teachers, Inc. — Built Environment and Historic Preservation Award
The Adams County Retired Teachers, Inc., an affiliate of the Ohio Retired Teachers Association, was first organized in 1948 and met for two years.  Then in 1956, the group reorganized and they have met ever since, focusing their work on improving retirement benefits for their members, sharing information on local and state issues with their membership and the public, and awarding an annual scholarship of $500.00 to one student from Adams County who is pursuing a degree in Education.
In addition to these efforts, several of their members were interested in purchasing and restoring a one room school house. In the early 2000s, after spending a couple of years searching for a suitable school, they purchased Page One Room School on Vaughn Ridge and Page School Roads. The group spent several years restoring the school house, and now they maintain it as a museum for the education of the students and adults of Adams County.

For their outstanding leadership and contributions toward the protection, preservation, and appropriate development of heritage, culture and sense of place in Ohio’s Hill Country, they are the recipient of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area’s Heritage Award for Built Environment and Historic Preservation.

Murphin Inn — Business Heritage Award
Just seven families have owned the wooded ridge since a military officer named William Murphin claimed it more than 200 years ago. Sherry and Darryl McKenney gave up catering and sales careers to purchase the Murphin Ridge Inn in 1997. Along with their staff, the McKenneys maintain 142 acres of rolling woodland and farmland that offer breathtaking vistas of the foothills that surround it. Not only can guests explore hiking trails and discover gorgeous waterfalls and the wonders of the natural world of Adams County, they can also enjoy the luxurious simplicity of the Inn’s accommodations and taste world-class cuisine offered in their historic dining house.
The McKenneys have also worked to preserve the Inn as an important historical site in Adams County in addition to making it a viable economic contributor to their community. Sherry and Darryl offer a wonderful place to stay and eat, while helping to promote the wealth of environmental, cultural and historic treasures Adams County has to offer. They deserve recognition for their outstanding leadership and contributions toward the protection, preservation, and appropriate development of heritage, culture and sense of place in Ohio’s Hill Country.

Success stories were also told at the 2011 Awards, and after opening remarks from the two sponsoring organizations, Heritage Ohio and Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area, the first award was given to Athens County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, and Executive Director Paige Alost explained the success of the 30-mile meal. The next award went to the Colony Theater in Marietta, which saw extensive renovations leading up to the awards, as explained by the theater’s Director of Development, Hunt Brawley.

colony theater
The Colony Theater, now called the People’s Bank Theater following extensive renovations

Other 2011 awardees and success stories were the Morgan County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, the Muskingum County Community Center, Appalachian Center for Entrepreneurs (ACEnet), the Little Cities of Black Diamonds, the Hocking Hills Tourism Association, the Arc of Appalachia Nature Preserve.

The town of Somerset, and Mayor Tom Johnson were honored for the efforts to preserve the many historic buildings in the former county seat for Perry County.

2010 Success Stories

Gwen and Jim Young (Perry County) — Lifetime Achievement Heritage Award

From the 1960s to the early years of the new century Jim and Gwen Young gave readily of their time and talents to improve the place where they live. Jim’s family farm sits on the terminal moraine where Ohio’s farmland meets hill country. In addition to experimenting with agricultural practices, Jim devoted much of his spare time to conservation efforts with the Rush Creek Conservancy District. Although highly knowledgeable and a good conversationalist, Jim was not one to be seen at most public affairs in Perry County. Jim’s wife Gwen, however, was the vibrant face of community improvement.

A native Texan with a heart and personality as big as her home state, Gwen Young came to her husband’s family farm in Somerset upon marriage, and she launched a teaching career with the Northern Local School District. She loved learning and wanted to teach others. Beyond the classroom, Gwen worked with the Perry County Historical Society and Perry County District Library, volunteering, promoting learning and serving as ambassador for these institutions. They had been struggling for their very existence before Gwen rallied citizens from around the county to these services. Upon retiring from teaching, Gwen was elected mayor of Somerset and led efforts to restore this early Ohio community, which was located along Zane’s Trace and was most notably home to Civil War General Phillip Sheridan.  Among her accomplishments were the purchase and restoration of one of Somerset’s early brick residence, which was converted into today’s Perry County History Museum. Gwen was a driving force in the early days for what has become a successful restoration of the historic Somerset Court House which once served as the County Courthouse until the county seat moved south to New Lexington. The restored building is believed to be the oldest standing courthouse in Ohio. In 1980, Gwen led a successful effort by the Perry County Historical Society to create a modern-day genealogical history of Perry County.

A science teacher, Gwen also loved nature and volunteered many hours at the nearby Dawes Arboretum, leading many programs for youth and the public.

Besides the many tangible accomplishments attributed to Gwen, the most difficult contributions to describe are her positive attitude and her ability to bring people of diverse communities and beliefs together for the common good.  In a county with more than a dozen distinct communities that often have trouble getting along, Gwen could be counted on to attend any event that was promoting a civic project, encouraging the organizers every step of the way.  Gwen was vigilant in developing assets and had no time for negativity.  In a county that is most notably divided by the geography of flatlanders to the north and hill folk to the south, Gwen transcended the resentments and bickering that often cripple Perry County, always looking for and supporting the good work of each community and person, regardless of stereotypes.

After nearly a decade break from life in Perry County volunteering as docents in national parks as they traveled the country in their camper, the Youngs returned home to Somerset in 2010. Gwen passed away in 2016. Jim joined her in 2020.

Martha Burton (Scioto County) — Lifetime Achievement Heritage Award

Martha Burton spent four decades as a passionate advocate for the arts and heritage in Ohio, especially in her beloved southern Ohio. Martha and her late husband Everett, were raised in Portsmouth and met in high school.  Martha first became involved in the arts in 1970, when she was involved in the founding of the Portsmouth Arts Council. She co-chaired the initial fundraising campaign to establish the Southern Ohio Museum, one of the state’s premier cultural institutions, and went on to serve on the board and as president of the Museum. Martha was involved in local historic preservation efforts as well, and was an early advocate for the Boneyfiddle Historic District, as well as individual landmarks in Portsmouth.

While her activities in Portsmouth alone would make her worthy of an award, she didn’t stop there.  She had an impact on the entire state. Martha was appointed to serve on the Ohio Arts Council by Gov. Voinovich in 1991 and was been an extremely active member. She has also served on the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board, which reviews all National Register nominations for the State of Ohio.

Martha became actively involved in the formation of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area as a member of the Ohio Arts Council. She attended dozens of early planning meetings and offered her sound advice, used her persuasive skills to encourage others to become involved, and did whatever she was asked to make sure that the program was established and would be successful when it was spun off from the Ohio Arts Council to become an independent nonprofit organization.

Martha relocated to Worthington in 2008. True to form, she became actively involved in the cultural life of her new home and served on the board of the newly-opened McConnell Arts Center. Martha passed away at age 89 in 2018.

Patricia Henahan (Fairfield County) — Arts in Heritage Award

Pat Henahan has a true love for Ohio’s Hill Country. Raised in a military family, Pat lived in a number of states before her family moved to Lancaster when she was in high school. She is a graduate of Ohio University with a degree in design. Following work in retail planning in the private sector, Pat found her calling when she joined the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) as a staff member in 1986.

Throughout her career, Pat has helped countless arts and heritage organizations to realize their potential. She served for many years as the Design Arts Coordinator and she was the person at the OAC who imagined the creation of a heritage area in Ohio’s Hill Country after attending a conference at Roscoe Village in the mid-1990s and becoming familiar with the work of others in the region. That included First Lady Francis Strickland’s early efforts to define the opportunities for heritage tourism and Dr. Lorle Porter’s early books about the rich history of the state’s Appalachian region. Pat convinced then director, Dr. Wayne Lawson, to put a line item in the OAC budget to undertake a new program.

In addition to her other responsibilities at OAC, Pat worked overtime to involve hundreds of individuals, dozens of organizations, and every state agency she could think of to be part of the conversation about how heritage and culture could become the foundation for economic development in the region.

Belpre Historical Society (Washington County) — Community Heritage Award

The Belpre Historical Society is one of the best examples in our region of an active community historical society that impacts the community in which it exists by collecting and sharing its important stories through a series of annual events. A variety of exhibits in their museum range from interpreting stories of this early Ohio River community before statehood to its role in the Underground Railroad. Sustained leadership from the organization’s leader, Nancy Sams, and many other long time members is a perfect reminder of the importance of having people in community organizations that are committed for the long haul.


2009 Success Stories

Buckeye Trail Association (19 OHCHA Counties) & the BTA Century Barn (Harrison County) — Community Heritage Award and Built Environment Heritage Award

Today, outdoor enthusiasts can follow blue blazes from Lake Erie to the Ohio River and back in a circuitous path that traverses Ohio’s glaciated and unglaciated plateaus, the glacial till plain and the Kentucky Bluegrass in southern Ohio. That capability is due to an extraordinary undertaking begun in 1959, and widespread volunteer agreements reached with property owners that enabled the construction of trails for hikers to experience all aspects of Ohio’s natural and cultural history. Hikers can pick up the trail at Mentor Headlands Beach on Lake Erie and explore regions of Ohio’s Connecticut Western Reserve or follow the Ohio-Erie Canal towpath through parts of Summit County. The trail takes hikers for walks along many of Ohio’s streams and through its finest natural areas.

In western Ohio, hikers can explore the Great Black Swamp, the Miami-Erie Canal and head south into Ohio River Country. The Trail takes visitors through state parks and wildlife areas, across farmlands and past Native American earthworks, pioneer heritage sites in a 1,444-mile odyssey. The Buckeye Trail Association even restored an old Ohio barn and converted it from generations of agricultural use to a meeting center and hostel for hikers in Harrison County.

The Buckeye Trail association has involved thousands of volunteers in its efforts over a 50-year period, and the result has served tens of thousands of hikers and visitors and introduced them to some of Ohio’s best places.

Joanne Hoover (Perry County) — Lifetime Achievement Heritage Award

After 27 years of teaching first grade at Thornville Elementary School, Joanne Hoover turned in her pencils and notebooks and took up presidency. Throughout her teaching years the single mother had little free time. “The minute” she retired, Hoover joined the Perry County Historical Society and helped the organization rise to success.

In 1952, then Joanne Sessum graduated from Somerset High School as the valedictorian. She planned to attend Ohio University the following fall to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher, like her mother. But dreams of dormitories and lecture classes were soon left behind. A full-time job at the local hardware store became reality. Hoover’s father was injured while working as an operator at Sunny Hill Coal Co. The money that would have paid Hoover’s way through Ohio University was instead used to support the family and to pay for hospital care. Hoover was the oldest of three children, so she was aware that there were other mouths to feed. “So I just started working,” she said.

When she was not working at the hardware store, Hoover passed time in Somerset taking photographs on her Brownie camera. “When I think about it now, this is what got me interested in history,” Hoover said. A few years later, a mutual friend introduced her to the man who would be her husband and with whom she would travel to the Florida Keys for a secretarial job at a naval base. During this time she visited Ernest Hemmingway’s home, which inspired Hoover to develop a more hands-on interest in history.

The family later returned to Somerset. Hoover decided it was finally time she realize her life-long goal of becoming a teacher. It was 1962 and Ohio was in the midst of a major teacher shortage. Hoover enrolled in the Ohio’s Teacher Cadet Program, a crash course to teaching. With just two years of training and no field experience, Hoover began teaching first grade in Thornville. Her daughter Gwendlyn, then having just completed first grade, taught Joanne the manuscript printing that she was required to teach her own students. “She was a very strict teacher,” Hoover said.

For 10 years following her initial Cadet training, Hoover traveled back and forth between Somerset and Ohio University and its regional campuses during summer and winter vacations to complete her degree. In the early 1960s, Hoover was divorced from her husband, so as a single parent, she put her daughter in summer school while she worked full-time and also completed her education. In 1965, Joanne met her husband-to-be Harry Hoover.  Coincidentally, Harry was a history teacher at Sheridan High School. In 1972, Hoover received her Bachelors degree in Education from Ohio University. She was 38 years old. “I spent just over 27 years at Thornville Elementary School,” Hoover said. “I loved every minute of it.”

In 1990, Hoover retired from teaching and joined the Perry County Historical Society to pursue another life-long love; history. Within two years of joining, Hoover worked her way up the ranks of the historical society to the role of president.

As president, Hoover’s most exciting event was when the Society discovered and purchased the Jacob Miller’s Tavern. Built in 1807, the tavern originally served pioneers of the region as what we would call today a bed and breakfast. Over the years, the building was sold and re-sold until it was eventually threatened with development. Perry County Historical Society members have ensured that the oldest log tavern in Ohio will be saved for future generations, “once we [got] it [the tavern] uncovered by removing the wood siding an exposing the hewn logs,” Hoover said.

Though she had many personal and professional achievements with the Perry County Historical Society, Hoover was most proud that the society still maintains its museum building in Somerset. When membership dwindled, the society thought it would fold and lose its building. Hoover helped to increase membership from three to 85 and raised funds so the society would not lose its meeting place. She constructed a fundraiser to sell decks of playing cards decorated with historical sites from the county. “I canvassed the whole county asking for $50 per card sponsor and we didn’t lose our building,” Hoover said. “That might be the contribution I’m most proud of.” Hoover said.

2008 Success Stories

Brad Bond (Athens and Washington Counties) — History and Environment Heritage Award

Brad Bond has made substantial contributions to the understanding and dissemination of Ohio’s early heritage. Brad researched and wrote the book, Grindstone Country, which tells the story of the quarrying and shaping of enormous grindstones from the sedimentary bedrock of Washington and Athens counties. The book details their shipment to factories, where many of the agricultural implements were being manufactured in the Midwest during the nation’s rise to world leadership in agricultural output. These grindstones were used to sharpen the newly manufactured plow blades, scythe and other steel implements and used throughout early industrial processes.

Brad Bond was the editor of Towpaths, the Ohio Canal Society’s quarterly newsletter, for more than a decade. While serving as editor, he also wrote numerous articles on the history of Ohio’s Canals and the many engineering wonders performed by the canal builders connecting Lake Erie and the Ohio River and linking Ohio’s heartland with markets in the east and south.

Brad Bond also served with the Ohio Coleopterists Society, a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to enhance understanding of and promote interest in beetles of Ohio. Brad also volunteered with data collection for the Bird Trail in Washington County and the Outdoor Education programs in the Marietta City School District, and has been a long time member and volunteer with the Marietta Area Recycling effort, which has been in continuous operation since 1976.

2006-2007 Success Stories

Gifford Doxsee  (Athens County) — Citizen Heritage Award

Gifford Doxsee was a founder and long-time member of the board of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum.  After his time on the board, Gifford continued to serve on various committees and as a representative of the Society to other organizations and government. He was an active contributor to the Glenford Dugan Athens County Military Museum in Nelsonville, where he shared his experiences as a prisoner of war in Dresden, Germany, during World War II. He also participated in state and national POW support organizations.

Gifford was a long time member of the Ohio University Ecology and Energy Conservation Committee and helped direct energy conservation on campus reaching back into the early 1970s. Gifford volunteered his services as a Rural Action board member and made generous financial contributions toward that organization’s goals of sustainable living. Gifford was also a strong supporter and active member of the Multi-Cultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill, Ohio. He also gave his time to work with inmates at the Chillicothe Correctional facility.  Like many of his generation, his is a hard act to follow. Gifford Doxsee passed away at the age of 93 in 2017.

Ripley Heritage, Inc. (Brown County) — Historic Preservation Heritage Award

Ripley Heritage, Inc. was established in 1975 in preparation for the U.S. Bicentennial. In 1976, this all-volunteer nonprofit became the management agent for the Ohio Historical Society to operate the historic Rankin House, a National Historic Landmark and an important stop on the Underground Railroad in southern Ohio. From 1825 to 1865 John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister and educator, sheltered and helped feed more than 2,000 slaves escaping to freedom with as many as a dozen escapees being hidden in the home at one time.

Ripley Heritage, Inc. also manages the Ripley Museum and all of its artifacts and has been a very visible part of the historic preservation efforts in Ripley, Ohio. They remain and inspirational group whose work with historic preservation and conservation is noted throughout the region and serves to benefit all Ohioans and American citizens. Ripley Heritage, Inc. is an example of a small group of citizens taking responsibility for protecting and promoting local heritage within their own community and for visitors from well beyond Ohio’s Hill Country.

Sorghum Festival — Dr. John Simon (Scioto County) — Education and Agricultural Heritage Award   

Sorghum making began on the John Simon farm in 1982 when Elbert Hackworth (who had been making it since 1915) taught him how to do it. The Sorghum Festival has continued for many years on John Simon’s fifth-generation family farm. Sorghum is 100% natural syrup made from the sorghum cane – nothing added – and it was the leading sweetener in America in the mid 1800s. Preservation of this part of the hill country heritage is supplemented with traditional Appalachian acoustical string music, crafts, pumpkin and squash picking, apple-butter making, wagon rides pulled by Percheron horses, basket weaving, quilts, kids games, and making of grapevine wreaths, traditional toys, furniture and soap.

Mr. Simon also offered field trips for school children at his farm. Much would be lost without inspired folks like John Simon and the people who participate in the Sorghum Festival.

Glass Refactory (Brown County) — Conservation and Business Heritage Award   

A nonprofit business joining together the old and the new – old-time skills and craftsmanship of glass work with the new-fashioned inspiration of business and individuals involved in environmental sustainability. Recycled glass bottles salvaged from the waste stream are hand-crafted into sun catchers, artistic pieces made and designed to specifications and used by groups and organizations to promote their efforts.

As a nonprofit business, both economically and environmentally responsible to their community, they serve four Appalachian counties in Ohio’s hill country. The Glass Refactory is part of a recycling program that provides both income and recycling opportunities to area residents. This is an inspiration for government and business leaders to support the establishment of more and varied sustainable and environmentally friendly business opportunities.

Highlands Nature Sanctuary (Highland County) — Natural Heritage Preservation Award

The Highlands Nature Sanctuary, organized in 1995, bought land in Ohio’s Hill Country in a solo attempt at nature preservation. Their mission is to buy and save a sizable fragment of the Eastern Deciduous Forest in one of the most populated places on the continent and, in a way that may serve as a model to inspire others. The Highlands Nature Sanctuary enlists the support of volunteers and donors to advance their mission to bring back old growth forest to Ohio, create a refuge of zoological diversity, and save the best of the remaining botanical treasures in south-central Ohio along the Arc of Appalachia.

With the inspiration of Larry and Nancy Henry, the Highlands Nature Sanctuary has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and purchased for long term protection the breathtakingly beautiful 7 Caves, a hundred-year-old historic park, and more than 40 other properties in and around the scenic Rocky Fork Gorge.  This monumental undertaking and history-making endeavor would not have been possible without the foresight and courage of extraordinary citizens like Larry and Nancy Henry and their cadre of supporters.

Portsmouth Murals, Inc. (Scioto County) — Arts and Education Heritage Award 

The Portsmouth floodwall murals, initiated in 1992 with the inspiration of local resident Dr. Louis Chaboudy and his wife Ava, is an impressive expression of the history and heritage of the people, the industry and the character of the city of Portsmouth and the surrounding region. A committee of volunteers has transformed the city’s floodwall into a beautiful outdoor gallery of 52 twenty-feet-high images that extend more than 2,000 feet along Front Street and the Ohio River.

Floodwall beautification is an ongoing endeavor of Portsmouth Murals, Inc. – a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization. Additional murals are in the works for another section of the floodwall. This enormous effort is supported by funds from public and private grants, fundraising events, and corporate and individual contributions.  The result is a heritage treasure that allows many to help and engenders pride throughout the community. The floodwall mural is a very visible reminder of our past and an inspiration to us all for the future.

American Electric Power (Morgan County) Miner’s Memorial Park & Big Muskie Coal Bucket — Historic Preservation & Education Heritage Award

Built in 1969, the “Big Muskie,” once the world’s largest earth moving machine, could move 39 million pounds of earth and rock every hour. In 1999 the Big Muskie was dismantled for scrap and high explosives were used to blow off its 5 inch thick cables. Fortunately, Muskie’s owner, American Electric Power, turned the remaining giant bucket into the centerpiece of en educational display informing visitors about Big Muskie, surface mining and reclamation, and to memorialize the men and women who helped mine and reclaim the land.

Today the bucket sits on a rise, overlooking the beautiful valley that it once mined and destroyed, which has been renamed “Re-creation Land.” The gigantic Big Muskie bucket is an important but very small part of an industry that had enormous impact on the lives of the people and the land of Ohio’s Hill Country.

Old Fort Steuben Project, Inc. (Jefferson County) — Historic Preservation & Education Heritage Award

Amid the smokestacks of modern steel mills, the traffic of semi-trucks and automobiles along State Route 7, and the flow of barges carrying raw materials up and down the Ohio River stands a gateway that will lead you back 200 years: Historic Fort Steuben, an 18th century fort reconstructed on its original site in what is now downtown Steubenville. Fort Steuben, named after George Washington’s great drillmaster, Baron von Steuben, was built in 1787 by the 1st American Regiment to protect government surveyor in the Ohio wilderness as they laid out the first seven ranges of the Northwest Territory.

Dubbed “The People’s Project” by one of its founders, Old Fort Steuben was initiated by and for the people of Steubenville. Their efforts at fundraising and construction, planning and advertising, and maintaining this unique site have given the community an educational attraction that welcomes hundreds of schoolchildren, senior citizens and visitors from far and wide. Old Fort Steuben stands as a tribute to the initiative and loyalty of concerned local citizens and as an example for other cities to follow.

Chester Shade Historical  Association (Meigs County) & Chester Courthouse — Historic Preservation Heritage Award

Built in 1823, the Chester Courthouse is Ohio’s oldest standing courthouse.   As the current home of the Appalachian Heritage Center, the Courthouse is a repository of local history, genealogy, folk lore and artifacts.  The Chester – Shade Historical Association, who oversaw the Courthouse’s restoration between 1995 and 2001 currently administers various educational, historical, period skills, cooking, crafts classes and programs at the courthouse.

The Courthouse, which offers a gift shop and rotating display is often the site for community activities, research programs, mock trials, and serves as a community meeting house.  This beautifully restored historic building is the work of many citizen volunteers who are very proud of their heritage and of this historic Ohio landmark’s presence in their community.  Their community’s effort stands as a symbol of the pride they take in being stewards of the legacy of Ohio’s pioneers.

Artisan Center at Maple Creek (Clermont County) — Arts and Historical Preservation Heritage Award

The Artisan Center at Maple Creek was established to provide traditional artists with a permanent location to display, promote and demonstrate their crafts and to provide clients with a beautiful, unique location where they can find traditional handcrafted work. With these thoughts for inspiration, the owners restored an historic log barn to create a large gallery to house the artisan center. It is the perfect place to meet artisans and watch them demonstrate their crafts and browse the gallery for one-of-a-kind gifts.

The Artisan Center offers classes in blacksmithing, broom and basket making, pottery, cabinetry, glasswork, textiles, woodworking and other skills.  The success of their efforts is a tribute to their entrepreneurial spirit and their recognition of heritage as a basis for the foundation of their business venture.

Dennison Depot Railroad Museum  (Tuscarawas County) — Historic Preservation Award

The Dennison Depot, built in 1873 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, stands as a proud symbol of Dennison’s vast railroad heritage. Purchased by the Village of Dennison in 1984, the depot has been restored by a grassroots volunteer group and was reopened in the memory of the many railroad employees, servicemen and women, and travelers who passed through its doors. Dennison’s location — exactly halfway between Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — made it the ideal location for a large railroad facility. Its rich history includes its vital role in the disbursement of troops during World War II. Train travelers enjoyed the coffee and food offered in a Salvation Army Servicemen’s Cantee, which earned it the nickname “Dreamsville, Ohio.”

The museum complex includes a restaurant and gift shop opened year around and continues to offer hospitality and welcome visitors after a nearly $1 million renovation. The work of volunteers and the importance of this structure to its community has preserved another part of Ohio’s Hill Country heritage for us all.

Hubert Wilhelm (Athens County) — Education Heritage Award

As a young post-war immigrant from Germany in the early 1950s, Hubert’s introduction to the American landscape inspired him to pursue a career as a professor of cultural geography. This pursuit brought him to the heart of Ohio’s Hill Country to teach settlement geography at Ohio University, where he sought to unravel the history of the American story by studying the characteristics of the built environment in the former wilderness of southeast Ohio.  The artifacts of buildings and land use helped him to unlock the mystery of its many and varied stories, which he enthusiastically imparted to many students throughout his career.

Dr. Wilhelm’s research and investigation of the various cultures from New England, Pennsylvania, the coastal plains, the post-Civil War south, and returnees from the West Coast whose cultural baggage became institutionalized as artifacts of Ohio’s landscape, inspired him to dub Ohio as “America’s Cultural Hearth.”  Hubert’s legacy is marked by his love of the ground truth and his enthusiasm in sharing it and inspiring or infecting others who carry on his work. Dr. Wilhelm passed away at the age of 84 in 2015.

The Greenfield Historical Society (Highland County) — Historic Preservation & Education Award

The Greenfield Historical Society, formed in 1949, is nonprofit that exists to further historical preservation and education in Greenfield, Ohio, and the surrounding area. The Greenfield Historical Society owns and manages

  • Travelers Rest, the first stone house built in Greenfield in 1812, which serves as a museum and the organization’s headquarters.
  • the B&O Railroad Depot, once an active transportation hub
  • the Samuel Smith Tannery, built in 1821, the oldest existing tannery in the state of Ohio and a stop on the Underground Railroad
  • Greenfield Hay and Grain, a building complex that played a major role in providing farm and hardware products to area residents for several decades
  • the Old Seceders Presbyterian Church, which once served as an early two-room schoolhouse.

The Greenfield Historical Society has long recognized its rich heritage and has made a substantial effort to collect, preserve and interpret archival materials and artifacts indigenous to Greenfield region. They have encouraged historical research, sponsored historical programs, displays and special events, and have cooperated on the preservation of historic buildings. The Greenfield Historical Society stands as a premier example of what can be done by caring citizens and their results are an indication of the rich history that makes up the many communities throughout Ohio’s Hill Country.

The Daily Grind Café ( Tuscarawas County) — Business Heritage Award

The Daily Grind Café is a comfortable, upscale, urban-feeling coffee shop in the quaint downtown area of New Philadelphia across from the Quaker discount movie theater. Located in an historic Italianate structure featuring window hoods with keystones and brick cornices built in 1880, formerly was a bakery. The atmosphere inside includes an old fashioned lunch counter, an antique deli display, and comfortable seating from couch to kitchen table to café booths. The Daily Grind Café is a popular meeting and eating place and its owners have contributed to the renovation of old buildings and the revitalization of a small town’s main street.

The owners of the Daily Grind Café are so dedicated to the redevelopment of the downtown that they moved in above their business, as was traditional in times past. It is an example of a local business recognizing the benefits of a community’s heritage as an asset and a strength in the development of a new enterprise. Inspired by local efforts such as those demonstrated by the Daily Grind Café, the Heritage Homes Association of Tuscarawas County applied for a historical designation for downtown New Philadelphia.

Morgan’s Raid Reenactment (Meigs & Vinton Counties) and Reenactors Darrell Markijohn, Bob Vance & Ed Sharp — Arts & Education Heritage Award

The return of Morgan’s Raid Reenactment in 2006 was made possible by the tremendous efforts and contributions of many local citizen volunteers and organizations, businesses, and landowners. The Morgan’s Raid effort included 350 to 400 Calvary and infantry reenactors from nearly 30 states, and from as far away as California. The event also included the participation of more than 200 horses. This enormous endeavor required support from landowners and local people who helped feed and house both the participants and their livestock. The Buffington Island Battlefield  in Meigs County is the site of the only Civil War battle in the state of Ohio. In addition to the recreation of the historic battle, the reenactors performed educational activities, set up a Civil War campsite and conducted a Civil War era ball.

However, there would be no reenactment without the enthusiastic participation, leadership and organizational efforts of Darrel Markijohn, who represented Colonel John Hunt Morgan, and reenactors Bob Vance and Ed Sharp.  The interest and commitment of these individuals and other reenactors in bringing to life the events of this historic period, attended by exceptional levels of authenticity in period garb, weapons and all other civil war artifacts employed, resulted in an historic phenomenon of great educational and economic opportunity for the region.

2005 Success Stories

Robert McInturf (Morgan County) — Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

For approximately 20 years, Robert McInturf served as president of the Morgan County Historical Society and Museum in McConnelsville, Ohio. The society started when Mrs. Evelyn True Button (1875-1975), great granddaughter of General Robert McConnel, bequeathed her 1836 Federal Home to the society to become a house museum. Donations of artifacts, either too large or inappropriate for display in the house led Robert to realize the need for a museum.  He oversaw fund raising approximately $400,000 and the purchase of a large, turn-of-the-century, two-story Dover Store Building. The dream was realized due to Robert’s efforts in 2001 with the grand opening of the Morgan County Historical Society Museum — one of the finest museum facilities in the State of Ohio.

In addition, Robert is responsible for moving and preserving the 1877 one room Rock Hollow School to Malta.  The historic school building, originally located on a country road, was subject to vandalism with no neighbors in sight.  Thanks to Robert, the old school remains an important part of the Morgan County’s heritage and our regional history. He passed away at age 90 in 2006.

Dr. Robert “Doc” Richmond (Morgan County) — Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

Dr. Robert N. Richmond came to Morgan County as the new veterinarian  in 1961, and soon got involved in the Morgan County Historical Society. The society’s small nucleus of interested people led to the opening of the original Now & Then Shop, the Button House, and the Historical Society Museum and several other buildings. Robert was president and served on the Board of Trustees. One major project was moving the Rock Hollow one-room schoolhouse from its country location to a new location in Malta. In 1988, the Civil War Encampment Days was started and became a part of the Historical Society for a few years before it was taken over by the Morgan County Reenactors Association, Inc., with Dr. Richmond as president. This has been a continuous three-day weekend event in Malta and McConnelsville since that time, with emphasis on education as well as tourism.

Dr. Richmond also was very active in the Opera House Theater in McConnelsville, which has been in continuous operation since 1890. For several years, he was president of the Board of Trustees and instrumental in improving the inside of the theater, opening up the original orchestra pit with new railings and making a handicap-accessible ramp. In addition to the weekly movie four times a week, there has been an effort to provide all kinds of entertainment, from blue grass to dance recitals and professional musicians. This “Gem of Morgan County” (as he called it) draws people from all over the area. In addition, Dr. Richmond was president of the Kate Love Simpson/Morgan County Library Board, a member of the Airport Authority for Morgan County Airport, the Malta-McConnelsville Rotary Club, the Chamber of Commerce, and an active member of his church. He passed way in 2021 at the age of 91.

Stephanie Rouse (Monroe County) — Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

Stephanie initiated the idea of the Patchwork Jewels of Monroe County in March 2004 after learning about the quilt barn project in Adams County. Stephanie identified partners, coordinated the effort, leveraged funding, and formed a committee with representatives from the Monroe Arts Council, Monroe County Historical Society, four area quilt shop owners/quilters and the Monroe County Tourism director who saw the project to its completion with the production of a beautiful brochure highlighting the quilt barn project.

Most quilt patterns were chosen to relate to the history of Monroe County and to showcase Appalachian heritage.  The painter for the project was Scott Hagan who painted all of the Ohio Bicentennial Barns.  The quilt squares were painted directly on wooden barns and range in size from eight to fourteen feet.

The main objective of the project was to bring people into the county, and now thanks to Stephanie and her vision for her community, anyone who can ride in a vehicle can enjoy the project but they also visit other focal points, eat, shop and some even stay over night.  This has an impact on Monroe County’s economy.

Dr. Richard Wetzel (Morgan County) — Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

Besides being a busy and distinguished professor of music at Ohio University, Dr. Wetzel has been the mayor of Chesterhill since 1983. He also has been quite busy as an active citizen in his community for many years. He was instrumental in the creation of a community park on land where an old school building once stood. It was a hands-on community effort with many volunteers.

In a joint effort between the village and township, he organized a restoration committee for the Union Hall Theater building, which was built in 1908 and been unused and in disrepair for many years. The beautifully constructed building was restored step-by-step, and heating and air conditioning were added thanks to a grant. What was once an idle, second-floor theater is now a very active part of the community of Chesterhill and surrounding township, being used to show films for children, to accommodate library functions and theatrical events.

Because of his leadership and hands-on efforts to move walls and dirt, the community library which is house on the first floor was expanded to become one of the busiest libraries in the area. Dr. Wetzel also serves on the board of the nonprofit Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill. He is truly an inspiration in his community and often the spark that gets things going in a positive direction.

Delmar Burkitt (Pike Count) — Life-Long Achievement Heritage Award

Delmar was born in his grandmother’s house in rural Pike County, Ohio, where he remained a life-long resident.  His career in education was mostly with the Waverly City Schools where he served as teacher, principal, elementary supervisor, assistant superintendent, substitute bus driver, treasurer and Drama Club Advisor.  He directed eleven productions with the Drama Club, two of which he authored, and since retiring, has written even more for them.

To honor Ohio’s bicentennial, Delmar wrote, directed and produced “The Waverly Trilogy,” which was staged at Pike Heritage Foundation, Inc. (Museum) for the historical and financial benefit of the museum. The cast and crew presented 22 performances, 21 of which were sold out. Everyone connected with this endeavor was a volunteer, with approximately 60,000 hours volunteered by community members throughout Pike County. The museum realized a financial gain of $19,788. This activity also brought many new people to the museum to learn the history and heritage of Pike County. Delmar always brings out the best qualities of the people with whom he is associated.

Lora Lynn Snow (Gallia County) — Arts and Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

In February 1987, Lora Lynn Snow dreamed of forming a professional orchestra in Gallia County and basing its performances in the Ariel Theater in Gallipolis, Ohio. She spearheaded the restoration of the historic opera house, which had been abandoned, and was the moving force behind the creation of the Ohio Valley Symphony. She later expanded her efforts to helping establish the After School String Project, the Ohio Valley Youth Orchestra, the Ariel Dancers and the Ariel Players. In recent times, she has worked tirelessly to have the entire building, which housed the Theatre, purchased by Ann Carson Dater, formerly a resident of Meigs County. This purchase opens up unprecedented opportunities for the performing arts in Ohio’s Hill Country. Lora Snow has been a catalyst for the continuing evolvement of the Ariel Ann Dater Performing Arts Centre.

Christine Far/Village Productions (Athens County) — Arts and Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

Christine Far was trained in dance and has had the opportunity to perform in New York, Paris and beyond.  However, Christine chose to devote her talents to people right here in Ohio’s Hill Country. Christine has helped local citizens earn starring roles in numerous dance productions and recitals. Christine worked with boys and girls, moms and dads, preschoolers, teenagers, their parents and others, helping them discover their own hidden talents.

Village Productions, centered in the old Grange Hall in Amesville, Ohio, has been the setting for many of these fine performances. Village Production has had to depend on the creative talents and the volunteer support of local community members and has staged professional quality performances of the Nutcracker during the holidays and has had her troupe perform on stage at the Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville.

Hocking Valley Scenic Railway (Athens County) — Built Environment Heritage Award

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway (HVSRy) was established in 1972 at Nelsonville, following abandonment of a section of rail, then known as the Hocking Division, by the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad. The rail line between Nelsonville and Columbus was originally built in 1869, and went through several ownerships and name changes before its acquisition by the C&O, when it was named the Hocking Valley Railroad. The rail yard at Nelsonville was 32 tracks wide and was, at one time, one of the busiest in the country, serving the more than 50 coal mines operating in the area, as well as salt mines and the thriving brick-making industry.

The Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is a 501C-3, all volunteer, nonprofit organization. It now operates on 12 miles of track extending from Hocking College to near Logan. From May through December, trains run twice each day, Saturday and Sunday, for the enjoyment of the general public. Volunteers run the trains, are responsible for maintenance and restoration of the vintage equipment and also maintain the track and structures. Most of the very active members are retirees, sometimes referred to as the “Geezer Gang.” The Scenic Railway has transported in excess of 20,000 visitors annually and has been ranked #1 by both the Athens County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Hocking County Tourism Bureau in website inquiries.

In 1999, with the assistance of a grant from the State of Ohio, the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway erected a new, three-track engine house. Diesel engines in the HVSRy stable include a WWII Whitcomb engine believed to have seen service in Italy. It was a restoration project that presented many challenges. 

Toronto Beautification Committee (Jefferson County) — Built Environment Heritage Award

Since its formation in 1984, the Toronto Beautification Committee (TBC) has served the city of Toronto, Ohio, population 6,000. An all-volunteer organization, this committee has developed 12 city-owned parcels of weed-infested land into parks, green spaces and pedestrian-oriented pockets of pride, from one end of the city to the other. Both entrances to town are graced with beautiful “Welcome to Toronto” signs, and each city site has a captain who is responsible for organizing their own volunteers for maintenance, seasonal decorating and general appearance. Funds for site improvements and maintenance are raised through annual corporate sponsorships.  Although the committees’ city budget allocation has been eliminated, the group of more than 20 volunteers has continued to renew their commitment and sought alternative funding through geranium and planter sales, private donations and grant money.

In 2004, TBC restored a 1919 WWI Beaux Arts style statue and worked to have it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. They went on to completely renovate the Veterans Victory Pavilion, honoring all who have served our country. The park and pavilion offer visitors a place to rest and serve as a gathering place for civic, patriotic and celebration events. No city funding was sought or used. In July 2005, the committee launched Operation Sparkle, a program to keep the community clean. Volunteers and volunteer organizations are assigned specific areas of the community and are responsible for keeping them free of litter.

This committee has become a model for communities all over Jefferson County; ordinary citizens are taking responsibility for the appearance, spirit and future of the community where they live.

Stuart’s Opera House (Athens County) — Built Environment and Arts Heritage Award

Stuart’s Opera House is the cornerstone of the Nelsonville Historic Art District. It is a lovingly restored theatre that reflects its glory days in 1879 through 1924, when it was home to vaudeville, melodrama, and minstrel shows.  Stuart’s closed and sat empty from 1924 through 1976. In 1977, a group formed a nonprofit and started bringing the theatre back to life, but a devastating fire nearly destroyed the building in 1980. Seventeen years later, in 1997, the opera house re-opened its doors and is once again home to local, regional, national and internationally acclaimed performances. Stuart’s Opera House now hosts over 75 events a year and is Southeastern Ohio’s favorite place to experience live performance.

Big Chimney Baking Company (Athens County) — Built Environment and Business Heritage Award

In 1996, Matt Rapposelli and his wife Robbin Dewey established Big Chimney Baking Company in Canaanville where the abandoned Canaan Coal Company property had been split up between various owners. They were able to acquire the properties one by one with the vision of preserving many of the old buildings and giving them a new and useful life.

The property consisted of the old company store, the shower and locker house, the payroll office, water tanks, and the five-acre dammed water reservoir that supplied water for the steam-powered mine operation, and of course, the old chimney which still stood but was doomed for demolitions because of its deteriorating condition. It is their hope that some day  a replica of the old chimney will be built on the same location to commemorate its existence and to help tell the story of the Canaanville Coal Company Town. Matt and Robin have collected many historical photographs of the mine in operation and recorded some oral histories from several of its former employees and their family members.

The retail bakery (closed in 2006), café and catering operation supply bread and pastries to the community surrounding Athens and specialty foods for large and small gatherings. When open, they operated with just a few employees, some of whom were interns from local high schools and Hocking College. Their effort to secure and preserve the old company property as a historical site and give it a new life took a lot of hard work but was also an act of love, creating a sense-of-place enjoyed by their growing clientele, and connecting them to a grateful Canaanville community.

Clermont County Park District (Clermont County) — Built Environment Heritage Award/Historic Preservation

After a yearlong renovation process, the Clermont County Park District restored the historic powerhouse at the Chilo Lock and Dam #34 on the Ohio River in Chilo. The restored powerhouse houses a visitor center and museum. The exhibits and displays found throughout the visitor center illustrate the theme “Living and Working with the Ohio River.”

The Park District pursued several grants in order to make this park a reality. This wicket dam was completed in 1925 and actually operated until 1964. The powerhouse and accompanying houses had not been used for many years. The Park District had first established a 39-acre park and nature preserve with a wonderful view of the river on the grounds surrounding the abandoned buildings.

Greater Milford Area Historical Society (Clermont County) — Built Environment Heritage Award/Historic Preservation

The Greater Milford Area Historical Society, Inc. owns and operates the historic Victorian Italianate Promont House Museum. The house was built in 1865-67 and was occupied by John M. Pattison, the 43rd Governor of the State of Ohio, and his family. Pattison was the only person from Clermont County ever to serve as Governor. The Promont House is listed on the National Historic Registry and has been restored to the splendor of the Victorian life style. 

Haydenville Historic Preservation Committee, Inc. (Hocking County) — Community Heritage Award

The Haydenville Preservation Committee is a small group of volunteers that began meeting May 1994 to preserve the memories of the town of Haydenville, and to instill a pride in the rundown community. The Haydenville Preservation Committee became incorporated in 1997, continuing the original goals of preserving the history and heritage, plus encouraging pride in the town that was the “Last Company Owned Town in Ohio.” In 1997, the committee obtained a dilapidated company house to use to benefit the Haydenville community. This house was donated to the group by the late Quentin and Linda Cadd. It was decided that memoirs, photos, written history, samples of some of the brick, block and tiles, and copies of old newspaper articles could be shared with the public in a Museum/Community Center.

The 1995 Historic Haydenville Calendar was developed to help raise funds for the organization. Old photos have been donated from as far away as Florida and the state of Washington to add to the collection owned by the Preservation Committee.  This illustrates that many past residents still love Haydenville.

Beginning in the spring of 1995, Committee members started clearing brush, cleaning up illegally dumped trash, and mowing the overgrown and forgotten Haydenville Canal Lock (#17) and planting trees nearby. Years of hard work and determination created a unique Community Park. All mowing is done by committee volunteers. Picnic tables, grills and trash receptacles have been provided by the Committee for the enjoyment of all visitors. The group also sponsors community gatherings, youth activities, recycling drives, and provides 10 trash receptacles throughout town and pays for weekly trash pick-up. They are always looking for good community projects.

From 1999 through 2004 the Haydenville Preservation Committee welcomed the Annual Haydenville Chautauqua.

The Haydenville Preservation Committee is a small group of regular members who continue to raise funds to complete the Museum, pay utilities and monthly trash pick-up throughout town, provide youth activities and promote projects to improve the community.

Monroe County Office of Economic Development (Monroe County) — Community Heritage Award

The Monroe County Office of Economic Development, with the inspirational guidance of Stephanie Rouse and her committee, commissioned Scott Hagan in 2004 to paint quilt squares on 20 county barns now known as “Patchwork Jewels of Monroe County.”  The barns are part of a self-driving tour throughout the county that bring people into the county to enjoy the beautiful quilt murals and visit other focal points, eat, shop and stay over night.  This has and will continue to have an impact on Monroe County’s economy and was the whole reason behind this project. The beautiful corresponding brochure includes a map and directions to all the barns as well as the name of the quilt square and a list of other points of interest in Monroe County such as historical markers, recreational areas and covered bridges

The project was made possible through various public and private sponsors including the Monroe County Economic Development office, the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, the Ohio Arts Council, Buckeye Hills-Hocking Valley Regional Development District, along with 20 other individuals, corporations and businesses.

The Multicultural Genealogical Center (Morgan County) — Community Heritage Award

The Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill, Ohio, is a nonprofit organization created to document the contributions of multicultural and multiracial families to the social, cultural, political, religious, educational and economic development of the Ohio River Valley.  The Center collects written and electronic records that document the lives, histories, and genealogies of families in the region whose ancestries cross racial and cultural boundaries.  It also educates members, visitors and the public about the lives, roles and contributions of those families and traditions to American society through community and educational programs.

Working cooperatively with organizations, universities, agencies and libraries, the center members gather, share and preserve information and historic documents pertinent to the region. In addition, the Multicultural Genealogical Center purchased and restored an 1860s house in Chesterhill to be used as a meeting place, a place to archive documents and establish a library and research center.

A FOREST RETURNS Ora Anderson, Jean Andrews & Steve Fetsch (Athens County) — Education Heritage Award

The film A Forest Returns, created by producer / director Jean Andrews and fellow producer / film editor Steve Fetsch, is a superb portrayal of environmental change in Southeastern Ohio that uses a masterful combination of techniques — including first-person interview footage carefully linked with rare photographic images from the Ohio Hill Country past, and comparative views of the “same” landscapes today. Skillfully blending Ora Anderson’s eyewitness account with historical material and contemporary scenes, producer Jean Andrews has captured an important slice of Ohio’s New Deal experience.

Jean Andrews won “Best Documentary” at the Second Appalachian Film Festival in Huntington in June 2005 for her MA thesis film. Jean also won The Best of Festival Selection (Student Film Maker Category) at the Berkley International Film and Video Festival, October 2005. The 29-minute film uses local newspaper editor/reporter Ora Anderson to recount the tale of the CCC coming to southern Ohio in the 1930s to create a forest where denuded land stood. It shows the desolation caused by a century of clear-cutting and strip mining and the current beautiful woods. A Forest Returns supports this insight by telling this little told story using Ora Anderson’s lovely narrative and an impressive array of visual documentation.

This video is about the Wayne National Forest, the only national forest in Ohio. Its story is told by 93-year-old Ora Anderson, former newspaperman, lobbyist, conservationist, and bird carver, who was involved in the project, as a newspaperman and citizen, from its inception. His words are accompanied by imaginative video work, wonderful archive photographs, and soothing original music lyrics by Bruce Dalzell. It is a wonderful tribute to one of the great programs of the much maligned New Deal era. It also allows the remarkably articulate Ora Anderson, who personally planted 30,000 trees, to shine as a storyteller.

A FOREST RETURNS — Bruce Dalzell (Athens County) — Education and Arts (Music) Heritage Award

Bruce Dalzell wrote and performed all of the original music for the documentary A Forest Returns. He also has been instrumental in the development, support and encouragement of local musical talent for decades in Southeastern Ohio. A singer, songwriter, solo performer, and member of a band, Bruce has long been a part of the establishment of the regional music scene. Bruce helped develop a CD for Passion Works from ATCO Sheltered Workshop. They use it as a fund raiser and to help raise awareness about the many and varied talents of citizens challenged with mental disabilities.

Bruce is also a piano tuner who has been instrumental in the salvage, relocation and reuse of many old keyboards, keeping these priceless pieces of our music heritage in operation and out of the dump. Bruce has hosted many open stage programs over the decades and has helped give many individuals the opportunity and the encouragement to perform and discover their own talents. In doing so, he has played an important part in the development of a regional heritage of music and musicians.

International Paper Foundation (Clermont County) — Natural Environment Heritage Award

David Martin at the Loveland Regional office of International Paper has worked with the GMAHS to help preserve the historic trees here at the Promont House Museum. Ten very large old trees were measured and evaluated by arborists and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. With the help of David and International Paper, work was done on the trees to try to keep them healthy and happy for many more years.

The IP Foundation has a special interest in educating children. Their goal was to help create a site map with the location of the trees indicated and information about each tree that can be given to visitors, including the Milford School District second graders who visit the Promont House as part of their history curriculum.

Lois Campbell (Jackson County) — Service to Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area Award

There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes clerical and support assistance necessary for the operations of any organization. This has been important for OHCHA, which depends on volunteer leadership, organizational support, and direct and indirect financial assistance. OSU South Centers Office Associate Lois Campbell provided such service to OHCHA through her work as a support person for Extension Specialist (and OHCHA Chair) Deanna Tribe. Lois used creative formatting, organizational and clerical skills in preparing professional fliers, brochures, booklets, mailings and other materials that inform the membership and public. One of her heritage-related projects was the layout and formatting of the “Ohio Appalachia Activity Book.”

A resident of Oak Hill in Jackson County, Lois left her job with OSU Extension to spend more time with her family, husband Ty, and her quilting hobby.

2004 Success Stories

Ida Mae Stoneburner (Athens County) — Life-Long Achievement Heritage Award

After retiring from 20 years in the Food Service at Ohio University, Ida Mae Stoneburner jumped into community service. Starting up a Book Exchange Service on her front porch led to a Sewing Club in her home making and selling items to help the town of Glouster pay some of its expenses. Ida Mae helped found the Glouster Project, making chicken doorstops out of old material and local paver bricks. The group’s logo was the Little Red Hen and the group’s motto was, “If no one else will help the town, then we will do it ourselves.” The Glouster Project, a group of mostly senior women, surveyed businesses and residents in an effort to make a better community.

They recycled old clothing into quilts sold to help pay local utility bills. The group acquired the old Glouster Train Depot for their headquarters. They saved and restored the depot and began cleaning and sprucing up the town, washing store fronts, windows and sidewalks. The Depot became the center for quarterly recycling collection drives and clean-up activities including a trash collection from Sunday Creek that yielded fifty shopping carts and more than 300 tires!

The Glouster Project fed all volunteers participating in local service projects. Under Ida Mae’s leadership the Glouster Project held luncheons, dinners, ice cream socials, flea markets, and the sales of numerous items made from salvaged materials such as rag rugs, quilts, doorstops and stools helped raise money for community projects.  The Glouster Project donated more than $100,000 to the local community through landscaping projects, paving of parking lots, restoring Village Council meeting rooms, making drapes, painting, planting flowers and helping to build the first Korea-Vietnam Memorial in Southeastern Ohio. Ida Mae and The Glouster Project repaired and restored the old town clock that stood decaying on the town’s main thoroughfare for more than 40 years. When the Verdon Clock Company in Cincinnati couldn’t restore the clock Ida Mae found local citizens to redo the entire artifact and found a local recycler who used an old Maytag washing machine timer to get it ticking again.  she says “Recycling makes a cleaner and better community.”  Heritage is developed and preserved in many little ways.

Ida Mae Stoneburner, a lifelong resident of Glouster, passed away in 2009 at the age of 96.

Emmett Conway (Ross County) — Life-Long Achievement Heritage Award

Known by many from his website  as “The Olde Forester,” Emmett Conway spent a lifetime researching and tramping the hills and fields of Ohio’s Hill Country, seeking out its vast treasures. Emmett made extraordinary effort to share this wealth of history and heritage with anyone who would take the time to listen to him. From the underlying geology and the vegetation covering it, to the early traces on its surface made by buffalo and elk and native peoples; from the mound builders to the first economic endeavors by pioneers in the fur and salt trades; the iron furnaces, stagecoach roads, canals and railroads; it has all been grist for Emmett’s mill.

It was all poetry to Emmett, who was known to put it in verse. He was educated at a school in Michigan, but he put his knowledge to work for the good of Ohio, especially Ohio’s Hill Country. Emmett was the first Park Ranger in Ohio’s first State Park at Lake Hope. He taught natural history, Ohio history, and geography to many, sometimes on a payroll but most often as a volunteer who just couldn’t keep it to himself. His love and enthusiasm for a wide spectrum of Ohio’s rich heritage was contagious. His legacy grows through his countless students of Ohio’s heritage who have caught the bug and continue his pursuits every day.

Emmett Conway passed away in 2009 at the age of 95.

John Ray (Athens County) — Life-Long Achievement Heritage Award

Probably the most familiar voice in Ohio’s Hill Country and one of three most distinctive voices in radio for many in our region after Wolfman Jack and Paul Harvey, John Ray has been a part of the area’s culture and heritage for more than forty years. In addition to being a consumer ombudsman, a news reporter, a correspondent, and an ever-faithful advocate of public radio and television, he has interviewed thousands of local, regional, state and national individuals and representatives of programs and organizations helping them get their stories to the public. John was involved with Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area since its inception. He was an unwavering ambassador for Appalachian Ohio and helped bring a better understanding of the culture through a decade of guest speakers at the Ohio Appalachian conferences through his “Afternoon Edition” program on WOUB.

John is one-of-a-kind, a hard act to follow, and an man who is at the top of his game; a master of his craft, a class act, an institution; a fine and humble human being; and a gentleman in every respect of the word. His contributions to his community and beyond are many, and he received many honors acknowledging that work.  Through his professional work and his personal commitment and sacrifice, John helped make southeastern Ohio better than he found it. He is part of the fabric and heritage of his community, the region, and of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area. John himself is a heritage resource.

John Ray retired from a nearly 40-year radio career with WOUB, Ohio University Public Radio, where he served as senior radio producer; its radio production studios have been named in John’s honor.

Carol Kuhre (Athens County) — Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

It was a privilege to have Carol Kuhre join in the creation of Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area. She brought great energy throughout the almost three-year process. Carol describes that time as “the best bottom-up process” she had ever experienced, an effort that moved meetings around the region and involved ordinary citizens, honored local knowledge and provided a mechanism for people in their communities to become involved.

As Executive Director of Rural Action since its creation, Carol was able to apply the principles of sustainability locally. Sustainable development begins with a deep knowledge of our home place. The environmental and cultural heritage of the region form the asset base for all other development efforts. So often our society, through its economic development efforts, destroys that bio-cultural base and therefore its “development” is unsustainable.  Rural Action’s commitment is to engage citizens in knowing, preserving and developing sustainability, its environmental and cultural assets. To be engaged in that process with so many people has been a joy.

One of Carol’s major accomplishments at Rural Action was the development of the mural corridor that includes twelve murals and spans five counties. Carol had a commitment to involving the arts and heritage of the region in all of Rural Action’s projects resulting in the creation of “Fine Times at Our House” traditional music CD, the video “Lights in the Darkness” about teen depression and suicide prevention, oral history collections, and participation in the Countdown to the Millennium project and “This Time Around” radio series. To be engaged in all of this with so many people has been a joy. Carol is retired but remains involved in peace and justice issues both here and abroad.

Douglas Cannon (Perry County) — Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award

Douglas Cannon was mayor of Crooksville in northern Perry County from 1994 to 2005. He was a retired history teacher and long-time school board member in the Crooksville area. Doug implemented a diverse, long-running revitalization effort in Crooksville by spearheading a local history group, a village tree commission, the Moxahala River Watershed Committee and several other local groups made up of local people working to spur sustainable economic development and to improve the quality of life for the people of Crooksville.

These groups have grown the thriving annual Potter Festival and other community events and programs. The history group has collected, documented and shared local history and established a museum and community center in an old school building to showcase local history. The Tree Commission has planted trees and transformed an abandoned truck storage area into a downtown pocket park with trees, flowers and a fountain. The Moxahala Watershed group has planted trees, cleaned up litter, held recycling collection events and provided education and awareness to local residents about living in the watershed. Under Doug’s leadership, Crooksville became a Tree City USA community and nicer place to live and work.

Douglas passed away in 2005.

Henry Burke (Washington County) — Citizen Heritage Award

A resident of Washington County for more than 60 years, Henry Burke was a leader in raising awareness about local and Ohio history, not the least of which have been his efforts regarding Ohio’s heritage relative to the Underground Railroad in the 19th century.  Henry did considerable research into this rich but largely undocumented and uncelebrated story of the Underground Railroad and the families and people associated with probably the most notable aspect of our American heritage.

Henry authored a number of books, most notably The Escape of Jane, the story of one woman’s experience with slavery and her dramatic flight to freedom. Henry was a foremost authority and spokesperson for this often-neglected part of our local history. Henry was a history lecturer and wrote a newspaper column on local history and the Underground Railroad. He served on the Underground Railroad and Civil War Advisory Council and was the South East Coordinator of the Underground Railroad Association. Henry strove to share his interest and enthusiasm for our heritage with others.  And, very importantly, Henry was an advocate for the preservation of historic sites and structures that held so much meaning in our past and which offer so much wealth to our future. He helped to get historic markers placed and helped to lend a sense of importance and significance to several otherwise unknown parts of our past.

Henry died at the age of 72 in 2012.

Thomas and Charlotte Bell (Harrison County) — Citizen Heritage Award

For many years, Charlotte and Tom were involved in the revitalization of a small town known as Deersville, Ohio, in Harrison County. Over time, they purchased numerous houses that were “sad old buildings” ready to bulldoze, and they transformed them in to showpiece restorations, doing most of the hands-on work themselves. One home received an Honorable Mention by Good Housekeeping for Home Restoration in the year 2000. The restored houses are available for rent overnight and weekend guests.

The Bells’ enthusiasm was encouragement for others to purchase and restore other abandoned houses that have since become local businesses. They restored the Union Hotel building which is the last remaining hotel in Deersville and was a thriving center for commerce and trade in the 1800s. They were instrumental in exciting others to recognize the value of preserving and protecting the architectural heritage in the beautiful but threatened little towns in Ohio’s Hill Country Heritage Area.

Their guiding efforts and enthusiasm was instrumental in Deersville becoming an Official Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places. The Bells were also instrumental in organizing the Deersville Improvement and Historic Preservation Society, which maintains a thriving theater that attracts patrons from many miles around. They also helped obtain a Bicentennial Historic Marker commemorating two local area citizens, and played a significant part in establishing an Annual Founders Day Festival to celebrate the agricultural and small business heritage or the area. It would be a mistake to underestimate the influence the Bells have had on preserving homes and other architectural treasures and the spirit of Deersville. Several other home owners have restored houses based on the fact that Deersville is “coming back.”  The Bells have played a big part in keeping this beautiful little town economically alive while preserving its sense-of-place.  The Bells have indeed made history in Deersville, Ohio.

Tom passed away in 2010 and Charlotte died in 2020.

Cave Lake Center for Community Leadership (Pike County) — Education Heritage Award

Building on more than 135 years of successful youth leadership programs, the Ohio-West Virginia YMCA is creating a nationally significant Center for Community Leadership at Cave Lake near Latham in Pike County, Ohio. Cave Lake’s 700 acres include forests, limestone cliffs, wetlands, caves, a 42-acre lake and more than 150 species of birds, 160 species of trees and shrubs, and 360 species of blooming plants.  The cave is environmentally very important as it houses three species of bats, the Sullivantia sullivantii plant and the Frost Cave Isopod, a rare crustacean.

The Ohio-West Virginia YMCA’s Hi-Y, Youth in Government, Model United Nations and Camp Horseshoe programs was significantly expanded and new initiatives were added at Cave Lake, focused on stewardship of our natural and human made environments, civic leadership, the arts, entrepreneurship and community building with a goal of strengthening the base of civic leadership for our communities, states and nation.

Harrison County Coal and Reclamation Historical Park (Harrison County) — Community Heritage Award

The Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park, an Ohio coal and surface mining museum project was founded in 1992. The purpose of the organization was to form a heritage and preservation organization with a major goal of preserving Ohio’s surface mining heritage and acquire The Silver Spade, a 105 cubic-yard Bucyrus-Erie 1950-B stripping when retired from service.

The organization has acquired many pieces of surface mining related machinery since 1994.  The organization’s machinery was relocated to a location along Ohio 519, between New Athens, Ohio, and U.S. Route 22. They acquired a Marion 111-M crawler dragline and early 1950s Marion 7200 walking dragline located in southwestern Carroll County. The Marion 7200 was relocated to the new Harrison Coal and Reclamation Historical Park grounds for preservation and future restoration. The short and long-range goals of the organization are to restore some of its machinery; increase interest in surface mining heritage preservation, membership, volunteer interest; generate more funds for its mission and carrying on with its mission to acquire The Silver Spade when retired from service.  The organization has an international membership.

Karen’s Kitchen (Perry County) — Business Heritage Award

For many years, Karen Hill owned and operated Karen’s Kitchen, a family restaurant on Main Street in New Straitsville.  he establishment was a friendly place where town folk gathered for a cup of coffee, a sandwich, or a full meal. Daily dinner specials were her trademark, especially the all-you-can-eat fish dinner on Fridays from 4pm to closing. Several local bakers provided her with homemade pies and local gardeners shared seasonal fruits and vegetables that made their way into the meals of her customers. Karen says knowing her customer was the most important part of her work and kept her going.  She knew her “regulars,” and if she didn’t see them for a day or two, she called to check on them.

History was preserved at this landmark with old wooden booths made by Nellie Ward, former owner and longtime New Straitsville resident, and old photos of the Wards and other important people and events of New Straitsville history.

The Athens Farmers Market (Athens County) — Business Heritage Award

The Athens Farmers Market (AFM), founded in 1972, operates an open-air market for producers of food and flowers.  It has grown from very humble beginnings to a thriving, year-round market with strong support from the local community and local producers. Summer and fall Saturdays see from 2,000 to 3,000 customers visiting 50 to 60 sellers offering a large variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats, baked goods and prepared foods.  Wednesday market days are also offered from spring to December.

The AFM, an Ohio nonprofit corporation, operates on a small budget with low vendor fees that encourage small producers to enter and grown in our local food economy. AFM members meet once or twice each year to review market developments and elect officers from among the market members.

The Tecumseh Theater (Perry County) — Built Environment Heritage Award

The Tecumseh Theater building was built by the fraternal organization “The Improved Order of Red Men” in 1907 in the historic boom-mining town of Shawnee in southern Perry County. The four-story building was called a skyscraper at that time and is still the tallest building in Perry County. The first floor storefronts supported the full size opera house with balcony seating on the second and third floors, and Red Men Headquarters on the fourth. A movie theater operated on the first floor from 1925 to 1960. As the coal boom declined in the Little Cities of Black Diamonds region, so did the use of this building. Its last public use was in 1960.

By 1976, the building had huge roof leaks with water pouring through all floors, ruining plaster and flooring. A wrecking crew was hired to tear it down, but a youthful restaurant owner named Skip Ricketts overheard the deal being made in his establishment and counter-offered $500 to the owner to purchase the building. A nonprofit group was immediately formed and began saving this historic landmark, located in Shawnee’s National Register of Historic Landmark District. Two roofs later, major repairs to the decorative cornice on the top of the building, countless structural repairs to roof joists, window frames and doors, the building is now home to the Perry County District Library and an apartment on the first floor. The main theater on the middle two floors is ready for restoration. The Tecumseh Theater group has rededicated itself numerous times over the last 28 years to “mothball” and began development of this historic treasure, holding concerts in the park, basketball tournaments and serving food at countless events to pay mortgage payments. Their staying power has been inspiring and is a wonderful example of historic preservation in Ohio’s Hill Country.

Greenfield Exempted Village Board of Education (Highland County) — Built Environment Heritage Award
McClain High School was dedicated in 1915, and was a gift to the community by Edward Lee McClain with the understanding that the community would build the elementary school. McClain was a business man who perfected the house collar and was founder of the American Pad and Textile Company. Along with his wife, he later built the vocational building, custodial cottages, and athletic field. All of the buildings are situated on a three-block area in the center of Greenfield, Ohio, and have the appearance of a small college campus. McClain High School is an architecturally sound building filled with original paintings, sculptures, prints and photographs. It is an inspiring place for children and adults. The school was designed by nationally prominent school architect, William B. Ittner, and was lauded as one of the most complete and state of the art school facilities of its time. McClain presented the school to his home town as a gift “promising the greatest good, to the greatest number, for the longest time.”

In 1998, as aging-but-sound school buildings were being demolished around the state of Ohio, the Greenfield Board of Education and the citizens of Greenfield lobbied the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission to save the buildings on the McClain campus from destruction. Because of the significance of the building, it was saved.  McClain High School was completely renovated and continues to serve the students of the community with a classical education and stands as a remarkable piece of Ohio’s education heritage and a shining example of how community spirit can help make our wealthy past a part of a healthy future.

Athens County Commissioners (Athens County) — Built Environment Heritage Award

The Athens County Commissioners recognized a need to restore the long neglected Athens County Courthouse. In spite of difficult funding challenges and the risk of partisan criticism, the commissioners demonstrated political courage by deciding to seek the funds necessary to protect a valuable heritage resource in the community. Repairing and restoring the Athens County Courthouse serves as an example for other local government agencies and an inspiration to area residents and businesses.

Heritage preservation is a challenge we all face, and it is an expensive proposition. It will take concerted effort and strong leadership to stand behind such efforts when there are so many other competing needs in our communities.  It is easiest to maintain the status quo and leave such a demands as historic preservation to the next generation or the next officeholders. We applaud the political courage and leadership of the commissioners in doing the right thing.

McConnelsville Opera House (Morgan County) — Built Environment Heritage Award

Conceived as a Town Hall and Opera House, the building was built between 1890 and 1892, and continues as a town landmark. The Opera House is a masterpiece of stone brick and red oak. In its early years, people came by railroad from all over Southeast Ohio and packed the 800-seat theater. It became the center of community life with medicine shows, minstrels, magic shows, musicals, Shakespeare tragedies and Billy Sunday revival meetings as well as campaign speeches and vaudeville shows. In the early 1900s, silent movies came to the theater. The Great Depression brought hard times, but the theater continued with live shows. Major renovations took place in 1936, 1973, and 1984. It is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1992, the Opera House was sold to the Board of Trustees, making it a nonprofit organization. Looking to the future, the mission is to restore the building completely for program expansion and tourism, to continue first-run movies, and to create a professionally directed amateur children’s community theater for the education of children and the enrichment of families in to the 21st century.

Markay Theater / Southern Hills Arts Council (Jackson County) — Built Environment Heritage Award

The Markay theater project was the restoration and renovation of a 1930s movie house abandoned in the early 1990s. The building fell in to disrepair and, in 1996, it was given to the City of Jackson and the Southern Hills Arts Counci, which signed a long-term lease to renovate, maintain, and operated the building. The renovation was designed for completion in phases with a variety of funding sources and volunteer efforts involved. Public events and activities have been occurring since early on. Six relief sculptures that once graced the walls were restored and remounted. Theater seats were custom made. The old boiler room under the stage was transformed into dressing rooms. A new roof, ceiling, walls, floor, box office and technical booth were completed before an Open House reception in 2004 brought in more than 500 guests to tour the renovation progress. Many provided oral histories.

Marietta Tree Commission (Washington County) — Natural and Built Environment Heritage Award

Stately old trees lining residential streets are one of the first and lasting impressions on anyone passing through Ohio’s first organized settlement, Marietta.  On closer inspection one can see hundreds of recently planted trees on street after street that will become the stately trees of Marietta’s future.  The Marietta Tree Commission has struggled with some very obvious success for decades to ensure that a healthy urban forest compliments the historic built environment of the community.

In an era when the importance of trees is so often overlooked and trees are so commonly removed as the first step in expansion for economic development, the Marietta Tree Commission has worked to ensure that trees are a partner in development schemes.  Since the year 2000, Marietta has seen more than a thousand trees added to the community.  Tree planting and tree care is not cheap.  More than a hundred thousand dollars was spent in the effort.  This tremendous investment demonstrates a real commitment to make trees an important part of the legacy of the community.  Marietta stands as a model in blending the care of the natural heritage of trees with the heritage of the built environment of growing communities in Ohio.

For work of protecting and preserving the natural environment in the context of the Built Environment.

Marietta Area Recycling Center (Washington County) — Natural Environment Heritage Award

They saw the treasure in our trash bins. A number of years before the state legislature even began to consider the growing problem of resource waste in the state of Ohio, a group of dedicated volunteers in Marietta were giving up their Saturdays and evenings putting together a program that offered local residents an alternative to burying our legacy of natural wealth in local garbage dumps. Since 1976, four years before the state began providing funds to pay for staff salaries, equipment and educational programming, around the state, Marietta had an aggressive group of unpaid workers already on the job. Nearly 30 years later, this still-unpaid group of volunteers, some of them the very same people, are still giving up their own time and resources to operate an unfunded recycling program that enjoys the participation of thousands of residents.

Thousands of tons of the nation’s resources have been diverted from local landfills and have been directed back into industry as feed stock for new manufacturing.  In five years alone, this group of volunteers conserved more than 3,200 tons of mineral and forest resources and the enormous amount of energy that would have been required to replace and remanufacture these materials. This is no insignificant undertaking and the consequences of their work, although hidden to most of us, represent a significant positive impact on the economy, the environment, public health and national security from which we all benefit.

“No one can pack in the corrugated like our volunteers, Brad Bond, George Cady, Jim Noe and Fred Wood—the major loaders.  If it were an Olympic sporting event they would all tie for the gold.”

“Mildred Cady has been head of the plastics for years—I don’t imagine very many people in the state have personally handled as many plastic containers as she has in the past 20 years.”

Volunteers doing what is not very glamorous but what is fundamentally very important.

2003 Success Stories

Paul Coscenza—Chillicothe Parks and  Recreation Department (Ross County) — Community Heritage Award

Lorle Porter—Anne and John Glenn Museum (Muskingum County) — Heritage Site Award

John Knouse—Hawk Woods (Athens County) — Citizen Heritage Award

Ora Anderson (Athens County) — Life-Long Achievement Heritage Award

2002 Success Stories

Deanna L. Tribe, Ohio State University Extension, South District (Athens County)
Outstanding Leadership Heritage Award



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