Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ohio History on a Stick

moth and flame in Xenia OH
#3-29 (alleged) Birthplace of Tecumseh
I am drawn to the prominent brown and gold Ohio Historical Markers like a moth to flame. In fact, I almost called this blog "History on a Stick" instead of Gehio. My kids have even pointed out the prominent signs from the car which can cause me to make a wild u-turn to go back and gawk and get my photo op like a victorious safari hunter. Sometimes they have interesting stories. Other times, I must admit they seem a bit inane. I am sort of surprised they are not vandalized more often. In fact, the only time I can recall any real damage was one blasted by the sun and decorated with bullet holes.

a simpler time, when history was blue and white
The Ohio Historical Society is in charge of the markers program. It began in 1953 with the blue and white Ohio shaped markers. You still see those around. They were brief at 13 words and erected at the corporate limits of towns and villages. By 1957 the modern marker program began with a new design that was able to contain more information, sometimes with maps and images. This is the familiar brown and gold type you see today throughout Ohio.

The new-fangled markers have a number series in the lower right corner such as "14-31".  The second number represents one of the alphabetical 88 Ohio counties.  The first number is the order of the signs unveiling. If you see a marker that says "2-1", this is the 2nd marker erected in Adams County. "4-88" would be the 4th marker in Wyandot County.
If you are in the Cincinnati area, you are in Hamilton County which is 31st alphabetically. So when you come across a marker that has "14-31", this is the 14th marker erected in Hamilton County. Easy.
Speaking of Hamilton County... did you know that it was Ohio's 2nd county created on January 2, 1790 and named by Governor Arthur St. Clair for Alexander Hamilton? He was a fellow Federalist and 1st Secretary of the Treasury under George Washington. You've seen him on the $10 bill and is also the guy that Vice President Aaron Burr shot to death in a duel. Secretary Hamilton also the subject of a hit Broadway musical. Maybe that should be on a sign!

new and improved, double-sided with graphics!
#4-19 Treaty of Greenville
There are currently about 1500 Ohio Historical Markers across Ohio's 88 counties.
The first of these Ohio markers placed was in 1957 in Summit Co, Akron OH. #1-77 "Portage Path" denotes the significance of the route between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers. This path was important to the Indians and French and English traders in the 18th century.

One of the more recent markers is #15-83 General Charles Clark, Confederate States of America, placed in November 2014 in Lebanon OH. Clark was a Yankee born Kentucky lawyer who decided to go with the South in the Civil War.

More Ohio county trivia: Washington County was the first Ohio county on July 27, 1788 also named by Arthur St. Clair after President Washington. As you can tell, the Governor of the Northwest Territory adored the Father of the Country. St. Clair also belonged to an organization called the Society of the Cincinnati. This was a club for Revolutionary War Veterans, a tribute to George Washington, farmer turned leader turned farmer just like the Roman statesman Cincinnatus. St. Clair renamed Losantiville to Cincinnati after this group.

fun for the kids!
#23-31 Cincinnati Observatory
(John Quincy Adams spoke here)
Washington Co. is the location of Marietta, Ohio's first organized permanent settlement by Europeans. It seems fitting that Ohio's markers get made here. Constructed of cast aluminum by Sewah Studios, who also make markers for 25 other states. They cost an average of $2000 to produce. A sponsor is required and there is a grant program to help defray costs. If you have an idea for a marker, here is more information about the process and program. All in all this is an excellent state historical sign program, probably the best I've seen in my history and geocaching travels in 13 US States. I do have a couple of ideas for new Ohio signs but I'm keeping them to myself for the time being.

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