West Liberty Living History Project
by Tami Wenger, Gloryland Ministries
In 2006, Project Of Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio interviewed residents from all over Logan County, and I would like to share with you four from the West Liberty area.
John Dete, Kenneth Harr, Phyllis Morris, Cristina and Isabel Smucker shared stories of growing up on the family farm. (Picture one- John Dete, Picture two- Kenneth Harr, Picture three- Phyllis Morris, Picture four- Cristine and Isabel Smucker.)
As a child John Dete wore high top boots which were a chore to lace in the mornings. He walked a mile and a half to school and if school was cancelled the kids didn't know about it because there was no dependable radio or phones. For fun they played cards and Monopoly. Outside games of Fox and Geese, Tag and Hide and Seek were enjoyed.
They raised chickens and his family would wash, weigh and crate 30 dozen eggs for the Egg Man's weekly visit. Eggs were 17 to 20 cents. They would get 200 pullets of half roosters and pullets and would eat the roosters. Bunkerhill Coffee was 19 cents a pound. It was 2 cents for local mail, and 3 cents for out of town. The train didn't stop for the mail, the mail bag hung from an arm that the train would snag as it went by and they would throw mail bags off the train onto the ground.
Coal oil lamps were a step up from kerosene and when they heard an airplane they would run outside to see it. He made his own fishing pole with bark from an Elderberry stick, use cotton cord, a cork and a bent pin for a hook. Caught lots of Sun Fish and it was the best fishing time he and his sister ever had.
It cost $10.00 for a new car and 25 cents for a license. Dete remarked that there are three types of time, the sun, railroad, and standard times. Things that has changed were genetics in agriculture, and farm equipment. John Dete and wife Janet have lived on CO RD 287 for many years, having bought the farm from Dr, Miller in the early 1970's. The farm house was built by R. J. Piatt, son of General Abram Piatt.
Kenneth Harr went to school in a one room school house on the family farm then attended Iron City. As a young boy he helped carry water in a wooden keg to the men in the field and when the farmers went from farm to farm at Threshing time.
His father used horses for farming and the family bought their first car, a 1926 Model T Ford and at ten years old drove the car home on the road. His mother was not happy about that. He showed beef steer in 4-H. Back then the county agent traveled out west, bought steer, and numbers were drawn to see which boy got which steer.
The family had a big garden and the sweet corn had to be canned right away because they had no way to keep it cool. Butchering time was not only a family affair but neighbors helping neighbors. The traction line went bast their house and it cost 5 cents to go to Urbana or Bellefontaine. Saturday night they went to town to sell cream and eggs and buy groceries.
They ordered a Farmall H Tractor but didn't get it until after the war because they stopped making them while the war was going on. Transportation was the biggest change through out the years.
Phyllis Morris started doing chores at 3 or 4 years of age. Collected eggs and brought in kindling for the wood cook stove. At age 5 she carried wood into the house. The family had 4 horses, two teams, plow, rake, threshers, but no tractor. They had a variety of farm animals, dog, cat, pigs, cows, duck, geese and goats. As a child she contracted scarlet fever and was quarantined to one room for six weeks. A note was put on the house to warn others to keep their distance.
The had a farm across the road from the Logan County Children's Home. The school bus had benches on each side and one down the middle, and was very comfortable mode of transportation. No bathroom nor electric, instead had coal oil lights and a trough with cool water to keep milt cold. Morris liked to make doll houses, and cut out clothes and furniture from the magazines. She never cared for butchering hogs and would cover her ears so she didn't hear them squeal. The had a summer kitchen which was a separate room in case of fire.
They always appreciated what they had to eat and didn't complain about what they had. Her mother made her dresses and they went barefoot in the summer and wore their one pair of shoes a year during the winter. In the fifth grade the family moved to West Liberty, so Morris would walk to school.
She recalled the Tornado in 1948, ad when the mill caught on fire. It was so hot it broke windows in the house across the street. The mill race ran through town to Zanesfield. Biggest changes, cars and appliances. She always appreciated what a strong community spirit West Liberty has. Phyllis Morris and her husband John have lived in West Liberty many years.
The Smucker Sisters were Irene King, Cristine and Isabel. The family first rented a farm then purchased it later on. They would do business at both Bellefontaine and Urbana. Saturday night was going to the store in West Liberty to purchase things that the farm did not provide. They went to Salem School in Kingscreek and rode in a two horse drawn hack then later a motor vehicle school bus.
They used buddies on summer roads and their families first car was in 1914 or 1917. Growing up the girls used to swing under the trees, played in the woods,and the creek that ran through the farm. They enjoyed the farm animals of chickens, cats, dogs, and horses. They never went to the movies. They would follow their parents when doing chores until they were old enough to so them alone.
Irene was a budding artist and attended Urbana University for training. The most daring thing any of them did was when Irene went to Michigan with her boyfriend, later husband, by motorcycle. Going to church was a big deal and they like to sit on the front porch to read.
Their father had horses until he purchased the first tractor in the community. There were big gatherings for butchering, threshing, hay making and silo filling days. During the depression they were in danger of losing the family farm but thankfully were able to keep it where many others weren't as fortunate.
The family had a singing group for 10 years traveling all over the United States to share God's word in song. Irene married and Cristine and Isabel moved next to Mac-O-Chee Castle. The ladies set up a home based business, Smuckers Arts, with tapestry, wool, silk, linen spinning and weaving. They were also talented and skilled artists as well.
Very knowledgeable on local history and offered historical storytelling inside of Mt Tabor Church they helped get restored as a historical monument. They painted a mural inside of the church as well. The house they lived in was added to over the years starting out as a place for Donn Piatt to write in, a post office for a year, a one story house added on, then a school house built as a second floor. My first tour as a docent at Mac-O-Chee was the ladies next door, the Smucker Sisters, who knew more about the history then I did. Even though I was nervous they said I did a fine job with their tour.
They appreciated the positive changes such as plumbing, galvanized cook stove, shower, electrical appliances and furnishings. New ways of farming, the speed of cars and communication. They did comment that they missed the personal contact with the telephone operator when they called someone and they would ask for they number you were trying to reach.
Once again a project is in the works to capture local history stories and memories of West Liberty. Berry Digital Solutions LLC with www.mywestliberty.comin conjunction with the West Liberty Historical Society will be taping local residents as they share their stories with generations to come of how West Liberty has changed over the years. The only thing that has not changed is how the residents of West Liberty have always been and will always remain, Tiger Strong.
Pictures and sources are from the Logan County Library, Bellefontaine, Ohio.
West Liberty History Stories
West Liberty, Ohio was established in 1817. Read a sampling of our village's 200+ years of history or SUBMIT YOUR OWN STORY for all to enjoy!
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