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 Business History
by Tami Wenger, Gloryland Ministries
In order for a new town to grow, businesses must prosper. John Enoch settled in the valley in 1815, opening a gristmill and people traveled miles to get their grinding done.
Here are more "firsts" in West Liberty business history. Enoch's sawmill was powered by the Mad River and Mac-O-Chee Creek. A distillery was opened by Thomas Baird on Muddy Run. Hiram White had the first store, tavern and post office on the corner of Baird and Detroit Streets. Dr. John Ordway was the first doctor and lived on Ordway Hill. The first landlord was John Newland, who owned a hotel called "The Buckeye House."
West Liberty grew as more people arrived in town and businesses were opened. In 1828, the following businesses were available. Dr. John Ordway and H. M. White were still in town. John Vaughn was a farmer and Baptist Preacher with William Vaughn being a tailor and Baptist Preacher. John Williams was the local blacksmith and Methodist Preacher and Benjamin Ginn also a tailor. Robert Crockett and Tillman Longfellow were apprentice with John Vaughn a tanner. The wheel right/ painter was William Moore and William Kenton a tanner.. The carpenter was Thomas Hubbard and Abner Tharp was a wagon maker. The miller was Simon Robinson and Mrs. Polly McCullough and family were mentioned but not the business she had. Businesses at this time were mostly cabins.
By 1880, West Liberty had many thriving businesses in the downtown area. In May of that year, a fire wiped out much of the business section on Detroit and West Baird Streets. The town could have died if the business owners had decided to cut their losses and move somewhere else, but they decided to rebuild and save the town. By this time several owners had a large building called a block, with not only their business but rented space to others for theirs. Mention was made of the businesses that were lost, but not those that were saved. Those lost included grocery stores, drug stores, stables, boot and shoe stores, notion stores, the post office, millinery, barbershop, billiard saloon, Odd Fellows Hall, dentistry rooms and a bank.
The West Liberty Sesquicentennial Booklet has pictures of the following businesses in town in 1967: Esch's Meats, Liberty Oil & Gas Service, Humble Construction, West Liberty Lumber, Liberty Variety Store, Weymouth Sohio Service, Tastee Freez, The People's Savings and Loan Co., Liberty Machine Products, Inc., Chuck's TV, Craig's Coal Yard Elevator Grain Storage, Robert Brothers, Charles Sharp Realty, George R. (BUD) King Plumbing and Heating, Nationwide Insurance with Herman B. Lockwood, Yoder Electric, Black's Garage, Ross McIlvain Barber Shop and Max's Barber Shop. Also, Ohio Caverns, Piatt Castles, Thoman Bros. Supermarket, Holdren Brothers Inc., T .W. Swisher Realtor, Wilbert's Auction, Atha, Atha and Atha, C & F Apache Camping, Wilkins Funeral Home, Marie's Homemade Candies, Dajolee's Fine Foods, Nuehauser Division of IMCO Poultry, Inc., Farmers Supply, Figley's Drugs, Lenny's Graystone Restaurant, and the Hillside Greenhouse. S&S Tackle Co., Lester E. Wells Plumbing and Heating, King's Market, Nelson Insurance Agency, Saltz Men's & Boys Wear, Thompson's Shell Service, Joe S, Plank Firestone, Hostetter Monuments, Yoder Furniture, Geoff's Laundromat, Liberty Hardware Co., National Soft Water Service, and The Farmer Banking Co.
In 2017, a new business opened, one moved to a new building, one is set to open in the Spring, and another business is closing for good. Three of the oldest businesses remaining in their original location include the Ohio Caverns, the Piatt Castles and the Hillside Greenhouse. Visit our Local Business Directory to check out all the businesses West Liberty has to offer!
Sources: West Liberty Sesquicentennial Booklet, West Liberty Library, and History and Biography by Unigraphic
Picture One- Ohio Caverns Entrance used by permission of Bob MeClure
Picture Two- Mac-O-Chee Castle in 1910 permission of Tami Wenger
Picture Three- Mac-A-Cheek Castle used by permission of Arnita Yoder
Picture Four- Hillside Greenhouse by permission Tami Wenger
West Liberty Farming Heritage
by Tami Wenger, Gloryland Ministries
It's Fall Harvest Time! Farmers are busy in the fields bringing in the corn and soy beans. However there are many different kinds of farms such as livestock, trees, farmers markets and many more. Wiki Answers says farming is Ohio's #1 Industry. KentOhio.net reports that agriculture contributes over 98 billion dollars to the states economy.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture states this. Farmers- they are more than you think. Mechanic, meteorologist, scientist, machine operator, agronomist, computer operator, and animal caretaker. Ask a farmer and they could probably add a few more. There are many things to be learned on a farm and ways to learn. You learn by watching others, listening to others as they talk, seek advice from seasoned farmers and your own trial and error.
Besides crops, farm families have raised horses, dairy and beef cows, sheep, goats, llamas, alpacas, donkeys, and poultry, to name a few. My girls, Lindsey and Lynda, raised rabbits for their 4-H projects. On a farm you usually have a dog and maybe a cat or two. The farmers raise their children on the farm and they all have chores they are responsible for . It's not just a way of life it's a wonderful heritage they give to their children and then their children pass to their children for generations.
Phillip Neer's father, Alvie Lapp started farming with a threshing machine. His father Dwight continued on the farm with his father. Phillip's son, Steve with wife Surnea and their four children, help on the family farm making the fourth and fifth generations. Neer and wife Reva, have 65 Dairy Cows and feed out Bull Calves to sell. They have about 800 acres of corn, wheat, soybeans, and alfalfa. They had a milking parlor in the 1970's.
Bob McClure and wife Cyndi, live in the farm house he was raised in by his parents, Dale and Pat McClure. Bob's son, Bobby McClure, fifth generation, also helps on the family farm. They milk 73 cows and have 1,100 acres of corn and soybean crops. McClure remembers as a child, there was a tornado headed their way, so he and his parents headed to the basement. Once he got to the basement he realized his parents were still upstairs looking out the windows reporting to each other, the damage the tornado was causing. Never a dull moment on the farm.
Farming communities are close and when help is needed they pitch in and do what is what they can. Putting in the crops, helping with harvest or with milking. They are there, neighbor helping neighbor. Hardworking people who continue with life on the farm, sharing the special farming heritage passed down to them. Happy and safe Harvest!
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!
The West Liberty Historical Society is a 501(c)(3) organization.
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West Liberty, Ohio