Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for April, 2014

Unique Collections Fill Historic Roscoe Village Museum

Johnson-Humerickhouse Museum

Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum in Roscoe Village, Coshocton, Ohio

Sometimes when visiting a place time after time, you miss a treasure right in its midst. Such was the case with Coshocton’s Roscoe Village, a favorite spot for festivals over the years. However, there at its edge, a beautiful brick structure, The Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum, overflows with unusual historic exhibits.

This actually had its start back in the mid-1800’s when two brothers, John and David Johnson, spent their childhood in Coshocton. In later years, these brothers traveled the world collecting artifacts from all the places they visited.

Indian woven artifacts and Kachina dolls

Indian woven artifacts and Kachina dolls

In 1931, the Johnson brothers gave 15,000 collected objects to their hometown with the stipulation that a museum would be established to honor their parents, Joseph Johnson and Mary Susan Humrickhouse. Thus, the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum became a reality and has since added collections of other local residents. Displays frequently change because the museum has more artifacts than can be displayed at one time.

Two floors contain four main areas to explore: Native American, Ohio History, Coshocton Area Memorabilia, and The Asian Room. Each holds objects that are certain to lead you to recall memories of the past and even create a puzzle or two in your mind.

American Indian artifacts display natives’ skills at pottery, beadwork and basket weaving. These outstanding collections show not only local Native American handiwork but that of Indians throughout the United States. A large collection of kachina dolls, who hold a spiritual essence to the Indian tribes, and items used by the medicine men are a couple of the noteworthy displays.

Chinese royalty collar with silk kimona and pottery in the background

Chinese royalty collar with Ch’ing silk theatrical robe and pottery in the background

An Asian Room contains both Japanese and Chinese treasures. A Japanese warrior in full dress protects that section of the room, while Buddha statues and kimonas express the Chinese traditions. A beautiful jeweled collar worn by a member of the Imperial Court contains over a hundred embellishments.

Controversial Newark Holy Stones

Controversial Newark Holy Stones

The Newark Holy Stones present a controversial subject as these objects were found in 1860 while excavating a mound in Newark, Ohio. The largest stone, the Decalogue Stone, appears to have Hebrew writing around its edges. Many link it to the Hopewell Indian culture, which existed there between 100 BC and 500 AD, while others are skeptical as to its origin.

Early pioneer cabin in Coshocton area

Early pioneer cabin in Coshocton area

Much of the Historic Ohio Display has been donated by great-grandchildren of Nicholas Miller and Mary Darling, early Ohio pioneers. Nicholas came to the Coshocton area in 1802 with $36 and two axes. That first winter, Nicholas made his home in a cave with his dog. Then in 1806, the Darling family migrated to Ohio from Viriginia. 18 year-old Mary drove her family’s four-horse team pulling a covered wagon containing eleven brothers and sisters to settle in the Coshocton area.

Nicolas’ trade as surveyor provided him opportunity to purchase prime land with money that he earned. Therefore, when he married Mary Darling, they settled in the Coshocton area. Today a replica of the cave he slept in provides children a place to hide and pretend. Beside it, a cabin has been reconstructed similar to the one where Nicholas and Mary lived to raise their family.

As you can tell, there are displays here for various interests, and at a low admission price. Throughout the year, various speakers and workshops provide a variety of subjects for area residents. Visit this treasure filled museum that isn’t far from home. While you are there, step back in time and stroll the brick streets of historic Roscoe Village.

Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum is located in  Roscoe Village near the south end at 300 N Whitewoman Street, Coshocton, Ohio.  From Ohio 83, exit onto North Whitewoman Street and follow it through Roscoe Village. The museum will be at the south end on the left hand side.



Underground Railroad Museum Flushing, Ohio

Ohio's Underground Trails

Map of Ohio’s Underground Railroad Trails

Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio

Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio

“Filled to the brim.” Those words accurately describe the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio. Outside the old brick building seems typical of those found in many small towns. Inside there is so much information it would take days to just read what is hanging on the walls, let alone all the books available.

Located in the hills of Southeastern Ohio, The Underground Railroad Museum contains over 18,000 items. This particular building was constructed in 1922 as Community National Bank, then became the insurance office of John Mattox.

In 1998, Dr. Mattox decided it would be the perfect spot to share his knowledge and collection of items dealing with slavery and the Underground Railroad. He wanted to tell the story of fugitive slaves and slave hunters, and how the Underground Railroad helped the former and misled the latter.

Dr. Lorle Porter of Muskingum University played a large role in helping John establish the museum. Today, Belmont Technical College students frequently help at the museum through research, organization, and cleaning.

Dr. John Mattox, curator of the museum

Dr. John Mattox, founder and curator of the museum

Stories of slavery abound here thanks to an exceptionally good story teller, Dr. John Mattox, founder and curator of the museum.  John’s family had previoiusly been slaves from Holland, so he knew first hand of the life they lived.  While John told his story, the outfit of a Klu Klux Klan member, displayed on a statue behind him, awakens an unpleassnt reminder. Still John had a great positive attitude as he said, “I’ll tell you ‘xactly how it was, slavery could be good.”

John told of those Sunday mornings when slaves were privileged to go to “The Big House” for breakfast. The menu most often was hot biscuits and potlikker. Now, for those of you not familiar with potlikker, that would be a pot of turnip, collard, and mustard greens boiled with a piece of pork. Pour that over some hot biscuits and you had a breakfast to look forward to all week long.

However, nearby slave collars, whips and shackles help tell the other side of the story of life as a slave. Poster advertisements were placed for auctions about to be held. Ox teams, fox hounds, and Negro slaves were all included on the same sign.

Camera Collection

Camera Collection

In the basement of the Underground Railroad Museum, Dr. Mattox shared his private collection of over 700 vintage cameras. His favorite seemed to be his first Polaroid, a 1970 Rolex SX70, which he used to take pictures of his wife when they went to Hawaii. An 1886 Conley and an original Brownie Camera were also part of that collection.

A replica of a slave cabin, where an average of eight people lived, has been constructed in the basement. This one tiny room was their “home” for eating, playing and sleeping. Only one bed could be seen in a corner of the room, and the “old person” got to sleep there. The rest slept on straw spread on the dirt floor.

Inside of slave cabin

Inside of slave cabin

The slaves, or those assisting through the Underground Railroad, left many signals for other slaves following their path. Sometimes a special knock on the door was used and the password, “Friend of a friend” gained them entry to safety. An X strategically placed on a tree gave the slaves direction to the next stop. Great courage was shown by those who often risked everything to escape.

The major task of the Underground Railroad operation was to get the fugitives across the Ohio River to safety. Martins Ferry was the first Ohio stop for many in 1788. The Ohio map shows that their flight continued across Ohio in every direction.

John expressed his attitude toward life by saying, “Don’t blame everyone else for what happened to you. New ideas are just old ones recycled.” He was a fantastic guide so hope he continues sharing his stories for a long time. Just the thought of losing all his knowledge reminded me of an African proverb that hung on the wall of the museum, “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” Recording our history is so important for future generations.

The easiest route to the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio is off I-70.  Take Ohio Exit 208 and head north on State Highway 149. The road has many bends, but leads to Flushing, then SR149 makes a right turn on E High Street. The museum is located at 121 E. High. 

West Virginia Penitentiary Visit: A Chilling Experience

Former West Virginia Penitentiary

Former West Virginia Penitentiary

Feel the chill of the prison walls.  Hear the stories of former prisoners. Walk the halls of the former West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville, West Virginia, as cold sensations permeate the skin. Some say this happens because the spirits of many former prisoners still hang out at the prison. Or perhaps it is that feeling of being locked away from the world that causes the chilling sensations.

The prison began back in 1866 when the government of West Virginia made a major decision. Eleven acres of land became available for govenment use in Moundsville, West Virginia. The choice was between building West Virginia University there, or a State Penitentiary. Those in charge concluded that a penitentiary would bring more jobs into the area and give them an economic boost.

Wagon Gate and nearby Bull Pen

Wagon Gate and nearby Bull Pen

The prison originally occupied the Wagon Gate, a prison used for confederate prisoners during the Civil War. One hundred prisoners could be held there in two stories. These prisoners were taken daily to the stone quarry where they cut stones to expand the prison – now three city blocks long.

It was here inside the Wagon Gate that they also had a Hanging Gate. 85 prisoners were hung either at the gate or on the courthouse square. Since people had no television to watch back then, in the early 1900’s thousands would gather on the courthouse lawn to watch the hangings while eating their picnic lunches.

The Bull Pen, with stainless steel razor wire around its top, served as an exercise place for maximum security prisoners. They most likely appreciated their one hour outside each day.

One of many paintings by the prisoners

One of many paintings by the prisoners

West Virginia Penitentiary was a self-sufficient prison. The only things they had to purchase were salt and sugar! Besides quarrying rock to build their own prison, the prisoners produced many valuable items that were used in the prison and sold to local residents – some of them through the Mound Museum Gift Shop located across the street. Hand tooled leather purses, brooms, whips, soap, signs and beautiful paintings and drawings were products of prisoner endeavors. Since they had lots of time on their hands, they often became very creative.

One noteworthy prisoner was Charles Manson’s mother, in prison for armed robbery. Charles Manson himself wrote a letter to the warden asking to be transferred to the West Virginia Penitentiary so he could be closer to his mother. Everyone knew the reputation of Charles Manson, so the warden immediately answered with just four words: “When Hell freezes over.”

Exercise Yard

Exercise Yard

Prisoners had inside freedoms according to the crime for which they were imprisoned. The worst were kept in Maximum Security, which will be more fully described in a future blog. Most however were in the “Main Street”, where they actually were able to get out of their cells for most of the day if they desired.

Many of these passed the day with their crafts as well as participating in sports in the yard. Basketball, softball, boxing, weight lifting, and table games were all possible activities to keep them occupied. There was a beautiful chapel in “The Yard” in case they desired to worship.

Cells were not very comfortable spots so spending as much time as possible outdoors was a goal. Most cells were very small with usually two cots for prisoners, who shared a small sink and toilet. At a time when there were 2400 prisoners at the penitentiary, it became necessary to have three men to a cell. That was rough as the third person had a mat on the floor. This made his head located right at the base of the toilet bowl. They always slept with their feet toward the bars as otherwise someone might bash in their head as they passed by.

Revolving Door to Freedom

Revolving Door of Justice

The front door is a locking, revolving door where prisoners either entered or were freed from the prison. Imagine the thrill of seeing that door after years of imprisonment, knowing that through the glass was a free world waiting. Today some say they still see that door slowly spinning on its own – maybe from the energy of some of the inmates who walked through it.

West Virginia Penitentiary is located in Moundsville, West Virginia just ten miles south of Wheeling along the east bank of the beautiful Ohio River. From Wheeling, follow Route 2 into Moundsville. Turn left on 8th Street and after two blocks turn right onto Jefferson Ave. The penitentiary is on the left side of the street. You can’t miss it!

A Delightful Touch of Spring : Blooms and Butterflies

Franklin Park Conservatory

Franklin Park Conservatory

Ready for Spring? After a long, frigid winter, most of us are ready to watch the earth come back to life again with green plants and flowers. If you happen to crave the taste of spring, a trip to Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio will temporarily satisfy your longing for beautiful blossoms and greenery.

Butterfly on Bloom

Butterfly on Bloom

Right now, their theme of “Blooms and Butterflies” seems the perfect way to put a touch of spring in the air. Franklin Park Conservatory provides a wide variety of experiences from botanical gardens and greenhouses to art sculptures and glass exhibits. Those who enjoy flower gardening soak up the scents and admire the picture perfect displays. Visitors enjoy blooms at the conservatory all year long, but the butterflies are a special added attraction.

Beautiful orchids in various hues and scents

Beautiful orchids in various hues and scents

In the Dorothy M. Davis Showhouse, the featured blooms are “Orchids!”. Their varied orchids are much larger than most of us could hope to grow, but provide a peaceful place to relax and dream. Over 1000 orchids of all sizes and hues create a beautiful scene and scent. Soon spring blossoms outside will appear, including tulips, azaleas, lilies, and rhododendrons. Every season has its floral beauty at Franklin Park Conservatory.

Children are fascinated as they watch the butterflies emerge from their chrysalises. Parents have the chance to educate their youngsters on the life of the butterfly from the eggs they lay to the spinning of their protective covering before the appearance of a beautiful butterfly.

Peaceful Annie's Pond

Peaceful Annie’s Pond

Large displays of chrysalises at the Emergence Center give ample opportunity to watch the butterflies come to life. Everything from a small 1 ½” butterfly to a 12″ Attacus Atlas Moth might be making their premiere appearance as you watch.

When the butterflies first emerge, they may hang upside down for several minutes while their wings dry so they can fly away and explore some nearby blossoms. They must enjoy themselves quickly as their average life span is only about two weeks.

Inside the Pacific Island Water Gardens’ section of the conservatory, butterflies fill the air. At least 2000 butterflies are in this warm tropical paradise each day. A Butterfly Release occurs twice a day so the newly free can test their wings as they taste nectar from bright tropical blooms.

"The Sunset Tower" provides a gathering place for many butterflies.

“The Sunset Tower” provides a gathering place for many butterflies.

A favorite resting place for the butterflies was a beautiful piece of art by Chihuly, whose glass designs can be viewed throughout the conservatory. “The Sunset Tower”, in golden sunset tones, gave the butterflies a place to congregate peacefully.

Since most children desperately want an exotic butterfly to land on them for good luck, the naturalist often places the newly released butterfly on a child’s shoulder. Those who could sit still long enough were actually butterfly magnets, and might have three or four butterflies on their shirt. Watching the children brought to mind a piece of advice from Nathaniel Hawthorne:

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

The next time you aren’t pleased with the weather and want to be surrounded by the beauties of nature, take a trip to Columbus and visit the Franklin Park Conservatory. As summer approaches, there is an outdoor butterfly garden to attract Native Ohio Butterflies. Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of “Blooms and Butterflies” this year with your family or friends. You won’t even think about the snow that fell during the winter!

Franklin Park Conservatory can be easily reached off I-70 in Columbus, Ohio using the Broad Street Exit. Turn right onto Broad Street and the conservatory is about one mile down Broad on the left hand side. Watch for entrance signs.

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