Historical society celebrated 100 years

Historical society celebrated 100 years

Image Credit: Teri Stein

The Tuscarawas County Historical Society celebrated its 100th anniversary recently at an event at the Canal Tavern of Zoar.

The historical structure was opened in 1829 by the Society of Separatists of Zoar as a tavern and hotel for travelers on the canal. In 1837 the tavern was converted into a home for the miller and his family after a large mill was built along the canal. The Canal Tavern of Zoar is once again a restaurant and is well known for fine dining.

Attendees saw performances by folk singer Foster Brown of Garrettsville, who sings traditional canal era songs and many new songs about that era that he has written. Joining Brown for the event was musician Mark Szabo of Romeo, Michigan. The duo played a number of instruments including the banjo, guitar, dulcimer, mandolin and bass fiddle.

A dramatic performance by Chris Hart of Newcomerstown as Capt. Reynolds, a canal boat captain, and his boat, the Hard Cider, enthralled the audience as he told true stories of life on the canal.

Hart spoke of the difficulties of finding a boy to work as a “hoagie” on the boat for $10 a month and one such boy, James Garfield, who later became a United States president. He also discussed the hardships of being unable to move goods during the winter when the canal froze and the frustrations of waiting on the “hurry up” boat to come and fix a hole in the canal that drained the water, making travel impossible. And above all, he warned don’t drink the canal water and told of the deadly results to one passenger.

TCHS President David Hipp led the group in a ½ mile hike on the Towpath Trail. He pointed out many features including the remains of the old Ohio Erie Canal system that once connected the area to Portsmouth to the south and Cleveland to the north, which then connected the area to New York. He also noted the location of the old mill that spanned overtop the canal and could easily load flour on the boats going by and the location of Lock 10.

When the TCHS was formed, its mission was much different than today. The organization was chartered April 26, 1921. Rev. Joseph Weinland, the pastor of the Dover Moravian Church, was the driving force behind its organization. Weinland was passionate about David Zeisberger’s story and finding the exact site of Schoenbrunn and restoring it. Now Historic Schoenbrunn Village is owned by the Ohio History Connection and operated by the Dennison Railroad Depot Museum.

Records show the TCHS was very active from 1921-35, but then there are no records until 1970. The celebration of the bicentennial of the United States in 1976 revitalized the organization, and they became very active again.

In 1981 the Zeisberger Heckewelder Awards were created, recognizing deserving Tuscarawas County residents and organizations for their contributions. In 1992 the creation of the Tusc Kent Archive was organized under the leadership of TCHS President Earl Olmstead and Kent State Tuscarawas dean Harold Shade.

The TCHS now operates the Tusc Kent Archive, located in New Philadelphia inside Kent State University at Tuscarawas. The archive is a joint venture of both the university and the TCHS.

“The purpose of the society is to maintain the county archives, which is the history of this county, including pictures and books, manuscripts and maps,” said David Hipp, president of the TCHS.

The archive also has many records of local clubs that are no longer in existence, records of local industry, the county home records, information about towns and townships, and a collection of city directories and yearbooks.

The organization also provides speakers for groups and library programs and has led walking tours.

The society can copy old photographs to add to the archive’s collection and return the original to the owners. Photos that include the names of the people in them are highly prized.

“We would certainly like to see old photos that are identifiable so that we know what they are,” Hipp said.

The archive is open to the public and receives a variety of visitors each year. TCHS curator Kim Jurkovic enjoys helping guests find the information they need. Many times, requests for information come from outside the county.

“We’ve had people looking for family information, pictures of old times, and we have had people doing research,” Hipp said.

Jurkovic and the volunteers at the archive also respond to queries via phone and email.

Currently serving on the board of directors for the TCHS are Hipp, Vice President Patti Strickling, treasurer Sharman Hartson, secretary Teri Stein, Seth Angel, Margaret Bonamico, Scott Derr, Mike DiDonato, Jack Fox, Susan Hinton, Jennifer Hobson, Michael Swaldo and David Winston.

Jurkovic and some members of the board also research and write articles for the TCHS newsletter, The Chronicler.

The Tusc Kent Archive is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 8 a.m. to noon, and masks are required at this time. Call 330-308-7494 for more information or email tuschs@tuschs.org.

The group also is on Facebook. Their website at www.tuschs.org contains information including some on the historic markers in the area.

New members are always welcome. All dues and donations to the TCHS are tax-deductible. The membership levels are life member, single, $150; life member, couple, $250; patron, $40; professional, $35; family, $25; single, $20; and student, $5. Members receive six issues of The Chronicler each year.

For membership or gift memberships, send the name, address, phone number and email of the new member, along with a check made payable to the Tuscarawas County Historical Society to P.O. Box 462, New Philadelphia, OH 44663. For gift memberships, include the name of the person giving the gift.