Today I’m thinking about the beautiful Ohio hill county between the Little Miami and Scioto River called Highland County. It was a place that Geren children and grandchildren called home. The Geren family and the allied Bolender family started out in Brown County, but as Highland County became available for settlement the family made a move and lived near Whiteoak Creek. (These are my mother’s people.)
Highland is a county that is mostly rural with some manufacturing and tourism. There are State Parks and preserves and if you want to get back to nature, hike, canoe, or spot birds this is the place. An interesting feature is the 1 ½ mile earthwork called Ft. Hill State Memorial, an archaeological site dating from 100 BC-500 AD. It was most likely a walled village. What is left only whispers of an ancient culture and hiking in ancient footsteps must be intriguing.
While looking for photos of Ft. Hill I came across an excellent blog called TrekOhio - Exploring Ohio's Nature Preserves and Parks. While my blog is documenting my long distance experience of following our Ohio ancestors, Bob and Deb Platt are out there in person. Their website is a great place to check out beautiful photos and pick that perfect hiking experience. A link on TrekOhio led me to another fantastic website, Arc of Appalachia. This is a non-profit working for the preservation and conservation of the forests.
There are two famous people from Highland County that entered our lives in a personal way. The first was Milton Caniff, a cartoonist who came into our homes daily in the newspaper comic strip, Steve Canyon. The second had a profound effect on my life in an odd way. She was Eliza Jane Thompson. “Who?” you might say. She was the founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WTCU). “What?” you might ask. Even back when I was a teen this was an old-fashioned and fading organization but I’d like to say, “Thank you, Eliza, for the good example.”
The summer I was thirteen my friend Jacki called one day to see if I wanted to go to a summer camp. Having nothing else planned I said yes before I had a clue what this ‘camp’ was all about. My family members were not smokers and they seldom drank anything stronger that iced tea. I don’t ever recall a beer in the fridge or at a picnic. They were good role models. I may have taken a spot in that camp that should have gone to someone more at risk.
The dear ladies of the WTCU were running a camp with a mission and that mission was to keep young people from falling into the unhealthful evils of smoking and drinking. They held classes each day. Even though I was not ever tempted to smoke or drink – why should I, the adults in my life didn’t – the WTCU made a big impression. They had a clear, plastic mechanical smoking man (well, just the upper torso) and when it smoked you could see the nicotine that quickly built up in its lungs. Yuk, who would want to do that to themselves? At the end of the camp we were asked to sign a pledge that we wouldn’t smoke or drink – and drugs, it went without saying back then, people from good families didn’t do drugs – it wasn’t part of the culture and was found only in the lowest rungs of society. Drugs destroy lives and the greedy profiteers with no regard for human life were coming down the road in a few years to suck away young lives for profit. In the end it is all about money – at a terrible cost. Maybe educating our young people and asking them to sign a pledge isn’t a bad idea.
I’ve honored that pledge preferring to experience life as it comes instead of through some altered state. I was able to pass along to my children a healthful lifestyle, which I hope in turn they are passing to their children. I’m sure our ancestors brought some of those same values with them from Ohio.
Photos: Covered Bridge, http://www.ohiobarns.com/covbri/oh/high/high.html
Ft Hill, http://trekohio.com/
Ft Hill, http://trekohio.com/
Wedding & Beach photos - Jacqueline Feasel