From staff reports
MOUNT PLEASANT - What could be more memorable than walking through a vintage Underground Railroad village or discovering the hidden garden with friends and family at your side?
The Historical Society of Mount Pleasant will provide this opportunity at its annual historical homes and gardens event dedicated as the "Friends & Family Tour" set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 4 and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 5.
Tickets are available at the Burriss Store, 311 Union St., and are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children 5 and under are admitted free.
"Sometimes it is just great to get away with friends or family and have some bonding time together," said Anna Otto, secretary of the historical society. "For some it may be the desire to get off the beaten track and visit a peaceful location from which Quakerdom sprung westward; for others a very personal desire to trace the footsteps of the abolitionists. Both features can be found in the village of Mount Pleasant," Otto said.
Most of Mount Pleasant's physical development occurred prior to the Civil War, after which the village was bypassed by the expanding railroad network, she said.
"Fortunately, this twist of fate resulted in the survival of a significant concentration of pre-Civil War architecture in this National Historic Landmark District," Otto said.
The Friends Yearly Meeting House State Memorial, owned by the Ohio Historical Society and built in 1814, stands as a monument to one of the nation's small but influential religious denominations - the Society of Friends or Quakers. The three-story brick building was the first yearly Quaker meeting house west of the Alleghenies. Capable of holding 2,000 people, the building boasts an auditorium with extensive galleries above. The auditorium can be divided into two rooms by lowering the wall partition. When the building was actively used by Quakers, men and women met separately.
According to the Ohio Historical Society website, the construction of the Yearly Meeting House was the result of the search of American Quakers, especially in the South, for a haven from slavery and an opportunity to make a better living. The southern Quakers discovered themselves in a land in which the human rights of a numerous people were unrecognized and denied. The Friends in general struggled against the system of slavery in their own way, calmly freeing or encouraging the "manumission" of its victims although the southern colonies took action to prevent or discourage their operations.
In January 1800, these Quakers left their homes by wagon and by horseback, carrying with them their bedding and other household furnishings and driving before them their livestock. They stopped for some months with the Quakers of the Westland and Redstone monthly meetings in western Pennsylvania and finally moved into Ohio in September. By the close of 1800, it is said, more than 800 Quakers had moved into the Ohio country. Jesse Thomas and Robert Carothers laid out Mount Pleasant in 1803. It soon became an important market for Quaker settlers.
The Mount Pleasant meeting house was used regularly until 1909. The mother meeting house of all Quakers still stands as a symbol of the origins of Quakerdom in the West and a monument to their contributions to American life.
The old brick building was an engineering achievement for its day, its design reflecting the simplicity of the way of life of the Friends, its architecture and construction a tribute to their ingenuity and industry.
Five other historic sites on the tour that are owned and operated by the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant include the Harris/Bone Store log cabin, 1804; the pre-Civil War tin shop, 1840; the historical center, 1846; the (Elizabeth House Mansion Museum) the John Gill house, 1835; and the Burriss General Store, 1895.
The Elizabeth House Mansion Museum will exhibit the authentic arrowhead collection of Martins Ferry resident Bob Sall, who began his collection 20 years ago. Part of Sall's collection includes rare beveled arrowheads dating back 12,000 years and dove tails 8,000 years from Eastern Central Region Woodland and Archiac time periods.
Private homes on the tour include the 1846 former home of the Hon. Jonathan T. Updegraff, who was a noted physician and a three-time congressman. A Quaker opposed to the war, Updegraff served as a Civil War major surgeon who later became a state senator. In 1878, he was elected to Congress and served two additional terms. His fellow congressmen credited Updegraff's speeches on agriculture and farming as the catalst for the creation of the u.S. Department of Agriculture. The porch of the home, now owned by Joanne and John Curritti, was renovated and features oil paintings done by Louise Alvarez, Joanne's mother.
New on this year's tour is the home of Gary Reynard, located at 84 Union St. This unique structure, Otto said, was the result of constructing two homes together. One home built in 1918 and another home built in the late 1800s were combined to create the present structure. When looking to puchase a Mount Pleasant home in August 2011, Reynard walked through the front foor on Union Street and knew instantly this was to be his home, Otto said.
"Of course, this may have been fate calling him back to Mount Pleasant. Reynard is a descendant of the Reynard families who lived in the village as early as 1827. His great-grandmother, Marian Elizabeth Burriss Reynard, was of the family who owned and operated the Burriss General Store in 1895. In addition to the love of his home, Gary serves as the village's newest council member," Otto said.
A "must stop" on the tour, according to Otto, is the "Hidden Garden" of Mount Pleasant residents Pete and Jean Petras. "Tour participants will be amazed with the array and arrangement of plants and flowers. Petras is known for the bountiful results he gets as he carefully nurtures each plant up from a seedling. A stop at this beautiful garden, a handcrafted labor of love, has become a favorite treat for nearly all who take this history-based tour each year. Returning tour participants come every year to see what's new in the Hidden Garden. Petras' garden always promises a surprise," Otto said.
A luncheon featuring homemade pies will be available on the front porch of the Elizabeth House Mansion while a chicken barbecue prepared by the Mount Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department will be held at Freedom Square on Union Street.
Tour guests and the public are invited to dine at both locations, according to Otto.
A coinciding Mount Pleasant event is the Concert on the Hill Christian music performance to be held at the Presbyterian church grounds at 4:30 p.m. Aug. 4.
All tour event proceeds benefit the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant to maintain historic sites and provide educational opportunities, Otto said. The society is a volunteer 501.3c nonprofit group whose funding is received from tour revenues, membership dues and the support of individuals. A benefit of a membership, Otto said, is a newsletter published twice a year with historical information, backward glances and current activities.
Membership is $15 per person.
Checks can be made payable to the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant and mailed care of Treasurer Judi Roberts, P.O. Box 102, Mount Pleasant OH 43939.
Mount Pleasant is located on Scenic Byway state Route 150 in southern Jefferson County.
For information about the tour or the historical society's work, call (800) 752-2631.