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Preserving our industrial history

Our area’s industrial heritage runs deep, but, sadly, many of the names of those who have worked to build that legacy have been forgotten and lost to time.

That’s why it is encouraging to know that a part of that history — employment records from the old Beech Bottom steel facility — are being preserved.

Now the site of an industrial park, the 480,000-square-foot facility that sits on 60 acres has been owned by several steel companies during the better part of a century. Its current owner, the Business Development Corp. of the Northern Panhandle, discovered the records and decided to share them through the Public Library of Steubenville and Jefferson County and the Brooke County Historical Museum and Cultural Center.

The records offer a treasure trove of information, including the names, birthdates and addresses of those who worked at the plant. They were employees who came from Steubenville, Mingo Junction, Brilliant, Bellaire and, of course, Beech Bottom, as well as other communities from across the Tri-State Area. Since the work force at the time included many immigrants, a bonus is that some of the records indicate when those workers came to the United States.

That information is being digitized by Erika Grubbs, a local genealogist who works at the Schiappa Branch of the library. Once the scanning is complete, the information will be uploaded to the Digital Shoebox, a database of digitized books, photos and documents that have been collected by libraries across Southeastern Ohio, and will be available online.

An index will be completed and the records of employees from the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s that are in the possession of the Brooke museum will be scanned and added to the digital collection. Once that process is completed, the records will be turned over to the museum where the public will be able to access them.

It’s important information, not only for the historical perspective it can provide but for those who are interested in learning more about the lives of their relatives. Genealogists now will have the opportunity to fill in gaps that might have been missing from their searches.

Our thanks go to Marvin Six, executive director of the BDC, Grubbs and Ruby Greathouse, volunteer curator for the Brooke County museum, for having the foresight to realize the importance of the information and the willingness to ensure it is saved for future generations.

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