Historical Society makes impact

MARTINS FERRY – Like “The Little Engine That Could,” the Martins Ferry Area Historical Society is combining optimism and hard work, and some major changes have been achieved with help with more projects planned for the future.

Members of the historical group, however, aren’t reciting the little engine’s motto, “I think I can! I think I can!” because they’re busy taking positive action and also striving for funding.

Some major work already has been completed, and the Sedgwick House Museum will be open for public visitation Saturday, May 24, and Sunday, May 25, with the hours on both days being from noon to 4 p.m. That also is Memorial Day weekend and Martins Ferry’s Alumni Weekend.

Visitation is possible at the museum all year by calling Barbara Shrodes, 740-633-3430; John Applegarth, 304-650-5679; or Tom Thomas, society president, 740-859-3013.

Noting the historical society is working “with fewer people and less time” than in the past, Thomas said, “We’re trying to keep the heritage going. Sometimes, it’s difficult but in the end, we’re always do things to keep going.”

Thomas pointed out a grant from the Belmont County Tourism Council has enabled the society to do major renovations of the summer kitchen located on the group’s property at 627 Hanover St., Martins Ferry. Two floor lamps also have been purchased to improve the lighting in the reception room.

“We have just received the good news that our 2014 grant application was accepted by the county,” noted Thomas. “Planning is being done to identify projects that the county money will fund.”

He also said a major undertaking lies ahead, because the exterior of the Sedgwick House Museum must be repaired and painted, and the group is not sure how that will be accomplished.

The historical society is becoming involved in a Belmont County project, according to Thomas. The former sheriff’s residence next to the courthouse has been renovated and will be used by communities of the county as a museum and historical center.

“We will be placing exhibits there that celebrate the history of Martins Ferry and the heritage of her people.” said Thomas.

The group also plans to focus on Walnut Grove Cemetery, the city’s oldest landmark, this summer. Plans are being made for a ghost walk in the cemetery with people important in the area’s history portrayed. For example. Rosie Thomas will portray the Widow Cottrell whose husband accidentally shot himself during the Civil War; he is buried in Walnut Grove.

Betty Zane, the Martins and others also will receive attention in the walk being planned for Sunday, June 19, from 6-9 p.m., and the participants probably will be in costume.

In addition to the improvements made as a result of funding from the Belmont County Tourism Council, work has been underway on the museum property.

Thomas said that Applegarth, a member of the museum board of directors, groundskeeper and “a jack of all trades,” has worked hard to make sure the grounds of the museum property are well cared for in the spring and summer months. Applegarth has begun to attempt to clean out the museum basement, and that work is difficult in that area which usually is off-limits.

Other volunteers who have worked to the historical society operative are Barbara Shrodes, Joyce Roy, Dorothy Roy, Rosie Thomas, Jennifer Schunn and Barry Shunn. The society president also said Chris Cleary has been “a very big help” and has included the historical society on the city’s website.

Students from Ayers Elementary School and the Martins Ferry Christian School visited the museum this year.

Historical society members may renew their membership at this time, and others are requested to join the group. Dues once again are $10 for an individual and $15 for a couple. Checks may be sent to the Martins Ferry Area Historical Society Inc., P.O. Box 422, Martins Ferry, OH 43935.

Pokas can be reached at bettypokas@yahoo.com.