UNIONTOWN-For history buffs, the Ohio Valley has something for everyone: connections to the Revolutionary War, the first Northwest Territory, abolition and the Underground Railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio railroad, industry, baseball stars, national racing tournaments and wildlife preserves. Even more interesting is that one can experience and learn about all of the above and view evidence of four centuries of evolution by traveling one road, State Route 331.
Reverend Kimberly Snyder of Uniontown had retired from the Belmont County Correctional Facility, become an ordained Christian minister and taken up the art of stained glass. A restoration project at the Uniontown United Presbyterian Church started her wondering about how to bring the community into the church and how she could work on something that would benefit the community.
Then one day, "It came to me-a scenic byway," Snyder says. She began thinking about the historic links and gems all along Route 331, "and I love the rolling hills. It's so beautiful here."
State Route 331 encompasses four centuries of historic evolution. A volunteer committee has put forth a proposal to make an 18.48 mile stretch of this historic road an official Scenic Byway. Some of the reference material used to create the Scenic Byway application binder is shown above. The next step is submission of the “Corridor Management Plan” to the Ohio Department of Transportation for a meeting this month.
After inquiries to both the Ohio Department of Transportation (who manages the Scenic Byway Program) and the Belmont County Tourism Council, Snyder put a committee of 10 volunteers together last December: Harland Snyder, Doris Stidd, Audrey Adams, Phil Nichol, Nancy Grimes, Sue and Richard Pelkowski, Rudy Brnich, Leroy Boyce and Kim Shutway. They began meeting and gathering information for a presentation binder on the history, scenery, architecture, cemeteries, wildlife and businesses along the proposed 18.48 mile route. This would be their application to the state. "The state was very encouraging," notes Snyder. "But they even wanted locations of restrooms and litter programs." Apparently ODOT was happy with the work because Snyder is now submitting a "Corridor Management Plan" for a meeting in mid-November, the next step toward achieving scenic byway status.
In all, the route, which the committee is calling "331 Appalachian Pike," stretches into two counties and five townships. It begins in East Richland, Richland Township at Route 40/National Road in Belmont County, travels through Wheeling, Union and Flushing Townships and ends at Route 22 in Piedmont, Moorefield Township in Harrison County with places of interest and beauty all along the way.
In the 1700's the Ohio River served as the boundary between settlers in what was then Virginia and the Indians. In 1779, after the Revolutionary War, payments to soldiers who had served came due, and a young country trying to put its finances in order decided to offer 160-acre land parcels to veterans in lieu of money. When they had expended the original "military bounty lands" in southeast Ohio, the government decided to divvy up wild, dangerous land to the north which had been given to the Native Americans under treaty, called the Northwest Territory-the original Northwest Territory, encompassing today's Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. In 1785 an area called the "Seven Ranges" consisting of modern counties Carroll, Jefferson, Harrison, Belmont and Monroe sold at auction for a paltry $100,000-the low figure being a testament to the desirability of moving across the river. Several area cemeteries, including Infirmary (about one half mile west of Rt. 40 on 331) and Taggart (off of 331 in Uniontown) have Revolutionary War veterans' markers and stones.
Many settlers arrived during the 1800's, including a Quaker couple in 1802, Jonas and Hanna Pickering, who are credited with starting the first authenticated settlement, known now as Flushing. In 1805 they built the first Quaker meeting house. The town was named by British Quaker Jesse Foulke, presumably for a town in Holland named Flushing. By its incorporation in 1840, the town's population was 312. In 1876 a "pike" or road was built from Flushing's Rock Hill to National Road. By 1878, the railroad was coming.
Another Quaker, 25-year old John Stratton, worked for his father's flour mill in Winona but saw an opportunity to expand the business with a second location in burgeoning Flushing. He hired stone mason Gus Stultz to oversee construction of the 30 by 40 foot building still standing on Mill Street. The stone came from the tunnel construction almost directly across the road, and Stratton, a cabinet maker, crafted all of the pulleys for the mill himself. Unfortunately he succumbed to typhoid late in 1878 before completing the mill, leaving a wife and two-year-old son, George. John's brother Charles and brother-in-law Joseph Branson finished the project and ran the business. George married Melva Holloway, whose father owned the farm on the other side of the tunnel, and he ran the mill until his death in 1959. One of his five sons, William, took the helm until the mill closed in the early 1960's. Its biggest claim to fame was a popular self-rising pancake mix now recreated and for sale online. The Stratton family home is still in the family and is a bed and breakfast, the Stratton Hill Inn, restored and updated, directly across from the mill. Items from the mill and local history are displayed throughout.
By the 1900's railroads linked towns, states and coasts. Holloway, a small town five miles west of Flushing on 331, found itself a key link in a 161-mile route between Lorain on Lake Erie and Bellaire on the Ohio River. Over 150 people worked for the railroad in this tiny town, and in its hey-day there were 20 tracks, a water tank, reservoir, freight yard, switch shanty and yard office. An 80-foot turntable was expanded to 115 feet to turn engines in a round house. A machine shop, blacksmith and car shop worked on the engines and cars to keep freight and people moving. Six passenger trains a day ran through Holloway until the late 1950's.
If the railway was Holloway's work, baseball was Holloway's pastime. The town's first organized team began in 1905, and there were two or three teams every year after. In 1927 Holloway's Boy Scout team played any team who would challenge them and went undefeated against the other Scout teams. B & O President Daniel Willard purchased their uniforms, so the troop changed its name to Daniel Willard Troop 65. The next year, the troop team even played semi-pro teams. During the 1940's and 50's, Holloway was in the Cy Young Junior League and went 18-2 in 1950. Cy Young, born in Tuscarawas County, was a regular visitor as part of the Old Timers Baseball program.
Today at either end of the route and the action spectrum, 331 offers national motocross and ATV racing in St. Clairsville and hunting, fishing and bird watching at Egypt Valley. Powerline Park is only open to the public on Memorial Day and Labor Day, but up to 6000 people who follow the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country circuit spend those weekends camping at the park and watching their favorite national racers.
Egypt Valley is a state-run wildlife preserve and park reclaimed from 14,500 strip mined acres and now covers more than 18,000 acres outside of Holloway and Flushing. Piedmont Lake, in the center of the park, is run by the Muskingum Water Conservancy District. Catch and release fishing is allowed, as is hunting. Hiking, bird watching and nature photography are other popular activities. Folklore and legend surround Salem Cemetery, also located in the preserve lands. One historical fact about the cemetery is that Thomas Carr, the first man hanged in Belmont County, lies there as does his young victim Louiza Catherine Fox. In 1869 he murdered her for breaking their engagement.
Snyder notes other points of interest along the route: a covered bridge, arts and crafts homes, the Underground Railroad Museum and Zion Christian Retreat Center, among others. Currently local Ohio Scenic Byways include the Ohio River Scenic Byway, Historic National Road and Drovers Trail. If accepted as a byway, "331 Appalachian Pike" will be the fourth byway designated in Belmont County, where taking a drive just a few miles from home could lead to a trip through time.
For more information on Ohio Scenic Byways visit www.ohiobyways.com.