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." The tour will be Saturday, Aug. 4 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 5 from 1-5 p.m. Tickets are available at the Burriss Store, 311 Union Street. Adults are $10, ages 6-12 $5, and 5 and under are free.
Sometimes it is just great to get away with friends or family and have some bonding time together. 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. Most of Mount Pleasant's physical development occurred prior to the Civil War, after which the village was bypassed by the expanding railroad network. Fortunately, this twist of fate resulted in the survival of a significant concentration of pre-Civil War architecture in this National Historic Landmark District.
The Friends Yearly Meeting House State Memorial owned by the Ohio Historical Society, built in 1814, stands as a monument to one of the nation's small but influential religious denominations, the Society of Friends, or Quakers. This three-story brick building was the first yearly Quaker meeting house west of the Alleghenies. Capable of holding 2,000 people, the building contains 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.
The Historical Society of Mount Pleasant is hosting its annual fund-raiser which aids in supporting the non-profit organization. This year’s walk will be held Aug. 4 and 5 and will feature some of the historic buildings and homes in the quaint little community located on S.R. 151.The Friends Yearly Meeting House State Memorial owned by the Ohio Historical Society, built in 1814, stands as a monument to one of the nation’s small but influential religious denominations, the Society of Friends, or Quakers, and to their contributions to American life.
According to the Ohio Historical Society's website, the construction of the Yearly Meeting House was the result of the search of American Quakers, especially in the South, for a heaven from slavery and an opportunity to make a better living. The southern Quakers discovered themselves in a land 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 the year 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, 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. Sall began his collection 20 years ago. Of Sall's collection are rare beveled arrowheads dating back 12,000 years and dove tails 8,000 years from Eastern Central Region Woodland and Archaic time periods. Sall's display and knowledge will be of interest to all ages.
Private homes on the tour include the Hon. Jonathan T. Updegraff Home 1846. Dr. Updegraff was a noted physician and a three-time Congressman. He was a Quaker and opposed to war but he served as a Civil War major surgeon. He 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 catalyst for the creation of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. Once again, the lovely porch of this home, now owned by Joanne and John Curritti, may be viewed. The porch's historical renovation was done by the quality craftsmanship of homeowner John Curritti. On the porch is displayed the oil paintings of Joanne's mother, Louise Alvarez.
New on this year's tour is the home of Gary Reynard, located on 84 Union Street. This unique structure 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 purchase a Mount Pleasant home in August 2011, Reynard walked through the front door on Union Street, and he knew instantly this was to be his home. 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.
A must stop on the tour 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 tour each year. Returning tour participants come every year to see what's new in the Hidden Garden. Petras' garden always promises a surprise!
A luncheon featuring homemade pies will be available on the front porch of the Elizabeth House Mansion. Also, a chicken barbecue prepared by the Mount Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department will be held at Freedom Square on Union Street. Mount Pleasant VFD barbecue has the reputation as one of the area's best. Tour guest and the public are invited to dine at both locations.
A coinciding Mount Pleasant event is the "Concert on the Hill" Christian music performances to be held at the Presbyterian Church grounds Saturday, Aug. 4 at 4:30 p.m.
All tour event proceeds benefit the Historical Society of Mount Pleasant to maintain historic sites and provide educational opportunities. The Society is a totally volunteer 501.3c non-profit group whose funding is received from tour revenues, membership dues, and the generous support of individuals. A benefit of membership is a newsletter published twice a year with historical information, backward glances, current activities and more. If you would like to become a member, send $15 per person to: Historical Society of Mount Pleasant, c/o treasurer Judi Roberts, P.O. Box 102, Mount Pleasant, Ohio 43939.
The village of Mount Pleasant is located on Scenic Byway State Rt. 150 in southern Jefferson County.
For information about the "Friends & Family Tour" or the Historical Society's work, the public is invited to call 1-800-752-2631.