A pleasant destination right up the road
Many of you who know me are probably expecting this column to be a tribute to my mom.
I’m not ready to write about her yet.
For those of you who don’t know, my mother, Grace Compston of Belmont, passed away rather unexpectedly on June 10. I don’t have the words right now to describe what a profound loss her death was for my family.
At this point, I would simply like to express gratitude to all of the friends, co-workers, neighbors and community members who offered words of kindness and acts of support to me and my family after she passed. It has been an extremely difficult time, and we truly appreciate everything you have done and said.
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Now I will turn my attention to a topic that is pleasant – the village of Mount Pleasant to be precise.
Mount Pleasant is a community that lives up to its name. It was established in 1803 – the same year that Ohio became a state. One of its founders was a Quaker from North Carolina, so peace, tranquility and other values held dear by members of the Religious Society of Friends have played a big role in the community’s development since its very beginning.
The village was incorporated in 1814, and the strong Quaker contingent of the population built a large, brick “Meeting House,”?or church, there that same year. The structure still stands today and is on the National?Register of Historic Places. Its clean lines, simple architecture and plain gray interior are hallmarks of Quaker thought and practice – after all, simplicity is one of the tenants Quakers live by.
Those Quakers were also abolitionists, so the community became a stop on the Underground Railroad decades prior to the Civil War. Free blacks were welcome to make their homes there, and fugitive slaves could find assistance at many of the homes and shops in the village as they made their way north to freedom.
Benjamin Lundy, a well-known abolitionist who published anti-slavery literature such the “The Genius of Universal Emancipation” and started the anti-slavery organization dubbed the Union Humane Society, made his home in Mount Pleasant for a time. Today, Ohio History Connections has acquired that building and is working with the Mount Pleasant Historical Society to preserve it for posterity.
In addition to the Lundy house and the Quaker Meeting House, many privately owned buildings in the residential and business districts offer glimpses into the community’s long, rich past. Constructed of red bricks made from local clay or in timber frame style of logs that were trees on the surrounding hillsides centuries ago, the structures each have their own charm. Some once housed wealthy families, while others were the homes or shops of simple craftsmen. A few are in disrepair, but others have been lovingly restored.
The Jefferson County village covers about 166 acres and, in 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau determined it had a population of fewer than 500 residents. Still, some small specialty shops there continue to thrive.
I was lucky enough to spend a short amount of time in Mount Pleasant on Saturday while meeting some friends for lunch. As always, I enjoyed the tranquil feeling that I experienced while driving along Union Street, looking at the old homes and storefronts shaded by large trees and surrounded by grassy lawns.
I have been to the village many time, visiting friends, interviewing folks for news articles and participating in community events. I always feel welcome and safe when I am there, and a bit like I have stepped back in time.
If you have never been to Mount Pleasant, it is a trip I would recommend. A drive through the country to reach this serene little community might be just the right way to spend your Sunday or a weekday afternoon or evening.
Since many of the historic buildings are privately owned, don’t plan to enter them for a closer look unless you call ahead to make arrangements. the Mount Pleasant Historical Society offers Underground Railroad walking tours that include several houses in the Village of Mount Pleasant Historic District. Call 800-752-2631 for more information.
If you can wait until early August to make your visit, though, even more historic structures will be available for viewing. The village will host its annual tour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 6 and from 1-5 p.m. Aug. 7.
The tours are open to adults and children, with students enjoying the day at a reduced cost. The self-guided walking tours take about three hours to complete if you visit all of the interesting and educational stops along the way.
This year, six old favorite locations will be featured, along with six previously unseen sites.
I plan to attend the annual tour with other members of the Heritage Dance Association. I hope to see you there!