A large scrapbook documenting a grand European trip in 1952 was given to the Powell Liberty Historical Society several years ago. The person who took the trip was from Etna. Because she had no relationship with our area, it was not accessioned as is required for gifts that become part of the society's archives or items for display or furnishings for the Martin-Perry House.
This past summer, I decided to try to find a descendent of Esther Kuhn of Etna. Her scrapbook was in excellent condition, and it seemed finding a home for it would be a worthwhile effort. It was nice to learn the Etna is not so far away. The local post office gave me the appropriate township office to call, and they put me in touch with the West Licking Historical Society in Pataskala.
Yes, there were folks there who remembered Esther, though not with any personal association. However, they were interested in this piece of history, and we agreed to my delivering the book in the fall. I was interested to discover more about this nearby historical society as well.
Two friends from the Powell Liberty Historical Society and I were greeted by at least five of their active members (and later, several more) who devoted their time with several hours of conversation and tours. We learned that Esther had briefly been a school secretary in Pataskala in about 1940. Then she worked at the Athletic Club in Columbus.
Esther died at age 81 with no descendants and donated everything to her church. Interestingly enough, one of the women we met that day had purchased another of Esther's scrapbooks at an auction there. The one we were given was purchased on eBay, so it was easy for the people we met to realize how "our" scrapbook was handled in that way.
I was glad we found a home for something we could not use, and I write this column to encourage you to find an appropriate place for an item that may be more meaningful to others than to yourself or descendants who have no interest in it. Small historical societies appreciate receiving items such as this, which reveal something about a person and a time period.
I also write because I wanted to tell you about some similarities between our two historical societies. First, we each have a house from the same time period that has become a museum. Second, each house was named for two families.
Our 1889 Martin-Perry House was named for the only two families who lived in it, and West Licking's Mead-Needham Museum was built as a home in 1890 by W. H. Mead II for one of his daughters. Mead was a banker and influential in the development of Pataskala. His daughter married W. S. Needham who was owner and editor of The Pataskala Standard.
Our organization is a little older than theirs. The Powell Liberty Historical Society was formed in 1986 after saving the Martin-Perry home from demolition for development. West Licking Historical Society was chartered in 2000, though five years earlier, a small group of local historians organized for the purpose of publishing a local history reference volume. It wasn't until 2009 that a group of 11 members joined together to purchase the Mead-Needham home and use it for a museum and educational center.
There are similarities with volunteers who have been active in restoring these old homes and then are devoted to keeping history alive with programs and displays. The folks in Pataskala also manage a depot and train museum in Outville and support the preservation and restoration of the Pataskala Town Hall's Sterling Theater.
Early settlers arrived in both areas about the same time. Both of our historical societies exist in counties that were established in 1808. Our not-too-distant neighbors in the West Licking Historical Society include people in several townships, Etna, Harrison and Jersey, and the incorporated Village of Kirkersville and the city of Pataskala. Our name describes our focus: Powell and Liberty Township.
One final note: The 1889 Martin-Perry House is decorated for the holidays and will be open for tours from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8. The house is located on Powell Road at Grace Drive.
Carole Wilhelm is a member of the Powell-Liberty Historical Society.