Westerville News & Public Opinion

Historical marker stolen, found on campus

Marker for local Underground Railroad stop stolen Feb. 13, recovered at stadium Feb. 18

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

One of Westerville's 12 historical markers made history last week when it was stolen from its post on South State Street.

The marker for the Stoner House, 133 S. State St., was taken sometime between 5:15 p.m. Feb. 8 and 4:30 p.m. Feb. 13. The marker recognizes Stoner House as an inn, tavern, spa and, most notably, as a stop on the Underground railroad.

Members of the Westerville Historical Society first were made aware that the sign was missing when an Underground Railroad expert who stopped to give a talk mentioned that she noticed the sign's absence, said Society President Bill Merriman.

Stoner House owner Charles Moon was notified, and he filed a report with Westerville police.

Moon said he was shocked by the theft.

"I'm not sure how to describe that. I was just taken by surprise because I'm not sure why someone would take something of historical significance (from) somewhere that people enjoy it," Moon said. "For someone to ... steal something from State Street, let alone to steal a historical marker, something's really strange."

The theft of a historical marker is strange indeed, Merriman said.

Authorities from the Ohio Historical Society believe the theft of the marker is a first in the state, Merriman said. There are about 1,500 historical markers in Ohio.

"There is some damage from time to time, but he had never heard of a theft like this one," Merriman said.

Moon said he was told by a Westerville police officer that Otterbein University police sent out an email blast about the missing sign.

"As a result of the email being sent out, they discovered the marker leaning against the fence at the (Otterbein football) stadium," Moon said.

The sign was recovered Feb. 18 and taken into custody by Westerville police.

Merriman now is working with the city to see the sign returned to its rightful place on South State Street.

Westerville Public Service Director Frank Wiseman said the city is dedicating to restoring the sign, but first it must be determined if the sign is on public or private land and whether the pole was damaged during the theft.

If the sign is on private land, the city will have to formally obtain permission to repair it, Wiseman said.

"I believe we'll be able to do it," Wiseman said.

The Stoner House marker was put in place in 2003 as part of Ohio's bicentennial.

The 161-year-old building was damaged by fire in 2010 and was restored.

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