Ohio and the Underground Rail Road

Ohio is well known for its Underground Railroad activity, many private and now-museum historic homes spread over the state were stops for escaped and freed slaves on their way to Canada. One particularly active stop was Hanby House, home of William Hanby and his family.

Hanby was an extremely active community member: Hanby served as the 15th minister of the United Brethren in Christ Church, he also edited The Religious Telescope, the church newspaper; he was co-founder of Otterbein University; Hanby worked with the early Temperance movement against alcohol; finally and most importantly to the historic site he was an abolitionist who opened his home to former slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. However history takes note of Hanby primarily has musician and composer.

During his tenure as a minister, Hanby composed the famous Christmas song “Up on the Housetop.” Chicago publisher George Frederick Root published “Up on the Housetop” and asked Hanby to work for his publishing company, Root & Cady, in Chicago, Illinois.

Benjamin Hanby composed over 80 songs in his lifetime. Among his most popular include “Up on the Housetop,” “Dear Nellie Gray,” and “Who is He in Yonder Stall.”

Built in 1846, the Hanby family occupied the home from 1853 to 1870. The home is part of the National Register of Historic Places as well as a designated United Methodist Heritage Landmark. In 2011, the National Park Service Network to Freedom recognized the home as a significant Underground Railroad site.

The home and tours are managed by the Westerville Historical Society under an agreement with the Ohio History Connection.

The home features many personal items having belonged to the Hanby family. Most notably the collection includes walnut desk crafted by Hanby as well as the original plates for the first edition of “Darling Nelly Gray”. The home also contains a large collection of sheet music and books.

F.A. Seilberling Nature Realm

F.A. Seilberling Nature Realm is arguably one of the most beautiful Summit Metro Parks and though most of us don’t want to think of winter, the Nature Realm is great all year-round adventure. Many consider the F.A. Seilberling Nature Realm to be a hidden gem known mostly to locals but a surprise for visitors.

F.A. Seilberling Nature Realm is a great day trip destination. The trails range in difficulty though they are all considered to have an easy or moderate so you can bring a variety of friends or family. Mingo Trail, a 3-mile trail, is considered the most difficult at the park.

Patrons should note that the Mingo Trail has a no-dog area which is clearly marked.

One popular destination at the Nature Realm is the Suspension Bridge. It won’t be difficult to find as most of the trails converge at the bridge. To double check, please refer to an online map or paper map available at the park.

The Seneca Deck is a popular winter spot. There is a fireplace where hikers can cozy up and enjoy the landscape after their winter hike.

Spring and summer hikers may want to take the Seneca Trail which winds through the exquisite Rock and Herb Garden.

Families with children will enjoy the Visitor Center, which is open 10am-5pm Tuesday to Saturday. It is also open 12pm to 5pm on Sundays. The Visitor Center includes seasonal exhibits, a kid’s area, gift shop. There are even several live animals they can view. Naturalists are available to answer questions about the park.

The Ashton House Museum of Carrollton

Mr. John H. Ashton started working in a variety store when just 12 years of age and continued his career in retail until his death at 99 years old in 2005. His late wife, Evelyn, and John were not just successful business-people in their community but were dedicated to serving the community outside of their business.

John H. Ashton graduated from Spencerville High School in 1924 and then later from the Lima Business College in 1925.

John and Evelyn, at one time, owned all or part of eleven different Ben Franklin Stores. Additionally, John H. Ashton was a dedicated member of the community in his adopted hometown of Carrollton. John H. Ashton was a founder of the Carrollton Chamber of Commerce and an original member of the Carrollton Civic Club. He was also a member of the Carrollton Rotary club, the Carrollton Village Fire Department, the Elks club, the local Masons, the Carrollton and Spencerville Historical Societies, he served on the Carrollton Boy Scout Committee and he was a 30-year board member of the Cummings Bank.

The Ashtons will certainly be missed by Carrollton and the surrounding communities but their legacy will live on through their contributions and through the museum created in their name. This museum will include items from the Ashton’s family history. Some dating as far back as the early 1800’s. The museum will also include items of a historic or nostalgic nature from Carrollton, the community the Ashtons loved so much.

Items from the Ashton’s personal collection will include their Hummel collection, Anri, their Wade figurines as well as Knowles, Hibel and Bing and Grondahl plates. Also their Haviland dishware from Limoge, France. There will also be, for the sports fans, items from the Kentucky Derby and The Ohio State Buckeyes going back to the 1940’s. There will also be vintage holiday postcards from the early 1900’s, political paraphernalia and vintage toys and games. The museum will even include vintage TV and radio shows playing in the museum that visitors can sit and enjoy.

Hampton Hills Metro Park

Hampton Hills Metro Park is one of the larger parks in the Akron system at 665 acres. Many of the features of the Hampton Hills Metro Park were formed during the ice age via glacial movement. One such feature is the Adam Run Valley which was home to more than one Native American tribes prior to European settlement in the early 1800’s. The trails are surrounded oak, elm, sycamore and black walnut trees which are the homes of many varieties of birds and other wildlife.

Hampton Hills is well known for spring wildflower viewing. Other featured flora includes several types of ferns and mushrooms. Also, a strange plant called scouring rush lives near the banks of the stream. There is also a man-made flora feature—a grove of white pine, which was planted by a girl scout troop in the 1960’s.

Located in the “Top O’ the World Area” of Hampton Hills Metro Park is the old Adam’s family homestead. The farm fields now lay fallow and have become the home for meadow plants like milkwort, ironweed, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and aster. The area is also home to many butterflies who live among the native plants.

Many birds will hang around the trees and shrubs hunting for insects, including Bluebirds and woodcocks. One may also see wild turkeys. Red-tailed hawks will be seen circling the meadows keeping an eye out for the voles and mice that live in the meadow.

The park includes two of the more challenging hiking trails in the Metro Parks. Both of which have seasonal streams crossing them, making the trails hard to use without getting wet feet!

Lastly, the park maintains a public archery range. The targets are maintained by the park, all other equipment must be brought in by patrons.

Tom S. Cooperrider Kent Bog State Nature Preserve

In Kent, Ohio there is a fantastic nature preserve with unique features for hikers to enjoy: the Tom S. Cooperrider Kent Bog State Nature Preserve. The bog was carved out by the Wisconsin Glaciation. And the Kent Bog is a true bog in that it has acidic waters. The bog also contains the largest community of tamarack trees in the state of Ohio.

There is a boardwalk trail that loops around the bog leaving hikers back at the parking lot. Along the trail there are plenty of educational signs describing the unique plant and animal life. The signs also discuss the geological creation of the bog.

The bog is named for Tom S. Cooperrider. He was a botanist, author, and emeritus professor of biology at Kent State University. He made many contributions in studying the bog as well as other flora in the state. You can read about his study of the Kent Bog in his 2010 book, Botanical Essays from Kent.

The bog formed when the Wisconsin Glacier retreated. A piece of the glacial ice broke and was buried in sediment which formed a ridge around the ice. This created a deep kettle hole lake. The original size of the kettle-hole was about 50 acres.

The climate then warmed, and plant life spread over the lake. Much of this was sphagnum moss. This allowed the process by which the lake became a bog as the moss decomposed into peat. Now very little standing water is visible from the boardwalk.

The forest is coniferous. It is a boreal forest that includes spruce, fir and tamarack trees. Tamarack are trees more common to upper parts of Canada and Alaska. Tamarack are able to withstand very cold temperatures. It sheds it needles in winter unlike conifers and deciduous trees. This changes the look of the bog throughout the seasons.