There is a town in Ohio that is so small it often does not appear on maps. Gist Settlement in Penn Township, Highland County Ohio is the name of the town too small for maps. This tiny town was established by a group of freed slaves during the 1820’s.
Yet the town is named after Englishman, Samuel Gist from Gloucester County, England. Gist was very wealthy owning not only land in England, but the Southern U.S. as well. While historians believe Gist probably never visited the U.S. his success was due in part to the work of slaves on his plantations.
Gist made many addendums to his will before he died. The final version called for his slaves in America to be freed one year after his death. Gist also set his will up so that everything he owned in the U.S. would be sold. The profits were to create a trust to care for his freed slaves.
After Gist’s passing his last wishes began to be executed. Executors searched for land on which the freed slaves could settle. The executors found several plots in Ohio. A portion of the freed people came to Highland County and the future Gist Settlement.
The Gist Settlement is still there today and still ignored by maps. The population has shrunk from the estimated 900-some freed people who settled Gist.
Ohio’s history can be explored at many locations around the state, but there may be no other place like the Johnston Farm—here one can explore thousands of years of Ohio history in one place. The location includes ancient mounds built by native Ohioans who knew the land by a different name. The 250 acre site also includes John Johnston’s farm.
There is restored home and several outbuildings that can be toured where you’ll about life in Ohio around 1829. There is also a museum dedicated to the Eastern Woodland Native Americans who lived in the area. You can also take a mule-drawn canal boat ride along a restored section of the historic canal.
For the small settlement of Piqua the Johnston Farm & Indian Agency was the life center of activity. John Johnston settled his here with his family in 1811. He was and Indian Agent but well respected by both the Native Americans and his peers.
Johnston performed Washington’s eulogy, was friends with William Henry Harrison and served as a canal commissioner for some time. He also served as president of philosophical and historical societies in Ohio. He also found the time and energy to help found Kenyon College and serve on Miami University’s board of trustees and was a member of the board at the famous military academy of West Point.
Ohio was a center of manufacturing for the U.S. in the 19th and especially the 20th century because of our rich resources. You can learn about the steel industry that was such a part of our culture, especially in Youngstown, Ohio. Additionally, you can check out the so-called “last heats” or final batches of steel poured at each of the mills before their closings. Experience all this and more at the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.
One feature of the museum is its photography collection—the varied subject matter of the photographs detail the culture of labor, immigration and urban history. Artifacts include workers clothing and tools. Other photographs are life size and recreate scenes from urban life, such as a mill locker room, a company-built house and the work floor of a blooming mill. All of this is intended to help visitors understand the lives of steel workers and their profession.
The Historical Center also offers educational programs and there is access to the archives and library. The archives are a node in the Ohio Network of American History Research Centers and includes government records, manuscripts authored by workers, companies and labor organizations.
The historical center is managed by Youngstown State University.
At the Buckeye Furnace in southeastern Ohio you can see how pig iron was made during the Civil War era. The furnace is a recreated, charcoal fired blast furnace. This is just one of many that once operated in southeastern Ohio in the Hanging Rock Iron Region. Visitors will learn how these so-called iron making towns helped win the Civil War for the Union.
This 270-acre site contains lots of things to explore. The furnace is the main attraction. It was originally built in 1852 and went cold in 1894. There are other reconstructed buildings and a museum to visit. And if you’ve still got the energy the site has beautiful nature trails to explore.
After the down slide of salt0making in the area (from about 1795-1826) the local economy defaulted to agriculture. Despite the fact that natural resources were abundant in the area no one was taking advantage of them. Specifically, there were isolated parts of southeastern Ohio with iron deposits. This of course led to a limited production period of iron. Between the 1830s and 1840s a total of sixteen furnaces were built to take advantage of these resources.
While several of these original furnaces still stand, Buckeye’s is the only one that remains as it was during its operation.