Snakes on a Plain

An aerial view of Serpent Mound, image courtesy of Britannica Online. Of course I would forgot my camera when I visited the site.

Over the past few months I’ve visited some amazing places and have met some incredible people, but one thing kept popping up on my travels: Indian burial and ceremonial mounds. Each time I researched “interesting places in southeast Ohio” (or some variation of that), burial mounds always came up in my search. There was that pesky mound that was rooted right in the middle of the Civil War battle site in Meigs, and I even made an entire trip out of one burial mound located in Marietta. Well, I thought it was right time to do the natural thing, which was to visit the Indian mound of Ohio: Serpent Mound. Serpent Mound is like the Michael Jordan of mounds – the Big Kahuna, the Head Honcho, one of Ohio’s greatest cultural treasures.

I once traveled to Serpent Mound during my elementary school years, since the site is only an hour away from my home in Cincinnati. I’m sure I was happier playing “Miss Mary Mack” with my friends on the bus ride to the mound instead of actually visiting the mound, but I thought it was right time to do a big-girl trip to Peebles.

The mound is located off State Route 73 near Scioto Brush Creek in Adams County, constructed at the edge of what is believed to be a meteor crater several hundred million years old. As my sister and I drove toward the mound, the area is surrounded by trees. Only once you reach the mound is there a clearing and the 1,330 foot long hill is in sight. But what makes this particular mound so special is not it’s length or height (an average of three feet tall), but it’s serpent-like figure. According to the mound’s official website, “Serpent Mound is the largest and finest serpent effigy in the United States. Nearly a quarter of a mile long, Serpent Mound apparently represents an uncoiling serpent.” (Note: Effigy mounds are raised piles of earth built in the shape of animals by Native American tribes).

Exciting!

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What’s For Lunch?

Last spring my friend Jacqlyn and I accompanied Pat on one of his many trips around southeastern Ohio as he filmed stories for Athens Midday. One afternoon we journeyed west on State Route 56 to Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe and Museum, a small, independently-owned museum ran by Timothy and LaDora Seewer.

The museum and restaurant was named after Timothy’s grandmother who grew up in the area. “We thought it has a nice, country-sounding name and that it was a good fit.”

With over 900 lunchboxes, some have described the museum as a look back through 150 years of pop culture, while others simply visit for a trip down memory lane. This little gem encompasses the charm of southeastern Ohio. Some lunchboxes include superheros like Spiderman and Superman to cartoons like Garfield and Peanuts, from a wall full of Barbie boxes to tributes to TV shows like Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels. The museum also hosts a small restaurant where patrons can purchase sandwiches, pizzas, chili and other homemade dishes, as well as a farm in the back with llamas and goats and chickens, oh my!

Ugh, my man voice makes another appearance in this video.

Unfortunately, with the passing of Timothy, the current status of the museum is unknown. Another small museum in Nelsonville, the Pencil Sharpener Museum, has also recently closed due to the death of its owner, Paul Johnson. It’s important to visit small museums like these, as well as the Glass Museum in Lancaster or the Soda/Coca-Cola Museum in Marietta, or the Toy & Plastic Museum in Bellaire, to enjoy creative and family-owned attractions around southeastern Ohio. Hopefully Odd Ohio has introduced some interesting places to visit and hopefully we can help to prevent the future closings of some of these amazing, hometown attractions.

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Coming Soon…

Last spring (yes, as in spring almost a year ago), Pat and I ventured out to the now-closed Etta’s Lunchbox Cafe & Museum to check out its vast collection of ancient and new lunch boxes. Coming soon: A video highlighting the museum and its hundreds of lunch boxes.

The Pencil Sharpener Museum in Nelsonville also recently closed due to the death of its owner. However, with small museums like the Pencil Sharpener Museum and the Lunchbox Museum closing, it’s more important than ever to travel around southeastern Ohio to visit this locally-owned treasures and help keep them thriving. Hopefully Odd Ohio has highlighted some great places to visit and things to do while in the area, and my next video will show a great, small little museum that is unfortunately now closed.

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The Battle of Buffington Island

The memorial dedicated to the soldiers who fought in The Battle of Buffington Island in Meigs County.

My roommate and bestie, Pat, has been working on a piece for WOUB for the past few weeks about The Battle of Buffington Island, the only major Civil War battle site in Ohio. Since I was itching to make another video and work with Final Cut again, I decided to tag along on his trip to Portland in Meigs County to film at the battle site’s memorial park. When we arrived we both were slightly… shocked? Annoyed? Underwhelmed? The memorial site consisted of a few signs (one dedicated to the Union soldiers, one to the Confederate soldiers), a stone memorial constructed in the ‘30s and, ironically, another Indian burial mound.

After filming a few shots at the park and racing to the top of the burial mound (I definitely did not win), we headed over to the Meigs County Historical Society in Pomeroy to speak with Margaret Parker, president of the organization, who gave me and Pat a brief history about the battle and its significance to Ohio and the Civil War.

Please ignore my man voice — I just came down with a cold. *tear*

Although the actual island is a few miles south of the battle field, the battle was named for its proximity to the little stretch of land in the Ohio River. The battle was part of a larger Confederate raid, Morgan’s Raid, also known as The Great Raid of 1863.

Brigadier General John Hunt Morgan was a Confederate cavalry raider who traveled through Tennessee, Kentucky and finally Ohio in an effort to draw Union troops away from their duties. He arrived in Meigs on the night of July 18, 1863 but the next morning he would go no further. (Cue ominous music).

Long story short, Union soldiers surrounded Morgan and his exhausted soldiers. There were also two gunboats off the coast of the Ohio River that helped lead to the Union’s victory against the Confederate raid. Some of Morgan’s men fled across the river to then-Virginia, while Morgan stayed behind with the rest of his troops, but eventually Morgan and his remaining troops were captured (on June 26th). Although he spent some time in the Ohio Penitentiary, he eventually escaped to Kentucky. However, The Battle of Buffington Island proved to be successful as no Confederate soldiers ever moved farther north than this site in Ohio.

The little memorial park/site would be a nice place for a picnic or barbecue, although it definitely was not worth the 1+ hour drive from Athens. And although Pat and I learned a little lesson about Ohio’s history, he got his footage and we had a little adventure driving along State Route 124, Ohio isn’t an important state for the outcome of the Civil War. But since Odd Ohio is about interesting people, places and things in southeastern Ohio, the site of The Battle of Buffington Island is definitely significant to the area and kind of significant to the Civil War.

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Not Your Average Cup of Joe

The Coffee Cup. I’m sure you all have seen the elusive billboard on Route 33 – the black and white image of that happy couple – and have passed the small, brown restaurant right outside Nelsonville. Maybe you always planned to visit the restaurant that sparked your curiosity, yet never felt the need to stop. Well this past Wednesday (I feel like that’s how I start all of my articles, hmm…) I finally decided it was time to visit the mysterious restaurant.

Laura finally accepted my invitation to accompany me on one of my Odd Ohio journeys, so we headed north around 12:30 p.m. This was not Laura’s first time visiting the Nelsonville restaurant.

“I had driven past it a million times and always thought it looked like a shit hole and thought, why would anyone eat in Nelsonville?” said Laura. One afternoon, along with two other friends, she decided to explore the city most often seen to OU students as a drive-through. Once she and her friends were hungry, the decided to stop at The Coffee Cup, and her love for the restaurant began.

We pulled into the gravel parking lot, the imposing sign inviting us inside.

As we entered the restaurant, decorated with brown walls, a green accent wall and neon green curtains, Laura described the place as “kitschy.” All around are “normal” dining room tables with regular dinnerware and red plastic cups. It sort of reminded me as a homier, independently run Big Boy, minus the buffet.

Waitress Kelly, a senior at Athens High School who has only worked at The Coffee Cup for a few months, directed Laura and I to our booth.

According to the front of the menu: “One a summer day in 1971, The Coffee Cup opened for business with a pound of ground beef, some flour, potatoes and green beans.” Roy and Joan Smith officially opened their humble restaurant in the early ’70s, only making $40 on the first day of business. Today the restaurant is run by their two children – Charlie and Tammy – and is maintaining its home-style reputation in Nelsonville. According to waitress Kelly, most patrons are visiting customers from the surrounding southeastern Ohio counties, or Ohio University parents, siblings and students passing through on their way to Columbus.

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Through the Looking Glass

Mason jars - the preservation step in the harvest exhibit at the Ohio Glass Museum in Lancaster, Ohio.

Although Lancaster, Ohio isn’t necessarily off the beaten path, I wouldn’t consider the Ohio Glass Museum a typical outing for most, sans my mother who collected glasses growing up. But alas, that is exactly where I found myself on Wednesday, analyzing vast collections of mason jars, colorful dishes and cups, and witnessing first hand the process of making hand-blown glass.

As I walked into the museum slash visitor’s center that afternoon, I was greeted by two elderly men – Director Bill Eckman and employee Jack. Jack left to help a few patrons in the gift shop while Bill invited me to visit the museum’s glass blowing studio to experience the art of creating hand-blown glass first hand.

I watched glass-blower Aaron make a cup, tediously moving back and forth between the “glory hole” – a 2,300 degree oven to re-heat the molten glass – to his work station, manually twisting the glass on a long rod. The soon-to-be-cup took shape using jacks – long, tong-like tools – and Aaron blowing into a long hose, expanding the glass.

Glass production and glass blowing have a long history woven throughout the Egyptian and Roman empires, through Jamestown and the first years of America and have an extensive influence in Lancaster, Ohio.

An exhibit in the museum showcases the five eras of glass making, starting with the “Obsidian Period.” The volcanic glass was prominently used by Native Americans to create arrow heads and other tools, and today the museum boasts a huge chunk of natural obsidian, sent to the museum from Oregon.

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Not Another Cemetery…

Last Monday, Pat and I drove out to Marietta in Washington County to speak with the editor and publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest for a story that I’m working on for Southeast Ohio Magazine. While out there, we thought we should check out Mound Cemetery, one of the many Hopewell Indian burial and ceremonial grounds preserved in the area. Although cemeteries are overrated – especially for the Ohio University students who have attempted to search the Ridges and outlying five cemeteries for ghosts and an adventure – Mound Cemetery offers more to bored students than a quest for the undead.

Mound Cemetery houses “Conus Mound,” built by Hopewell mound builders but preserved by the early pioneers who settled in Marietta. Conus is part of a larger mound complex called Marietta Earthworks, an initiative to preserve and maintain these ancient burial and ceremonial grounds that were constructed as early as 800 B.C. Reportedly, Mound Cemetery is also home to the largest number of Revolutionary War officers buried in a single location.

Before driving to the cemetery we spoke briefly with the Manager of Local History and Genealogy at the Washington County Public Library, Ernie Thode. We filmed Ernie and took another quick trip (and I mean quick, the cemetery is about 20 yards from the library) out to Mound Cemetery and this is what we captured…

Look, ma, my first video edited in Final Cut!

It was fun! Although rainy and chilly, Pat and I learned a lot about the importance of these burial and ceremonial sites to the history of Marietta.

P.S. – Is that really what my hair really looks like from behind?

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