Ohio Valley River Museum
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit a nearby museum dedicated to the Ohio River and the surrounding community’s history. The town of Clarington, Ohio, can trace its heritage back nearly two hundred years. The first recorded information of the village was described in 1833. It tells us that the village had ten homes for families, two local stores that sold supplies and a town doctor when the need arose. It also had a tavern for the local citizens to unwind after a day in the fields or working the river.
In the mid-1950s, the village learned a new aluminum plant was going to be built just down the road at Buckhill Bottom. With this announcement came the need for a new road and railway to the business. When both were completed, the community had lost many of its homes. Since that time of change 60 years ago, the village has remained a community of families and friends.
Why write about the small community along the river? Well, I guess because it is still home to many who can trace their family’s roots with the town’s history. And perhaps that is why a group of citizens in 2008 formed a committee called “Team Monroe.”
They began with the hope of promoting their county’s history and points of local interest. They had little or no money; only the interest in showing pride for their county and hopes those with an interest in history would come and visit.
What better way to preserve history than to start a museum project that highlighted the area and the river. Clarington has long played a part in the river’s history. In 1912, a river boat named the “Liberty” was built in the village by skilled craftsman. Later on, another steamboat named the “City of Wheeling” was built and launched into service. Both boats traveled the river, moving supplies and passengers for many years. Pictures of the boats are on display at the museum. The community may not have been large in size, but it played a large part in development of the river and its history.
In 2009, with the help of the Ohio Valley Credit Union, a lease was obtained for its former building, giving a future home to the Ohio Valley River Museum. With a location, Barbara Rush was asked to help organize the new museum. From the original committee members, who began the early work on the museum, several are still on board with daily operations, Fred McCabe, Taylor Abbott, Donald Pollock, Mike Lloyd, Jane Williams and Rodney Rufener. Many others in the community that helped with the museum’s beginnings are still supportive in many ways today. Barbara said during our interview, “Without the help of so many people in the community, the museum would not be the success it is today.”
When the museum opened, the committee wondered if there would be interest by the community in the formation of the museum. They started with only a few items for the museum displays. But, within a short time, the local community showed it support with donations of historical artifacts to be put on display for all to see. From those beginnings, items have been cataloged and are now professionally displayed along with supporting information in the six different rooms of the museum.
The museum is one of three along the river that are dedicated to the Ohio River’s history. In Marietta, The River Museum gives visitors a look at river life with rooms of displays depicting the many boats that traveled the river. Also moored alongside the museum in the Muskingum River is the last true steam boat still afloat on the river, the W.P. Snyder. At Point Pleasant, W.Va., another river museum has on display many aspects of the river along with a large fresh water aquarium that exhibits fish collected from the Ohio River.
What is amazing about the Clarington museum is that it operates without any corporate support. Membership fees, along with donations of those who visit help to generate operating expenses. Throughout the year, different fund raisers are organized to help with expenses. One of the events that draws great interest is the Antique Appraisal Fairs that are held two or three times a year.
Also each year, in February and October, the museum hosts Ladies Days to help with raising funds. One of the museums biggest events is the Sunfish Festival held the second weekend of June each year. Although the museum has at present no corporate sponsor, they are very open to help in any form from business or groups wishing to help with the museum’s future.
On May 17, the museum will host “Dine Like You’re on the Delta Queen.” One of the rooms in the exhibit is dedicated to the “Delta Queen Steamboat Co. Exhibit.” The museum obtained a book that gives historical facts about the world famous wooden river boat. It also lists menus and recipes from the boat’s past. These meals will be the basis for the dinner served that evening at the celebrating of the steamboat.
Tickets are still available for the event until the tenth of the month. Prices are $20 for museum members and $25 for non-members. Guests will also be privileged to hear guest speaker John Bowman that evening. John is the author of four books on the history of the river and Wheeling. John also is a noted Civil War historian.
The museum operates with volunteers and is open in the warmer months beginning in June. Each Friday and Saturday, the museum opens its doors from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. each day. Recently the museum, with the help from Swiss Valley Associates, Inc. of Clarington, installed a lift chair to give those who may be unable to walk up steps easy access to the many museum exhibits. The museum staff is on hand to answer questions for its guests.
The museum also welcomes civic organizations and school groups. Anyone wishing to make arrangements for a group visit is encouraged to contact Barbara Rush, director, in advance to make arrangements for their visit. Barbara can be contacted by calling 740-391-2786.
The center piece of the museum is a 16.5 white oak rescue boat. The boat had been forgotten until a few years ago when by chance the boat was discovered. The story of the boat is now contained in a children?s book with pictures and illustrations that tells of its discovery.
History is written by men and women in adventures and struggles to tame the Ohio River. The village of Clarington has, 200 years, not only been witness to history, but it has been an important part in the valley’s growth.
Through the hard work of volunteers, local history is being preserved for the next generations of historians. The Ohio Valley River Museum is a place you can take your children and grandchildren to allow them to learn of the importance the river played in the growth of our country, as we once again look Through the Lens.