My Town Destination: New Lexington and Greater Perry County
Trip Type: Day Trip
Date of Visit: 8/16/18
Town Ambassador/Contact: John Ulmer Phone: 740-342-3547 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As you enter New Lexington there are several features recognizable to historic downtowns- a beautiful courthouse, brick and stone buildings aligning the main roads being re-purposed for today’s uses, and restaurants. But Perry County also has a very unique industry it supports in nearby Crooksville; Clay.
Perry County Land of Clay
Perry County is located in the Southeastern part of Ohio. Its topography of rolling hills are great for agriculture. The southern part of the county is perfect for clay, coal, and oil. Many small streams in the area are orange in color due to these unique conditions. “In the late 1800’s, Ohio was noted for clay products ranging from brick and drain tile to excellent ornamental wares. At the turn of the century, southern Muskingum and northern Perry counties of Ohio were booming in the stoneware industry. Farming, clay digging/mining, wood chopping, and potting were the primary livelihoods for the area. Southeast Ohio soon produced every pottery style known and were constantly making improvements on previously used methods. For the local clays, wood, coal and gas was readily available to fire the kilns. The natural resources of the area coupled with a large number of skilled craftsman in the area led to Crooksville and the surrounding communities becoming known as the “Pottery Center of the World”(http://hullpotteryassociation.org/2014/03/10/149/).
Many industries that took advantage of clay opportunities are still continuing today in some form. Companies of note are Ludowici Tile Plant( the county’s third largest employer), and Hull Pottery- which closed in 1986 but whose legacy is preserved through the Hull Pottery Association. Visitors can now visit the Clay Center of Ohio in Roseville (right outside Crooksville), off Rt 93 on Ceramic Rd.
Additionally, collectors and visitors alike don’t want to miss the the Crooksville-Roseville Pottery Festival in August 2019!
Shawnee – Coal Boom
Another great stop in Perry County is the historic town of Shawnee. The Big Coal town that has a rich history that dedicated volunteers are trying to preserve.
Shawnee, named after the Shawnee Indians in 1872, currently is home to only a little over 600 people. But this nostalgic and intriguing location has a story to tell.
Because of investments by the Newark Coal and Upson Coal Companies, housing and stores to buy goods sprung up fast for miners. There were also an investments by the Claycraft and Flash Brick Companies. By 1900 Shawnee was a prosperous town with over 3,200 residents and a reported 21 saloons and 3 theaters. One theater in particular, Tecumseh Theater, currently being restored, was once called a “skyscraper” when built in 1907. The Tecumseh Theater is even rumored to have hosted Shirley Temple! But the depression and wars to come hit Shawnee hard, and its population due to lack of work continued to dwindle.
Today there is a resurgence for the town because of individuals committed to preserving the past and sharing it with the next generation. Volunteer organizations like the Shawnee Improvement and Homecoming Association and Little Cities of Black Diamond Council are committed to preserving the town’s unique overhang porches and theater. These organizations recently raised funds to create the Shawnee Museum, believed to be the oldest building in Shawnee. These wonderful projects are just a start to making Shawnee a destination to view the past.
Liberator of Bulgaria in Perry County
Many visitors to downtown New Lexington probably wonder why there is a statue of Januarius MacGahan right across from the courthouse in McDougal Park. Before this man become famous, he was born and grew up in a little area known as Pigeon Roost Ridge, right outside of New Lexington. Januarius went on to become a war correspondent for The New York Herald and the Daily News in England. He traveled all over Europe writing for the papers and published a book. But when he reported on the Turkish treatment of the Bulgarians during the Russian-Turkish War, it created mass outrage against Turkey. His correspondence with Russia then helped to procure the events that led to Bulgarian liberation with the defeat of the Turkish armies. Januarius died of typhoid fever shortly before they set the new Bulgarian borders. In February of 1843 an American war ship brought his body home to New Lexington.
In 1904, the MacGahan Club formed with the purpose of erecting a monument. Over time the club disbanded, but the American-Bulgarian Foundation finished and unveiled the current statue in McDougal Park. This was an event that even President Ronald Reagan took note.
Today, The Knights of Columbus continue to take care of the history and the monument of New Lexington’s famous resident, and in June celebrates his life with the Januarius MacGahan Festival.
New Lexington-Community Partnerships and Unique Opportunities
There is a revitalization happening in New Lexington, with Hocking Hills College opening a campus, and organization’s like Perry County Board of Developmental Disabilities investing in programs and the Arts downtown, there are more people moving to the county for quality of life. There are also several great places to participate in activities in Perry County. Ride the Wind, on the Zanesville and Western Scenic Railroad. Go hiking on the Buckeye Trail, or go to see the “Worlds Greatest Mine Fire,” that is still burning! Made famous by Ripley’s believe it or not, the location is now operated by Robinson’s Cave in New Straightsville (another mining town in Perry County, known for its moonshine), across from the New Straightsville Moonshine Company. Perry County also boasts the Glenford Fort, believed to be built by Native Americans over 2,000 years ago! Or, explore Perry county’s rich history visiting sites such as Ohio’s oldest Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s. Another option is to head toward the river to explore the Muskingum River Parkway.
There are several reasons to visit New Lexington and Perry County, if you love small town events make sure to mark your calendar for the Perry County Fair, and Moonshine Festival. Don’t forget to stop in at great local establishments like Dodson’s and Fiore’s while your exploring. If you plan ahead, there is so much to discover. Make Perry county a destination for your next road trip!
MTT Antique and Market Finds
Great Antique Shops and Farmers Markets are familiar sights in small towns. This can also include Thrift Shops, Local Eats, and the like! Here are some great MTT Antique Finds from New Lexington and Greater Perry County:
My Town Today started a referral section of each article. It’s based on the fun of visiting a town, and seeing what town the majority of its citizens would recommend for My Town Today to visit next.
The referral for this entry is: Somerset, OH . Stay tuned for My Town Today to pop up there soon.
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