Local sites on history tour

Photo submitted by Shayna Roberts The Morris Hardware Company is shown here after 1857 as McConnelsville developed.

History’s connection to local sites and businesses will be showcased next month with exclusive and free tours of several sites in the area.

Ohio Open Doors is a statewide initiative to encourage communities to dive into their local histories and families to check out lesser-known gems across the state.

Across the state, 288 historic sites and stories will be shared and can be found online at bit.ly/opendoors2018.

Shayna Roberts, of McConnelsville, said the Morgan County community is using Ohio History Connection’s Ohio Open Doors programming as “a catalyst for a day of local celebration of history and community.”

In McConnelsville, Sept. 15 will feature tours of the family business running since 1845, Morris Hardware, plus a sidewalk art festival at the library, tours of the Doll House and Button House and featured businesses opening their doors for the day of festivities.

“We’re so fortunate that Tom Schanken is so passionate for the history and legacy of the family,” explained Roberts, who is an employee of Morris Hardware.

Roberts explained that the hardware business, which stretches back six generations, is older than the Twin City Opera House and the Morgan County Courthouse.

“Back in 1817 George Morris came from England as an immigrant with his brother and they tried working with the land but that didn’t pan out and then they worked with salt for a while,” she said. “But then they moved into town and built the Morris House and started the tin shop in 1845. We have that first ledger where they started the business as Morris Hardware.”

That ledger, along with historic photographs, and several original pieces of equipment the service business still uses today will be a part of the hardware store’s tours.

“George and his two sons shortly set their sights on Main Street McConnelsville though,” added Roberts. “In 1849 they moved to the present location and several expansions continued over the years as the business passed through the family.”

George Morris ran the business from 1845 to 1873, then passed the business on to his son Robert Morris in 1873 who took the helm until 1886 when he passed on the shop to his two nephews George and William Scott.

“George Scott really brought in the innovations, he was a socialite that traveled and kept the business current,” described Roberts. “In fact, he co-owned the first automobile in the community with another family.”

“Tom has incredible stories from growing up in that building,” described Roberts of the current owner, before noting the business’s building will open up not only the main floor, but even the basement from noon to 4 p.m.

“We’ll have tours departing every half hour so as to respect the open and operating business as we go through,” she added.

In Marietta, the Ohio River Museum and Campus Martius, as well as the W.P. Snyder steamboat and the Henry Fearing House Museum will also be open to the public for free tours.

“The museum will be free for that day after we come back from the brunch with Mark Twain on the Valley Gem and the Ladies Civitan group will be providing hot dogs for lunch,” said Glenna Hoff, director of education and programs at the Campus Martius and Ohio River museums. “We’re trying to reminisce what people did 100 years ago as we celebrate the 100th birthday of the W.P.Snyder so it’s a family outing and we’ll even have some descendants of William Snyder there.”

And Mary Jo Hutchinson, a descendant of not only the Fearings but also Rufus Putnam, also plans to have the doors open for free tours at the Fearing House in Harmar the following day, Sept. 16, between 1 and 4 p.m.

“It’s in my blood, I can’t help it, I’m all Ohio,” she chuckled, saying planning for the day is still in the works as she looks for volunteers to aid in the programming.

“We have so much local history to share, it will be a great weekend.”