Beverly & Waterford
OUR?TOWN: Communities provide anchor for residents
BEVERLY–Rural but close to city amenities, friendly, progressive … the people of Beverly all used these terms to describe their community.
Set on a sweeping bend in the Muskingum River, the village of 1,300 people was founded in the late 1700s only a year after Marietta, settled by Revolutionary War veterans who found ample flat land suitable for farming and the river as a ready transportation route.
Agriculture continues to be a staple business more than two centuries later as industrial development has come and gone.
Jim Holman, 62, has spent nearly all his life in the village– “I moved away for a bit, but I missed it so much I had to move back,” he said — and serves with the volunteer fire department and village council.
“My grandparents had a truck farm here, so did my dad,” he said. “I like the involvement in the community. I love helping people. It’s a small community, so we know practically everybody, and we try to help them when they need help because you know they’ll help you when you need help.”
In the Oliver Tucker Museum on Park Street just up from Ohio 60, the main through street, Sharon and Wayne Farnsworth and Juanita Meyers go through papers and donated objects for the crowded tribute to the area’s history. Art, quilts, furniture and documents, tools, firearms and photographs occupy the corners and wall space, glass cabinets and shelves. The village’s history is long and rich, the local people care about it, and the Lower Muskingum Historical Society preserves it and keeps it alive.
The museum is housed in one of the oldest places in town, attached to a log cabin visible from the main street. The cabin, according to the museum, is the oldest remaining original building of its kind in what used to be the Northwest Territories.
Beverly started as an agricultural settlement, founded by Capt. John Dodge, who headed upriver from Marietta looking for a suitable place to build a grist mill. The town, named for Dodge’s home town of Beverly, Mass., was established in 1789 and grew. It once had a foundry, molasses presses and an opera house, which actually was an elaborate theater on the second floor of the Oddfellows Lodge.
“Like all river towns, there was a lot of boat traffic, work associated with the river, the canal, then the power plant,” Wayne said. “The town just grew.”
It at one time had plumbing and hardware stores, and its own power plant, feed mills, planer mill and woolen mill, all run by water power from the Muskingum, he said. Agriculture thrived.
For a time, Beverly was also the winter home for a wild west show and circus, which stabled its animals at a local farm, he said.
“A little town with a big welcome,” said Meyers, who is in her 70s. “That’s what it said on the side of one of the barns.”
“I lived on Genesis Street, growing up,” she said. “I rode my bike anyplace I wanted to go, I walked to school, there was no fear at all. It was a wonderful place to grow up.”
Rick Walters is a Washington County commissioner and until recently was president of the chamber of commerce in the village. He said he likes the small town feel of the community and owns an insurance agency in Beverly.
“Like a lot of small towns, the benefit is that you know a lot of the residents and other business owners. When we have a tragedy, the whole community comes together in support,” he said.“If my wife has a flat, I know someone will stop and help her. We tend to take care of one another better than people in big cities.”
Businesses, from small to large, support the chamber, the schools and the community, he said.
Jim Black has lived in Beverly for 40 years and recently retired from his position as executive director for the Southeastern Ohio Port Authority, the economic development agency for Washington County, and is still a member of the Beverly Volunteer Fire Department.
“It’s a nice rural population, very friendly, outgoing, very progressive,” he said.
Black came to Beverly as an engineer for Globe Metallurgical and never left. Globe, part of an international company that manufactures specialty alloys, continues to be a strong employer in the area.
“It’s a good place to raise a family, two good schools,” he said, referring to the Fort Frye district and, across the river, Wolf Creek Local Schools. “Our fire department is one of the best in the state.”
As an example of how the community reacts to crisis, Black recalls the drought of the 1980s, which threatened the village water supplies.
“A group started a water system, nobody gave up on it,” he said. “In the mid-1990s, the first people got the water service, and now it serves in excess of 1,000 people. That’s an example of people getting together and solving problems.”
The water system, he said, has had the additional benefit of attracting housing.
“It’s led to a lot of residential development in the area,” he said.
The community has had its share of trials, ranging from periodic flooding of the Muskingum to the ups and downs of the industrial economy. Black said that over time flood control works have helped minimize catastrophic flooding, such as the one in 1913 that nearly wiped out the community.
“It would take a very significant rainfall to flood like it used to,” he said.
The closure of the AEP coal-fired power plant four miles up the Muskingum was a blow to the area’s economy, taking with it nearly 300 high-paying jobs, but Walters said AEP gave laid-off workers the chance to transfer to other plants, close enough that many of those workers kept their homes in Beverly or Waterford.
“We have several people maintaining their residence here and working at Gavin, Conesville, even Mitchell,” he said.
Some have positions with the “peaker” plants, gas-fired power plants operated by AEP that go online to meet peak demand, Holman said.
“They’re different kinds of plants and don’t require the amount of employees the coal plant used to,” he said.
The community, Holman said, is also aging, in part because there are few jobs to keep young people there. He can see it in his work for the volunteer fire department.
“We always try to keep a 32-member roster,” he said. “In January 1980 when I started, there was a waiting list. Now, we’ve got 24, there’s no one ready to join, and the 24 we have are, well, they’re getting up in years.”
Holman has one son who works in Parkersburg, and another who joined the Air Force.
“He’s in Boise, Idaho. The jobs for youth are just not available, and many other families have had young people leave the area for similar reasons,” he said.
Phil Lowe, 61, is a veterinarian and has lived in Beverly since he was 2, except for eight years of college studies. He and his wife both attended Fort Frye High School, as did all three of their children. He took over the veterinary practice, which specializes in dairy and beef cattle, from his father. Of his three children, one remains in Beverly, one is in Columbus and the other is in college in Cincinnati. All of them attended Fort Frye.
“It’s just an easy, laid-back non-hectic lifestyle here,” he said. “Everybody’s a neighbor and a friend.”
Lowe said he enjoys hiking and hunting around the local countryside and just being in a rural area. A member of the volunteer fire department for 42 years, and chief for the last 10, that work takes up much of his time, he said.
Between his fire department service and being a veterinarian, he said, “there’s not many roads in Washington, Morgan or Noble counties I haven’t been down.”
Down the road, he said, Beverly probably will become something like a bedroom community, with residents commuting to Marietta, Parkersburg or Belpre. Meanwhile he’s confident that the agricultural roots of the area will remain strong.
“There’s still enough to support a veterinarian who wants to do what I do, there shouldn’t be any trouble with that,” he said.
Across the river in Waterford, Tyson Powers, owner of Jukebox Pizza, was shoveling away the last of the accumulated snow around the back door of the restaurant as the air warmed on Friday. He’s run the retro-designed diner for years.
“You’ll see a lot of people move away and come back,” he said. “It’s a close community, and I like that. It’s people helping people, old-fashioned, good, good people.”
He has children, a sixth grader and an eighth grader, in Waterford schools, where he went to school and his father was a teacher.
Inside the restaurant, Marilyn Young and Kenita Venham were having a late lunch. Young, 80, said her mother and father graduated from Waterford High School when it was new. The original part of the building is still in use and is nearly 100 years old.
Venham said her parents were from Waterford but moved to Virginia, near Washington D.C. She was born there and lived an urban life until she was 13, when her parents moved back to their hometown. It was an adjustment for a teen accustomed to big city life, she said.
“It was hard moving here, everyone already knew each other and it was hard to fit in, but I worked my way through it,” she said. Her mother, she said, still has a farm nearby, where her daughter’s family lives.
Young said all her children graduated from Waterford High School, and her grandchildren are attending it, learning from many of the same teachers who taught their parents.
The bonds forged by the Muskingum are strong.
“I had a friend in first grade, and we’re still close,” Young said.
¯ Population: 1,316.
¯ 18 and older: 75.9 percent.
¯ 65 and older: 19.5 percent.
¯ Male: 47.8 percent.
¯ Female: 52.2 percent.
¯ Median household income: $39,583.
¯ Median house value: $101,500.
¯ Median rent: $561.
¯ Unemployment rate: 5 percent.
¯ Residents below poverty level: 17.8 percent.
¯ Median age: 41.8 (2000 census: 42.8).
¯ Population: 439.
¯ 18 and older: 62.2 percent.
¯ 65 and older:14.8 percent.
¯ Male: 59.2 percent.
¯ Female:40.8 percent.
¯ Median household income:$55,833.
¯ Median house value: $99,600.
¯ Median rent: N/A.
¯ Unemployment rate: N/A.
¯ Residents below poverty level: 2.3 percent.
¯ Median age: 35.2.
Source: U.S. Census.