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Century Village Museum Enters Its 82nd Year in May of 2024

History Of the Apple Butter Festival

Dr. Goodwin

Seabury Ford

On May 30, 1942 is the date that marks the start of a landmark year for the Geauga County Historical Society.  This date was when the museum doors, of what we now know as Century Village Museum were opened to the public for the first time.  In 1942 the public saw a much different picture than what visitors are privileged to see today. In fact, there was only one historic building open for viewing by the public. This building was the Eleazer Hickox home built in 1838 that remains on its original site. The story of the growth of Century Village Museum revolves around the importance of how a number of individuals shared their vision and dedication for preserving the history of our county for future generations. When these interested individuals gathered together, the result is what you now see on the southern end of Burton Square.

It all began at a family reunion gathering of 172 descendants of John and Ester Ford held July 24, 1873.  It was here that the beginning steps for the formation of a historical society took shape.  One of the family members of this family reunion was Col. Henry Ford. He had invited Homer Goodwin, Judge Lester Taylor and General Garfield to attend. This resulted in giving Judge Taylor and Homer Goodwin the opportunity to reemphasize their enthusiasm for the formation of a historical society to a sizable group of people and to accomplish the following. "A date was set, September 16, 1873, and Garfield was to make the address. With the Hon. Peter Hitchcock as temporary chairman, a constitution was formed. The name of this society shall be the Historical Society of Geauga County. Its object the gathering and preserving in permanent form the names of early settlers, facts, and incidents connected with the early settlement, together with such relics as may be of interest and value. Officers were elected, the Hon. Lester Taylor of Claridon as president, and C. E. Clapp of Huntsburg as secretary. Representative from the townships made up the board of managers. Songs, stories and an historic address were given; 67 members were present."

"In the beginning, that first historical society planned only to collect and house in a safe place relics of the early days, from which they hoped their descendants might learn the lesson of care of prudence. Meetings were held annually on September 10th at the fairgrounds. Judge Taylor delivered the centennial address in 1876. In May, 1878, the society undertook the publication of a county history, and the aid of the Agricultural Society. The last meeting of the society was held in Burton, October 15, 1878, the Judge Taylor presiding. The Hon. Peter Hitchcock gave the address, and Professor B. F. Pratt of Cleveland held the chorus of 75 voices. Gradually, due to the inability of members to attend more than one meeting a year, the meetings of the Historical Society merged with the pioneer picnic at Punderson Lake. No further knowledge of this group was recorded until 1898, the centennial year of the county. Interest was renewed, but only briefly. Though an extensive amount of relics were gathered from each township, there was no place in which to store them. They were left in the town hall and consequently many were lost."

"It has been said that tradition is the most powerful influence, and that pride in tradition holds groups and people together. Proof of this sentiment was seen February 20, 1938, fifty years later, when B. J. Shanower called a meeting for the purpose of reorganizing that early historical society. Hoping to find many of those lost heirlooms and make possible a place to restore them, the committee secured rooms in the old school building in Burton. Mrs. Ina Taylor was engaged as custodian."

"On July 4, 1938, 65 years after the family reunion on the old Ford farm, the present Geauga County Historical and Memorial Society was organized. B. J. Shanower was president, Paul Denton was vice president, David Henderson was secretary and C. S. Goodell was treasurer Articles of a constitution were drawn up much the same as those in 1873, but added was the society' proposal to cooperate with the schools of the county in the teaching of state and local history, to cooperate with the libraries of the county in the up-building of state and local history sections, and the marking of historical landmarks."
During the early days in 1938-1941, the board of directors consisted of one representative from each township. Interest in preservation of historical artifacts was growing as were the amount of items in the rooms int the old school. At this time one of the board of directors, Lottie Dolittle Fox from Burton, "and one whose roots go deep in Geauga history, was actively interest in the society and felt that it was important for the younger generation to see how the pioneers lived. Thus, she felt the society should be more fittingly housed. Through her long friendship with Hon. France P. Bolton, Congresswoman from Ohio's 22nd district, she knew that Mrs. Bolton had long planned to do something for the county, and could think of nothing that would do more for the future than the preservation of historical papers and relics. This would enable Mrs. Bolton to express her friendship in a concrete form. Mrs. Fox was able to enlist Mrs. Bolton's help, and at the annual meeting on July 5, 1941, the deed of the property was given to President Shanower by Mrs. Bolton. Her gift of $15,000 purchased six and a half acres from Mrs. William Holbury and paid for repairs on the house."

The Hickox house is sometimes referred to as the Hickox Brick, and for many year as "the museum". This was probably due to the fact for a number of years it was the only museum building available to the public. The first addition to the six and a half acres that accompanied the Hickox Brick was the blacksmith shop in 1952. It was originally placed where the Shanower Library is today. An additional 14 buildings were moved here and restored during the 1950's and on through the 1970's. Seven more building arrived on the grounds between the 1980's and 2013.

Written by Sandra Mueller
(The information identified in parentheses comes from the Pioneer and General History of Geauga County, 1953 edition)

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