The Lucasville Historical Society has been a critical fixture in the town of Lucasville, Ohio, serving to bridge the gap between local history and personal and familial significance. It aims to be a central hub for historical records from the area, and its large collections, mostly gleaned from personal donations, demonstrate the penchant for the preservation and exhibition of history within the community. Pat and John Smith, who currently help run the Historical Society, are in the process of relocating and restoring the society’s records. These endeavors have not been effortlessly accomplished however, as Pat and John struggle to garner enthusiasm from the community and incite philanthropy. In its present state, the historical society, including the documents and artifacts collected over the years, occupies the basement of another one of its member’s houses. While the basement provides a temporary, dry space for storage, it is far from ideal. In the basement, there is little room to display the collections and to organize files efficiently. Most artifacts remain in cardboard boxes, and documents reside in filing cabinets, producing few opportunities to showcase historical pieces and allow others to access files. The attic of the Emmanuel United Methodist Church also accommodates part of the collection, including antique shoes and clothing. With no more available space, Pat revealed with frustration that the historical society had to start turning away donations of artifacts. However, she is optimistic that the approaching bicentennial celebration will renew excitement about the historical society and promote its importance.
In March 2019, we spent time digitizing a portion of the Historical Society’s records. The files encompassed a wide range of subjects from floods to local businesses. Scanning exposed how expansive the collection truly is; we quickly realized that we needed to modify our ambitions of making it through an entire filing cabinet shelf of documents into a more feasible goal. Pat would intervene as we worked, shuffling fondly through various files and recounting anecdotes. Even though she is not a Lucasville native and would downplay how much she knew about the area, it was easy to recognize her genuine appreciation for the local history and desire to preserve it.
Aside from the documents and artifacts available within the Historical Society’s confines, there is still a significant amount of history to be explored that is retained only in the minds of local historians and other community members. Tom Adkins, a librarian at the Pike County Library, introduced us to local lore lying beneath the surface of Lucasville.
Tom was heavily influenced by intergenerational oral tradition and continues promoting this tradition and love for history with his work as a librarian. As we interviewed Tom, it became apparent how challenging accessing this information could be, especially unaided by historians. Historic landmarks are a way of providing snapshots into the past, thus helping to mitigate this issue, but even their recognition is hindered by strict state and national regulations.
Negative perceptions of Scioto County often downplay and obscure the cultural richness embedded in its history as well. William McKinley, a Lucasville native and owner of the McKinley Funeral Home, explained that despite being considered poverty-stricken, Scioto County has a strong philanthropic base. Many institutions and programs have been funded partially or entirely by local generosity. For instance, a capital campaign for Shawnee State University raised sixteen million dollars from private funds and a charity event for the Red Cross raised close to 200,000 dollars. “When you’re down here, it’s a split society, but Ohio is becoming a split society. Educationally, financially, socially. When economic hard times hit, society splits and you forget about all of the progressive people that live here that make this community go. Just like, who would think that we could have raised sixteen million dollars in private money for the university.” The Hospice Center also received extensive donations from community members and is looking to expand in the spring.
Lucasville is no stranger to philanthropy and there is an evident desire in the area to give back. The restoration and relocation of the Lucasville Historical Society’s archives is not an unrealistic goal given this fact. Our time working with the society’s files and observing the area as appreciative visitors revealed to us the far-reaching implications these changes could have. Local history is ingrained in this organization as well as in the minds of those with strong ties to the area. In making this knowledge more accessible, the historical society could fortify its foundation and further stimulate celebrations of local identity and unification in Lucasville as well as in surrounding areas of Scioto County.
If you are interested in donating time or space to the Lucasville Historical Society, please contact Pat Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.