The best adventure typically begins with a destination that sounds interesting and then involves finding other things to see and do in the area. That was certainly the case on Saturday when I located numerous things to see while en route to my my destination – Highland House in Hillsboro, Ohio. Read about some of it here.
If you’ve ever driven Route 50 through Hillsboro you’ve gone right past their front door. If you’re anything like me, you’ve wondered what it is but never actually stopped.
I stopped Saturday and am so glad I did. It’s a museum run by the Highland County Historical Society. It’s also home to some of the friendliest, most welcoming people you’ll ever hope to meet.
I had heard about an interesting exhibit at the museum but hadn’t made the connection in my mind to the neat old house I had seen on the corner. So it was great to find myself visiting this place I had wondered about for so long.
The building dates to the 1840s and is a lovely Federal Style home. Each room is dedicated to a different theme like military history, medicine or education. There’s a Victorian bedroom, a nursery and formal dining room among other nicely appointed spaces. There’s a hall of fame that tells stories about significant people from their past. Plus, you’ll find lots of artwork, and goodies galore everywhere you look.
In fact, they had some things I had never seen before and tell many stories that are rooted locally but that are part of a bigger story of our nation’s history.
For example, they have a telephone switchboard. I have never seen one in real life and was fascinated by the beauty of this technology.
Anyone else remember the old party line system? Those were the days! It made me want to ask Sara from Mayberry to get Andy on the phone.
There’s a gorgeous walnut desk that was hand carved by a local lady. Plus there are military uniforms, pictures and other items that drive home the humanity of war.
A handmade quilt embroidered with names also caught my eye as did a striking bas relief (pictured at top) and other items from the Colony Theater. Look for more on this another day.
Did you know that Highland County has produced three state governors? I had no idea that two Ohio governors came from here as did another who held office in Idaho.
Out of more than a dozen rooms to choose from, my favorite was the Humanities Room. Here, they tell stories about some important social movements. They have a map that depicts the Underground Railroad in the county. There’s a little on temperance and a lot about the desegregation of local schools in 1956.
This last piece was actually the point of going. I was shocked when I read a story about an Ohio school district still fighting tooth and nail in 1956 to keep their schools segregated. This story is too much to tell today so come back tomorrow and learn about this piece of Highland County’s history which led me to Highland House.
It’s both disturbing and inspiring and I found this museum treated the subject with great respect.
Another tidbit I didn’t expect to learn is that Casper, Wyoming was named for Hillsboro native Caspar Collins. He died a hero in 1865 while fighting Indians at the Battle of Platte Bridge. That’s near present day Casper.
At the time he died, Lieutenant Caspar Collins was a young man of 20 and far from home. I flew into his namesake city a few years ago and had the best diner milkshake of my life in that town. I had no idea there was a connection to my region. And yes, the city honors Caspar whose name has an ‘a’ but they screwed up the spelling and used an ‘e’ instead.
My self guided tour through this museum was great fun. I got the impression that for every item that captured my attention there were at least ten more I didn’t even notice.
Best of all, the ladies working that day were great fun to chat with and made me feel welcome. The self guided tour is free but they do request a donation and that you sign their guest book.
Every community needs a place like Highland House for the safekeeping of memories and relics. It’s not just a repository for stuff. It’s a keeper of stories – some big, others kind of small – but all meaningful in some way.
Come back tomorrow to read about the mothers who marched for integrated schools and to give their children a better life. There are a couple of other specific stories from here that I want to tell you in the coming days.
Meanwhile, learn more about Highland House, including their seasonal hours, at their website or search for the historical society on Facebook.