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History — like it or not

September 27, 2012
By JANICE R. KIASKI - Herald-Star community editor ( , The Herald-Star

You either like history or you don't.

I guess that's the black and white of it, and for most of my life, history has been just an OK subject for me. Some of it interests me, including the Civil War. Some of it doesn't.

But I think something happens when you get older - something besides the advent of hot flashes and the realization that teenagers haven't a clue what you're talking about when you mention rabbit ears on TV sets or eight-track tapes or party line phones.

Article Photos

Guest speaker R.W. ‘Dick” Phillips next to picture of Arthur St. Clair, the topic of his speech and book

In my own experience, history in general and family history in particular are more important to me now than ever - a thought I mentioned at the table where I was sitting Sept. 18 when the Jefferson County Historical Association held its annual meeting and banquet at the Steubenville Country Club.

I mentioned how my 2012 family project is compiling photos and history about the Hout House in Richmond built by my great-grandfather in 1881, the house where I grew up.

And I'm learning more about my dad's service in the Army during World War II thanks to a reader I connected with in Florida who read a column about my interest in that.

I sat with Charlie Green, second vice president, and his wife, Toni; association President Judy Brancazio; Mike Giles, who led us in the Pledge of Allegiance and who serves on the board of directors; Betty Masters, who also serves on the association's board and kept calling me Karen, which I later joked would not cause me to suffer from an identity crisis; and R.W. "Dick" Phillips and his wife, Mary, of St. Clairsville.

Phillips was the speaker, his topic Arthur St. Clair, a guy that the history books tend to gloss over despite his contributions to our country. A former British officer for whom the city of St. Clairsville was named more than 200 years ago, St. Clair was George Washington's comrade-in-arms and trusted friend for many decades.

He served as the first governor of the Northwest Territory, which includes Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. Before that, he served as major Gen. in the Revolutionary War and as the congressional delegate from Pennsylvania in 1785-86.

St. Clair presided over the 1878 Congress' passage of the Northwest Ordinance and initiated the constitutional convention in Philadelphia. That convention drafted the U.S. Constitution. He also founded Ohio's first nine counties - giving Jefferson County its name - and its territorial court system from 1788 to 1802. During that time he also governed a territory the size of the original 13 colonies.

Phillips got interested in who St. Clair was after retiring from public relations work in Cleveland and Phoenix and settling in Belmont County. He told me his father, Cletus Phillips, was from Salineville, and his uncle, Buzz Parks, was the town barber in Smithfield for 50 years. Phillips has written a book entitled "Arthur St. Clair: The Invisible Patriot."

The evening included the introduction of officers who are, aside from Brancazio and Green, Eleanor Naylor, first vice president; Ruth Casey, secretary; and Terry Zavacky, treasurer. Other board of directors members are Dr. Howard Brettell, Barry Bardone, Bridgette Douglas, Martha Freese, Mal Lilly, Bob Phillipson, Susan Probert, Lois Rekowski, Dominic Teramana and Linda Wells.

We also sang "Happy Birthday" to Eleanor Naylor, who was presented with a corsage.

I mentioned to Charlie that I had come across some items of local history and wanted to be sure they were preserved. I asked about donating them to the museum - programs from things that no longer exist, including the Steubenville Players (a program from the 1972 production of "Fiddler on the Roof") and the May 17, 1986, Civic Choral Society concert with Dave Brubeck.

When you look at these kinds of programs, it's interesting to see the names of people involved as much as it is to check out the ads of supporting businesses, some still around, many sadly not.

As an FYI, the museum is located at 426 Franklin Ave., Steubenville. The phone number is (740) 283-1133. The museum and Vivian Snyder Library is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday until Nov. 21 when it closes for the winter.

The newest display is the Dean Martin room, which I have yet to see but intend to drop by and check out.

The program flyer noted that this year, we're observing the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812 and that on June 18, the historical association participated in a program on the steps of the Jefferson County courthouse arranged by county commissioner Tom Graham. The state of Ohio War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission provided an 1812 replica flag with 15 stripes and 15 stars, exactly the same as the one flown over Fort McHenry which Francis Scott Key saw when he wrote the Star Spangled Banner. Graham donated the flag to the museum.

So there you have it - some history, whether you like it or not.

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