Small villages in Southeastern Ohio share many similarities in terms of poverty and lack of infrastructure. Yet in Columbus, where money and infrastructure abound, lawmakers hand down mandates that small communities struggle to address.
Chesterhill is no exception. Like many historic villages throughout the region, Chesterhill is a relic of industrial busts of the region that have left small, social infrastructures scrabbling to maintain existence.
Located at the intersection of State Routes 377 and 555 in southern Morgan County, residents face a rollercoaster-like drive to shop at a grocery store in McConnelsville or Athens or visit a laundromat. The town is located on a hilltop and the nearest cell phone towers are too far away to provide reliable service to residents and travelers.
However, the village council has found ways to keep up with state mandates and has taken steps toward promoting the community in ways that other villages have not.
“We want to keep the town a town,” Chesterhill Village Councilman Ron Mayle Jr. said. “Let’s take Pennsville for instance, when state ordinances started coming down, they're unincorporated with nothing there, well now, they’re never going to have anything.”
Chesterhill residents have developed the Chesterhill Produce Auction to help local farmers and provide local produce and meats. The village, located near the Buckeye Trail has been recognized as a hiker-friendly community. Located at the juncture of the famed Route 555, small businesses such as the Triple Nickel Diner and the history attract motorcycle and rural tourists looking for a country ride.
“The produce auction is an amazing success story,” Chesterhill Mayor Richard Wetzel said. “It has transformed the area around the village, the price of farmland is continuing to rise.”
Residents share a pride of their community and look to preserve the landmarks that provide a special meaning to their community, such as the community’s homes and structures that played a role in the Underground Railroad. The village residents are currently working to preserve old structures that have provided memorable moments for generations of village residents, such as the Multicultural Genealogical Center.
The village is also organizing with other regional leaders to create new structures. The village residents are currently developing a rural water system to provide public-water to property owners with limited water wells and are planning to construct a sewage system that will eliminate property-owners costs of septic system upkeep.
“I’m for the new sewage system,” Mayle said. “I think it will bring infrastructure and allow for more growth businesswise, not only for my business but it could bring more in here.”
Chesterhill village council members are trying to balance the concerns of their residents and promote what the community has to offer while maintaining infrastructure and planning for the future.