Hidden Figures of SE Ohio

Chesterhill Preserves History of African-American Community

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As you drive down the hilly curves of the farms and woods of Southeastern Ohio, you reach a quaint little town called Chesterhill. Call before you go to let folks know you’re coming ‘round, because there’s no cell coverage here. With a population of fewer than 300 people, Chesterhill is a small town with a big story to tell about the history of this area of Ohio and the U.S.

In a two-story, white house almost at the center of town, the Multicultural Genealogical Center was started about eight years ago. The house serves as a museum with historical accounts of families from the area, but the house itself has a history of its own. It was part of the Underground Railroad.

Ada Woodson Adams and her husband Al Adams started the center with the help of their nephew David Butcher and the Chesterhill community. The center is steeped in community pride -- the building was renovated and revamped by a joint community effort. Much of the woodwork inside is the original work done by the people who first built the home about 200 years ago. The Multicultural Genealogical Center has records of many historical stories that happened in this area and can help community members and others trace their lineage.

Butcher recalls the days he spent as a child following his uncle around as he gathered information and how this sparked his love for history. He talks about how stories of the African- American slaves are often passed down orally and that is why a place like the Center which can record these stories is so important in one of the earliest settled towns in this area.

“You're not going to find that in the history book. You're not going to find that taught at a class. So this is one of our goals is things that you're not going to read in history books that you're not going to necessarily be able to go on social media and look up," Butcher said. "All of these stories are important and we want to preserve them for generations to come."

Butcher recalls the story of his great grandfather and how it was passed down orally for generations and how the center has found records of the story that can confirm that it is true. He points out the importance of being able to preserve the history of this area and the people who lived here, who were enslaved or pushed out.

At first glance you find yourself wondering what there really is to explore in such a small rural town. The truth is that, much of the town hides hidden figures closely tied to the African-American communities of Appalachia.

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