Keeping Small Town History Alive in Ashville

By Dennis Biviano Columbus PUBLISHED 9:45 AM ET Aug. 19, 2020

ASHVILLE, Ohio — While the village of Ashville just 22 miles south of Columbus may only be a small dot on Ohio’s roadmap, it has a rich history. Friends Bob Hines and Charles Morrison will tell you it’s worth the price of admission to the town’s museum. 

What You Need To Know

Ashville is a small town in Pickaway County that has rich history 
Recently two men who have run the town’s museum for nearly 50 years put their knowledge in writing 
Amazing Ashville is available at Ohio’s Small Town Museum as well as retailers like Amazon, Target and Barnes and Noble

They’ve operated Ohio’s Small Town Museum since 1975.

“So Bob lived just a block from where I had the grocery store. He said, ‘Why are you saving all that stuff for?’ I said, ‘Well, I’d like to some day have a museum, be great if we can do that,’” Morrison said. 

Hines, a University of Cincinnati graduate and an urban planner, has worked on displays at the museum for nearly five decades. 

Recently, the two chronicled some of the town’s memories, personalities and oddities in a book, “Amazing Ashville, The Most Colorful Community in America.”

“There are people representing every aspect of science and art, movies, photography, inventions,” Hines said.

It features people like Jim Cook, the man responsible for putting together a team for Parnelli Jones to win the Indy 500—twice, and also William Ashbrook Kellerman, a famous American botanist. 

The book also plays off the town oddities, like a locally-designed traffic light that’s stood the test of time—a replica of a chicken that paid for its own meals and Buster the dog that voted Republican, which dates back to the 1920s. 

“The Republican candidate was Herbert Hoover. He trained this dog so that when he mentioned the name of the Republican candidate, he’d yelp, he’d get up on his hind legs and jump around. When he mentioned the democratic candidate, which at that time was Al Smith, he would growl,” Hines said. 

“And the kids and the town, they like it, they love it. They just simply can’t believe that things existed like they did, things happened in Ashville, about the dogs and the cats. We’ve got it all,” said Morrison. 

The museum also boasts the oldest “transitional flag” representing the state of Ohio, and the 17 states at the time along with thousands of long-lost photos dating back to the late 1800s. 

Then there’s Ashville and South Bloomfield’s early influence on puppetry in the 1950s and 60s. 

“People were learning how to use a puppet in their hand and rods to manipulate the movement of their hands. Well, Jim Henson came across that idea. He turned it into something called the Muppets,” said Hines. 

It’s all in the book Amazing Ashville, which Hines and Morrison said is their legacy. They’re hopeful folks in younger generations will see the value in their work and preserving the town’s history. 

“We want kids to get excited about the opportunities that are there for them. We want them to understand that old buildings aren’t just something to throw rocks at, they mean something,” said Hines. 

The book has been nominated for several awards in Ohio as well as by the National Council on Public History. 

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