WOUB’s regional local history series continues with “Our Town: Morgan County” featured on Thursday, April 11 at 9 pm

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Our Town: Morgan County

Thursday, April 11 at 9:00 pm


Producer Evan Shaw said that he started the Morgan County installment of the series as he starts many of the documentaries, focusing on the glacier that carved out the region’s valleys and peaks many hundreds of thousands of years ago.

“The movement of the glacier exposed seams of coal and clay, and brick and salt,” he said. “The glacier, and the way it moves and melts, starts to explain why this region is the way that it is; the geography and geology of the of the region influences who comes here and what they are able to do.”

covered bridge in Ohio surrounded by green brush and trees, logo for "Our Town: Morgan County"The geography of the region is intertwined with the history of Morgan County; especially in terms of the Muskingum River, on which, starting in the late 1700s, the first European settlers traveled on to Morgan County from Marietta, where there is a confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. The arrival of the settlers set into motion some very serious conflicts with the inhabitants of the land; conflicts that would go on to shape the entire history of Ohio.

“There were a few conflicts in Morgan County, like the Massacre at Big Bottom,” said Shaw, referencing the 1791 conflict between settlers moving into land that was inhabited by Native Americans. The conflict resulted in the death of 12-14 settlers, and was the impetus for the Northwest Indian War of the late 1700s, which ultimately led to the Battle of Fallen Timbers on August 20, 1794. That conflict led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville (among other treaties,) which ultimately pushed the native inhabitants out of the region to make room for settlers.

Shaw said that his work researching Morgan County, he discovered numerous fascinating personalities from the region. One of them is Howard Chandler Christy, an artist famous for the creation of “the Christy girl,” a successor to the Gibson Girl of the late 1800s, depicting what was considered the ideal female beauty standard. Perhaps one of his most famous works is the “Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,” painted in 1940. If you don’t think you know it, you probably do, just Google it!

Another eclectic Morgan County celebrity was McDonald Birch, a magician born in 1902 who was close friends with the likes of Houdini and Thurston.

“(Birch) was supposed to sort of take the mantel in terms of magic, after Houdini and Thurston in the early ‘20s,” said Shaw. “MacDonald and his wife, Mabel Sperry, who billed herself as the world’s best female xylophonist, traveled around the world performing MacDonald’s signature trick, which was making a pony disappear.”

Shaw said that, as with all of the Our Town installments, there was far more history to Morgan County than he could possibly ever hope to fit into the documentary. He did manage to squeeze quite a bit in, though, from conflicts with the Native Americans early on in the area’s history to the rich history that Morgan County has in terms of Underground Railroad stops to the Quaker community that was in Chester Hill, and much more.