Crawford County History Alliance brings together groups from across the county
Crawford County has no shortage of organizations dedicated to preserving local history.
Bucyrus, Galleon, Crestline, and New Washington all have historical societies. There are groups dedicated to the preservation of railway depots or specific buildings; even the Lincoln Highway Association has a regional chapter.
But with each group focusing on their part of the story, no one was looking at the county’s story as a whole.
It’s one of many goals of the new Crawford County History Alliance, which formed earlier this year, said Amber Wertman, chair of the Galion History Center board of trustees and one of the driving forces. of the creation of the new alliance.
“We can’t all be siled because we share this story. We’re all so intertwined, it makes sense if we really want to promote it,” she said.
Each historic group will retain its separate identity, members stressed, but the county alliance is a means to achieve common goals.
“It gives all the historical societies in the county the opportunity to share ideas, funds, issues, whatever, with each other,” said John Kurtz, president of the Bucyrus Historical Society. “That’s the whole point of it all – so that we can share what’s going on in each individual society face to face. And also try to solve problems better. Four or five heads are better than one.”
“More interest on a larger scale”
A year ago this month, the Galion Historical Society renamed itself the Galion History Center. During discussions following the decision, Wertman said, she and executive director Tanesha Pickering discussed long-term planning.
“We had just done a strategic plan with the board, and yes, we have short-term goals, but what about five, 10 years from now? Like, what does that look like- it? And we started talking about who is going to keep this story, right? Keeper of the keys,” Wertman said. Preserving old buildings requires a lot of maintenance, time and money, and for the most part, board members of Crawford County history organizations tend to be older.
“So it was like, how do we get more interest on a larger scale, have more awareness across the county watching, we all have this rich history, it connects and we all work together to kind of elevate that,” Wertman said.
They decided to take the initiative to organize a county-wide group to tackle this issue and scheduled a January meeting at the Crestline Public Library. About 15 people attended, Wertman said. They emphasized from the start that their group was not looking to take precedence over the others.
“People can be territorial, but I was pleasantly surprised once we aired all of this,” she said. “Everyone was like, ‘OK, this can be a beneficial thing for all of us, and maybe some longer-term projects can come out of this.’”
Kurtz said that initially he was concerned that the goal was to merge the individual companies into one large, countywide company. “I don’t think that’s the case,” he said.
A Crawford County Historical Society existed years ago, but he said he preferred to see each individual society focus on a specific area, rather than trying to cover the whole county.
“I hope it pays off. We’ll see,” Kurtz said.
At least 15 people attended each of the last two meetings. Representatives from New Washington historical societies, Galion, Crestline, and Bucyrus participated, as well as Preserving Galion, Inc., which maintains Galion’s Gill House; Friends of the Big Four Depot; and the Bucyrus Preservation Society, which operates the central repository in Toledo and Ohio. A representative from the Mid-Ohio Chapter of the Ohio Lincoln Highway League was also present. The quarterly meetings are open to “really anyone on a board that has to do with history,” Wertman said.
“I think the more voices around the table, the better,” she said.
The restoration of the monument was the first project of the group
Joe Bloom, who has been active with the New Washington Historical Society since its founding in 1985, said he was pleased to have a group that looks at the county as a whole.
After all, few organizations do that, he said. “The only two I can think of are the landfill and the kennel. Everything else is separate,” he said.
Crawford County’s bicentenary in 2020 went almost unnoticed, he pointed out. “They didn’t do anything. It was sad,” Bloom said.
There are monuments in rural areas of the county that have not been cleaned or preserved at all, Wertman said.
During a historical alliance brainstorming session, someone remarked that the Colonel William Crawford monument in Leesville needed some attention, she said.
“Historical societies, they basically only care about their border, and then if something happens on the other side, they don’t care, and that thing was on the other side,” Bloom said.
Member organizations helped get it cleaned up — “an easy-to-do startup project,” Wertman said.
The original monument was dedicated in 1928 to Revolutionary War Colonel William Crawford, who was captured near this location during an expedition at the request of General George Washington to quell the British and their local Indian allies in 1782 , according to a press release from the alliance. . This monument, erected in 1927, was replaced by the current white marble monument in 1961 by the Crestline Kiwanis Club. Earlier this summer, Longstreth Memorials cleaned the moss and grime from the monument and applied a new treatment that slowly whitens the surfaces without damaging the marble.
“It was a great way to show that we all have a common passion and want to preserve and promote our shared history,” she said. “Because it benefits all of us.”
Programs, staffing shared between opportunities
Other joint projects are underway, Wertman said. The members discussed a possible collaboration on Veterans Day.
“Our vision was that the alliance would be first and foremost about sharing best practices, brainstorming ideas for preservation and promotion, obviously sharing any connected heritage that we all have,” she said. “All of our cities were founded around the same time and so things overlap. And then our long term plan for the historic alliance might be to collaborate even more on real projects, on time services in time…
“And then maybe even eventually, in the long run, would be the potential to share staff for things, maybe even have a county-wide fundraising project.”
Kurtz said he was optimistic about the potential of the alliance.
“I think it’s a good idea that will probably pay off over time,” he said. “We don’t meet often, but that’s not a problem either – we don’t want to have something that is a burden on different companies. I think it’s definitely a good idea.”
He is interested in the idea of a shared staff – the Bucyrus Historical Society currently has no curator.
“That’s another thing we hope to get out of this alliance,” Kurtz said. “Anyway, there is a possibility that one or two or more of the different historical societies will share a curator at some point – a paid curator. That’s the problem, finding someone who is available, all of first, and who is interested in curator work and which won’t cost much, because we can’t afford it, and we haven’t found anyone willing to volunteer for the work here.
Members have also found that sometimes a museum will receive a donation that might fit better with another group’s collection, Wertman said.
“We also feel like we’re all a big part of tourism and the quality of life and recreation in this county, so it’s very important that we preserve and promote all of our buildings and all of the features that we have in larger scale to raise awareness,” she said.