By Beverly Keller
To preserve the past and educate the future are just some of the goals of the newly formed Shanesville Historical Society.
The formation was announced at the recent Shanesville Reunion held at the Shanesville Lutheran Church by Judy Harstine and Don Sprankle. The event was attended by over a dozen former residents of the area. The group, pictured at right, took time to share memories and stories while enjoying a sunny afternoon in the community.
However, their much larger, more tangible goal is to apply for and receive a historical marker plaque. If approved by the State of Ohio, the Village of Sugarcreek has already given the nod to place such a piece near the Shanesville Museum at the intersection of State Route 39 and State Route 93.
Proposed wording for the marker is as follows: “On May 18, 1814, Abraham Shane platted Sugarcreek Township’s first permanent settlement upon two Indian trails crossing this hill. Named Shanesville, it thrived for decades as the commercial and social hub of eastern Tuscarawas County. Among Shanesville’s most decorated sons, Medal of Honor recipient Milton Blickensderfer captured an enemy flag in the Civil War’s Third Battle of Petersburg. On New Year’s Eve 1881, the county’s deadliest accident befell Shanesville. An overcrowded party at Goeler’s Hall collapsed through the second floor, igniting flames, causing 10 fatalities and over 70 injuries. Shanesville’s eventual fate was cast in 1882 when the Conotton Valley Railroad laid tracks one mile east of town, giving rise to the new village of Sugarcreek. After years of gradual commercial migration, Shanesville was annexed into Sugarcreek January 1, 1968.”
Shanesville’s vibrant history has a few other twists and turns. “Around 1882, the town known for a while as East Shanesville, grew up around the railroad which was built through the Sugarcreek Valley and became the new center of commerce for the area,” Harstine explained. “At midnight on December 31, 1967, Abraham Shane’s town on the hill ceased to exist and became part of what we now call our beautiful Village of Sugarcreek. Very few residents of Sugarcreek today will remember or even care where the corporation signs of Shanesville / Sugarcreek were located.”
It is the reunion that perpetuated the interest in keeping Shanesville’s story going. The first was held in 1988 with 55 past and present in attendance. According to Harstine, it was Ruth (Schindler) Laubscher and Joyce (Schindler) Beachy/List who spearheaded the first event. “Ruth Laubscher is still the catalyst behind the reunion,” Harstine said.
Harstine noted that these folks were also supportive of other efforts, including the Shanesville Bicentennial, the Shanesville History Book by Glen Hammel and Don Sprankle with the help of Harstine.
“These loyal ‘Shanesvillites’ have a goal to keep the history of Shanesville alive in the hearts of Sugarcreek residents,” Harstine explained.
To get the new group up and running, lifetime memberships are being sold for a flat rate of $20 each. Proceeds will be used to help finance the application to the State of Ohio by the group of the Ohio Historical Marker. “The goal of the newly-formed Shanesville Historical Society is to help preserve, educate, and share the history of Shanesville with present and future generations,” Harstine explained. “And to influence Sugarcreek historians to include this early and important history as part of the whole history of Sugarcreek.”
The first lifetime membership was purchased by Linda Schrock Schneider of Florida for her father, Robert Schrock. He was the last Mayor of the Village of Shanesville.
There are several ways to purchase a lifetime membership into the group. Interested parties can send a check for $20 per membership desired made payable to Shanesville Historical Society to: Killbuck Savings Bank, PO Box 339, Sugarcreek, OH 44681 to the attention of Rhonda Angel.
They can also be purchased at the Gospel Shop in downtown Sugarcreek during normal business hours, Monday – Saturday.
Be sure to include your name, address and phone number with your donation. Harstine noted that a Lifetime Membership card will be mailed to donors to keep as a receipt and record of membership.
Harstine noted that members will be kept informed of upcoming events and the progress of obtaining the marker.