COALFIELD JUSTICE AND THE HISTORY OF THE MONDAY CREEK REGION
The Monday Creek watershed forms part of the Hocking Valley Coalfield Region—an area of both unique natural beauty, and rich coal field history. The earliest known inhabitants of the Monday Creek watershed were the ancient mound builders known as the Adena. The remnants of many of their ancient mounds can still be seen scattered throughout our region. Following the Adena, other Native American cultures also flourished including the Delaware, Shawnee, and Wyandot Indian nations. The name given to the Hocking River is a contraction of the Delaware Indian word “Hock-Hocking” which means bottle or jug shaped.
The early European settlers in our region were primarily from the Virginia coastal region. Settlers generally lived by hunting, fishing, trading and farming. Farming in bottomlands of the Hocking River Valley became more important as markets developed along the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys during the early and mid 19th century.
Transportation of goods during the state’s first several years of existence revolved around navigable rivers. With the creation of the Hocking Canal in 1843 that connected Athens to Columbus, the area was opened up for greater commercial activity. The canal provided the means for the transportation of large quantities of wool, coal, packed meat, salt, tobacco, and lumber.
The Monday Creek area did not experience any appreciable economic boom however until the extension of the railroad into the area in the 1870’s. Following the introduction of the railroad, practically any natural resource that could be extracted was taken from the Monday Creek area. Salt, iron, lumber, oil and natural gas, timber and fur trading were all key components of the local economic base during this time. But the chief output from this area revolved around the extraction of coal, which the railroads could rapidly transport to growing industrial centers.
Towns sprang into existence during this time, each with its own unique social and cultural history. Many of our fore-bearers were well-educated immigrants looking for a break in the New World. Thousands of Irish, Welsh, Italians, Dutch, Hungarian, Polish and German immigrants flocked to the area during eras of prosperity. As an example of their success, many of the towns in the area boasted of bands, opera houses (theaters), and lively taverns.
Mining companies often owned the land upon which the towns were built and ran company stores to keep up with workers everyday needs. As the towns grew, however, supply could not keep up with the demand and other businesses sprang up as companies loosened their monopolies. Privately owned blacksmiths, pharmacists, grocery stores, hotels, physicians, schools and churches all quickly came into being.
Mechanization, labor disputes, increasing environmental regulations, and a decline in post-World War Two American coal consumption led to a decline in job opportunities in the Hocking Valley Coal Field Region. These factors and others led to a large out-migration of people to large metropolitan areas such as Columbus and Cincinnati. After the 1970’s, as SE Ohio’s high sulfur coal became less valuable, and reclamation laws were passed–particularly The Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977, the coal industry in southeast Ohio ceased to be as profitable as it once was and economic and social conditions continued to decline.
Today we are working with our partners to improve the social, economic, and environmental conditions in the area, with the goal of improving the quality of life for all communities in the watershed. Through our joint efforts we are beginning to make inroads towards the long-term sustainability of our region.
SITES OF INTEREST IN THE HOCKING VALLEY COALFIELD REGION
Experience the beauty and history of the coal fields firsthand. These are just a few of the many sites to explore in the Monday Creek Watershed.
Outdoor Recreation Sites:
The Wayne National Forest – The United States Forest Service, Wayne National Forest, manages nearly 50% of the Monday Creek watershed, and maintains a wide variety of recreational opportunities for area residents and visitors. For more information about these sites and their location, check out the Wayne National Forest website, or take a quick peek below.
The Shawnee Firetower Lookout
Buckeye Trail/North Country Trail
Rutherford Wetland/Ora Anderson Trail
Murray City Depot
Shawnee Opera House
The New Straitsville History Museum – This museum chronicles the history of New Straitsville, Ohio, a village known for its moonshining activity during the prohibition era, celebrated every spring in its Moonshine Festival. The museum is on Main Street (SR 93) in New Straitsville in the former Ward Confectionery building, and has a colorful mural depicting its history.
The Southern Perry County Model Railroad Exhibit and Museum – This museum features a scale model railroad of the Hocking Valley Coal Region of southeastern Ohio, along with a full-sized restored B & O Railroad Caboose. Local residents and area students, among others, have contributed to this creative museum exhibit. The museum is located on Main Street, Shawnee, Ohio.
The Overhanging Porches of the Downtown Shawnee Historic District
Stops along the Community Mural Corridor: Shawnee and New Straitsville