Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Hebron Crossroads 7-13 (or 6?)-03
By Jeff Gill

After 47 meetings and seemingly endless discussions of "what will we do when the bicentennial wagon train comes to town," it was quite satisfying to see the real, live, actual wagon train come clopping over the brow of the hill east of Lakewood High.
The flashing red lights of the troopers leading them came as no surprise, with cell calls and walkie-talkie alerts of "they’re at Linnville. . .they’re leaving Jacktown. . .coming in ten minutes" making the appearance much less than anticlimactic, but to finally see ‘em coming down the road: it was good.
And we really did expect y’all to come, but perhaps not – y’all. By which I mean you all really did show up, and y’all kept coming, and we saw all of you all make y’all’s way to our little encampment.
No one could actually count, well, y’all, but we were fairly sure that over 700 cars came through our lots July 1, and most of ‘em had two, three, four and more in ‘em. Estimates ranged from 1,500 to 3,000, and we heard about (and your friendly neighborhood amateur traffic cop saw) many who for various reasons just cruised by and saw from their vehicle what was going on around the circle of wagons. By the way, congrats to Barbara Pierce for getting home from Columbus just in time to see the show in her neighborhood!
However many were there, it was a great, great evening. Russ and Tennessee John were great to work with on the wagon train, Carmelita and the others from Worthington and the state bicentennial commission, plus Pam and Kim from the county planning commission along with Marcia Phelps, our county commissioner coordinator extrordinaire, just all of the official folk were so incredibly helpful, and only got more so as things got going.
But our local community has so very much to be proud of. To pull this together on relatively short notice, and to make it go as smoothly as it did is nothing short of miraculous, which is the kind of miracle the ol’ Hebron Crossroads is used to seeing. Phil Herman and all the staff with the Lakewood Local School District were accomodating (literally!) and gracious about the prospect of having a herd of mules on the property, let alone an indeterminate number of whoever else.
The churches pulling together out-hauled highly trained mule teams, with Hebron Christian Church, Jacksontown United Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Church of Hebron leading the crews involved with spirit and good will, and not a note of mulish obstinacy to be seen.
Thanks also to the Greater Buckeye Lake Historical Society who brought us Variations, the square dance band, and to the Licking District Boy Scouts of America, who helped in a wide variety of roles but foremost in their remarkable Kaniengahaga Order of the Arrow dance team, who drew raves from the wagon crews and visitors alike.
For Action Pest Control, Devine Farms, and Creative Catering, your public spiritedness helped make our community proud as we gave the "Path To Statehood" crew and participants one of the nicest meals and layouts they’ll have all the way across the state. We can’t thank you enough. Ditto Licking Park District, Tri-County Dive Team, the Girl Scouts, the Eastern Star, and many others who played a part in getting the pieces put together in a gorgeous summer patchwork historical quilt, sprawled across the side of the National Road.
And I hope you all, y’all, get a chance to both thank and congratulate Kim Halter of Hebron for being the linch-pin of this harness and rig that got so many mules to pull together and so many wagons on the road through Hebron. She did an amazing job with organizing all of this, and the area owes her a debt of sincere gratitude, although I’m sure she’ll settle for having her phone ring a little less often!
This is being written by dark of morning just after the overnight encampment (whenever it is this actually runs, who knows?), so I’m neglecting to mention anything about the actual Hebron stop, which the village staff and Brezina Design & Construction is putting together.
That event will doubtless call for another set of thanks and its own particular description, so keep reading for that on down the road. And over the crackle of the campfire and among the flashing of the lighting bugs, good night!

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and was wearing an orange vest for most of the Wagon Train stop; if you’d like to sing "Home On the Range" again with a thousand voices, or are sorry you didn’t run him down when he was standing in the middle of Lancers Road when you had the chance, tell him at or call 928-4066.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Hebron Crossroads 7-6-03
By Jeff Gill

There’s a figure from Newark’s history who passed through our Hebron Crossroads many times who needs some special attention from all corners of Licking County.
Israel Dille, whose portrait by Amzi Godden hangs in the Sherwood-Davidson House along the Licking County Historical Society row on 7th Street in Newark, was born near the beginning point for our recent bicentennial wagon train, at Dille’s Bottom near Martin’s Ferry. He came into this world about the same time as Ohio became a state, and was buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery after his death in Washington DC in 1874. His monument. . .well, more about that at the end.
From a pioneer family in the Cleveland area and teaching in the Somerset vicinity, Israel apprenticed to the law, and shortly after moved to become one the first true citizens of Licking County’s new seat of government. He was an early mayor of Newark, held a variety of county offices, and was the leading light in the first "board of education" in the county in 1848, and his daughter Anna was the first graduate of Newark schools in 1853.
One of the organizers of the Republican Party, then a new "third" party on the American scene, he led the movement to support freedom for slaves, education for all, and equality of opportunity for everyone (including his daughters). He gave a son, William, in the Civil War, and served in our nation’s capital from the Lincoln administration to the time of his death.
An elderly man by the standards of his day in DC, he was notably healthy and active, and caught the attention of fellow amateur scientists, antiquarians, and lovers of literature, including Joseph Henry, the first secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and Walt Whitman, who noted Dille’s sudden death in his letters.
I was remembering Israel Dille a few weeks ago when I saw an article in "The Atlantic Monthly" about Whitman which references a significant but little known prose work of his called "Democratic Vistas." Finding it on line and reading the whole, again I ran into Mr. Dille, who is unmistakably described in the essay as a respected friend and perceptive political analyst.
Clearly, we much to be proud of with someone like Dille in our local history (and I haven’t told the half of it!); but Israel himself, a good Episcopalian, wasn’t given to public displays, and in fact ordered that his grave site, on the highest spot in Cedar Hill (which he was influential in establishing) be marked with no gravestone at all. There’s an echo here of Christopher Wren, architect of St. Paul’s cathedral: "If you desire to see his monument, look around."
But not long ago, there was on the ground of the county courthouse a plaque noting that, long before Dawes Arboretum, there were on the Courthouse Square a "Newark Botanic Gardens," an extension of the many and varied plantings once surrounding his home just north of where Hudson and St. Clair now intersect. Dille established these gardens as another silent gift to the public, but the marker was discreetly maintained as one place the citizens would see this illustrious name preserved.
Somehow, a few years back, it disappeared. Could it be returned or restored? Let’s think about it, as we stroll away from our patriotic reflections this weekend of the Glorious Fourth.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and a lover of local history; if you have news to use, just e-mail or call 928-4066.