Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 9-26-04
By Jeff Gill

The National Freedom Center is one of America’s newest museums, just down the road in Cincinnati (take a virtual tour at
Three buildings, signifying courage, pride, and perseverance, make up just a part of their plan to tell the story of the Underground Railroad. On-line resources, an affiliation of historic sites throughout the country, and archives in many existing institutions are all being woven together into the Freedom Center.
The Underground Railroad was a vast network of abolitionists and safe houses all across the eastern half of the United States that guided more than 100,000 slaves to freedom. From the early 1820’s to 1850, that freedom might be in southwest Michigan, northern Ohio, western New York or New England; after the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, the “railroad” extended fully to Canada beyond the reach of federal law.
Major “spurs” in this invisible line of traffic went through Columbus and Zanesville, where houses with hidden rooms and secret cellars can still be seen. But from 1836 through 1860, when the slavecatchers were out in force, a side route skirting our Hebron Crossroads up through Granville was used.
William Utter, whose “Granville: The Story of an Ohio Village is one of the best local histories of the last century, wrote of the challenges even 50 years ago in sorting fact from well-meaning fiction about the days of the Underground Railroad. The label alone kept (and keeps) the idea of tunnels and buried passageways alive, with Utter noting ruefully the still-told tale of a tunnel from Monomoy House, now the home of Denison’s presidents, to the Avery-Downer House next to the library. On the other hand. . .
“The record shows that no fugitive was ever captured in this community, and no arrest of agents of the Underground,” says Utter, while it is very clear many escaped slaves passed through Licking County. Recorded accounts point to the canal path up from the Ohio River marking a line which then turned to Reynoldsburg, from which “agents” would escort their charges, usually by night, away from the Lancaster or Newark Roads with all their traffic to places like the Gilmore farm surrounding Fairmount Presbyterian Church. On calmer occasions they might chance some daylight travel along Refugee Road to Canyon, winding north then to Centerville Street, now Newark-Granville Road. Along that artery, many agents stood ready to take over for the trip through the Welsh Hills to Utica or Homer and on to Mansfield and then Oberlin.
The village of Union Station, where Canyon Road crosses the railroad tracks, is often mentioned as a station on the Underground Railroad as well.
Do you know stories of pre-1860 homes that tie them to this proud story? I’ve got a few I’ll share on through the fall, but send in any you may have heard and we’ll put them all in.
Cub Scout Pack 33 will have their first pack meeting of the new school year at Jackson Elementary, Monday Sept. 27 at 7:00 pm. All first through fifth grade boys are welcome to come and be registered.
Ed Fuentes, veteran Cubmaster of Pack 33, is looking forward to a great year of activity; themes are chosen for each month to June, with the September meeting inviting all youth and adults to come dressed as cowboys. October, as you may have guessed, will be costumes generally. If you have questions, call Ed at 323-3936.
Tiger Cubs in first grade, second grade a Wolf Den, third grade Bears, and Webelos Scouts in fourth and fifth grades make up all the “dens” of a Cub pack. Come find your place and howl with ‘em!
Speaking of howling, I’m sure you’re ready to howl at your TV if you have to watch one more political ad. Relief is coming with the general election on Tues., Nov. 2, and if you want to register to vote, you’d better do it this week! Libraries, license bureaus, and municipal offices can show you how. October 4 is the deadline.
Absentee voting is available through Mon., Nov. 1, but with demand high, you might want to get your application in to the Board of Elections on Second Street in the County Admin. Bldg. soon. Or, visit for more info: click to “Board of Elections.” There you can get a downloadable form to apply for an absentee ballot.
One way or another, make sure you can serve your country in the most basic way possible, and vote. We can’t all volunteer for national service, the Underground Railroad doesn’t need conductors and agents nowadays, and not everyone gets called for jury duty; yet each of us can be a well-informed participant in democracy by casting our ballot.
But you’ve got to register first!

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and an amateur historian; if you have historic announcements or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 9-19-04
By Jeff Gill

Monarch butterflies are back around the milkweed stands, swooping and drifting and fluttering through my yard, more orange than the now fading marigolds around the slumping tomato vines.
Thanks to friends and neighbors who have mowed my lawn during this broken-armed summer (ooh-rah for Scott and Mike), their consideration has extended to mowing around the milkweed I leave in the back corners, which by this time of the year can be a real pain to avoid.
But sure enough, they helped draw back those orange and black regal Lepidoptera to the Hebron Crossroads. Sadly, there seems to be fewer of them, which matches with what I’ve been reading about the cutting of their home forests in Mexico. This is one of those kind of conservation issues I wish conservatives still put front and center; too many still sound like they think that the ocean is a fathomless depth for absorbing waste and pollution, that there are limitless reaches of sky to pump chemical smog into for dispersal, or that the myriad clouds of monarch butterflies mean that we can spare a few million. Earth has limits that we do well to respect.
Humans have limits, too; limits not only of overwork and activity, but limits of solitude and self-sufficiency. We need each other, even when we get on each others’ nerves. People need community and culture and contact, even more in our crowded but individualized society.
“Intentional Community” is the phrase sociologists give to those times and places we create a place to belong that isn’t a neighborhood or village. Summer sees intentional communities sprouting all over the place, and as summer ends we see fewer of them as we retreat for the winter into our homes and streets.
Camp is a good example, whether a kids camp for a week in cabins or an RV park for a few days. National Trail Raceway has a number of intentional communities through the season: each big weekend becomes one in itself, and the Wednesday nights are a running sort of family all along.
Some very specific examples include the two week “Pennsic War” just east of Ohio near Grove City, PA. Thousands of medieval re-enactors move in and live “in character” wearing robes, roasting meat, jousting and the like. This isn’t open to visitors, it is a planned community that exists for its members, but for two weeks.
Nationally famous, or infamous, is the just completed “Burning Man” festival on a dry lake bed in Nevada each Labor Day weekend. Created by artists and performers from the San Francisco area decades ago, they now create Nevada’s third largest municipality for three days each year, where mobile works of performance art move through crowds that may be garishly costumed, nude, or wearing pajamas.
“Burning Man” has been going on so long that now original participants have married there (as they do at Pennsic) and now bring children (ditto) who have grown up knowing this as their “other home.”
Much more sedate – at least by comparison – is the Sweet Corn Festival, which is an event you pass through for many, but an actual community for quite a few. Coming right up is the Backwoods Fest at the other end of Buckeye Lake, which I suspect operates much the same way.
And of course there are churches, communities within our communities whose membership is not necessarily so geographic, but gives participants a very real place to belong, to feel connected. Many of our local long-standing churches are family oriented and made up of family members who may not all live right next to each other, but appreciate having a place to come together each week.
Our area welcomes a new faith community this Sunday as a weekly place of worship, even though they’ve been around for quite a few months now. New Life Community, a new church start of the United Methodist Church, is starting every week 10:30 am services Sept. 19 at Lakewood Intermediate School’s auditorium, where the leadership group with Brian Harkness, their pastor, rents space.
This intentional community hopes to offer a place to belong for newer residents, those with perhaps less of a geographic tie to the area, and a style of music and message a bit less traditional than many churches use.
With less than 40% of our area claiming any church affiliation, there’s room at the Crossroads for New Life Community and for all who work to create community on all levels!
For our more elderly residents, the Licking County Aging Program offers a variety of “intentional communities” to seniors and their families. Zerger Hall on Newark’s east end is one of the better known forms of that, but many of their programs, like “Meals On Wheels,” are meant to go on the road.
With the sponsorship of Hebron Christian Church, Jacksontown United Methodist, and the United Methodist Church of Hebron, they will come to the Hebron council chambers on Wed., Sept. 22 at 7 pm to talk about “Medicare Prescription Cards.”
Alice Gordon, a Hebron resident, is Medicare staff person with LCAP, and she is putting together a program for us that may well be repeated at other community locations around the county. For our panel, she’s bringing Shirley Curtis, Diane Leeds, and MaryAnn Draa.
Alice also said she was bringing Larry Fugate, but since that would put two Booster columnists in the same room, we may have to check Ohio Fair Meetings law to see if we can get away with that.
And a final personal note: my own family continues to spread widely across not only the Midwest, but now also the whole country, as is true for many of you. This is probably one of the reasons intentional communities are growing in popularity, with family relationships stretching and thinning. We need those kinds of bonds, and if we have to we create them from scratch. But I am blessed with brothers and a sister I love, even if I don’t see them as much as I’d like.
All of which is to say that I learned by cell phone and e-mail picture that on Labor Day my sister decided to go into labor, and delivered my first nephew and the Little Guy’s first boy cousin, Brady Joseph Christiansen, in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Mother, child, and the loving community around them from coast to coast are all doing well.

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and Brady’s uncle; if you have momentous announcements or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail

Monday, September 06, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 9-12-04
By Jeff Gill

Medicare premiums go up 17%; this is a dilemma, as Howard Dean said at Denison last weekend (see more below if you like politics), that is a Democratic and Republican problem, and will require a Republican and Democratic solution.
Many of us are experiencing wage stagnation or decline due to the annual 15% to 40% increase in health insurance costs that have been with us for. . .well, all my professional life. Americans are staying in jobs with no future or deferring entrepreneurial options (is the Republican party reading this?) to hold onto insurance unreachable otherwise, and state budgets are looking at whacking libraries and school support because Medicare costs are sucking the fiscal oxygen out of the treasury (Dems, can you say anything to your voters about this?).
As our local Hebron Crossroads contribution to this situation, on Wed., Sept. 22, at 7 pm in the municipal complex council chambers, there will be a public program on “Medicare Prescription Cards: What’s The Deal?” Co-sponsored by Hebron Christian Church, Jacksontown United Methodist Church, and the United Methodist Church of Hebron, we invite everyone who is a) on Medicare, b) knows someone on Medicare, or c) plans on getting older. More next week!

Back a couple Wednesdays, I stood with the Little Guy at the corner of Chautauqua and Lancaster in Millersport. There where the Sweet Corn Festival parade turned the corner, 150 units and more, we heard bands and watched the scramble for scattered candy by sprawling kids (LG safely on my shoulders), with festival queens from far reaches of festal Ohio carefully waving with one hand while holding on for dear life to a convertible trunk lid with the other.
With the show’s end out on the streets, our focus went into Lions’ Park. Reporting to my station in Heritage Village, we had a great view from the steps of the Walnut Township building of the Main Stage bandstand and Lakewood Band’s show, which I later heard they did even better down at OU in Athens (but guys. . .the 80’s? do people really want the 80’s back? The 40’s and Woody Herman and Glenn Miller nostalgia I get, but AC/DC? Yet the Def Leppard tune was oddly uplifting. . .).
Almost every night of the festival had a brilliant sunset – is that an oxymoron? – with blue skies and temperate temperatures. That meant starting with the first day, record sales for all the food booths was the norm.
When we took a break to find dinner for my sidekick, I stood in a briskly moving but lengthy line through Hickory Grove, shagbark trunks breaking up the views of snaking files leading to tater booths, waffle stands, and pizza places. Looking around, you might have a biker with a stroller in front of you, a goth arguing with her mother behind you, and a crowned queen in tiara and evening gown walking away balancing four slices of pizza on her arms, mouth clamped on a stack of napkins.
And the now 25 year old Lakewood Band Booster booth! Walking that way through a dim huddle of picnic tables, the view suddenly opens up to reveal the high prow of the roofline with its painted doughnut, cutting through a sea of customers 20 deep in 10 lines. We got our mixed dozen and swam back to the safe harbor of Heritage Village.
Due to some wedding related complications, I never got back to serve as a host later in the week (and missed my annual steak-on-a-stick, which evidently was bad luck for Fisher Catholic since their booth nearly burned down on Friday), but that first night was a fascinating series of conversations with people delighted to see how some simple, basic local history was being preserved.
Mind you, this is what the Millersport Lions do in their spare time when they aren’t maintaining the grounds, their clubhouse, and planning the next Sweet Corn Festival. But for every cheering fan of “Confederate Railroad”, there was a quietly appreciative visitor to the Slater Gas Station or Holliday Covered Bridge.
Congratulations to all the community groups and youth organizations who made a big part of their budget last week, thanks to many volunteers, many more patrons, and the support of the Millersport Lions, without whom none of this would happen.
And remember to give thanks for great weather, which helped set some records for 2004!

Some of you may have seen Sen. John Kerry on his campaign appearance in Newark. In fact, I did too. After meeting with someone in the Tim Horton’s on N. 21st St., I got stuck in the parking lot by a flotilla of police cruisers from, I kid you not, every police department in the county. They sealed off the roadway, and so it was that I got to see candidate Kerry.
20 yards away, at 45 mph, facing away from me, through the tinted glass of a campaign bus. Ah well.
From what I caught on ONN, Kerry was very well oriented to local issues and seamlessly worked them into his stump speech, referencing Longaberger, Owens, Dow, and a variety of challenges felt here in Licking County. His “front porch meeting” sounded like a good move in terms of retail politics, but the wholesale electoral package has yet to look that saleable, as poll numbers continue to indicate.
It was the appearance by Howard Dean that engaged both heart and brain, and reminded me why Kerry is likely to be back checking off items on Teresa’s honeydew list this winter.
Denison can be very proud of student Eric Spengler, who did the introductory task in front of what I estimated as 3000 people in the acoustically challenged Mitchell Center. He summed up the Dean candidacy, the reasons for his continued relevance after the end of his role in the primary campaign, and introduced the former Vermont governor with aplomb and gravitas.
All of which was a fascinating and appropriate contrast to Dean’s fire and intensity.
A brief note is in order here: your columnist is a Bull Moose Republican, waiting for the next Teddy Roosevelt to earn his vote. I’m for free enterprise and property rights, but not when they compromise groundwater. And as Dean pointed out sharply, a balanced budget is required to support any social safety net -- he’s the Dem, for those of you keeping score at home. Capitalism requires a civil society to function efficiently, and that means good public schools controlled locally, basic health care available to all but especially children, and family life affirmed as the basic unit of our common life.
This scribbler heard more on those subjects from Gov. Dean than from Pres. Bush or Sen. Kerry have said put together, and the Lovely Wife can tell you I’ve been looking.
Yet Dean, Kerry, and most of the Democratic apparatus are apparently convinced that the global war on terror is mostly an overreaction (the nicest word they use) to random flailings of discontented dispossessed groups frustrated by the world wide reach of McD’s and Disney. If you believe that, I can see why you might vote for Kerry.
If, on the other hand, you see a dispersed but co-ordinated assault on free societies and liberty by forces of monolithic barbarism and terror – and I do – it is hard to avoid the sense that voting to re-elect Pres. Bush is necessary and important.
Meanwhile, Dems and Bull Moose R’s can work domestically to turn back “No Test Left Behind” (or “No School Board Left Standing,” Dean’s phrase), maintain environmental standards, and find a better national health care policy than making ER’s the federally mandated primary care centers for the poor (which is the national health care policy we currently have -- remember, the question isn’t having a national plan or not; we’ve got one already AND IT DOESN’T WORK for employers or retirees, let alone the general public).
But when we focus on protecting the Olympics and our conventions in the US, we see suicide bombers from an Islamofascist group allied with Al-Qaida bring down two jetliners, blow up a subway station, and kill over 400 in a school in a “first day” takeover attempt, all in Russia. They, like France, thought they’d bought a free pass from the terror mob by taking a more accommodating approach. Both countries now have reason to reassess their choices.
I wish I thought it was safe enough in the world to reassess mine, but I will be casting a rueful vote for George Bush this November.
Cheerful stuff next week, I promise. Plus more on Medicare cards and our program Sept. 22. Just wanted to be honest with y’all, even though I know Licking County and the Hebron area are very likely to vote Kerry, which (contrary to many of my liberal friends fears of Bush’s re-election) won’t be the end of the world.
I just want us to get back to work on making a better world!