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Maude Collins, Ohio's First Female Sheriff
One of Vinton County's most notable claims to fame is that the county is home to Ohio's first female sheriff. Maude Collins was the happily married young mother of five in 1925. She served as a small-town jail matron working alongside her handsome husband Vinton County Sheriff Fletcher Collins until he was shot at close range and killed while arresting a man on the charge of speeding.

More than 250 automobiles made up the funeral procession that stretched for nearly a mile as it made its way from the jail in McArthur to the Village of Hamden where another 50 cars were already waiting. A great throng of people from the area crowded the area around the United Brethren Church for Fletcher's funeral, because the tiny church was unable to contain the large number of people who had come to pay their last respects. Newspaper accounts of the day reported that the stricken young widow and her five little children withstood the strain bravely.

While the tragedy of Fletcher's untimely death shattered the world Maude had known, it also put her in a position to make history. She was eventually appointed to fill the vacancy left by her husband's death, and in 1926 was formally elected in a landslide vote that made her the first female sheriff in the State of Ohio.

Not a mere figurehead, Maude was a capable sheriff. She was the first woman to ever deliver prisoners to the state penitentiary, a task she fulfilled fully armed in 1929. And her detective skills were considerable. On one case, she cleverly determined that a murderer had worn someone else's shoes to leave misleading footprints. Sheriff Maude subsequently persuaded the female she had suspected all along to confess to wearing the shoes of another, who had previously been the primary male suspect, thereby solving a double homicide and gaining national fame when the case was reported in Master Detective magazine.
 
When it came to the attention of the Vinton County Historical Society that a woman had been elected sheriff in 1976 had been recognized as Ohio's first female sheriff, the group nominated Maude for the Ohio Women's Hall of Fame in order to correct the mistake. On October 24, 2000, Maude's granddaughter traveled from California to accept the award at the induction ceremony, an honor that officially confirmed Maude as Ohio's first female sheriff.

Maude Collins died in 1972 at the age of 78 and is buried with her husband in the Hamden Cemetery.

Iron Production in Vinton County
Instead of today's thick forests and rolling farmland, much of Vinton County was once made up of many small but budding communities. These communities prospered from the lavish supply of materials found in the region to manufacture iron, which was greatly enhanced when the Scioto and Hocking Valley Railroad linked Vinton County to the outside world in 1849.

Vinton County was one of the southeastern Ohio counties included in the Hanging Rock Iron Region, which ran from Logan, Ohio to Mt. Savage, Kentucky. These counties produced much of the iron used by Union troops during the Civil War. Iron from the local furnaces was also used to produce farm machinery and equipment for the railroads.

Iron furnaces were built to extract iron from the iron ores native to the region. Ore was extracted from the local sandstone, processed at the furnaces, and the bars of iron transferred to a foundry for remanufacture. Stands of wood found throughout the region were burned nearly 24 hours a day to form charcoal. So much wood was used to make charcoal, in fact, that much of the area around the iron furnace region was once bare of trees! Charcoal, the fuel used to smelt the iron, was combined with iron ore and limestone into the top of the furnace. As the charcoal ignited, the ore and limestone melted together, worked its way to the bottom of the furnace, and was then poured into troughs. When the ore was removed from the furnace, there was a glassy waste product called slag which can still be found around the old furnaces in the form of black, glass-like chunks.

During the mid-1800's, iron furnaces began to spring up around the Vinton County area. In 1854, the Richland Iron Furnace was built. Not long after, furnaces were erected in Hamden, Zaleski, Vinton, and Hope.  Each furnace employed about 100 men, who were paid as little as 65 cents per day for 12 hours of work. Payment was provided in the form of scrip, which could be spent only in the company stores, where the prices of goods were marked up exorbitantly. In spite of such conditions, the region grew. With the building of railroad stations came newer roads, and with the newer roads, came a wealth of small towns. Towns like Wilkesville, Dundas, and Zaleski prospered during the iron era and still remain today. Others like Hope and Ingham Station are now nothing more than a few moss-covered foundation stones and scattered old cellar holes.

In the late 19th century, the discovery of high-grade ore in the Lake Superior Region brought the operation of the iron furnaces here to a standstill. In Vinton County today, all that remains are the remnants of the Hope, Richland, and Vinton iron furnaces, all of which started operations in 1854.

Pottery and Brick Production in Vinton County
Iron may have run 6 feet deep in hilltop beds in Vinton County, but the clay found closer to the surface also played a huge part in the building of the region.

In the mid-1800's, Vinton County had a great reputation for its hand-turned pottery, mostly in the form of crock pots and jars. More than a dozen pottery shops were located in and near both Potters Ridge and Pumpkin Ridge. In fact, local potters were in high enough demand for buyers to travel from many parts of southern Ohio to purchase their wares.

When firing in the homemade kilns, the pot jars were set on top of each other and separated with chunks of hand-formed clay. These pieces of yesterday along with broken shards of pottery can still be found near the old pottery shops and along the nearby creeks with the fingerprints of the maker still visible in the chunks of clay.

This same clay was responsible for making the Southeastern Ohio region a leading producer of bricks. Vinton County opened Puritan Brick Plant in 1909 and it was said to be the largest in this part of the state.

Other tidbits of information about Vinton County's past. . .
Vinton County was named for Samuel Finley Vinton. Vinton was a Congressman from Gallia County who worked as an attorney in the surrounding counties, arguing cases before circuit judges in the county seat.

Winston Churchill's great uncle, Branch Churchill, was buried in the New Plymouth Cemetery in 1853. His stone is engraved with the following: ´┐ŻBlessed are they who die in the Lord.´┐Ż

Ten percent of Vinton County's population of 12,000 in 1861 enlisted for service in the Civil War. That is 1200 soldiers!

Don't be scared, but. . . it is said that there's a train tunnel in Vinton County that's haunted. Legend states that a ghostly lantern can be seen hovering through the dark depths of the abandoned Moonville railway tunnel on stormy nights. Long ago, Moonville was a small mining and railway town that cropped up during the 1800's iron boom and eventually disappeared just a little over 150 years later. The story goes that around 1859, a brakeman for the railway fell asleep and some time during the night, he was awakened by the sound of his train leaving the depot. He arose, stumbling on to the train track and falling beneath the wheels of the train. The brakeman never recovered from his injuries and the ghost of the man is said to be seen stumbling down the tracks within the tunnel with lantern in hand, still trying to catch the train before it leaves Moonville Station.

The village of McArthur boasts a great checker player. Mr. Charles Clark was the champion not only of an open checker game in Ohio, but he was also the champion blindfolded player of the U.S.

 

 

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