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
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 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
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
also played a huge part in the building of the
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
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: �Blessed are
they who die in the Lord.�
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.