WILMINGTON — Clinton County is very much an epicenter of Quaker history and heritage in southwestern Ohio. It is the site of numerous Friends meetinghouses, cemeteries, historical markers, settlements, schools, homes of notable persons within the denomination and, yes, a Quaker-founded institution of higher learning in the 150-year-old Wilmington College.
The College’s Meriam R. Hare Quaker Heritage Center (QHC) is reviving a project started more than 10 years ago in which a tour of Friends-related sites throughout the area would constitute a state-designated Quaker Heritage Scenic Byway, complete with special signage on roadways throughout the county.
While the Ohio Dept. of Transportation processes the Scenic Byway application, the QHC director, Dr. Tanya Maus, is leading an effort to have everything in place for when the byway formally attains state approval. To that end, a $10,000 grant from the Clinton County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is funding the creation of a Quaker Heritage Scenic Byway website and digital map.
The map, for which a professional photographer is supplying visual images, will make it possible for persons to easily locate the 55 sites along the byway complete with GPS coordinates and detailed descriptions of these unique locales.
“The main goal of the byway project is to highlight Quaker heritage in the county,” Maus said. “We’re very excited about this.”
She noted the tour begins at WC and ends at the Clinton County History Center, and dips briefly over the county line into Warren County.
Some of the major landmark connections to the Quaker sites also include Caesar Creek State Park and Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve. Stops also feature, among dozens of others, such locales as the Gurneyville Schoolhouse, Esper and Esther McMillan House, Zephaniah Underwood Tower House and the Elizabeth Harvey Free Negro School.
The QHC is collaborating on the website and digital map design with the CVB, History Center and Ramzi Ramey, a digital humanities designer with Auut Studios. The CVB’s funding also covers a student intern at the College.
Susan Valentine-Scott, the CVB’s executive director, said the proposed Quaker Heritage Scenic Byway presents great opportunities for attracting tourism to the county and the bureau’s support for the endeavor furthers its interest in presenting elements of the area’s history and heritage to those who might also wish to dine, lodge and use other services while visiting the county.
“The investment strengthens our efforts to promote Clinton County as a tourist destination,” Valentine-Scott said. “It complements a multi-year effort to promote the county as a destination for agritourism while also building upon existing community assets, including the Clinton County History Center, Wilmington College and its Quaker Heritage Center.”
In the early 2010s, a donor anonymously funded foundational work on the scenic byway project completed by former QHC director Ruth Brindle, Taylor Stuckert of the Regional Planning Commission and Christine Hadley Snyder, a leader in the local Friends community.