Speakers to present Gist Settlement history


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The Highland County Historical Society, in celebration of Black History Month, will present a program about the Gist Settlement history.

The program, presented at no charge and open to the public, will be held at Highland House Museum at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28 at the museum at 151 E. Main Street in Hillsboro.

Speakers for the presentation will be Paula Kitty Wright and Melissa Beal Beyerlein.

Paula and her family moved to Highland County in 1980 and an old log house on their farm sparked a new interest. She followed this interest by researching the history of the structure and then succeeded in having it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. As with others, one passion frequently leads to another and Paula found herself called into an interest in the addictive world of genealogy.

Mrs. Wright met Paul Turner in 2012 and learned he is a descendant of the emancipated slaves of Samuel Gist. After learning of the plight of the Gist Settlement, Paula spent two years researching and collecting the history of the Settlement.

This was followed up in 2015 with the publication of her book, Gist’s Promised Land which helped clear up some of the unanswered questions which had lingered for two hundred years.

Joining Paula as co-presenter is Melissa Beal Beyerlein, a paralegal, an historian and genealogist who began her research of the Gist Settlement in 1999.

Working with friend and long-time Gist Settlement resident, Paul Turner, Dayton attorney, David Stenson, along with Paul’s nephew, also named Paul Turner, all four developed a plan to quiet the titles on Mr. Turner’s ancestral land – land on which he has paid taxes since the 1980s, but could not own.

Following a four-year legal battle in the Highland County Courts, Paul Turner successfully litigated his quiet title action in 2017. Through steely determination and dogged persistence, Mr. Turner was able to achieve in his lifetime that which his ancestors could not: legal ownership of the land upon which they were born, worked, raised families, paid taxes and died.

The pro bono work which Melissa did with Paul Turner to help right that wrong has given her immense satisfaction.

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