It may be a good thing that I am documenting my travels across Ohio with photographs, because my own autobiographical memory is rather poor. Autobiographical memory is your memories of experiences in your own life, rather than, say, remembering facts or dates or song lyrics or other things. In many respects, I have a very good memory, but the memories that I have of most of my own life are very partial, impressionistic and hazy. High school, for example, is largely a blur, with a few scattered memories here and there. College is much the same. I am positive that, were I not recording so many of the things I see when I drive across Ohio, they would soon be lost to me, just as many of the things I photograph will eventually be lost to everybody. Indeed, a number of things I have taken photographs of, from Mud House Mansion near Lancaster to the abandoned greenhouse east of Sandusky, are already gone. Who knows how transient the subjects of these photographs will be?
[Remember that you can click on each image below to see a larger, better image. Also, the EXIF data for each image contains GPS coordinates that you can use to locate the exact place where the photograph was taken. Copyright information: All of the text and images on this blog are the intellectual property of Mark Pitcavage. Attributed, non-commercial (ONLY) usage is permitted under the Creative Commons License.]
On this particular occasion—a nice sunny day in early November 2016—I decided I would head out cross-country east to I-77, then explore part of the area that lies south of I-70 and just east of I-77. Unfortunately, my unreliable GPS receiver dropped a huge chunk of the middle of this trip, so the locations of some places are just guesses. I’ve purchased a new GPS receiver, but that still means the next four or so expeditions I post here will have used my unreliable receiver. This is one of those things that may bother me more than any of my readers, but it is frustrating regardless.
As I headed out in the early morning, there was a fair amount of patchy fog around rising off of fields and low-lying areas. I often take photographs of fog—because it looks fascinating to me, but my photos of fog rarely look as fascinating, so I don’t usually post them. I am sure there are photographic tricks for making fog look better, but I haven’t learned them. This shot doesn’t look so bad, though.
The terrain starts to rise and dip not very much east of Columbus at all but flatlands are still common, too, and farms predominate rather than pastures.
Here an old one-room schoolhouse is about the only thing marking this flat patch of farmland, other than the glorious tree that stands next to it. Note that the schoolhouse was at some point converted into a shed, its door replaced by a set of sliding doors. The fog was fairly thick here, but to my irritation it mostly made the photo seem odd-looking, so I used de-hazing techniques to reduce most of it.
I decided to show this photograph with fog. You’ll notice that, rather than making the scene seem mysterious or ghostly, in photographic form it mostly just seems a bit dirty, as if it were pollution.
By now I was south of Buckeye Lake. That’s where I found this farm and its erratically tilting outbuilding. Note the rather impressive barn, though.
Just east of that farm, a little northwest of the hamlet of New Salem, I found another old schoolhouse, but this one had been converted into a rather attractive little house. These conversions aren’t too common but I have seen a handful of them across Ohio. I have also seen a few small churches that I strongly suspect had once been one-room schoolhouses.
One thing I always keep my eyes peeled for is classic cars—in conditions good or bad. Here, more or less due south of the eastern edge of Buckeye Lake, I caught this glimpse of an old Chevy station wagon. By the looks of her, I’d say it was a 1957 Chevy. Note the modern car next to it is also a Chevy. Once a Chevy man, always a Chevy man.
East of Buckeye Lake, just a hop and a skip south of I-70 is this old farmhouse, which is not any farmhouse, but the old home of my friend and occasional travel companion on these excursions, Tsuki. This is the third or fourth time I have photographed this house—the first time was before I ever even met Tsuki. It so happens that the house is along a reasonably convenient east-west alternative to I-70 in this area, so I have unintentionally found myself driving by this house several times. The previous time I had photographed the house, there was an old piano sitting on the front porch for some reason. It’s gone now, to wherever old porch pianos go. Some farm upriver, I presume, where they can chase rabbits and play with the other pianos.
Fall is a nice time to take photographs in Ohio. Even after the leaves start to fall and the stereotypical “fall foliage” shots are no longer available, enough trees still have some leaves on them for photographs of them to interesting and colorful, while the absence of full foliage allows more to be seen behind and among them. This shot is a poster child shot for what the beginnings of eastern Ohio look like—more trees, more hills, more pastureland. No “grandeur,” but the quiet humble beauty that is the best of Ohio. This photo was taken southeast of the village of Somerset, Ohio, which is a sort of gateway to eastern Ohio.
I continued southeast to the town of New Lexington, then headed east from there, trying to get to the Muskingum River—the big bottleneck that I would face, as there are only a few bridges across the river in southern Ohio, so all travel east, no matter how it winds, will end up back at one of those bridges. Here, on Tunnel Hill Road (where I saw no tunnels at all, I must report, though I saw various hills), I found this tiny little building just east of Crooksville, Ohio. The sign over the door reads “Harrison Township West” and I assume it must have been a little school, although it would have had to have been a very little one, indeed.
Crooksville, Ohio (population 2,534, salute!) was one of the first villages in eastern Ohio that I visited after starting these excursions. Like many communities in the area, it is an old pottery town, when pottery and ceramics were a major industry in Ohio. Its population peak was a century ago and since then it has been rather sleepy. While tootling around the place, I noticed a man driving an interesting old car, so I flagged him down and asked if I could take a photograph of it. He was rather proud of it, though as a hot rod in the making, it still seemed to have a lot of work in store for it. The writing on the door seems to read “SS Rod Shop,” but I found no hint of such a place on the Internet.
The man told me his name—which I immediately forgot (okay, in addition to poor autobiographical memory, I am also extremely bad at remembering people’s names). If he told me the make and model of car, I forgot that as well, but I think this might be a 1951 Ford coupe. The man parked the car in what turned out to be a bitch of a location, because he parked in the shade of the municipal building but it was very bright outside the shade, thanks to the sun being low in the November sky, and this caused real exposure issues, with the camera having fits trying to compensate for the two very different levels of light. I tried to process the photographs I took—a rather large number of them, including some shots of the car’s owner posing with his baby—but did not have much luck in coming up with a good image, not even when using HDR. That was when I decided that I could crop one of the photos to exclude the area outside the shade—which was not crucial to the shot—and cut the Gordian knot. This proved to work reasonably well. My favorite version was this black and white version, because of all the interesting textures and contrasts.
Here’s another shot of Crooksville, looking down its main drag. Not much going on today! This shot gives a good glimpse at the false fronts that so many buildings of the late 1800s and early 1900s have in these small towns and villages. I don’t really know why they tried to make the buildings seem bigger than they were, but so many places put a lot of effort into doing just that.
So around here is where my capricious GPS crapped out on me. However, through the miracle of “signs”, I was still able to determine this photo’s location. That’s because what I took a photograph of was the long-since-abandoned Deerfield Township School in Morgan County, a bit east of the Muskingum River. This school was originally built in 1932 but hasn’t housed schoolchildren in quite a long time. Indeed, it probably held cows more recently than kids, based on what its surroundings now look like. Someone took a nice black and white photograph of its entrance here.
This hillside barn seems to have been abandoned as well but has aged rather more gracefully than has the Deerfield Township School.
As I continued to get closer to the Muskingum River, I also found a particularly ramshackly old cabin on another hillside. I show it here but am disappointed in my photography. I should have spent more time carefully composing a hot, because with this photo, there was always something irritating or distracting in the shot, no matter how I cropped it. Even this shot, the bottom of the tree at the bottom is cut off because below that were irritating things elsewhere in the frame.
On yet another, nearby hill, I found this abandoned but imposing farmhouse. The house itself, based on its design, doesn’t appear to be of too old a vintage, yet it has clearly been abandoned for some time and hasn’t aged particularly well.
Eventually I reached the Muskingum River, and started travelling south down OH-669 looking for a suitable bridge. Going through one of the villages that dot its west bank—Malta or Stockport seem to be the best bets, but I simply don’t know—I found this completely gratuitous giant dragonfly perched alongside the road. Why it was there—why, in fact, it even existed—I simply cannot say.
I finally reached I-77 and crossed it to the east, where I found the hamlet of Macksburg, Ohio—population 186, salute and bless every soul of ‘em. Macksburg appears to have been settled relatively late in Ohio’s history, perhaps in the mid to late 1800s, a few houses accumulating around a post office. No one seems entirely to be sure why it is called Macksburg, though that’s as good a name as any. The tiny place was practically a metropolis in 1890, with a population of 533, but the history of the next century plus seems to have been one of people mostly leaving the place. Perhaps that’s because it’s a poor place, with almost half of its tiny population living below the poverty line. Or perhaps the people leaving made it more poor.
When I came across this tiny structure in Macksburg, I didn’t know what to make of it. It has something of the look of a one-room schoolhouse, though the architecture would be atypical, but at the time I thought that Macksburg had more people than it does and would need a larger schoolhouse. Indeed, it used to have more people then than it does now, but perhaps young schoolchildren did once go here. The building might look a little strange to you, with the roof not seemingly touching the top of the building’s front, but that’s because this is a very oddly shaped building. I somehow actually found a photograph of this unbelievably obscure building that shows its reverse side, which gives you a better idea of how odd this little place is. Hell, I even found another image.
A bit east of Macksburg, I managed to find these dueling antique tractors. At least, I assume they are tractors. The one on the right certainly is, but I had never quite seen a machine like the one on the left before. I could barely read some writing on the tractor on the right—it read “FARMALL.” Farmall, it turns out, is a brand of tractor from McCormick-Deering (later International Harvester). The name seems first to have been used in the 1920s. Starting in 1936, Farmall tractors were deliberately painted red in color to help distinguish the brand. There were, it turns out, a ton of different types of Farmall tractors, but based on the design, this one appears to have been from the early-to-mid 1950s. I am not sure what the purpose of the attachment in front of the tractor is.
Between Macksburg and the equally obscure hamlet of Elba, Ohio, I came across this typical Appalachian Ohio scene: woods, hills, oil wells, and dilapidated vehicles and buildings. It’s hard to tell from this angle, since the oil rig blocks view of the front porch, but the building appears to have once been a little cabin, as opposed to some sort of storage shed.
The vehicle is an abandoned Ford truck that was once used as a tow-truck.
I wandered around the hills of the area for a while, but it was getting late, so I began to head northeast, back towards I-77. As I reached OH-564, I was treated to this nice little vista of a winding road and an old barn.
This area of Ohio is very picturesque and the fall is a great time to visit it, as the thinning foliage allows you to glimpse sights you otherwise might miss—like this barn nestled up against a wooded hill.
Just a little way up the road, I glimpsed off to the west, across Middle Fork Duck Creek, an entire cluster of abandoned farm buildings, about six or seven in all, what had once been a rather well-established farmstead nestled up against a wooded hill in the background.
I’ll leave you with one of my final shots, a photograph of an abandoned farm building that I have come across numerous times before—because it is situated at a very handy crossroads. Those roads also allow views and shots of the farmhouse from almost any possible angle, which means that though I have photographed this place at least twice before, it has always been from a different angle. I like this autumnal shot with plenty of late afternoon sunshine.