Person Place

Otway: Among the Hills

The Ivers Household in Otway Ohio

“Nineteen miles over the Ohio and Northwestern, along the banks of the Scioto river and thence along the green waters of the Brush Creek, a stream worthy a more euphonious and romantic name, through some of the most rugged and picturesque country that nature has seen fit to spread out, or rather set on end, in this portion of the State, brings you to the little village of Otway.”

“Last Monday was not a particularly bright day. In fact it was such a day as any one might expect at this season of the year, when the groundhog, the weather seer of this section, has pronounced his unalterable fiat against good weather, an has retired to his hole, like the ancient oracle to his inner shrine, to await the result of his dire prophecy. The sky was overcast with thick, leaden clouds and the snow was flying in persistent and chilling gusts. However, it takes more than the mere inclemency of the weather to retard the ordinary newspaper man; and so, with a fresh lead pencil and a cheerful smile, that didn’t cost anything, I embarked on the tempestuous voyage above indicated.”

“I was in the company and under the especial guardianship of Mr. William R Smith, Jr., the genial and accommodating gentleman who represents the Otway Sand Stone Works. Mr. Smith had kindly promised to take me safely through the terrors of the journey; to tell me when to get off the train and shield me from the many temptations that the gilded iniquities of a metropolis like Otway are likely to have for an impulsive youth with a bilious temperament and his first teeth. The noble manner in which he performed his task will always be a green spot in my memory as long as there is anything green about me, which, my friends assure me, will be as long as I live.”

“Otway is not a city, at least it is not as large as I understand New York to be, although I would say that t is somewhat larger than Henley, a pretentious place a few miles east, which in endeavoring to put on metropolitan airs.”

“Two or three years ago, before the railroad awoke the echoes of that almost solitary wilderness, Otway boasted of only two dwelling houses and was only dignified with a name because the mail was distributed from that point; no, seriously, it is a perfect hive of industry and one of the most thriving and busiest little communities in the county. There are between three and four hundred people there and they are nearly all, directly or indirectly, connected with the lumber, tie, or stone business, which the vast forests and rock-ribbed hills that surround the village on every hand, make at once convenient and lucrative.”

“At the risk of being tedious and tasteless I intended to give, briefly, a description of the principal personages, together with some of the gossip of the place.”

“The first thing that strikes a stranger in Otway is the new appearance of the place. It has the aspect of a group of houses that by some fortuitous concurrence of circumstances had been set down in that particular spot and had not yet become acquainted with the surroundings. The dwelling houses are, however, neat and trim, and betoken thrift, and a commendable spirit of pride in appearances. The house of Mr. George Walsh is especially worthy of notice, being tasty and of mern architectural design. The next thing that impressed me was the conspicuous part assumed by the Walsh boys in the role of citizenship. They seem to be the leaven that gives life to the entire body politic out there, and to be the active principle in most all of the business of the place.”

“The first place I dropped into was George Walsh’s. George dispenses the hospitality and also ginger ale and Birch beer of the place. Like all new places where business has the upper hand of ethics, and everybody is too busily engaged to find time to regulate the personal habits and tastes of his neighbors, Otway is not a prohibition community. Although it can be said with perfect honesty that no one could conduct the business of selling drinks with more discretion or decency than George Walsh does. There is not a drop of anything sold about his place on Sunday, and the man who oversteps the bounds and becomes abusive and boisterous finds his name on the black list, and his business at the bar is ignominiously at an end in that place.”

“Next door to George Walsh, his two brothers Edward K. and John, under the firm name of Ed. K. Walsh & Co., are doing thriving business in the general merchandise line and a little further down the principal street, James R Walsh disports himself in the same line.”

“James R. is one of the boys; that is he enjoys good company and is just as ready at telling a good story or spinning a yarn as he is to listen to and appreciate one, and it was from him that I head a good many amusing incidents and reminiscences of the place. In addition to his other business Mr. Walsh runs a cooper shop, and the man who managers the business is named Glenn. His first name is William, or rather Bill; in recognition of his propensity for rapid atmospheric displacement he has been honored with the expressive sobriquet of ‘Windy.’ Windy Bill Glenn wore the diamond-studded belt for some time in the place, but he has recently had to yield the honors, together with the belt, to an entire stranger who enjoys the French name Barnes.”

“Barnes came to the place last fall and set up in business as a shoemaker and also repairer, subsequently enlarging his establishment by the rather incongruous addition of a confectionery establishment. And at this time, to attest the truth of my statement, there is to be seen in the show window of his place of business, a dilapidated shoe, and an overgrown hunk of streaked and striped, toothsome candy. But it is not as a healer of old soles nor a soler of old heels, nor yet in his capacity of city confectioner that Barnes’ true greatness lies. It is his ability as a windjammer, and the weird, fantastic shapes into which his artistic jaws mold the void and formless ether, that marks him as a fit subject for the biographer’s pen, the poet’s rhyme and the sculptor’s chisel. Barnes came, and the hitherto champion, the breezy Glenn, literally became as the chaff which the wind driveth away. Before the terrific elemental disturbance which Barnes’ jaw wrought in the community, the harmless volubility of the genial Glenn became as the garrulity of an old woman against the voice of the tempest; a summer sigh; a gentle zephyr; scarce moving the sun-parched leaves.”

” A council was forthwith called, Glenn was compelled to take a back seat and Barnes was invested with the insignia of championship together with all rights and titles thereunto belonging, and was distinguished with the forceful title of ‘cyclone,’ the new Aeolus of the West, the terrible destroyer. And a cyclone he certainly is. I had the pleasure of meeting him and taking a whirl with him. It is somewhat dangerous, but withal refreshing, and I hope to have the same pleasure again when my hair is shorter.”

“Coming down from the rugged hills like immediately back of the village is a little insignificant creek with the very significant name of ‘Bloody Run.'”

“There are many romantic stories connected with this little stream and illustrative of the meaning of its ensanguined name, but as I have already consumed a good deal of space I will reserve the legend of Bloody Run for an article next week and will close this rambling letter with brief sketches of the business men of the place somewhat in detail.”

“I have spoken of the business of the Walshes. In addition to those stores, J Breslan does a good business.”

“The planing mill is a splendid industry of the place, it is run by Lewis Piper and JJ Piper under the name of JJ Piper & Bro. Mr. JJ piper was at Mineral Springs on business when I was there, but I made the acquaintance of Lewis Piper, who is a pleasant gentleman, and with whom I passed a pleasant half hour. The mill has been recently enlarged and new machinery put in. New additions will be added in the spring.”

“The Otway Sand Stone Works is one of the most promising industries in the county. It will be running full blast presently, and as they have a good many orders on hand and more coming all the time they expect a very profitable year. These works, also, will be enlarged in the spring.”

“Otway has its share of hotels. The Saal House is kept by Peter Saal, and Mrs. Lou Bresenhaur runs a hotel. I stopped at the Williams House kept by JM Williams1. Mr. Williams is an excellent man and his house is in the same category. He also has a good livery attached.”

“WA Thompson and Squire Sims are the village blacksmiths and Mr. Sims, also, dispenses the justice to the community.”

JG Freeman at present hands out the mail to the community, but he is looking for a change. By the way, they are thinking of importing a man from Mt. Joy by the name of Davis to take the post office. Republican timber in Otway is scarce.”

“Mr. Frank Godfrey is the genial station agent and Dr. GF Thomas examines the tongues and feels the pulses of the community. I also wish to acknowledge the acquittance of Mr. James Holt.”

“If space would permit I could say more of the pleasant acquaintances I picked up, and also dilate on the glories of the Otway Brass Band, which is probably the more wonderful musical organization in Southern Ohio, but I must close.”2

  1. James Milton Williams
  2. Among the Hills. (1889, February 16). Portsmouth Times, p. 1.
error: Alert: Content selection is disabled!!
%d bloggers like this: