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Blast from the past

Volunteer Jack McMichael portrays Christian Buhl to teach visitors about the Buhl House during the first Butler County History Day, sponsored by the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, on Saturday in Zelienople. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle
Butler County’s History Day draws community

Butler County’s history buffs had a field day Saturday during the first Butler County History Day sponsored by the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau.

Volunteers educated eager county residents on the past in their backyards, while including fun surprises for those who ran the gamut of events.

The attractions were organized in two loops — the first included the Little Red Schoolhouse, Maridon Museum and Mars Train Station; the second included the Evans City, Harmony and Zelienople historical societies.

Little Red Schoolhouse

Standing at the teacher’s desk, Steve Cicero, historical society volunteer, enraptured the audience with his lesson on the red brick walls that sheltered them from the rain.

Laura Ice and Zach Ice, 15, both of Butler, look at a display case inside the Little Red Schoolhouse during the first Butler County History Day, sponsored by the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, on Saturday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

“I love sharing the stories of Butler,” he said. “You can tell (people) are tuned in.”

Cicero said Butler’s first schoolhouse was active from 1838 until 1873, when the Jefferson Street Elementary school was built next to it.

As years went on, the county set aside the area for schools and churches, which is why Butler Middle School (formally the high school, erected in the early 1900s) sits so close by.

Cicero pointed out parts of the building — the “library in a box” and coat room — and described what a day at school would have been like.

Volunteer Steve Cicero shares information about the Little Red Schoolhouse during the first Butler County History Day, sponsored by the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, on Saturday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

“Everyone at school would share a ladle for water,” he said. “For bad behavior, boys would get a switch from the yard. And if you weren’t keeping up, you sat in a chair in the corner with a paper hat. A dunce cap.”

Cicero said History Day should spark interest and understanding in county residents.

Desks recreate a scene inside the Little Red Schoolhouse, which operated for 35 years in the 1800s, during the first Butler County History Day, sponsored by the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau, on Saturday in Butler. Joseph Ressler/Butler Eagle

“I hope they understand that history is all around them. There’s very interesting stories all around them,” he said.

Mars Train Station

From ghost stories to community relics, volunteers from the Mars Area Historical Society had much to share with visitors.

The caboose was open for visitors at the Mars Train Station during the first Butler County History Day Saturday. Molly Miller/Butler Eagle

One volunteer, Jeff Ward, pointed out that the train station was packed from floor to ceiling with artifacts from Mars businesses and organizations, from old football uniforms to photographs.

The building, Ward said, has an interesting history.

“This train station was at a different location and was moved in six pieces here to Brickyard Road,” he said.

Volunteer Herman Reedy, pointed out a mummified cat, labeled “Chessie the Cat,” the subject of a ghost story documented in various paranormal books.

“When they moved (the station), they found this cat petrified in the foundation,” he said. “They named it Chessie, after this station line.”

“It’s definitely something,” John Watson, president of the Mars Historical Society, said of the cat’s story. “People say they hear the cat meowing, see footprints. It’s a popular ghost story.”

Watson and Ward said folks visiting the station have enjoyed it.

“I hope they get more of a feel of the history of their town,” Watson said. “We’ll answer any questions.”

“If we could get more young people learning about the history, I think it’d be great,” Ward said.

Zelienople Historical Society

Inside the Passavant House in Zelienople, visitors were greeted with cookies and the rich history of the founders of the town.

The house, once owned by Phillip Passavant and his wife, Zelie, often is a surprise for visitors to discover, volunteer Sue Casker said.

“The Passavants were so influential here, and no one knows they set up a homestead here,” she said. “It’s eye-opening for people to see the history of the family.”

The house featured original furniture, decor, clothes, letters and paintings from the family. And in the kitchen, Zelie’s cookies, recreated from her recipe, were displayed for people to try.

Jim Smith and Sally Rohroman, trekked to almost all of the historical sites on the tour, including the Passavant House. Both said they couldn’t fathom how much history was in Butler County.

“We’re trying to do as much as we can today,” Rohroman said. “I didn’t realize there’s so much that could be told to us about Butler.”

Back to the future

Those who visited three or more sites were provided a gift to commemorate their county-side journey from the tourism bureau.

Casker said she thinks people will walk away from the day with much more.

“The rich history of Butler County is incredible,” she said. “So many people here have an interest in history. I think people (were) ready to see something new and learn along the way.”

Herman Reedy shows a model of Old Mars built by Mars Historical Society volunteers during the first Butler County History Day Saturday. Molly Miller/Butler Eagle