The History of the Western Reserve & Writing by Traci Kenworth

The History of the Western Reserve & Writing

Traci Kenworth

Ah, Ohio. In the northeastern county of Geauga is a little town called Burton that’s motto is “Where History Lives.” It is a century village, and I grew up in a century house. I even attended church in a century museum when I was younger, lighting the candles every Sunday with one of my friends. It was the first place to get a phone line. It was also home to James Garfield, the 20th U.S. president. I have always been interested in history. I love the architecture of some of the houses in town. There are three or four houses that Garfield lived in still around today. They are beautiful to behold. The very first house built in the town is called the Hickox house and was the road I lived on growing up.

After the Revolutionary War, the Western Reserve was opened to settlement. Pioneers came in droves. My ancestors were some of the first settlers. My great-great-great grandfather put down roots in Russell township in Geauga and being a wealthy landowner, donated land to build a church. His house is still there, labeled a century home just over Silver Creek. Originally, the family came from the state of New York. As the years went by, some of the family moved out west to Montana others stayed here and took up residences in Kirtland, Ohio. That’s where my dad grew up. As he married and helped take care of an aging uncle, due to the banks and lawyers that same uncle lost his money and property, and my family was forced to resettle in Burton just as I was about to be born. Elsewhere, my grandfather lost his money to poor choices and bullying from a relative.

I won’t say there’s no rot beneath the vine. I went through a lot of pain growing up in Burton. I didn’t know how to fit in with others at school and the torment I faced just ballooned. I had to let go of a lot of that grief, but it’s taught me to appreciate the good things. Even in moments of great despair, there were always moments to treasure. In the park, there’s a maple cabin that produces the candy and syrup from beginning to finish. It was always a treat to go in and see how they did so. That glorious smell of the maple was just delightful. Not to mention, I felt thrown back to another time just like one of my favorite book series and shows, Little House on the Prairie.

It’s easy to get swept into that nostalgia. Every holiday from Christmas to Thanksgiving seems to have its own celebration. And it’s shown in the decorations for such. The old-fashioned cutouts of carolers around the park to the new Bethlehem Hills Lights display in the fairgrounds.  There’s an Apple Butter Festival in the fall. Not too long after that, the oldest fair in Geauga County takes place. The Great Geauga County Fair draws people from near and far to bask in its excitement and the dazzle of shows, performers, and farm animals. There’s everything from clog dancing to grandstand performances from the biggest stars they could bring in. Tom Wopat, Sammy Kershaw, and even Porter Waggoner was there. There are circus shows, horse races, and a demolition derby. It’s here that the Fourth of July fireworks are set off by veterans with fire trucks standing by just in case.

It’s crazy to think that I once wanted to move from this town so badly. Now, I want to enjoy the past and show my children things that brought me joy even while in the midst of memories that taught me such pain. I guess that’s how life is. You fight to let go of a place and then want to return to parts of it and show it off to your family. Both a blessing and a curse. Thankfully, more blessing then curses any more since I let go of the hurt. Sometimes, getting older is better. You look back with more kindness. Both for yourself and your persecutors. Life is funny like that. I’m sure you all have your own experiences like this in towns and cities all over the world.

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