Kaleidoscope: "Treat yourself to past' at Algonquin Mill fest

Ken Lahmers Published:

by KEN LAHMERS

EDITOR

For 42 years, the Algonquin Mill Festival has taken place at the mill complex on Route 332, about 4 miles south of Carrollton in Carroll County.
It began in 1971, and even though it’s only one county from where I grew up, I’d never attended. That is, until this fall.
Carroll County’s active historical society was created in 1963 to preserve the McCook House in downtown Carrollton, home of the Fighting McCooks of Civil War fame.
In 1969, the society acquired a wooden mill built in 1826 in an area called Petersburg, and it was restored by volunteer labor.
In the early 1800s, the mill was water-powered, but was converted to steam power in 1890. It operated until 1938 and sat dormant until the historical group acquired it.
To raise money for its restoration, the group initiated the Algonquin Mill Festival, which has grown to three days and attracts thousands of visitors.
Over the years, several historic structures have been relocated to the property, which was enlarged to 75 acres in the 1970s when an adjacent farm was purchased.
It’s now on the National Register of Historic Sites.

WHAT TO DO AT THE FEST
Record Publishing Co.’s Weekly Division circulation manager Margaret Gotschall, who grew up in Canton, has been at the festival before and wanted to go again this year.
So I put the date on my calendar and we drove down to Carroll County. Margaret’s dad now lives just north of Carrollton.
There is plenty to do and see at the festival, and folks easily can spend three or four hours there.
On Friday, nearby school choirs and bands provide the musical entertainment. On Saturday and Sunday, bluegrass groups, folk singers and cloggers take over.
For example, while we were there, the Kick and Click Cloggers, Rawson Family Band, Dulci-More, Bluegrass Brothers and Chestnut Hill Bluegrass performed on a stage outside a large building where craft booths and old farm equipment are housed.
We observed how school was conducted in a one-room schoolhouse used from 1921 to 1939. It became a community center after its closure, and the historical society acquired it in the 1980s.
Rows of old wooden desks with ink wells grace the inside of the building, along with a pot-bellied stove. On the blackboard is this motto: “Good, better, best; never let it rest; until your good is better; and your better best.”
There are several old photos of long-ago school classes from the area, as well as a table of old school books, including McGuffey Readers.
Visitors can walk through the mill, which has a steam-powered boiler and is used to make cornmeal, whole wheat and buckwheat. Products made there are sold at the festival and year-round.
A large forebay bank barn, which was part of Whispering Winds Farm acquired by the society, houses a country store in the lower level and art show on the barn floor.
A 40-by-120-foot building houses antique farm implements — some small, others large, such as two threshing machines.
An old Goshen Dairy sign from my hometown of New Philadelphia hangs on the wall. That dairy was bought out by Smith Dairy of Orrville and ceased production in New Philly in 2002 after 82 years.
One corner of the complex is designated for antique gas engines and classic farm tractors. Horse-drawn wagon rides are given, and visitors can ride a mini-gauge railroad.
An old railroad depot, built in 1902 and once located along New York Central Railroad’s Alliance branch between Hopedale and Minerva, was relocated to the complex in 1976 and now houses an HO-gauge model railroad.
An operating sawmill and shingle mill powered by steam traction engines are popular attractions, as are a classic car show, pony rides for youngsters, broommaker, dulcimer players, chainsaw carver, herbalist and blacksmith.

OTHER BUILDINGS, ACTIVITIES
So far I’ve mentioned a lot of activities, but there are still more at the fest.
Several historic log houses have been relocated to the property. A large two-story house depicts life in the 1800s, and includes an operating loom and spinning wheels.
It is thought to have served as a stagecoach inn from the 1820s to 1840s on the road — now known as Route 43 — between Steubenville and Canton.
A small log cabin also houses a loom and spinning wheel, one houses small antique printing presses and in a third members of the Magnolia, Minerva and Malvern historical societies display and sell items.
In the farmhouse on the former Whispering Winds Farm, which dates to the 1870s, women demonstrate quilt-making techniques during the festival, and the house is the site of historical society work days throughout the year.
A garage at the complex is designated as the Sauerkraut House. Kraut made there is a popular food item during the festival.
A smaller barn beside the mill, listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites, has boasted a Mail Pouch or Kentucky Club tobacco sign for decades.
A former doctor’s log cabin and another log house have been connected to make up the Bread House, where bread is baked during the festival. I bought a loaf of white.
A bread oven behind the buildings was built in 1973 and can bake 30 loaves in 30 minutes. On festival days, volunteers begin baking bread at 4 a.m.
Also on the grounds is the Perry J. Vasbinder Arboretum, named after the owner of a local hardware store. The Golden Circle there contains 400 plantings given in memory of special individuals.
As one might have noticed, food is a huge part of the festival, and just about everything imaginable can be purchased for consumption on the grounds or to take home.
Other than what I’ve already mentioned, visitors can get apple butter, pancakes, sausage patties, cookies, cheese, Trail bologna, bean soup, sloppy joes, kraut dogs, apple dumplings, ice cream, root beer, hot butter beer, barbecued chicken, roasted pork loin, cabbage rolls, pizza and cornbread.
Margaret and I delighted in snagging some Schloneger’s handmade pumpkin pecan ice cream. I can’t pass up Schloneger’s when it has a stand at a festival.
I guarantee area residents will enjoy a day out in the colorful wooded hills of eastern Ohio if they have a chance some year to attend the festival, theme of which is “treat yourself to the past.”

SCARECROWS ON THE SQUARE
While driving through Carrollton, we stopped to admire Scarecrows on the Square, a contest in which homemade scarecrows are displayed from late September to late October.
It was the 10th year the contest has taken place.
This year on Sept. 25, 35 businesses, organizations, school groups and families crafted scarecrows on the green across from the Carroll County Courthouse.
The scarecrows are made from straw and a variety of other materials and are crafted right on the green and displayed for about four weeks.
One unique creation was an oilman, complete with a 10- to 12-foot high derrick, which recognized Carroll County as Ohio’s most active oil and gas well “fracking” county. It was sponsored by Rex Energy.
The display also featured a 55-gallon drum labeled “Carroll County oil,” into which a stream of water was being pumped.
My favorite was an 8-foot tall orange tooth, which was created by who else but a dentist’s office staff.
Carrollton High School’s National Honor Society created a graduate with a cap and gown standing behind a podium, and there also was “Scarry Potter,” a likeness of Harry Potter.
Email: klahmers@recordpub.com
Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3155

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