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Taking a step back in Algonquin time

October 21, 2012
By ESTHER MCCOY - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

For some reason, the Algonquin Mill Fall Festival was a well kept secret as far as the McCoys were concerned.

Although it has been around for 42 years, we made it a date on our calendar for the first time last week.

It wasn't because we hadn't traveled past the grounds that were once a thriving farm many times. We went past the mill farm with log cabins each time we went to the Carroll County Fair and when I ventured to Carroll County to have lunch with my good friends, Barb Walton and Martha Jones.

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John and Katie Grafton of Bloomingdale had a stand featuring honey products.

While passing by, we would comment, "We have to go there this year." But it never happened until now.

I think one of the reasons is because our daughter-in-law, Missy; and both of their children, Jackson and Maggie, have birthdays around the middle of October, and we always went to Plain City.

Our festival adventure took place on the first day of the festival, when vendors were still fresh and sharp and everything looked pristine.

We did not arrive until 2:50 p.m., so that meant we had to hit the ground running as the place shuts down fast at 5 p.m. And I had people to talk with and pictures to take.

Our first stop was at the log cabin that served as a coach house in the times before Motel 6. It was where a "wash-up" in a big ceramic bowl, a hot meal and a place to sleep were possible before moving on. But beds could be scarce and passengers never knew who might be joining them for a snooze.

Lynn Rainsberger, who was part of the Spinners and Weavers and the Carroll County Historical Society, told me there is a saying about strange bedfellows, and it came about because you never knew who was joining you for the night. She was demonstrating smocked fashions and decorations as well as the pleated fabric popular in the past.

Velma Griffith, who once was a Carroll County correspondent for the Herald-Star, had a framed story on the cabin wall telling that the cabin was built in 1823, and when it was no longer used, was slated for destruction. When contractors removed the first board, it was evident that a log cabin lurked beneath the more modern veneer.

Some other crafters I talked with were Katie Lunemenn, who was spindling sheep's wool, and Diane Schrader, who was making two-ply yarn from the wool of her own Shetland Sheep in Stark County, showed some lovely sweaters she had made from her product.

John Leck of New Philadelphia was running a shingle mill and his young son, John, was enjoying the wood shavings that were falling about as the shingles were trimmed. The little guy was wearing an adorable straw, broad-rimmed hat, but he would take it off occasionally to possibly catch some of the shavings.

Pete Snellman of the Vintage Broom Shop was sewing the corn broom bristles of a child's broom with heavy, colorful thread. He said the small brooms had to be hand stitched, but the regular household varieties were done by machine. Both sizes took just over 15 minutes to make, and they last for many years.

We stopped to talk with John and Katie Grafton, friends we know from the Jefferson County Beekeepers Association, who were selling honey products. John was wearing the type of hat I associate with the cartoon "Mush Mouse and Pumpkin Puss," a children's show few people remember. What television channel did I watch with my kids during the 1960s and 1970s anyhow?

Dave Rose, an officer with the Custer Memorial Association, had taken up residence in a heated log cabin and was displaying and selling Gen. George Armstrong Custer memorabilia. The boy general was born in New Rumley on Dec. 5, 1839, and the association celebrates this December anniversary with a dinner each year.

The dinner will be at the United Methodist Church in New Rumley at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 1. The cost is $15 for a great home-cooked dinner.

Don Allison, Bryan Times senior editor and historian of the Williams County Historical Society, will be the guest speaker. "Hell on Belle Isle" will be the subject of his talk - the human drama of the Civil War, based on the journal kept by Sgt. Jacob Osborn Cosburn of the 6th Michigan Cavalry. Much of Coburn's time was as a captive in Richmond's Belle Isle Prison camp.

A young man was repeatedly walking a Belgian horse around in circles as a device fed corn stalks into a press that made a liquid that ultimately is boiled down for corn syrup.

I don't see my brother, Dale, and sister-in-law, Norma for days, and they live about a quarter mile away, but we managed to run into each other at the festival. Norma was giving praise to the pumpkin rolls that were for sale and telling me about the shagbark syrup that could be sampled in many flavors further down, in the area that I will call the midway.

We ambled down that way, and I poured out a shot of rhubarb-flavored shagbark syrup, taking a big gulp. The flavor was true rhubarb, and it went down quite easily but I was wishing I had a buckwheat pancake that was for sale to put it on.

We encountered Mark and Lee Clark, nice people we know from the Jefferson County Farm Bureau and from him being the son of a wonderful friend, Jackie Clark Haynes. They had a book on shagbark syrup and purchased a bottle. Don't know what flavor, though.

Speaking of buckwheat pancakes, this is something my dad would make each Sunday morning in my youth. They had a flavor you needed to develop, but I came to like them very much. The festival had buckwheat flour for sale, and I should have purchased it as we passed by but didn't. The vendors were mostly all closed and the visitors gone by the time we came out of the one-room school house that was a thriving institution of learning in the past.

Karen Gray was a teacher in the Carrollton Exempted Village School for 25 years and came out to sit at the old desk and explain the schooling of youngsters in times past when youth of today visited the school.

"This was an actual school that closed in 1939, and the pupils were sent to Perrysburg or Carrollton schools. What saved the building was the Petersburg Grange taking over the building. They put a basement under the building and preserved the building for their meetings and for square dances," she said.

In looking around the large room, with the water bucket and dipper that was the class drinking supply, Lamont was reliving his past, as he went to such a school in Noble County in his youth.

We were so interested in listening to Gray's stories about the school and looking around that it was 5:25 p.m when we left the building, only to see that most of the vendors had closed down, and the people were gone. It was a real ghost town, so to speak, and we were one of only three cars remaining in the parking lot.

I enjoyed the bean soup for a late lunch, and their cornbread was out of this world. It was very dense and moist, and they served a huge block of it with the soup.

I wanted an apple dumpling but the concession was closed by then. I also wanted apple cider, but that opportunity was gone as well.

Next time we will arrive for breakfast so I can get my buckwheat pancakes and have an apple dumpling for dessert in the afternoon.

I just know that we will be back next year, but we will try to talk our sons and their city-bred children into coming out to see how the world operated before electricity, hotels with room service, enormous schools and store-bought clothing.

(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at

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