MEIGS COUNTY — As we approach the end of 2016, The Daily Sentinel is taking a look back at some of the top stories of the year and what has taken place in Meigs County.
The first day will take a look back at January, February and March, with each of the following days taking a look at three month segments, concluding on Sunday.
Museum reopens in annex building
The Meigs County Museum reopened in the annex building next door after closing in late 2016.
Banjos and fiddles played, and a bell rang as local residents made a visit to the reopened Meigs County Museum, which is now housed in the annex building next door.
The museum closed late last year for maintenance and was moved to the newer building last November. January marked the official reopening, with refreshments, music by Liz and Lynn Shaw, both of Meigs County, and of course, exhibits for all to see.
The first exhibit of the new year, “Rural Life,” showcased aspects of life in Meigs County from the 1870s through to 1890s. The areas of focus include farming, woodworking and blacksmithing. There is an exhibit on the hearth and home, as well. Some of the highlights include a 19th century travel forge, which was used by blacksmiths and could be transported; letters that date to as early as 1834; and an old newspaper from the area, the Pomeroy Mosquito, which included obituaries and local news. The specific paper on display, from 1885, talks about a local woman who accidentally ate lye and burned skin off her face and tongue, among other tidbits of local gossip.
New warden in town
The Meigs County Board of Commissioners announced in January that there would be a new Meigs County dog warden.
Coleen MurphySmith was hired for the position and took on the role in February.
“I’m just really excited and so happy to be chosen for this because think this is going to be an awesome thing for Meigs County. I’m just anxious to get in there and get started and do everything we can for dogs and people of Meigs County,” she told the Sentinel at the time of her hire.
All three of the commissioners voiced their confidence in MurphySmith for the position.
“She’s been a fantastic asset to the shelter and we look forward to having her work there full time,” Commissioner Randy Smith said at the time
Grammy Award announced for Jorma
One of Meigs County’s own was announced to be the recipient of a Grammy Award.
Jorma Kaukonen who’s served as a guitarist for Jefferson Airplane since their first rifts gave rise to fame in 1965, will — along with his bandmates — were announced as recipients of a lifetime achievement award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
Jorma first wrote about the achievement on his blog, “Cracks in the finish,” on Jan. 13:
“Nobody I know got into this wacky business for awards … but to be honored by your peers, well … suffice it to say that it is indeed an honor. People often ask, ‘Did you ever think when you got started …’ that this, that or whatever would have happened? First of all, who knew we would live this long? Who would have dared to guess that a little music picked in San Francisco over half a century ago would have such long leg(s) and gained such … well, respectability. Not I, that’s for sure. Fame such as it is, recognition … ephemeral as it is … we’ll take it.”
Since the band’s inception in the mid 1950s, the band went on to record seven albums in the span of six years, with famous appearances on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show.” Three famous festival appearances include Altamont, Monterrey Pop, the Isle of Wight and the most famous of all, Woodstock. The band took nearly a 20-year-long break but reunited in 1989 for a final album, aptly named “Jefferson Airplane.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 1996.
Jorma became involved in a side project with Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady called Hot Tuna during the time the group was still active, and has also worked on solo projects. In 2003, he was nominated for a Grammy for his album “Country Blue Heart.”
Kaukonen is also the owner of Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, which, since its inception, has become a staple in the Meigs County Community since April 1998. The ranch, nestled at 39495 St. Clair Road, is both a music instruction camp and a performance space, according to their website.
Alongside Jefferson Airplane, Herbie Hancock, Run D.M.C. Linda Ronstadt, Celia Cruz, Earth, Wind & Fire and Ruth Brown also received the lifetime achievement award.
Snow Crow Polar Plunge
Plenty of people packed the Pomeroy Parking Lot during the Snow Crow Polar Plunge Saturday, Jan. 30. The event was held by The Los Cuervos (The Crows) Rider Riders Club, and raised more than $6,400.
The event, which had 26 people jump into the 38-degrees water of the Ohio River in order to bring awareness. Exactly $4,200 of the money raised went to a local girl named Mady, who has severe Type 1 diabetes. Her family has rescued a dog, Rosie, from the Meigs County Dog Shelter, and are currently training Rosie to become a diabetic alert dog. The $4,200 raised will help the family finish paying for Rosie’s complete training.
Los Cuervos is a group that is nationally sanctioned by the American Motorcyclist Association.
Bank robber sentenced
A Meigs County woman who robbed Farmers Bank in Tuppers Plains bank in 2015 and was in the midst of planning another was sentenced to nine years in prison.
Amanda Sawyer, who robbed the Tuppers Plains Farmers Bank June 2, 2015, and was arrested July 27, 2015, while allegedly planning to rob the TNT Pit Stop on Route 7, was given nine years in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction during a sentencing hearing in Meigs County Common Pleas Court.
Sawyer was indicted on four charges Aug. 21, with two charges of second-degree felony robbery, both counts one and four, a charge of felony robbery in the third degree, which was count two, and a kidnapping charge, which is a felony in the third degree.
Sawyer pleaded guilty to amended charges on Dec. 10, 2015, with count one remaining the same and count four being amended to a felony in the third degree. After sentencing for counts one and four, Judge Dean Evans of Gallia County, who heard the case, dropped counts two and three. Along with nine years in prison, Sawyer has been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $6,529 — the exact amount she stole from Farmers Bank on June 2.
Sawyer, 32, of Reedsville, was arrested July 27 when she turned her vehicle onto State Route 7 in front of Deputy Michael Hupp, according to Williams. Hupp made a traffic stop because Sawyer’s vehicle was missing the back license plate and because she was going only 20 mph on the highway.
Bridge of Honor illuminated once again
The Bridge of Honor, connecting Pomeroy, Ohio, and Mason, West Virginia, was once again living up to its name after illumination was restored in mid-February.
It had been more than a year since the cobalt blue lights had shown on the bridge structure. It didn’t take long for the good news to spread when they returned, however. Social media sites also “lit up” with posts and pictures.
“Excitement is in the air within the communities,” said Meigs County Development Director Perry Varnadoe at the time. “The bridge and the bridge lights are the centerpiece of our three communities of Pomeroy, Middleport and Mason.”
Work on the bridge lights actually began in March 2014 when they began going off one by one. First thought to be acts of vandalism, it was later found that it was the heat from the bulbs causing the light covers to burst. The bulb heat, which reached in excess of 200 degrees, caused pressure that could not escape because of the covers. This, in turn, caused the lights to break. The problem was heightened because the company that first sold the lights went out of business.
Because so many of the lights had gone out, the West Virginia Department of Transportation made the decision in early 2015 to simply cut the breaker to them, making the once bright structure totally dark. Because of the estimated cost to replace the lights, and since they were mostly for appearance and not safety, it was unknown as to whether the lights would ever burn again.
Meigs Superintendent announces retirement
The Meigs Local Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent Rusty Bookman, for the purposes of retiring, with his final day in the position as March 4. (More on this in March)
Rock slide in Antiquity
Drivers encountered hazardous road conditions on the morning of Feb. 24 as a result of falling rocks on Route 124 in Antiquity.
The Ohio Department of Transportation was quickly on the scene after receiving a report around 4 a.m. that morning that fallen rocks were blocking one lane of the road. As with many towns along the river, Antiquity is no longer incorporated, but the area is still identified by that name. Situated between rolling hills and the Ohio River, the roadway is the only thing separating the two.
Former Sheriff Proffitt dies
A former Meigs County Sheriff died on Feb. 5. Former Sheriff James J. Proffitt, who served Meigs County from 1977-1984.
The Meigs County Sheriff’s Office released a statement on their Facebook page: “Today February 5th 2016 we lost one our own. He wore his Sheriff uniform with pride and taught great work values to many. It’s with a heavy heart for myself and all those that worked for this man. He was a father figure, a teacher to those at the Meigs Sheriff’s Office. James J. Proffitt served as Sheriff in Meigs County from 1977 – 1984. Our staff is wearing mourning bands and our flag is lowered to half staff in Pomeroy. In honor of Sheriff Proffitt. May God Bless.”
Long Bottom man allegedly sets fire to own residence
On March 3, a Long Bottom man was arrested on an aggravated arson charge after a fire at his residence.
Dennis Persons was arrested on the aggravated arson charge, which remains pending in Meigs County Common Pleas Court.
After arriving on scene that morning, deputies received information that Persons had allegedly set fire to his residence when other people were inside. One person who was inside the trailer at the time the fire was allegedly set sustained burns and was transported by Meigs County EMS to Holzer Meigs Emergency Department. Another person inside the trailer at the time was able to escape and had no injuries, the sheriff’s office said at the time.
Election results mean change in local officials
While Commissioner Randy Smith defeated challenger Larry Tucker in the March primary and Recorder Kay Hill defeated challenger Huey Eason, incumbents Colleen Williams (prosecutor) and Diane Lynch (clerk of courts) were defeated by their challengers.
Sammi Mugrage defeated Lynch for clerk of courts and James Stanley defeated Williams for prosecutor in the Republican primary.
Two county incumbents ran unopposed, including County Treasurer Peggy Yost and County Engineer Eugene Triplett.
While the individuals were not officially elected until November, all were unopposed in the general election.
Bookmans retire, Gheen hired as Meigs Superintendent
Meigs Local Supt. Rusty Bookman officially retired from Meigs Local Schools, while his wife also announced her retirement effective at the close of the school year.
Between them, they had 69 of experience in public education. Rusty Bookman, superintendent of Meigs Local Schools and his wife, Lynn Bookman, will officially retire on May 31. They plan to remain in the area and help the school in whatever way they can, along with enjoying more time with their children and grandchildren.
Rusty Bookman became superintendent on Aug. 1, 2010 after holding other positions within the school district for many years.
Lynn Bookman’s passion — and career — has always been focused on second grade students. She began her career as a second grade teacher at Harrisonville Elementary School from August 1982 to 2002, when she became a second grade teacher at Meigs Primary — the position she’ll hold until the end of the 2015-16 school year.
With the retirement of Bookman, the Meigs Local Board of Education voted unanimously at its March 22 meeting to hire then-Eastern Local Supt. Scot Gheen for the position beginning on Aug. 1.