Imagine you are a pioneer. Traveling through tough terrain, struggling and enduring the elements for the opportunity and hope of a better life. For your children and grandchildren to have a better life. Where do you picture yourself in these circumstances? For most people, I think they see themselves out west, probably part of a train of covered wagons, probably on the plains of Nebraska or Kansas. Maybe even farther west in Colorado or Nevada on their way to Oregon.
After living for several years in Nebraska, I understand that. There is a wildness to the west that makes you feel small – you know this intimately once you see an entire supercell thunderstorm on the horizon ten miles away. A couple years ago, I visited the National Homestead Monument of America in Beatrice, Nebraska. It amazed me then and still does, that people joyously packed up what they could and set off to a place they’ve never been for two things – hope and opportunity. They knew the journey would be rough and they embraced it. Many never even made it to where they were going.
Still, even after living on the plains and getting a glimpse of what those western 19th-century pioneers experienced, sometimes I look around at the southeastern Ohio hills and try to imagine what pioneers here endured, and that’s difficult too. It’s hard to imagine our rolling fields completely covered in trees. Trees that people cleared. Before heavy machinery. It’s hard to imagine being an early pioneer establishing a life in the Northwest Territory. It’s hard to imagine crossing the Ohio River in Washington County and seeing rolling hills covered in two things – trees and opportunity. Those pioneers did that. The pioneers who first settled in Washington County, Harrison County, Belmont County, Monroe County, and all other southeastern Ohio counties faced similar circumstances, but they knew their hard work and perseverance was worth it. They saw hope and opportunity.
Some may disagree, but I think being among the least populated counties in Ohio in 2018 is an advantage. We still have the opportunity that’s been here for centuries. The opportunity the pioneers who settled here over 200 years ago saw and hoped for their families and growing communities. Children growing up in southeastern Ohio have the opportunity to see hard work and dedication every day. They have the opportunity to see the community and be a part of that community in ways not possible in more populated places.
Southeastern Ohioans have the advantage of knowing neighbors and living close to family. Southeastern Ohio has beauty and is even still a little wild, even after 200 years (black bear and bobcat sightings seem to be always increasing). It’s human nature to compare what you have to what you see others have and view yourself as worse off – the grass is always greener. I hope people in southeastern Ohio can see how lucky they are that some pioneer relative settled here, whether it was 250 years ago or 25 days ago. I see the hope, wonder, history, and opportunity in these southeastern Ohio foothills and I hope others do too.
Attorney At Law