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Pictured is the Eclipse Company Store, located in the Eclipse Company Town just south of The Plains, Ohio. The company store is open to the public to rent for special events, weddings and community gatherings.

Appalachian Understories strives to tell the tales of local history

Appalachian Understories is an organization that seeks to educate residents of southeastern Ohio on local history through their Bike and Brew Tour in the Little Cities.

Appalachian Understories provides guided tours on natural and cultural history, which sometimes include overnight adventures. It often explores the Little Cities, a collection of southeast Ohio towns that sprinkle the Appalachian foothills.

This Saturday, Appalachian Understories is hosting a guided tour through Old Floodwood, formerly an old mining town. All that remains of this ghost town are ruins.

The tour is 14 miles long on the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. The tour starts and ends at the Eclipse Company Store, 11309 Jackson Drive, with various drinks on tap for participants at the end of the tour. Bikers will depart for the three-hour tour at 1 p.m and return at 4 p.m. General admission is $40 and kids ages 5-12 cost $10.

Madison Donohue, the tourism specialist for Appalachian Understories, is biking with the tour this weekend. She hopes people will appreciate the rich history of this Appalachian region.

"Learning the legacies and industry of the region allows us to develop a greater appreciation for what it is today," she said.

While a 14-mile tour may seem like a lot, it is very accessible, according to Donohue.

"I really like how accessible this event is," she said. "It is 14 miles, which for some people could definitely seem not doable, but it is all flat and it's on a paved bike path."

There are also additional accessibility resources for the event. Bikes can be rented through Baileys Trail System Bike Rentals and delivered to Eclipse Company Store in time for the tour. Other adaptive bike equipment is free for those with limited mobility who want to participate.

The tour is led by local historian Tyler McDaniel, whose family dates back almost 200 years in the area. His great-grandmother and her family were residents of Old Floodwood until the town closed in the 1950s.

Donohue and McDaniel work together to share this regional history with others.

"We have a lot of different tours where the historians are well-researched on the topic and can tell it as if they lived it or as if their grandmother told them the story," Donohue said. "Tyler is also very well researched on Old Floodwood but it's really cool that he has colloquial stories about this town."

The two worked together to create and share this event with the community.

"(McDaniel) was talking about the stories of his great-grandmother living in the town and I saw that it was on the bike path and I think we just had the idea that it would make a great event," Donohue said.

McDaniel, who grew up in Hocking County, is the vice president of the Little Cities of Black Diamond Council, an organization that educates people on local history and culture.

"I'm really tied to this region," he said. "It's special to me because you get to share that knowledge and that history with folks of all ages."

McDaniel is very passionate about the history of this region, which is typically unknown to many people, even those who have lived here for a long time.

"Seeing people be surprised by this history is so rewarding because you can see the gears starting to turn in people's heads when they're starting to process (it)," he said.

The old coal mines helped fuel major cities today as they developed industrially and economically, especially Columbus. When these coal mines shut down, the towns built around them also shut down. 

All that is left of Old Floodwood now is some concrete structures. 

While this may not seem like much, the physical remains help paint a bigger picture on how the area came to be.

"It's a unique thing as well because there's so much history that if you know where to look, there's a lot left," McDaniel said.

To the untrained eye, these ruins may go unnoticed, but with the right tour and the right guide, these remains can come alive again.

"Tours to places and allowing people access to ask questions and see these places are so important," McDaniel said.

However, the history of southeastern Ohio goes beyond coal mining communities. While McDaniel is focusing on the community of Old Floodwood, he makes sure to mention the region's vast history before the Little Cities existed.

"I always start, whenever I do one of these talks or a tour, telling people that you have to remember we're on important ancient lands as well to the ancient Native American tribes and cultures that called this place home," McDaniel said.

Being a historian, McDaniel worries about people not finding an interest in history anymore.

"I feel like a lot of people around here, or just in general in our country don't appreciate history as much as they should," he said. "They don't think about it in a deeper aspect."

Educating future generations on this history is the key to its longevity. However, some people, especially college students, can't always find time to engage in these activities.

This is especially true for Abigail Hall, a freshman studying chemistry, despite her interest in learning about the area.

"I want to learn more about (local history)," she said. "But right now I'm in a bunch of STEM classes, so I haven't really had time."

Despite the lack of time, many are still interested in local history. Some people want to seek out historical context about where they live.

"Once you see people's face when they realize that and you start to tell them about all this history and how it's all tied together, you see those 'wow' moments," McDaniel said. "That's the most rewarding thing for me because it means I'm doing my job but also what I'm passionate about: sharing my region's history."


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