Seneca County Museum to dedicate historical marker

The Seneca County Museum, 28 Clay St., is hosting an Ohio Historical Marker Dedication Thursday for the Greek Revival home of Rezin Shawhan, Tiffin’s first millionaire.

Mark Steinmetz, a volunteer at the Seneca County Museum, said the marker is to dedicate the building that houses the museum, which was built in 1853. According to a release, the house has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1979.

“The home was passed down through the family and was eventually given to the county to be used as a museum in 1942,” Steinmetz said.

In addition to the dedication of the marker, he said the ceremony is to include celebrating some exterior repairs the museum has completed including the porch, the wrought iron and the shutters.

The markers are made through the Ohio Historical Society, an independent group that runs on donations, he said. There’s an application with requirements, and a marker costs about $2,500 to be made, Steinmetz said.

However, he said the William G. Pomeroy Foundation offers grants that pay for the markers to be made as long as their guidelines are followed.

Steinmetz said a unique fact about the foundation is that a Pomeroy married one of the daughters of Erastus Bowe, the first white settler in Seneca County, so the foundation actually has a direct relationship to the county.

He said while the museum had to pay an extra $300, it received grants for $5,000 for two markers through the foundation.

“We, in our county, like to stress the importance with our history and our background of that so we thought it would be nice to have more of them out there,” Steinmetz said.

He said the Seneca County Historical Society applied for the markers and from the time it submitted the applications to the time they were delivered was probably about a year and a half. Steinmetz said they’ve probably had the markers for about two years and the other marker was dedicated at Clouse-Kirian Leadership Park June 26 of this year.

“We didn’t want to put them both up on the same day so we can kind of make a big deal out of both of them,” he said.

Steinmetz said one of the parameters required is when a marker is put up, it has to be in a location where it will always be cared for. He said it helps if it can be located on city or county property because that property will probably never go away and will always be cared for by somebody within the city or the county.

A stipulation of the Pomeroy Foundation is that the marker application has to pre-date the year 1900, Steinmetz said. He said they would like to get markers put up for other events in Tiffin, but if they decide to do that, they’ll have to get someone to pay for it.

“I know there are certain locations in town where we had the 1913 flood that would be of important historical significance but that’s a case where our group doesn’t have the money to come up with $2,500,” Steinmetz said. “So, whatever we pick as far as a marker goes will have to be pre-1900.”

The foundation also insists upon documentation of the wording including background information, resources and locations where information was found in history books. It is required so historians can research and make sure information is correct, he said.

“It’s a long, involved procedure and it’s neat to know somebody is out there researching all this because it would be a travesty to have something up there and bronzed and have it not be correct,” Steinmetz said.

As a member of the bicentennial committee, he said Tiffin’s bicentennial will be in 2022 and committee members are looking for more ways of putting markers around the town to point out important places of history.

“Nothing big like (the Ohio Historical Marker), but maybe a little marker on the corner of the building, you know, saying who built it and what year, and that way, instead of seeing one of them every mile, you’ll see one every building or every other building,” Steinmetz said.

He said there are only 12 markers in Seneca County, whereas some counties have 30 or 40.

“That’s going to be a part of celebrating our 200-year anniversary so I’m sure that getting more of these markers up between now and then — which is four years away — that’ll be a goal is to push more of these,” Steinmetz said.

Looking ahead, he said the museum is planning to apply for one or two more grants next year, and while personnel don’t know for sure which markers they are going to do next, they are considering doing a marker where the Tiffin Glass Factory was located because there is a lot of interest in Tiffin Glass.

Director Tonia Hoffert of Seneca County Museum said she likes the markers because when volunteers aren’t around at the museum to talk to visitors, people still can see the markers and stop to read them and learn about Seneca County history. She said when she goes to other towns, she always stops to get out and read markers when she sees them.

“It’s just another sure way that people are learning a little tidbit about their history and (learning more about) places that they look at and pass every day, but they don’t know anything about them,” Hoffert said.

Steinmetz said with lots of things happening within the city now as far as trying to improve the culture and the look of the town, to the museum, the history of the community is “an important thing” and getting more markers put in town “helps along that process.” He said he knows there is one at Leadership Park. While people go to a movie, see a play or just walk downtown, they can read it and think about their history, what has happened in Tiffin and how the community got to where it is.

“It’s a case where our goal here at the museum is to educate and spread the word of our great past and these are real permanent ways of doing it because they won’t go away very soon. They will be there quite a while,” Steinmetz said. “It’s something to be proud of and it’s something that helps beautify the city and helps people learn about their history.”

The marker dedication is to be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Seneca County Museum. The release states the museum will be open following the dedication and refreshments are to be provided for visitors.