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Poland Historical Society looks back, aims forward

POLAND — The Poland Historical Society is gearing up for 2024, and several improvements are in store.

The society will continue walking tours of historic Main Street, offering school programs at the Little Red Schoolhouse and promoting History Day in Poland schools.

With a new slate of officers and members, the society had a chance to review 2023. Among the grants received last year was one for $2,939 with additional in-kind matching funds.

“The grant is supported in part by an award from the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board, through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), National Archives and Records Administration,” Poland Historical Society President Laurie Fox said. “The grant money was used to purchase archival storage materials such as archival binders, sheet protectors and storage boxes to preserve, organize and prevent damage to the Historical Society’s collection in the Little Red Schoolhouse Museum located at 4515 Center Road (Route 224) in Poland Township.”

She said a committee was formed to assist in the reorganizing and preservation efforts. The committee meets every Wednesday morning to sort and enter information into a database that will streamline the search experience.

A second grant the society received was a Cultural Capital Grant for $25,000, made possible through State Rep. Al Cutrona’s office. The grant was approved in 2022 and the PHS had to raise a required match of $12,500 between September of 2022 and June of 2023, which it did.

“This wonderful $25,000 grant from the State of Ohio allows us to serve the Poland Community better and more safely,” Fox said. “We were able to add paved space and handicap parking, LED lighting and security cameras and make it easier and safer to enter the (Little Red Schoolhouse).”

The grant helped repair a trip hazard on the sidewalk and enabled the PHS to add internet, WIFI, a high-quality digital scanner and a server with NAS backup for archival digital storage of artifacts, photos and records.

The Little Red Schoolhouse has been under the PHS since it was formed in 1979 to save Poland’s historic structure. The Board of Education arranged for a $1 per year lease for 99 years and in 1987, thanks to a federal grant to restore the building, it was rededicated.

Today the structure houses the collections of the PHS that include items from Poland churches, PSHS yearbooks, early Poland deeds, old photos, family histories, Poland firemen directories, Chet Hunt sketches of Poland, items regarding William McKinley and family, Civil War letters from Poland soldiers, early maps, and original White Saddle books by Ethel Hull Miller.

“Several family diaries, photos and paintings by local artists were added to our collection last year through the generosity of Poland residents,” Fox said. “We appreciate the donations that help us to fulfill our mission to preserve the past for the future. Our collection of Poland Seminary High School yearbooks is extensive, but we are still missing more current year books from the 1970’s to current and look forward to future donations.”

In 2023, PHS participated in Celebrate Poland by offering a walking tour of historic South Main Street in Poland Village and added a College Street walking tour and Village Graveyard tour.

“We will continue offering walking tours through historical Poland, Riverside Cemetery, and the Village Graveyard,” Fox said. “We would like to encourage others to help by becoming a tour guide or a reenactor at one of the historic sites.”

Another returning program this year will be the Tour of Poland’s 19th Century Homes. Fox said the last one in 2022 was a big success and the society will have a new tour set for Sept. 19, 2024 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets for that event will go on sale this summer.

The PHS will also be offering the Little Red Schoolhouse for the second grade this year. The entire Poland second grade will hold a full day of school as it would have been in the 1800s.

The PHS is also developing an activity / coloring book for elementary school age children that should be ready later this year.

One final program is a project that started last year involving Poland’s first marshal, Alfred P. Arnold, who served as Poland’s first peacekeeper and is buried with his family in Riverside Cemetery. The PHS is working toward raising enough money to place a marker in Riverside to honor him.

“Through generous donations, we have so far raised half the money we’ll need for the marker,” Fox said. “We’ll continue this project for the next few months with plans to have the marker placed in the cemetery in 2024.”

The hope is to have the marker in place later this year.

The PHS meets the third Tuesday of each month at the Little Red Schoolhouse. The business meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. followed by special programs at 7:30 p.m. The public is welcome.

jtwhitehouse@vindy.com

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