History of the Worthington Historical Society

WHS Building

The Worthington Historical Society building, July 2007. (Photo by Kate Ewald)

Walter L. Stevens (1877-1960), an attorney and early driving force behind the WHS.

In 1933 a meeting was called at the home of the Reverend and Mrs. James H. Burckes to consider organizing a historical society for Worthington. Walter Stevens acted as moderator, and the Rev. Burckes was asked to draw up a constitution and bylaws to be presented two weeks later at a meeting in Town Hall. At this meeting, Judge Elisha H. Brewster was elected the first President, with Lester F. Stevens as Secretary and Dr. Francis A. Robinson as Treasurer. The Editorial Committee was comprised of Walter L. Stevens, Edward J. Clark, and George Hinchley.

The July 1954 annual meeting was held in the living room of Clarence A. G. Pease, a General Motors executive. Mr. Pease did not like the “bright work” featured on cars of the late 1940s and 50s, and had chrome-free gray Chevrolets crafted for him.

The Worthington Historical Society incorporated in 1961, when Lois Ashe Brown was president. Mrs. Brown obtained free microfilms of the town’s vital records from the Church of the Latter Day Saints, in exchange for copies of the town’s own genealogical files. That same year, shelves in the Town Hall vault were assigned for the safekeeping of the Society’s papers. The next president was Eva Fairman, who wrote several papers that were eventually included in the WHS publication Papers on the History of Worthington.

The Capen/Riverside School, a beautifully preserved 19th-century schoolhouse with vaulted ceiling, was donated to WHS by Henry H. Snyder and restored under WHS president Mrs. David Whitmarsh. Some of the Society’s archives were stored there, while the rest were kept in the upper floor of the Worthington Library, which the WHS hoped to convert to a museum.

Miniature model of Capen/Riverside School.

WHS president John Payne prioritized the writing of a Worthington history, and began photocopying papers from the Town Hall vault for researchers to consult at the library. Elizabeth Payne chaired the editorial committee, and in 1983 the Papers on the History of Worthington was first published. In 1992 the IRS granted the Society a tax exemption under IRS Code 501(c)(3), making contributions tax-deductible.

President Ted Claydon at the WHS construction site, c. 1998.

For many years WHS meetings and events took place at the Capen/Riverside School. Under the direction of president Edward (Ted) Claydon, the present WHS building was constructed at Worthington Corners on land donated by Merwin and Arlene Packard in 1992. Scott Heyl drew up the architectural plans, and many local builders and interested citizens donated their work and expertise. The building is modeled after the West Worthington Chapel, which is no longer standing. A grand opening was held on June 13, 1999.

In 1961, a total of 431 historical items were catalogued and listed in the WHS accession book. Today that figure is well over 5,000. Other WHS projects of recent years (besides the usual schedule of talks and seasonal hikes) include genealogical research, gravestone restoration, an oral history program, numerous publications and DVDs, and a new online publication, WHS Journal.

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