Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dinner with History

Last Sunday, we went to Stockport Mill Inn and Restaurant in Stockport, Ohio.

Stockport is located on the western bank of the Muskingum River, a 45 minute drive over beautiful Ohio-Appalachia hills from our son's house near Athens.  We were about 175 years too late to see the little town in its glory days.  But the Stockport Mill still stands beside the dam that held the water which turned the mill wheels to grind flour.  That same water power turned the turbines to produce electricity for the community.  The Stockport Mill also served as a safe place on the Underground Railroad which ran along the banks of the Muskingum for nearly 25 miles.
But those days are long gone now, lost in the mists of history.  The Stockport Mill ceased its milling operations in 1997, but the huge, four story building has not been left empty to grieve that loss.  In the recent past, the building has been converted into a hotel and restaurant.  Their Sunday noon buffet is varied and out-of-this-world delicious!  The hotel has only eleven large rooms, but each is equipped with a spa or hot tub.  The décor of the place is utterly antique with the furniture tastefully arranged around many pieces of the original milling equipment which have been left in place.
Across the river, another piece of Stockport's history has been kept alive and active.
Long before the invention of the automobile or the construction of all-weather roads, the river was the main highway for those towns fortunate enough to be located on its banks.  The dam which ran the mill on the western bank of the river made it necessary to construct a lock on the eastern bank so ship traffic could continue on their way from Zanesville to Marietta.
That lock has been preserved, still operates, and is available for use by boat traffic up and down the river.
The lock tender, seen here talking with our son, was a knowledgeable and genial man.  He explained to us how the lock works and it was obvious to us that the tender, who both closes and opens the lock for river traffic, would have to be as big and strong as he appears to be!
In the 1840s, when river traffic was at its height, one of the most successful river pilots was a woman named Jane McMillan.  She was called "Old Jane" and she was reported to have known the river so well that she could navigate it safely even at night! 

So, stuffed with good food and several fascinating history lessons, we headed home, once again winding our way through those scenic hills and valleys of southeastern Ohio.