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Kaleidoscope: Enjoying a heritage fest in old Ohio mining town

Published: November 14, 2012 4:02 AM

by Ken Lahmers

Aurora Advocate Editor

I've mentioned in this column before that one of my fondest memories was covering a couple of football games in 1976 at the old Buckeye West High School's football stadium in very small Adena, Ohio.

Sitting in the cramped pressbox atop the concrete stands built as a Works Progress Administration project in the late 1930s, between plays I could watch hopper cars full of coal being pushed back and forth in the then Norfolk & Western Railroad yard across the field.

Two or three times in recent years I've returned to Adena and took time to sit in those old stands and look back. Unfortunately, the train yard is long gone, and the single track through town is inactive under Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway's jurisdiction.

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Adena has about 825 residents and is in southern Jefferson County, about 10 miles southeast of Cadiz. In its heyday in the late 1930s-early '40s, when a lot of coal was being mined nearby, it had about 1,500 residents.

On Aug. 11, I went back again to Adena on a cloudy, drizzly day after learning that the annual Heritage Day was planned.

Heritage Day is an annual "homecoming" type affair where local residents and natives who have moved away get together to enjoy a parade, food stands, exhibits, presentations and live music.

It's organized by the Adena Heritage Committee. This was the first time I attended the event. The parade wasn't near as big as Aurora's. In fact, it lasted only 20 minutes.

Members of American Legion Post 525 -- it's a very active post for a small community -- led the parade, which also featured a horse-drawn wagon, 4-wheelers, Lions Club members riding on a wagon, fire trucks, Harrison Central High School band, a group of middle school cheerleaders and a few political candidates.

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The Legion post, by the way, has a beautiful mural painted on its back exterior wall showing the Legion's logo in the middle and two eagles on the sides with the red and white stripes of the American flag in their talons.


The Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway built its main line through town in the 1870s. West of town is a 500-foot long tunnel, where in 1930 a collapse killed two train crew members.

Around 1900, a branch to Belmont County was built off the main line. A wooden trestle over a creek remains in town several years after the tracks were removed.

The old train yard once had at least a half-dozen tracks, and millions of tons of coal were brought in hoppers from the Ohio Valley for the journey to Lake Erie's port at Huron.

The first mine near Adena opened in 1899, and during the peak of mining in the 1930s more than a dozen large mines operated, producing 3.3 million tons of coal annually.

Some of the names of the mines were Rose Valley, Blairmont, Roby, Maple Grove, Peanut, Penova, Sunshine and Long Run.

Another train tunnel called Long Run is about 6 miles southeast of Adena and a third is northwest.

Adena was not incorporated until 1908. The town is part of the Buckeye Local schools today. The district now has one high school, but once had West, South and North. Buckeye West was located in Mount Pleasant, about eight miles from Adena.

The village now boasts two pizza shops, Figgy's Fuel Mart, Peoples National Bank, a hardware store, two taverns/restaurants, Borkoski's Funeral Home and Zeroski's Excavating.

There are two churches -- the United Methodist and St. Casimirs Catholic.


Right beside the old football field is the P & M Restaurant and Bar, which has operated continuously under a handful of owners since World War I ended.

The original owners were named Pete and Mike, thus the P & M moniker.

Since Prohibition had just begun in 1918, the building initially was a confectionery selling candy and popsicles, with bowling alleys and pool room.

When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, P & M was the second business in Jefferson County to receive a liquor permit, according to a website devoted to history of Adena.

The beautiful carved bar has existed since installed in 1918. At one time it was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as Ohio's longest.

The tavern was a popular place when several coal mines were still operating. Its two biggest days annually were said to be when Adena's grid team hosted Cadiz and Dillonvale, with the stadium -- called the Pit -- hosting 3,000 fans.

Pete and Mike sold the business in 1965, and other owners came along in 1981 and 1984. The bar might not have as many patrons as it once had, but it still is a popular place in town.


Adena's Gilbert Koontz American Legion Post was chartered in 1921 and was named after a local resident killed in action in France in 1918. It is one of a handful of active groups.

The post was in danger of closing its doors in 2004, but has recovered after getting more involved in the community. The outside mural I mentioned above was painted in 2007.

The town also boasts a Women's Club founded in 1936 and still active in various community programs and projects, plus a Lions Club and youth baseball and softball leagues.

Three school buildings -- two of which still house students -- are located in town. Buckeye West Elementary and Adena Head Start (formerly St. Casimirs Catholic Elementary) still operate, while a former high school has been transformed into a community center.

The latter two-story brick building was erected in 1921 and had eight classrooms. It housed high school students until a new three-story brick school -- now the elementary -- was built in 1939.

In addition to surrounding coal mines, Adena also had a handful of mills in the 1800s and early 1900s. The Jefferson Landmark feed mill now stands adjacent to the football field.

It occupies the location where the Adena Milling Co., built in the early 1900s, once stood.

Email: klahmers@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-688-0088 ext. 3155

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