Paying it forward by taking a look back in time

Megaphone in hand, Miami View Elementary teacher Joshua Murray tells third-graders about the Houston Co. store (see picture BELOW) that once stood at the south end of Chillicothe Street, not far from where Sunrise Cooperative now operates. The business, established in 1861, sold grain, wool, groceries, hardware items, and produce. The building was torn down in 2014.

(Posted May 2, 2024)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Joshua Murray, a third-grade language arts teacher at Miami View Elementary School, took the school’s third-graders on a walking tour of downtown South Charleston on April 26.

He equipped each student with a copy of a 44-page booklet he had filled with nearly 100 photos of iconic landmarks, many of which still stand today. At stops along the tour, he encouraged students to compare and contrast the old pictures with how things look today.

Pointing to one of the grand houses on Chillicothe Street, Murray relayed the story of how an opera singer had it built with wide open spaces for good acoustics. He showed the students the “steps to nowhere” on Church Street, near U.S. Route 42, that he played on as a child, noting they once led to a school building that served students in the early 1900s. He took them to the tiny cemetery that sits next to South Charleston United Methodist Church to show them the grave marker of Charles Paist after whom the town was named.

“I see the kids light up when I tell them about certain buildings,” Murray said. “I think it’s important for students to have a good understanding of the history of our town and where we come from.”

A teacher at Southeastern Local Schools for the past 16 years, Murray has been conducting the walking history tours with students for over 10 years. It’s one of the ways he is working to preserve, share, and celebrate the history of his hometown.

“I’ve always been interested in history, I buy and sell antiques, and I’ve always loved photography,” Murray said.

A detail pointed out on Joshua Murray’s walking history tour are the initials in the iron gate outside the brick home that sits diagonally across the street from Chillicothe Street Pizza: HEB stood for Henry E. Bateman who laid out Woodward Street. The house was built in the 1860s.

One of his uncles helped to nurture those interests by getting him into selling old photographs when he was a teenager. The same uncle took him to a postcard show where Murray found old images of South Charleston and, as a result, started a collection. Later, a history buff who appreciated Murray’s interest in local history donated his whole postcard collection to him.

“A lot of people have invested in me, and I am trying to invest more in our town and in our kids,” Murray said. “I’ve seen more interest in local history over the last 10 years or so, which is exciting.”

Third-grade students at Miami View Elementary take a break on the steps of South Charleston United Methodist Church during a walking history tour conducted by teacher Joshua Murray. Murray informed the students that South Charleston’s Methodist congregation got its start in a small barn in 1811. The current church was built in 1912 before which a frame church stood on the site.

In November of last year, Murray established the “South Charleston, Ohio Through the Years” page on Facebook. The page has more than 2,200 followers. Visitors are encouraged to share historic photos, nostalgic items, and stories of South Charleston. The purpose of the page: “Let’s work together to keep the history of South Charleston alive.”

Murray recently asked the page’s followers if they would be interested in Murray offering walking history tours to the public.

“Between 80 and 100 people showed interest,” he said, adding that he hopes to set some tour dates for later this year.

Two copies of Murray’s “History Tour of South Charleston 2024” booklet are now part of the local history section at Houston Library in South Charleston.

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