Sifting through history to compile Mount Sterling veterans list

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Messenger photos by Kristy Zurbrick
Steve Chambers, director of the Mount Sterling Community Museum, peruses some of the resources he used to compile a list of Mount Sterling veterans who served or are serving in the armed forces from the Revolutionary War to the present.

(Posted March 6, 2020)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

When Steve Chambers took over as director of the Mount Sterling Community Museum, he wondered what he could contribute to the cataloguing of the town’s history.

His predecessor, the late Denny Morris, wrote three volumes on the history of Mount Sterling, complete with then-and-now photographs of many of the businesses in town. Chambers had to find his own niche, covering another swath of the town’s past.

“I had catalogued all of the books in the museum and realized all the genealogical history of the wars we had on hand,” he said.

With that realization and inspired by the approach of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Chambers found his project–to compile a list of all Mount Sterling veterans who served or are serving in the American armed forces from the Revolutionary War to the present.

That was in 2016, and he’s been hard at it ever since. To date, the catalogue contains more than 2,000 entries filling about 150 pages.

The work is contained in a three-ring binder and indexed by war, cemeteries in which the veterans are buried, veterans who received a Purple Heart in World War II or Korea, World War II prisoners of war, veterans who died in military service during World War II, Mount Sterling American Legion Post 417 rosters, and individuals honored at the veterans memorial in the town square.

More than 2,000 entries are included in the Mount Sterling Community Museum’s list of Mount Sterling veterans. The catalogue is available for viewing.

The job of sifting through books, old newspapers, obituary files, online genealogy services, and other resources to glean information specific to Mount Sterling has been a tedious one, but Chambers hasn’t minded a bit.

“I have two degrees in history and was a librarian at (Ohio State University) for 30 years. Research is what I’ve been doing all my life, and I have an interest in military history,” he said.

One of the troves of information that served him well in his project is one he came across by accident. The museum is located on the lower floor of Mount Sterling Public Library. He and Chris Siscoe, the library’s director, got to wondering what was in a 3×6-foot cabinet located under the stairwell.

“We found the key, and inside there was a lot of information about the Mount Sterling Daughters of the American Revolution chapter,” Chambers said. “And in one box, we found minutes and rosters of the local Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) chapter, which was like the Legion of the day.”

The GAR chapter was active in Mount Sterling from 1884 to the 1920s. From that information alone, Chambers was able to add another 50 names to his list.

At this point, Chambers said most of the heavy research is complete, but he will continue to update the list as obituaries of local veterans come in. He will do the same with additions or corrections he receives from anyone with connections to Mount Sterling service men and women.

He has already displayed the catalogue at various events honoring veterans and will continue to do so.

“A lot of people like to look through it just to see their grandfather’s name,” Chambers said.
Of course, anyone is welcome to look through the catalogue during museum hours–10 a.m.-noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday–or by appointment. The library is located at 60 W. Columbus St. The museum is located on the lower level and is accessible via an exterior stairwell or by stairs or an elevator from inside the library.

To learn more about the Mount Sterling veterans list or the museum in general, call (740) 869-9305 or email Steve Chambers at mtsterlingcommunitymuseum@gmail.com.

Much to see at museum

This optical trial lens set, dating back to the early 1900s, is among the recent donations on display at the Mount Sterling Community Museum.

The Mount Sterling Community Museum reopened for the season on March 2. The featured display for March and April focuses on clubs and notable women of Mount Sterling.

Other displays planned for the remainder of the year include veterans-themed displays in May and November and a Christmas-themed display in December. The museum is open to other ideas and welcomes short-term loans of interesting historical items.

Among recent donations to the museum are:
• a history of Mount Sterling (1805-1935) written by sixth-graders in Pat Jackson’s class in 1969-70;
• a winter U.S. Army uniform that belonged to TEC 5 (sergeant) Harold Dunn, who served in New Guinea during World War II; and
• an optical trial lens set in a wooden case, owned by Henry L. Cook, who opened a jewelry repair shop in 1905 in the K of P building on North London St. He also repaired watches and ordered glasses for customers.

The museum’s wish list includes school yearbooks (especially from the 1980s), postcards with photos of Mount Sterling, envelopes with a Mount Sterling postmark, and Mount Sterling phone books (especially from before 1975).

The museum is located in the lower level of Mount Sterling Public Library at 60 W. Columbus St. Hours are 10 a.m.-noon Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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