If we listen closely enough, places will tell us stories — lores that stitched the fabric of the land and the people who have lived on them. On Saturday, September 11, we are all invited to the historic communities of Guysville, Stewart, and Kilvert to learn from their stories. A day-long event on Saturday, Sept. 11, “From Old Savannah to Tablertown” will celebrate the vibrant culture and history of this region, with special focus on the contributions and legacy of people of color.
“From Old Savannah to Tablertown is a unique opportunity to experience so much of what makes Appalachia special — small towns, crafts, local history and music,” said co-organizer Therese Lackey, program director of the Federal Valley Resource Center. The event name refers to previous names of Guysville and Kilvert, respectively.
The resource center received an Ohio Arts Council ArtSTART grant to support the free event, a collaboration among Athens County community members Talcon Quinn, Madelyn Brewer, David Butcher and Lackey.
Brewer and Quinn co-wrote the grant, envisioning something inclusive, unique and primarily outdoors that would help revitalize Appalachian Ohio through the celebration and preservation of its culture and heritage.
“It’s important to have community events that are intentional efforts by people from the community, who have had lived experience in Appalachia,” Brewer said. “I hope people who visit will learn ways to find out their own history and see how their history can be celebrated instead of using it as a divisive tool.”
The event will start at 10 a.m. at Savannah Park in Guysville, where Appalachian folk artist and former OAC grantee Talcon Quinn will lead a workshop in basket weaving. Quinn has a long line of ancestors in Athens County, particularly in the Guysville and Stewart area.
“Though our oral history suggests we may have even earlier ties, we only have documentation of my paternal father’s family that dates them settling in Athens County around 1835,” Quinn said.
Recognized as a Master Artist in the skill of leather tanning by using the organs of the animal, Quinn believes that having a strong connection to regional folk art and folk ways builds a sense of pride in communities.
“It is important to me to carry regional traditions in my art work so that I may share with the world a much more positive side to Appalachian Ohio versus the classic images of poverty that are more popularly portrayed,” she said.
By sharing how different cultures created what is now known as Appalachian Basketry, Quinn believes that by “weaving together as a community, we will inspire more cultural skill sharing.” She hopes that community skill building and sharing will cultivate “our collective roots, providing our youth with a connection to their home.”
Then, an exhibit and talks on Tablertown from 12 to 6 pm will be hosted by David Butcher at the church in Kilvert. Located 15 miles northeast of Athens, the village of Tablertown was founded by Michael Tabler and his wife Hannah, a former slave, in the 1830s.
“The timing is perfect for this,” Butcher said. A direct descendant of Michael Tabler and Hannah, Butcher is locally known as the curator of the People of Color Exhibit. His expansive collection displays the interweaving of his family history across not only African American, but also Native American and European American lines.
“We were not taught our history in our school books,” Butcher said, reflecting on the importance of knowing local history and where we live. “This isn’t Black history. This isn’t Native American history. This isn’t white history. It’s American history. It’s up to us to tell our story.”
Butcher’s exhibit will include large photographs and artifacts from a private collection that has not been shown before. Speakers include Kenton Butcher, who will discuss the history of Tablertown; archaeologist Joanna Flowers, who will present new historical maps of Tablertown currently in development; anthropologist Dr. Amelia Adams, who will discuss the genetic politics of place, family, and community; teacher Carlotta Workman, who will share her grandfather’s connection to the Tablers; and Dr. Amanda Flowers, who will talk about the medical and mental health history on plantations.
The evening will feature Appalachian musicians Tommy Parsons and his band Heartbreak Ridge at 6 p.m. and Steve Free at 7 p.m. in the Stewart Community Park beside the fire department on state Route 144.
“We are interested in folks who are Appalachian, indigenous and African American who made such a difference,” Lackey said.
Free is a widely acclaimed musician in Native American and Appalachian traditions, and Parsons — who plays “old country” — has performed at the Resource Center previously as part of its free performing arts series, she noted
Focusing on the preservation of historic buildings of the Rome-Canaan School Campus, the FVRC also aims to provide the community with a place to gather for cultural and educational events.
“We want people in the community to explore and learn many new things,” Lackey added. “Pretty much everything we do is free. That’s why we have all these instruments, have yoga classes, for example.”
Lackey’s 30-year music teaching background has shaped FVRC’s distinct music programs, from free performances by local musicians to music lessons to open invite jam sessions. The center also operates a food pantry and a thrift store.
Community support is a key component to the event. Support in the form of monetary donations and/or volunteering are encouraged. Donations can be mailed to the Federal Valley Resource Center (PO Box 18, Stewart, OH 45778, Attn: Sep 11 event). Volunteers can provide easy, safe-serve meals or donate food and beverages. For more information on how to support the event, contact Talcon Quinn at email@example.com.
Shei Sanchez is a writer, photographer and teacher who lives on a farm in Stewart, Ohio.