If the lady who was accompanying me had not been talking incessantly, nervously, doing it the way some people talk to fill in the space, I would have been more in tune with my
surroundings. If I had been more in tune with my surroundings, I would have probably been scared. I would have been more aware of the house where the Lady Went Crazy.
It was a part of northeastern Ohio I know well, a part where the rolling hills come together with the sharper, darker edges of the Appalachians. The road from Hammondsville to Bergholz, the back road, where one turns west instead of heading south into the Ohio River valley and the town of Irondale.
I almost never drove, nor still, when I go home, almost never drive through that area without wondering why nobody has thought to finance a ski resort. The nearest ski area, Atwood, is in Carroll County, a good 90 Ohio-wooded-type-miles away, and it isn’t nearly as fertile a possibility, at any rate, as a developer would find on that back road between Hammondsville and Bergholz.
Bergholz roughly translates as “mountain hold”, and the name is apt for the steep hillsides that would lend themselves to downhill activities, to the wide streambeds and valleys that would be perfect for cross country or snowshoeing.
But there’s something hard and bitter that happens when you cross the line, head into the foothills, find yourself within the range of Hammondsville, Irondale, Bergholz. It is something that seems at odds with the natural beauty of the hills, a beauty much softer and easier to navigate than the Rockies, the beauty of the rolling Appalachians.
Maybe it is the long abandoned salt mines of Salineville, to the north, or the silent and rusting foundries of Irondale, to the south, or the boarded up potteries of Hammondsville itself.
Langston Hughes asked poetically,” What happens to a dream deferred?” This area is not home to a dream deferred, but rather a dream which had its time, lived out its span, has come and gone, leaving empty buildings where industry once thrived.
Maybe that is why there has been no well-heeled entrepeneur to invest in a ski resort, or maybe it goes deeper.
Some say the area is cursed. The Shawnee were rightly resentful of being robbed of their fertile farming valleys and game laden woods, and some say a Shawnee shaman laid a curse on the area before they moved west.
So, with the lady incessantly chatting, nervously, we drove, unaware, past the house where the Lady Went Crazy. That will form the basis for next week’s column.
Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis High School. He can be contacted at: