SCIOTO — When it comes to area history, local attorney John McHenry has taken up particular interest on many subjects. This interest has led him and a 10-member board to pursue the establishment of the Scioto County Heritage Museum and now a book that focuses on what McHenry describes as an overlooked part of Scioto’s past.
McHenry spent part of Saturday afternoon at Ghost in the Attic Antique Mall signing copies of his 105-page book, titled “Scioto County’s War with Spain.” A work over the course of multiple years, he described himself in an interview as being a regular at the Portsmouth Library as he conducted research.
“This seemed to be forgotten history and it was something that seemed unique at the time,” he said. “In 1898, Portsmouth was very excited and the entire county turned out patriotically to do their part in the war.”
As the book describes, 74 men marched right down the very street where Ghost in the Attic now stands nearly 123 years ago. Those men belonged to Company H, 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, who left Portsmouth for Columbus before later arriving in Puerto Rico after stops in Chattanooga and Newport News, Virginia.
In its back pages, the book includes an appendix of the men, mostly from Scioto, but a few from Ironton that went to war. A fair share of those names, McHenry writes, are common to the area currently and others from the county still served although not part of Company H. The soldiers had varying occupations, some teachers, farmers, clerks, engineers or students.
Back home, Portsmouth was an emerging city that saw its population growing as the largest town between Cincinnati and Marietta. McHenry said the men at war had the support of those back in Scioto.
“They called them “Our Boys” that went off to the war,” he said, describing the pride of the residents. “Not only was there a great show of patriotism as they marched, but also while they were gone. There was a great show of support, people traveling to the various camps to see their soldiers, taking pies, cakes, desserts and jams.”
The goodies also found their way to Puerto Rico, part of what McHenry described as a tremendous backing from locals. Also making the trip were members of the local media, including the son of then Portsmouth Daily Times editor J.L. Patterson.
A rivalry brewed between the Daily Times, which leaned Democrat and the Republican-leaning Portsmouth Blade. McHenry said the rivalry was fairly intense as writers did not hold back on the rhetoric, occasionally leading to more of a gossip, but still served a vital purpose of informing its readers.
“The only forms of communication back then were newspapers and word-of-mouth pretty much,” he said. “The newspapers served the purpose of what maybe Facebook and cable news would today. That’s where people got their information and learned about the progress of the war.”
Those wishing to purchase a copy of the book can find it online on such sites as Amazon, Target, and Barnes and Noble. McHenry is also leaving copies with Ghost in the Attic, the Southern Ohio Museum, and the Scioto County Heritage Museum once it opens.
Reach Patrick Keck (740)-353-3501 ext. 1931, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @pkeckreporter.
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