Damaine Vonada

Limestone obelisk marking Harrison’s tomb.

Eminent eight

Why is Ohio called the “Mother of Presidents”? Consider this: Since 1776, there have been upward of 500 million Americans; some 12,000 served in Congress, but only 44 have been sworn in as President of the United States.

Since 2020 is a presidential election year and the 100th anniversary of the last time an Ohioan — Warren G. Harding in 1920 — won the White House, it’s an especially good time to take stock of the state’s eminent eight. We hereby present a compendium of Ohio presidents that includes destinations where you can learn more about their rare and remarkable lives.

William Henry Harrison
9th President (1841) 

Born: 1773, Virginia 

Dogman of Defiance

Cryptid Ohio

CRYPTIDS [crip – tidz]: Animals or other creatures whose existence is only assumed or believed in based upon anecdotal or other non-compelling evidence.

Since President Rutherford B. Hayes owned a Lake Erie island where his family vacationed, he quite possibly heard tales about South Bass Bessie. Maybe he even saw the creature (though he never reported it if he did). The Ohio native and his wife, Lucy, left the White House in 1881 and retired to a country estate that is now the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums in Fremont.

Tom Graham with pigs

YouTube sensations

The sign posted outside the biosecure barn where Tom Graham raises some 2,400 pigs at a time says “NO ENTRY.” Nonetheless, Graham has given tours of his wean-to-finish operation at Oaklawn Farm to hundreds of children in grades K–12. How does he do it?

“We used to bring in busloads of kids, but after we got a biosecure barn, there wasn’t much they could see,” says Graham. He built the facility in 2004 in order to raise gilts and barrows on a contractual basis for Johnstown-based Heimerl Farms. The arrangement not only frees Graham from worries about market fluctuations but also furnishes income that has helped his close-knit family remain on their farm. “I always tell people my wife teaches at Zanesville High School so I can keep farming,” he says with a grin. 

Museum display

Good golly, Miss Molly!

As vice president of education and visitor engagement at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Jason Hanley often observes the museum’s visitors.

The Rock Hall was the first museum dedicated to rock ’n’ roll, and its opening on Sept. 2, 1995, in a glistening I.M. Pei-designed building along Lake Erie, was a landmark event for popular culture. “It was truly significant,” says Hanley, “because rock music was being recognized, preserved, taught, and honored in a way traditionally reserved for high art forms.” Rock ’n’ roll’s royalty — think James Brown, Bob Dylan, and Aretha Franklin — showed up and celebrated with epic performances in Cleveland’s old Municipal Stadium. “We occasionally show that concert in the Rock Hall’s theater.

Indian Creek Distillery

American spirits

On a splendid day in May when bright sunshine bathes Ohio and seems to portend progress against the coronavirus, Missy Duer arranges bottles of whiskey in the antique-laden tasting room at Indian Creek Distillery.

“This farm has always been the hub of my family’s life,” says Missy. “I grew up two minutes away and loved coming here as a girl. Now my grandchildren represent the farm’s eighth generation of Staleys, and they love it, too.” 

Chris Hart

Tales from the Hart

Chris Hart dons a frock coat and sports a fancy walking stick as he prepares to portray John George Nicolay for the residents of StoryPoint Grove City, a senior living complex in suburban Columbus.

Today’s performance is “Mr. Lincoln’s White House,” a vignette set in 1900 that Hart scripted, featuring himself as Nicolay, Abraham Lincoln’s personal secretary. Nicolay pays a visit to President McKinley and relates what 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was like years before, during Lincoln’s tenure. As Hart enters the room where he’ll perform, StoryPoint residents greet him like groupies with smiles, handshakes, and fond words about his monthly presentations.

Sketch of Cedar Point beach

That's the ticket

Editor’s note: The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the beginning of Cedar Point’s 2020 season. As of mid-April, the park was tentatively scheduled to open for the season in mid-May. Please double-check before traveling.

Now, 150 years later, Cedar Point is Ohio’s largest tourist destination. It hosts some 3 million guests annually and boasts a record-setting 71 rides that meld tradition (a 1912 carousel, a gigantic Ferris wheel) with technology (the 93-mph Millennium Force, the 400-foot-tall Top Thrill Dragster).

Alice Hoover of Coshocton

What's in a name?

Like the tip of an iceberg, the name of Whitewoman Street hints at considerably more than it reveals.

The short answer is that the street honors Mary Harris, a woman of European descent who lived in the Ohio Country. But that merely skims the surface of her story. In all probability, Harris was the first white person to reside in Ohio, and her presence was so extraordinary that it was noted on international maps and occasioned a nomenclature — including White Woman’s River, White Woman’s Town, White Woman’s Rock, and, of course, Whitewoman Street — that is particular to the Coshocton area.