New Book Highlights Ashville's Outsized Tales

Brooke Preston
"Amazing Ashville" by Bob Hines

Bob Hines now calls Upper Arlington home, but he grew up 25 miles south, near the small but colorful hamlet of Ashville, where he still volunteers for the Ohio Small Town Museum. After decades of interest in such places and their contributions to politics, history and culture, he wrote “Amazing Ashville,” available at amazingashville.com. It outlines his hometown’s outsized quirks and accomplishments, from the impressive (one resident was among the first female inventors with multiple patents) to the infamous (another committed an act that prompted Spain to declare war against the United States).

Hines says small towns are undervalued as entrepreneurial, artistic and intellectual incubators, and their influence on current events is overlooked. “I want local readers to experience how incredibly rich their connections to national and world history actually are. I also want to challenge readers from outside the area to reconsider any preconceived ideas they have about small, rural towns being boring.”

To that end, his research uncovered plenty of fascinating anecdotes. 

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  • The area produced three naval commanders and two nationally recognized oceanographers, despite being landlocked.
  • Tom McDonald listed his occupation as “outlaw” in the 1880 U.S. census. Fearful locals formed a vigilante group, pulled him from his sickbed and lynched him.
  • One time, the proprietor of Cook’s saloon in Ashville cut open a snapping turtle to make turtle soup and found 234 pennies inside.
  • Thanks to Ohio State researchers, the first public-road tests of an automated vehicle happened in Ashville in 1964.
  • In the first recorded case of bovine gun violence, an agitated cow knocked a firearm away from farmer Ira Cummins, setting it off and mortally wounding him.
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