Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Old Stagecoach Inn

It is the time of year that forces folks in this part of the country to be humble. The sharp, bitter northeasterly wind bites at exposed fingers and ears sending the “toughest” of men in search of warmth. I can’t help but chuckle. Memories of youth. Those times when I stepped outside into the frigid, frosty air donning only a pair of jeans and a t-shirt in an effort to assert my manhood. Rather, in hindsight, I look at that kid and think, “Wow. You’re an idiot.”

I suppose most, if not all, young men seek to prove their toughness in one form or another. And I think it is safe to say that some never stop. I like to believe that I travel in a similar vein to most others who, as time passes, come to respect that in the end Mother Nature has the final say. That no matter how “tough” one is, at a certain point cold is cold. And in the depths of a northeast Ohio winter it isn’t just cold. It’s damn cold.

A short time ago I was traveling north to Geneva from Alliance. By modern standards there is no clear cut route between these two towns. Only state and county roads cutting and winding through woods and hills that were traveled once upon a time. Through places with names that don’t even warrant recognition on Google maps. I anticipate that the majority of city kids would describe this portion of Ohio by some insensitive adjective that would shed more light on their lack of understanding than the landscape itself. I write this much to my own chagrin. Not long ago, that was me. I suppose that in certain moments, it still is.

As I drove I was intrigued by the number of communities--however small--that dotted the rural landscape. Homes and buildings that have stood since the early 19th century, witnessing some of the most defining moments in modern American history. Even more intriguing, however, are those buildings still standing that have long since been left to time. Some are humble homes whose occupants have passed, while others more noticeable contain a plethora of stories that are all but lost.

The Old Stagecoach Inn is a testament to this. Standing three stories tall the building began serving travelers in 1832. Folks heading west to Cleveland enroute from Pittsburgh and Wellsville (the nearest port on the Ohio River) stopped here to nourish, rest and--at times--seek shelter. Looking at the building I can’t help but imagine the sense of relief and comfort that it must have provided. Particularly this time of year. Folks, damp and chilled, traveling over the same frozen ground I now so smugly speed across. Seeking relief from the bitter, westerly wind. I think of them rounding a bend on the Portage-Columbiana Stage Road and through a flurry of descending snowflakes, making out the illuminating candlelight and oil lamps of the Inn.

And as I pass by, in some manner or another I pay my respects to this aging landmark that stands idly by the now paved road. A place that, once upon a time, provided safety to those travelers humbled by Mother Nature and provided warmth and community to those frozen souls.

The Old Stagecoach Inn still tells a story.

I wish you warmth in the presence of family and friends this holiday season and beyond.

-Nick Stirrett

Photo obtained through the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License here