In an ongoing series, we will be taking walking tours throughout Ohio’s Winding Road. Focusing on COVID-safe activities, we aim to share the natural beauty of the region and highlight its unique history and vibrant culture.
History and Nature Meet in Southern Perry County
STORY AND VISUALS By Delia Palmisano
A two-time transplant to Athens, (I studied at Ohio University as an undergrad in the late ‘90’s to early 2000’s, and then settled here with my family in 2017), I’ve always felt connected to the surrounding hills, but haven’t wandered too far from the mainstream attractions in the region.
Robinson’s Cave, located in southern Perry County, had been on my radar for a few years, but for some reason, I’d never made the time to go visit. The cave is known for its natural beauty and historical link to the labor-organizing movement and to me, fully embodies what Ohio’s Winding Road has to offer.
I decided to finally go see it for myself for my first Walking Tour.
Driving through the quiet main street in the town of New Straitsville, signs direct passersby to the cave. I park at the town history museum (currently closed due to COVID-19), and a large sign directs me up a set of stairs. I climb the steps and enter the forested hillside. As I do, I notice the crunch of leaves under my feet, and then, the 1000 square foot cave becomes visible.
The day that I visit is beautiful. It’s sunny and bright, but chilly. It has recently snowed and there are icicles clinging to the cave’s overhang. I’m alone, except for the drip drip sound of the ice melting. The solitude is refreshing after so much family time together during the pandemic.
There’s a palpable presence here though. It could be my imagination, but it, along with the dripping sound grows, as I climb further into the cave. I think about all the people that have stood there before me.
Offering a secluded location, with great acoustics, Robinson’s Cave became a place for large groups of Hocking Valley coal miners to meet in secret. Beginning in about 1870, labor-organizing meetings were held at the cave by various emerging unions including the Knights of Labor. New Straitsville resident Christopher Evans, a well-known union organizer, used Robinson’s Cave to lead miners throughout the long Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885. The cave was also where non-union miners met to plan to set the Columbus & Hocking Coal & Iron Company mines on fire in a desperate attempt to end the Hocking Valley Strike.
After a little while, I take my leave. The sound of the dripping gets softer and the leaves again crunch underfoot as I walk back to my car and complete my first Ohio’s Winding Road Walking Tour.
IF YOU GO: Marker is on Main Street (Ohio Route 93) west of Clark Street (Ohio Route 93), on the left when traveling west. Map. New Straitsville OH, 43766
TO LEARN MORE: New Straitsville History Group
FOR A GUIDE: Local historian Cheryl Blosser gives tours to groups and individuals for a fee. firstname.lastname@example.org
LOCAL FOOD AND SUPPLIES: Little Italy, Ed’s Carry Out
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Delia Palmisano is an Americorps member serving with Ohio’s Winding Road. Delia is a visual communicator and multimedia artist who believes in the power of storytelling. She feels a deep connection to the natural world and enjoys exploring the rolling hills of Appalachia with her husband and children.