December 18, 2003



History of innovation

This week’s paper carries the final installment in the News’ 11-part series exploring the history of Yellow Springs. The project, which featured a group of articles every month covering a period in the village’s 200-year history, has been exhausting, and enlightening.

It has been exhausting because it involved many, many hours of research, reporting and writing for the paper’s three reporters, Diane Chiddister, Lauren Heaton and myself, as well as Evelyn La Croix and Brian Loudon, Antioch College students who worked as editorial interns at the paper this year. Though we tried to be realistic about the amount of work each of us could handle, in general the time we spent on the history project came on top of our normal weekly tasks. This meant that most months we had to put in extra hours to complete our assignments.

The series generally came together like this: Each month, I would meet with Antiochiana archivists Nina Myatt and Scott Sanders to discuss possible stories and to get understanding of the notable events during that month’s period. The editorial staff would then meet to discuss possible assignments. We tried to pick what we thought were the most significant and interesting events or people in each period.

News staffers wrote all but one of the stories in this series. During August, we reprinted a version of an article Sanders wrote on the Antioch power plant for the Antioch Record, the college’s student newspaper. Much of our research came from information at Antiochiana, Antioch’s invaluable archive, where Myatt and Sanders provided crucial assistance with the series.

The paper’s staff also worked with Antiochiana to select photos and art, and to find material for the timeline that accompanied each installment. For most of the year, I put together the timelines. Mary Morgan and other members of the Yellow Springs Historical Society provided me with valuable fact-checking assistance at the beginning of the project. Keira Phillip-Schnurer, who graduated from Yellow Springs High School last spring and has been volunteering at the News this fall, compiled much of the information from past issues of the paper for the most recent timelines.

When we first started discussing this project more than a year ago, I viewed it as an opportunity to explore Yellow Springs’ history during 2003, as the Historical Society celebrated the bicentennial of both Ohio and the arrival of the first white settler here. The goal of the series was never to write the definitive history of Yellow Springs. We were limited by time and space (within the newspaper) and therefore could not cover every achievement or disaster, every hero or villain.

Nevertheless, the series has been an enlightening experience, giving us the opportunity to work as a group on a big project and to learn more about Yellow Springs’ rich history. Indeed, the project has highlighted our past, celebrated the village’s past successes and challenges, and helped us better understand how this community was formed.

If one theme emerged from the project, it may be this: that Yellow Springs is an innovative community that has used creative and proactive ideas to meet its challenges and make this a better place. After all, it is in Yellow Springs where Horace Mann led Antioch College in an experiment that allowed women to study next to men in the 1850s, and where 70 years later, Antioch started its work-study program. Yellow Springs is the place were residents during the Depression formed the Yellow Springs Exchange and created a local currency to pay for services and goods.

The community has also had an activist spirit, fighting racism and segregation and taking up causes that many thought would make the world better. Yellow Springs welcomed former slaves into the community, including the Conway Colony and Wheeling Gaunt. Yellow Springs is also the community that had a vision to create a green belt around the village and then came together to preserve Whitehall Farm when it went up for auction.

These are just a few of the many events that stand out. Now that the history project is complete, one must ask, what will be the next great innovation in Yellow Springs?

• Robert Mihalek is the editor of the Yellow Springs News.