By Joann M. Ringelstetter
Prior to September, 2010, the slogan for UPS (United Parcel Service) was “What Can Brown Do for You?” The “brown” in this slogan referred to the brown color UPS uses for its vehicles and uniforms. In May, 2012, on a photography trip to Ohio, Ruth and I discovered “what brown could do for us,” and it had nothing to do with shipping or receiving packages.
On May 1, we started the day on the backroads of Muskingum County, which is in the southeastern part of Ohio. As we headed further south towards Morgan County, we approached a rural intersection that had a steel truss bridge over Meigs Creek. Looking down the crossroad, we discovered a similar steel truss bridge crossing the same creek.
After photographing both of the bridges, we continued on our way down a narrow tree-lined backroad. As I drove along, Ruth said, “Hey, I think there was an old well at that last place.” So I stopped, but I had to wait for a UPS truck to pass us before I could turn the car around.
After photographing the well, we drove to the end of that road and, as we were discussing which way to turn, the UPS truck pulled up beside us and the driver asked us if we were lost. We assured him that we weren’t, but we had a nice discussion about what we were doing “out in the sticks.” He told us to have a great time and then he headed down the road.
A short time later, we stopped to photograph an old building that looked like it might have been a school at one time. After taking a few photos and heading back to the car, I saw a pickup truck pull out of the driveway of a farm down the road. As the truck neared us, I flagged the driver down and asked him what he knew about the building. He said it was always a house and that his wife’s parents had lived in it at one point. As we finished talking, that same UPS driver passed us, heading in the same direction as we were going.
We then headed into the city of McConnelsville. Ruth had discovered that there was an old diner called the Blue Bell 50’s Diner in the center of town, so we stopped to photograph the diner, which has been there for 80 years. It was lunchtime, so we only took photographs of the outside of the building and the sign.
A short distance from the diner was a small riverside park along the Muskingum River, where we hoped to find a good view of the shiny Veterans Memorial Bridge, which was built in 1913. I parked the car and walked along the river’s edge, passing two people who were sitting at a picnic table enjoying the nice spring day.
Our main reason for coming to the McConnelsville area was to find an old dungeon that Ruth had discovered in her research. However, as is often the case, she didn’t have exact directions to it. So I took the opportunity to ask the people at the picnic table if they knew where the dungeon was located. Unfortunately, they didn’t. So Ruth and I proceeded across the bridge to the small town of Malta to hunt for the dungeon.
In the interest of saving time, I stopped in downtown Malta and asked a woman if she could tell me where the dungeon was located. As she began to tell me that she didn’t know where it was, the UPS driver pulled up in his truck and asked me again (with a smile) if we were lost. When I asked him if he knew where the dungeon was, he said, “Sure, it’s a short distance from here,” and he gave us directions.
The Ohio historical marker next to the dungeon says, “Prisoners convicted of rioting, larceny and adultery in Morgan County between 1833 and 1839 were confined to a dungeon near the Court House in McConnelsville. This stone vault, 11 feet high, 5 feet wide and 12 feet long, was discovered in 1964 and is believed to have been used as the county dungeon.”
According to the Morgan County Historical Society, the dungeon “was discovered in 1964 during excavation for the present sheriff’s office and jail. Located beneath the basement in the old jail, the dungeon contained several artifacts and is a stark reminder of how criminals were dealt with in the 19th century.
As I was exploring and photographing the dungeon, our favorite UPS driver pulled up and said, “Great! You found it. Anything else I can help you find?” We told him we were leaving the area and thanked him for his help and the smiles he brought to our faces. And that’s what Brown can do for you!