Present-day West Columbus is a collective of neighborhoods born from the western banks of the Scioto River in what became Franklin County on April 30, 1803. The first settlement, Franklinton, was founded by Lucas Sullivant in 1797, platted two years after he received 6,000 acres in payment for surveying the central Ohio portion of the Virginia Military District. Later expansions included the areas of Sullivant’s Hill, Rome, and Camp Chase. While the first settlers were farmers and ex-soldiers, the land would also attract Quakers, rail men, real estate moguls, and manufacturers. The neighborhoods found success even though the Scioto River, which birthed the region, on multiple occasions threatened to wash them off the map during three great floods. Characterized by a hardworking and driven population, the community attracted major investments by the mid-1900s, including the expanded operations of the General Motors Fisher Body Plant.
Where you can find Images Of America: West Columbus:
Where you can find Sean:
Interview with Sean:
What prompted you to write your book?
I worked as a freelance writer for two publications during college, a campus magazine called UWeekly at OSU and a community rag, Columbus Messenger Newspapers. I attended The Ohio State University, and graduated in 2010 with a bachelor degree in English. Around the same time I graduated, I also was hired as a full-time news editor for the community newspaper.
I was charged with producing content for the west side edition, and as part of my duties, regularly attended government meetings, school functions and other happenings. I also grew up in this neighborhood. I began meeting so many amazing people, ranging from longtime residents, to military veterans and business leaders.
The community has suffered economic problems for decades, and I realized many people forgot about its rich history. It was the training grounds for Union soldiers during the Civil War, later turned into a Confederate prison and cemetery; birthed the largest school district in Ohio; survived fatal floods; and was the location of a historic insane asylum and so much more.
I was inspired to write this book to not only preserve its history, but in hopes of creating some community pride for the younger generations.
- Please explain the story line and why you believe it to be an important story to tell?
Following the American Revolutionary War, the country did not have the money to pay those who served, but what they did have was land – lots of land, referred to as the Virginia Military District. Former soldiers quickly hired surveyors to descend upon the lands to lay claims, many times paying the surveyors with pieces of the land they were scouting.
Lucas Sullivant, one such surveyor, chose a little area on the banks of the Scioto River to settle the community of Franklinton. A year later he had to move it a few miles, due to heavy flooding. One of the first streets was Gift Street – named because anyone who agreed to settle there received the land as a gift – this of course, was to entice people to relocate to Franklinton; remember, at the time it was still dangerous due to attacks by Native Americans.
West Columbus continued to grow over the decades, creating new neighborhoods, which were under the constant threat of being washed off the map by flooding waters of the Scioto River. However, they always bounced back.
This is why the story is important: some people want to write off the present-day area; because of the economic turmoil it’s suffered. But it has always been a resilient community, and I believe they can be inspired by their ancestors and reminded it’s never too late, nor impossible to either rebuild or redefine their selves.
- Your personal history….does it have anything to do with why you wrote your story?
My family came from Austria-Hungary, present-day Slovakia, just prior to World War I. They moved to West Virginia, where they worked in the coal mines. It was not an easy livelihood. My great-uncle, Karoly “Charles” Lehosit was killed in a mine collapse in the 1920s, but you won’t find a grave for him, his body was never recovered, something not unusual for the time period and his social class.
However, the hard life of a coal miner was still better than the world they emigrated from. Austria-Hungary Dual Monarchy was one of the last feudal systems still functioning in the world; many times family’s like mine were the property of the land’s Baron, and most times were born, raised, worked, and died without stepping foot off the farmland. They were not considered freemen until the late 1860s and then they flocked to America searching for a better life.
My family’s story doesn’t have specific links to the community I write about, but it shares the theme of wanting to build a better life. The early settlers of West Columbus arrived in hopes of redefining their legacy and building a better future for their children.
- Do you prefer to write nonfiction? Is there another genre you may be interested in writing?
I began concentrating on nonfiction a couple years ago. I’m a huge history nerd, but not about the topics people are most familiar with. It annoys me there’s so many stories in history that go overlooked. For instance, both World Wars were heavily influenced and took place in Eastern Europe – but how much do you know about Slovenia, Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Croatia, etc.?
The same with local history like my book talks about the Camp Chase Confederate Cemetery. While most locals know the story behind the cemetery and its annual memorial service, if you ask a resident in the next city over, odds are they’ve never even heard of the historic cemetery that’s nestled between an ice-cream stand and a church. I want to shed light on these topics.
However, I do enjoy writing in other genres. Other genres I have interest in writing are horror and crime fiction. Those are tricky areas though, especially horror, because public interest goes in and out of fads, so you have to time your project perfectly. For instance, now would be a difficult time to write a vampire book, but 10 years ago, publishers were looking for the “next Twilight.”
You really need to predict what the next fad will be. Pop culture usually goes in 20-year cycles, so look at what was popular 20 years ago, and you could make a smart bet it’ll be popular again soon.
- What would you like your readers to know about you?
I attended The Ohio State University as a transfer student; I entered the university as a senior. I first attended Columbus State Community College, where I graduated with as associate’s degree. While I was there, I wrote a one-act comedy called “Dysfunct” that a faculty member asked to use for their summer production in 2007. I also directed the play, and it remains one of the highlights of my writing career – so far.
I also have a four-month old son, Kade. Having my first child really changed my perspective on the world, and I actually think my writing and story ideas matured once he came into this world. I also have a five-year old beagle, Freya. I rescued her from an abusive home and she was pregnant – little did I know. I came home one night and she was giving birth on my bed. It was a surreal experience, although ruined the bed and I had to throw the whole thing out.
- What are the affects you hope that your published book will accomplish?
My hope is the book serves as a time machine for readers. I hope the stories they learn about echo through their daily lives; and when they pass a building, park, or drive by a school or church, they have a deeper appreciation for where it all came from.
I also hope it inspires them to further develop the community. It took the city more than 100 years to create a flood wall to stop businesses from being washed away. While the community has seen hard times, it’s not a lifetime sentence, even if it takes some years, things always get better.