Life Along the Rivers

A new guide to Ohio's Kokosing and Mohican preserves voices of history

From the strains of "Kokosing Farewell" to the activities of the Brown Family Environmental Center, and even to the names of student musical groups such as the Kokosingers and the Owl Creek Singers, Kenyon has a long and rich association with the Kokosing River.

And the tradition continues, spilling over into the academic curriculum of the College, with Life Along the Kokosing, an award-winning historical tour guide to the corridors of Ohio's Kokosing and Mohican rivers. The guide is the culmination of a year's research and interviews conducted by students in Kenyon's "Fieldwork" course, taught by Professor of Sociology Howard L. Sacks. The thirty-four-page booklet and audio recording features thirteen points of interest along the rivers.

Life Along the Kokosing includes historical and contemporary illustrations and a brief description for each site. The accompanying map and recording offer a series of programs devoted to each location. The materials may be used for a self-guided tour of the rivers or simply for an imaginative trip.

Recent graduate Anne M. Crosby of the Class of 2000, who came to the College from suburban Evanston, Illinois, just outside Chicago, conducted research in the tiny hamlet of Millwood, Ohio. She sees her work as something of lasting value. "This project will allow the voices of history to be preserved," Crosby says. "The people of Knox County have interesting stories to tell. During my research, they shared their family histories, their stories of the river and the caves, and the history of the town Millwood once was."

Announced in the spring of 2000, Life Along the Kokosing continues to gain steam. In August, it received an Educational Excellence Award from the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums. The award was given in honor of the project's educational value, originality, creativity, and historical significance. One of only two Educational Excellence Awards given each year, the award for Life Along the Kokosing was given in the category of an organization with a budget below $25,000.

Adam Sapp '02, who came to Kenyon from nearby Danville, Ohio, was one of the students in the "Fieldwork" course. He sees the course as one of his most rewarding experiences at the College. "I'm more proud of this little book than just about anything else I've done this year," says Sapp. "We're really doing preservation work, but in a very personal sense. The Ohioans involved in this project made it more than just something about books, notes, and computer files."

Life Along the Kokosing begins in the northern part of Knox County with Amish communities in Waterford, Ohio. It then meanders to a point near the confluence of the two rivers in Greer, Ohio. Along the way, it explores, through stories told by local residents, such topics as canoe culture, the social importance of a local mill, the significance of river recreation in Howard, Ohio, and the dynamics of family settlement patterns along the Mohican River at Greer.

Sacks, who directs Kenyon's Rural Life Center, says the guide will create a permanent record to educate, entertain, and benefit the citizens of Knox County. "As Knox County grows larger and becomes more diverse, the river continues to serve as a unifying symbol of our community. Nearly everyone relates to the Kokosing in some way-through work, recreation, or appreciation of its beauty," says Sacks.

Life Along the Kokosing furthers a goal of the long-range comprehensive plan "Focus 2100," which is responsible for detailing such endeavors as the Scenic River Project, headed by E. Raymond Heithaus '68, the College's Jordan Professor of Environmental Science. The Rural Life Center established the "Life Along the Kokosing" project to research, document, and preserve the local culture along the river corridors.

Life Along the Kokosing is available for $12 in a variety Ohio locations. The guide is also available by contacting Sacks at the Rural Life Center at 740-427-5850 or

Funding for the $17,000 project was provided in part by the Ohio Humanities Council, the Rural Sociological Society, Kenyon's Office of the Provost, the Mount Vernon Community Trust, and First-Knox National Bank.

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