New Exhibit Offers a Different Way of Looking at Wood in Jackson County, OH

Posted by | July 10, 2014

Megan MalonePlease welcome guest author Megan Malone. Director at the Lillian E. Jones Museum since 2012, Ms. Malone is a graduate of the University of Dayton with B.A. in Communication. Her professional experiences include newspaper reporting at ‘The Canton Repository’ and the ‘Dayton Daily News,’ and public information work at the Stark County Board of Developmental Disabilities.


Museum exhibits and the understanding of shared history evolve at the Lillian E. Jones Museum, which is known as Jackson County, Ohio’s home for history, culture and education.

The current exhibit of “Exploring Our Heritage …through wood” is the perfect example of both statements because history is simply not a singular experience that belongs to any one group of people.

On display inside the Jones Museum are 31 different delightful pieces of wood carvings by Ralph Poetker, who is a long-time resident of Jackson County. These pieces, on display through August, are wonderful and fun in their own right, showing not only the perseverance and skill of the carver, but also what is important to him personally, and his interests.

Ralph Poetker

Ralph Poetker

Displaying Poetker’s work was the original focus of the summertime exhibit, but it grew.

I knew I wanted an audio dimension to the exhibit to add life. Visitors to the museum’s Arts Room linger over the Fletcher Benton Collection watching DVDs with the voice of the artist, a 1949 Jackson High School graduate and a world-renowned sculptor.

Then I remembered the wonderful 2005 DVD “A Forest Returns: the success story of Ohio’s only National Forest” as told by Ora E. Anderson, a former Jackson Herald newspaper editor of the 1930s. Anderson talks of the deforestation that came out of Jackson’s iron furnace heydays. Before iron there were the salt boilers that ultimately brought Ohio statehood in the early 1800s through this region’s natural resources.

That is a different way of looking at wood’s role in Jackson County.

For museum visitors, there is no overlooking the Jones Museum’s beautiful hardwood floors, refinished in 2012. The narrow boards are of a distinct size that is repeated in many of the early 1900’s houses in the neighboring Broadway/South St. area. Floor refinishers often wonder about the unusual size boards. Who knows where the boards came from for all the homes and why the special size? The Jones Museum building was first used as a home in 1867, then purchased by the Jones family in 1921 with a few renovations by the architect who built the Cambrian Hotel in 1900.

Ralph Poetker's newest carving, ‘Wild Horse Saloon’ has 15 characters.

Ralph Poetker’s newest carving, ‘Wild Horse Saloon’ has 15 characters.

Then there’s the 8-foot wooden fish weathervane, planed in Jackson in 1856, still on display in the museum’s main area from the April-May Jackson High School History exhibit. ‘The Fish,’ as it was known, sat atop Central School, the city’s first high school, until the building was demolished in 1931.

Quickly, the exhibit development jumps to all the different ways we have used wood in the past and in the present.

The archives of the Merillat Cabinetry plant that made high-end oak cabinetry for 35 years are now a part of the museum’s permanent collection, after the facility closed in March. A few personal contacts and phone calls brought an opportunity for wood samples from Ohio’s extension services that show all the different types of hardwoods currently growing in the area. The woodcarvers who meet monthly in Jackson say they might visit the Jones Museum to share the process of woodcarving for pleasure. Another unexpected personal contact shared business contacts with preeminent saw mills in the area that do work across the state and the nation.

Wood is not just history, it is modern day tourism and industry.

Suddenly, it’s about more than Ralph Poetker’s carvings. But truly nothing about history, culture or education is singular. It is all about the exploration of the shared experience.

The Jones Museum at 75 Broadway St. in Jackson, OH is open Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Admission is free to the museum. Private appointments to explore the museum’s permanent collections can be easily arranged by contacting Director Megan Malone by phone at 740-286-2556 or email at For online information, visit or see what’s happening on Facebook/The Lillian E. Jones Museum.

One Response

  • Destiny Kille says:

    Ralph Poetker is my grandfather. He is an amazing man, and he is very good at what he loves wood carving. I love him dearly. Maybe i can see his exhibit some day.

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