New Straitsville History Museum152 Main St
New Straitsville, OH 43766
740-343-9124 | https://www.facebook.com/nshg1870/
New Straitsville History Museum
The New Straitsville History Museum is the town’s resource for researching and interpreting local history.
The New Straitsville History Museum is the town’s resource for researching and interpreting local history. The museum houses the New Straitsville History Group who volunteer to maintain the museum and give tours of the town, the local Methodist Church, and Robinson’s cave. The museum features rotating exhibits and a permanent coal mine installation in the back. In addition, the History Group maintains a modest archive of historical and genealogical resources. Collaboration with Ohio University students ensures the museum has new content every year.
Founded in 1835, Straitsville began as a small rural village of less than one hundred people. As the local mining industry began to flourish, the town of New Straitsville was founded in 1870. It quickly grew after 1871, when the Hocking Valley Railroad reached the town.
Labor leaders met in Robinson’s Cave in 1884 to discuss the formation of a national miner’s union, which lead to the Hocking Valley Coal Strike of 1884-1885. The tension between the workers and the capitalists caused anti-union activists to take matters into their own hands. During a rally, these men sent a burning rail car into the mine. The fire was not discovered for several days, by which time it was too late to contain. The fires spread to surrounding mines and rumor has it, still burn to this day. In 1938, the WPA granted $250,000 to contain the fires. Lead engineer James Cavanaugh was able to contain the fires, allowing some of the mines to remain viable. He is still lauded as a local hero.
Dubbed the “Wet Capitol of Ohio” New Straitsville is known for its moonshine production. Miners hid their stills in parts of the mine, ensuring that no one would stumble upon their craft. Bootleg business thrived during Prohibition, distributing “New Straitsville’s Special” throughout the United States. A thriving side business of disaster tourism developed as competing companies offered tours of the mine fires.
Visitors can learn more about this rich history by visiting the museum and taking a tour. The town holds an annual Moonshine Festival every May.
Notes for Travelers
Be sure to make an appointment for guided tours of the town, cave, or Methodist church.