This week I wandered over to the Canton Historical Museum, conveniently located beside town hall. As a history major, I have wanted to visit the museum since I moved to Canton. Caroline, the museum curator, greeted me at the door and was happy to show me around the many exhibits that line the walls of the old building. For a small town, the number and quality of items that have been preserved is impressive. Caroline explained that the extensive collection resulted, in part, from the pride of the residents and their desire to document the town’s story. She described the recent donation of a box of photos and documents found in an attic and walked me through the process of organizing and documenting the items. In 2004, the building flooded and some of the items were damaged or lost. Despite this setback, thousands of unique items remain on display, including a large exhibit from the paper mill and the original sign from an old train depot.
An item from Canton, Ohio, prompted me to ask about the connection. Caroline and a volunteer who joined our conversation explained that the piece, part of a bridge once located in the center of town, was the reason behind the town’s name. They described how a board member in 1893 stormed out of a meeting to decide the name of the town following a heated exchange. As he walked through town, the board member crossed this bridge and noticed the name “Canton” on the metalwork of the iron structure. When he returned to the meeting, the man recommended naming the town “Canton,” and the board unanimously agreed. After roaming through the exhibits, I am convinced that the museum staff could have offered an anecdote like this for every item in the museum.