Ohio Town:A Portrait of Xenia, Ohio

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Popular Ohio Town A Portrait of Xenia Ohio By Helen Hooven Santmyer Viral Book Helen Hooven Santmyer was born in and lived in Xenia Ohio In addition to her career as a wri

Popular Ohio Town:A Portrait of Xenia, Ohio By Helen Hooven Santmyer Viral Book Helen Hooven Santmyer was born in 1895 and lived in Xenia, Ohio In addition to her career as a writer, she worked as an English professor, a dean of women, and a librarian She was 87 when her novel And Ladies of the Club was published as a Book of the Month, and passed away at the age of 90 in February of 1986 She was inducted into the Ohio Women s Hall of Fame in 1996. By the author of the widely acclaimed And Ladies of the Club, Helen Hooven Santmyer s tribute to her hometown of Xenia, Ohio, is even valuable in light of the 1974 tornado that destroyed much of the community But its life and history are preserved in Ohio Town.. The best Ebook Ohio Town:A Portrait of Xenia, Ohio Ohio is such a beautiful state – heart-shaped (the signs at the state line say “Ohio – The Heart of It All!”), with the Ohio River forming its entire southern border. Its small towns are particularly pleasant places – neat little rectilinear communities nestled among the tidy farms, rolling hills, and meandering waterways of the Buckeye State. And judging from Ohio Town, Helen Hooven Santmyer’s appealing memoir about growing up in the southwest Ohio community of Xenia, an Ohio town is a pleasant place indeed in which to spend one’s childhood.Author Santmyer is probably best known for her 1985 bestseller “…And Ladies of the Club.” That book, the story of a women’s literary and community-service club in the fictional town of Worthington, Ohio, is one that I am sure was read by a lot of ladies in a lot of clubs, as it was, in its time, the largest-selling paperback ever. Santmyer’s book achieved its exalted best-seller status when its author was in her 80’s – a fact that I hope will remind all you writers out there to keep writing and never give up.Yet notwithstanding the importance of ”…And Ladies of the Club” in publishing history, Ohio Town – originally published by the Ohio State University Press in 1962 – is the book of Santmyer’s that I think may have the most lasting importance for students of American regionalism. Beginning with a helpful map of her “Ohio town” of Xenia, Santmyer provides a warm, nostalgic look back at her growing-up years there, with chapters devoted to the Greene County courthouse (Xenia is the county seat), the main streets and notable houses of Xenia, the community’s predominantly African-American East End, the town cemetery, the town library, the churches and schools of Xenia, the opera house, the railroad that helped give Xenia its original importance, the region’s old covered bridges, the physicians who cared for the people of Xenia, the iron fences that used to surround virtually every yard in town, and the “four corners of pasture and meadow land” (p. 295) to which, in Santmyer’s childhood, one could quickly travel, even if one was walking from the courthouse square at the center of Xenia.Santmyer’s writing is rich in detail, as when, looking back at her Presbyterian upbringing, she describes what she calls “[t]he church in town that is most worth preserving” – Xenia’s original Reformed Presbyterian church, an edifice that Santmyer describes as “a one-room church without spire or tower, its square windows alternating with brick pilasters, its only ornament the classical motif carved in the center of its lintel” (p. 151). She backed up her own recollections and impressions with diligent research, as when she perused the library catalogs of decades past to find what Xenia residents were reading in decades past: “Altogether, it is a mixed bag, bought with all eyes in all directions: the popular historical novels for romantic women and children and lazy men; the sentimental and religious tales for those good church people who could not read fiction with a clear conscience unless it had a moral; and the realism for those equal to sterner stuff” (pp. 201-02).Santmyer’s recollections of her childhood in Xenia may encourage readers to think about how they look back to their own childhoods in their own hometowns. Consider, for example, how Santmyer reflects upon the capricious qualities of human memory:”Thus the unfastidious heart makes up its magpie hoard, heedless of the protesting intelligence. Valentines in a drugstore window, the smell of roasting coffee, sawdust on the butcher’s floor – there comes a time in middle age when even the critical mind is almost ready to admit that these are as good to have known and remembered, associated as they are with friendliness between man and man, between man and child, as fair streets and singing towers and classic arcades.” (p. 50)Santmyer captures well the passage of time and the changes she saw in the civic life of Xenia as time passed. Yet her nostalgia for her lost past does not prevent her from seeing some of the good changes that time has brought. Discussing race relations in Xenia in 1962, and noting the social tensions that have arisen as African Americans of the Civil Rights Era have challenged the paternalistic norms of times past, she expresses her hope “that the town will be one whole again, on a different basis – when all the schools are integrated, as the new high school has been from the day of its opening; when Negro and white children go to school together from the beginning and therefore see no reason for not going on together into the workaday world; when they know each other for a lifetime” (p. 108).There is a special pathos to Santmyer’s nostalgic depiction of her Xenia childhood, and to the photographs that the Ohio State University Press has included in this 1998 reprint of Ohio Town, when one considers that many of the buildings shown in those photographs were destroyed when Xenia was struck by a catastrophic tornado in 1974. That mile-wide storm, part of the second-largest outbreak of tornadoes in American history, blasted through the heart of Xenia; it killed 34 people, injured over a thousand more, and destroyed over half the buildings in town. Old Xenia, with all it holds of what is characteristically good about a representative Midwestern town, lives on in large part because Santmyer set down her impressions so conscientiously twelve years before the storm.The first Ohio town that I got to know was the college town of Marietta; my wife and I would stay at the historic Lafayette Hotel there while visiting glass factories of the Ohio River Valley. Now that our daughter lives in the Ohio Valley, we have the chance to visit Ohio towns like Gallipolis and Pomeroy somewhat regularly. The towns still have that quiet grace of friendly Midwestern communities where people work hard and look out for each other – qualities that Santmyer captures well in Ohio Town.

About Author

  • Helen Hooven Santmyer Post author

    Helen Hooven Santmyer was born in 1895 and lived in Xenia, Ohio In addition to her career as a writer, she worked as an English professor, a dean of women, and a librarian She was 87 when her novel And Ladies of the Club was published as a Book of the Month, and passed away at the age of 90 in February of 1986 She was inducted into the Ohio Women s Hall of Fame in 1996

One thought on “Ohio Town:A Portrait of Xenia, Ohio

  • Ohio is such a beautiful state heart shaped the signs at the state line say Ohio The Heart of It All , with the Ohio River forming its entire southern border Its small towns are particularly pleasant places neat little rectilinear communities nestled among the tidy farms, rolling hills, and meandering waterways of the Buckeye State And judging from Ohio Town, Helen Hooven Santmyer s appealing memoir about growing up in the southwest Ohio community of Xenia, an Ohio town is a pleasant place indee [...]


  • Non fiction,recollections of the author s youth in her beloved Xenia,Ohio.Santmyer, born in 1895 writes of her memories of the the town,her childhood and warm,sunset memories of a town that no longer exists as she knew Xenia was heavily damaged in a tornado in 1974.Written prior to 1962 she has captured important historical facts of the town as it originated before her birth and thru her youth.So many of her memories rekindled some of my own from life in the 1950 s and 60 s,and I can t help but [...]


  • I m very torn on this book At first I could not put it down but I quickly got bored It was initially fascinating because it was such a detailed accounting of what a small ish Ohio town was like 50 100 years ago But the author s writing made it impossible for me to keep up interest It was so dry and there was no story to the book Just a lot of descriptions but there was nothing really holding them all together in a narrative.


  • Being about a small town, this book is not surprisingly, rather slow moving, but it is a book to be savored for the beauty of the prose that reads almost like poetry I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.



  • Pretty dry I had a hard time following the descriptions of houses, streets, etc But it s a good reference for small town Americana so I ll probably keep it around.


  • Having since the disturbing film Gummo, I have often wondered about the Xenia, Ohio from before the April 3, 1974 F5 tornadocut a path directly through the middle of Xenia during the 1974 Super Outbreak, the second largest series of tornadoes in recorded history, and destroyed almost half of the city s buildings This does that, first published 1956 and looking back to a Nineteenth Century 60s and 70s and when authored recalled grandfatherly denizens that were Civil War veterans Wistful, nostalgi [...]


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