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A Light by the Pit
Written July 19, 2022


My old hometown of Richwood, Ohio, was named for its rich soil.  In many areas, however, sandstone lay underneath.  It could be quarried.  The villagers paved their sidewalks with smooth slabs of sandstone.

As a child, I discovered that I could use a chunk of gravel to write on a sidewalk.  No need for chalk; I simply scraped away a line of accumulated grime to reveal the lighter-gray surface underneath.  More than one sandstone slab on North Franklin Street was decorated with my crude arrows pointing pedestrians toward my father's business further north.  I assume my artwork soon weathered away.  But a recent news article indicated that such sidewalk slabs installed around 1890 in historic Oak Park, Illinois — three inches thick and weighing half a ton — could be worth roughly $400 apiece if still unbroken.

Much of Richwood's sandstone consisted of smaller chunks which could be broken up into still smaller chunks called gravel, useful for building roads and railroads.  The town was only a few decades old when a gravel pit began operation about four blocks from downtown.  Railroad ballast was dug from it during the Civil War, according to The Rich Woods of Union County by Charles Barry and Dustin K. Lowe.  “Gravel was taken in small quantities until after World War I, when large lots were dug up” to build roads to accommodate the automobile boom.  Groundwater flooded the pit, so a dredge boat was built with a 14-foot arm.  A small railroad hauled the rocks to a crusher (pictured), “where large iron rolls crushed the coarse gravel into road gravel and sand.”

Meanwhile, local kids had been swimming in the pond, managing to stay clear of the dredge.  However, “the company fell on hard times due to the depression and the appearance of quicksand on the east side of the lake.  All work at the pit ceased in 1937.”

Slight diversion:  “Baccarat” is not only a casino card game played by James Bond.  It's also the name of a town in northeast France, presumably named after an ancient Bacchus-Altar.  During World War I in 1914, a major battle took place at the bridge there.

After the war, when Richwood's American Legion post was established for the returning soldiers, it was called Baccarat Post #40.  “They took over what was left of the coasting hill and made room for a bath house and swimming hole,” according to Barry and Lowe.  Featuring a 10-meter diving platform, Lake Baccarat was formally opened on the Fourth of July 1924.

The property was later deeded to the State of Ohio and became a state park, and the lake's name was changed to Richwood Lake.  Many improvements have been made over the years, including shelter houses and a nine-tenths-mile walking path circling the water.  Most recently, on a small peninsula just south of the bathing beach, the villagers have erected a giant red-and-white lighthouse.

I'm kidding.  The lighthouse is only 12 feet high, and its illumination comes from a single solar-powered light bulb.

Nevertheless, it can warn the lake's many commercial fishing trawlers away from crashing on the rocky shore, thus preventing shipwrecks. 

Richwood Gazette photo

Again, I'm kidding.  Fishing on Richwood Lake is done from rowboats.  Actually, the light may warn away the Canada geese that annoy park visitors.

The lighthouse is the Eagle Scout project of Blake Taylor of Richwood's Boy Scout Troop 440.  Here's the story, in excerpts and pictures from Ally Lanasa's reporting in the Richwood Gazette.

“I knew that the people in Richwood, and especially the village council, would definitely appreciate it,” said Taylor.  Donnie Ridgeway and other members of the council had “wanted to do it for a long time, but they just really hadn't had the opportunity to get the project rolling.  Once I knew that was an option, I wanted to undertake that.  Sounded fun.”  The Richwood Trailblazers group approved, and the council agreed to allow Taylor to lead the project at an April meeting.

The lighthouse was manufactured of poly lumber from recycled plastic milk jugs by Kevin Wagner's “Lighthouse Man” in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.  To avoid delivery costs, Mr. Ridgeway and another council member, Reddy Brown, made the 800-mile round trip to pick it up.  Pictured below:  Ridgeway, Brown, and Taylor.


Notice the “deluxe solar beacon,” consisting of a light bulb, a battery, and a solar cell on the top to charge it.  That “mitigates the need of running electricity out there,” Taylor said.

Installing the tower required digging a 3' by 3' by 3' hole in the rock-bordered peninsula, then pouring concrete donated by Ohio Ready Mix.

“That platform is 12 inches deep,” said Ridgeway, “and when we get done we'll have rocks, so there won't be a whole lot of room left for a goose to get on there.”

Here's how I imagine the light at dusk.

The project, with an estimated final cost of $4,300, was funded by donors recognized on a plaque at the August 2022 dedication.

To achieve his Eagle Scout status, Taylor still needs to obtain his beneficiary approval and a couple more merit badges, then pass the Board of Review.  “He's done a great job,” Ridgeway said.


UPDATE:  Blake Taylor was confirmed as an Eagle Scout on May 13, 2023.  The first photo is from the Gazette.  The other two were posted on Facebook, showing the actual lighthouse and a kid who's found miniature paintings of it on a couple of the Richwood Rocks that are scattered around town.



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