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OUS study focuses on Porter Gap Road

Porter Gap may seem like any other Appalachian neighborhood Š but that is what makes it so perfect.

Ohio University Southern professor Dr. Dave Lucas has begun a new study attempting to discover the history of County Road 21, or as it is more commonly known, Porter Gap Road.

This will be yet another research project by Lucas using his folknography method, which uses the voice of a group of people to explain their own world to researchers.

Lucas will be using folknography in Porter Gap to help understand the region, using the road as an example of a typical Appalachian neighborhood.

Research on the region has entered its second week, Lucas' students are combing libraries for information, examining the LaGrange Furnace and even delving into the local cemetery for clues.

Work has also begun on the primary component of this and all folknography studies: interviewing people and allowing them to tell their own story.

Ironton resident George McCalvin is working on his fourth research project with Dr. Lucas and has taken a sort of lead role, organizing students and, he admits with a laugh, doing a lot of delegating.

Lucas and his group will be looking for an intimate portrait of the area, but McCalvin said they'll work to keep from invading anyone's privacy.

"We're definitely concerned about it, we don't want anybody to think we're forcing ourselves on them or we're getting into their private lives," McCalvin said. "

McCalvin and the other students are helping to make the experience more comfortable by hosting public events such as cookouts to help make the residents more comfortable with them.

The rich history in the Porter Gap Road area has already captivated McCalvin.

"There's a one-room school house that's been converted into a home," McCalvin said. "We want to learn more about the furnace, we've heard there's a cemetery where they buried all the black people and didn't mark the graves."

McCalvin said he's even heard tales that one man used to own all of Porter Gap, one of many stories that his group will be looking into.

The search for stories like that makes this study different from others that McCalvin has done. The other projects deal mainly with perceptions of a group.

For the first time, Lucas and the students are attempting to paint a picture of an entire neighborhood, not just one facet of one.

"It's a different topic," McCalvin said. "We're just finding out the history. We're not concentrating on one area, we're wanting all the history of what's gone on in Porter Gap, so it's going to be really interesting.

"There's a lot of history that's happened in Lawrence County that a lot of people don't know about, and a lot of it happened on Porter Gap. That's what we're looking to find out."

Once the study is complete it will be published on the International Institute of Folknography's Web site, and may even be published in book form.

McCalvin wants to understand the area better, but he also hopes that the study will serve as a wake-up call to state leaders.

"We want to get this part of the state recognized, you don't get a lot people from Columbus who look at this end of the state," McCalvin said. "Maybe we can raise some eyebrows."