4-Hers sponsor spelling bee, local history presentation

Published 11:18 am Friday, September 9, 2016

ROME TOWNSHIP — A senior spelling bee took place Sunday, as part of the second day of Lawrence County bicentennial events at the county fairgrounds.

Seven spellers, ranging in age from their 60s to their 80s, competed in the event, organized by the Rome Guys and Gals 4-H Club, Sandy Joseph, the group’s advisor, said.

After 15 rounds of spelling, Sharon May, of Ironton, won the bee by correctly spelling “biblical.” Second place went to Eileen Schley, of Rome Township, while the winner of third place was Carman Shannon, of Kitts Hill, Joseph said.

Email newsletter signup

Spellers competed by spelling words from the 2015-2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee word list.

For their victory, winners received Olympic-style medals, sponsored by the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.

The judges for the event, members of the 4-H club, were Emma Barnette, Fairland West’s 2016 spelling bee champion and Katelyn Johnson, a Fairland High School honor student who was a spelling bee champion, in elementary school. The third judge was Ray Barnette, Emma’s father and spelling coach. Joseph served as pronouncer for the event.

“It was wonderful,” Joseph said of the bee, which drew an audience of about 40, including cheering sections for the participants. “The audience was so respectful.”

Following the bee, local historian Jean Fuller Butler presented a retelling of the life of her ancestor, Lawrence County pioneer Mary Swain Fuller.

Born in Rhode Island in the 1700s, “Fuller,” portrayed by Butler, told of her journey as a young girl, walking alongside the covered wagon with her 12 brothers and sisters through the wilderness of New York and Pennsylvania, crossing the Appalachian Mountains to finally reach the head waters of the Ohio River at what is now Pittsburgh.

The Swain family tore down the wagon and converted the lumber into a flatboat to travel down the Ohio River to their destination in Rome Township, in what was then Gallia County.

“Fuller” spoke of her courtship to Alphonso Fuller, whom she met when her family settled in Rome Township. The couple had a large family, and he farmed a large tract of land along the Ohio River and traded in timber, furs, coal and other natural resources. He built Mary a two-story brick home with the bricks formed on the site, about a mile above present day Proctorville.

“Fuller” spoke of her large family, with three sons eventually joining the Union in the American Civil War. Their family was split in loyalty to the Union, as the elder son Emelius had settled in Louisiana, and joined the Confederacy. He was wounded in battle with the Union, was taken as a prisoner of war to Johnson’s Island in Lake Erie, where he died.

Alphonso died in 1857, leaving his estate to Mary. She never remarried and died in 1883.

Butler is an author and portrays various historical figures at events throughout the county.

“People loved it,” Joseph said of Butler’s presentation. “It was like her own, personal story. It had so much emotion.”