(From the collection of Sayre W. Graham, Sr.)
In 1966, John Chaney, who was just a high school sophomore, wrote about his one true love for a research paper. Unusual as it may sound for a teenager to share such a personal story with his high school English class; it is nothing when compared to the fact that he had it published and distributed throughout his hometown and the surrounding area.
"I am in love," Chaney began. "The one I love is not mortal; she has observed the world for one hundred and thirty-one years. She has more grace and charm than some ladies I know...the one I love is a house." John was referring to The Old Stone House in Chester which sits below one-time Rock Springs Park owner C.A. Smith's House in the “upper end” of Chester. When Smith purchased the land and the park, he got the Old Stone House in the bargain. In fact, were it not for the improvements to the house made by Smith's wife for their son "Dunc", the old home probably would not be around today.
The Stone House and property was originally part of the Mark’s Estate. The Marks were one of only two two farming families in what was once the “South Side” of East Liverpool in the early 1800s. The Marks Farm was in the east and the Gardner' s Farm west. The two connected only by a rutted dirt road.
Before the Chester Bridge was constructed, people traveled by ferry from Ohio to then Virginia via the Broadway Wharf in Liverpool (pictured above in 2009) and across the Ohio River to where the marina is today, at the foot of the aptly named “Ferry Road” on the Gardner Farm. They would then have travelled by foot, horse and buggy or cart to the Mark’s Farm and its Rock Springs Grove for picnics and church outings.
The shaded wood grove was fed by Rock Springs and a small creek, later called Marks Run. Within fewer than fifty years, and the construction of a new bridge and trolley line, Rock Springs Grove was transformed into Rock Springs Amusement Park.
Marks Run(Courtesy of Richard Bowker)
John Chaney’s first love, the Old Stone House, would have been witness to all these events listed above for it was the Mark’s Family who built the stone house from rocks quarried in the hills above Rock Springs Park known today as Lawrenceville. The Marks purchased their property in 1816 from heirs of George Washington and a team of oxen hauled the hand-cut stone over the hillside to a flat area above the river bank.
George Washington had traveled through these western lands on more than one occasion and chose the site as part of a plan meant to compensate him for his years of service to the colonial war effort and the new nation. "Legend also holds," wrote Chaney 150 years later, "that George Washington had a log cabin erected, by what was later called Marks Run, for the use of the caretaker. It was into this cabin that the Marks Family moved when they came down the river from Pittsburgh.
Next, in Part 2, Samuel Marks builds the beloved Stone House on a plateau overlooking the Ohio River.