Underground Railroad Museum

Continuing the Legacy of Dr. John Mattox & The UGRR Museum

Written by Kristina Estle, Director of the Underground Railroad Museum

Dr. John Mattox, curator and founder of the Underground Railroad Museum in Flushing, Ohio, passed away July 17th, 2019. Still to this day, I receive phone calls from people asking if the museum is still open, what will happen to the museum, and so on. The answer is yes, the museum is still open, and it will continue to be so in honor of Dr. Mattox’s legacy. Dr. Mattox dedicated his later years to the museum with every ounce of his being, striving to educate young and old minds alike. His intellect reached far beyond the content of the museum. His lectures continue to ring in my ears, and I find myself quoting my favorite sayings of his. He touched so many lives, those in the community and the visitors that have graced the museum since it’s opening in 2003. No one can replace this amazing man, nor meet his immense charm and unforgettable hours-long conversations. But all I can say is that it will remain an unforgettable experience to anyone who walks through the museum’s doors.

I returned to college in 2017, at Ohio University Eastern Campus, to finish my senior year of college after a nine year break, it was overwhelming, but that fall, my research paper on the History of Churches in Barnesville, Ohio, led me to those same doors, and I got to meet Dr. Mattox for the first time. I was so moved with him and the museum, that I asked for an internship to meet some requirements for my bachelor’

s degree in history. He was delighted, and our relationship blossomed. I graduated in August of 2018 and continued working at the museum. I knew that I was meant to be there, and I had wanted to pursue a career in museum work. He told everyone that I would take over when he left this earth, I did not believe him, and I certainly felt under-qualified. His death was a complete shock. His sharp mindedness and abilities were not that of a typical 84-year old man. This past summer I decided that I wanted to continue my education, so I enrolled with Southern New Hampshire University’s online master’s program for Public History.

When Dr. Mattox passed away, the earth shook beneath my feet. I did not know what to do but I knew I needed to continue to work at the museum. With help from Dr. Mattox’s children, John Mattox Jr., and Suzanne Evans, I was finally able to relax, when I realized that everything would be okay, and the museum would be able to continue operating. Such a blessing. There is no better way to honor the life of Dr. Mattox, than to continue to have the museum open. As a team, his children and I will do the best we can to continue his services through the museum and to the surrounding communities.

It has been a learning process and there are still many obstacles to overcome, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have many hopes and dreams for the success of the museum, and its continued visitation will help make those hopes and dreams a reality. Though the museum has some content that may be hard for people, I try to remind people, as I quote Dr. Mattox, “We can not blame today’s society for the ills of the past.” With three floors and 8,000 items, the museum has so much to offer. We will continue to make improvements. But it is truly a gem hidden in the countryside of Belmont County, only seven miles from I-70. Younger generations are beginning to lose interest in history. We strive to reignite that dwindling fire. I promise the museum will captivate the interest of all who visit. You will not regret nor forget your visit to the Underground Railroad Museum.

We are open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11 AM until 3 PM , if you would like to schedule a weekend appointment please call 1-740-968-2080, or reach me by email, kristina.estle@ugrrf.org. We are also actively accepting donations by any means. Our address is 121 High Street Flushing, Ohio 43977. Please visit our Facebook page, Underground Railroad Museum – Ohio Valley.

Blog author Kristina Estle, Director of the Underground Railroad Museum, is pictured (standing far right) at the museum during the Annual Belmont County Rubberneck Tour in October. She estimates that 400 people visited that day.

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