According to its constitution, the Bainbridge Historical Society was established “to preserve places and things that are historically significant or of importance to our heritage for generations to come, if feasible.”
Since its establishment in 1978, the society has been actively involved in pursuing those goals, but it has not always been successful in doing so. For example, it tried to save the old DT & I Railroad Depot north of Bainbridge, but the building was sold and moved to an historic village environment in Orient. The society was also deeply interested in the historic (1834) Wayman Chapel, once home to the AME Church in Bainbridge, but it, too, was sold and later demolished.
The Bainbridge Historical Society currently maintains and operates two museums in the community. The first and best known is the Dr. John Harris Dental Museum at 208 W. Main St. Harris was an early physician and dentist who lived in Bainbridge from 1825 to 1830. In 1827, he offered medical instruction to 10 young men who initially wished to become doctors, but by the end of their course of study (probably influenced by Harris’ own personal interest in dentistry), nine of them later became dentists. One of Dr. Harris’ students (his brother, Dr. Chapin A. Harris), along with Dr. Horace Hayden, established the first professional dental school in the United States, the Baltimore Dental College, in 1840. Five years later, in 1845, two other of Dr. Harris’ students, Dr. James Taylor, a native of Bainbridge, and Dr. John Allen established the second such school in Cincinnati, the Ohio College of Dental Surgery. From these two schools all modern programs of dental education have evolved, and since three of their founders were trained by John Harris, the modest little building where they received their early education is now nationally known as the Cradle of American Dental Education.
The dental museum has been closed for most of 2016 for much-needed repairs and restoration including the installation of new gutters and the repainting of the original structure, but the museum will be open to visitors during the Festival of Leaves.
The second museum operated by the society is located is the former Bainbridge Presbyterian Church at the corner of Third and Maple streets. The original church, built in 1842, is now the annex, and the present sanctuary and basement were added in 1933. Unfortunately, the congregation of the church closed in 2010, but two years later the property was transferred to the Bainbridge Historical Society by the Scioto Presbytery of Columbus. The church now houses the society’s collection of books, documents, photographs, and other memorabilia pertaining to the history and heritage of the Bainbridge community and the surrounding area.
David Tillis is a member of the Bainbridge Historical Society.
Exhibits include photographs and descriptions of historic buildings in Bainbridge; a history of the Bainbridge Presbyterian Church; displays regarding Nathaniel Massie, who founded the town in 1805; Captain William Bainbridge, a naval hero of the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812 (he once commanded the USS Constitution), for whom the village was named; and famous animal trainer Clyde Beatty, a Bainbridge native; military uniforms and memorabilia from area veterans; and many other items of local historical interest.
The Bainbridge Historical Society meets monthly at the Historical Center at 7 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month. Everyone with an active interest in the remarkable history and heritage of the Bainbridge area or a desire to participate in the various programs of the society is welcome to attend. Individual membership is $10 a year, or $20 for a family membership.