A surprise painting


Editor’s Note: This is the sixth in a new series of stories authored by Robert Kroeger, who has painted 23 barns in Highland County. The most recent 12 paintings, usually framed with actual wood from the barn depicted, will be auctioned off Sept. 24 when the Highland County Historical Society holds its annual Log Cabin Cookout. Proceeds from the paintings will benefit the historical society. Kroeger painted this picture as a surprise for the historical society. He said it should be a complegte surprise until society members read this story online or in The Times-Gazette.

I owe the society – formally known as the Highland County Historical Society – for referring me to the best barn scouts in the world, Hillsboro area residents Sandy and Tim Shoemaker. All it took was a single email that I sent in the spring of 2015, informing the society about my Ohio Barn Project and my desire to preserve early Ohio history. Prior to that, I had visited barns in a few other Ohio counties – mostly on my own, which can be challenging. I faced a rifle only once.

When Sandy and Tim took my on that first whirlwind tour, they showed me many barns, told me stories about them, introduced me to their owners and essentially jumpstarted this project. For their help and for the society’s connecting me with them, I did this painting. No, it’s not a barn; but you get the idea.

The grounds of the society hold two structures, an old federal-style house, which houses an impressive collection of Highland County memorabilia, and an even older log cabin. I’ll begin with the brick building.


Every artist loves colors, especially an off-orange, a mix of red and yellow, dulled but still warm, which is the color of the bricks on this old house. A gray cement slab on its wall, inscribed “Union School, 1867,” is a transplant. This building was never a school. Here’s its timeline, which I hope is accurate, with dates of early Ohio history to put this in perspective.

• 1794 – The Battle of Fallen Timbers, the last major battle with the Indians in Ohio.

• 1800 – Approximately – Thomas Robison brought his family to New Market.

• 1803 – Ohio statehood.

• 1805 – Highland County established.

• 1807 – Hillsboro founded. Curiously named after Lord Hillsborough, the colonial secretary of the British government from 1768 to 1772. His heavy-handed approach, especially in Boston, fueled the revolution.

• 1830 – George Robison, son of Thomas, built the log cabin.

• 1842-45 – Highland House was built as a residence for Peter Leake Ayres. Its 14 rooms and majestic entry hall affirm his affluence.

• 1887 – Approximately – The house was used as a hotel and tavern.

• 1920s – It was used as a boarding house.

• 1964 – Helen Boyd bought the house.

• 1965 – The Highland County Historical Society was established.

• 1966 – The society purchased the house from the Boyd estate.

• 1980 – The Wilsons donated the log cabin to the historical society.

• 1990 – The society moved the cabin to its current location.

Robert Hodson, a lover of Highland County history, spearheaded an effort to organize this society in 1965. The next year the young organization bought the house and over the past 50 years the group has filled it with treasures of the past. In 1990, the society moved and reassembled the log cabin.


A soldier of the American Revolution, Thomas Robison, brought his family here from Pennsylvania around 1800. They settled near New Market, a village laid out in 1798 by Henry Massie, a brother of Nathaniel Massie, founder of both Manchester, Ohio’s first town, and Chillicothe, Ohio’s first capital. Hillsboro, which became the county seat, didn’t enter the picture until 1807.

George Robison, a son of Thomas, was born in 1790 in Pennsylvania and was a child when the family moved to New Market. In 1808, at the ripe age of 18, he married Margaret Hunter. They had six children. Where they lived initially is anyone’s guess, but around 1830 they built this log cabin on Mad River Road, a road that has a story to tell, too.

The road takes its name from the Mad River, a stream that stretches 66 miles from Logan County to Dayton and empties into the Great Miami River. The Shawnees named it after its mad, wild current. In 1802, Robert Boyce hired men to blaze a road from New Market to a sawmill on the Mad River near Springfield, owned by the famous frontiersman Simon Kenton. The men hauled Boyce’s heavy millstones in a wagon pulled by horses and an ox on this road they cut out of woodland. This Mad River Road, one of Ohio’s earliest, opened up settlement to the western parts of Ohio.

George and Margaret lived in this cabin with at least some of their six children. One of them, Thomas, got married in 1838, took over the cabin, and raised his family in it for 23 years. Robisons continued to live there until 1891 when John Wood bought the cabin.

Over the years the cabin passed through many families. Curtis and Cinda Wilson purchased it in 1977 and donated it to the society three years later.

In 1990, thanks to many gifts and volunteer hours, the cabin was moved from Mad River Road and reassembled on its present site, next to Highland House. Soon, in 2030, it will celebrate its bicentennial birthday, and I’m sure the society will hold a party fitting for this special part of early Ohio history.

The menu for the Sept. 24 dinner includes ham and bean soup, cornbread, salads, desserts and drinks. Donations will be accepted. There will also be an auction of items from the Jack Chaney estate including a set of unusual earthenware, lamps, “singing bird cages” and more; plus a quilt raffle. Raffle tickets will be available at the dinner.

“It is a fundraiser, but it’s also a great time for people to get together, have a good close out to summer and an opening to fall, and learn a little more about the historical society,” Highland House Museum Director Vicki Knauff said.

Robert Kroeger is a former Cincinnati area dentist who has since ran in and organized marathons, took up the painting skills he first picked up from his commercial artist father, become a published author, and is a certified personal trainer that started the LifeNuts vitality program. Visit his website at http://barnart.weebly.com/paintings.html.

Robert Kroeger painted this painting of the Highland House Museum in Hillsboro and the log cabin behind it as a surprise for the Highland County Historical Society.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2016/09/web1_Highland-House-pic.jpgRobert Kroeger painted this painting of the Highland House Museum in Hillsboro and the log cabin behind it as a surprise for the Highland County Historical Society.
Author thanks historical society in his own way

By Robert Kroeger

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