County landmarks


A video on YouTube that had amassed over 269,000 views by April 12 prominently features locations and landmarks with which many Highland Countians are no doubt familiar.

“Ohio-Deep Red Rural Towns-This is What I Saw”, is one of the latest installments on Lord Spoda’s (aka Joey Evans) popular YouTube channel. With a subscriber base of nearly 300,000, Evans’ many followers had the opportunity to view scenes from Highland County filmed earlier this year.

In the video, Evans drives through and shows viewers different towns in Highland County while providing synchronous verbal narration about his thoughts on the different places through which he has driven, as well as offering statistical information about things such as population, per capita income and crime rates.

The video begins in Lynchburg, then showcases Hillsboro, followed by Greenfield, before continuing onto Wilmington in Clinton County.

Some of the notable highlights in Hillsboro that Evans pointed out in the video are the Highland County Joint EMS/Fire District and the First Presbyterian Church (“That is a beautiful building,” he noted.) but it is the Highland County Courthouse that quickly became the star of the Hillsboro portion of the video.

“I’m going to get out on foot here because they’ve got a county courthouse here that I’m going to have to take a closer look at,” said Evans.

Driving westbound on Est Main Street in Hillsboro, Evans turned onto North High Street and exclaimed, “There’s the courthouse! That building is a work of art. I’m going to have to tell you about that.”

Though his discussion of most towns in his videos take place while driving through, Evans stopped, parked and got out of his Ford Bronco from which he films his videos to pay tribute to the iconic local landmark.

Evans easily accessed parking close to the courthouse.

“I’ll just park right here,” he is heard saying, seemingly pleased with the convenience afforded. “This was built in 1834, and is the oldest operating courthouse in the state of Ohio,” Evans said as the footage showed the courthouse building on a blustery winter day. “Look at that!”

He marveled at how it was almost 200 years old, then noted, “and they still use it as a courthouse.”

“They’ve got a couple other things here,” Evans said as he read off the inscription, “In memory of the unknown dead” on the headstone of the Highland County Unknown Dead Memorial on the courthouse lawn. Continuing north, Evans repeated the words on the base of the statue of the Highland County Civil War Memorial.

“To the memory of the Soldiers and Sailors of Highland County, Ohio who served in the Union Army during the War of the Rebellion,” he read.

Evans pointed out the adjacent cannons that comprise part of the memorial. He then continued onto another nearby commemorative installation, the Highland County Veterans Memorial. He read the inscriptions to his viewers with reverence as snow flurries drifted softly past the monuments.

“In honor and memory of all veterans of Highland County who served our country in times of peace and war,” Evans recited.

Upon filming each commemorative war memorial, Evans respectfully said, “That’s really nice.”

“This is a downtown with a lot of character,” Evans proclaimed as he continued his tour of Hillsboro on West Main Street. He showed his viewers Sonners Barbershop on West Main Street and said that his viewers have asked him to show them barber shops.

“I’ve got an old fashioned one,” he said, indicating the business’ red-and-white striped awning and multicolored barber’s pole outside.

Hillsboro’s illustrious history as the home of the C.S. Bell Company does not go unnoticed by the YouTube personality, who informed his viewers that, “At one time this town was one of the top producers of bells,” showing them the town’s recently added murals which commemorate the longtime historical manufacturer and town benefactor.

“They still have a Festival of the Bells every year here in early July,” Evans said.

Evans even weighed in on the former site of the now shuttered Momma’s West Main Street Cafe. Panning from the storied 19th century building’s ornamented roof line, Evans marveled, “This building looks like it’s in great shape,” but his camera stumbled upon a telltale notice affixed to the ground-level window, which he then approached with a combination of consternation and curiosity.

“But look at this sign,” Evans said, reading a city of Hillsboro notice. Evans reads the notice, which described the building as unsafe. “The building looks fine. But I guess it isn’t.”

As he drove out of town, Evans reviewed some statistical information about Hillsboro, saying, “I’m a little bit surprised,” about the reportedly high poverty rates, especially among children, but praised the fact that crime rates were lower than many metropolitan areas.

Hillsboro is just one of many towns Evans and Myers have visited and with which they have provided content for their growing YouTube channel. Evans said there is a system employed when determining what towns they drive through, photograph and inform their viewers about.

“As far as towns go, we usually visit a large city and I’ll go look for a group of towns that have a similar vibe and statistics,” he said. He mentioned the proximity of Highland County to some of Ohio’s large cities like Cincinnati.

Despite the many towns already featured on the Lord Spoda channel, Evans said he’s just getting started and plans to return to Ohio.

“It’s my goal to do groups of small towns in the U.S., all over each state,” he said. “There will be much more of Ohio to come.”

The nearly 1,000 comments on the video are from viewers from as far away as Italy and Southeast Asia who have viewed the scenes of Highland County. Many of the comments are from current and former residents of the area who praised the casual documentarian style and the realism it evoked.

“I almost feel like I am riding along with you guys,” commented one viewer.

Others had moved away and spoke nostalgically about how things had or hadn’t changed.

Pandemic layoffs and business closures spurred Evans and his wife, Nicole Myers, to an entrepreneurial lifestyle as YouTube personalities.

“My wife and I worked in restaurants and like many others, were laid off during COVID,” Evans said in an interview. “Each of the restaurants we worked at closed for good.” He said that while he and his wife unsuccessfully, “struggled for new places to work,” they were simultaneously receiving offers to sell their house.

“So we said screw it,” Evans said. “Let’s sell the house and travel for a year.”

He said that he and his wife had a plan, and a deal. “We’ll do YouTube videos as we go,” he said they concurred. “If the channel succeeds, we’ll keep doing it. If it doesn’t, we’ll go back to working in restaurants.”

Despite overwhelming odds (Evans said that statistically, “It is very difficult to succeed at YouTube.”) it succeeded and surpassed his expectations.

“I gave our travel channel a 5% chance of success,” he said of his initial thoughts.

Contrary to his initial pessimism, the Lord Spoda channel, “did succeed, far more than we ever thought it would,” Evans said. Instead of going back to restaurant work, he said, “We can now do this for as long as we want to.”

Juliane Cartaino is a stringer for The Times-Gazette.

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