HCHS hosting Gist Settlement program


Event celebrates Black History Month

The Times-Gazette



In celebration of Black History Month, the Highland County Historical Society will present a program about the Gist Settlement history Thursday, Feb. 28 at the Highland House Museum in Hillsboro.

Speakers for the 7 p.m. presentation will be Paula Kitty Wright and Melissa Beal Beyerlein.

“Wright and her family moved to Highland County in 1980, and an old log house on their farm sparked a new interest,” the historical society said in a news release. “She followed this interest by researching the history of the structure and then succeeded in having it placed on the National Register of Historic Places. As with others, one passion frequently leads to another, and Paula found herself called into an interest in the addictive world of genealogy.”

Wright met Paul Turner in 2012 and learned he is a descendant of the emancipated slaves of Samuel Gist. After learning of the plight of the Gist Settlement, Wight spent two years researching and collecting the history of the settlement. This was followed up in 2015 with the publication of her book “Gist’s Promised Land,” which helped clear up some of the unanswered questions which had lingered for 200 years, the news release said.

Joining Wight as co-presenter is Beyerlein, a paralegal, historian and genealogist who began her research of the Gist Settlement in 1999. Working with friend and longtime Gist Settlement resident Paul Turner, Dayton attorney David Stenson, along with Turner’s nephew, also named Paul Turner, they developed a plan to quiet the titles on Turner’s ancestral land – land on which he has paid taxes since the 1980s, but could not own, according to the news release.

“Following a four-year legal battle in the Highland County courts, Turner successfully litigated his quiet title action in 2017, the news release said. “Through steely determination and dogged persistence, Mr. Turner was able to achieve in his lifetime that which his ancestors could not: legal ownership of the land upon which they were born, worked, raised families, paid taxes and died. The pro bono work which Melissa did with Paul Turner to help right that wrong has given her immense satisfaction.

“Please join these two ladies to hear of their personal struggles and achievements, along with the wonderful friendships which developed and grew, all due to getting involved in the Gist Settlement story.”

The program is free and open to the public.

The museum is located at 151 E. Main St. in Hillsboro.

Event celebrates Black History Month

The Times-Gazette