A number of you have been aware of the partnership I have developed with Mr. Mike Mason of Port William, Ohio over the past 3-4 years. For those unaware, Mike is the man whom I was told to contact for learning about the “Grasshopper Railroad” by a local historical society. The line that once ran through Port William – even down my in-law’s driveway! He also farms 1,000 acres, has been on ESPN as a dirt track racer, and many other amazing things.
I first was recommended contacting Mike back in 2011, but he owns a lot of farmland and works it himself, so he is usually unavailable for much of anything from April to November (farm season).
I managed to track his phone number down, and recall talking to his wife Jean for the first time one spring. She just said, ‘he will be available to talk to you around October or November’! I was like “really”?! It was true.
Some months later I finally got to meet Mike. He was skeptical of me at first, unsure who I was, but after some Q&A on railroad terminology and details on the Grasshopper, we quickly became great friends!
Mike had two great-grandparents, and all all four of his grandparents (maternal and paternal) own mills or businesses that once used the Grasshopper Railroad for shipping goods out of or into Port William. So he had family ties to the old line just as I did.
For the past 40 years he’s collected information, photos, maps, and history on the old line. His hope for those 40 years was to write a book on the line. There was a LOT of misinformation on the line in books and on the web.
Mike wanted to tell the TRUE story about the line from start to end, and had nearly given up on writing a book until I happened to get with him.
I’m in the business of graphic design, and having helped my mother-in-law Sabrina Kiser (retired English high school teacher) with getting a couple of her books she wrote in previous years (Dove’s Trail and Mountain Mist) started, I offered to help Mike fulfill his dream of writing and publishing a book in trade for him helping me to know all about the old line.
He agreed and for the past 4 years I’ve scanned, cropped, and re-touched images, created artwork of old stations and maps of the old route, converted pages of hand-written notes to electronic copy, edited text (over and over), dove into searching online for old newspaper articles, taken road trips to photograph images of old road crossings, helped get Mike a publisher, set-up a Facebook page for the book, and many other things covering the line’s 31.5 mile length.
In all the many hours of work we’ve put into the book, I’ve never made 1¢ nor have I wanted it. Actually Mike did buy me lunch one day! 🙂
My desire was to help Mike fulfill a dream and for me to know that I helped preserve history. I’d also always wanted to help write a book from start to finish.
With all the work I’d put into helping Mike with his book, he offered to list me as “co-author” of the book! So not only have I helped Mike, I’ve helped preserve history, learned a LOT about Mike, the railroad, and this area, and have become a published co-author too!
Better than that, Mike has vowed to give me all the material he has collected over the years on the railroad and there is a LOT. I’ve already make plans myself to donate all those items to the Clinton County Ohio Historical Society when that day comes. I love history and want it protected!
The past 4 years has been an amazing journey and the trip is nearly finished. This morning, Mike’s publisher David Braughler let me know that the books should be done in a week or so. David also said that he has the book listed on his site and is taking pre-orders on the book.
So with much happiness, I share this link for those who love history, love railroads, live in SW Ohio, or know me or Mike and want to see what we did. We hope you enjoy it!
I have a page on Facebook for the book and will be sharing even more there as I get time at: https://www.facebook.com/grasshopperrailroad/. I’ll also share some of the strange things that just happened to work out to help us make this book happen. Some things had to have some Divine guidance! We are both very excited and hope what we’ve done will be useful to many.
– Roger W. Starnes, Jr.