The Premier Historical Museum & Research Center in Ohio's First Capital

Whether you are a life-long resident or visiting the Chillicothe area for the first time, a stop at the Ross County Heritage Center offers an excellent opportunity to understand how the community came to be and how it developed over two and a quarter centuries into what it is today. The Heritage Center connects the Ross County Historical Society's main museum and McKell Library creating one large facility with many stories to tell. From the lobby, you may tour exhibits focusing on the history of the Northwest Territory and founding of the state of Ohio; how and why Chillicothe became Ohio's first capital; the prehistoric cultures of the Scioto River Valley; Ross County’s involvement in the Civil War; Camp Sherman & World War I; historical toys & dolls; early Ohio decorative arts, folk art, fine art & portraiture; and historical vehicles & transportation. The tour includes the Knoles Log House, which features artifacts and décor that will help you visualize what life was like in early Ross County. From there you have the option to tour the Franklin House – our outstanding early 20th-century house museum designed by noted Ohio architect Frank Packard.

If historical research is your thing, explore the amazing holdings of the McKell Library – our research center and repository for thousands of rare books, journals, manuscripts, historical documents, and photographs.

Before leaving, we invite you to visit our gift shop where books, maps, and reproduction artifacts related to our museum collections may be purchased.

The Ross County Heritage Center is fully ADA accessible from the main entrance through all public areas including second floor exhibit galleries. Off-street parking for automobiles and buses is also ADA compliant and but a short distance from the front entrance.

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1906 Logan Automobile

As automobiles replaced the horse and carriage as a means of personal transportation in the early 20 th century, carriage and wagon makers turned to making cars and trucks in order to stay in business. Early motorized vehicles were often manufactured in small shops where horse-drawn carriages and wagons had been made a few years before. In the days before big auto manufacturers like Ford and General Motors, cars and trucks were made in small shops and factories in towns and cities around the country, including here in Chillicothe, Ohio. The vehicle pictured is a 1906 Logan Model F “Runabout” made by the Logan Construction Company that was in business in Chillicothe for just four years – 1903 to 1907.
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Early Firefighting Equipment

The historical society has an outstanding exhibit of early-to-mid 19 th century hand- drawn, hand-operated firefighting equipment. Pictured here is our “Reliance” hand- drawn and hand-pumped fire engine originally made in 1851 by John Agnew of Philadelphia. Other early fire equipment includes a hook and ladder wagon, a hand- draw hose cart, and leather fire buckets used by local citizens and volunteer firefighters to help extinguish fires.
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Transportation Exhibit / Conestoga wagon

Visitors to the Ross County Heritage Center learn about many fascinating aspects of Chillicothe, Ross County, and Ohio History. One of the most spectacular exhibits on the tour is our “One Hundred Years of Transportation in Ross County.” Included are 19 th century horse-drawn vehicles – like the Conestoga wagon pictured here – and early 20 th century motorized vehicles like our 1906 Logan Automobile (seen in another accompanying photo).
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Recent Acquisitions Gallery

The Ross County Historical Society’s museum collections are built primarily through items donated by members and the public at large. Many recently acquired objects are temporarily exhibits in our Recent Acquisitions Gallery. As new items come in, other items on display are moved to other exhibits or placed in storage where they will reside until needed for future exhibits.
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Chillicothe Model Railroad Diorama

Another exhibit favorite for young and old alike is our large and highly detailed HO scale model (diorama) showing Chillicothe’s railroad yards and surrounding neighborhoods as they appeared during the 1920s and 30s – the heyday of railroading in America.
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Portrait Gallery

Among the dozens of early 19 th century oil portraits on display in various exhibit galleries throughout the Ross County Heritage Center are the portraits of John and Elizabeth Woodbridge, painted by renowned American portrait artist Chester Harding (1792- 1866), circa 1820. These are two of eleven such works of art on exhibit in the portrait gallery in the McKell Library.
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Toys from the Attic

Another favorite stop on our museum tour is our “Toys from the Attic” exhibit which includes 19 th and early 20 th century children’s toys, games, and dolls. The doll display, itself, is comprised of an impressive collection of hand-made and commercially made dolls with wooden and ceramic heads dressed in the clothing styles of the time periods in which they were made.
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Prehistoric Cultures of the Scioto River Valley

Ross County, Ohio sits in what can rightly be called a cradle of civilization. The area, with its fertile valleys along the Scioto River and its tributaries, was once home to several distinct prehistoric cultures dating back more than 10,000 years. Though these people left no written records, the area is rich with archaeological treasures – including stone tools, ceremonial and ornamental objects, and other personal items – that provide a window into their world. The historical society’s collection of prehistoric objects is one of the largest and most diverse collections of locally found objects anywhere. Many of the best pieces can be seen in our “Prehistoric Cultures of the Scioto River Valley” exhibit.
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Military History

Military conflicts have played a major role in shaping our community since its inception. Many of our area’s first settlers made their homes on land they received as payment for their service in the Revolutionary War. Chillicothe was the U.S. Military headquarters of the western theater during the War of 1812. Thousands of Ross Countians fought for the Union during the Civil War (1861-65), and Chillicothe was the site of Camp Sherman – a large military base constructed in 1917 for the training of soldiers during World War I. Our museum features fascinating, artifact rich exhibits highlighting the community’s role in each of these important turning points in U.S. and world history. We salute our area’s veterans.
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Early Chillicothe Exhibit

Chillicothe was founded in 1796 by Nathaniel Massie – a surveyor and large landowner in the Virginia Military District of the Northwest Territory. It became the capital of the territory soon after it was founded and a few years later (1803) it became the first capital of the new state of Ohio. Our exhibit, titled “Chillicothe: Frontier Settlement to State Capital, 1796-1816” contains artifacts, maps, dioramas, and artwork that help tell the story of those earlier years between the time the community was carved out of the virgin Ohio wilderness until it became the military headquarters of the western theater of the War of 1812. Special emphasis is given to the story of the founders and to the politics involved in deciding whether or not the citizens of the newly settled Ohio country were ready for statehood and self-government.
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Victorian Parlor

One of the first exhibit areas museum visitors come to during their tour is our Victorian Parlor on the first floor of our original museum in the former McClintick/McClintock House. It is the only period room exhibit remaining from the early days when the entire house was set up as a series of period room displays. The parlor is filled with furniture, decorative art, and portraiture from the Victorian period that encompasses the years the building served as a private residence.

Knoles Log House

The Knoles Log House was originally built during the early 1820s on a farm William Knoles purchased in 1828. The site is now occupied by the Pixelle Specialty Solutions paper manufacturing plant in the south end of Chillicothe. Disassembled and moved twice, the house was reconstructed on the grounds of the Ross County Heritage Center and opened to the public in 1992. The house recreates the atmosphere of everyday life in early Chillicothe and Ross County from roughly 1800 to 1830 and features historical furniture and household furnishings from the period. Tours begin at the Ross County Heritage Center (45 West Fifth Street) during regular operating hours.

Franklin House

The Franklin House, located at 80 South Paint Street in Chillicothe, was built in 1907 for Elizabeth, Charles, and Marianne Franklin -- the children of Mary and Gustavus Franklin. They were the sole owners of the home before Estelle McKell purchased it from their estate in 1972 and donated it to the Ross County Historical Society. The house was designed by noted early twentieth-century Ohio architect, Frank Packard, and exemplifies the stylistic ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement including many beautiful stained glass windows. Inside can be found exhibits of late nineteenth through mid twentieth-century home furnishings, decorative arts, clothing, coverlets, quilts, and other household and personal items -- many of which belonged to the Franklins. The original interior and exterior architectural details remain largely untouched from the time the house was built more than a century ago. Tours of the Franklin House begin at the Ross County Heritage Center (45 West Fifth Street) during regular operating hours.

Museum Hours

January - March:
By Appointment Only

April - December:
Tuesday - Saturday 

Closed on Major Holidays

Guided tours begin at the Ross County Heritage Center. 45 West Fith St. Chillicothe, Ohio 45601. FOr further information or to schedule group and school tours please call (740) 772-1936