HISTORY OF THE JOHNNY APPLESEED SQUARE DANCE CLUB of Mansfield Ohio: Four families living in the Mansfield, Ohio area had one thing in common…they loved to square dance. Dick & Betty Gahm had moved from Portsmouth Ohio in 1947 and sometime in 1952, were introduced to square dancing at the Grange Hall. Dancers would practice to records in Dick & Betty’s barn. In 1954 Dick & Betty took lessons from caller Mr. Cleckner and joined the Promenaders Club. Dick & Betty met square dance caller, Hugh Johnson in 1956, took lessons from Hugh and then joined the Do-Si-Do Club in Columbus, OH. Meanwhile, Paul & Ruth Williams took square dancing lessons in 1953 at Cleckner’s Hall, off State Route 430 which was Highway 30 at the time. Paul & Ruth and other dancers would dance to records at the Grange Hall south of Bellville. Later, they also took square dance lessons from Caller Hugh Johnson. In 1966, Jack and Mary Wentworth moved from Steubenville, OH. Jack and Mary had already been square dancing and desired to continue. They wanted to organize a square dance club in the area so they didn’t have to travel so far. So, sometime in 1967, after a dance, Jack & Mary Wentworth, Dick & Betty Gahm and two other couples, presumed to be Paul & Ruth Williams and Cecil & Ruth Worner, gathered to talked about organizing a club. Shortly thereafter, they met in a conference room at the Telephone Company and agreed to form a Club. They all started calling their friends to generate interest to join the new club. Charter Members and the first officers of the Johnny Appleseed Squares were: Jack & Mary Wentworth, Co-President; Dick & Betty Gahm, Co-Vice President; Ruth & Paul Williams, Co-Secretary and Cecil & Ruth Warner, Co-Treasurer. In August, 1968, the Johnny Appleseed Squares was officially born and the Club quickly grew to 33 members strong. The first club dance hosted by the Johnny Appleseed Squares was held on Saturday, September 28, 1968 at the Springfield School with caller, Warren Burk. The $30 collected as dance fees, more than covered callers fee. By February 1969, based on the original ledgers 35 members at $6.00 per person, had joined the Johnny Appleseed Square and the Club Caller/Instructor, Hugh Johnson, had completed lessons for 38 new dancers at the cost of $6.00 per person. After lessons were over, workshops were conducted for $2.00 per person and another class of 30 new dancers had already starting lessons. Hugh continued as Club Instructor/Caller through May of 1995. On 09/27/69 the Club hosted a “Free Dance” featuring caller, Dick Mackey. The first club dance with Round Dancing on the program was held on 08/12/73, featuring Cuer, Len Miller. In June of 1975, the Club was 74 members strong. The Appleseed’s first “Octoberfest Dance” was held at Ashland College on 10/10/75 with callers Hugh Johnson, Joe Chiles, Dale Eddy, Don Kinnear, Lou Lucius and round dance cuer, Len Miller on the program. The Octoberfest Club Dance became an annual even that lasted through the 90’s. After the event could no longer be hosted at Ashland College, due to carpeting being put down on the floor, the event was moved to Lexington Junior High School. The following year, because of poor acoustics, the event was moved to the Lexington High School. Thereafter, attendance at the annual Octoberfest Event diminished rapidly and eventually became a regular club dance.
In May of 1976, the Club began listing its annual dance schedule with the Firelands Area Caller Association. An annual dance schedule was printed for the Square Dance Clubs in the area, listing them by club, by month and by date, featuring each clubs callers, cuers, dance theme and dance format . The first Mystery Trip for the Johnny Appleseed Squares was held on 04/23/77 using the services of Pringle Bus Lines at a total cost of $32.00. The destination was not identified in the records and remains a mystery.
Over the past 50 years, lessons have successively been held at Lexington Village Hall, Springfield Local School, First National Bank, Madison Board of Education, Liberty Park (Mansfield Park Service). Club Caller/Instructor, Hugh Johnson retired in May of 1995 and was followed in the fall of 1995 by “Big Chuck” Fugate and lessons were held at Russell Elementary School in Shelby, OH. In September 1997, lessons were re-established in Mansfield at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church with Caller/Instructor, Gary Fesler of Danville, Oh. In the fall of 1998 to present, Caller/Instructor, Danny Beck of Norwalk, OH started teaching lessons. Since August of 1968, based upon available records, the Appleseed Club have graduated more than 750 dancers. Club dances for the last 50 years have successively been held at Lexington Village Hall, Springfield Local School, Bedford School-Ontario, John Sherman School-Mansfield, OH, First Presbyterian Church, Trimble Road-Mansfield, Smokeless America Building and the Richland Rural Life Center Building. In September of 1995 Club Dances were moved to the Fellowship Hall at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Mansfield, OH. In late summer of 1996 the Appleseed Squares offered to share in the cost of improving the acoustic in the Fellowship Hall. To the mutual benefit of both parties, the investment proved to be a good decision as the Appleseed’s continue to appreciate and enjoy the opportunity to hold lessons and host dances in the Fellowship Hall.
On September 22, 2018, the Johnny Appleseed Squares, will celebrate its 50th Anniversary. The Club will provide a special afternoon dinner for past and present members in recognition of its long heritage. Later that evening, the Johnny Appleseed Squares will host its September Square Dance & Round Dance and visiting clubs will enjoy 50th Anniversary Cake and Ice Cream.
Footnote: The above information is an accumulation of data taken from the 20th Anniversary Booklet put together by Marilyn Keinath along with information extracted from the original hand-written ledgers maintained by Club Treasurers. This history was written up by Co-Pres. Don & Roberta Karger and review by Past Co-Pres. Mark & Nancy Meinzer as of March, 2018.