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Can you believe the town of Logan has a real “Secret Santa”?

However, just like about everything else that goes on in Logan County, a secret can’t be kept forever, especially if the secret “gift” turns out to be a really nice present. Allow me to explain by beginning with some local history that some readers may not know.

Take, for instance, the fact that there has not been the once-familiar ringing of bells heard during Christmastime in Logan for several years due to the Salvation Army, which — much like a thief in the night — simply left town. The former church building that served as the Salvation Army headquarters sat vacant until 2018 when it was purchased by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows — Logan Lodge #274. The brick structure serves as a meeting place for the fraternal organization.

The $74,000 sale included three parcels, one being the former Methodist church that became the Salvation Army headquarters back in 1943. The brick church replaced the former wooden church location that was directly across Stratton Street, which was sold to the Ku Klux Klan of Logan in 1932. Decades later, it became the Salvation Army playground and now serves as a site for storage units.

Shifting the scene, let’s quickly head several blocks back to Dingess Street to address a now-vacant lot that is the site of considerable local history. In the early days of Logan, the 103 feet wide by 43.7 feet deep lot was known as the “Buskirk barn lot” and belonged to a prominent local family, a member of which actually had the home known as the Hinchman House built in the late 1800s for his fiancée, a Cincinnati girl who reportedly did not want to, nor did she, reside long in Logan, despite the house being the first in the county to have indoor plumbing.

Many names of the Buskirk family can be found on headstones at the High Street cemetery known as the City Cemetery in Logan. A private Buskirk family cemetery also is located at Buskirk Hill near Logan Regional Hospital.

The aforementioned lot, which features a large “Welcome to Logan” sign attached to an adjacent building, was at one time owned by former Logan County sheriff Don Chafin of Blair Mountain Battle fame, but was sold, and in 1917 a brick building was constructed and then opened by Ferdinand Midelburg as a movie theater/showhouse. Midelburg was responsible for the formation of the community of Midelburg in Logan and once owned what is now called Midelburg Island, the home — among other things — of Logan Senior High School,

Only a few people can recall the Midelburg Theatre, but there are many who remember the structure as being Super “S” Discount, after it was purchased by the Sayer family in 1962. Following years of idleness, the structure began crumbling down and was later razed and then offered for sale.

The problem in selling the property was that there was no parking that came with the lot in the event that a potential owner might wish to construct a business or lodging at the site. Therefore, the site was of little value to anyone, except the town of Logan, whose officials placed grass and attractive picnic tables at the site, as well as the huge welcoming sign, which accompanied the “for sale” sign that was there.

December 23, 2020: Enter the organization that has a vast network of 600,000 fraternal members and 10,000 lodges in 30 countries — The Independent Order of Odd Fellows. One of the points used in the nationwide recruiting of members by that organization is “You get to take an active role in helping your community and the world be a better place.”

That having been said, congratulations are in order as I can tell you that the Logan Order of Odd Fellows quietly purchased the vacant lot that separates Stratton and Main Streets while facing Dingess Street head on. It is a historical piece of Logan that remains a part of an Indian graveyard that represents the very beginning of this “spot” located on the Guyandotte River that has prospered under many names — Lawnsville, Logan Court House, Aracoma and Logan.

The deed was signed just two days before Christmas last year, and the transaction just may have been a true Christmas present to the city/town of Logan. Although there is nothing in the deed indicating as much, sources tell me that the Odd Fellows have agreed to allow town officials to utilize the property as it pretty much already has — holiday lighting decorations, etc.

The price paid for the lot was $50,000, likely considered a fair value in today’s real estate market. Regardless, the historical value to Logan — at least in my opinion — has no monetary value.

The question now might be whether there is anything special scheduled to happen to the lot.

I’m sure city officials will properly take care of the little piece of land that many visitors to the town first see when entering the west end of Logan, but allow me to make a couple of comments in regard to what could be done at this historical site.

First, the small sidewalk that runs parallel with Dingess Street, which in 1932 and many years prior was a hot spot because of the popular movie theatre located there, is the last place that Mamie Thurman was seen alive. Perhaps some sort of marker explaining her demise that fateful night/morning would be a walking attraction for those persons who remain enthralled with her brutal slaying and the controversy surrounding her death.

Then again, maybe the site could feature a nice three or four-faced town clock to greet on-comers to the town. Street clocks were once a fixture in town squares, and they give a site a centerpiece, evoking a feeling of nostalgia to its visitors. The fact is that research shows that over the years, not including bank clocks, Logan has featured at least four or five locations that displayed clocks, some being destroyed by past fires at different locations.

I’m merely naming possibilities for the property; however, I can honestly say I’m glad the city will be able to legally utilize the property, and that it is finally locally owned — even though the real estate is now non-taxable due to the Odd Fellows being a non-profit tax-exempt organization.

As far as ‘Secret Santa” is concerned, I suppose one should thank members of the Odd Fellows group for purchasing the property, despite pretty much keeping it a secret for all of this time, but since I’m fairly certain that Logan Mayor Serafino Nolletti is a member of the local fraternity, all I can say is:

“Ho, ho, ho!”

Thank you, Santa.

Dwight Williamson serves as magistrate in Logan County. He writes a weekly column for HD Media.

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