Tom O’Grady

Kiley Kinnard

Tom O’Grady sailed as a deck worker on an ore carrier on the Great Lakes aboard a sister-ship of the fated Edmund Fitzgerald, surveyed for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, launched the first comprehensive curbside recycling program in the state of Ohio and has been promoting waste reduction and sustainable economy for thirty years. O’Grady has also been an instructor of Observational Astronomy in the evenings at Ohio University for thirty years. He has spent a good deal of the past twenty-five years as a student of Ohio history researching its geography and settlement, the mound builders, Ohio canals, and several of its interesting characters and their stories.

An Astronomical Expedition by Canal and Stagecoach: John Quincy Adams Crosses Ohio in 1843

Former president John Quincy Adams made his greatest excursion into the heartland of the nation as a U.S. Congressman nearly fifteen years after he left the Whitehouse. Calling for the establishment of an astronomical observatory in his first state of the union message back in 1825, Adams journeyed to Ohio in 1843 to fulfill this dream.

Adams began serving the nation as a twelve year old interpreter for the American ambassador to Russia and died on the job in the U.S. Capitol more than 65 years later. John Quincy Adams was the foremost advocate for the abolition of slavery and for advancement of science, especially astronomy, and the establishment of an astronomical observatory. At 76 years of age and serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, Adams was greeted along the route by throngs of Ohio abolitionists in response to his leading role in that cause. Old Man Eloquent made his way to the Queen City to lay the cornerstone of the first publicly financed astronomical observatory in North America.

The Barn Builders: An Architectural Legacy in Ohio’s Rural Landscape

Culture groups migrating from New England, Middle Atlantic states and from the South settled in various regions of Ohio, and their distinct farms and barns can be observed when travelling throughout the state. The barn builders have left an architectural legacy throughout rural Ohio that can help one understand much about the heritage of the region. The geographic distribution of the various barn types is due to routes followed into the state, geographical influences, or cultural affinities. In any case, one can identify regions settled by people of Pennsylvania German descent, those settled by migrants from the upland south, or those migrating to Ohio from New England by the type of barns and other buildings on farmsteads remaining on Ohio byways. These artifacts of timber frame construction house the remnants of Ohio’s primeval forests.

Not Since Tecumseh: Darkness at Midday over the Ohio Country – Total Eclipse of the Sun – April 8, 2024

The last time Ohio was witness to a total eclipse of the sun was on June 16, 1806. The 1806 eclipse has gone down in history as Tecumseh’s Eclipse. Tecumseh was working to create a confederation of Native tribes to resist continued losses of land to the increased expansion of settlers in this formerly native territory. Future president and then military leader in the newly formed State of Ohio, William Henry Harrison, tried to stop him. In his efforts to discredit Tecumseh and his brother The Prophet, Harrison publicly challenged the Shawnee leadership by calling upon them to prove this power daring them to “cause the Sun to stand still or the Moon to alter its course, the rivers to cease to flow or the dead to rise from their graves.” Tecumseh used his knowledge of the approaching eclipse to reinforce the role of The Prophet and himself in the political dynamics unfolding in the newly formed region called the State of Ohio.

Hear about the dynamics causing solar eclipses and some of the history associated with this famous eclipse, subsequent eclipse expeditions, and a few stories about war and peace associated with this unique celestial phenomenon. O’Grady, Astronomy Instructor at Ohio University since 1984,  has chased the Moon’s shadow eight times to witness the appearance of distant stars and planets in the daytime, to see the outer atmosphere of the sun, and to observe the altered behavior of wild animals and livestock. This unique natural marvel, which struck a fear and awe in early people causing some of them to build enormous earthworks with which to predict such events in the future, will not occur again in Ohio skies until September 14, 2099.

The Story of Ohio’s Canals: An Engineering Endeavor that can Still be Traced in Ohio’s Landscape

Beginning in 1825, Ohio began constructing its canal system that eventually included nearly a thousand miles of channel and towpaths laced with stone locks and culverts, aqueducts, feeder lakes and slack water ponds. These canals opened up Ohio to world commerce allowing the export of surplus grains and manufactured goods and the import of items made in New York, London and Paris. Ohio’s canals linked the Great Lakes with the Ohio River and Ohio towns with markets in Chicago, Buffalo, and New York City and Pittsburgh, St. Louis and New Orleans. Canal builders negotiated Ohio’s diverse landscape as they traversed glacial moraines and the Allegheny Plateau. The ‘big ditch’ stitched the settlements of Ohio’s wilderness together and helped make it a player on the world’s stage.


Tom O’Grady
(740) 593-7552

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