When Jackson area retired teacher and local historian Robert (Bob) Ervin released his first volume covering Jackson County history back in 1995, he presumed his book-writing would be a one-time thing.
The man who could be called Jackson County's "Mr. History," was wrong, so very wrong.
Fast-forward 22 years to the present and Ervin has just released his fifth volume on Jackson County history: JACKSON COUNTY: Its History and Its People 2000-2017 and More. The title suggests the indefatigable and dedicated Ervin has finally finished his chronological tour of Jackson County history.
"I've gone up to 2017 and I think I hit all the main things that happened," Ervin told The Telegram. "I guess what I was trying to do was to record events, as they happened in chronological order."
Ervin's new book can be purchased for $35, plus tax, at The Tea Caddy on East Main Street in downtown Jackson, at A.L. Terry Jewelers and Jackson Emporium and Antiques, both on Broadway Street in downtown Jackson; and at the Lillian Jones Museum on Broadway Street in Jackson. Prospective buyers may also contact Ervin by telephone by calling 740-286-2693.
Ervin wrote his first Jackson County history volume entitled JACKSON COUNTY: Its History and People in 1995 in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of the first settlement of Jackson County in 1795. The volume was sponsored by the City of Jackson's Tourism and Convention Board and was released during the annual Jackson County Apple Festival.
"I didn't anticipate doing other volumes at that time," Ervin recalled, but there was great public interest in his historical writings and Ervin had the time, commitment and knowhow to research and write more Jackson County history -- much more.
Those follow-up volumes were as follows: JACKSON COUNTY: It History and its People Since 1865 (1999); a revised edition of JACKSON COUNTY: Its History and People (2006); JACKSON COUNTY: Its History and People 1900-1950 (2008); and the new volume: JACKSON COUNTY: Its History and Its People 2000-2017 and More (2017).
Also in 2003, Ervin focused on one of Jackson County's most famous historical happenings, Morgan's Raid during the Civil War for the single-volume, The John Hunt Morgan Raid of 1863, which he wrote in conjunction with the 140th-year anniversary of the raid.
Ervin's historical works on Jackson County are invaluable because they are also unprecedented. There has been no book or series of books which have attempted to provide a comprehensive survey review of the county's entire historical timeline. Daniel Webster Williams, an iconic Jackson newspaper editor/historian/scholar/community leader, wrote and released a volume on Jackson County history in 1900 with the intention of following up with others which would cover the county's entire history up to that time.
However, he reportedly was so discouraged with the poor sales of the first book, he never publicly released the second one.
In Ervin's case, all 1,000 copies of his 1995 book were sold within 18 months and a second printing of 250 copies in 2000 was also quickly depleted.
Ervin is a lifelong resident of Jackson County and grew up on a family farm in Franklin Township. He graduated from Jackson High School in 1955 and embarked on a teaching career in 1959. He taught at Paint Valley, Stockdale and Southeastern high school before returning to his high school alma mater where he taught social studies for 20 years.
Ervin's talents extend to the stage where he has been active and accomplished over the years as a performer in local and area theatre productions as well as appearing in industrial films and doing television commercial work. Locally, he is well-known for his portrayal of President Abraham Lincoln.
In addition to his historical writing and research, Ervin has stepped up to contribute his time and knowledge to local historical organizations and activities. He served as president of the Coalton Historical Society for a 24-year period (1985-2009) and has presented many programs at its annual banquet meetings. He has been a board trustee and leader of the Jackson Historical Society since the organization was established in 2001. He is the longest-serving member of the Jackson Alumni Association and currently serves as its historian.
Ervin's efforts to write and preserve local history have been recognized at the state level as he was awarded the Individual Achievement Award from the Ohio Local History Alliance in 2010.
Local honors have also been bestowed upon Ervin by a grateful and respectful community. He was named as grand marshal of the Jackson County Apple Festival in 1996, was selected as Citizen of the Year by the Jackson Jaycees in 1999, and received the Community Pride Award from the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce in 2010. More recently, he was commissioned as a Kentucky Colonel in November 2016 and was inducted into the Jackson City Schools' Hall of Honor on May 27, 2017.
Now that Ervin has completed his chronological review of Jackson County history, he's not working on another book just yet, but he is musing on the possibility of compiling and publishing a volume of historically significant photographs and he also has access to some unpublished writings from Davis Mackley, a prominent Jackson newspaper editor of the Civil War era.
"I'm not sure about this just now," Ervin said of potential future projects. "I'll just have to think about it. There may be something else to do. My interest has not ceased, I think."