CHESHIRE — Cheshire village officials will be hosting a memorial marker dedication event for Emma “Grandma” Gatewood in Cheshire Park in celebration of the Gallia woman known for being the first woman to hike the more than 2,000-mile Appalachian Trail.
According to event organizer and village council president Mandee Roush, the Village of Cheshire will hold a marker dedication ceremony from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 28 in Cheshire Village Park. During the event, presentations will be given by representatives of Ohio History Connection, Trail Magic, Ben Montgomery (author and Gatewood descendant) and other associates and contributors. There will be food and craft vendors set up at the event, as well as entertainment and a showing of the Trail Magic Documentary by Bette Lou Higgins, of Trail Magic about Emma Gatewood.
Gatewood was featured in national broadcasts and publications for her endeavors. Her descendant, Ben Montgomery, wrote a book detailing her life.
Gatewood was known for being a kind soul who would often go on walks with children in Cheshire. She was birthed in Guyan Township but spent much of her adulthood in Cheshire in a little trailer park. According to Roush, Gatewood was known to have come from an abusive domestic situation. Roush credited Gatewood’s walks to being part of her escape in nature and how she handled the difficulties of her life. She would eventually travel 2,168 miles from Mount Oglethorpe in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine in a single season over the Appalachian Trail.
In 1955, she first started hiking the trail at age 67. She completed the trail hike in 1960 and again at age 75 in 1963. She read an article in National Geographic talking about the trail and felt the hike was something she would be able to accomplish.
Gatewood was known to have also hiked the Oregon Trail and covered 22 miles a day. She had eventually hiked all 48 states of the continental U.S. before she died.
Roush said Gatewood still had family in the area and individuals who still remembered her feats of endurance in life. Gatwood was born Oct. 25, 1887, and died in Gallipolis age 85 on June 4, 1973. Her grave is at the Ohio Valley Memorial Gardens.
According to Roush, the marker placed in her memory details Gatewood’s life as well as lists a poem she had supposedly written during her travels across the Appalachian Trail.
Gatewood has since had documentaries made of her as well as had her name inducted in museums and the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame. She was a life member of the National Campers and Hikers Association and a member of the Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club. She was director emeritus and a lifetime member of the Buckeye Trail Association.
“This project, I’m hoping, will uplift community morale,” Roush said. “There’s a lot of heart in Cheshire. The people who live here are very proud of where they’re from and they’ll probably stay here. The families speak very fondly of the village and memories of it.”
Roush said that while not only contributing to local history, Gatewood had contributed to national history and that was something worth remembering for Cheshire. She said she hopes the event will spark more community pride after troubles in the community over the years.
Village officials hope to make the “Gatewood Day” a semi-annual event.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.
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