History of Johnny Appleseed Squares

Four couples living in the Mansfield Ohio area had one thing in common…they loved to square dance.  Dick and Betty Gahm had moved from Portsmouth Ohio to Mansfield in 1947 and sometime in 1952 were introduced to square dancing at the Grange Hall.  Dancers would practice to records in Dick and Betty’s barn.  In 1954 Dick and Betty took lessons from caller Mr. Cleckner and joined the Promenaders Club.  Dick and Betty met square dance caller, Hugh Johnson in 1956, took lessons from Hugh, and then joined the Do-Si-Do Club in Columbus, OH.  Paul and Ruth Williams took square dance lessons in 1953 at Cleckner’s Hall off State Route 430 (old Highway 30).  Paul and Ruth and other dancers would dance to records at the Grange Hall.  Later they also took lessons from caller Hugh Johnson.  In 1966, Jack and Mary Wentworth moved from Steubenville, OH.  Jack and Mary had already been square dancing and wanted to continue.  They wanted to organize a square dance club in the area, so they wouldn’t have to travel so far.  Sometime in 1967 the Wentworth’s, Gahm’s and two other couples (presumed to be Paul & Ruth Williams and Cecil & Ruth Worner), gathered to talk about organizing a club.  They started calling their friends to generate interest in joining the club. 

In August 1968, the Johnny Appleseed Squares was officially born, and the Club quickly grew to 33 members.  Charter Members and the first officers of the Johnny Appleseed Square Dance Club were: Jack & Mary Wentworth, Co-President, Dick & Betty Gahm, Co-Vice President, Ruth & Paul Williams, Co-Secretary, and Cecil & Ruth Worner, Co-Treasurer.  The first dance hosted by the Johnny Appleseed Squares was held on Saturday, September 28, 1968 at the Springfield School.  The caller was Warren Burk.  The $30 collected as dance fees, more than covered the callers fee.  By February 1969, based on the original ledgers, 35 members at $6.00 per person, had joined the Johnny Appleseed Squares 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 started lessons.   Hugh continued as Club Instructor/Caller through May of 1995. On September 27, 1969 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 with 74 members, moved dances and lessons to the Bedford School in Ontario, OH. 

The Appleseed’s first “Octoberfest Dance” was held at Ashland College on October 10, 1975 with callers: Hugh Johnson, Joe Chiles, Dale Eddy, Don Kinnear, Lou Lucius and round dance cuer, Len Miller.  The Octoberfest Club Dance became an annual event which 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 event diminished rapidly and the Octoberfest Dance 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 Square Dance Clubs in the area, listing them by club, by month and date, featuring each club’s callers, cuers, dance theme and dance format.

The first Mystery Trip for the Johnny Appleseed Squares was held on April 23, 1977 with 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’.

History of Lessons: 
Lexington Village Hall, September 1968 – August 1969; Springfield Local School, September 1969 – January  1976; First National Bank, February 1976 –  October 1979; Madison Board of Education, November 1979 – August 1981; Liberty Park (Mansfield Park Service), September 1981- August 1995; September of 1995 through April 1997, lesson were provided at  the Shelby Cloverleaf Square Dance Club, Shelby, OH, under caller/instructor, “Big Chuck” Fugate.  In September 1997- May 1998, caller, Gary Fesler of Danville, Ohio instructed lessons.  From September of 1998 to present, caller Danny Beck of Norwalk, Ohio, has been the instructor for our new dancer lessons.  Over the past fifty years, based upon available records, the club has graduated more than 750 dancers.

History of Dance Locations:
Lexington Village Hall, September 1968 – August  1969;  Springfield Local School,  September 1969 – January 1976; Ontario-Bedford School, January  1976- August 1982; Mansfield-John Sherman School,  September 1982 – October 1983;  First Presbyterian Church, Trimble Road, November 1983 – December 1990, Smokeless America Building, January 1991- September  1991, Richland Rural Life Center Building, October 1991 – May 1995;  September 1995 to present, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 525 West Cook Road, Mansfield, OH.

On September 22, 2018, the Johnny Appleseed Squares celebrate its 50th Anniversary at its regular club dance. The Club will provide an afternoon dinner for past and present members in recognition of the Club’s long lasting heritage.   Later that evening, at our regular Club Square & Round Dance, 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 by Co-President, Don & Roberta Karger and review by Past Co-President, Mark & Nancy Meinzer in March of 2018.