4-H Club shows historic bench at MC Fair

TROY — A piece of national 4-H history will be on display during the Miami County Fair, as local club members prepare to auction off a special wooden bench built from a tree originally planted by 4-H Club founder A.B. Graham.

The bench, which will be on display in the Duke Lundgard Building throughout the fair, was built by members of the A.B. Graham Center 4-H Club. A second identical bench will also be donated to the A.B. Graham Center in Conover, where the club is based.

“We decided to build two benches,” 4-H Club adviser Craig Lichtenberg said. “We felt we wanted to give one back to the A.B. Graham Center where it belongs, and then we wanted to auction one off.”

The auction will take place on Saturday, Sept.17, during a special dinner ceremony at the A.B. Graham Center. “The auction will start at 7 p.m.,” Lichtenberg said. “There’s also going to be a meal right before the auction. The doors will open at 4 p.m., the meal starts at 5 p.m., and then the auction will start at 7 p.m.”

Proceeds from the auction will go to three different local charities. “Fifty percent will go to the A.B. Graham Center,” Lichtenberg said. “Twenty-five percent will go to the Fletcher Fire Department, and then the other 25% will go to the Fletcher United Methodist Church food pantry.”

A.B. Graham, founder of the national 4-H Club, was originally from the Lena/Conover area, and later went on to become the first superintendent of agriculture at the Ohio State University. The A.B. Graham Center is located on the same property where Graham attended high school, and is surrounded by pine trees originally planted by Graham sometime in the 1930s.

“Around the property there are a bunch of pine trees,” Lichtenberg said. “The property always meant a lot to him, so he decided to have these trees planted out there.”

A windstorm uprooted one of the trees in 2018, and that was when the idea for the benches first started. “We started discussing as a club what to do with it,” Lichtenberg said.

Over the next four years, the benches became a project for club members. “We’re a small club,” Lichtenberg said. “We only meet once a month. We’d cut wood one time; we’d sand the next time.”

“These kids had never done woodworking at all at that point,” he said. “It was totally learning by doing, which is a 4-H motto. We did a lot of work that way.”

“It was quite an adventure,” Lichtenberg said. “It started in 2018; I can tell you honestly, a couple weeks ago we finally put the last little bit of sealant on them, so the whole project has taken quite awhile.”

The project was helped by several sponsors, including Lillicrap Sawmill, Mike Havenar Auctioneers and the Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences.

More information on the benches, the A.B. Graham Center and the A.B. Graham Center 4-H Club can be found online at www.abgraham.org. “This was quite an experience,” Lichtenberg said. “The club’s experience with this has been great, and we do have extra wood. We want to make sure we do something good with it; we’ve got a couple ideas for that.”