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Family loans Hacker artwork to Wellsville library

WELLSVILLE — Just in time for the holidays, the O’Hara family presented the Wellsville Carnegie Public Library with a very special gift.

According to Patrick O’Hara, the family, which also include his four siblings (Terry, Tim, Kathy and Becky), entrusted the family’s painting of Chief Logan Rock, which has been in the family for nearly four decades.

The painting will grace a wall in the library, which seems to be a fitting home for the commissioned piece by artist Hans Hacker, which had been featured on one of a series of postcards created for a Wellsville Kiwanis Club fundraiser in 1963.

The work will be on permanent loan.

Hacker, the head designer for a major German producer of decals for the ceramics industry, settled in East Liverpool permanently in 1939 after the Nazis came to power. He had grown fond of the location during the previous dozen years when he had visited in conjunction with work.

The O’Hara family owns the W.C. Bunting Co., which has been around since 1880 and in ceramic decorating since 1946.

“Hans Hacker was known to matte and frame his paintings, and this one is no exception,” explained Patrick O’Hara. “It has been presented and will remain in its original form to maintain the integrity of the edition.”

Much of his work can be found at the Smithsonian Institution and Butler Institute of American Art; however, several East Liverpool institutions, including the Museum of Ceramics, Dawson Funeral Home and now the Wellsville library, display his oils and watercolors of area frontier homes, schools, businesses and landscapes.

Initially called the Wellsville’s Indian Head, the rock featured in the O’Hara piece used to be on the village’s east end. However, when the Ohio Department of Transportation constructed the four-lane Route 7 in the mid- to late-1960s, it was one of the area’s many casualties.

The rock, which would be later named after Chief Logan, was reminiscent of Mount Rushmore. Instead of manmade sculptures, which feature the likenesses of four U.S. president, Chief Logan was not purposefully sculptured into the Wellsville location.

The Indian Head (aka Chief Logan) rock emerged a century after his death, when a quarry operations cut away some stone in the hillside and caused a rock formation appearing like a profile of a man.

Locals viewed the rock as a tribute to Chief Logan, who was a prominent Native American ally of English settlers until they ambushed his tribe in his absence, killing a dozen in 1774 as part of the Yellow Creek Massacre.

The murders resulted in Chief Logan’s revenge, which eventually led to a series of attacks and the Lord Dunsmore War.

Settlers eventually forced Native Americans to surrender all land south of the Ohio River and west of the Allegheny Mountains in return for the English vowing not to settle north of the river.

In the name of the area’s history, Wellsville area citizens fought for the rock’s preservation against state developers. Even U.S. Rep. Wayne L. Hayes promised to ask President Richard Nixon to intervene, but the enormous cost ($3 to $4 million in 1972) for ODOT to reroute the road overruled locals’ objections.

Thus, Hacker, who found inspiration in local life and landscapes, viewed the Indian Head rock for one of his prized pieces.

After all, Hacker’s artistic style was known as basic realism, and as his biography on the Lou Holtz Hall of Fame website reads, “While art progressed into surrealism and modernism, (Hacker) adapted but kept the same basic style, mastering it and making it his own.”

Hacker died in 1994, and Commercial Decal representatives said he had designed more dinnerware patterns than any other artist in the United States at that time, also calling him a “great influence on American dinnerware from the late 1930s on.”

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