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Ms. Peggy Mattews-Nilson made a purchase at the Bakery and then e-mailed Belinda this story:

When I was a young girl growing up in Cheshire, Ohio (in Gallia County), I visited Grandma Gatewood in the trailer where she lived on the edge of town. She would make my friend and me peanut butter and pickle sandwiches and proudly show us her various keys to cities hanging on her walls. To me, she was the most interesting woman in our small Ohio town at a time when most women conformed to 1950's ideals. All the mothers and grandmothers in town were cookie-cutter by comparison. Grandma offered another vision of how a woman could age and what she could do in the world.

Growing up in a small town, I loved playing in the woods and seeing blazes (I thought they were all put there by Grandma) which marked the crisscrossing woodland trails. I left Cheshire when I was 12 years old and it wasn't until I was grown and working in Washington DC, that I realized that all of those trails from my childhood didn't connect to the Appalachian Trail. As I moved out into the world, I appreciated even more how Grandma modeled a sense of adventure and love of the natural world that I took to heart.

As you may know, in 1975, just two years after Grandma's death, an enormous coal-fired power plant, the James Gavin Power Plant was built on or next to the land where Grandma's trailer stood. I'd moved away from Cheshire in 1966, but when I visited in the late 1970's, I was shocked to see the huge cooling towers that dwarfed the tiny town. I can't help but think that if Grandma had lived long enough, she would have fought the plant being built there and likely would've had a following of supporters in the growing environmental movement. Sadly, the construction of the Gavin plant was a death knell for that small-town and 25 years later, in 2002, rather than clean up the massive pollution from the plant, the company bought and bull-dozed the entire town of Cheshire.

The woods where Grandma marked her blazes, where I played as a child and the cemetery where my parents and relatives were buried are blighted now by a huge conveyor belt that criss-crosses the woods carrying coal out of the mountains. Nothing much beyond memories remain of the small town where I grew up, which makes the memories of Grandma all the more sweet.

A few years ago, I finally left the "big city" and moved to another small town...Amherst, Massachusetts. As I meet new people, I tell them about the "Grandma" who wore high-top Keds and was the first woman thru-hiker on the AT. I just finished the recently published book, "Grandma Gatewood's Walk" by Ben Montgomery, which revealed a hidden side of Grandma's life that I couldn't have imagined as a child.What a survivor she was! Now that I'm retired, I've begun to dream of section hiking the AT. I imagine Grandma telling me there's nothing to stop me.

So, thank you for sharing her oatmeal cookie recipe and the e-book written about her life. I eagerly await the PBS documentary and the chance to learn more about the woman, that as a child, I was privileged toknow.

- Peggy Matthews-Nilsen
April 23, 2014

Belinda says, "This is a beautiful story! I visited the trailer park she lived in in Cheshire when I went to visit her greatgranddaughter, Marjorie Wood. I saw that plant and it was really sad. But it's nice that you have such good memories of the town AND Emma. Thank you for introducing her to your new friends and for your support of our project to document her life."

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