Henry Harrison Mayes Roadside Cross in Cecile, OH
Couldn’t locate the cross on google streetview but it must have been around here: https://goo.gl/maps/nmemsHV5fMZEdULQ7
Cross is now at the museum https://goo.gl/maps/NNfPR6GDEWtiZMrK7
Public sentiment leads to old cross staying, new cross planned – Blessings in disguise
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 11:00 AM
By NANCY WHITAKER
Progress Feature Writer
CECIL – The old cross sign will remain in Paulding County, which was good news for a lot of people who have become attached to the cross that has stood for the past 49 years.
Now, a second cross is in the works, thanks to enthusiastic public support.
The original cross, which stands on old U.S. 24 approximately a quarter-mile east of the Vagabond, was placed there in 1966 by an old preacher from Kentucky. Harrison Mayes had promised God after surviving a serious coal mining injury that he would dedicate his life to God and his ministry. The homemade cross bears the message, “Get Right With God.”
A few weeks ago, a woman from southern Ohio spotted the old sign in Paulding County and wanted to place it in the American Sign Museum.
Following a social media post, there was a lot of support to try and keep the old rugged cross in the county.
The founder of the American Sign Museum, Tod Swormstedt, explained in a telephone interview how and why the traveler happened to want the cross from Paulding County.
“My girlfriend was trying to surprise me for my birthday next week by obtaining the sign for the Sign Museum,” he said. “However, I got an email stating that due to social media and the media, the owners had decided to keep the cross and let it remain where it was.”
Continuing, he said, “I am very glad that so many people got excited and wanted to keep the sign.”
He also advised that the sign be removed and put in a place out of the weather.
Landowner Roger Nicelley said Monday that the sign isn’t going anywhere.
“This cross isn’t going to leave. It should stay right where the guy felt lead to put it. Its message is intended to come from that spot,” he said. “It’s staying here; I never did want it to go.”
Nicelley was contacted about a month ago by a representative from the Cincinnati museum. He was told it is basically a formalization of one man’s private collection and continues to be privately owned.
Although the cross is probably in the Ohio Department of Transportation right-of-way along old U.S. 24, Nicelley has been a contact for people through the years who have wanted to do maintenance work on the sign.
Through the years, Roger has cut back tree branches and brush that has threatened to cover the sign’s message.
“I’ve never claimed it to be mine,” said Roger. He added that it has developed a lean this year and if it fell, it would land on his property.
Anyone who is interested in helping maintain this piece of Americana should feel free to contact Nicelley at 419-899-2279.
With a chuckle, Roger noted, “Since this all has come up I find myself humming ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ quite a bit.”
In the meantime, county resident Jack Fetter read the story in the Progress last week and was shocked at the history behind the cross sign. He noted, “I have been taking care of a cross for 25 years I knew nothing about.”
Jack also said that the saying “Get Right With God” is what drew him to care for the cross. Those words always have been his mission and played a vital part of his ministry. He said that the saying has always made his heart beat a little faster each time he heard or read those words. He said he was always happy to see the old cross.
Fetter recalled, “In 1985, Tony Gonzales Jr. painted the sign as a project scholarship to attend Youth For Christ Camp. The sign was also repainted in 1997.”
He added, “Up until 2008, I have been back and forth to the cross site many times to trim bushes and trees that blocked the sign.”
Fetter also had some other good news to share. Thinking the old cross was going to be donated, he started right away working on a project to construct a new cross, which will be a replica of the old one.
The old cross measures 13 feet tall and the letters “Get Right With God” are all roofing shingles, painstakingly cut out by hand by Harrison Mayes, who placed the sign there in about 1966. The so-called “Roadside Evangelist” spread God’s word by placing his wood, metal and cast concrete signs in 44 states.
“I have a lot of volunteers who
are willing to help with the project and we are looking at three different sites at the current time,” Fetter said. “Any of the three sites will be very visible from both sides.”
Tony Gonzales III has volunteered to bring some of his wrestling team to help with the mound of dirt and stone for the foundation of the new cross. Hartzog Lumber is going to help assist with some supplies and Fred Merritt, another volunteer, is busy designing the plans for the new cross.
It is hoped that the new cross will last another 49 years like the one Harrison Mayes built.
Fetter said, “I was just so happy to hear of the interest in the old cross and while it does need to be out of the weather, it made me realize that through the years many, many people noticed the cross and we just don’t know the impact it had on many lives.”
Fetter disclosed that tentatively, the new cross sign will be up by this fall.
Fetter asks that if anyone has any questions to email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“The old cross remaining in the county is indeed a blessing and the support I am getting on constructing a new one has also been a blessing,” Fetter said.
Somewhere above, the preacher known as “God’s ad man” must be smiling.
– Additional reporting by Denise Gebers