|Historical marker dedication|
|Written by Editor|
|Friday, 15 May 2009 15:18|
By MATT BAYMAN
Brown News Service
WEST MILTON - North Carolina was “First in Flight.” Ohio, the “Birthplace of Aviation.” West Milton, however, is the birthplace of the first passenger in flight.
Charles Furnas, born in West Milton in 1880, was a mechanic for the Wright Brothers and, because of this relationship as well as his eagerness, became the first airplane passenger in the world.
In May of 1908, Furnas traveled to Kitty Hawk, N.C. and watched the first successful flight of the Wright Brothers. This was followed by two airplane rides with each of the brothers.
According to the Ohio Historical Society, Furnas is one in only a handful of people that flew with both of the brothers.
To commemorate Furnas and his place in history, The Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company, Paul G. Duke Foundation, the Ohio Historical Society and Hale-Sarver Funeral Home (the former residence of Furnas) will dedicate a historical marker in his honor at 2 p.m. May 16 at the funeral home - 284 N. Miami St. in West Milton.
The public is invited to the dedication, where they can learn more about one of West Milton’s native sons.
According to the book West Milton, Ohio: It’s First 200 Years, 1807-2007, Furnas had been a Navy mechanic before hearing about what the Wright Brothers were up to.
The books states that the Wright Brothers had employed Furnas “sporadically” but were not always able to pay him.
Furnas, however, must have saw a good thing in the works and decided to follow the brothers anyway - often working for free.
According to the publication, Furnas showed up unexpectedly in Kitty Hawk and offered his services free of charge. He also offered to replace a bag of sand that the Wright Brothers were using to simulate a passenger.
According to the Ohio Historical Society, Furnas was flown a distance of 1,968 feet in 29 seconds by Wilbur Wright in the Wright Flyer II. Later that same day, he was flown by Orville Wright for more than two miles, which took four minutes and two seconds.
After taking part in the historical event, Furnas returned to West Milton and, according to West Milton, Ohio: It’s First 200 Years, 1807-2007, became an auto mechanic at a shop on what is now State Route 571. He also purchased the old Opera House on Miami Street and turned it into movie theater. He introduced the first “talking films” in the village in 1929. Furnas died in 1941.
The May 16 marker dedication will feature several guest speakers. Guests are encouraged to bring a lawn chair.
While at the funeral home, guests can see a mural created by Furnas, which traces his family history.