Founded in 1807, Troy, Ohio is a small Midwestern city which has a heritage full of unique personalities, stories, inventions, and events- funny and tragic. This blog is a means of sharing these vignettes, full-length stories and humorous escapades with Trojans near and far, or individuals just interested in local history.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lost Rights . . . A Little More

 North Carolina's Copy of the 
United States Bill of Rights

It came to my attention that I needed to 'come clean' about something regarding Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic.
Why did I include a book review about history which does not take place in Troy, Ohio?  Let me explain . . .

About three years  ago a gentleman I know returned from a visit to Washington, D.C. where his daughter lives.  The Washington Post regularly includes Civil War stories in their publication and Bob's daughter saves them for him to read.  When he returned from this trip he brought one of the stories to me because it mentioned Tipp City and Troy, both of which are in Miami County, Ohio.

The story turned out to be a brief page summary of the North Carolina Bill of Rights adventure, which David Howard details in his book.  So, that was my first exposure to the story.

It was not too long after this I was contacted by David Howard.  He wanted to come to Troy and do some research for his book.  "Are you familiar with the story of North Carolina's stolen Bill of Rights," he asked me.  "Actually, I am familiar with the tale, I responded.  "You are?"  Apparently, David had found many people who had not heard of the document's travels.  So, I was able to assist David in a small way to research some of  the local families and properties which were involved in his compiling of the local facts.

The second reason why I wanted to share the book with my readers is, as mentioned above, Troy was involved in the history of the broadside.  I will not share all the details, but only to mention that Charles Shotwell, "the patriarch" of the family which had the document in its possession for so long, lived in Troy for awhile.

Thank you Bob for bringing the story to my attention and helping me be prepared to assist David.  And, thanks for the fun David.

So, with this addendum to the book review, now you know why I included Lost Rights in my Troy History blog.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Review- Lost Rights: The Misadventures of A Stolen American Relic

Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic
By David Howard

A Review

Is national history actually numerous pieces of local or regional history that are cohesively strung together to form the whole?  Or perhaps, local history is really national history on a small scale?  This is what I contemplated when I first became familiar with the story related in Lost Rights, even more so now that I have had the chance to read an advance copy of the book.

Near the end of the Civil War, General Sherman’s army tromped through North Carolina as they forcibly brought the Confederate States back under the authority of the United States.  Numerous Union soldiers felt the time to head home was drawing near and, as conquering victors, were looking for souvenirs of the South, as well as a remembrance of their years of toil during the war.

As one Ohio regiment was occupying Raleigh, North Carolina, a soldier from Tippecanoe City (Tipp City) rustled up a humdinger of a treasure in nothing less than the state’s original copy of the United States Bill of Rights.  The very same Bill of Rights which was composed and sent out to the thirteen states with the hope that it would convince a couple holdouts to enter the Union.  Thus began the long and intriguing story of the document’s concealed journey around the country before heading back home after 138 years.

Part mystery, part antiquarian pursuit, part study in human nature, and, of course, history, Lost Rights is a rollicking good read.  Mr. Howard takes all the loose threads of this multifaceted story and ties them together in a fascinating and cohesive tale.  But this is no fairy tale of Howard's talented imagination, this is history . . . and fun history it is!

David Howard, whose various works I have read online, is a talented author, no matter what he is writing about.  A few years ago I actually found myself reading a piece written by Howard about a Guatemalan development and preservation of a Mayan city . . . and I enjoyed it.  In this same manner, Howard draws you into the story, the history, the antiques trade and the lives of the people of Lost Rights.  I felt as if I traveled the 138 year journey with the document.

Does it matter that this story be told?  On several levels, yes!  First, it is an interesting and fun tale, and we all need to enjoy those from time-to-time as a means of catharsis.

Also, it is exciting to read the novel of a talented  fiction writer, but to those who enjoy non-fiction, it is a treat to read someone like David Howard as he creatively relates history in an engaging and enjoyable fashion.

In addition, this story is a reminder that it is the individuals, the counties, the states and regions which make the United States and its history.  For it is the stories of Paul Revere and Patrick Henry, Thomas Edison and Rosa Parks, and ideas and movements growing which make the nation.  Many of these were 'local' stories before they became national stories.  For me, it is the history of Troy - KitchenAid mixers, UPC symbols, Waco gliders, and individuals like Augustus Stouder - impacting the country and the world that is fascinating and fun.

Finally, a story such as this, can dive deeper and refresh our memory of important events.  For me, it was the reminder that possibly, except for North Carolina and Rhode Island's stubbornness in refusing to sign The Constitution unless a "bill of rights" was included, we might not have many of our fragile liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. 

About the only negative comment I can make is it would've been nice to see a few photographs of the principal characters and the document, perhaps safely back home in North Carolina.  But, in this day and age of tight budgets and slow income, I can understand why Mr. Howard and the publisher decided not to include images.

Stories, such as Lost Rights, are the reason I love local and regional history.  Not to distract or draw attention away from 'the big stories,' but rather to accentuate our national stories and bring out more color detail behind those well-known dramas.  It is like Paul Harvey used to remind his radio audience, " and that is the rest of the story."

The book will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 2, 2010.

Connect with David Howard here                           

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Lasting Impact

City Hall - Where the free public library of Troy was first located.
(From Patrick's collection)

Waaay back in 1894, twelve women of Troy decided they wanted to assist the citizens of the city in more tangible ways than they had in the past.  With limited opportunities in those days, their chosen avenue of change was to organize a club for ladies and purpose together "to broaden the cultural and intellectual interests of members and promote civic welfare."

The ladies did indeed fulfill their wish and organized their group, which they named the Troy Altrurian Club, AND went on to provide many services and helps for members and all the people of Troy.  But the greatest achievement and lasting impact these women had was initiating, pushing for, and being the catalysts for the idea of a free public library in Troy; A library where all could learn to read and learn by reading.

Now, as anyone who has lived in the world for about five minutes knows, nothing is free.  And it isn't free to maintain a library, or anything for that matter.  The 'free' the ladies referred to meant no one had to pay to use the library.  It sounds a little silly to the modern ear, but it was quite a goal in 1896!

Many years ago, cities had libraries, but they were often private libraries for just a select few, or if they were for 'anyone,' often a fee was attached to borrowing a book.

Several times in the past, individuals had initiated efforts to bring about a library in Troy, but they usually failed for one reason or another . . . not enough interest, no resources, or fees charged for use of the library.  Troy even had a free public library at one time, but it was located in Kyle school and was mainly for the use and benefit of the young scholar.  Troy had seen it all.

But the Altrurian Club ladies would not be deterred from their goal of a truly free public library, so they pressured the city council to support the idea, they raised funds by holding a book drive and they worked hard for state aid.  The women even pulled their favorite recipes and brought them together in a published cook book simply called, "Altrurian Cook Book."  So in 1896, the ladies of the Troy Altrurian Club were able to celebrate the accomplishment of one of their goals.

For the council's part, they agreed to let the ladies have a room in the corner of the city building for the library and they even agreed to allow them free heat and electricity.  The idea, and the collection of books, grew from that time forward.

In 1942, wealthy Troy widow Mary Jane Hayner died and left her home to the Troy Board of Education for a library, museum, or other cultural purpose.  Mrs. Hayner's beautiful home was the home of the Troy-Miami County Public Library until 1975 when the present library facility was constructed.

The Altrurian women were determined to make a difference.  Unfortunately for Troy, the Altrurian Club no longer exists as an active club, but what they were able to begin in 1896 continues to reap benefits in and for  the citizens of Troy and Miami County, even 114 years later!

building as it appeared when it opened in 1976.
(Photo by Joan Heidleburg)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Created to be the Leader

A Sketch from Troy-Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (1949)
Depicitng Early Activity in the Troy Area.

As Thomas B. Wheeler, local historian for many years, related in his Nineteenth Century history of Troy, the town did not exist when the Ohio General Assembly created Miami County in 1807. Sure, there were pioneer settlers in the area, but there was no village existing by the name of Troy. In this, Mr. Wheeler compared Troy to Washington, D.C.. Just as Washington was created to be the national capital so Troy was created to be the county seat of Miami County, Ohio.

In those days, 1806-1807, Piqua, called Washington at the time, and Staunton, a settlement on the east side of the river near present day Troy, were the chief competitors vying to be the seat of justice for the newly created county. Piqua and Staunton were both old settlements, Piqua was located near the old site of Pickawillany and Staunton was the first European village in what is now Miami County.

When the General Assembly sent out three men to decide where the court and justice center should be they, after examining the area, decided on the ‘high ground across the Miami River from Staunton.’ In a day prior to large permanent bridges, they deemed this decision as a compromise between the two early communities. The county seat would be on the west side of the Miami River, same as Piqua, but it would be located in close proximity to Staunton. I am sure the fact this area (present day Troy) was almost perfectly located in the center of the new county also helped with the decision.

Following the decision, the land deemed as necessary for the community was purchased from three landowners: Aaron Tullis, 40 acres, Alexander McCullough, 40 acres, and William Barbee, Sr., 40 acres. Messrs. Tullis and Barbee were both Revolutionary War veterans.

Why the name Troy? Early lore speculated that when the early settlers came to the area those who had books carried certain volumes. If a person only had one it was probably the Bible; if two, then Pilgrim's Progress was probably the next likely and, if perchance, someone had three books, then it was probably Homer's Odyssey, of course, which featured ancient Troy. Apparently, those with a fondness for Homer decided on Troy for the new village.

Curiously, ancient Troy, which was not discovered until the 1870's, and Troy, Ohio sit on almost on the same latitude on the globe.

From these decisions rose the seat of justice in Miami County, Ohio-Troy, founded 1807.

The Overfield Tavern in Troy-Built in 1808 by Benjamin Overfield
was the location of the first courthouse in town.
Photo by Nelson Dohm; From Patrick's Collection.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Experience Helps a City

Brooks Johnson and his mother Mattie Johnson

One story which relates to Baptist history in Troy and also the 1913 Flood in Troy is a tale concerning one Brooks Joshua Johnson.

Brooks Johnson was born in Troy in 1878 and, like most boys through time, dreamed of all the wonderful things he might do with his life one day.

In an effort to raise Brooks on her own, as best as she could, his mother took him regularly to the First Baptist Church on West Franklin Street. In time, Brooks came to the realization of his need for forgiveness and God's mercy, so he received Christ Jesus as his Savior and was scheduled to join the Baptist Church through baptism.

Well, if you know anything about Baptists you know they immerse people as symbolic of their identification with Jesus' Death and Resurrection. So, one of the last things Mrs. Johnson reminded her son to do was to be sure to take off his brand new shoes before he went into the water. Brooks remembered to remove his shoes . . . but, then he carried them down into the baptistry with him and, of course, soaked them in the process! It would not be surprising to find out that some may have thought his future did not hold too much promise after that fiasco.

But Brooks Johnson made out well! He eventually became the manager of The Western Union Telegraph office in Troy, where he learned the trade inside out; he then was deputy sheriff for several years; but finally made his way into his lifelong occupation as clerk of courts for the county, an elected position.

While waiting to enter office, and in between two jobs, the 1913 Flood devastated the Miami Valley, which includes Troy. Many lives were lost from Sidney to Cincinnati and millions of dollars in damage occurred as a result of the flooding.

Raging waters severed lines of communication and most places were without contact with those outside the flood region. According to one biographical notation, Brooks stayed up for two days and nights utilizing his telegraph expertise in order to wire the lines together and help Troy be one of the first communties in the Miami Valley to make contact with authorities and expedite assistance from the 'outside world.'

Experience in the telegraph business helped Brooks Johnson play an important part in assisting his town in a time of need. Obviously, he was not afraid of the water, he was already baptised. I just wonder if he got his shoes wet.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Shotgun of History

Postcard Picture from my collection: Hobart Manufacturing Company,
one of the most important industries in Troy's history.

For my very first post, I would like to name a few items of interest in Troy's past as a way of whetting the appetite of those who may be interested. From time-to-time, I will share history from areas near Troy because they often impact the city in one way or another.

The Tragic 1913 Flood in the Miami Valley and the good that came out of it; The Miami Conservancy District (the first of its kind in the world); A.G. Stouder and the Troy Foundation-assisting institutions and people since the Great Depression; Hobart Brothers and its world known welding techniques; Hobart Corporation and KitchenAid mixers and appliances; Troy Sunshade; Andrew Wallace, Lew Wallace and Billy the Kid; WACO Airplanes; Electric Railway; WWII Girls Canteen; The Indian Massacre that wasn't; Troy-Piqua Football-no other high school teams have battled in more games in the state of Ohio (Number 5 in the nation); A 19th century county farmer who was one of the first importers of Holstein cattle; Early Baptist History near Troy which is connected to some of the most important Baptist ministers of the 18th Century.

These are a few notices of Troy heritage. I trust these, as well as the actual stories, will peak your interest in Troy, whether it is home now, in the past, or maybe even the future.