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.

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.