Township History

Guest Post: The Ribbon Mystery, by Vera Marie Badertscher

The Ribbon Mystery

by Vera Marie Badertscher

(From an article that originally appeared at Ancestors in Aprons)

I was faced with a mystery. What was the Holmes County Loan Committee, 1888?

It all started with this ribbon, one of two used by my great-great-grandmother Emeline Cochran Stout in her crazy quilt.

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My mother, Harriette Anderson Kaser, had told me that the ribbons belonged to my great-grandfather “Doc” Stout (1845-1910), a Killbuck, Ohio doctor. I jumped to the conclusion that he served on a fundraising committee for Holmes County’s centennial. But the date–1888– didn’t seem right. Holmes County was founded in 1825, not 1788, There was not even a state of Ohio until 1808. So what was this?

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Library Research

I went to one of my favorite places on Facebook, the page staffed by the Holmes County Library’s Genealogy and Local History Department, called Our Town: A Holmes County, Ohio Local History Project. They had recently announced that they were compiling a list of events that took place in Holmes County, using the local newspapers from as far back as the 1800’s. I posted the ribbon and asked if they had information. Within hours, they had supplied photos, articles and some surprises.

An AHA! Moment

The first article the library posted described the meeting of the Holmes County Loan Committee in Millersburg.

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Ah-ha! This was a women’s committee, and men were an afterthought. So perhaps the reason there are TWO ribbons in the Emeline crazy quilt, is that my great-grandmother, Hattie Morgan Stout (1842-1928), was on the original committee, and great-grandfather, Doc Stout, was a johnny-come-lately.

Harriett Emeline Morgan Stout
The Holmes County Loan Exhibit

Furthermore, we learn from the newspaper article that the Holmes County exhibit was part of a State Exposition. But what was being exhibited? Another newspaper article made that clearer.

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This article, again from the Holmes County Farmer, says that the Centennial Loan would open on July 25 (1888) and continue for a week. All articles were to be in Columbus by August 8. Then we learn how enthusiastic the people of Holmes County were. By Monday evening there were more than 50 items loaned, including a Bible over 200 years old. The committee wanted “modern, new , pretty and interesting” things as well as antiques. The committee needed potted ferns (because heaven knows you could not do anything fancy in the 1800’s without a bunch of potted ferns).

Entertainment and activities for children were all part of what you’d get for your admission price of five cents.

In August, 1888, The Holmes County Farmer ran a sort of review of the Exhibit which had been held at the County Court House in Millersburg. “…one might well imagine that Cinderellas’s godmother had been there with her fairy wand, so great had been the transformation wrought in the last week.” Don’t you love the understated way newspaper reporters wrote in the late 1800’s?

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On the north were ancient items, as old as 500 years old, “old, quaint, dainty, pretty, beautiful.” A large room had been divided into a hall, bedroom and parlor, each furnished with all sorts of beautiful household items. The next room featured a “dinning(sic) room” with complete table setting. Across from that modern dining room was another set up as it would have been 100 years before, and a horticulture exhibit.

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Out of that room and to the left was an exhibit of old-fashioned costumes, and then ahead another room represented art and industry that was so overwhelming, the reporter gave up “…there is so much and so great a variety, we cannot hope to describe it. It must be seen to be appreciated.”

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Then there was a pioneer room with old-time things. In Agriculture Hall, the large stage was most tastefully draped with American flags and buckeye branches. This stage held entertainment in the evening by musical groups and “the broom brigade”–synchronized marchers. During the day, ladies demonstrated how to “schutch, hackle, card and spin” flax and wool. In fact, the layout and the items on display make me think of the Smithsonian Institution’s original building (built just thirty years earlier).

I have gone into some detail here to impress upon you what a BIG DEAL the Holmes County Loan was. The County’s population at that time was just shy of 21,000, so a huge percentage of families must have contributed to the Loan.

But What Were They Celebrating?

If it was not the centennial of Holmes County, and not the centennial of Ohio, whose birthday was it? The mystery is revealed when another reference from the Holmes County library reveals that Holmes County is part of a 100th anniversary of the founding of the first settlement in Ohio, Marietta, a town on the Ohio River.

The Ohio Centennial Exposition in Columbus

Of course the Columbus exposition was even bigger, including a Civil War encampment of 100,000 veterans and 150,000 of their wives, children, and friends. They gathered in the state capitol, which at that time had a population of 120,000.

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Now the ribbons in the crazy quilt mean so much more than they did originally. I learned from all of this that the former school teacher, Hattie Morgan Stout, and her husband, Killbuck doctor William Cochran Stout, were deeply involved in community affairs. The research reveals my ancestors’ involvement not only in an exciting county-wide project, but their part in a statewide project. And what a thrilling project it was.

Holmes County Ribbon

And by the way, does anybody know the meaning of “schutch” in spinning? (Hackle is a kind of comb, in case you needed help with that one.)

Sources:
Information about the Holmes County Loan Committee and the Ohio Centennial Exposition celebrating the founding of Marietta Ohio, came from the  Our Town: A Holmes County, Ohio Local History Project, and includes articles from the Holmes County Farmer and from the book “Columbus 1860 to 1910,” by Richard E. Barrett .

The ribbon pictured at the top is part of a crazy quilt in the author’s possession, made by Emeline Cochran Stout.

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Thank you to Ms. Badertscher for sharing this piece of research with us. If you have an article or essay you’ve written about something pertaining to Holmes County, Ohio history and would be willing to share it with the Our Town blog, let us know and we’ll consider it for publication.

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Categories: Genealogy, Guest Post, Hardy | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mural Artist Tom Miller

The former Alpine Alpa in Wilmot featured the work of artist Tom Miller.

From the Walnut Creek Sesquicentennial History, 1827-1977:

Visitors traveling through the hills of Holmes and Tuscarawas counties always enjoy the scenery as they go. In recent years, an added attraction has been the artistry of Tom Miller which gave birth to a Swiss village and dots the surrounding countryside, lending atmosphere and beauty, providing enjoyment for both residents and vistiors passing through.

Although Tom began his young life on a farm between Walnut Creek and Trail, Ohio, he never liked farming, and from early beginnings, had it in his head to become an artist one day.

“I was always drawing in grade school,” says Tom,” and I never got less than an ‘A’ in drawing and art.”

Tom  was given inspiration and encouragement at an early age by an uncle who was a missionary to India and an artist.

“He used to send pictures back from India and I thought, ‘If I could only paint like that,’ and that’s what really gave me the inspiration, his paintings.”

Drawing came almost as naturally to Tom as did breathing. he remembers that when yet a boy, whenever he looked at something he always saw it as a picture.

“If you do that long enough, it gives you a photographic mind and you can put down exactly what you see. There were times I had trouble with my painting, but it always flowed together while I relaxed or lay in bed, and by the next morning, it was okay.”

Tom received his first paint set from Orpha Troyer when he was a freshman in high school and in return, he painted his frist painting for her, a scene which she still has. During high school, his talent were put ot good use as he was selected to paint all of the scenery for backdrops used in the plays.

Tom graduated from Walnut Creek High School during the ’30’s Jobs were scarce and an artist’s talents were not in great demand, so Tom felt fortunate to be working, even though there was nothing artistic about digging coal with a pick and shovel.

After spending three years with a pick and shovel in his hands instead of the paint brush he loved, Tom changed jobs. Running the pug mill at Claycraft Brickyard was not exactly what he would have liked ot have been doing with his life and was dingo nothing to further his career as an artist. He found himself with free time on the job and nothing to do to keep from being bored. His boss, Abe H. Mast, aware of Tom’s talents, encouraged him to do something with them while sitting ast his pug mill post. Tom took up carving to help pass the hours.

“Although I don’t carve much now, I carved a (to scale) replica of the Claycraft brick factory and steam engine. It is on display at my studio in Sugarcreek and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. It’s on of my most prized possessions.”

The model, which included men working at their jobs, moving in synchronization with other parts of the model, took two years for Tom to carve to completion.

During those seven years of work, Tom painted on weekends and evenings.

It was at this point Tom knew that he wanted to become a full time artist, but he needed an income until his work caught on and he could support himself and his family with his art. Tom spent the next four years working as an interior decorator  heading up a crew of eight men he had hired. He bought what is now the Gospel Shop in Sugarcreek and turned the little building behind the shop into his art studio.

“At that time, I put one ad in the paper for painting. I never had to do it again and I’ve been busy ever since. Now I’m always three or four months behind.”

Toms’ Swiss background allowed him to fit perfectly into the town of Sugarcreek, a Swiss settlement, and as a Sugarcreek businessman, he became a part of the planning of the first Swiss Festivals held by the community.

“We had had two Swiss Festivals and I thought, ‘Why not have a Swiss Village that people would really come to see.”

Tom designed the front of his building into a Swiss front, the first one in Sugarcreek, then kept encouraging one businessman, then another  until the entire town was transformed from a standard American village into an international attraction, a Swiss Village in the Tuscarawas valley. Most of the fronts of the buildings were designed by Tom Miller, one the more gratifying experiences of his career.

The Swiss designs gave way to more elaborate and intricate designs on Tom’s part as he painted scenes from the Swiss Alps on some of the buildings. Not content with a simple painting, Tom’s innovative mind made the painting come alive; a moving train going in and out of tunnels of the front of the Reeves Bank; skiers flying down a snowy slope on the Goshen Dairy; snowmobiles skimming the hills at Jim’s Sunoco Station.

“They became a real interest to the public, especially the children, and this led to the animated murals at Der Dutchman Restaurant in Walnut Creek, Dutch Valley Restaurant in Sugarcreek, and Alpine Alpa Cheese House and Doughty Valley.”

Tom also designed the fronts of Lehman Hardware in Kidron and Stuckey’s Restaurant in Wilmot.

“I have had the opportunity to put moving scenes on big restaurants in five different states, but never went because I have so much to do around here.”

The highpoint of Tom Miller’s career as an artist came this past weekend with the unveiling of his new mural at Heini’s of Bunker Hill, Ohio. The work of art is five feet high and forty feet long, painted on canvas with acrylic oils, and took nineteen weeks from start to finish. It depicts cheesemaking from its origin in 300 BC through the centuries and up to the present time as it is done at Heini’s.

Pete Dauwalder, who owns Heini’s and commissioned the mural, is the son of Swiss parents who had also been cheesemakers, and assisted Tom with much of the research material.

“To my knowledge, there is no other mural depicting the history of cheese, nor do I think there will be one painted exactly like this. The hardest hing after having the knowledge, was making it all fit together.

Tom, who never had na art teacher and accepts his talent as a “God-given gift,” finds his work very rewarding.

“When you complete something as vast as this mural ” says Tom, ‘it gives a great feeling of satisfaction knowing you have created a piece that has contributed to humanity.”

There is probably no individual in the history of Holmes or Tuscarawas Counties who has left a more indelible or more beautiful mark on the area than artist Tom Miller

Tom Miller and his wife Mary live on Cherry Ridge Drive and are life long resident of Walnut Creek Township.

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From the Columbus Dispatch, July 2006:

Mural Majority

Tom Miller made his name creating scenes in Ohio’s Amish country

Published: Sunday, July 9, 2006

By Bill Mayr
 
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Visitors to the rolling countryside of Holmes and western Tuscarawas counties snap photos of the Amish and their farms — and of buildings with Swiss-chalet facades and murals of Alpine scenes.

The murals, which helped put the quaint rural communities of north-central Ohio on the map, were created by self-taught artist Tom Miller.

Although his name might not be known throughout the state, he surely ranks among the most-viewed of Ohio painters.

“He certainly left a legacy,” said Leslie A. Kaser, director and curator of the Alpine Hills Historical Museum in Sugarcreek.

His murals occupy an odd but intriguing niche.

They pop up at much-visited sites, such as over the entrance to the Sugarlane IGA store, on the front of a Huntington Bank and along the drive-through lane at a McDonald’s restaurant, all in Sugarcreek. They are found, too, inside and outside restaurants and cheese factories.

Some, such as the one at McDonald’s, are even three-dimensional and mechanized.

Miller died a decade ago, on July 28, at age 85.

He wasn’t Amish but spoke fluent Pennsylvania German. He had been a commercial painter, painting houses, lettering signs and occasionally creating murals for homeowners, Kaser said.

His rise as the region’s muralist came as the area sought to promote its history.

Members of the Amish religious sect, with roots in Switzerland, had arrived in the region in the early 1800s. Later that century, Swiss cheese-makers settled in the region, using milk from Amish farms to produce their wares.

In 1953, boosters launched the Ohio Swiss Festival. (The annual event this year is scheduled for Sept. 29-30.)

Some years later, Miller, inspired by a trip to Switzerland, created an Alpine mural on the front of a building he owned in Sugarcreek.

Then, “all the cheese houses wanted him to do the murals,” said Mahlon Troyer, a commercial painter and artist and protege of Miller.

He produced a large mural on the exterior of Guggisberg Cheese north of Charm; he painted an

From Roadside America: photo of the cheese mural at Heini’s Cheese in Berlin, Ohio.

illustrated history of cheese-making inside Heini’s Cheese Chalet, home to Bunker Hill Cheese, north of Berlin.

His mural-making gathered momentum like a mountain avalanche.

“He never got caught up,” said Miller’s son, Phil Miller of Wooster. “People were waiting, maybe for years.”

Many of the large pieces were painted in the 1970s and ’80s, Troyer said.

How many murals and smaller paintings did Miller create?

“I don’t have any idea,” his son said.

“One fellow went to Indiana and started an Amish restaurant. He took Dad out there to do a bunch of murals. Dad was out there for months.”

Phil Miller said his father’s talent seemed intuitive.

“He’d see that whole picture in his mind before he even started. He’d start sketching quick strokes. Pretty soon he’d have the sketch done. And then he’d paint the same way — quick.”

Miller’s style is reminiscent of Grandma Moses, the self-taught artist who also specialized in pleasant rural scenes.

But while Grandma Moses became internationally famous, Miller’s work remained concentrated in Amish Ohio.

His biggest piece fills the upper part of the walls and flows onto the ceiling in the main dining room of Grandma’s Alpine Homestead restaurant on Rt. 62 in northeastern Holmes County.

The diorama, roughly 45 feet wide and 20 feet tall, depicts Arosa, a Swiss mountain village.

Miller sometimes created depth in his scenes by making wood cutouts, painting part of his scene on the cutout and installing it on the mural.

Some works are mechanized: a toy passenger train runs through the Arosa diorama, and a herd of Swiss dairy cattle moseys through a mural at Grandma’s Alpine Homestead. The cattle and trains are models that Miller built and affixed to belts that run in loops through the scenes.

When Dave Beachy opened Beachy’s Country Chalet in 1988, he asked Miller to paint a series of small, oval-shaped scenes on the ends of wooden booths. Covered bridges, dairy farms, mountain brooks and quaint cottages fill the Sugarcreek restaurant.

Miller, Beachy said, was a man of few words. But he didn’t mind people watching him work.

“He just loved the interaction with the people. People would love to gawk.”

In Walnut Creek, three murals grace the Der Dutchman restaurant a mile south of the small dairy farm where Miller grew up.

John and Joy Maxwell — along with Mr. Maxwell’s mother, Alathea — recently ate dinner in the restaurant beneath a scene of maple-sugaring.

Maxwell, who formerly operated a clothing store in nearby Millersburg, had shown Miller’s paintings in the store windows.

“I loved his paintings,” he said. “I never talked to anyone who didn’t like his paintings.”

Some of the works are weathering, with paint colors and images fading. Beachy said the exterior mural at his restaurant could stand touching up.

Troyer has repainted some scenes and said he’s available to work on others that have captured the lifestyle of Ohio’s Amish and their link to rural Switzerland.

Phil Miller acknowledges the vision and legacy of his father.

“He followed his dream. Yep.”

bmayr@dispatch.com

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From a post in the Der Dutchman News blog from September 2010:

Inspired by the houses on a trip to Switzerland, local sign painter, house painter and self-taught artist, Tom Millerpainted a Swiss mural on a building he owned in Sugarcreek. After that, many businesses came to his door step with requests for similar murals.

The local families took considerable pride in their heritage and eventually businesses in Sugarcreek began an effort to model their downtown after the Swiss villages in the “Old Country”. Swiss architecture became commonplace with it’s chalet-style construction and decoration. With the addition of Tom’s murals, the movers and shakers of the early 1950′s began a push for a celebration of everything Swiss. The Swiss Festival was born in 1953, one of the longest running festivals in the state of Ohio.

By the way, if you plan to go “mural hunting”, you can still see many of Tom’s works at the businesses of Sugarcreek and Holmes county. They are still visible at the Sugarlane IGA, Huntington Bank, Dutch Valley Restaurant, Beachy’s Chalet, McDonalds (one inside, one by the drive-through) Sugarcreek Lumber and the former Goshen Dairy building. In Holmes County, you can see three murals at Der Dutchman Restaurant.

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Ralph A. Hershberger, Cartoonist

Cartoonist born in Shanesville, Ohio, raised in Millersburg and Berlin, Ohio, graduated from Millersburg High School in 1907.

Cartoonist born in Shanesville, Ohio, raised in Millersburg and Berlin, Ohio, graduated from Millersburg High School in 1907.

This post is a transcription of an entry taken from the 1816-1966 Sesquicentennial History of the Berlin Community, author unknown. If you know who wrote this piece, or if you have any further information about Ralph A. Hershberger, let me know! Ralph A. Hershberger “Funny Business” Cartoonist Ralph A. Hershberger, former Berlin resident, gained international renown through his “Funny Business” cartoons. These cartoons, about 10,000 in number, were published in more than 500 newspapers, including over a dozen in foreign countries. He was born in Shanesville, Ohio, the son of Mr. and Mrs. John J Hershberger. His father taught school, both elementary and high school, for 30 years. He also served as county school examiner, with the late John A. McDowell and O.O. Fisher, for a period of 10 or 12 years after 1905. When Ralph was six years old the family moved to Berlin, where they lived until his father began teaching in Millersburg. Ralph received all his education in the Berlin schools, except his last year of high school. He graduated from Millersburg High School in the spring of 1907. On one of his personal appearances a few years ago, Hershberger commented, “When in my teens, I was more interested in medical business than in ‘funny business ‘ I had planned to go to Cleveland to begin medical training, but found that I was a year too young ot enter medical school. That was when I decided to go to art school.” His previous art experience had been of a practical nature–painting scene and signs on barns. Ralph Hershberger received his art education at the Cleveland School of Art, now know as the Cleveland Institute of Art, a nationally recognized school where his cartoon instructor was also a top-ranking cartoonist. His record of achievement reflects the professional instruction he received. In his own words, “I wanted to succeed in cartooning so I chose a successful instructor.” R.A. Hershberger Comic His professional career began on the Cleveland Press, where he served as cartoonist and staff artist. He drew a daily comic strip and the full page Sunday comic strip for “Dem Boys,” under the pen name of “Karl’s” for the former Cleveland Leader, one of Ohio’s largest dailies. The comic strip was distributed by the McClure Syndicate. He drew caricatures for the McMahon Syndicate and was art director for Artfilm Studios, of Cleveland, Ohio, makers of animated cartoons. Mr. Hershberger created, wrote and illustrated the popular comic panel “Funny Business” for nearly 20 years. It appeared in 465 daily papers in this country and also in foreign countries. It was distributed by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA Service, Inc.) , a Scripps-Howard newspaper syndicate, one of the largest int eh United States. “Funny Business” appeared in such papers as the New York World Telegram, detroit News, Washing, D.C. News, Chicago Daily News, Houston Press, Denver Post, San Francisco News, Indianapolis Times, Cincinnati Post and many others. His magazine cartoons were printed in many of this country’s foremost magazines, such as: Redbook, Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Life, Liberty, American Magazine, Country Gentleman, Judge, New York American, Screen Book, College Humor and Ballyhoo. In London, his cartoons appeared in such magazines and newspapers as Everybody’s Weekly, Passing Show, London Daily Mirror, Sunday Referee, London Pictorial News, Sporting and Dramatic, The Leader, Woman’s Companion, Guide and Ideas, Printer’s Pie and others. In India, the cartoons were popular in “My Magazine of India,” the country’s largest humor publication. The have also been reprinted in humorous publications of other countries, including “Lustige Blaetter,” of Berlin. Mr. Hershberger is listed in WHO’s WHO IN THE MIDWEST and in London, England in the DICTIONARY OF INTERNATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, and has for many years been a member of the National Cartoonist’s Society. He is listed as one of the Forty Famous Artists and Writers whose work appeared in “Printer’s Pie,” a London publication which accepts contributions by invitation only. He is listed with such prominent writers as H.G. Wells, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Ferrier, Sir Phillip Gibbs, Gilbert Wilkinson, Lord Dunsany, A.C. Barrett, Rafael Sabatini, Ridgewell and others, a distinction never accorded another American cartoonist. The subjects of Hershberger’s cartoons invariably are people. Only on rare occasions did he use animals, birds or fish, endowing them with the gift of speech and human perception and portraying them in whimsical roles. During the personal appearance mentioned earlier, Hershberger explained that “most of the ‘Funny Business’ cartoons were drawn six weeks in advance of their publication. I have a four week advance supply deadline, but usually have a six-week reserve.” When contacted for information for this story, he wrote, “I retired from doing ‘Funny Business’ just recently although repeats will be running for some years. I stopped doing the series in order to devote my full time to my correspondence school, and to other publications.” Mr. Hershberger is presently Director of the National School of Cartooning in Cleveland, Ohio. He resides in Brunswick, about 20 miles from Cleveland, commuting between the school and his home.”

From Popular Science Magazine, April 1939.

From Popular Science Magazine, April 1939.

Further information based on genealogy research at the Holmes County District Public Library: Ralph Adlai Hershberger was born on December 18, 1890 to John J (April 20, 1862-Feb. 6, 1955) and Emma (Troyer) (1867-1951) Hershberger in Shanesville, Ohio. Ralph Hershberger was one of five children, along with siblings Miles, Vera, Elvara and Evora. He learned cartooning from the Landon School of Illustrating and Cartooning and married Opal A. (Dalby) Hershberger at age 25 (exact date not yet known). The 1930 Cleveland, Ohio directory places Ralph and Opal Hershberger at 1633 Bunts Road, Lakewood, Ohio. His 1942 draft card places him and Opal at 2166 Mars Ave, Lakewood, Ohio. According to census records, Ralph and Opal had no children. His 1917 draft registration card describes him as tall and slim with blue eyes and black hair. Opal Dalby Hershberger died at Lakewood Hospital on February 6, 1947. Ralph A. Hershberger died at Southwest General Hospital in Berea on March 6 ,1970 at age 79. There’s a blog post here by Allan Holtz about the Dem Boys strip, which Hershberger’s biography describes as his work created under the name “Karls.”

Ralph, Opal and both of Ralph’s parents are buried at Oak Hill Cemetery in Millersburg, Ohio.

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Millersburg City Hall and Opera House History

Millersburg, Ohio City Hall and Opera House

Postcard courtesy of Tina Zickefoose.

These articles are from the vertical files in the Local History and Genealogy Room of the Holmes County District Public Library:

(This piece doesn’t include a date, but Jane and Sandy’s Variety Store no longer exists)

By Lee Hunter
Special thanks to the Farmer-Hub.

Over the years, Holmes Countians have been able to amuse themselves in various ways. People could go bowling or roller skating in the building that Jane and Sandy’s Variety Store is now in. The Opera House was the most popular place in town, which was located just west of where the professional building now stands.

The Opera House was built just before the turn of the century. It was the city building but soon after construction the Opera House moved in. The building seated around 250-300 moviegoers, fitting them into a main seating section and a balcony. The theater specialized in first-run movies with the top-notch stars of the day. Occasionally, they ran plays.

The building shared quarters with a few offices and the Millersburg Fire House. the Fire House was on the west end of the building; it had sandstone pillars, wooden floors, and two large doors that provided access to Jackson Street.
In 1925, Hoy Russell, Holmes County Probate Judge, bought the Opera House and continue to show many fine movies while he owned it.

The Millersburg Council approved funds to redecorate the Opera House in 1928 with the “Fashionable and acceptable colors of 1928.”
The Opera House showed movies every day of the week. On Wednesdays, the merchants of Millersburg sponsored the movie and the doors of the theater were open so that moviegoers could watch a movie free of charge. Soon, inflation caught up with the merchants and the citizens had to pay six cents; then it increased to a dime.
The Opera House started out all of their shows with a cartoon, sometimes a short-short of Laurel and Hardy. It was later torn down in 1954.

February 10, 1955
Holmes County Farmer Hub

Council Plans to Raze City Building

May buy old ford garage for new municipal office; make old site into parking lot

Plans for razing the Millersburg City Hall were discussed at the Monday evening meeting of the village council.
Councilman Richard Kagey, Jr., announced to council members that the building committee has investigated repairs needed to make the roof of the building safe and found the building in such bad condition it would be impractical to try to repair it.
Mr Kagey said that the committee had contacted the Holmes Rural Electric owners of the old Ford garage building on West Jackson St. about the possibility of the village purchasing that location for the village offices, should the present city hall be abandoned and found it could be purchased.

Millersburg City Hall and Opera House

Postcard courtesy of Tina Zickefoose.

The present city building was condemned by the state fire marshall years ago and the opera house sec ion of the building has remained unused since that time. A bond issue for $125,000 for remodeling the building was voted down several years ago, and only a few essential repairs to the clerks office, council chambers and fire and street department sections of the building have been made, as needed.

Tearing down the old building will probably involve bonded indebtedness for the village Solicitor Raymond Miller pointed out as there is no surplus in the general fund for the purpose. The village will also have a large bond issue on its books when the sewage disposal plant is installed int eh near future he added. At present the village has no bonded indebtedness, however it has had to transfer funds from the parking meter fund to the general fund to meet current operating expenses in recent (?)

The councilmen also discussed plans for making over the city hall site into a municipal parking lot, should the building be torn down and the village offices moved to a new location permanently. It was estimated that 36 cars could be parked in the lot and relieve the parking problems of the village. Parking meters would be installed and add to the village income as well as assist business in the community through customer parking space.

No definite plans were made at the meeting. The building committee is to look further into purchasing the new building and Councilman David Stoner was to check with firms for estimates on razing the building.

Tearing the building down will be the loss of a land mark to some, the councilmen considered, however, they pointed out that they have little alternative, since the building has become a safety hazard and a financial burden.

Little else was discussed at the meeting. Payment of bills amounting to $2,582.81 was approved by the councilman and Clerk William Pyers reported that the Mayor’s January report totaled $253 received by the village, including $13 in permits, $140 in local fines and costs and $100 from State Highway Patrol Costs.

March 1955
Holmes County Farmer-Hub

City Building is Condemned
Village Given Ninety Days to Raze Building

An order from Charles R. Scott, state fire marshall, condemning the present city building and fire station as unsafe and ordering that it be torn down in ninety days was received by Mayor Oscar Miller Wednesday morning by registered mail.

An inspection of the building was made by Fire Inspector Ralph W. Andregg on March 9, the order stated and his report listed:

“The following conditions to exist:
“This large old opera house building is in very poor repair; the roof poor and the leaking has caused the beams to rot away the ceiling to sag; wiring very poor; outside walls cracked and in bad condition; brick loose in the chimney and mortor out; the foundation bad in places
“Therefore by reason of the premised and pursuant to the authority vested in my by virtue of my office…you are hereby ordered within ninety (90) days from the date of service of this order, the above mentioned building shall be torn down and all rubbish and debris removed from the premises.”

Mayor Miller pointed out that the village council could protest the order and the protest would be investigated by the state fire marshall. However, it is not likely that a protest would avail a change in the order, since the recent investigating of the building brought an order for tearing the building down and not repairs.

Should the village fail to comply with the order, the fire marshall may have it done at the expense of the village with a 25 percent penalty should the village not pay the cost. Revised Ohio Code also provides for a penalty of from $10 to $50 for each day’s neglect of the order.

There’s more information about the Millersburg Opera House, including a full timeline of its history, in the vertical files of the Holmes County District Public Library’s Local History and Genealogy room.

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Historic Downtown Millersburg Photos

This series of posters was posted by Darwin Boyd to the Our Town: A Holmes County, Ohio Local History Project Facebook page. It depicts downtown Millersburg, Ohio from the early 1900’s through the 1950’s. If you have photos of downtown Millersburg from this angle that you’d like to see added to this page, please send them along and we’ll get them posted!

Downtown Millersburg, 1906ish

Downtown Millersburg, Ohio, early 1900’s.

Downtown Millersburg, around 1916

Downtown Millersburg, Ohio, 1916.

Downtown Millersburg, 1924

Downtown Millersburg, Ohio, around 1924.

Downtown Millersburg, 1941

Downtown Millersburg, Ohio, around 1941.

Downtown Millersburg, 1945

Downtown Millersburg, Ohio, around 1945.

Downtown Millersburg, 1950ish

Downtown Millersburg, Ohio, around 1950.

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Vilma Pikkoja, Head Librarian 1958-1963

Vilma Pikkoja in front of Patrick Memorial Library with the Dorothy Canfield Fisher award

The following is an excerpt from A Brief History of the Holmes County Public Library by Fred W. Almendinger about former head librarian Vilma Pikkoja.

“It would be quite difficult and certainly much too lengthy a task to mention ALL the many able people whose interest and tireless efforts over the years have made the Holmes county Library the important community institution which it has become. The various librarians who have administered the library, the many persons who helped with financial aid especially during the ‘lean’ years; the employees who for a very small compensation devoted countless hours in service to the library. All these and many more have by their sincere and unselfish devotion to the cause brought the library to its present highly regarded position as a center of information and culture in Holmes County.Bookmobile, 1958

There is one person however who, because of her most unique background and by reason of her untiring service over and by doing the call of duty, should be given a special place in this or any future history of the Holmes County Library. I refer to Mrs. Vilma Pikkoja who assumed the duties of head librarian in April of 1958. Mrs. Pikkoja was born in Estonia, one of the three small countries bordering on the Baltic Sea, which have (much against their will) been absorbed into the Soviet Union. Her father was manager of a textile mill, chairman of the town council, and for a time mayor of their native city. A man of such background obviously would be interested in education for his children. After graduation from the local high school, Mrs. Pikkoja attended Dorpat University where she majored in library science and was in due time certified to be a public Patrick Memorial Librarylibrarian. She was about to begin study for a master’s degree in library science when World War II began in the late summer of 1939. Russia invaded Estonia in 1940. For the next four and one half years the tides of war swept across the little country during which it was estimated that 120,000 Estonians were deported from their homes and were replaced by Russians. Other thousands became refugees and sought homes in other countries.

Eight years before the war Mrs. Pikkoja was married to August Pikkoja, at that time a school administrator in Estonia. The turmoil of war separated the young couple from their families and eventually even from each other. After many terrible experiences, which included for Mrs. Pikkoja walking entirely across Germany, the Library Sketch of the Patrick Memorial Librarycouple were almost miraculously re-united and were given employment by the United States military government in Germany.

In 1949, a representative of Church World Service interviewed the Pikkojas concerning the possible residence in the United States. they passed the tests and arrived in the U.S. and more specifically in New Philadelphia Ohio, in September of 1949.  A month later, she obtained a position the New Philadelphia public library. She did extension work at Geneva College in Pennsylvania and at Kent State University in Ohio. In April of 1958 she accepted the position of head librarian of the Holmes County Library.

When Mrs. Pikkoja took over her duties in Millersburg the library was at a low ebb.  Circulation had dropped from 101,000 in 1950 to about 56,000 in 1957. In her first year as head librarian, circulation increased to 82,000 and by 1959 reached a total of 134,000. It was through her efforts that the five branch libraries discussed earlier Vilma Pikkoja and Nancy Farverwere set up as was the bookmobile, also mentioned earlier. The idea of having each of these branches emphasize some particular phase of library service was part of her plan.

In 1959 Mrs. Pikkoja prodded some 26 different groups to raise a fund of about $700.00 to enable the county library to join the Central Ohio Film Circuit which brought to the library some two dozen films each month for loaning to individuals and organizations. A total of 61 films were shown to 2,125 persons during the first two weeks after the service was inaugurated  Another of her achievements was to persuade the County Commissioners to allot the entire intangible tax to the library. Along with her regular duties she set up a German story hour every Thursday at the Chestnut Ridge Branch. This was primarily for Amish children, thus giving her a chance to use her fluent German in her work. However, the two most important projects in which she took part were, FIRST: the plan, including fund raising for the new location of the library in the Patrick building, and SECOND: the securing the library the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award.

The new library building was bequeathed by Mrs. Daisy Patrick (who died in 1954) to her niece, Mrs. Sadie Close and Patrick Memorial Library completion date setniece’s husband the late William Close, with the provision that after the death of Mr. & Mrs. Close it should be given to the Holmes County Library Association to be used for library purposes. The Association rented the building from Mrs. Close and began plans to move the library from the basement of the Court House ( where it had been located for 24 years  into new quarters. For months, under the guidance of Mrs. Pikkoja, there was a continuous round of activity in preparation for the move. A sizable fund was collected by an organization calling itself ‘Friends of the Library’ to help defray the cost of rehabilitating the room sin the Patrick Building  a cost which Patrick Memorial Library remodelingeventually totaled about $12,500.00. Other people throughout the county also contributed time and labor to make the move possible. Amish women scrubbed floors, 4-H groups helped with the furnishing, and the Millersburg Branch of the Flexible Company donated furniture. The target date for dedication for the new facility was set for Saturday, April 15th, 1961.

Meanwhile, a plan was going forward to secure for the library the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award which in addition to the prestige involved, would give t

o the library the sum of $1,000.00. This was an award established by the Book-of-the-Month-Club in honor of Dorothy Canfield Fisher in recognition of the critical need of funds for the purchase of books by small libraries throughout the U.S.A. Only ten libraries in the entire United States were chosen to receive the award; so it was a signal honor that it brought to the Holmes County Library  On Saturday April 15 1961, in a ceremony at the new library, two events of great importance in the history of the library were celebrated. The new building was dedicated and the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award was received. Holmes county Common Pleas Judge W.W. Badger was the emcee for the occasion. Dr. Harry Duncan, vice-president of the Library Board and long time supporter of the library, officiated atIntangible Taxes the dedication of the Patrick Memorial Library Building. The chief speaker for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award presentation was William Donahue Ellis, president of ‘Editorial Service, Inc.’ and author of historical novels on Ohio. It was indeed a memorable day in the history of the Holmes County Library and one not to be forgotten by any who were present on the occasion.

Mrs. Pikkoja continued to make the library a real service institution for the county. Among her many activities and projects should be mentioned here was the creation of an Archives committee for the purpose of publishing books pertaining to the history of Holmes county. Two such books were eventually published: AN HISTORICAL STUDY OF HOLMES COUNTY  by Fred W. Almendinger in 1962 and FLASHES FROM THE PAST by Donald C. Egger in 1963. Although in an indirect way the library encouraged and supported the production and sale of these books, no library funds were used to cover the expense of publication.

Patrick Memorial Library, Interior

It was perhaps inevitable that a person with the ‘drive’ possessed by Mrs. Pikkoja should eventually move on to new fields of endeavor and so it was with regret that her resignation was accepted by the Library Board in October 1963. Hers was indeed a record of great accomplishment for the library and the entire community. “

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