In 2011, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, The Preble County Historical Society (PCHS) created a Hall of Honor. The PCHS Board of Trustees designated that the Hall of Honor be named the “Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor” in recognition of the heritage and philanthropy of Sara Swartsel in donating her family farm in southeast Preble County to the Historical Society and the Preble County community.
The Register-Herald joined the PCHS in recognition of the natural partnership of the two organizations in recording the history of Preble County every day. This annual process provides each entity with many opportunities to collaborate publicly on the project in ways that promote the value of each entity to the residents and businesses of the county.
On Sunday, July 6, the Hall of Honor will induct its fourth membership class. Inductees must be deceased and have lived in Preble County at some point in their lives; further, they must meet one or more of the following criteria: have been outstanding in achievement in agriculture, arts, professions, politics, public service, education, or sports; or have a reputation that brings honor to the county, or personal commitment and service to the county; or had a lasting impact on the county.
The 2014 inductees and their families will be honored, and celebrate the 2013 inductees with the dedication of plaques in their honor at 6 p.m. on Sunday at the Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration at the Preble County Historical Center and The Amphitheater.
The 2014 inductees are Silas Dooley, Sr.; Dorothy Kiracofe; Alfred Horatio Upham, Ph.D.; Martha A. Rizert Dye; and Jo Ann and William E. Lange.
Silas Dooley, Sr.
1786 – 1877
Silas Dooley, Sr., was born in Madison County, Kentucky, March 8, 1768. As a young man, Silas and his father Moses resettled in Preble County (1805). In 1811 Silas received a land grant of 160 acres located in Gasper Township from the United States Government. The patent was signed by James Monroe, Secretary of State, and James Madison, President.
Silas Dooley, Sr. was the first recorded settler in Gasper Township. He lived among the last remaining Native Americans in the area in a three-sided lean-to with a bearskin door for several years as he cleared his land. Dooley was well-known as a tireless hard worker. He helped clear the land where the Village of Camden is now located.
The only time he ever took off was when he married Johanna Westerfield on May 6, 1808 in his father’s home. Their marriage license was the first one issued in Preble County. As a wedding present he built his new wife a log cabin and then in the 1830’s a timber and frame home which remains today as a centerpiece of the original homestead.
Two days after their wedding, Silas and Johanna began their work in earnest with Mrs. Dooley helping her husband plant corn. They soon moved into a cabin and spent the remainder of their lives on the farm where they first settled.
Dooley’s subsequent life was an uneventful one. His occupation was one which in his day required unceasing toil, the practice of economy and self-denial. He was a man of excellent character, lived a blameless life, and possessed the respect due to such a character and such a life. He and his wife had seven children.
Silas cleared the heavily-timbered land and became a well-respected farmer and citizen of Preble County. His son Silas Dooley Jr. inherited the land and became a prominent and prosperous farmer. The Silas Dooley Sr. homestead has been in continuous operation by his descendents for over 200 years.
Five generations of Silas Dooley Sr. descendants have been born and raised in Preble County. William Morton Hildebolt – fifth generation (of Winston-Salem, North Carolina) has full residence of the homestead and spends a great deal of time on the farm and in Preble County. The fifth generation also includes siblings Richard (Dick) Hildebolt of Eaton (deceased), Jim Hildebolt (the family genealogist) of Boardman, and Mary Ann Hildebolt-Brackins of Pinnacle, North Carolina. The sixth generation includes William Hazen Hildebolt of Manhasset , New York and Joe Hildebolt of Winston Salem, North Carolina (sons of William Morton Hildebolt); Brian Hildebolt and Steve Hildebolt of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and John Hildebolt of Eaton (sons of Richard Hildebolt); and Christina Brackens and Hazen Brackins of Pinnacle, North Carolina (children of Mary Ann Hildebolt-Brackins). The seventh generation includes Hannah Hildebolt and Hazen Hildebolt (children of William Hazen Hildebolt) and Lux Hildebolt (daughter of John Hildebolt of Eaton).
1926 – 2005
Being one of 10 children and the eldest daughter of Harry and Dora Aukerman, Dorothy Kiracofe was expected to help around the house, assist with the younger children, and sacrifice her dream of attending college after high school graduation in 1944 when her brothers went to World War II and more responsibility was left for her at home.
Dorothy went to work at Mrs. Wagner’s Kitchen and her culinary skills began to develop. She worked alongside Mrs. Wagner and watched for the “secrets” that made the food from her restaurant a “stopping point” in Eaton. Dorothy’s pie baking skills were fine-tuned. She began experimenting with recipes and made them her own “secrets.” She would not share the recipes; instead she would make the dish upon request!
She and her husband Roy were asked to be Pork Festival Board members at the beginning of that now famous event. She served on the board for over 25 years and cherished her job as cook. Pork chops, sausage, baked beans, potato salad, celery seed dressing, and cole slaw were family recipes that were stretched to serve thousands. Cooking, peeling potatoes, and getting ready for the Festival was her family’s “summer” vacation every September.
Also on tap for the month of September was weather-monitoring. Warmer temperatures meant more slaw and potato salad; cooler temperatures equaled more baked beans. The weather station phone numbers always were posted and local media favorites checked regularly for reports of the year. Even Don Wayne from Dayton’s Channel 7 recognized Dorothy as “Caterer of the Year,” and she gave credit for her success to cooking for her large family.
With all the flurry and preparation for the festival food, Dorothy always found time to bake a pie and a cake for the Festival Bake-off. She won grand champion many times and hung the ribbons in her ribbon corner.
Dorothy catered more affairs than most cooks. Factories and businesses appreciated her food and the style with which she presented it – tablecloths, candles, centerpieces – all designed to set off the food she presented.
Kitchen Cookers was organized as a 4-H club when Dorothy’s daughters were of the age to become involved. Club members showed pigs, chickens, rabbits and the clothes they sewed and the vegetables they grew. Dorothy shared some of her “secrets” with this young group of experts. When she died, many young people came to her funeral and shared that they were cooking some of those recipes for their own families. As a 4-H leader of over 25 years, she definitely left a legacy.
Dorothy and her husband represented the Eaton Grange and the Preble County Grange as deputies. They traveled to Columbus to help state legislators understand the needs of the farm community. She served in this manner for over 50 years. She also volunteered with the Preble County Library’s Literacy Program, borrowing her daughter’s teaching materials to assist her along the way. As Eaton High School Band President, she helped the Band raise money for new uniforms and supported the band on field trips, game night, and parades.
As grandmother to a special needs child, Dorothy made extra effort to take her granddaughter to therapy at Twin Creek School in Gratis and became a volunteer helping students with similar needs. When her granddaughter moved to the Richmond Community Schools, Dorothy became the homeroom mother who decorated birthday cakes for students who had no one to celebrate with them. Centerpieces, candles, tablecloths, and all the bells and whistles were not too much for any child. This was Dorothy’s style and commitment to serve.
Local relatives include Janet Sayne-Philpot (daughter) and Michelle Sayne (granddaughter), Lewisburg; Rita Allen (daughter), Middletown; Michael Allen (grandson), Somerville; Rose Gunsalus (sister), West Alexandria; and the Aukerman brothers: Malcolm (New Port, Indiana), Donald (Brookville), Gerald (Cincinnati), Marvin (Englewood), Norman (Xenia), and Glen (Jackson Center).
Alfred Horatio Upham, Ph. D.
1877 – 1945
Alfred H. Upham, the son of John and Laura (Gardner) Upham, was born in Eaton, in 1877. He spent his childhood in Preble County. After completing his grade school and high school work in Eaton he enrolled in Miami University in 1893. He was an outstanding student who was awarded the Bishop Latin Prize in 1895, Senior honors in Latin, a Phi Beta Kappa Key, and first in his graduating class in 1897. He also was the editor in chief of the Miami Student Newspaper and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. He had a well-rounded experience as a Miami student.
During his youth, according to the Miami Student, he was also the protégé of Andrew L. Harris, future Governor of Ohio, and Judge Elam Fisher, both of Eaton and Miami graduates. His college record would indicate great things to come in his future.
Dr. Upham received both his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Art degrees from Miami University. Upham did post graduate work at Harvard, where he received a second Master’s degree, and at Columbia University where he received his doctorate in 1908.
In 1905, Dr. Upham married Mary Collins McClintock of Collinsville. Her family was said to be one of the oldest and most respected families in Butler County. They had one child, a daughter named Margaret Louise.
Dr. Upham had a distinguished career as a college professor and university administrator. He began his career in education as an instructor in Latin and Greek and as the Principal of the Preparatory Program at Miami University. After receiving his Master’s degree he served as the Chair of English at the Agricultural College of Utah. He returned to Miami in 1907 as an Assistant Professor of English and handpicked successor to the retiring head of the English Department. He would serve from 1908, with the exception of two years at Bryn Mawr College, as head of Miami’s English department until he left the university in 1920.
In 1920 he was selected as the President of the University of Idaho. During his seven years as Idaho’s president, he was recognized by the National Association of State Universities as one of America’s leading university presidents. Dr. Upham was offered a number of University Presidencies while at Idaho. At the urging of the University Of Idaho Board Of Trustees he turned all the offers down. But, when the call came from Miami University, to serve as their fourteenth President, he could not refuse them.
Alfred H. Upham served as Miami’s President from 1928 to 1945. He held this position longer than any other person in the history of the school. He served during the difficult years of the Great Depression and World War Two. He spent countless hours doing his best to make sure that Miami survived this dark period of time. He died in office in 1945; some say that the stress of these years shortened his life. He was 58 years old.
Dr. Upham brought much credit to Eaton and Preble County as an outstanding leader on the national level of post-secondary public education. He was highly regarded as a scholar, leader, and a man of tireless energy and enthusiasm for the students, alumni, and faculty of Miami University. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from his alma mater. This is a perfect example of the esteem in which he was held by those who knew him. His accomplishments are in turn a reflection of the values he learned growing up in Preble County.
Alfred H. Upham was the author of a number of books, including, The French Influence in English Literature from the Accession of Elizabeth to the Reformation, 1908; Old Miami, The Yale of the Early West, 1909 (The Centennial History of Miami University); The Typical Forms of English Literature, 1927; and Rhyming Round the World, 1939. His name also appeared in the various editions of Who Was Who in America from 1943 to 1950.
Upham Hall on the central campus was dedicated to Dr. Upham’s memory in 1946. It is the site of the famous “Miami Merger” legend. Most famously, he wrote Miami University’s Alma Mater, “Old Miami.” This composition, while modified, is still the official song of Miami.
Martha A. Rizert Dye
1930 – 1999
Martha Dye was sdedicated to Preble County, and she exhibited model behavior for the betterment of the community. She worked tirelessly and unselfishly to enrich the lives of citizens through countless volunteer hours and events.
Born Martha A. Ritzert in Columbus, the youngest of five children of Oliver (a noted architect in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Dayton) and Mary Ritzert, Martha was orphaned upon the death of both of her parents in 1938. Martha was part of a large and loving family, but the tragedy of becoming an orphan at the age of 8 and the poverty experienced by her family had a deep effect on her. She was cared for by relatives, attended Catholic Schools and was recognized as a bright and musically talented student. She loved the piano, and the nuns always made sure that she got lessons, had a place to practice, practice books and sheet music. She graduated from Julienne High School in Dayton in 1948 and from Miami University in Oxford with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1972. She studied ceramics at Ohio State University while her husband John was in law school. She had a kick wheel and a kiln in the family’s basement, and loved and collected early American folk pottery.
Martha became an accomplished classical pianist, but reluctant to perform in public, few people even knew that she played — which she continued to do her entire life. Her children were the ones who enjoyed practice sessions of Debussy, Beethoven, Tchiakovsky and Rachmaninoff. Music was a great joy and solace, and she realized how important it was that all children be exposed to and have a chance to participate in musical endeavors. The Eaton Area Arts Council was born from this conviction, and countless children and residents have benefited from its activities. Also, her own experience of losing both her parents at a young age made her particularly aware of the needs of at-risk, troubled and orphaned children. Besides her work with the Children’s Home, she worked as a juvenile counselor and probation officer for adolescent girls in the Preble County Court system.
Martha’s connection to Eaton began when her older sister Mary Hope Ritzert married Joe Miller of Eaton. Martha spent her high school summers in Eaton with the Millers, helping to care for Mary and Joe’s growing family and working behind the soda counter at Campbell’s Drug Store. It was there that she met her future husband, John V. Dye Jr. Martha put down firm roots in Preble County and was always fascinated by the history, the land and the people in this little corner of Ohio. She also knew the wildlife, the birds, the wildflowers, trees, edible and medicinal plants and much of the geology. She assembled the Dye family genealogy in great detail, and knew all the family homes, farms and gravesites — covering five generations. Her own Ritzert family genealogy was that of working class German immigrants, and harder to trace, but she nonetheless did a remarkable job of that also. A favorite activity, enjoyed with family and many friends, was attending farm auctions, garage sales and antique shops — enjoying the many beautiful handmade domestic items, tools, and furnishings of ordinary life in earlier times.
Thanks to Martha, public tours of many interesting properties in and around Eaton took place, raising awareness of the diversified richness of the area and its population. These tours were attended and enjoyed by hundreds of residents as well as by visitors to Eaton. The original tour was conducted for the sole purpose of raising the necessary funds to bring the Cincinnati Symphony to Eaton for an unforgettable evening performance at the local high school. She worked on detail after detail to make certain that such tours and events would be successful, and they were.
Martha had an ongoing and unequaled concern for the Children’s Home. Through her hard work, she coordinated (with Dick and Mary VanTyne) the renovation of a home to fill the housing gap for some less fortunate children who were experiencing difficulties. She always was willing to lend a hand in a quiet way whenever needed, thus making life better for others.
The list of Martha’s humanitarian accomplishments goes on and on as does the example she set. Whether it be orchestrating a top notch quilt exhibit or just helping someone having a challenging time, Martha’s efforts reflected an honest enthusiastic approach for bringing opportunities for the pleasure of others to our community. Others learned valuable lessons in community service by observing her generously sharing gifts of time and talents.
Martha was a member of the Visitation Catholic Church of Eaton, a founding member of the Eaton Area Arts Council, a member of the Richmond Heritage Club, and a longtime member of the Eaton Current Events Club. In addition, she was a principal founder of the Preble County Historical Society; shortly after the PCHS took possession of the Sara Swartsel Family Farm in 1974, Martha walked the grounds of the property. She noticed the natural landscape of the hillside located directly north of the Sayler-Swartsel House and informed the PCHS Board at the time that the hillside landscape was a natural site for a future outdoor amphitheater. Forty years later, the vision became a reality when The Amphitheater at the Preble County Historical Center was opened.
Although the youngest of her siblings, she preceded all of them in death, passing away from pancreatic cancer in August of 1999 at the age of 68. She is survived by her husband John, daughter Mary Dye (daughter-in-law Deb Jensen), daughter Susanne Dye Rose, son John Dye (daughter-in-law Marietta Gilman), and three grandchildren, Sydney Gilman-Dye, Nathaniel Rose and Katharine Rose.
Jo Ann Lange
1927 – 2010 &
William E. Lange
1925 – 2012
Throughout her 82 years, service to others, to her church, and to her community was a central part of Jo Ann Lange’s life. Born to Ben and Esther Richards, she grew up on a farm with her brother Bob near New Paris. After graduating from Jefferson High School, she worked at the International Harvester Company in Richmond. She joined the New Paris chapter of Delta Theta Tau Sorority, a philanthropic sorority, and remained an active member until her death in 2010. She married William E. Lange and moved to West Alexandria in 1956.
Jo Ann didn’t just join things and remain on the sidelines. She dug right in, holding offices and chairing committees. When the Preble County Pork Festival was established, Jo Ann and Bill were there at the beginning. They started the Pork Haus Short Order from its beginning in 1970 and ran it for 35 years. She spent thousands of hours ordering food from vendors, recruiting and scheduling hundreds of volunteers, and organizing the annual massive effort to set up, order and serve food, make sandwiches, run the sandwich and Pepsi trailers all over the fairgrounds, and tear down at the end of the festival. It was just not a weekend adventure for her—it was a year-round commitment. She was constantly looking for ways to improve their operation, seeking out ideas about how to run the serving lines more efficiently, or trying to find a pie that tasted better than the ones served the previous year. Every time she met someone new, she would ask if they might want to work at the Pork Festival, giving them no opportunity to refuse. She would immediately jot down their name and number in the notepad she always kept with her for just that purpose, and she had another recruit. She put in all of this effort because she believed that the Pork Festival and the contributions it made to improving the fairgrounds was very important to the community.
She also gave thousands of community service hours through her sorority. In her 65 years as a member, she held numerous offices, ran and volunteered on numerous committees such as the bake sales and garage sale days in New Paris, packing hundreds of Thanksgiving baskets to give to shut-ins, working in the Preble County Fair booth under the grandstand selling candy bars and cigarettes (back in the day), and, more recently, working several shifts in the sorority’s Pepsi trailers. She also worked for more than 20 years as an usher in the grandstand for the Preble County Democratic Party, to which she belonged her entire life.
Her church was a central part of her life. While growing up in New Paris, she was an active member of the Presbyterian Church there. After her marriage, she joined her husband’s Salem Lutheran Church in West Alexandria and quickly became even more involved in that congregation. She was active in the Church’s SL Evening Circle and the Women of the Church Board for her entire life. In 1962, she became the church secretary, a position she held for 30 years. She quietly helped many people behind the scenes. Strangers would come to the church for gas money, food, clothing, or shelter for themselves and their families, and she would help them in any way she could. Through the Women of the Church and her circle, she would work tirelessly to help those in need. She was always quick to volunteer for special projects such as helping families during the holidays and supporting homeless and battered women locally. Jo Ann was also a founding member of the Salem Bell Choir and enjoyed ringing her bells for over 25 years. They gave numerous community performances which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Jo Ann was also active in the Preble County Historical Society. She was a trustee and a member of the acquisition committee for many years. She also loved to work at the lunch stand with Bill at the Society’s open houses. She loved history and wanted to see Preble County’s history preserved for years to come.
Jo Ann worked for the Preble County Board of Elections as a Presiding Judge and poll worker for more than 40 years. She was very active in Preble County 4-H. She was an advisor to the Flying Needles 4-H Club for more than a decade and served on the 4-H Advisory Committee with Bill for more than 25 years. She was a band parent and FHA Mother at Twin Valley South, and was honored with a FHA Lifetime Membership award in appreciation for her work for that organization. Jo Ann was also a Preble County Farm Bureau member and was a discussion group member and office holder for over 30 years.
In 1999, Jo Ann and Bill were honored by being named as Grand Marshals of the Pork Festival Parade in recognition of their decades of work for the festival.
Throughout his 87 years, all in Preble County, William E. Lange, Jr., enjoyed farming and helping others. Born to William E. and Lizzie Peterman Lange, he and his sister Carolyn Lange Smith enjoyed country life and walking to their one room school house just at the end of their road. He graduated from West Alexandria High School in 1943, a proud West Alex Bulldog.
Bill and his father then operated a seed cleaning business under the name William E. Lange and Son Certified Seed and Sales. They started in their barn with a built-in unit on Engle Road, but soon bought a portable seed cleaner and traveled to farms throughout Preble, Butler, Darke, and Montgomery counties. He loved nothing more than driving from farm to farm, visiting with customers who became life-long friends, a practice he continued until he retired in 2010 at age 85.
Bill’s farm was only one of a handful in Preble County to be recognized by the Ohio Department of Agriculture as a “Century Farm,” operated by the same family for more than 100 years. When he married Jo Ann Richards in 1956, Bill only moved “around the corner” from his parents’ farm, living his entire life within a few hundred yards of his birthplace.
He was a life-long member of Salem Lutheran Church in West Alexandria where he was treasurer and council member for many years. He gave freely of his time to the church, which was a central part of his life. He did absolutely everything he could do for the church, from moving furniture, dipping ice cream, building, storing and moving the large cross used for the Easter season to the barn, to singing in the choir and a barber shop quartet.
Bill was an active member of all of the organizations to which he belonged. Bill and his wife, Jo Ann, were present at the founding of the Preble County Pork Festival. The ran the Pork Haus Short Order Restaurant from its beginning in 1970 until their retirement in 2005 and were chosen as Grand Marshals of the 1999 Pork Festival Parade in recognition of their years of service. Bill was involved in all aspects of running the Short Order, including planning, set-up, operations during the festival, tear-down, and storage of all of the restaurant equipment. For many years, Bill was the last person to leave the fairground on the last day of the Pork Festival. Bill was very proud of Preble County and was glad to have the opportunity to contribute to it through his work for the Pork Festival.
Bill was Twin Township clerk for more than 30 years, being elected to eight consecutive terms. He kept meticulous books for the Township and for the other organizations he served as treasurer, including his church and the Twin Valley South alumni association.
Bill was a dedicated farmer and had an abiding love of the land and the lifestyle. He was a member and served on the board of directors of the Preble County Soil and Water Conservation board and was named its Outstanding Conservator in 1976. Bill was also an advisory council member and a county board trustee for the Preble County Farm Bureau and served as chairman and co-chairman of its membership campaign.
Bill was an avid supporter of all of Jo Ann’s activities. He took great enjoyment from helping with the sorority’s work and always looked forward to working in the group’s Pepsi trailers at the County Fair. Bill also enjoyed working at the Preble County Historical Society where he usually was in the food area, helping to serve people bean soup and visiting.
He was absolutely dedicated to the West Alexandria/Twin Valley South alumni association. He attended 68 of the 69 alumni dinners after his graduation, missing only when he was hospitalized for heart surgery. He served several terms as an officer of the association. Even in the years when he was not an officer he happily set up chairs and tables, sold tickets for the dinner, and promoted the association at every opportunity.
Bill was a member of the Preble County Democratic Party central committee for more than 20 years and was a poll worker for more than 40 years. Many years he was helping to seat people and staff the gates at the county fair.
Bill and Jo Ann were survived by their daughter Lisa Bruns and her husband Stephen Bruns of Eaton, and two grandchildren: Andrew Bruns of Chicago and Molly Bruns of Washington, D.C. Bill also is survived by his brother-in-law Joe Smith of Lakengren, and Jo Ann is survived by her niece Karen Goerky and Karen’s husband Nick Goerky of West Alexandria.
Past Hall of Honor inductees include:
Helen & M. Heber Felton, Seth S. Schlotterbeck, Andrew L. Harris, Sarah Swartsel
Nathaniel Benjamin, Harvey Hiestand, Thomas McQuiston, Clarence Oldfather, Harold Sell, Richard Tuggle
Cyrena Van Gordon, Ione Sell Hiestand, Lucile Petry Leone, Marian M. Mitchell & James W. Mitchell
Nominations for the inductees for the 2015 Hall of Honor are due on April 1, 2015. Visit the PCHS web site at www.preblecountyhistoricalsociety.com for the application form.