Historical Society publishes great book

By Mark Stober, Northwest Signal, September 15, 1976

The nation's big Fourth of July celebration is over, and the Bicentennial year is drawing to a close, but the Henry Conty Historical Society plans to continue revealing this area's rich heritage.

When the society first organized in February, 1970, its purpose was to "learn about and preserve the past of the county, and to generate interest in the past within the county."

The historians found more interest in the past than they expected. For the society's book, Henry County, Ohio, members began contacting all 8,500 county households in spring of 1975. They hoped to fill one 600 page book by convincing enough area people to write family histories.

Manuscripts trickled in at first, and then exploded into a flood of information by fall. Deadlines were pushed back again and again, because people kept asking for more time to submit more information.

By the final deadline in December, the book committee looked around and found they had twice as much material as they needed.

The massive amount of history rounded up shows in Dave Steingass' photo files. Steingass, a free lance photographer in Napoleon, volunteered to copy old photos for the book, expecting to make only a few hundred prints. When he finally counted his piles of film this spring, he had made over 8,000 photographs.

Steve White and Tom Keiss, representatives from the Taylor Publishing Company, met repeatedly with the book committee to try and fit everything in one volume. They reduced print size as much as possible. They jammed more and more information on each page.

But Book committee chairmen Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Eicher and Mr. and Mrs. Russ Patterson stood firm on one point: not one anecdote of the family histories must be left out.

The only way to preserve all the material written, including many records of churches and organizations, was to put the overflow into another complete volume. The society voted to go out on a financial limb and order the second volume, without having any guaranteed buyers.

Delay followed delay. Finally, to insure delivery by July 4, society member White jetted to his publisher in Dallas, Texas, and brought Volume One back in a rented truck. Over ten thousand pounds of Henry County memories were stored at the Automatic Feed Plant and Napoleon Pharmacy.

And the rest, as the saying goes, is history. The members distributed Volume One during the Bicentennial Celebration at the fairgrounds. Volume Two was delivered a few weeks later.

Both books can be purchased by mail from Box 1976, Napoleon; or in person at Napoleon Pharmacy and county banks.

Twelve hundred pages of Henry County history, most of it never published before, are now available to the public. And at their August meeting, the society was already considering Volume Three.

(Photo: Historical society secretary Fred Collier, left, and president Henry Eggers look over one book of the two volume set of Henry County, Ohio. The Society reported at their last meeting that copies of each volume were still available from outlets at the Napoleon Pharmacy and county banks and businesses. 1976)