(A good friend of mine recently reminded me of an event that took place over 40 years ago. As I pondered that memory, I recalled several related historical notes, so I decided to feature those stories in this week’s column.)
In a very simplistic way, the string theory of time travel suggests a person might be able to move back and forth along the “string of time” and, for all intents and purposes,” connects the different events and periods together. Although actual time travel is still predominantly in the realm of science fiction, we can enjoy the fascination of history when we see the connectedness of events with good research and by using a little imagination.
In September 1974, the fifth grade classes of Heywood Elementary School, through the leadership of their educators Mike Beamish and Bill Miller, recognized and honored the 200th anniversary of one John Chapman’s birth. If you forget your history, Chapman, more popularly known as Johnny Appleseed, travelled through parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and even Ontario planting apple seeds, hence his nickname. Actually, he planted nurseries and then had someone care for them. He was born in 1774 and died in 1845.
At Heywood, plans were made for several events and activities near the time of Chapman’s birthdate. Heywood Elementary School’s celebration took place during the last few days of September, 1974. The teachers led the classes in the preparation and production of a play about Johnny Appleseed and his mission of planting apple seeds throughout the region. One well-known educator even took on the persona of Johnny Appleseed himself, by donning a pot for a hat and buckskin for a coat. Among several projects accomplished by the students, one in particular stands out. The students and teachers, along with ‘Johnny Appleseed,’ went up to the Troy School Board property, near Ferguson Rd., and planted two young apple trees in commemoration of the day and in recognition of Johnny Appleseed. Let me take you back in time and share a few other notes concerning that particular piece of land.
Way back in the 1850’s, the Board of Education property was owned by a family by the name of Evans, Albert G. Evans, to be precise. Mr. Evans was born in 1811 near Hillsboro, Ohio, but had come to Troy in 1841 to begin a business. The next year he met, courted and married Nancy Orbison, a member of an early pioneer family in Miami County. Mr. Evans was a merchant in Troy but, like many people of those days, he also had gardens on his property, possibly including a few fruit trees.
As time passed, Nancy Evans willed to her son the tract of land which she and Albert, who died in 1889, had owned for so many years. The property was about 11 acres at that time.
Henry Orbison “H.O.” Evans was a civil engineer and travelled quite a bit, especially in connection with his work for the railroad. But, by 1908 Henry was ready to come home to “Evans Place” and settle into a nice retirement. Again, like his parents before him, some of his time was spent tending to the gardens and trees on the small Meredith Hill tract of land.
Henry passed away in 1931 and five years later his widow Ella arrived at a suitable deal for the property with Charles C. Hobart, Sr., who was looking for a larger home in which to raise his growing family. Charles purchased “Evans Place” and then continued to acquire some of the surrounding property until he had approximately 100 acres. He then proceeded to have several thousand fruit trees, including several varieties of apples, added to the newly purchased land.
Charles, like his father Clarence “C.C.” Hobart, was often looking for new avenues for business ventures and ultimately settled on fruit farming. Charles, who was president of the Hobart Cabinet Company on East Water Street, had found that the cabinet business slowed down during the summer months, so instead of laying off workers, he employed them in the orchards caring for the trees and harvesting the fruit for sale. This provided steady income and year-round work for the employees. The C.C. Hobart Fruit Farms quality of fruit became quite well-known in the region.
In addition to the fruit trees on the property, Charles also added tennis courts. Professional tennis had gained in popularity and Charles became quite an enthusiast in the sport. Many area professionals enjoyed these courts for a number of years. Troy High School tennis players would also make use of them from time-to-time.
In the early 1970’s, Charles Hobart’s family sold the old property on Staunton Rd. to the Troy School District. The house became the Troy School Board of Education office, which it continues to function as to this day.
Of course, by the mid-1970’s Troy High School (1958) and the Troy Junior High School (1973) had been constructed and much of the former land that belonged to Charles Hobart and his orchards were now school property. Most of the trees were gone, but some of them were still on the property. As a matter of fact, for a number of years the Troy High School Science Club would take care of the trees and harvest some of the fruit as a fund raiser for the club.
Unfortunately, in 1978, the march of progress caught up with the trees, including the two the Heywood students had planted. The trees were removed to make way for new tennis courts for Troy High School and Troy Junior High competition. Interestingly, those courts eventually became the victim of progress when the new addition to the high school and the expanded parking lot were constructed about nine years ago.
So, there is my version of the string theory … history is connected and we can ‘visit’ events in time. Next time you are in a parking lot, remember, it wasn’t always a parking lot.
Oh, by the way, my good friend was Mayor Mike Beamish, and I was one of his and Bill Miller’s 5th grade students that help to plant the two trees.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org