How many of us enjoy a little peace and quiet from time-to-time? Perhaps even a walk beside a quiet creek, taking in the beauty of wildflowers and a variety of trees throughout creation? The late John W. Aull did as well.
Mr. Aull, a former Dayton businessman who was born in 1866, began to work as a teenager to help his family’s financial standing and later founded a company with two of his brothers. The Aull Brothers Paper & Box Company of Dayton became quite successful and greatly benefited the young men and their families.
John Aull was a man who enjoyed many outdoor activities and also found pleasure in getting out into the countryside around Dayton in order to escape the stress and rush of the city. North of Dayton, and near the community of Englewood, John discovered a 150 acres farm and one-room house for sale in 1907 and decided to purchase it as a weekend retreat from the city. Later, he would remodel and expand the size of the house, which sat on a hill above much of the surrounding land.
Following the 1913 Flood in the Miami Valley, John was part of the finance committee which promised they would take action to ensure nothing like the “Great Flood of 1913” would ever take place in Dayton again. Within several months, the committee was able to raise the needed funds to finance the flood control project (later known as the Miami Conservancy District project). They were able to accomplish this without any state or federal funds. John, as part of the project, later sold 50 acres of his land to the Conservancy so the Englewood Dam could be constructed near the farm site.
In 1922, Marie Sturwold, a 25-year-old lady from Cincinnati, was supposed to meet a friend at a train depot in order to travel to Alaska together on a trip. She almost missed the train and had to run in order to catch it as it began to pull out of the station. The extended hand of John Aull enabled her to jump on the moving rail car. On the train ride, the two became friends and later began to court, then one year later were married.
Marie, who grew up around a family of gardeners, enjoyed spending the weekends at the farm retreat north of Dayton, and soon the couple decided they wanted to make the house and property their full-time residence. There was a tenant farmer who cared for the livestock and fields and lived in a stone house down from the main house, so everyday life for John and Marie continued much the same as the weekends had been.
The Aulls, like most married couples, had individual interests, but found they had to discover and create some activities that they enjoyed doing together. Thus, they began planting wildflowers and other types of flowers in their gardens, and over several decades and much work developed many wild and cultivated flower gardens around their home.
As John entered into his seventh decade, he began to experience health issues, and following a heart attack in 1945, and upon his doctor’s advice, he sold the company and retired to the farm, where he and Marie continued to care for their gardens. John Aull died on Jan. 1, 1955 at the age of 89 years.
John and Marie never had any children, and because the property was such a secluded and peaceful area, Marie wanted to ensure its preservation for future generations to enjoy. Therefore, in 1956 she contacted the National Audubon Society to offer the property to them at her death. Through discussions, it was decided that she would donate all but 30 acres and the house immediately to the society. In this way she could continue to live peacefully in her home, but also find joy in seeing others adoring the property. Marie did continue to live on her beloved property until she was 105. She died Aug. 30, 2002.
Over the years, the hard work of John and Marie Aull and, in the succeeding years, the Aullwood Audubon Society, the land has become a true garden of retreat for the public to enjoy. Woodland, prairie, wildflowers and other attractions, such as maple sugaring, livestock, etc. make the Aullwood property a wonderful destination during any time of year.
If you are interested in finding out more about the Aullwood Audubon, the beautiful book “A Place Called Aullwood,” and the website http://aullwood.audubon.org/ were the main resources for this article.
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