Do you like old things? My wife must, because I am getting older. In fact, she calls me her favorite antique. I would like to think of myself as more of a collectable.
Sometimes in this modern culture, old things, and sadly sometimes people, are devalued, or thought of as having no worth. They are not appreciated for what information they contain, which can be “imparted” to us, or, in the case of a person, the experiences and wisdom they could share from which we could gain insight.
Books, manuscripts, letters, maps and photo images of the past can shed light on what our ancestors went through, experienced and strove for in their lifetime. One could pick up David McCullough’s latest book, “The Pioneers,” and can learn from his overview of the settlement of Marietta and some of early Ohio. But, if someone reads manuscripts or diaries left by some of those who went through that time, then that individual can gain at least one contemporary view of the experience, trials and joys of that time.
Imagine, knowing that your ancestor fought in the Civil War in a particular regiment, then you discover a library or archives that has a copy of a diary from that same unit. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to read the daily account of an individual who may have marched and fought next to your ancestor? It is so important to remember our history, and even seemingly innocuous items can shed light on times gone by. Take for example the 1875 Miami County Atlas.
This week, I was reading in an 1875 Miami County newspaper about the publication and availability of the new 1875 Atlas of the county. Now, this may seem boring to some, but when you stop to think about, it was an important event.
In 1875, they did not have computers, smart phones, tablets, television or radio. OK, most of you knew that. But, how did our ancestors know who owned what land, where other cities or counties in Ohio were located or where Moldavia was situated around the world? Or, how did they know where the Little Big Horn was in 1876 when General Custer and the 7th Calvary made their grave mistake? This atlas was different than the previous two (1857 and 1871) published for this area. It was full of biographies of pioneers, history, maps of Miami County, the state of Ohio and the United States, as well as the world.
In a day when people did not have ready maps, public libraries, or a large personal library, this 144-year-old atlas served an important purpose in that day.
Now, with all our modern conveniences, surely the atlas must be obsolete? Not so! Now the atlas is utilized by genealogists and historians to locate property and discover historical facts and information when used in conjunction with early accounts of the area. They have even been helpful to the city, county and police at various times.
These maps give us a “snapshot” of how Troy, Piqua and other communities in Miami County were laid out; where the canal came through the area; where islands in the rivers were located, or where former schools, churches and even brick kilns located on farms were to be found. It is like stepping back in time when one pours over and analyzes one of these maps, or atlases.
In addition to this, the Local History Library has histories from around the state and other U.S. states, genealogies, photo images, some diaries or memoirs and old newspapers. What was the newspaper headline on the day you were born?
Consider what you may learn at the Local History Library, or what you might donate to the collection.
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