Bernard Meyers saw so much corn growing up that he knew he didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Marion T. Meyers, who was famous for his work with hybrid corn. But he knew his father’s work was important, so Wednesday afternoon found Bernard and his wife, Mary Ann, donating several of Marion’s keepsakes to the Highland County Historical Society (HCHS) in Hillsboro.
“With two kids, who’s going to get what staff, who knows?” Mary Ann asked. “So we said, ‘Let’s consider the (Highland House Museum) because it belongs in Hillsboro.’ It’s part of our country’s history.”
Among the items donated were a hand corn planter Marion developed in 1971, a bow and arrow from the collection of former Ohio governor and Hillsboro resident Allen Trimble that the Meyerses said came from an Indian chief, Marion’s World War I leather leggings, part of a World War I propeller, diplomas, old newspaper clippings, pictures, and many other mostly paper items including the original stocks for the Meyers Hybrid Seed Corn Company that operated out of Hillsboro.
Marion is a member of the HCHS Hall of Fame and his plaque at the museum reads: “Dr. Marion T. Meyers was the developer of hybrid corn in Ohio, and one of the original research scientists in developing hybrid corn in the United States. Dr. Meyers’ research at Ohio State began in the 1920s and in 1924 he produced the first lot of commercial double crossing corn west of the Allegheny Mountains. After working with the USDA in the Corn Belt states to finish the project, the started one of the largest commercial seed corn enterprises in the state from a headquarters in Hillsboro. For his work in hybrid corn, Meyers was presented the Medal of Honor in Agriculture by the faculty of The Ohio State University, where he obtained his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees…”
Born in Tacoma, Wash., Marion lived for a time in Southern California. But when he was in his mid 20s, and after he served in World War I, he came to help a maternal uncle, Tom Nelson, work on a farm on SR 138, northeast of Hillsboro, which Marion eventually inherited.
“It was just always with him,” Bernard said of his father’s love of plants and farming. “He worked in Southern California on irrigation systems and something clicked. He decided he wanted to be in the cross breeding of plants. He wanted to feed people in Africa and all over the world, so for a while some people thought he was a communist, but that passed.”
Bernard said his father worked with people all over country, had an associate in Italy, and sold his corn planter in Spain among other locations. He said his father had a nursery every year and in the 1950s he traveled to Florida every year to conduct research.
“He worked with a company in Iowa breeding specific hybrids for different parts of the Corn Belt, because there are different aspects of what corn needs,” Bernard said. “They tried to match it with which parts of the country it was going to be grown. Guys from Ohio State University would come down and mix different crosses to what might happen for better yields, disease resistance, and later on so it wouldn’t have to tassel, or whatever. They’d set around and talk corn forever.
“That’s one of the reasons I didn’t take it up. My whole summer long was spent in a cornfield.”
After graduating from Hillsboro High School in 1959, Bernard said he spent 5.5 years in the U.S. Air Force. He came back to Hillsboro for a time, then went to Ohio State and majored in animal science, although he said that was more to fulfill his father’s wishes. He worked in the cancer screening field and at a nuclear reactor before he settled on driving a truck, which he still does today, hauling gravel from quarries on the mainland to his home at Put-in-Bay.
Bernard, who worked at the Colony Theater for a time as a youngster, said his father had another farm on U.S. 50 east of Hillsboro near Clear Creek and that his mother was involved with the Beechwood Farm near Rocky Fork Lake. He said the Meyers Hybrid Seed Corn Company operated for about 50 years, until not too long before his father’s death in 1984.
“It’s nice to have these things so we can put them on display, and the military items we can put in the recently remodeled military room immediately,” said Vicki Knauff, the Highland House Museum director. “We like to keep rotating our displays, too, because that keeps people coming back.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.