A more than century-old scrapbook found at a rummage sale nearly 30 years ago is filled with contemporary local newspaper accounts, programs and postcard photographs of Hillsboro’s 1907 centennial celebration that drew thousands of visitors to the town.
Hillsboro area resident Jeannette Fenner Knauff said she found the scrapbook at a Methodist church rummage sale almost three decades ago.
The scrapbook offers no clues about who compiled it, although the meticulous way in which it was kept and the inclusion of rare programs and photos indicate it might have been part of the official record-keeping for the celebration.
Pasted on the front cover is a cutout from a program that reads, “1807-1907 Hillsboro Centennial Celebration and Highland County Home Coming, September 15 to 21, Inclusive.”
Included among nearly 50 pages are old clippings from different local newspapers of the day, along with various programs and letters, and 10 postcard photographs.
Local historian Jean Wallis stopped by the offices of The Times-Gazette on Wednesday to examine the scrapbook.
“This is wonderful,” she said, as she offered some additional information about the event and shared some photos from her own collection of the centennial celebration, none of which seemed to duplicate the postcard photos in the scrapbook. Wallis said she had never seen the materials contained in the scrapbook.
The scrapbook photos show the huge crowds on hand, along with the juxtaposition of horse-drawn carriages, trollies and vintage automobiles traversing the streets, with the celebratory events all playing out against the backdrop of a downtown decked out with elaborate bunting on every building. Some of the photos are more faded than others.
The newspaper articles and other scrapbooked memorabilia describe the excitement leading up the event and the ultimate success of the celebration.
A preview story in an unidentified local newspaper – undated on the story but dated May 23, 1907 in pencil across the headline – touts the final decision to hold the event.
“That the centennial of Hillsboro and a Highland county home coming will be held in this city the second week in September was decided unanimously at a large and enthusiastic meeting of our citizens at the court house Tuesday evening,” the story states.
“The report was unanimously adopted after a general discussion in which short talks in favor of the project were made by Geo. B. Gardner, Judge Newby, J.B. Worley, O.N. Sams, Geo. L. Garrett, and several others,” the story noted, adding, “The reason for fixing the date for the second week in September was to secure the benefit of the low railroad rates that were sure to be given to the Ohio Home Coming to be held in Columbus the preceeding week. The large amount of work necessary to make the occasion a success is realized by our citizens but the general expressions of willingness on the part of every one to do their part makes that assured.”
Later, the success of the celebration is reflected in various newspaper stories, presented in the style of the day with multiple headlines and sub-headlines displaying unabashed pride and containing so much information that they made the need to read the actual stories almost unnecessary.
For example: “A GRAND AND GLORIOUS EVENT. The First Centennial Celebration A Magnificent Success In Every Respect. As Never Before, Hillsboro And Highland County Realize Their Glory And Greatness. Senator J.B. Foraker And Other Distinguished Guests Present. Col. D.Q. Morrow Presides.”
Another newspaper article dated Sept. 19, 1907 took the practice even further, proclaiming in headlines and sub-headlines leading to a story thousands of words in length, “CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION AND HOME-COMING A GLORIOUS SUCCESS. Twenty-five Thousand Visitors in the City Tuesday. Everyone Handsomely Entertained by Friends Lodges and Public Hostelries. Mammoth Civic, Military and Industrial Parade With Over 4,000 Persons in Line. Magnificent Address by Joseph B. Foraker Enthused Thousands of Old Friends. Not a Hitch in the Proceedings That Will Mark An Epoch in the History of Our County. Thousands of Former Highland County Citizens Spend an Enjoyable Week. Presbyterian Church Exercises Added Greatly to the Success of the Centennial. Magnificent Parade of Ex-Soldiers on Wednesday Afternoon with 1,000 Veterans in Line.”
Only two newspapers are identifiable in the scrapbook by the inclusion of their banners – the Hillsboro Gazette and the Hillsboro Dispatch.
Programs in the scrapbook describe an executive committee made up of D. Q. Morrow, chairman; S.R. Free, vice-chairman; Dr. W. Hoyt, treasurer; O.N. Sams, secretary; and, in all capital letters, Lyman Beecher, although no title is assigned to him.
Along with the executive committee for the event, there were various subcommittees named. One of them was the Reception Committee, chaired by J. Milton Boyd and Anne Kirby Smith, the oldest native-born man and woman living in Hillsboro at the time.
An article notes that Boyd’s family established Barrett’s Mills. Although age 90, the article states he “enjoys good health, and with his estimable wife is passing toward the shadows of the evening of life in peaceful contentment.”
About Smith, the story states that she was the daughter of a “pioneer physician” in the area, and adds that even though she is nearing age 82, she “is yet in possession of her natural teeth, never having had to resort to the artificial kind.”
The most anticipated returning visitor and speaker for the event was Highland County native Joseph B. Foraker, the former Ohio governor and at the time a United States senator. Included in the scrapbook is the original letter from Foraker on Senate stationary dated Aug. 15, 1907, accepting the invitation, and adding, “I shall certainly be there if alive and in good health on September 18th, and if I can I will be there also on September 17th.”
Page after page of newspaper articles contain the complete text of speeches made by the various dignitaries.
Concerts by various local bands at different points in town were scheduled throughout the celebration. A popular song listed in the program for a main event on Sept. 17 was “A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.”
Several articles list hundreds of names of people who traveled to Hillsboro from around the U.S. for the event.
Jeannette Knauff said she has held onto the scrapbook all these years since discovering it in the rummage sale, and decided recently that she wanted others to know about its existence.
“There are a lot of exciting things there,” she said.
Anyone wanting to view the scrapbook can do so over the next several days at the offices of The Times-Gazette.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.