EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part two of a series leading up to the Highland County Historical Society inducting five more into its Hall of Fame on May 27. This week, we profile the late Ed Ayres.
Ayres Drug Store was a mainstay and landmark on East Main Street in Hillsboro for a multitude of years. In fact, it was recognized as the oldest continuous drug store in the state of Ohio, and even the younger generation will recognize the venerable red mortar pestle that still stands in front of the bygone pharmaceutical store of yesteryear.
The drug store’s proprietor for decades, Edwin Billingham Ayres, was a nationally known pharmacist and was one of the leading citizens of Hillsboro.
Ayres was born Feb. 3, 1891, and was associated with the East Main drug store for 60 years. The business had its beginning within the year Hillsboro was chosen as the county seat of Highland County, and was started by Jasper Hand in 1808. It was known for many years as the W.R. Smith Drug Company, and Ayres was first employed in the store as a young boy in 1904.
Desiring to take the state pharmaceutical examination, Ayres applied for his papers in 1912, but because he was under 21 years of age he could not take the exam. Instead, he took the exam for qualified assistant. Later, when he did take the examination, he received the third highest grade in the class.
In 1925, Ayres purchased the remaining holdings in the drug store after acting as manager and half-owner for a number of years. The store for many years was recognized as an outstanding drug store. In 1964, the Ohio State Pharmaceutical Association awarded Ayres honorary life membership for his devotion to his profession. He continued to operate Ayres Drug Store until his death Aug. 16, 1964 at the age of 73.
All of his life, Ayres was active in civic and other affairs in the community. He was a graduate of Hillsboro High School and was considered the school’s “top track star of all time.” In 1909 at the Ohio High School State Track Meet, Ayres won gold medals in the high jump and pole vault and silver in the broad jump. In a stellar high school track career, he won numerous events at a myriad of meets. He was also an outstanding boxer. When a Hillsboro High Athletic Hall of Fame was established in the 1950s, his name was the first chosen to be enshrined, and Ayres retained his interest in the school as an active alumnus.
He was one of the original Boy Scout leaders in the community and took an active part in the Scouts for years. One of his troop members, Milton Caniff, was a famed cartoonist and is also a member of the Highland County Hall of Fame. The Boy Scouts of America bestowed upon Ayres its Silver Beaver Award – the highest award in Scouting – in recognition of his exceptional character and distinguished service.
Ayres was also a charter member of the Hillsboro Rotary Club when it organized and served as its president. He also developed a membership initiation program that merited special attention. In Hillsboro, he was often referred to as “Mr. Rotarian.”
Throughout his lifetime, Ayres was intimately involved with St. Mary’s Episcopal Church. He was church treasurer for 19 years, and was senior warden at the time of his death.
Considered a “man of vision,” he also served on the town’s board of public affairs for 16 years and was involved in the development of Hillsboro’s water and sewage upgrades, including the construction of a new reservoir in the late 1930s.
Perhaps, however, Ayres was best known for his love and knowledge of Hillsboro and Highland County history. At the time of his death in 1964, a local newspaper noted, “His status as an authority on local history was unquestioned. He not only took an active interest in compiling history, but had personally accumulated a vast store of historical items.”
In addition to Ayres, on May 27, the Highland County Historical Society will induct Judge Richard Davis, along with the late Moses Carothers (founder in 1818 of what is today known as The Times-Gazette), Helen B. Hoover and Wesley T. Roush into its hall of fame. In addition, the Lincoln Mothers will be recognized as a group during the ceremony, which will be held at the First Presbyterian Church on May 27 at 2 p.m., with a reception and social hour immediately following at the Highland House Museum. The Highland County Historical Society invites the public to attend and honor this outstanding group.
For more information on the Highland County Historical Society or the upcoming hall of fame ceremony, call 937-393-3392 or email the society at [email protected]
Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees.