When Lynchburg residents Dusty and Monica Curry purchased a building in the village, they weren’t prepared for the volume of antiques and historical documents they would discover.
The building, located at 104 Main St., has housed at least three banks, including Farmers Exchange Bank and, most recently, Fifth Third, which closed in 2015. In February, the day after it became available for sale, the Currys contacted the sellers.
“We knew we wanted to do something with it,” Dusty said.
Soon after the Currys began renovating the building, they discovered an antique tuba with an accompanying note that read “The Old Storm That Blowed In The First Lynchburg Band. Jan. 1868.”
“When we first purchased the place we went up to the attic, and it was sitting right there to the left of the stairs,” Dusty said. “It was just sitting there with several other things they had left over the years. The owner of Farmers Exchange Bank, Rosselott, he kept all his taxation files up there, and we’ve got all of those.”
The Currys contacted the Lynchburg Historical Society to share their finds.
“When they showed me it, I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps,” Lynchburg Historical Society member and Lynchburg Branch Library Manager Elaine Williams said.
Williams is using pictures of Lynchburg bands in an attempt to identify the instrument’s original owner.
“At first I had to find out exactly what it was because our tubas don’t look like this today,” Williams said. “I talked to Matt Williams, who’s a band director and did re-enacting in a Civil War band. I had him look at this and he said it is from that time period.”
Using photographs of Lynchburg’s early bands, which Lynchburg residents donated to the library and historical society throughout the years, Williams is attempting to identify the tuba’s original owner.
Between the library and the historical society, there are four photographs of Lynchburg’s bands in the late 1800s, including two photographs which she believes show brass bands that returned from the Civil War and one she believes shows a community or children’s band.
Though she was able to rule out the tubas in the Civil War brass bands due to differences in appearance, she has to do a little more research to determine whether or not the tuba the Currys found and the tuba in the photograph of the community band are the same instrument.
“I have the actual original, and on the back, it says, ‘Dear Hilda, Gus has a picture like this. He says it was taken in the woods northwest of town May 17, 1894,’ and that this was the first band in Lynchburg,” Williams said. “Obviously, it wasn’t, but then I thought, ‘Maybe these were the brass bands and this was the first community band,’ but it wasn’t the first band in Lynchburg. But I haven’t ruled that one out yet. This could maybe be passed down, and they may have used it in a band later too.”
As it sat on a table in the Lynchburg library in 2020, the tuba’s mouthpiece was missing; it looked as though it was once painted or very badly scratched; it was “crunched” in multiple places, whether while traveling with the band or while being moved after its retirement; all three of the valves, which allow a tuba player to play specific notes, were either stuck or broken off — but Williams said the historical society is looking into having the instrument repaired.
“I just got excited at the thought that a note could be played from this instrument that sat up in the attic for who knows how long,” Williams said.
According to Williams’ and the Currys’ research, a man named Herman Rosselott owned the building at 104 Main St. when it housed Farmers Exchange Bank. Rosselott also acted as the president of Farmers Exchange Bank.
An article in the June 18, 1954 edition of The Press-Gazette, a previous iteration of The Times-Gazette, stated Rosselott worked as a music teacher in Highland County public schools before opening Farmers Exchange Bank in 1937.
Among Rosselott’s documents, the Currys found paperwork and receipts that related to a Lynchburg feed store he co-owned, including a receipt from DeWine & Hamma Seeds, owned and operated by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s family in Yellow Springs. The receipt is dated March 1955, when the governor would have been working at his family’s store, Williams said.
According to accounts from one of Rosselott’s former employees, Rosselott was known to have a large and eclectic collection.
“Carol, who works here at the library, worked for them as a bank teller when she was young and out of high school said, basically, they were pack rats,” Williams said. “She said the Rosselotts would go all over of the countryside, attending sales. They would buy a bunch of stuff and put it upstairs, and then at Christmas, they would open up the upstairs to the entire town and say, ‘Come pick you something out for Christmas.’ They were very generous. Carol said he’d tell the tellers, ‘Go on upstairs, girls, and get you something you like,’ so it’s not a surprise [the Currys] are finding stuff.”
In addition to the tuba and Rosselott’s paperwork, Monica said she and Dusty have discovered old newspapers from the 1920s, including two editions of the Lynchburg Record from 1926 and 1929, stuffed into walls and pipes. They speculated that it had been used as a cheap method of insulating the building.
Williams added the Lynchburg Historical Society has very few editions of the Lynchburg Record from around that era.
“When they closed the Lynchburg newspaper, somebody threw everything out from before 1950-something,” Williams said. “The only newspapers we have from that time period are from when people are doing stuff and they pull them out of the walls.”
Dusty is a lifelong Lynchburg resident, and though Monica moved around a lot as a child, Lynchburg has been her hometown since she was 13; both of their children are currently enrolled in the Lynchburg-Clay School District. As they discovered the items, they felt it was important to donate them to the Lynchburg Historical Society.
“One of the biggest guys in this town who I admire is Terry from Terry’s Grocery. He does the same thing: give back what you can give back,” Dusty said. “I admire that about him, and I want to be the same way. If I can give it, I’m going to give it. We don’t want to sell this stuff — we want it to be a part of the town.”
“A lot of things have gone out of this town, especially in a short amount of time,” Monica said. “It’s like no one really wants to build anything up again, so you really want to preserve what you find.”
As of Monday, the Currys had donated 13 cardboard boxes filled with items like receipts, blank checks, check stubs, tax records, and payroll documents in addition to larger items like the tuba, a potential bank teller window, and a potential water fountain installation.
According to Williams, discoveries of this volume do not happen frequently in Lynchburg.
Even though Dusty doubts he and Monica will find additional historical items, the Currys’ work is not done. Dusty, a photographer who specializes in photographing industrial spaces, said they had hoped to open an art center and other businesses in the building by October, but after logistical complications that occurred as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Dusty said he’s unsure they will be able to make that deadline.
“We’re pushing it right now real hard. We’ve had pushback with windows because of corona and construction issues because of corona. I took two weeks of vacation, and I’ve just been working there,” Dusty said. “We have full intentions of hopefully having an art center up this year and getting some local artists involved.”
Once renovations are complete, the building will serve as an art center, Dusty’s studio, an event venue, and the Currys’ home.
“We want to do things with the kids — maybe collaborate with the library and get some art things going; we want to collaborate with the historical society,” Monica said. “Just local stuff. We need to bring more stuff back to Lynchburg.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.