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|03-14-03: Twins looking forward to 90th birthdays
|By JEAN ZEHRINGER GIESIGE
The great flood of 1913 was the worst natural disaster in the history
of the Miami Valley. Heavy spring rains began in April, coursing over the frozen ground.
When it was over, 361 people had drowned and thousands were left homeless.
Even as far north as Mercer County, the effects of the flood were felt.
One rainy day, in the countryside near Macedon, north of Fort Recovery, a doctor had to
swim his horse across a swollen stream to get to the farmhouse of Joe and Bertha Sweigart,
where Mrs. Sweigart was laboring. He helped her deliver twins, a boy and a girl.
That began the long, full lives of Martha Sweigart Enyart and her twin
brother, Bob Sweigart, who will celebrate their 90th birthday on April 5.
"Mom didn't know she was going to have twins, although she said
she was twice as big, twice as clumsy and twice as sick," Enyart said.
The twins' siblings, an older brother and an older sister, were delighted to
have a baby each to hold.
The twins grew up happy and healthy. "Martha was a live wire," said
Bob Sweigart, and he loved to hunt and fish. "I was like an Indian."
When she was a junior in high school, Martha met John Enyart at a
family party. "He took me home, and that was it," she said. They ran off and got
married in December, 1929, when Martha was just 16.
Those were hard years to start housekeeping. John Enyart worked for a
while at the New Idea manure spreader factory, still a new enterprise in Coldwater.
"He drove a gravel truck, he farmed a little - anything to make a living," she
By 1934, they had two little girls, Harriet, born in 1931, and Joyce,
in 1933. The family moved to the Dayton area so that John Enyart could go to work for
Frigidaire, a manufacturer of refrigerators and other appliances. They settled in the
suburb of Moraine, where their son Arthur was born in 1936.
Martha Enyart took her husband to work every day, and picked him up at
the factory gates at 3:30 sharp.
"The men in the factory teased him that he didn't know the way
home," she said. But the truth was, he wanted to be able to get away from the factory
as quickly as possible, and she wanted to help him.
Martha, in the meantime, had established a career of her own, as a
professional wallpaper hanger. She was trained on the job, as she tried to hang paper in
one of the first homes she and John had ever shared.
"A neighbor lady told me that if I got into trouble, I should ask
her for help. So a friend and I started in. And we got into trouble on the first strip. We
put our finger through the wet paper, we got it all dirty. The neighbor had to come help
Later, the neighbor laughed and said, "I didn't know I was setting
you up in business." Martha Enyart was a quick learner, and got better with every
room she did. She was soon papering for others in the neighborhood, for $2.50 per room.
"I charged cheap rates because I thought I couldn't do it
right," she said. "But I always loved to paper. It changes things so much, and
everybody was happy."
Her brother Bob was working hard too. He worked around home for farmers
at first, and then drove a huckster wagon out of Neptune. The wagon was filled with
trinkets and necessities, and he drove it from home to home. He served in army field
hospitals in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II, never hinting to his
family just how close he was to the fighting.
After the war, he married Vannie Jean Now, and they traveled around the
state as he worked first for the Farm Bureau, then for a funeral home in Wooster before
returning to Mercer County and settling in Rockford in the 1960s.
The Enyarts also returned to the area, in 1962. John had worked nearly
30 years in the factory, and he had had enough of city life.
"Our kids were married, and he wanted to come back to where he was
happiest," Martha Enyart said. "I told him I would come with him. It didn't
matter to me where we lived, as long as we were together."
They found a little farm on Pine Road, outside of Wabash, and began a
dairy herd. John died just six years later, in 1969.
"Everybody thought that I'd go back to Dayton, but I didn't want
to," she said. "Our children had all settled in Dayton, but they loved the farm.
It has 15 acres of woods and lots of room for everybody. The grandkids and everybody loves
Once back in the area, she continued to wallpaper - right up until
1990, when an accident sidelined her.
"I didn't fall off a ladder, the ladder fell away from me,"
as she was putting some Christmas decorations into the attic, she said. She was in a brace
for five months but had returned to papering when her Chevy station wagon collided with a
pickup truck. That led to a stay in the intensive care unit, and it ended her wallpapering
"My grandson would come see me, and he would sing, 'Grandma got
run over by a pickup,' and we would just laugh," she said. "But I didn't realize
at the time how bad it was."
She recovered enough to stay on her farm, where she still lives. She is
still active in her church, a little country church that she calls Happy Corner, west of
Celina on Ohio 29. She raises flowers; she sews baby quilts for her ever-expanding family
(10 grandchildren, 30 great-grandchildren, 16 great-great grandchildren, and two more on
Bob Sweigart has retired to Otterbein, where for years he kept busy
helping others, volunteering to carry trays in the lunchroom and helping with the yard
work. Together, the twins will celebrate their upcoming birthday with an open house
planned by their families on April 5, from 2-5 p.m. in Shane's Park in Rockford.
It is faith and hope that has kept them strong, Martha Enyart said -
things they first learned from their parents on the farm so many years ago.
"You've got to have hope, or you become desperate," she said.
"You've got to have faith in God. If there is no God, when you get to the end of
yourself, where do you go? I was 12 when I accepted the Lord, and I have kept true. That's
the main thing in my life - put your trust in the Lord, and follow as best you can."
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