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03-29-04 Collecting history for 40 years

By Janie Southard

ST. MARYS — The Auglaize County Historical Society celebrated its 40th anniversary Sunday afternoon at its three locations: Daniel Mooney Museum, St. Marys, Shinbone Church, New Knoxville, and Wapakoneta Local History Museum.
   The historical society was codetered in 1963 with an objective of discovery, preservation and dissemination of knowledge about the history of Auglaize County, according to society President Karen Dietz.
   Actually the society was born in 1962 in Verda Ramsey Campbell’s third-grade classroom at St. Marys’ West school when the students began searching for exhibits from the past for a social studies project.
   The class findings were displayed following a parent teacher meeting and those attending decided a permanent exhibit of the county’s history was needed.
   One year later, October 1963, the first officers were elected at the organizational meeting at McBroom school in St. Marys. Campbell was elected president, Ed Noble, vice president, Louis Comus, treasurer and K.C. Geiger, secretary.
   Society trustees were: Julia Tschantz, Edrie Bittigar, Mary McClintock, Katherine Conner and Mrs. Fred Grewe.
   By November of that year, the society boasted 150 members.
   Until 1978 board meetings were held in St. Marys and other county communities. All donations were stored in the basement of the St. Marys Chamber of Commerce offices and monthly meetings were held in a conference room at Midwest Electric.
   The first building the society acquired was the former home of Daniel Mooney, a former Ohio state senator and later ambassador to Paraguay for President Woodrow Wilson.
   Originally built in 1876 for Major Charles Hipp, Civil War officer and former St. Marys mayor and postmaster, the house was purchased by Daniel Mooney in 1922.
   Mooney’s widow, Carrie Mooney Bettelini, left instructions that the house and property on South Main Street would be donated to the historical society upon her death.
   In 1980, a year after Bettelini died, the society opened the house as a museum.
   Extensive remodeling took place at the museum in 1995-96. The museum now houses collections such as Fort St. Marys and Fort Amanda artifacts, a model oil derrick, county schools exhibits, photos of Gordon amusement Park, the Miami Erie Canal, memorabilia from Dr. Elizabeth Kuffner’s service in the U.S. military among other displays.


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