Last week, we featured two local historians, Dave McWhorter and Dave Suther, noting their contributions to area history. This week, we spoke to Hugh Schiller and Scott Suther to learn about their areas of expertise and why they feel it is so important to maintain an accurate record of events that occurred here in the past.
Hugh Schiller is a lifelong resident of the area, growing up just outside of New Carlisle, and living within the city for the past 36 years. He dabbles in local history through the thrill of the hunt, actively searching for tangible remnants of the past in plowed fields and remote locations.
Schiller said his involvement in local history began many years ago when his grandmother left him a set of Indian artifacts when she passed away.
“I’m really into prehistoric artifacts,” said Schiller. “For the past 30 years, I’ve been hunting the fields looking for them.”
One of his most important finds is an 8,000 year-old paleo stone knife, which was found just outside of New Carlisle. In fact, Schiller said he does most of his arrowhead hunting in fields in Clark County, which is rich in Native American history.
Though he still is active in hunting early stone tools, Schiller said his new project has taken him on the hunt for the sites of historic log cabins in the Bethel Township area. Using a metal detector he said was given to him by his wife, Schiller now hunts for remnants of log cabins. He said he doesn’t just walk around aimlessly in search of these cabins, as he uses information found in old maps and books to determine a general location of where the now-demolished cabins might have stood.
So far, Schiller has found the remains of two log cabins in Bethel Township, saying that scattered artifacts and other remnants can be used to identify the site of a cabin. He said that artifacts found at one of the cabin sites dates it between 1790 and 1850, and the other one is estimated to have stood between 1820 and 1840.
Schiller is also part of a team of local historians working on publishing a book about New Carlisle’s first settler, John Paul, who is also rumored to be one of Clark County’s earliest pioneer. Schiller, along with Dave McWhorter, Tom Spittler, and Natalie Fritz of the Clark County Heritage Center’s archives, have spent nearly two years obtaining as much information about Paul as possible. Saying that a lot of “folklore” surrounds Paul’s life and accomplishments, Schiller said it has been difficult to confirm or deny the many myths about the man, but noted that pertinent documents do exist—they just have to be sought out. McWhorter said last week that they hope to finish the book this year or next year.
“Certainly, there are a lot of people here with an interest in our history,” said Schiller of New Carlisle’s dedicated historians.
When asked why he had continued to dabble in historical pursuits for the past three decades, Schiller replied: “I just think we all need to know what happened before us.”
A passion for history must run in the Suther veins, as Scott Suther, like his brother Dave, has been involved in historical pursuits for as long as he can remember.
Having been a member of the New Carlisle and Medway Area Historical Societies since their respective creations nearly 17 years ago, Suther specializes in the history of Bethel Township, namely Route 40 and all points south.
Suther said that the two biggest claims to fame in his target area include the Battle of Piqua and the history of the National Road. The Battle of Piqua, which began in August of 1780 on and surrounding the grounds of George Rogers Clark Park, was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War that occurred west of the Allegheny Mountains. During this battle, General George Rogers Clark (brother of William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark), led more than 1,000 soldiers north from the Ohio River in an attempt to quell numerous Shawnee raids against American forts and outposts in Kentucky, which were predicted to spread to Ohio. The Shawnee, fighting on the side of the British, received support from the British, who built a triangular stockade and reinforced other fortifications at the Shawnee village of Piqua, just north of the Mad River’s banks. Due to this support, the Shawnee were able to spend less of their time obtaining food and maintaining their shelters, instead conducting numerous raids on American settlements. Clark and his men burned nearly a half-dozen Shawnee villages on their trek from the Ohio River to present-day Springfield, where the Battle of Piqua caused significant losses to both Clark’s militia and the Shawnee warriors.
Suther also studies the local features along National Road/Route 40 in its prime, saying that he is especially interested in its local hotels and restaurants, which Suther said formerly inundated the road in Bethel Township.
Suther said that he had spent a lot of time studying up on Garfield Grove, which served as a “tourist camp” along Route 40 in the early to mid-1900s. He said that the National Road was paved in 1921, after which, scores of tourists descended upon the road to take in the sights.
Garfield Grove was located just a stone’s throw east of Lammes Lane along Route 40, and some of the rental cabins still stand to this day. Suther said that countless tourist camps sprung up along the National Road in the 1920s, and were rented out to tourists who sought an alternative to lodging in traditional hotels.
Suther, along with a handful of other local historians, will be featured as guest speakers at the upcoming Historical Show and Tell Series, which will begin later this month. The series is a collaboration of the New Carlisle and Medway Area Historical Societies in partnership with the New Carlisle Library. The free lectures will be held once each month at the library, offering visitors the chance to learn about local historical events in an informal, hands-on method.
The first event in the series will be held on January 14, and is tentatively set to continue the second Thursday of each month until June at 6 p.m. The first installment will feature Suther, who will speak about the history of Donnelsville. The Show and Tell Series is free to the public, and visitors are encouraged to arrive a bit early for optimal seating.