Bill Berry and Bill McIntire are featured in our last installment of a series on local historians.
“That is a tough act to follow,”
Bill McIntire quipped of taking over as President of the New Carlisle Historical Society after longtime President Bill Berry stepped down.
Although the “two Bills” work quite comfortably together, McIntire admits that he has some rather large shoes to fill in following Berry’s presidency, as Berry has become somewhat of a legend around town for his historical prowess and ability to retain seemingly countless facts and figures about local occurrences that took place in the past.
Berry said that growing up just outside of Springfield, he was always fascinated as a child with the battle that occurred on the grounds of George Rogers Clark Park and the Native American community that was once located at the site of the Masonic Home. It wasn’t until he moved to New Carlisle after marrying his wife Dee in 1955 that he became intrigued by western Clark County history, and would soon begin recording his historical pursuits by publishing his research and findings.
He said that Dee’s parents told him the story of their family’s move to the New Carlisle area in the early 1900s, which piqued his interest in learning more about the city he would now be calling home.
Although he has allowed McIntire to take the reins of the New Carlisle Historical Society, Berry is far from retiring from the world of historical research. He remains active in researching many topics pertaining to New Carlisle and Bethel Township-past, stressing that historical research should never be considered complete under any circumstances, as new discoveries are always bound to come to the surface.
“History is an ever-evolving activity,” Berry said. “Some of the things, you’ll never be able to put a final tag on and say they’re complete.”
One such topic that Berry feels will never be fully-unearthed is the story of John Paul, who is rumored by many to be the first New Carlisle settler. Berry said he is one of the few who rejects this notion, saying he believes that Paul was “one of the earliest settlers,” but is not comfortable giving Paul the title of first settler.
In fact, Berry is out to prove that Paul actually was a member of the committee that vied for Ohio’s statehood in 1803, as he has not been able to confirm it yet. Berry’s suspicions on the matter arose when he discovered that a man named John Paul from Hamilton County sat on that committee, but Berry said it is important to remember that at the time, this area was a part of Hamilton County.
“I’ve always felt that he settled some place south of here, where it was more developed,” Berry said of Paul. “After the Treaty of 1790…at Fallen Timbers...that’s when all the settlers started flocking to this area.”
Berry said it is imperative while studying history to keep in mind that the research is always changing, especially in the case of John Paul, who lived more than 200 years ago. He said although we may never know the concrete facts of the events that happened before our times, he noted that these sort of legendary tales help to “whet” interest in history.
One such local legendary tale centers around the morning that John Dillinger robbed a New Carlisle bank. Berry said it has been easier to discern more accurate facts about the Dillinger robbery, as it occurred much more recently, and there are written reports to confirm or deny certain myths that may have swirled about in the years since the robbery that put the city on the map. Berry said that newspaper accounts from the time have helped him piece together more facts about the infamous robbery, and he also relies somewhat upon personal accounts of people who were alive during the event.
He noted that personal accounts can vary through the years as they purposely or accidentally become exaggerated over time, as it is just human nature to embellish a story that has been known for so long.
Berry said that the late New Carlisle historian Bud Clark was a major influence upon his interest in local history. He said that Clark’s stories became the foundation for his own historical endeavors, upon which he was able to build and add to through years and years of further research on certain subjects.
He credited a doctor named H.H. Young as being the city’s first recognized historian, as Young compiled a brief yet factual publication on the history of New Carlisle. Berry said that without this foundation created by Young, the city’s recorded history would likely be a little different, as other historians then continued to build upon Young’s work—including the Beer’s history series, which recorded information on every Ohio county in the late 1800s.
Jesse Barnhart was also one of New Carlisle’s notable historians, Berry said of the man who once lived right across the street from him. Berry said that Barnhart was instrumental in recording New Carlisle history, as he authored a book on the city’s past. Berry said that book was first sold at the city’s sesquicentennial (150th) celebration in 1960, and then again at the bicentennial celebration in 2010. He said they brought nearly 500 of Barnhart’s books out of storage for the 200th-year anniversary of the city’s establishment, and sold them all at that celebration.
Berry emphasized the importance of recording historical information by either publishing or at least writing down research findings. He said that many people have always been interested in the history of their hometown, but their failure to record accurate events, dates, or names can result in the loss of fact.
New Carlisle’s current Historical Society was founded by members dedicated to recording and preserving the past, and they continue to uphold those values during their monthly meetings. Bill McIntire said that non-members are always more than welcome to attend the society’s meetings held at the Lake Avenue Retirement Center, as they always welcome a guest speaker who provides valuable information about a local piece of history, or offers tips for preserving old records.
Berry said the current society was formed in the late 1990s—re-assembled to act as a financial manager for a group that wanted to preserve the old Advance Schoolhouse on New Carlisle Pike just east of Funderburg Road. He said the Clark County Teachers’ Association decided to renovate the old schoolhouse, but were told they could not get 501c3 status to financially manage the project, so they reached out to Berry and other former members of the then-defunct New Carlisle Historical Society. Berry said the former members reunited, reactivated their 501c3 status, and assisted the Teachers’ Association in completely revamping the early twentieth-century schoolhouse, which is now used to teach elementary-age students about what life in the classroom was like at the beginning of the 1900s.
The historical society had sat dormant for nearly 20 years before reorganizing in 1999, Berry said. The group originally formed in the early 1970s with the sole intention of restoring the John Paul house, which once stood on the far north end of the Twin Creeks subdivision. Berry’s work in the education field at that time prevented him from playing more than just a small part in the establishment of the original New Carlisle Historical Society, though his wife Dee had an active role in its creation.
The group was ultimately unable to renovate the John Paul house for several reasons, Berry said, and the original historical society disbanded just a few years after it began.
Berry noted the significance of local newspapers in recording the past, as they can offer more detailed accounts than other publications. He cited former New Carlisle Sun Editors Harry and Eula Mount as key figures in the city’s past, as they often published accounts of local history.
In order to preserve those accounts, Bill McIntire said the historical society will begin the process of putting these old newspapers on microfilm this year. He stressed the significance of putting the papers on microfilm, as it will allow historians ease of access while researching, as well as preserving the fragile pages from deterioration. McIntire said the society will also push for historical markers to be placed along the road at the northern and southern entrances to the city, as well as at notable sites such as the John Paul house and the location of the Dillinger bank robbery. The markers, designed in the shape of Ohio, will announce a brief history of the city’s establishment, and be similar to other markers found in Enon and Cedarville.
Berry said it is good to see the “new blood” interested in the preservation of local history, naming McIntire and Dave McWhorter as capable figures to carry the torch into the next generation. McIntire has only been a member of the society for two years, but was named President last year because of his commitment to the evolving trends of preservation and documentation of historical records.
McIntire said it took a little coaxing from Berry and McWhorter to examine the significance of what he could do with a more crucial role in the historical society, but has now embraced the opportunity.
McIntire has a Master’s Degree in History from Wright State University, and more importantly, he said, was the fact that he was fortunate enough to find a job working in his field. He has worked at the Dayton Metro Library since 2013 as a local history librarian, helping people do their own research about different topics.
McIntire said his own interest in history was likely sparked when he was just a kid, as he stumbled upon Native American stone artifacts in the field behind his house.
“Finding arrowheads in my yard growing up…that’s probably what did it,” McIntire said.
He said he was always intrigued by the National Road, saying that the nation’s once premier highway runs right through our backyards. Also interested in the Battle of Piqua that occurred on the grounds of George Rogers Clark Park, McIntire said it was important to note the key roles that local historical events played in grander national occurrences.
“We have a Revolutionary War battlefield just a few miles away from home,” McIntire said. “One of the biggest and most important battles of the Revolutionary War happened right here.”
“The history of this region—it links so much about what went on in colonial days.”
McIntire said while he dabbles in a little bit of everything pertaining to local history, he noted that he has recently been quite engaged in Civil War research, even dragging the family to historic sites in other states.
“Two years ago we went to Gettysburg and saw the battlefields…then we saw Lincoln’s grave in Springfield, Illinois,” said McIntire. “My wife is kind enough to put up with a lot—she goes along with it,” he said of his wife Erin.
The New Carlisle Historical Society will resume meetings in March, hosting them at the Lake Avenue Retirement Center on the third Wednesday of each month until November. The meetings begin at 7 p.m., and McIntire welcomed any non-members to attend. The society currently has about 40 members, and anyone interested in becoming a member should attend the March meeting and speak to McIntire or Dave McWhorter.
McIntire encouraged residents to keep an eye out for the society’s fundraising drive to collect money for the microfilm conversion. He said the fundraiser will be set up so that the buyer can “sponsor” the microfilm conversion of their birthday, so that if someone was born in June of 1964, they could fund that month of newspapers to be transferred to microfilm.
Local history buffs should also note that the Historical Show and Tell Series will resume at the New Carlisle Library tomorrow, January 14 at 6 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early for a good seat, as the event is one of library’s busiest. A presentation on local history will be delivered by a local historian, and visitors are encouraged to bring a local historical artifact to either share with others or ask the experts for their opinions.
The Show and Tell Series is a partnership of the New Carlisle and Medway Area Historical Societies, and the New Carlisle Public Library. The series will be held the second Thursday of each month until June.