2015 Hall of Honor inductees announced




Van Ausdal


The Wagners

EATON — The Preble County Historical Society and The Register-Herald will honor the 2015 inductees into the Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor at 6 p.m. on Sunday July 5, at the Old-Fashioned Independence Day Celebration at the Amphitheater at the Preble County Historical Center.

Inductees and their families will be celebrated with recognition from the Amphitheater stage and the dedication of plaques in their honor in the Hall of Honor Garden at the center.

The center is located at 7693 Swartsel Road, six miles southeast of Eaton off Ohio 122.

In 2011, in celebration of its 40th anniversary, The Preble County Historical Society (PCHS) created a Hall of Honor. The PCHS Board of Trustees designated that the Hall of Honor be named the “Sara Swartsel Hall of Honor” in recognition of the heritage and philanthropy of Sara Swartsel in donating her family farm in southeast Preble County to the Historical Society and the Preble County community.

The Register-Herald joined the PCHS in recognition of the natural partnership of the two organizations in recording the history of Preble County every day.

In 2015 the Hall of Honor inducts its fifth membership class. Inductees must be deceased and have lived in Preble County at some point in their lives; further, they must meet one or more of the following criteria: have been outstanding in achievement in agriculture, arts, professions, politics, public service, education, or sports; or have a reputation that brings honor to the county, or personal commitment and service to the county; or had a lasting impact on the county.

2015 Hall of Honor inductees include William Bruce, Cornelius Van Ausdal, Sarah Elizabeth Daugherty Reynolds, Chet & Mary Wagner, Timothy H. Miller and Rosie McNees.

William Bruce

1762 -1830

William Bruce was born in Virginia, the first generation of his family to be born in North America. As a young man relocated with his parents to Restone, PA near the present site of Pittsburgh, and volunteered as a private in the Revolutionary War.

Bruce then migrated to Bourbon County, KY, where he married Frances Lewis on April 20, 1790. They moved to Warren County, Ohio then to Butler and later to Montgomery County (now Preble County) in 1805. During that time William investigated the land along Seven Mile Creek, and conceived the idea of founding a town, now Eaton. He purchased almost two thousand acres of land, laid out the town, and built a sawmill and gristmill. Bruce named his new town in honor of General William Eaton, the military leader and hero of the Tripoli War. He was the first treasurer of Preble County. He died on Feb. 25, 1832, and is buried in Mound Hill Union Cemetery, his monument formed in part of grinding stones from his mill.

Cornelius Van Ausdal


Cornelius Van Ausdal was the pioneer merchant of Eaton, his career as a businessman extended from 1806 until his death in 1870.

From the very beginning Van Ausdal prospered and for many years carried out a wholesale as well as retail trade. In 1816 he opened the first store in Lewisburg as a branch of his Eaton store. In 1849 he joined a group of businessmen in forming the Eaton and Hamilton Railroad Company under Ohio legislative charter for the purpose of building the most feasible rail route between Eaton and Hamilton. In addition, in 1810 Van Ausdal was appointed a Deputy U.S. marshal, and in that role took the first census of Preble County. In 1812 he was paymaster of the army. In 1819 he was elected to the state legislature. At about this same time he owned the Western Telegraph, a weekly paper published in Eaton.

Granddaughters Mary Gould Brooke and Edith Gould contributed to local affairs and established a trust upon their deaths that has contributed substantially to many Eaton-based projects. Today 22 descendants live in the Eaton area. Among these are five third great nephews (Stan Van Ausdal of Richmond, Indiana; Jerry Hoover of West Manchester; and Charles Hoover, Harold Geeting, and Robert Geeting of Eaton) and one third-great-niece (Jeannette Alexander of Richmond, Indiana.) Sixteen fourth, fifth, and sixth great-nephews and nieces live in West Manchester, Eaton, New Paris, and Richmond, Indiana.

Sarah Elizabeth Daugherty Reynolds

1845 – 1923

Reynolds spent almost her entire life in Eaton and was very prominent in public and patriotic affairs. She was educated in the district schools of Dixon Township and married Roddy Reynolds who was a gunboat captain in the navy during the Civil War and who served as secretary to the local congressman for many years in Washington DC. She was a charter member and president of the Women’s Relief Corps and a member of the Civic League, Current Events Club, and Worthy Matron of the Eastern Star. She was Past Captain Commander of the National Association of Naval Veterans of America, a member of the D. A. R. and the Order of Lafayette. At the time of her death she was a member of the Preble County Soldiers’ Relief Commission, having the honor of being the first and only woman to be named to this commission.

Reynolds was a life member of the Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society and Secretary of the Historical Society of Preble County. Her advocacy resulted in the purchase and designation by the State of Ohio of the Fort St. Clair Park in Eaton to preserve the sacred burial spot of the fallen heroes. Reynolds represented the women of Preble County at the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. Reynolds was one of the incorporators of the Eaton Public Library now located at North Barron and West Decatur Streets.

Chester (Chet) Wagner

1908 – 1970

Mary Wagner

1913 -1985

Chester Wagner was founder (in 1957) of the world-wide Henny Penny Corporation. A Preble County native, he attended Monroe, Jefferson, and Eaton schools and graduated from Eaton in 1927. He worked in a drug store and sold household appliances in his early career and later took a sales job with the Leader Specialty Company, a plumbing supply firm. After two terms at Ohio State University, he joined the J. E. Parker Poultry Company in Eaton and later moved to the Sherman White Poultry Company in Union City. In 1937 Wagner left the poultry business and worked at the Frigidaire plant in Dayton until 1945 when he returned to Eaton to work for his parents at the famed Mrs. Wagner’s Colonial Kitchen.

After perfecting his first deep fat pressure fryer unit in 1955, manufacturing began. In 1956 Wagner received the patent and demonstrated his product at the National restaurant Association Convention in Chicago. Since then, the Henny Penny Corporation has marketed the fryers, related items, and supplies worldwide.

Mary Wagner was Chester’s partner in the popular Eaton restaurants Mrs. Wagner’s Colonial Kitchen and the Whispering Oak Restaurant (1946 – 1961). She was a member of the Eaton United Methodist Church. She served as board chairman for the Henny Penny Corporation upon her husband’s death and guided the company to successful transition upon its sale to Jack Cobb and G. Cecil Pruett in 1976.

Timothy H. Miller


Timothy H. Miller was involved in everything from news reporting to politics to the Pork Festival to photography to the 9-1-1 system — and more.

After a journalism tour with the U. S. Navy, he returned to Eaton and continued his photography and writing career as a correspondent with the Dayton Journal Herald, the Dayton Daily News, and the Richmond Palladium-Item. He then joined The Register-Herald and served as news director for eight years. In 1965 Miller was named technician and later named investigator with the Preble County Coroner’s Office.

In 1972 he took over the operation of his family’s business and that began his business career that included oil distribution and consignment, cable business, shopping mall building, real estate sales, mini-storage business, communications towers, and more.

Miller’s community service included serving as one of the founders of the Pork Festival. He helped found the Friends of the Library and the Eaton Camera Club. He was involved in the four-year planning stage of implementing enhanced 9-1-1 telephone service for Preble County. When the 9-1-1 telephone service was placed into operation on Oct. 13, 1993, Miller said, “This is one of the happiest days of my life.”

Tim’s relatives include his brothers Terry Miller of Eaton, Nicholas Miller of Sidney and Thomas Miller of Memphis, Tennessee.

Rosetta “Rosie” McNees


Rosie McNees was one of the founding members of the Preble County Art Association (PCAA) which was formed in 1965 as a fine arts guild dedicated to providing understanding, enlightenment, and participation in the fine arts through programs, classes, and exhibits. She was instrumental in raising funds to build a new fine arts center after fire destroyed the art gallery in the St. Clair building in downtown Eaton in 1987. Rosie serves as president and project chairman, and after a three-year campaign, the new art center was dedicated in 1990 as a cultural opportunity facility for all people in the county.

McNees was a well-known and prolific artist, having earned over 600 art awards in professional competition during her career. Her work is displayed in many businesses and galleries locally and in NYC, Boston, Indianapolis, and Flint Michigan. She was named 1989 Woman of the Year by the Eaton Business and Professional Women’s Club. She was active in Downtown Eaton, Inc. and served as a member of the Downtown Eaton Historical Preservation Committee. Upon her death, she bequeathed a quarter of her estate to be held in trust by the Eaton Foundation with the proceeds to be given to the Preble County Fine Arts Center.

Rosie’s family members who reside in Preble County include Patricia Hill Duke (sister) and Dan Duke (brother in law), Dan Hill (brother) and Martha Straw Hill (sister-in-law) , and Ada Gilley Hill (sister in law).

Past Hall of Honor inductees include Helen & Heber Felton, Seth S. Schlotterbeck, Andrew Haris, Sara Swartsel, Nathaniel Benjamin, Harvey Hiestand, Thomas McQuiston, Clarence Oldfather, Harold Sell, Richard Tuggle, Cyrena Van Gordon, Ione Sell Hiestand, Lucille Petry Leone, Marian & James Mitchell, Silas Dooley Sr., Dorothy Kiracofe, Alfred H. Upham, Martha Rizert Dye, Jo Ann & William E. Lange,

Nominations for the inductees for the 2016 Hall of Honor are due on April 1, 2016. Visit the PCHS web site at www.preblecountyhistoricalsociety.com for the application form.

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