EATON — The Preble County Courthouse turned 100 years old this past weekend, and a re-dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, Sept. 9, to honor the occasion.
The ceremony featured speeches by several distinguished guests, a presentation by the Preble County Honor Guard, performances by Something Good, and a flag ceremony by Boy Scout Troops #78, #96, #107, and #280.
Preble County Commission President Chris Day opened the event which, despite the rain, was attended by approximately 200 people..
“As we gather here today, we commemorate the progressive spirit of our citizens of Preble County for their vision and resolve in the building of an extraordinary public landmark that serves as the foundation of our local government. Located in the center of Preble County, this building symbolizes the very essence of the character of our citizens, strong and stable in its appearance, representing the strength this community has endured over the last 100 years,” Day said.
“As county commissioners, we pray this building offers future generations of elected officials the same vision and resolve to uphold the democracy and defend equality of the rights of the people of Preble County for which this building was created. We are very fortunate that a little over 100 years ago, we had leaders here who had the vision to see a need for a building like this.”
“We are also very fortunate that over the years, it has been kept in good repair and is a showcase for Preble County,” Day said. “It is our pleasure to rededicate this today for the next generation and the next 100 years of residents of Preble County.”
Judge Jenifer Overmyer, Preble County Common Pleas Court Juvenile/Probate Division, read a poem entitled “Daily Courthouse.”
Next, Preble County historian Stephen A. Pope spoke on the history of the Preble County Courthouse.
“It is hard to imagine that this building is 100 years old,” he said. “It is even more difficult to realize that the southeast corner of Main and Barron Street has supported several other courthouse structures prior to the construction of this one. In our fast-paced ever-changing world, do we take the time to understand our individual and local history?” Pope asked.
“History is all relevant, whether it was yesterday or 100 years ago, it is relevant to all of us and to our community,” he said. “History is one aspect of our lives that forms the very way we think. It forms our ideas, provides the basic ideas of where you decide to live and raise your children. This is why we are here today and what we will remember tomorrow.”
In August of 1915, the Preble County Commissioners realized the current courthouse was deteriorating and they needed a safer location to keep their public records. A building committee was developed, to research and study the needs of a new building. A loan of $250,000 was approved from Preble County National Bank at a rate of 4.5 percent for 25 years to finance the new building.
Janet Hiestand Sikora, great-grandniece of H.H. Hiestand was welcomed to the Centennial Celebration to speak on her family’s contribution to the county.
“Harvey’s family was very proud of his work on the county courthouse. When the building was completed, they attended the day-long dedication activities on Sept. 10, 1918,” she said. “Harvey was an Eaton native who graduated from Eaton High School in 1889. He attended Miami University for two years, then went to the Art Institute in Chicago for his certificate in architecture. During the next decade or so, he made several trips to Europe to study art and architecture.”
Misti Spillman, Director of Preble County Historical Society, reviewed the artifacts found in the 1917 time capsule.
“A time capsule filled with an abundance of history — I’ve spent a few hours researching all the contents of this box and it was astonishing what it consisted of. These artifacts take you back to 1917 and what was happening in Preble County. A majority of the contests consisted of directories, member lists, post cards, organizations and programs from that year, the probate court key from the old courthouse, a letter about the key, the Eaton School Journal, a picture of the columns of the previous courthouse, souvenir badges of the Centennial and Homecoming, and so many things that I could talk about,” Spillman said.
She chose to speak about the multiple newspaper clippings that were included. One tells of the death of a Civil War veteran. Another tells of the tornado which came through Preble County and accounts for survival stories of those who experienced the horrific event.
There was even more history shared within the time capsule, telling of the heritage of the area.
Proclamations were read from U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s office, Senator Bill Beagle, Congressman Warren Davidson’s office, State Representative Todd Smith, Ohio History Connection’s Todd Kleismit, and Suzanne Dulaney with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.
Special guest, Claire Marie Preble, even attended the ceremony to speak about her connection to the area and her famous last name.
Commodore Edward Preble, Aug. 15, 1761-Aug. 25, 1807, was a United States naval officer who served during the first Barbary War, leading American attacks on the city of Tripoli and forming the officer corps that would later lead the U.S. Navy in the War of 1812. He was the namesake for Preble County.
“Growing up, I must admit, I did not have the deep connection to my last name that I have today,” she said. “I grew up in a small town of predominately Irish families, who would come to class with stories of their grandparent’s coming to American. Although, I too am Irish, my last name does not fit the bill,” Preble said.
“This ceremony has compelled me to reflect upon how proud I am of the name Preble and how it is part of my every being. This past August, almost a month to this very day, my Grandfather George Everett Preble past away. As an only child, he enjoyed looking into his family roots,” she said. “I now has such a deep sense of Pride for all the Prebles who have come before me. This commemoration has enabled me to look at my family heritage beyond just my family tree and dig a little deeper into our history.”
She added, “I am forever grateful to the town of Eaton and Preble County for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to travel to my family’s namesake County and participate in a historical and memorable event such as this one. It has truly been an honor.”
Preble was the first person to enter the courthouse to kick off the next century.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH