(Editor’s Note: This article combines two articles. Information about the German Township records appeared in the Jan. 1, 2014, edition of The Archbold Buckeye. The story of the village of Archbold records was published April 11, 2012.)
For many persons, paperwork– the endless stream of forms, documents, letters, etc., that passes through a person’s hands– can be a nightmare.
But to an historian, paperwork, particularly old paperwork, can be “invaluable as a research tool,” Tracie Evans, curator of collections at Sauder Village, said in a Jan. 1, 2014 article in the Archbold Buckeye.
At that time, she was completing an extensive cleaning and restoration of German Township records from as early as 1834, when the township was created.
The collection includes dozens of old record books, thousands of old, mostly handwritten documents, and even an old machine bolt or two.
“We’ve found nuts and bolts that were in the bottom of boxes. Somebody had not realized they dropped them in there, and left, and the next thing you know….” Evans said.
The collection of old records is larger than that of many other townships.
“Somebody must have said, ‘I think we’re supposed to keep some of that, so we’ll error on the side of caution and keep it all,” she said.
“That’s a blessing. It doesn’t happen all the time, but we just love it when it does.”
Kenneth “Skip” Leupp, a German Township Trustee, said the trustees were aware of the old records and wanted to take care of them.
Sauder Village also was aware of them, having periodically used them for research.
But then, on July 1, 2012, a windstorm blew through the area and severely damaged the German Township building, a former gas station and auto repair shop at the corner of Co. Rd. E and St. Rt. 66.
After the storm, Sauder Village offered to store the records.
And there, they sat.
Evans learned of a grant available through the Ohio Records Board.
Sauder Village and the trustees applied as a joint project and received $2,000 in grant funding. There was no cost to the township, said Leupp.
Work started in June 2013, with supplies funded by the grant. Evans and three others worked on the project.
Evans said many of the documents had been moved several times, and had ended up in big plastic tubs.
“The township trustees don’t necessarily know how to take care of paper; that’s not their job. They just stuck them in tubs,” she said.
Those working on restoring the records found mouse bits– little bits of paper that mice use to build their nests.
“There was lots of water damage. You name it, it was in there. We didn’t find anything alive, so that was good,” Evans said.
But the old records were filthy.
How does one clean old paper?
“There are several ways to do it,” Evans said.
“One way is with a vacuum. We have one that you can turn the speed lower, so it doesn’t suck the paper into the vacuum.
“One of the things we use is a paper cleaner… that looks like a giant eraser, and you sort of erase the dirt off. It won’t remove everything, but it gets the worst of it.
“We didn’t think it would take so long to clean all the records, but they actually ended up being dirtier than we anticipated.
“We thought we would be able to vacuum most of the records and that would be enough, but we very quickly realized that wasn’t going to be enough.”
It didn’t seem like a daunting task at first.
“But once I got into it, I was like, what did I get myself into,” she said.
“I’m quite the optimist, but in October, I was saying, ‘We’re never getting done!’”
Items in the collection include school records and records of relief for the poor.
There were also records of relief for military veterans of the Civil War and their families. It included records of payments made in the 20th century.
“They did save most of their original file boxes, so we have these really wonderful old boxes of records,” she said.
She pointed to one box in particular.
“This one is 1912 bids, so we have every bid for every piece of equipment the township has looked at, especially in the 20th century.
“The 19th century, not so much. Bids were done verbally, if they were even doing bids at that time.”
Evans said in early December 2013, she was looking at documents dated in 1941 related to the food stamp program.
“The food stamp program was first organized in May 1939, so these were the rule for 1941, including a copy of the application, which is not quite like we do today,” she said.
Today, food stamps operate under the name of SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and are administered by the states with federal money. Townships are no longer involved.
Other things found included old business records, including listings of bills paid.
“Every business they (the German Township trustees) came in contact with, we have receipts, we have their original letterhead, we know what kinds of things they were purchasing.”
Early in the 20th century, Evans said the records contain the warrant, or bill, that was submitted to the trustees, and their cancelled checks to show payment, along with ledgers and records of accounts.
Prior to school consolidation in the 1930s and 1940s, townships ran the schools.
“We have letters from school teachers applying for jobs; not just the one who got hired, but everyone who sent a letter. They kept all of those,” she said.
There were records of new school buildings built and furnished, along with other school-related bills.
In 1914, the trustees received a bill from the Red Cross Drug Store for “fumigators, fumigator tablets, soap, pencils, and ink.”
Amos Rufenacht hauled coal for a school. The bill: $1.50.
Evans found all township election records up until the point when elections were taken over by the county.
“We have the poll books, so we have the names of each registered voter who came to vote, and the tally.
“You can know who voted, and how many voted for a particular thing.
“These go through the 1920s, so we have information for when Ohio was trying to pass state prohibition,” the banning of the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Evans said, “One of my favorite things in the whole collection is… hunters’ and trappers’ licenses for the township. So we see who was getting licenses.
“Some of them (applicants) filled the whole thing out, but they never took the license, for whatever reason. So we have the whole thing.”
At one point, a hunter could get paid for hunting sparrows.
Evans pointed out a document; “This is a certificate from 1889 that someone presented two dozen English sparrows, and they were paid 20 cents– 10 cents per dozen.”
By law, there are some records the trustees must keep forever.
Bowling Green State University and Northwest State Community College were working together to prepare a document explaining what they must save, and what they might like to save.
The collection even includes blotters.
Old ink pens such as dipwell pens, which had to be dipped in ink to write, and later fountain pens, would leave uneven amounts of ink on a page.
A writer would use an absorbent blotter to make the writing neat and legible.
Among the collection were old blotters with advertising messages.
“They (the trustees) never threw any of them away, which is really odd,” Evans said.
“They’re not really something the township would have to keep.”
She said the old German Township records “are invaluable as a research tool.
“This is one of those gems. It’s priceless,” She said.
In a June 2016 interview, Leupp said today, the records are stored away in a records room in the German Township building on East Mechanic Street.
Some, he said, were microfilmed. The microfilm is stored at BGSU.
The restoration of the records, he said, was a daunting task.
“They were getting stuff handed to them in old grocery sacks,” he said.
The village of Archbold made a similar discovery in 2012.
Jim Wyse, then-mayor of the village, explained in a April 11, 2012 article that Patty Dominique, village income tax commissioner, found a box, covered by other boxes, at the back of a storeroom at the Archbold municipal building.
It was filled with old papers and records.
She turned it over to Jennifer Kidder, Archbold Parks & Recreation Director, who told Wyse about it.
Wyse took the box home and began going through the old papers. He discovered they covered a period of 1896 to 1924.
Among the items in the box were 400 postcards, apparently filled out by the parents of a new baby.
The parents filled out the cards with the mother’s name, both married and maiden, the name of the father, the child’s name, and the date of birth.
What was not included was a baby’s birth weight or length.
The cards were mailed to Columbus, to the Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Once workers in Columbus finished with them, they were mailed back to Ora E. Lauber, the local registrar.
Most of the birth records in the box extended from 1908 to 1920.
There were other documents dealing with the end of life. There were permits for burials, permits to move bodies from one place to another, and permits to exhume and move the deceased.
In most cases, the name of the person, date of death, and cause of death were recorded, along with who was then called an undertaker.
One permit listed a “stillborn female.” No other information was listed.
Another document, Wyse said, was a burial permit for human body parts found along the railroad tracks. No name was listed.
The earliest documents, dating back to 1896, were from the “mayor’s court.”
Mayor’s court was where punishment was dispensed for minor infractions of the law.
“Some of those mayor’s court records were kind of interesting,” Wyse said.
“They had to enforce the rules and administer the law at the time, and I’m sure they were making people mad.”
He said most mayor’s court cases “had to do with somebody having a little too much to drink and not making it home.
“People would find them, and they would report them to the mayor, that so-and-so was found intoxicated and they would have to appear” in the mayor’s court.
“I did find some relatives in there, but we won’t get into names.”
There are bills that were submitted to council and paid, and oaths of office signed by office holders, including one from August Ruihley, the mayor for whom Ruihley Park was named.
There were not only bonds, but coupons attached to the bonds that investors redeemed to receive payment.
For example, Coupon 8 for Bond 15 was cashed on March 5, 1926, for the amount of $30.
That bond was for a street improvement, “property owner’s part,” dated April 1, 1922.
The bond could be redeemed at the People’s State Bank.”
Wyse said a few years ago, a wealth of old village records was found in a dumpster.
“No one has taken an interest in making sure this stuff is taken care of, and obviously, at some point years ago, somebody was just throwing stuff away,” he said.
“Not that there’s a use for it today, but at the same time, this is our history, and I don’t think we should just throw it away.
“I find history intriguing. I’m kind of passionate about that stuff.”
In an email to this newspaper, dated June 1, 2016, Wyse said the box of old village records has been returned to the storeroom corner.
There, they will slumber again until rediscovered by someone in the future.