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The following program was produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service for national educational radio under a grant from the National Home Library Foundation. That was the old values to call it printed years ago old blue or in the field with the arsis. You know we could use a bell when I was a tractor you can hear it. The history of the place is the sum of many memories the recollections differ. Sometimes conflict. But as people give voice to their
memories history take shape the past comes alive. Napoleon Ohio population 60 700 lives some 40 miles south and west of Toledo in an area once known as the great black swamp. It is part of the land which was wrested from the Indians by General Anthony Wayne. It is not far from where the famed and bloody battle of fallen timbers was fought in 1790 for Napoleon. As a county seat is the center of a rich farming district which was largely settled by German immigrants as the horses have gone in the sounds of tractors are heard on the farms. So a new sound is heard in the downtown area. Hundreds upon hundreds of trucks rumble through Napoleon each day carry much of the produce that was once transported by rail. The tracks of the Detroit Toledo and I wanted cross those of the north western in Napoleon.
But for earlier then trucks or trains the Polian was one of many towns on the Great Miami and Erie Canal course the early settlers here there were no roads and mostly woods and they had no way of getting their farm products to market. The river was navigable. So that's what brought it to the canal as well as many other canals. And. It. Was open for use in the 1840s. Oh Mr. Wolf and the county that early 20s that used to tell me about when he worked on it but told me that. He thought there was almost one dead man for every length of the wheelbarrow that build it and they both will be. There if there are fights or disease or something. The first time I seen that I was bought. Seven or eight years old father Drew we haven't forgot it on a farm and you
know a lot of wheat which in that time is stacked up and you put it in and put it surely it will run the canal boat for a wreck like this to certain there were going downstream and one going upstream that's first time I ever seen the can now. That's ironic 80 years ago. See I mediate that Canelo run from Toledo to Cincinnati. It went up beyond defiance to Antwerp and her man at work I paddled a canoe from Portland to Cincinnati on a cousin and I'm from Toledo and then there was a branch run from bad work then clear up to Delphi Indiana. It's almost the Illinois border. They carried any line of freight any line of a grain lots or they carried lots of grain they had with the dock right up there but there will be mill Matt Becker's blacksmith shop is in the hole in the canal and then it was ill little mail above there
shipped a lot of stuff out of there and they put a whole lot of grain. Then your packets. That was a smaller boat that carried the mail and they they went a lot faster a lot of passengers used most of the big boats didn't carry many passengers with do but the packets the mailboat carried the mayo on the expressway. They were smaller and they carried and they traveled a lot faster in the old canal boat. They generally had a horse in a tow rope two horses new and the old canal boats generally used three meals and then they'd have an extra three that they carried along on the boat after so many miles why then they'd take them off and put the tired ones back on the boat and put the fresh ones on the people on the go for the bridges non-work 20th or the intersection of 24 years where that was the canal that 24 goes down through there was they all come out of it and there was a big ole iron bridge up over that. Yes I can remember some of the
old photos there was old cap Sampson kept Morehead kept broad Nicks. Dave Hancock Dave Hancock was toll collector for the kind where you are going to have your talents sections ever here next Yellowcard is kind of addiction you know but it was too bad I was sad to see the canal go it was kind of a reminiscence of what was once you know. Oh yes it was the very best that we used to be stores that have that at the courthouse there KAV stores. Well only come here Bury St be with cobblestone across the river still in our field you know eventually course we got that better and. But done top out there off someone signed for a mill on the opposite side street. They all run a water wheel it's like a water works
so mill womyn book is male and then there's this old mill set non-rigid right now around the water. Water wheels for the canal when leave Goodall house in 1888. I hoarded lumber Gondor defines to have it dressed you know put different things and we did to free him from the gutter had a big load of like little D on a rack and I'd always leave there when they'd close so I could take the loan back home and I was going to succeed in that. Mind you were just a kid. I heard my grandfather tell I wouldn't go back to the peers and the pokies they run a distillery just east of town on 24. There are barns down there is a junk yard down there now that old barn was a distillery. They made whiskey there and they also had a stone wheel in
there where they were at they could grind grain and I heard grandfather to tell he could carry a bushel of wheat from way out there pared down to fill your meal. Rock because you couldn't there was no roads come down one day and have that ground. And they owe that only ground they ground the hall and everything in it and when they want to use it they had to sift it down one day and stay overnight and walk back home the next day. There were very few roads at that time. There were a few paths but people quite frequently walked as the crow flies and that took them across the fields and it was not at all unusual by simply looking down to pick up an arrowhead and sometimes if a person was lucky to pick up a nice piece like a tommy hawk all of this was of course evidence that the Indians had been there before us.
There are going to find out more and back over the history we had several Indian camps that they come here. I don't know in the spring or far when it was in camp. A lot of those rows o up West the town here a couple a mile on a high knoll because I know I found 40 40 some arrowheads in one spot up there after the 1913 flood. Then at least in the port in here down by the Damascus bridge they said at one that there was and I remember there were no orchard and it was no it was no cemetery there was a few will tombstones it was just weather. Well the lettering was packed all wore off and they claimed the Indians camp there and I we found love broken pottery but no friend Inside I found some of these big bear tomahawks in that stuff on their own they say that was a Met there once years a playground and then down there used on this side just beyond
Campbell Soup. Here the Tamils who owns a property there was a girl it went back up there and they said that was an old Indian burying ground. We found a lot of back up in that old gully up there or shall we say in the little I've seen it's been a terrific contrast specially and in the change in farming. You might say it's gone for a month. From Horses and plows to push buttons since just in the short time that I've been here. And the farmers used to work for mine. Sun up to sundown almost the mountain now in three months. They've got their work done. They spend their winters in Florida Holy Week we see a lot of bad habits stretching out that really there's been a greater change in the past 50 years than there has since. Our forefathers landed on Plymouth Rock because for years and years we went along and we had they all played on the hara and we played it many times by hand. I don't remember
this of course but now it's all mechanized and as far as the farmer himself was concerned. It's a. Lot less hard work now. I think the tensions and the strains of Agriculture today are just like any other business. It's tougher it's harder. You know you who you don't make many mistakes and stay in the agricultural business nowadays because you can just. Fool yourself right out of business. And we've got a lot of farmers that are doing that. Small farmers a small acreages who have over equip themselves with expensive equipment to pass out of the picture. Yeah but why just why would a fella buy just that big equipment you can get by with smaller stuff. But it's that trend you know and now are the manufacture to the enormous that it's the trend to get bigger and they claim they manufactured bigger where if it wouldn't be the trend they would have to keep it smaller.
That's who I look at and for me I think it be better. Around here there are just too big. Yet they're mostly like my size or maybe hundred sixty and things like that but then there are some that have maybe 160 acres and they ran another 80 and try to get a little bigger. So actually rings are the that was a social event almost as well as getting the work done. You got to meet your neighbors. And you worked with them when you got the job done and it was. A lot of hard hard work there is no question about that. And everybody worked hard that it was a it was. A real neighborhood affair because farmers got you aid in the other person's home. And women that. Work back and forth cooking the threshing the you and. We had a real sociable time out of it as well as getting the work done and of course there was many a dispute settled at the Thracian ringgits during Thracian and especially if
somebody stole somebody else's girl they got this settled who I can remember one quite quite rough affair that got settled. And. After it was all settled the two guys decided that they'd be friends again and it worked out all right. But then this is this is the way it was. Oh yes we used to have fun with a trash can. Have all the men come over and get together and each one helped. And. Then we used to make. A big meal. Trashing. Dinner. That was fun. All the men came in. I'll be dirty in on them they'd have to wash up on the outside the big tubs and all sit around have some beer. Talk can have a lot of fun. And I always had in my room Bush. Everything that goes above the ground to plant in a new moon. And everything that goes below to ground you plant in a full moon like potatoes or
special and and anything above the ground that we're going to plant in the New Moon I still tell my Our mantra God. I said then you'll get a planet that's one idea. If you make up your mind you're going to get a planet in that moon youll get a planet it don't take but even that you just get careless. That's one of the objects. And that's true. And I no doubt the moon has got some to do with this with this stuff. For instance you Few see some roof shingles or come. Come up. Others really real flat. And you and I know fences by gosh it was on top of the ground even a blocks one set in the ground not one inch. He'd stay right above the ground. Others again did sink right into the ground by
gosh one area after the other and it was put in a wrong time. That's part of my idea and I believe that school had a lot to do with the with the Guta and weather and whatnot. I think I believe in not just your regular meets the earth. The song the group's like I never believe in signs. I can remember when I lived out south here there was an old man he believed in all these signs and one day he came along and I was planning potatoes and he said you you just do the wrong thing he said. Everything is against you today and I said well there's one thing that I never believed in I said I just plant when I get ready. And he had his patches crossed it all from me in Nashville he had his and the signs because he lived and believed in him and then in form we dug potatoes he had a
hickory nuts and I had real big potatoes nice ones. So I think it proves that signs don't mean it might might mean something believe in there but I didn't and I don't want to show up here after. This. Tell her though that nothing in the water started off oh you mean part of that that was your jealousy to get 25 like I'll. Like it I'll have to quote it. Going up to back up this quarter crop failures occurred not only with a cable is that sometimes we were almost like hickory nuts but that could happen almost with any kind of a craft. I color in the end we down and it all looks so real during times of draw for deuce. Absolutely nothing. On occasion. And so many a farmer was literally back to the wall and my life was like farming simply had to be forgotten as a way of life and you had to
find other employment and just quite frequently it happened that many fine farms went like it was the auctioneer's hammer. Oh like here when we raise talks we always did I remember trying on the farm. And fry down the sausage and cured the hams. But now that we don't even Raynes Park it we don't use much what we do about the grocery store. This this is something that. Has changed tremendously farming has become specialized or as there used to be when I was a young man on the phone the farmer everybody had some Horrigan some chickens. This was almost a must in a dairy cow and dairy cows. An hour and as far as Potter is concerned I think there are just as many other more eggs produced in the county than there were at that time but you can count or perhaps in 10 or 12 areas. All of these are produced and they're produced in large part of houses where they will be up to
five to eight thousand hands in a house or in a laying house. This is specialization stricture the old they were hatched yesterday and they would normally go out to the farm on feed today we get the eggs from the what we call flock owners raise the breeding stock for us. Ready for fresh hatching baby chicks. We have control of the flock. By we do the selection for the breeding males and females. Which egg we take and put in our incubator and let After a three week period comes out. Yet since we only have one thing the fellow naturally
an egg. Which is the food food product. We have to throw all our energies toward producing that egg and producing it cheaply as possible. We take this baby kick and in some instances there are still some sales as bagels but the majority of the sales are at 20 weeks of age. So we take this veil put it out with one of our growers who grows to kick to a 20 week period for us and then we call it. And that's what it's called One week rather. Maybe X dollars. We sell that into one of our producing units and the producing unit does nothing but produce the egg. After this all at once comes into production at about twenty six point four weeks
and then that egg is taken from there. Reducing to our plant and cart and shipped on to the various supermarket years ago you said Stella baby and that and it don't sell a baby. We sell it really to ourselves because we put it out. Somebody girl we feed it our own feed from our own feed. Now we run the egg after it's laid through our own processing and we do our own marketing in the supermarkets and cities in the east. So in reality all we've really got is an egg years ago and we held only once the business the hatching and I surely still baby. And that with our end product that really hit
these when they come into production and after they have laid for a year. Termed as old hands who else by the time that a year is egg Productions has taken place. The bird is about ready for market. However we keep the Dharma late for a bus or scenes months is a good auctions and then marketing hands to a processing plants. It's where exactly scientifically it's sold out in the sewers. Chicken rice. Chicken noodle operation. That's. A crock right. 100 average trying to. Recruit and.
Train. Many of our great. Mockery. A contractor. Out of about. 7000 acres in an area. Riding on. An MRI. And a half. Hours to hear. Her hand on her. Speeding up only to 1948 when we purchased from East cedar France. For free. Ever see a cocktail vegetable juice tests about this new plant 1957 XFL. Sandra Levy about 70 million dollars a year in this area. Consequently we have provided an economic growth city and say have six come back from. Fighting other Labor Liberal leaders. Six. Thousand nine hundred twenty one my father body and. Together with several other than what in the hell around our company. Their primary Mary. Item of manufacture in those days was the windmill the baker windmill.
Which was known widely throughout this section of the country. Every farm had a windmill on it to pump. Water. I first came down and I started to work in the summers as I say and I. Saw my first workers going out and erecting. The e-mails on the farm or splitting up the towers burning up the windmill. Adams after towers. And then when I wasn't doing that have come back in the plant and I moved from one. Department of the plant to another to learn the business. And. My purpose was to learn the business from the ground up. Today we still sell a roughly 10 percent of. We used to sell this country but is still still an active business. And many. People still employ them for use on the water primarily for farm pond. For so many farm ponds to see and sell windmills areas where.
The electricity. The farm pawn the horses away from the House and the lace and the like. Current and is the reason they employ it with. Less of fact at the Windmill the first cost as your last there will actually be at windmills in the wreckage. Forty five or fifty years when they're still in active service and will wear out too. Would you like them once a year later. Service when I came here in 1921 there were 26 when the manufacturers of that state. Today there are three of us last now and say that I am one of the largest left Selham most when I used to be you know here which made hooks for barrels and barrels or he was right Les and I know Neymar. And. We used to have a brewery there Mr
teach ins. Pat's work connected with that the Jinns brewery. The business of the owners of business of course and nearly all are trained. Eventually I'll be gone of course. There's. Very few of the old owners the. There's one blacksmith's shop left in town and that's one of the few an awesome restaurant. This man came over from Germany and. I believe he's in these 80s you know and he passes along there won't be any. There new. I landed three quite a yak. Examiner doctors doing all kinds of repair work shopping plow sure. Megan Hart who really made a mob a hand you know in the November time want to join you even when I got died about two twenty five hundred or three thousand. But I had a lot of heart you know what I hope my words here on the road I make them hope. If you already marshes years ago. You know who race shorter Are
you sure who I'm going through right now but I'm going to announce what I give unto or to read in order to get out of writing. Paul in Ohio. Is located right along the mommy river. In fact. The river actually runs right through the town and there is a bridge that crosses and it always intrigue us I remember as children. It's. A county seat county seat of Henry County Ohio. And not only Napoleon but the surrounding little towns like Okolona and Hamer Dessler Ridgeville. They were all part of the larger area. And the section was called Hanover settlement because all the people that that had moved in there from abroad were from
Germany and they had all immigrated from the problems of Hanover. And since they were all from the same section this whole area was known as an over settlement. Well this was just a crossroads and the county had been named Henry County for Patrick Henry. And when they got to quite a cluster of houses some people thought. It ought to have a name like a town. So part of them wanted to name it Henry. Just like the county but some of the first families here were French and they wanted to name it Napoleon. So they had an election and Andrew would have run only they some on one way I guess and wouldn't vote. Didn't have enough and they've scrapped over that name for 10 years but after 10 years
enough had I guess they voted on it. It was named Napoleon. Listen there was a good many old timers back at that time was very prominent citizens here there was. The Tylers the Hellers and the Harrisons the gross nurse Martin ups shoemakers some of their ancestors here yet but they were all another Vokey the old time Baucis and the pit and the peerage they were all prominent citizens here and years gone and I was just shy of color in the van they all been Sting's they were all people of ill will and the poet in which the
The American town: A self-portrait
Napoleon, Ohio, part 1
Producing Organization
University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program, the first of two parts, focuses on the town of Napoleon, Ohio. Topics covered inlcude the Miami and Erie Canal; farming methods; hatchery businesses; windmill manufacturing; and the women's suffrage movement. Includes an interview with a 102-year-old woman.
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Historical documentary series drawn from the recollections of senior citizens in a variety of American towns.
Local Communities
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Host: Sears, Ralph
Producer: Johnson, Ralph
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-9-3 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:44
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Chicago: “The American town: A self-portrait; Napoleon, Ohio, part 1,” 1967-01-26, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 27, 2022,
MLA: “The American town: A self-portrait; Napoleon, Ohio, part 1.” 1967-01-26. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 27, 2022. <>.
APA: The American town: A self-portrait; Napoleon, Ohio, part 1. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from