History of Pioneer Days

On September 6, 1873, Oliver Talburt was named president of the newly formed Putnam County Pioneer Association. A constitution was drafted by members Dr. Moses Lee, Henry Crawfis and George Skinner. According to that document, the goal of the association was to be honorable and serviceable to Putnam County and to “perpetuate the early history of the county.” It was determined that membership in the association would be limited to people who had lived in Putnam County prior to 1840. Each paid $1 to become a member. The association announced shortly after its creation it would elect its officers during the annual meeting in Kalida on the first Saturday in September. Later, the annual meeting was changed to the first Saturday after Labor Day. That year, Col. J. L. H. Long of Ottawa was the guest speaker for indoor meeting held at Kalida Presbyterian Church. People who registered their attendance came from 11 different states. Also in the early 1900’s, activities were added for attending children. Some included a merry-go-round, tight rope walk, Indian Corn dancing and a balloon ascension. People traveled from near and far to attend the annual meeting. “In deed, the reverence for the county’s history displayed by those who attended the meetings of the Society is attested to by the fact that some drive a distance of 15 miles with horse and wagon, or horse and surrey, a feat which means getting up at dawn with a drive of three or four hours each way to reach Kalida and home again,” stated an article from the time period published in the Putnam County Vidette. According to a 1944 article in the Pioneer News, then associate president Earl H. Hanefeld invited people to the annual meeting. “You will see old friends you haven’t seen for many years,” he said. In another 1944 Pioneer News article, the association’s annual meeting was described as a “tribute to early settlers who made their contribution to Putnam County by clearing the wilderness and establishing their homes long before the northwest territory was divided into states. “”These sturdy people of all nations made great sacrifices in order that they might enjoy freedoms and liberties provided for them by our constitution,” the article stated. Published by Charles Veach, the Pioneer News began in 1943 and ended with Veach’s death in 1947. About the same time, the Pioneer Association became the owner of the second story of the Kalida City Hall under a perpetual lease where it remained for nearly three decades. Through the 40’s and 50’s, the one time day-long Pioneer Association meeting grew into a weekend of events. The celebration also became known as Pioneer Days. By the early 1960’s, the Pioneer Association handed sponsorship and organization of the annual event over to the Kalida Lions Club and Kalida Firemen’s Association. In 1970, the Lions Club of Kalida purchased the former Methodist Church and donated it to the Putnam Pioneer Association for use as a museum. The society immediately went to work on the structure and held a grand opening of the museum in the county’s Centennial year, 1972. The Putnam County Pioneer Association turned 100 years old that year and also underwent a name change to “Putnam County Historical Society.” Members of the newly named society decided to continue the annual Pioneer meeting on the first Saturday after Labor Day. It remains still today. In recent years, the house and property adjacent to the Museum was purchased by the Society and has since been attached to the museum. At the same time, a new handicapped ramp was installed to make both buildings fully accessible. Former Historical Society Corresponding Secretary and Publications Chairperson Ettie Rieman said reciting the society’s mission, Let us collect records and preserve the history of Putnam County “We shall be forever thankful to the pioneers for starting this organization,” Rieman said. “We are the third oldest historical society in the state of Ohio. “Today, the Putnam County Historical society now boasts its highest ever membership of 450 people from all over the United States. Memberships cost $10 per year. The society includes various committees including the Century Farm Program which honors people who have documentation that their family farm has been in the same family for at least 100 years, and the First Family Members awards honoring families who can prove their ancestors lived in Putnam County prior to 1850. Today, there are over 400 First Family Members. Other committees include Oral History, Historical and Plaques, Library Collections, Membership, Publications, Publicity and the Museum. Carol Wise is curator of the Putnam County Historical Society Museum located on the corner of East Main and Fourth Streets in Kalida. Regular hours are 9 AM to noon each Wednesday and 1 – 4 PM each Sunday. Admission is free. What a feat Putnam County’s early pioneers accomplished! Their annual celebration is still intact, held each year on the same weekend in the same community where they once gathered with friends and family more than a century ago.