A Long Time Coming

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Two years ago, Putnam County Library clerk Matt Miller set out on a journey to record the history, from beginning until current day, of Putnam County.

After all, such a feat hadn’t been done since 1880.

That labor of love turned in to seven hours of interviews and stories on a collection of four DVDs titled “Short History of Putnam County.”

 “It was necessary, it seemed like,” Miller said.

Miller spoke with about 70 people for the documentary, including village mayors, school officials, and community leaders, as well as people involved in the various businesses in Putnam County.

Miller said most ­people he spoke with were from multigenerational Putnam County families.

 “About half of them I kind of knew, the mayors and the school people, but a lot of them I really didn’t know who to interview,” Miller said, continuing on to name some of the more interesting interviews. “I don’t want to be too biased, (but) Coach (John) Slingsby, Mike O’Connor. Some of the mayors were interesting. It was interesting to talk to the Quakers because I didn’t know much about it.”

The documentary discusses each of the towns and townships in the county, the schools, notable buildings and businesses, Abraham Lincoln, the local Native Americans, the Quakers, and some of the natural landmarks and areas in the county, along with many other items of interest from the history of Putnam County.

Miller did paper research at the local libraries, historical society, and the courthouse, which equaled hundreds hours of footage.

Miller said his paper research was a bi-weekly adventure in the beginning.

Along the way, the lifelong Putnam County native found out interesting information about the county he hadn’t known before.

 “I didn’t realize there was a serpentine mound in Senachwine Township, didn’t realize the history of the (Putnam County) flag –— it’s actually relatively new -— back in ‘89. I didn’t really know much about the Quakers either or their connection with the Underground Railroad,” Miller said.

Miller also found the Putnam County sports history, as well as the history of the Mark Homecoming held more of an interest for him than what he originally thought they would, along with another, seedier bit of history from Mark and Standard.

 “I didn’t realize in Mark and Standard, homes during the Prohibition Era had a lot of alcohol going around,” Miller said. “I used to live there for a year in Mark, the basement was like that (set up to make alcohol).”

Miller said with each interview he asked the person to describe Putnam County in a sentence, or in “Twitter statement”, something he was able to finally answer for himself.

 “(Putnam County is) Very broad and diverse, and unexpectedly, it blends both the past and today very smoothly,” Miller said.

Source: News Tribune