Wauseon history now digitized, online

By David J. Coehrs - [email protected]

In December of 1883 the Democratic Expositor reported that Della Buxton was recovering from typhoid fever, while The Archbold Band attended and played at the national Democratic Convention.

On March 12, 1891, Fulton County residents were informed by The Democratic Expositor that the season’s last snow had finally cleared and wheat crops throughout the area looked “magnificent.” A good harvest was anticipated.

And on Jan. 2, 1914, Mr. F.C. Smallman took out a large advertisement in the newspaper to wish the community “A Happy and Prosperous New Year.” The People’s State Bank, with their slogan, “‘Safety’ is the watchword,” reported capital of $100,000. And news readers were enthralled by a selection from the popular new novel, “Tarzan of the Apes,” by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Those and other small-town nuggets about the Fulton County community from between 1860 and 1929 are now digitized and easy to access on the new website, “The Digital Archive of Newspapers of the Fulton County Chapter, OGS,” for the Fulton County chapter of the Ohio Genealogy Society, – found at fultoncounty.advantage-preservation.com.

Premiering about a month ago, the website can take viewers through almost 80 years of county history, factoids, and community gossip, courtesy of a host of archival local newspapers: The Democratic Expositor (1882-1914); Northwestern Republican (1868-1894); The Fulton County Tribune (1883-1904); The Wauseon Republican (1903-1913); and The Republican (1894-1903). The Fulton County Genealogical Society (FCGS) has compiled 33,339 pages of news to peruse at leisure that bring the county’s past to life, one day at a time.

FCGS President Carolyn Stilwill said the two-year project was born of an aged microfilm reader at Evergreen Community Library in Metamora. The library’s budget didn’t hold the $6,000 price-tag to replace the machine, meaning at least 200 microfilm rolls of local history would go unseen. Stilwill wasn’t going to let that happen.

“We wanted to at least get the (archival) newspapers maybe out so they could be available to people to do research. It’s not all of our records but we felt like the newspapers were the most important thing,” she said.

Swanton, Archbold, and Delta had already digitized their microfilm history, and Wauseon didn’t want to be left behind. So Stilwill took the project to Advantage Preservation. For a much smaller price than a microfilm reader – about $135 per roll – the national company would digitize the microfilm rolls. The company even waived its $735 fee to create the website where the newspapers can be viewed.

The digital process also allows for optical character recognition, which allows a typed word or name to be highlighted throughout the featured item.

The FCGS funded the project to initially digitize 18 rolls last year through a Walmart grant and contributions from its 60 members. This year, the organization used funding set aside as fees for speakers who were canceled due to COVID-19 to digitize another 22 rolls. Ten remaining newspaper rolls may be digitized at a later date.

The digitized newspapers focus on Wauseon since those hadn’t yet gone through the process. Stilwill advised users to be specific in their online requests, using different related words if the first attempt doesn’t work.

She also noted that, in some cases, the copy under a newspaper title on the webpage may be nonsensical. She said simply click on the newspaper title itself to be transported to actual pages to read.

Stilwill said digitizing the county’s archival newspapers seemed most vital for the useful information they can provide.

“It may be possible for people to work on their family history to find information. We thought that would be helpful to people,” she said.

The Fulton County chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society can be reached at fultoncoogs.org.

By David J. Coehrs

[email protected]

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.

Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.