AWTHS Research-Reference Library

After the formation and purchasing the building for the Arcanum Wayne Trail Historical Society at 123 West George in Arcanum, the early members began a web site for AWTHS. In 2008 Bill Gunder, historian and awths founder, began overseeing the web site. Soon after, the AWTHS newsletters were an addition to the on-line records section. Also, Bill Gunder and Anita Short were working on research and writing projects from the old Arcanum Times Newspapers that Anita acquired and donated to the AWTHS. Anita had many binders of research notes so Bill had a couple of volunteers begin putting the documents into “Word” so they could be added to the on-line records on the web site as well as being available in electronic format for preservation, research and availability.

While Bill and Anita were working on notes for publications and books, Annette Stewart was interested in organizing the donations of photos and memobrilia for a reference library that could be used by the members, volunteers, and the public. A survey was distributed of areas of interest and the awths board approved the library in 2010. The library guidelines and web site usage were developed. We began organizing what materials we had by cataloging and developing a reference materials list for the web site as well as an Excel list for the volunteers. The public were asked to submit their family histories and reference materials they were no longer using or wished to copy and share. Rose Shilt donated the obits from the Arcanum Times and her collection was added to the web site as well.

In 2011 the Genealogy Library was changed to the Southern Darke County History for the research library. Several genealogy workshops have been planned and attended since the creation of the research library.

In 2013 Anita’s work had been transcribed and we began regular open hours the First Saturday Morning of the Month from 9-noon. This included hours for the reference-research library. Prior to that we were open every Saturday morning during the summer to coincide with the local farmers market sponsored by AWTHS at that time.

Photo the late Anita Short in her earlier years.

In 2015 we developed a Facebook page. The web site was also redesigned by Kathy Daugherty in 2019. John Daugherty began developing audio with 9 basketball games recordings as well as 14 DVD’s from videos which are available for purchase. We started doing blogs, researching and writing not only for the blogs but FB posts.

Our materials include video’s ( around 33 ) and 4 tour brochures. Those are on-line through the web site and FB page. Actual brochures are at AWTHS in the library.

We try to have actual paper copies of photos and documents but due to space some items are only electronically viewed on our laptop which contains photos and documents, including the late Bill Gunder’s work and Anita Short’s collections. When Bill was working with the web site and records collection, he acquired around 4,000 photos of the community. Those were put electronically on the awths laptop. Stuart Schram organized the many photos into categories and today we continue this practice to keep track of our collections of photos and documents. Some of the photos were Bill’s collection, possibly from a sale in town and prints made from the glass slides. It’s possible Jeff Puderbaugh and Anita Short bought slides and donated as well. We also had others who contributed collections. At last count, we had approximately 285 folders of research documents and 369 folders of photos. We average at least 200, if not more, newly acquired photos a year that are added to our archives.

We have 3 cabinets now of reference materials of primary sourced records, family histories, school yearbooks, collections of Darke, Miami, Preble and Montgomery County records. We have acquired and organized over 78 binders on the schools, churchs, cemeteries, businesses, buildings and people of Southern Darke County. Upstairs we have approximately 40 binders.

Another unique collection is the old Arcanum Times Newspapers which were sleeved and organized by the Troutwine’s. David Flora made a special binder to hold the newspapers and the Benedict’s business made the special cabinet for all the binders. They are beneficial to our reseacher’s and many stories, posts and blogs come from the newspapers. The years range from early 1900’s-1970.

Much of this vision for the records was from Bill (William) Gunder and Anita Short and their love of research, history, and writing to have a foundation, particularly of Arcanum’s history. Anita sadly passed in 2009 but her work lives on through her books and research. Unfortunely Bill passed away unexpectaly in 2015. He was in the process of organizing Anita’s work and working on his family history. While most of it is searchable there was a small fraction lost. Sadly, we didn’t get to read or see his family’s story.

Photo of William (Bill) Gunder and his family. Bill was the great grandson of William Gunder, who founded Arcanum in 1849.

Today, the library services our researchers and is a collection spot for such reference materials to keep preserved and accessible. Annette Stewart organizes the library and volunteers and hosts help during open hours and with organizing. We also field many questions and inquiries through Facebook, emails and Messenger regarding various topics of Southern Darke County.

Donations of reference materials, photos, and family histories are appreciated and part of the growth of the research library’s collection.

Our goal is to teach people how to use the resources tools in the library so they can do their own family research as well as research for AWTHS and write blogs and organize stories of their families and life in Arcanum including Pitsburg and all of Southern Darke County. We hope to foster the love of history, preservation and education. And with that responsibility comes the need for volunteers to help us in our pursuits and with our goal. The second goal is to make the records accessible as well as organized so information can be found quickly and maintained as well as knowledge as to “what type of records” the awths has available. We also share our information with others through our web site, newsletters, programs, open hours and Facebook posts.

So join, volunteer, learn, grow, write your story to preserve your piece of history and share your memories and photos with all.

Please follow AWTHS blog guidelines.

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