Lockington joins county celebration

LOCKINGTON — The village of Lockington is joining the celebration marking the 200th birthday of Shelby County.

Lockington Mayor Tracy Johnson announced Lockington would be joining the other Shelby County villages in celebrating the county’s bicentennial. The Lockington celebration will take place on Sept. 29, 2019, from 3 until 6 p.m.

The event will include an open house at the Lockington Fire Department, an opportunity to visit the Lockington locks, exhibits at the Shelby County Bicentennial Mobile History Museum, and a host of other activities. The Lockington Volunteer Fire Department will be providing food for visitors.

The long-time owner of Forsythe’s Dairy, Tootie Gilmore, will ride on the Lockington Fire Department’s newest pumper and escort the Shelby County flag into the village for the celebration. The pumper is nicknamed “Tootie” in her honor. The Lockington Volunteer Fire Department was established after a 1946 fire destroyed the Forsythe family home.

“The residents of Lockington are looking forward to celebrating Shelby County’s Bicentennial,” Johnson said in making the announcement. “Shelby County has an amazing history, and our community played a significant role in that history. We look forward to sharing a part of our past with visitors on Sept. 29.”

“Lockington was not always Shelby County’s smallest village,” Shelby County Bicentennial Committee Chair Mike Barhorst said. “Lockington was once a bustling canal town, important because of the presence of the seven locks that stretch for 3.75 miles along the former Miami & Erie Canal. Lockington was situated at the highest point on the canal – 944 feet above sea level.

“As canal boats came north into Lockington, they were lifted 67 feet as they passed through the seven locks,” Barhorst said. “Boats would typically take several hours to pass through the locks. Enterprising residents established a variety of businesses that provided services to idle boatsmen and passengers who were passing though town.”

“Although Lockington was not platted until 1837 and not incorporated until 1858, it’s pretty clear that canal workers began living there as early as 1833,” Shelby County Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Shelby County Bicentennial Committee Bob Guillozet said. “Construction of the locks began in 1833, and there is no doubt that the workers would have lived at the site as they built the locks.

“Originally named ‘Locksport,’”Guillozet said, “Lockington would have had dozens of workmen – primarily Irish and German immigrants – who would have been employed constructing the locks. The locks were constructed of large limestone blocks, some weighing more than 500 pounds. They had wooden floors, and their huge gates were made of white oak. At that time, they were truly engineering marvels.”

Shelby County’s other current villages, including Anna, Botkins, Kettlersville, Fort Loramie, Jackson Center, Port Jefferson and Russia will each have had their respective celebrations marking Shelby County’s Bicentennial prior to Lockington’s event. The celebration in Lockington will complete the individual villages’ observances of Shelby County’s 200th birthday.