Editor’s note: in conjunction with the 200th celebration of the establishment of Shelby County, the Sidney Daily News will be publishing a year long series about the county’s history.
ANNA — The Anna District Historical Society represents the three villages of Anna, Kettlersville, and McCartyville. Each of these villages has its own unique history and origins. Three years ago the society found a permanent home to house and display artifacts through the generosity of one of the founding members of the ADHS. The house, which is now known as The Packer Historical Center, is located on Main Street in Anna has a wonderful history of its own. The house was built in 1912 by Dr. Cyrus Johnston and his wife, Mary. The property served not only as their residence but also as the medical office of Dr. Johnston. The Johnstons continued to reside in this home until 1933 when the house and property were sold. In the ensuing years, eleven families were able to call the property home until it became The Packer Historical Center in 2016.
History of the village of Anna
The village of Anna has had a long and interesting history. One of the early pioneers of Anna was John W. Carey who moved to this area from Dayton in 1833. He first purchased 1,000 acres of land located to the west of the present day railroad tracks and later purchased an additional 49 acres of land to the east of the tracks. All of this land was purchased for $1.25 per acre.
J.W. Carey, as he was known, had been a large contractor in building the Dayton and Michigan Railroad before he came to the Anna area to build a station along the railroad tracks on the land that he had purchased in 1833. This station was first known as Carey’s Station. The post office was also located in the railroad station with Frank Carey acting as its first post master and station agent. One of the early residents, James Thirkeld, later took on those positions and also added a retail space in the original station building.
It wasn’t until 1858 that J.W. Carey first laid out the actual village of what is now Anna. The streets, alleys, and 16 building lots were surveyed by John and Fletcher Thirkield. During the American Civil War, Mr. Carey moved to nearby Sidney and sold most of his land to the Thirkield brothers, including a residence he built for himself. In the transfer of the land and residence, J.W. Carey presented his daughter, Mrs. Anna Carey Thirkield, wife of Fletcher Thirkield, 40 acres of land which included Mr. Carey’s home. As more of the Careys came to the area to Carey’s Station to live, it was decided that the name of the fledgling village be changed from Carey’s Station to Anna Station in honor of Anna Carey Thirkield.
Anna grew in the 1860s with the building of many new homes and businesses. Among those early businesses were two groceries, a bakery, a wagonmaker and blacksmith, a hotel, a grist mill, a spoke and bent wood factory, a hardware, a drugstore, a livery, and a furniture and undertaking establishment. Others included a lumber yard, two boot and shoe shops, a millinery and notions shop, and an agricultural implements business. There were also three physicians practicing in Anna at this time. Growth during this era was such that Anna became an incorporated village in 1877.
A great stimulus to the growth of business in Anna was a hotel that was built in 1866 by William Flesher. The following year he sold the hotel to Louis Kah, and it became known as the Kah House. It was considered one of the best hotels of its time in western Ohio and was known for hosting then Ohio governor, William McKinley, for dinner after he had delivered a speech at a local fair and was waiting for a train in Anna.
A historical perspective of Anna cannot be written without recognizing Anna’s most famous resident, Lois Lenski. She came to live in Anna in 1899 when her father became the pastor of St. Jacob Lutheran Church. Lois was six years old at that time and remained in Anna until she left to begin college at The Ohio State University at the age of eighteen. She became a world-renowned author and illustrator of children’s literature and earned a Newbery Award for literary excellence for her book, Strawberry Girl.
Anna’s other claim to fame is being known as “The Earthquake Center of Ohio.” A major earthquake rocked the village on March 9, 1937, which caused extensive damage to many buildings in Anna, including the school which was declared beyond repair and had to be torn down. Due to the foresight of school board member Dr. Delphis Milliette, who researched and discovered that Anna was in the path of a major fault line, an unheard of $30,000 insurance policy had been taken out to insure the school. The building that was rebuilt in 1938 with funds from that insurance policy still stands and is in use today. Since 1875 the Anna area has been the location of 30 quakes, 23 of these recorded in the 1930s.
Brief history of Kettlersville
Six Kettler brothers emigrated to the New Bremen area in 1847 to join their brother William who had come to the area two years earlier. Three of the brothers went west to find gold during the Gold Rush era. The three remaining brothers, William, Godlieb, and Christian moved to land east of New Bremen which was known to be swampy. William owned 160 acres on the south side of the marshland road. Godlieb and Christian each owned 115 acres on the north side of the road (currently State Route 274).
After a few years of living in a log cabin Godlieb built the first frame house in the village. Godlieb and Christian Kettler platted the first seven lots in 1873, and the settlement was named Kettlersville. Twenty-nine additional lots were platted in 1875. However, only nine houses were built in the first ten years of the existence of the village. Finally, Kettlersville was incorporated in 1898, twenty-one years after Godlieb’s death in 1877.
Brief history of McCartyville
During the mid to late 1800s, the United States saw a large influx of immigrants from Ireland because of a scarcity of food during the Potato Famine, as well as, political issues with England. Numerous Irish families chose to settle near the present day McCartyville area as there was work available constructing the railroad tracks passing through Shelby County. Also making the McCartyville area attractive to Irish immigrants was the proximity to the village of Minster who shared their Roman Catholic faith. In January 1876, Patrick McCarty acquired land in the area. He established a post office, and as a result, the settlement was named for him. The settlement continued to grow, and in 1882 fifty Irish families built their own church in McCartyville.
The Irish population of McCartyville declined from 550 Irish residents in 1875 to only 48 Irish residents by 1927. None remain today. Due to a national depression which resulted in delinquent taxes, as well as the depletion of the soil and lack of farming jobs, the Irish slowly left the area, and immigrants from northern Germany took their place.
The writer is a member of the Shelby County Historical Society.