LIMA — His given name was Dallas, but he went by Tex.
Tex Deweese was born in Lima on Nov. 27, 1897, to Simon E. and Myrtle Deweese. He spent his boyhood “in a cottage in a grove” in northern Auglaize County within hailing distance of Perry Township, where his grandfather lived. When he was still a young boy, the Deweese family moved to Lorain and, while he was still in high school, Deweese began working at the Lorain Herald-Examiner. He briefly attended Ohio State University to study journalism but dropped out at the age of 19, deciding that on-the-job training at the Herald-Examiner trumped anything he could learn in a classroom. He was once the youngest editor in Ohio and would go on to work as a newspaperman and broadcaster in Ohio, California, Indiana and, finally and fittingly, Texas.
In the mid-1930s, at the height of the Great Depression, Deweese worked for a brief time as “roving reporter” for The Lima News. “Every little town has its story,” he wrote and then tried to tell them all, talking to everybody and, seemingly, repeating everything they told him. He wrote of a St. Johns man, who was said to be the oldest active barber in Ohio, a Uniopolis couple who had been married for 62 years, and an old canal boat worker who lived in Ottoville.
Westminster, he wrote, “is situated in one of the few pronounced valleys in the district. The rolling country, with neatly kept farms, immediately surrounding the town, rises slowly into the adjacent small hills.” Nearby Waynesfield, “one of the neatest and cleanest towns in the district,” he wrote, was known as “Hair Town” because in its early days a public disagreement among family members over the inscription on a tombstone turned into a melee which ended in a “hair-snatching.”
Cridersville, “a town of retired farmers,” had 42 widows, more than “any other village of its size in Ohio,” Deweese claimed, never citing, well, anything to back the claim. Likewise, Deweese assured his readers that Bluffton had pretty much missed out on the Great Depression thanks to the viability of its industry. “There are no employables on public relief” in Bluffton, he wrote.
Gomer, he wrote, “is a village that grew from pioneers who came to Ohio from Wales and to Gomer a few years after landing in America …. One is impressed with the spic and span appearance of the town. Lincoln Highway supplies the main street of this unincorporated community. The Thorofare stretches away into pretty dooryards with well-kept lawns and houses painted white.”
Indian Lake, “one of the nation’s most beautiful playgrounds,” impressed Deweese for other reasons. “This is one of the few places in the country where a man walks through the main street in shorts sans shirt, and where girls, young and pretty, go on parade seven-eighths nude and nobody thinks anything of it.”
Putnam County’s oldest town, Kalida, “had its thunder stolen right after the close of the Civil War when a vote was taken and the county seat was moved to Ottawa ….,” he wrote, explaining that the courthouse in Kalida caught fire twice during the war and, besides, Ottawa officials had by then lured the railroad to town.
“Much of the beer hoisted over the bars and tap rooms of Ohio and nearby states is manufactured in this little German town …,” Deweese wrote of the Auglaize County village of Minster. A man named Joseph Brinkman, “German-born brewmaster,” had presided over the “hop tanks and fermenting vats” of the Star Beverage company for a half century, Deweese noted, adding that “beer and Minster are almost synonymous.”
Deweese was charmed by West Newton, the boyhood home of Simeon Fess, a prominent Republican politician of the era, for its rural tranquility. “It’s quiet, peaceful and homelike here and the residents of the village declare that there is a mystic something in the general atmosphere of the town that they are unable to find elsewhere.”
There was a “mystic something” in the vicinity of Hartford in Amanda Township, a “specter-like village which vanished almost completely” before the Civil War. “How many of you know the stories of Haunted Hollow, Spooks’ Hollow, Ghost’s Hollow and Bloody Bridge?”, Deweese asked his readers, noting that all could be found near Hartford. Ghosts “always have been a weakness of mine …,” he wrote. “In meandering up and down the Lima district, I have run across several blood-curdling spook stories, the authors of which vouch for their veracity as the yarns have been handed down through the years.”
In an article from August 1935, Deweese wrote of the heady days nearly 75 years earlier when war fever consumed Lima after the attack on Fort Sumpter. Within two weeks of the attack, he noted, Lima had raised a company of volunteers 92 strong. “There were many tears shed when Mayor (John L.) Hughes of Lima gave the parting address to the assembled company, their relatives and townsmen at a rally in front of the courthouse just before train time.”
A few of those young men who marched off to war in 1861 could still be found in the area when Deweese was doing his meandering in 1935. They were now well into their 90s or older.
On a visit to the southern part of Perry Township near the post office town of South Warsaw, Deweese was reminded that some 30 years earlier, when he was “knee-high to a grasshopper,” he was rescued from a mud hole there by Civil War veteran John Ream. Ream, who was wounded and captured in Virginia during the war, was 92 years old at the time of Deweese’s visit in 1935. He died eight years later, the last of Allen County’s Civil War veterans.
At Dunkirk in Hardin County, Deweese found 99-year-old J.A. Orth. “He was a member of the famous Seventh Ohio Volunteer Sharpshooters during the War of the Rebellion and, as such, he served as a night body guard for Gen. Sherman on that historic march through Georgia to the sea,” Deweese wrote.
Lima was a mother lode of tales and Deweese mined it frequently. In one column he wrote of the memorable Christmas Eve in 1853 when workers constructing the railroad through Lima “were really putting it on” at the Old Fort saloon on the northwest corner of Man and Market streets. When sleepless Lima citizens tried to put an end to the railroad workers party, a riot ensued. “The Public Square. and the old saloon building were sorry sights” when Christmas morning dawned, Deweese wrote.
In 1935, the year in which Deweese wrote most of his columns, the first Major League baseball game was played under the lights. Deweese, relying on the memories of three Lima baseball enthusiasts, advanced the claim that Lima had been the site of a game of night baseball more than 40 years earlier, although it was “more of an accident.”
In June 1894, Deweese explained, a team from Cincinnati showed up late on a gloomy evening for a game against the Lima team at the ballpark “in the vicinity” of Cole Street and Lakewood Avenue. “Someone got a bright idea (and), scouts were sent out and they rounded up 12 to 15 oil-burning locomotive headlights. These were placed atop the grandstand. They cast enough light over the field to enable continued play and to forestall necessity of calling the game on account of darkness.”
Deweese left Lima after a brief stay for an even briefer stay at the Santa Ana Register in 1936. That same year he moved on to become news editor at a radio station and newspaper in the Texas Panhandle city of Pampa. He returned to Ohio in 1945, working on a radio station in Cincinnati before returning to Pampa as editor of the Daily News about 1960. Deweese retired from the Pampa Daily News in 1977 and died the following year.
Reach Greg Hoersten at firstname.lastname@example.org.