Residents of Auglaize County have connected with U.S. presidents in many ways. Below are some of the stories shared with The Lima News by Rachel Barber of the Auglaize County Historical Society
Donald Trump became only the second sitting U.S. president to stop in Auglaize County when he toured Pratt Industries in Wapakoneta on Sunday.
Trump’s visit came 107 years after President William Howard Taft visited Auglaize County in 1912. Several other sitting presidents traveled through Auglaize County but did not stop.
President Harold Truman came through by train as did Ronald Reagan — twice, in 1984 and 1988. The 1988 train ride came during the final months of his presidency. Reagan was campaigning for Vice President George H. Bush, who accompanied him and went on to win the presidency.
In 2004, George W. Bush came through on a bus during the campaign for his second term.
James Knox Lytle, founder of New Knoxville, and James Knox Polk, 11th President of the United States, were first cousins. Their mothers, descendants of Protestant reformer John Knox, were sisters.
James Knox Lytle was 27 years old when he drew a map of a hamlet of 102 lots (1836), which he would name New Knoxville in honor of his mother.
Daniel Francis Mooney, a native of St. Marys, served as ambassador to Paraguay under President Woodrow Wilson. His wife, Carrie Steinemann Mooney Bettelini, was a native of Minster. She donated the South Main Street house to the historical society in the 1970s.
A friendly farmer
New Knoxville native Elmer Kruse served his county and country under presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. In an interview for the village’s sesquicentennial book, Our Times, Kruse recalled conversations with the two presidents:
“When I met President Roosevelt, he just stuck out his big hand over the desk and said, ‘Kruse. Well, that’s just another Dutchman,’ and it took all the pressure off. From that time on I was at home with him, free to talk with him. Later, with Harry Truman, he was sort of a buddy of mine because he was a farm boy and we could talk the farm language….”
Kruse explained his work:
“With the start of WWII, I was appointed chairman of the Ohio War Board, which consisted of the head of all agricultural agencies receiving federal support. We controlled all rationing as it pertained to agriculture in Ohio. At the end of WWII, I was appointed … to supervise the production of food for the north central states ….
“President Harry S. Truman nominated me to the position of executive vice-president of the Commodity Credit Corporation. In this position I served as delegate of the U.S.A. to international conferences on wheat, sugar, and cotton, and supplied food from our U.S. reserves to the U.S. Army and the needy occupied countries.
Kruse returned to the farm in 1953.
Captain James Elliot was the government-appointed blacksmith at Wapakoneta when it was a reservation for the Shawnee Indians. In 1832, the government agent, James B. Gardner, refused to settle Elliott’s claims against the United States for the losses he suffered after the Shawnees’ forced removal to Kansas. Captain Elliott then moved to St. Marys, where he lived the rest of his life.
McMurray’s History of Auglaize County (1923) explains how Elliott settled his claim against the federal government after he was rebuffed by Gardner and then the Secretary of War:
“Captain Elliott then concluded to go to Washington and call personally on President Andrew Jackson. He found no difficulty in getting an interview with the President.
“(After Elliott told his story), the President rose, and, taking his hat and cane, said, ‘Come with me, Captain Elliott.’ Walking with his caller to the war office, the President said, ‘General Cass (secretary of war), this is Captain Elliott of Ohio. Audit his claim and pay it. Good morning, sir.”
Captain Elliott…was soon on his way home rejoicing.
… New Bremen resident and Miami-Erie Canal Corridor Association director Neal Brady served as a hunting companion for U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004. Neal met Kerry in Waverly, Ohio, where he assisted Kerry in obtaining a non-resident hunting license. He was then invited to Poland, south of Youngstown, for an early morning goose hunt with Kerry, then-congressman Ted Strickland, and his longtime friend Steve Maurer.
… New Knoxville native Debra Eschmeyer was director for First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.
… William Jennings Bryan was in Wapakoneta in 1896 as well as 1912.
… Dan Quayle, the vice president for George H. Bush, visited Auglaize County.