Jul 29, 2005

Trilby: The Search for a Vanishing Ohio Village

Left: 1913 photo of Trilby School

A cursory glance through any of the telephone directories that clutter my living room yields several dozen listings for businesses containing “Trilby” in their names. From Trilby Animal Hospital to Trilby United Methodist Church, the amorphous locality known as Trilby survives in a number of Toledo businesses, churches, and even an elementary school.

The old Trilby fire station, however, recently fell to the wrecking ball to make room for (what else?) another drug store.

If a West Toledoan with any significant period of residence is asked about the physical location of Trilby, the usual answer runs along the lines of “the Alexis and Secor area.” Indeed, it is possible to strike several Trilby establishments with a metaphorical thrown stone while standing at this intersection.

The logical questions (at least to this historically-minded writer) upon discovering the wealth of Trilby-laden monikers would be: What, exactly, is Trilby, and why does it no longer exist as a political entity? In addition, why are these questions relevant to a twenty-first century Toledoan?

The inhabitants of Northwest Ohio at the time of the arrival of white settlers belonged to a wide variety of Amerindian groups; chief among these were the Ottawa, Potawatami, Delaware, and Shawnee. The Treaty of Greenville (1795), orchestrated by General Anthony Wayne, legally cordoned off Northwest Ohio from white settlement, but western migration of settlers eventually resulted in the erosion of Native American presence in the area.

In the nearly bloodless Toledo War of 1835, militia units from Ohio and Michigan tracked each other through the plentiful swamps; the forces were dispatched by the respective governors during a dispute over a 468-acre section of land that was known as the “Toledo Strip.” Inaccurate surveys commissioned during the territorial years of both Ohio and Michigan created ambiguity as to which state owned the marshy terrain. The area later known as Trilby was part of the land upon which this quarrel centered. Ohio finally gained control of the Toledo Strip in a compromise that gave Michigan the mineral-rich Upper Peninsula; modern readers can judge for themselves as to which state “won” the war in the long run.

Settlement in the Trilby area can be documented as early as 1835, when a 40-acre parcel of land was purchased by an Irish immigrant named Thomas Corlett. The land, located directly northeast of today’s Secor-Alexis intersection, changed hands several times over the course of the next decade. A small schoolhouse was eventually built on the property in the 1840’s, beginning the Trilby tradition of education that continues today.

Local legend holds that Tremainsville Road was once an Indian footpath; the track supposedly picked back up at present-day Whiteford Center Road. Nineteenth-century maps depict a large frog pond just north of the present Alexis-Secor intersection; perhaps the trails that predated Whiteford Center and Tremainsville Roads were one and the same, snaking their way around the pond.

Tremainsville Road was named after a Mr. Calvin Tremain, a businessman who immigrated to the area from Vermont in 1832. Tremainsville was also the name of a small settlement near Ten Mile Creek and present-day Detroit Avenue; Toledo Raceway Park is the current inhabitant of the land where once stood the village of Tremainsville.

More to follow on this essay; it is a work in progress, and I am interested in your feedback.


Hooda Thunkit said...

Very interesting (to me, at least) story.

Q. Did you find any relationship between Tallmadge, OH and our own Tallmadge Rd.? They appear to be too far apart geographically to be directly related.

That school building (located South of Alexis and on the East side of Secor), is that the one your article refers to?


historymike said...

Thanks for the kudos, Hooda. I'm in the Outer Banks this week, so my posts will be irregular.

Yes, the photo is of Trilby School on Secor. The building has since undergone some additions, but you can still see the original portion.

Timothy said...

I remember reading that the village of Trilby, before it was annexed into Toledo, was a stop along the Toledo Light & Electric Railway. It ran up what is now Tremainsville road and out to Adrian, MI, where they were supposed to have a company-owned park.

I did some digging, and I found a link of the old streetcar line map. Looks like there was a line going that way. Also, I found a 1900 USGS Quadrangle that marks the location of Trilby.

Neat article. I enjoyed reading it.

Lisa Renee said...

As a fellow local history buff, I enjoyed this very much. The Toledo War has always interested me, as well as our area before and after that time period. Most of my research has been more concentrated on the Springfield/Holland area, so this was a welcome addition to add to what I knew. I can't wait to read what you might know about One Stickney that I missed.


musicwriter said...

Hey Hooda, There's a minute difference in spelling of Tallmadge, Ohio and Talmadge Road.

Incidentally, it's peculiar that Monroe Street goes to Sylvania, Ohio and Sylvania Avenue goes to Sylvania Twp. but misses the city.