Dec 19, 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 reprinted essay; it is a work in progress, and I am interested in your feedback.


Gary Freedman said...

All Things Trilby. Clever.

Mr. Schwartz said...

We've got a few ghost towns here in South Carolina. The most famous one is a town called Ellenton, which was totaly abandoned when they built a nuke facility near the Savannah River. The entire town, it's residents were relocated to a new town called New Ellenton. But Ellenton still exist just like it did in the 1950's, just no people anymore. It is not accessable to the public.

A town similiar to the one Mike is talking here is Hanover, SC. It was large enough to have one of the first railroads in America. Then it dried up, the buildings were removed, and the town seized to exist. Eventually the town of North Augusta sprang up and swallowed the remains of this town.

In Maryland, I remember visiting a place were St. Mary's City was which was the first capital of Maryland before Annapolis. For 250 years, the town disappeared and now the foundations and even some old graves of 1600 era governors have been discovered.

Do said...

Interesting story, Mike. Thanks for sharing.

One of my favorite little pieces of history has always been the Quabbin reservoir in western Massachusetts. In case your interested here's the link to some basic info. It's an awesome sight to take a small boat into the middle of the reservoir and look down through crystal clear water and see homes, foundations, chimneys, history.

historymike said...

Thanks for the link, Do.

Patrick T. Horne said...

Fred Folger, a long time Washington Local Hisory/Ohio History teacher is a gold mine of Trilby info. He has been featured on different Toledo Stories on Channel 30. Far as I know, he still speaks publicly on local history.

Anonymous said...

And now Trilby School is gone. So sad. Hofstetters drug store, with it's original soda fountain, and waving Santa during the holidays, on corner of secor and alexis, gone. Along with Fire house, gone, and a Walgreens stands.Then where Ace Hardware was for many years, now stands a Rite Aid. Beautiful old buildings with so much history, gone.

Christopher Sobieniak said...

It is truly sad to see it all disappear in my lifetime (and I'm in my mid 30's).

Anonymous said...

I live in this area, it has been completely assimulated into being just another part of Toledo. I remember the firehouse and it was converted to a resturant which was Rosie's before it was tirn down for a Walgreens. Trilby is gone, now a Dollar General takes over half the parcel. Janney Ace is gone, now a Rite Aid, Before Ace it was a drive in burger joint, at least my Dad told me. There used to be a Diner next to Ace that was filled with photos and Trilby History

Gary Peters said...

I was raised in Trilby and went to Trilby Elementary from first grade through sixth.
I was sick that they tore the building down......but whatcha gonna do? .......all in the name of progress??? does a "Dollar General" represent progress???
Sad commentary...for sure.
Does anyone (Mike) have pictures of Janneys Market at Alexis and Gay Street.....or any other pictures of buildings that used to exist back in the sixties in Toledo?
I know the diner next to Ace that "anonymous" is talking about (of coarse it too is history now) and it a whole bunch of terrific photos of the Trilby area.
I wish I knew who the guy was that ran that diner......I'd love to get copies of those photos.......either scanned or other wise.
If by chance that gentleman is reading this blog......please contact me: I would truly appreciate it.....thanks in advance.

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Richard said...

I was interested in the Village of Tremainsville (ca 1830) in that Tremainsville Road and the historical location of Tremainsville in the Ten Mile Prairie (Raceway Park) is disparate. So, I found that Mr. Calvin Tremaine was not only a storekeeper from Vermont but he was the postmaster. Mail runs from Buffalo to Detroit passed through Perrysburg to Toledo (Port Lawrence) and then to Tremainsville by way of the Tremainsville-Toledo Road--that is Cherry Street. This makes sense since from Port Lawrence to Raceway park we travel down Cherry street to Detroit Ave to the "Ten-Mile Prairie. (Slocum,History of the Maumee River Basin... AND History of Northwest Ohio, pg 479, Of course, this leaves the question of why is Tremainsville named that, seeing it did not go to Tremainsville? Perhaps Mr. Calvin lived on or near it?

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Now that's a bit of history I didn't know before, but interesting in suggesting how the name of the street occurred.

David said...

Can't forget Otto's. crafts, small food section and candy for us kids. Mailroom in back of store too. Mr Otto lived right across the road (secor) from his store. On Halloween he would pass out full size candy bars!

Christopher Sobieniak said...

Too bad I don't remember Otto too well, though I once found some acrylic paints in tubes that had his store's sticker on them in the basement. Didn't know what level of art supplies he had, but nice if he offered something I'd have to travel miles to get.