September 1, 2014

Subscriber Login

This and That - Rita's Book: Ottoville & Vicinity 1845-2001 PDF Print E-mail
Monday, January 16, 2012 10:48 AM

We are made up of the people we have met through the years — good or bad. Now and then someone comes along who touches the lives of many, many people. Rita Turnwald was one of them.
Rita was born on a farm near Columbus Grove but spent most of her years in the Ottoville community. She was dedicated to God and her family — then to Ottoville.

Rita loved books and history in her early years. She was a “visionary.” She envisioned the history of Ottoville passing by without being recorded. She made plans to do something about that. Rita helped write an early history of the Immaculate Conception Church in Ottoville but wanted to go further. She knew this would take time, not just months but years. She began saving newspaper clippings. Her daughter, Dorothy, recalled that as a young girl, her mother had her cutting clippings from the newspaper.  These were stashed away until it was time to write the book. This project also required several trips to the library to search records and papers on the micro-film. She spent years putting this book together because she wanted it to be complete and “just right.” People would ask: “Is the book done yet?” They didn’t realize how much work went into it. Although Rita enjoyed the work, it would still take years of research and writing.

She put her writing on hold during the time of her husband’s illness, to devote her time to him.

Leon passed away 19 May 2002. Gathering and writing helped Rita get through her grief. The book was sent to the publisher in 2005. She sold more than 700 hard bound copies. This manuscript covered everything. There were chapters on The Black Swamp, The Miami and Erie Canal, Coming to America, farming, schools, sports, businesses, church, Prohibition, organizations, the park, military history, manufacturing, the life of a homemaker, etc. You name it, it’s in the book.

Rita would be pleasantly surprised to discover that many people of Ottoville, including the mayor, are trying to get a reprint of her famous book. Their goal is to get at least 100 orders to keep the price of the reprint at $55 or $60. So far they have at least 80 orders, so get your order in. The Ottoville Park Carnival will be 50 years old this summer. The committee hopes to have copies for sale during that event.

You don’t have to have roots in Ottoville to enjoy this book because the stories describe the way of life in small towns and rural Ohio for 156 years.

Let me tell you a little about this great lady, the Ottoville Historian. Rita was born in 1923 to Steve and Mary (Weber) Miller on their farm near Columbus Grove. The family moved to Ottoville when she was a young girl. Rita was the oldest of 12 children. Her siblings are: Ethel Burgei, Julie Kaskel, Lou Madigan, Irene Horner, Dolly Mesker, Donna Schlagbaum, Norb, Ralph, Donald “Doc”, Virgil and Art Miller.
Rita married Leon Turnwald in 1944, during World War II. They had six children: Dorothy Flores, Steve Miller, Jeanette Hazelton, Irene Helms, Nancy Suer and Aggie Ellerbrock.

Rita grew up during the depression so she learned to be frugal. She loved school and books and encouraged their children to read by taking them to the bookmobile every time it came to town.

Rita was a 4-H Advisor for more than 30 years. She served as president of the Putnam County Historical Society. When the kids would ask “Where’s Mom?” on a given night, their father answered “Oh! She went to the Hysterical Society meeting.” Rita won an Outstanding Achievement Award for her book down at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus. She also had the honor of being chosen “Woman of the Year” for the Delphos Herald.

Rita was the founder and archivist of the Parish Museum, which had its beginning in the church basement in 1988, when the church building was 100 years old. She collected all kinds of pictures and church memorabilia. Eventually the museum found a home on the second floor of the parish center. Many other volunteers helped with this project. Her husband often helped her, especially when it was time to move all the artifacts.

Rita was also a woman of faith. She was a CCD  teacher and was the Parish Religious Education Director. Her husband, Leon served as a Deacon in the Catholic Church.  While he was preparing for this position, Rita went to the ministry classes right along with him.
The list of her achievements could go on and on. I might add Rita learned to use a computer at the age of 84. Rita went to eternal reward on 8 March 2011.  Her husband died 19 May 2002.
The following is just a sample of some of the historical tid-bits in her book:

“The Delphos Herald
9 August 1877
The grand picnic will be held at Ottoville on Tuesday, Aug. 14 to which all are invited. The silver Cornet Band of Delphos, and the bands of Ft. Jennings and Ottoville will be present to enliven the occasion with music. Refreshments of all kinds will be supplied on the grounds..”

“Delphos Weekly Herald
24 May 1883
The Great May Snow. – A heavy snow the 21st day of May is a phenomena so remarkable that (even the ‘oldest inhabitant’ can’t remember anything like it.) The steady fall commenced Monday morning, covering the ground to the depth of nine inches with a heavy and soggy snow of which a considerable amount still remained up to Wednesday noon.”

So get your order in by calling: Doris Honigford at 419-453-3243; Ron Miller at 419-453-3149; Millie Ruen at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; or Village of Ottoville at 419-453-3636.


Last Updated on Tuesday, November 06, 2012 3:32 PM

Add comment

Security code