Troy's Island Outing Club - An Organization Just For Fun
By Judy Deeter
TROY - Miami County history books have many stories about recreation along the Great Miami
River—boating, fishing, camping, and picnics.
During the 1890s and early 1900s, many such good times were created by a group in Troy known as the Island Outing Club.
The book MEMOIRS OF THE MIAMI VALLEY, states, “The Outing club was a very popular
club for a number of years. It occupied an island in the Miami River (First Island) above Troy, for which it paid a yearly
rental to the state (of Ohio). The island was the headquarters for the club and was the scene of all their many outings and formal gatherings.”
The club’s 1894 “Constitution and By-laws” booklet indicates that there was a $10 admission fee to join. Annual dues were the expenses to run the club divided “pro rata” among the members “not to exceed five dollars ($5) per year per capita.” The dues were payable whenever an officer(s) made the assessment. Members moving away from Troy would not be expelled for non-payment of assessments. Their membership was transferred to what was known as Roll of Honor membership.
The club was a private organization, but members could take non-member males to the island at a cost of 25 cents a day. Visitor fees, however, had to be paid within 24 hours of the visit to the Club Secretary or the fee became $1 per day.
If the fee was not paid within a week, membership could be suspended.
Several members of the Island Outing Club were involved in the legal profession. Perhaps that is why the club’s constitution outlines how members could be put on trial for violating rules or regulations of the club.
According historian Thomas B. Wheeler, the Island Outing Club built a two-story clubhouse on First Island in 1894. He described the building as having “wide porches” both on the first and second story. Images of the building can be seen in old photographs owned by the Museum of Troy History and the collection of The Troy Historical Society at the Local History
Library in Troy. (The Overfield Tavern Museum also owns an old painting of the island titled “The Old Swimming Hole” that
does not show the clubhouse.)
While only men were members of the Island Outing Club, ladies and families were important to club members. Wheeler says in his book TROY THE NINETEENTH CENTURY: “While only official members of the Island Outing Club were men, the wives and sweethearts were equally important, for they prepared the food for the numerous picnics which were held at the club house on First Island. Over 200 people attended a July picnic in 1894. Two summers later 60 men and women camped on the island during the week end.”
Getting to the island was somewhat of a challenge. In 1897, a suspension bridge was built to help members go there. Thomas Wheeler reported in his book that from Troy, members and their friends took a traction car to a stop near the Miami County Fairgrounds. (The traction car was a short train that traveled to local towns. It also stopped at other specific places along the way to pick up and leave off passengers. The train was sometimes known as the interurban railway.)
From the fairgrounds stop, members walked across a field to the suspension bridge that was over the Miami and Erie Canal. After crossing the suspension bridge, they got in a ferry boat. The boat was attached to wire that went to the river bank of First Island. Members pulled the boat to the island by using the wire. A description about how the boat was pulled by the wire to the bank of First Island has not been found; we can only speculate about how it might have worked. We should remember too that in those days women coming to the island wore dresses and men often wore suits, ties and/or bulky clothing (even in summer). Clothing that might inhibit movement.
Before Treasure Island Park in Troy, a club in Troy utilized an island located north of the park on the Great Miami River to host recreational activities.
(Photos courtesy of the Troy Historical Society)
It should be noted that for many years there was a dam across the Great Miami River just above the Adams Street Bridge.
Members would not have been able to travel up stream to the island by boat from below the dam. The dam and the islands can be seen on a 1911 map at the Local History Library in Troy. Records do show that some members may have eventually went to the island directly by boat. An article in the August 25, 1913 edition of the Miami Union newspaper says that Margaret Geiger had a supper on First Island. She went to the island by “motor launch.”
Newspaper stories in the Miami Union newspaper in May and June 1909 tell of a proposal by the club to have a new dam built farther down the river at Mulberry Street. This may have been so members could travel to the island by boat. In a May 6, 1909 story, W.H. Coles said that the club would give First Island to the City of Troy if a new dam were built. Members were willing to give $2,500.00 toward the building of a new dam.
A few members built summer cottages on nearby Second Island. Historical records say that the families of Dr. Warren Coleman, Charles Geiger, W.F. Bowyer and E.E. Edgar had cottages there. An article in the September 8, 1910 edition of the Miami Union describes the Coleman family as giving “an entertainment for Miss Jesse Coleman at their clubhouse on Second Island.” The 1911 map has dots on the islands to indicate there were buildings on both islands.
Times were not always good for the club. In May of 1902, the Miami Union described the club as having been “moribund” (meaning about to go out of existence) for years. New officers were elected at that time and is thought things became better for the club after the election—at least for a while. Two deaths were associated with the club that year. A 14 year old boy named George Ross drowned while swimming to First Island in July. A boat used by the club maintenance keeper was used to find his body. In November, the newspaper reported that a Mr. C.F. Grosvenor “fell dead” as he was getting into his boat near the club’s boathouse.
Perhaps the final blow to the club came during the flood of March 1913. The club’s buildings on both First and Second Island were destroyed in the flood. At some point after the flood, and before 1919, the Island Outing Club merged with The Troy Club, a Troy men’s social club. The Island Outing Club probably existed as a stand-alone organization about 20 years before it became part of The Troy Club.
Though the Island Outing Club’s history is short in comparison to other Troy organizations, it is remembered as part of Troy’s history with the Great Miami River and the happy times it brought to long ago Troy residents.
For further information about the Island Outing Club, contact The Troy Historical Society at (937) 339-5900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Research materials and photographs of the islands are available for viewing at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library at 100 West Main Street in Troy.