1898 Troy Bicycle Club was Organized for People Unable to Take a Vacation
By Judy Deeter
The little girl in the front of this photograph is Freida Fregin with her family. The house is 603 W. Water St. in Troy. The photo was taken around the turn of the century. Photo credit: the Freida Pearson Collection.
We don’t usually think of people living in 1898 as having stressful lives. Yet, like us, many long ago residents yearned for a few days to get away to a lake, mountain resort or vacation spot for rest and relaxation.
While some people back then were able to spend time away from home, others could not go away because of business concerns, family needs or they just could not afford it.
In September 1898, The Buckeye newspaper ran a series of stories about a Troy bicycle club founded for people who couldn’t take a vacation. It was named the Economy Club. Using bicycles and carriages they owned, members rode away for a short time each week to see and appreciate Miami County or a nearby area.
The Economy Club was formed in the summer of 1898. The Buckeye edition of September 15, 1898 says, “…these sensible Trojans banded themselves into a society, took for their motto ‘The most fun for the least amount of money,’ selected for their club name (the) Economy Club and limited membership to eight.”
Two reasons were reported about why club membership was limited to eight people. First, organizers wanted to make sure that all club members were always able to participate in the society rides. Every club member owned a bicycle, but apparently there were times when some members could not or chose not to ride their bicycles. The club had access to two carriages for use by members who did not wish to ride their bicycle. The two carriages could accommodate all club members on an outing if club membership was limited to eight people. If the group was larger than eight, some people might not be able to go on an outing. Second, club meetings were held on the porches of members’ homes. It was believed that a maximum of eight people could comfortably sit on a porch. Therefore, for meeting comfort purposes, membership was also limited to eight. The newspaper story states, “At the first meeting of the club held upon the spacious porch of one of the members, the refreshments being ice cold lemonade, a program for the summer was laid out.”
This is an old Piqua bicycle advertisement. It is two-sided. One side is a replica of an 1864 Confederate $10 bill. The other side reads: “This is not good money but you can save good money by buying your BICYCLE from us as we have the most complete line in the city. Also a full line of sundries.” It’s from the Bicycle Livery & Specialties, Fisher and Phillippi, Piqua Ohio.
Harry Julian was a well-known bicycle dealer in Troy around 1900. Advertisement courtesy of Patrick Kennedy, Troy History Library.
It was decided that during the outings, riders would bring their Kodaks (cameras) and take pictures of what they saw along the way. (NOTE: Keep in mind that cameras in the 1890s were not the small cameras of today. They were larger and probably harder to take on a bicycle ride.)
The first rides were short outings around Troy. Next, they went to Staunton and Dutch Station, where Miami County pioneer brothers John and Benjamin Knoop built a blockhouse. Eventually, the club rode to Urbana and Tippecanoe City (Tipp City). Members shared stories of the people and places along the outing routes.
The routes they took are outlined in three editions of The Buckeye newspaper. For example, The Buckeye edition of September 29, 1898 says, “Leaving Troy at one o’clock they intended to wheel to Tippecanoe City, going out Peters’ Ave. and down to Northcutt Pike until they reached the Tippecanoe and West Milton pike. They engaged supper at the hotel at Tippecanoe City, and after supper they were to return to Troy by way of Cowlesville. It was agreed that the member or members of the Club who failed to relate some incident of pioneer life of the early settlers, or point out some spot of especial interest, should pay for the suppers of the rest of the party.”
Newspaper descriptions of what members saw on the rides are quite interesting. It should be noted that the names of Economy Club members are never mentioned, with the exception of one person who is referred to as the “historical crank.” How the detailed information was obtained about the rides is not known. A reporter name is not listed with the stories.
Names of people who lived along the routes are reported. Some story family names are familiar to local historians: Coleman, Kerr, Pearson and Thomas. There are stories of Concord Township pioneers Abraham Thomas, Furnace Kerr, and the Zeigler family farm, which had a burning gas well. The September 29, 1898 edition of The Buckeye says of the gas well, “…one of the ladies called the attention of the others to the gas well on the Ziegler farm, which was then burning. Here it was a few years ago that a company had bored for natural gas, and not finding it in paying quantities the well had been abandoned, but for a number of years this little gas well has continued to burn.”
Two stories about Pearson family members were told as part of a description of a club ride to Tippecanoe City. (NOTE: It has not been confirmed how or if the people in the Pearson stories were related. Both stories are in the September 29, 1898 edition.) One story is about three Pearson siblings who lived together as older adults. They were Josiah, Thomas and Mary Ann Pearson. They are described in the newspaper article as the “Wild Pearsons.” It is said that they lived apart from their neighbors and were seldom seen beyond their farm. The newspaper did report an exception when they were seen by others, “Twice a year they visited Troy to pay their taxes, and although they had horses, they generally walked to Troy where their uncouth appearance, old fashioned clothes and unkempt (sic) hair attracted much attention.”
Another story is told of a man named Samuel Pearson, who in 1804 looked for a place to build his home. He sought a place in Monroe Township near water. It is said that he found a spring as “clear as crystal and cold almost as ice water.” It was called the “boiling spring,” however, because the water bubbled up from a fissure in a rock, and was said to look like water in a tea pot when it begins to boil. The newspaper article says, however, that the water at the spring was 44 degrees throughout the year. It was regarded as the finest spring in the county.
Some club bicycle riders were able to control their bicycles better than others. The September 22nd edition tells of a woman who frequently fell from her bicycle. “The arrangements were to leave Troy at three o’clock, and picnic in the grove at the school-house on Springcreek, the lunch being carried in shoeboxes tied securely to handle bars, and as one of the party was in the habit of taking frequent headers (falls), it was deemed safe to allow her to carry only the lemons for lemonade, and thus a fall or two would only save the labor of rolling lemons at the picnic.”
These stories are more than a century old, yet they ring true about how we live today. Not everyone can take a vacation, but there are many beautiful sights to see along our local bike paths today. There are also many places to walk if one does not own a bicycle.
The Buckeye newspapers for September 1898 are available for reading at the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library at 100 W. Main St. in Troy. They contain more details of Economy Club outings and descriptions of what members saw and talked about as they rode. The library also has historic maps and may have further information about the families mentioned in the story. The information is part of a joint research collection with The Troy Historical Society.