DARKE COUNTY — Jeff Wilson, author and illustrator of the books Ohio Legends, Volume 1 and 2, will host a program at the Garst Museum in Greenville on Sunday, April 8 at 2 p.m.
Wilson’s books are about weird and uncommon facts throughout the state of Ohio. His original concept for writing the books was to teach his children about history in the surrounding area. He said he wanted his kids to get a sense of the community.
“My kids weren’t getting taught any local history in school,” said Wilson.
He said his kids had no idea of what terrific things Ohio created and had been a part of. Wilson hopes kids and adults learn something about Ohio that they did not know from his books.
The book began as a single panel featuring Jeff’s drawings and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not-type stories. He tried to get it published his local newspaper, but the pages were too big. So, he decided to bring it to book form.
The books beginning came from Jeff posting some pages on Facebook. He wanted to see what people thought and if there was an audience for this kind of content. At this point, he only had 30 stories.
“People on Facebook started sending me their own trivia and history of Ohio,” he said.
Currently, he has over 300 stories because of the outpour he received. People sent so much information he was able to make three books. He is halfway through putting together the third book in the series entitled Ohio Legends 3: An Empire Within An Empire.
“This third book will be the last. I am thinking about doing an Ohio cookbook, but that is years down the road,” he explained.
With the Ohio Legends series, he had hopes of being recognized for his artist skills but the book turned into something completely different. He said that while his illustrations were good, his humor was not. He had over 170 rejections for his cartoons, but eventually did get some published in magazines and newspapers.
“I’m a good artist, but I am just not funny,” he said.
Wilson said he was “bit by the history bug” at an early age and he combined his love of history with drawing to create Ohio Legends.
“I always wanted to be a cartoonist. This gave me the chance to do something different. I love drawing and I love history,” he said.
One of his favorite historical facts was about Levitt Luzern Custer. He was an inventor from Dayton who invented the first electric wheelchair, called the Custer chair, as well as the statoscope, which is used to figure out altitude for planes. Custer was a strong believer in corporal punishment, so he approached the Dayton Board of Education, offering to build them a whipping machine, which they ultimately declined.
The program at the Garst Museum will mostly be about history in Darke County, he said. Darke County has such a large amount of history that he could make a whole book about it.
“I’m really thankful for the opportunity that the Darke County Genealogical Society has given me to share my book,” he said.
Wilson will have a book signing at the end of the program and there will also be an opportunity to purchase his book. A portion of all sales will be given to the Darke County Genealogical Society.