GREENVILLE — Understanding history can be a challenge in an age where time seems to move at the click of a mouse. Reading names, dates, and viewing old photos online may offer a glimpse into the past, but those seeking to explore history often find themselves drawn to places of significance and artifacts, which are often housed in museum collections. Whether young or old, those who appreciate the past relish every opportunity to connect with “hands-on” historical artifacts.
This week, the Darke County Republican Women’s Club held their March meeting and invited Dr. Steve Gruber, Vice Chairman for the Board of Directors of the Darke County Historical Society, to talk about the Garst Museum, its mission to preserve the canon of Ohio History — especially in Darke County — and provide patrons and families new opportunities to connect with generations past.
At the meeting, Dr. Gruber presented artifacts and heirlooms from his own personal collection, which offered those in attendance a closer look at the lives of soldiers in the European theater during World War II. Specific to the presentation were boots owned Dr. Gruber’s father-in-law, Don Hittle, a Darke County native from New Harrison who served in the U.S. Army at the Battle of the Bulge and was awarded the Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat, and a field jacket worn by Dr. Gruber’s father, Ed Gruber, a Allen County native from Lima who served in the U.S. Army throughout the Korean War. Other artifacts presented were an M1 Garand rifle, weighing nine pounds, produced by the Springfield Armory in 1943, with a cartridge belt weighing around 20 lbs, containing eight Garand clips of eight rounds each, as well as helmets and canteens used by soldiers on the field. Many similar World War II artifacts, as well as the history of Darke County’s veterans, can be viewed in the Garst Museum’s “Keepers of Freedom” section, located on the second floor.
Even though the COVID closures presented many challenges to non-profit 501(c) 3 organizations, the Garst Museum maintained its mission by providing virtual tours and exhibits throughout 2020, and is now again receiving visitors at its beloved Greenville location. With over 300,000 artifacts on display in its 35,000 square feet of exhibit space, the Garst Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of the county and fostering education on its relevance to American life.
“Our mission is to collect, preserve, exhibit, study, and interpret materials relating to history and culture of Darke County, Ohio, as it represents a Crossroads or the American Experience,” explained Dr. Gruber. “We believe it is important for any community to connect with their cultural heritage and to learn from the past to inform the present and future.”
The Garst Museum, located at 205 North Broadway in Greenville, has six major and two minor exhibit venues, and includes the National Annie Oakley Center, the Lowell Thomas Exhibit, and the Crossroads of Destiny Exhibit, among others. The Garst House was donated by the Garst family to the Darke County Historical Society in 1946, and is nationally recognized for its contribution to genealogical research and preservation.
“We would like to encourage the entire community to share in the responsibility of accomplishing the stated mission of the museum,” said Dr. Gruber. “Our President and CEO, Dr. Clay Johnson, would welcome the opportunity to further share how you might assist the museum through volunteering your time, or contributing financially to support our mission.”
In addition to the program, the Darke County Republican Women’s Club approved and installed its new officers for 2021-2022, and were honored by a visit from the Ohio Federation of Republican Women President, Mary Beth Kemmer, who officiated the swearing-in ceremony. New DCRWC officers are Jaime LeVeck (President), Lyn Bliss (1st Vice-President), Delores Ely (2nd Vice-President), Sherry Ward (Secretary), Cindy Pike (Treasurer), and Wavelene Denniston (Corresponding Secretary).
The DCRWC is a political group founded to provide political education and legislative information and provide a wider knowledge of the principles of the Republican Party. It is a multi-generational, multi-cultural organization providing the structure and support for political activists to learn, engage, and flourish. To attend a meeting or learn more about how to become a member, visit: www.darkegop.org/womens-club.html or email President Jaime LeVeck at: [email protected].
To learn more about the story and mission that is the Garst Museum, or to schedule a presentation or a museum tour, contact the Garst Museum at 937 548 5250 or email Dr. Steve Gruber at [email protected]