Longtown is topic of free Garst lecture


GREENVILLE — Shari Petersime and John Ayette will be the featured speakers during Garst Museum’s third chapter in the 2023-24 lecture series. The series continues on Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. in the Lowell Thomas Meeting Room at Garst Museum, 205 N. Broadway, Greenville.

Longtown could easily be a forgotten community if it weren’t for a handful of researchers and historians who have dedicated themselves to learning and telling the story of one of this region’s most interesting communities. The bi-racial community was located on the western edge of Darke County and stretched into eastern Randolph County, Ind. According to Larry Lewis, a historian and researcher, the town was a self-sustaining community. It had its own barbershop, tavern, couple of churches and more.

The community was established in 1818 and its inhabitants worked with freed slaves or slaves that had been able to escape. By being on the border, Black individuals were able to move from one state to the other depending on the laws that were being enacted. Individuals were also able to be educated at the Union Literary Institute. An interview recorded with the late Roane Smothers, a historian and researcher of Longtown, the school educated approximately 1,000 students.

However, one area that is often overlooked when discussing Longtown is the service its inhabitants gave to the United States military. Petersime and Ayette will take a look at the individuals who served this country and called Longtown home.

Petersime traced her family back to Longtown and she is a descendant of Mary Randall Burden. Her book contains many of the names and families that lived in Longtown. Some of them will be recognized during the presentation.

Although the Spicer Brothers have recently been recognized for their service, including one brother that served as a Tuskegee Airman, there were many more individuals that have served. According to Lewis, that long history of service includes the Civil War, Spanish American War, World War 1 and 2, Korean War and Vietnam.

Lewis and Dave Manges are putting together a plaque to honor the individuals from Longtown that have served in the military. Although they have been able to verify many names, they are continuing the work to verify many more. The plaque is expected to be on display during the lecture series.

Join Petersime and Ayette for the program on Longtown’s service to the United States military on Feb. 17, 2 p.m. at Garst Museum, 205 N. Broadway, Greenville. Although the program is free, regular admission rates apply for those interested in touring the museum.

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