Once famous for marking the edge of the Western frontier, this village now lures folks off the beaten path with its hometown attractions.
By Frank Satullo
Before the Wild West existed in the minds of Americans, a place called Greene Ville was at the heart of history in the making.
Today, Greenville, Ohio, is a small town that epitomizes America’s heartland, but in the late 1700s and early 1800s, it was the epicenter of history that helped form this great nation. It was Annie Oakley’s hometown and also is the place of her burial. It hosted the signing of the monumental Treaty of Greene Ville, which included the presence of General “Mad” Anthony Wayne and the great Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. And it was where Meriwether Lewis first met William Clark; the two eventually gained fame for their Corps of Discovery expedition across America.
Modern-day Greenville is home to a mere 13,000 people and is overshadowed by Dayton, 35 miles southeast. Although little known to outsiders, the diminutive town offers a wide array of fun for visitors to experience and remember.
Greenville’s picturesque downtown is reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. It has 14 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the surrounding Darke County region has a total of 83. You can find the names and locations of these historic sites at www.nr.nps.gov/nrloc1.htm.
In the summer of 2003 Greenville’s window to the past was opened when a stunning archaeological discovery was unearthed: the remains of Blockhouse No. 8, which belonged to a fortress and display of early American might, Fort Green Ville. Today nothing else remains of the main fort, which spanned more than 50 acres. However, today’s visitors will see markers within the area that the fort encompassed.
Fort Greene Ville was the opening that made Ohio the gateway to the Northwest Territory in 1793, less than 20 years after America’s independence was won. In 1795 General Anthony Wayne’s negotiated Treaty of Greene Ville prompted Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh and other American Indians to acknowledge themselves to be under the protection of the United States and no other power. This was significant, as the Indians formerly were allied to the British. The historic treaty led to the settlement of what became Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota.
This peace treaty is commemorated at the Altar of Peace, located in Greenville City Park (610 E. Harmon Drive) and at Tecumseh Point (approximately a mile north from the park on North Broadway), marking a village known as Prophet’s Town. The town was built by Tecumseh and his brother, The Prophet. They lived and hunted the land until 1808 in protest of the original treaty, which had been broken by the settlers’ encroachment onto Indian land. Later it was re-signed as the second Treaty of Greene Ville in 1814, after Ohio became a state.
In 1860 Greenville’s most celebrated citizen, Phoebe Ann Mosey, was born. The girl went on to become America’s most renowned and beloved female sharpshooter, Annie Oakley. She traveled North America and Europe in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and befriended Chief Sitting Bull, who nicknamed her Watanya Cecila (Little Sure Shot).
Each year Greenville celebrates Annie Oakley’s legacy with the annual Annie Oakley Days festival during the last weekend in July. Activities include the Annie Oakley parade through the historic downtown and an actual shooting contest for teenage girls.
If you miss the festival, not to worry: you still can enjoy the world’s largest display of Oakley memorabilia at Garst Museum “” specifically, the Coppock Wing. In the Americana wing are examples of former-day dining rooms and a children’s room, as well as Indian and military items. The museum also includes two historic homes: the Garst House and the Lowell Thomas House. The latter structure “” the birthplace of early 20th-century radio personality, author, and traveler Lowell Thomas “” was moved here from nearby Woodington after his death. The museum’s Lowell Thomas wing is full of items he acquired during his travels. Other famous people remembered at the museum are Zachary Lansdowne, the famous naval commander of the USS Shenandoah; and Norman Vincent Peale, the father of the “power of positive thinking,” whose dad was a preacher in Greenville. Inside the Pioneer and Village wings are items from Buffalo Bill Cody; old-fashioned vehicles; and model businesses of old, including an apothecary, a barbershop, a beauty shop, and more.
The Garst Museum is open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sunday, March through November. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors, $1 for school-age kids, and free for those 5 and under. It is located at 205 N. Broadway. For more information, call (937) 548-5250 or visit www.garstmuseum.org.
Another big attraction in this sleepy little burg is a sandwich shop that has lured travelers from hundreds of miles away. At first glance, you may have second thoughts about entering this eatery. That’s because one of the exterior red-brick walls is covered with chewed gum. If you’d like to add to the collection, go ahead, but finding an empty spot may prove difficult. After you’ve admired (or disdained) this curiosity, step inside the building anyway, and try a Maid Rite sandwich. The Maid Rite Sandwich Shoppe is located at 125 N. Broadway and is open daily. Call (937) 548-9340 for more information.
Greenville is the county seat for Darke County, Ohio, and hosts the annual Great Darke County Fair each August. This fair has been dubbed the most unusual and one of the most-visited fairs in the state, and the greatest county fair on Earth. Whatever the case, it is a jewel in a city of treasures, complete with AMA Pro Am motorcycle races, harness racing, a demolition derby, rock climbing, fantastic midway shows, tractor pulls, horse pulls, livestock, and everything else you would expect to see at a fair “” and then some. For more information, visit www.darkecountyfair.com or call (800) 736-3671.
Just outside of town is a gristmill that was built in 1849. Bear’s Mill still operates today and treats visitors to tours and demonstrations of how the old stone-grinding flour mills of its time worked. It’s located at 6450 Arcanum-Bear’s Mill Road. Admission is free. Call (937) 548-5112 or visit www.bearsmill.com for more information. Handmade pottery, as well as mill flour, are available for purchase.
Around the area
Approximately 40 minutes (30 miles) north of Greenville is the Bicycle Museum of America. This facility attracts visitors from around the world with its broad selection of antique bicycles and memorabilia from throughout history. Two-wheelers dating all the way back to 1816 are included in this fine collection. Visitors can peruse an 1895 ladies’ Schwinn New World bike and a Victor bike. The latter stood 52 inches high and cost a whopping $130 back in 1892.
The museum is located at 7 W. Monroe St. in New Bremen and is open Monday through Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for seniors, $1 for students (K-12), and free for kids under 6. Call (419) 629-9249 or visit www.bicyclemuseum.com for more details.
The Armstrong Air & Space Museum honors Neil Armstrong, an Ohioan and the first man to set foot on the moon. The museum, in Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, chronicles Ohio’s contributions to the history of space flight and includes one-of-a-kind exhibits such as the Gemini VIII spacecraft and Apollo 11 artifacts. It’s open daily. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Discounts are given to seniors and AAA members. Wapakoneta is approximately 15 miles northeast of New Bremen, at exit 111 off Interstate 75 (the museum is located at 500 S. Apollo Drive). For more information, call (800) 860-0142, (419) 738-8811, or visit www.ohiohistory.org/places/armstron.
If you’re searching for a destination chock-full of small-town American charm, rediscover the little town that contributed heavily to American history, but was forgotten by time. Enjoy the heritage, hospitality, and “hot spots” of Greenville, Ohio “” a national treasure waiting to be explored again.
For a complete guide to Greenville, Ohio, attractions, accommodations, restaurants, and events information, contact:
Darke County Visitors Bureau
202 E. Main St.
Greenville, OH 45331
More tourism information is available from:
Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism
P.O. Box 1001
Columbus, OH 43216-1001
Adventure Lakes & Camping
8600 Versailles Southeastern Road
Bradford, OH 45308
This farm features 140 acres of open field and rolling hills and 20 acres of lakes. Visitors are welcome to camp year-round on the primitive, no-hookup sites.
1361 Thomas Road
New Paris, OH 45347
This 94-site campground has two stocked fishing ponds, a large outdoor pool, modern rest rooms, showers, laundry facilities, full hookups, a dump station, a game room, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, boat rentals, fire rings, and picnic tables.
Darke County Fairgrounds
800 Sweitzer St.
Greenville, OH 45331
This 178-acre wooded facility offers more than 1,000 hookups; 200 sites have full hookups and the remaining sites have water and electric only. Rest rooms, showers, and dump stations (two) are available.
Wildcat Woods Campground
1355 Wildcat Road
Greenville, OH 45331
This 50-site campground offers 25 sites with full hookups, and 25 with electric and water. A swimming lake, fishing, a dump station, a game room, a camp store, and laundry facilities also are available.