By Kathy McDermott Goodman
MiltonNews DAILY Correspondent
Also Printed in the Record Herald on 3-4-11
Mr. Gale E. S. Honeyman is a man full of story after story, and fact after fact about the history of Union Township and Laura, Ohio. He was born on a lot that is now addressed as 101 North Main Street and currently resides nearby. In his 72 years on this earth, he has known both laughter and tears, and has seen the many changes that take place over seven decades. Mr. Honeyman was born in Laura, moved back there in 1998 after the death of his father and his own retirement, and lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco in the years between.
At a young age he became interested in the local facts his grandparents, great-grandparents and elders would share. When he was around 12 or 13 years old, he was asked a third generation Laura native, who was still living in his family home, to tell him lot-by-lot everyone that lived in town when he was younger. At the time he wrote all of the information down in a notebook. This proved to be valuable many years later.
In preparation for the Bicentennial in 2007, Mr. Honeyman’s parents were asked to write a history of Laura while sitting on their porch one evening. They laughed off the suggestion at first, but his mother, Mrs. Evelyn Honeyman, knew she had the perfect man for the job. She wrote her son a letter asking him to help her write the history. He quickly called her from Los Angeles, his home at the time, asking when he should come home. Mrs. Honeyman started researching Laura’s history for 3 months. He completed the town history and genealogy and she the country information. They looked up deeds and used the West Milton Record to fill in missing pieces.
In The History of Laura, Ohio (©1977), Mr. Honeyman invites the reader to “take a walk with me” through the town. He starts at Lot Number One at the far end of town and stops at every lot in town, listing the residents and/or businesses, past and present. He notes that almost every lot held a business at one point in time. A lot of genealogy is included in the book for families that had been there for at least three generations, along with many other interesting facts.
Mr. Honeyman was also an instrumental figure in securing the Hanktown Ohio Historical Marker presented in 2007 and sponsored by the Miami County Milestones Committee, Miami County Foundation, Troy Foundation, and The Ohio Historical Society. Former slaves of John Randolph (1773-1833), a wealthy Virginian landowner and cousin to President Thomas Jefferson, purchased two hundred acres in Union Township. This area held the Hanktown Baptist Church, which is no longer there, as well as the Hanktown School and a cemetary. Hanktown produced seven Grand Army of the Republic Civil War soldiers: Hillary White, Julius Young, Silas White, Harrison Gillard, James Gillard, Israel White, and Spencer White.
Retired since 1998, Mr. Honeyman now volunteers 3 days a week at the Brethren Heritage Center in Brookville, Ohio, of which he is a founding member and vice-chair on the Board of Directors. The center is a 17,000 square-foot building which houses a museum, archives and a large library of nearly 20,000 books. It focuses on both genealogy and religion. He is a member of the Church of the Brethren, with ancestry in the church reaching back more than two hundred fifty years.
The History of Laura, Ohio (©1977) was the first book written by Mr. Honeyman. He is also the author of The House of Spittler-Spitler (©1977) which is a history of his mother’s family; Descendents of John and Susanna (Ulrich) Deeter (©1994); and Descendents of Thomas and Elizabeth (Smith) Plummer (©2003). These books are available by contacting Mr. Honeyman directly. He still gets around a half dozen requests for his books each year.
He shared the following thought with me toward the end of our conversation: He has had his palm read and the lifeline on it indicates he will live to be 97 or 98 years old. He stated if he does live that long, “It will be perfect as long as my mind is still working properly. But if it isn’t, it will still be perfect because I won’t know what’s going on anyway.” I say the world certainly is perfect with people like Mr. Honeyman living in it and sharing their stories with us.