Reminiscence: Cultivating a Legacy: A Look Back at Lima’s Garden Clubs


LIMA — The spring of 1915 was in sight when Lima’s Morning Star & Republican-Gazette announced the Civic League’s annual flower seed donation while doing fair work to sell the idea of ​​planting a garden.

“Did you hear the call of filth?” Did you sniff the sweet air, bearing the promise of spring to come and hide for a seed catalog? asked the newspaper in the February 28, 1915 article.

“As March approaches, a latent desire awakens to dig in the earth, plant seeds and see things grow,” the newspaper writes. “The planning of the new conservatory and its contents has suddenly become a topical issue. The geranium bed becomes a vital problem in every household. The sweet pea trench, which may or may not rise six inches above the trench, strikes a chord of happy, if uncertain, anticipation.

Many in the area have apparently answered the call of dirt. Margaret Simpson, writing in The Lima Daily News in August 1919, noted that the town was home to “many fine flower gardens…and rare a house in the town, however humble, but has its attractive garden.”

During lean times like the Great Depression and the World Wars, the sweet pea trench was more important than the geranium bed.

In May 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, the Lima Times-Democrat reported that the Boy Scouts would help the Home Garden Club, made up of about 250 families in southern Lima, cultivate land donated near Fourth Street and St. Johns Avenue. . Likewise, as the Great Depression tightened its grip on the country in the spring of 1931, a group called the Family Garden Committee offered free garden plots for use by unemployed workers in Lima. The gardens were carved out of land donated by the city and businessmen, according to the Morning Star & Republican-Gazette.

In the years following World War I, organized garden clubs sprang up like flowers in the spring. The Lima Garden Club, formed almost a century ago, was one of the first.

“About 75 years ago, a group of women formed a club that would become one of the most popular in the area,” wrote The Lima News in March 1998. “Under the leadership of Mrs. Marshall S. Thompson, the women joined forces and became the Lima Garden Club. This group, one of the oldest such clubs in Ohio, wanted to bring out the love of gardening in hobbyists, protect native trees, plants and birds, and encourage civic planting. These early members did not realize how popular the club would become. Before long, garden clubs were so popular statewide that Thompson, with the help of Ohio State University Extension president Victor Ries, founded the Ohio Association of Garden Clubs.

Other clubs followed – Happy Hours club, Forsythia club, Fleur-de-Lis club, Floral club, Green Thumb club and many more. In the mid-1970s, according to The Lima News, there were 11 garden clubs in Allen County.

Ms. Thompson, the force behind the formation of the Lima Garden Club and its president for a decade, was a fitting fountainhead. His father-in-law, JC Thompson, a 77-year-old retired merchant and banker from Lima, died in April 1919. His hip was broken in the fall, and due to his advanced age he could not recover after the shock,” reported the Republican-Gazette at the time.

When her husband, businessman Marshall S. Thompson, died on September 29, 1926, a week after being hit by a car on Main and High streets, Mrs. Thompson was left alone in the township home of Shawnee they had shared since about 1920. Known as Shadow Lawn, the rambling house on seven wooded acres at the intersection of Shawnee and Adgate roads has been the center of the Lima Garden Club universe for years.

“One of the most delightful social festivities of the week will be the annual Garden Club picnic this afternoon at 4 p.m. at Shadow Lawn, the Shawnee estate of President Mrs. Marshall S. Thompson,” the Morning Star & Republican-Gazette wrote on August 12, 1931. After discussing the annual fall flower show, the newspaper added: ‘Members and guests will enjoy a visit to the wooded rock garden and pool, where magnificent varieties of water lilies are in bloom”.

By 1950 there were 100 members who met regularly, and because it was considered too cumbersome, the members were divided into two clubs, the original and the Westwood Garden Club, the News wrote in 1998. The members also had too large meetings in members’ homes. , so they moved into the Agriculture and Fine Arts Building at the Allen County Fairgrounds.

Over the years, in addition to flower shows and workshops, the club worked to save the trees on the site of a new post office in 1928 and donated 400 trees to the people of Lima to replace those uprooted by a tornado in 1950. At Christmas, they weave wreaths to decorate non-profit organizations.

In the early 1950s, the Lima Men’s Garden Club, organized in the late 1940s but inactive for several years, was revived. “The club was organized and founded in 1953 because half a dozen comrades came together to love flowers,” club member Jim Osborn told the Lima News in April 1986.

The men’s garden club, like the women’s club, contributed to civic beautification through the planting of flowers. The members have appeared in the town square each spring to add pops of color to downtown. The club, which for years had a clubhouse in Faurot Park, also sponsored horticultural exhibitions and scholarships for agricultural students, participated in Arbor Day activities in schools and has judged residential and commercial beautification contests.

In January 2002, the club underwent a change of name and membership requirement.

“In a move towards gender equality in gardening, a local group has changed its 50-year-old name. On the first of the year, the Lima Men’s Garden Club officially became the Gardeners of Lima,” wrote The Lima News on January 2, 2002.

The club, noted The Lima News, had, for the previous six years, invited women to join the club. “A growing percentage of members of Les Jardiniers de Lima are women,” the club president told The Lima News. “It was time to recognize their importance by adopting a gender-neutral name.”

Forsythia Garden Club members (left to right) Mrs. Lewis Blakeman, Mrs. Melvin Newsome, Mrs. Clarence Mines and Mrs. Raymond Taylor join Mrs. Marshall Gee (kneeling) at the flower bed they have planted in front of the Bradfield Center to May 1958.

Members of the Lima Garden Club make wreaths at a workshop in December 1959.

Two children admire a wreath provided by the Lima Garden Club that adorned the door of the Allen County Children’s Home during the 1959 Christmas season.

Junior Lima Garden Club members (left to right) Jeff Rolston, Joyce Thomas and Gloria Thomas assemble a centerpiece during a workshop in April 1963.

Lima Garden Club President Margaret Jewell (left) stands with Sue Hamilton, James A. MacDonell and Jo Ann DeHaven to admire a flowerbed planted by the club near the log cabin on the grounds of the museum of the Allen County.

A look back at Lima’s gardening clubs

Contact Greg Hoersten at [email protected]


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