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The Tuttle Top Ten

Updated: Feb 22

(Written by Dave Hire, Marketing And Office Coordinator)

First, a couple confessions: I am a huge history nerd. Any history website, box of old pictures, stack of newspapers or magazines, is the Cadillac of rabbit holes (there’s a mixed metaphor!). 

Also, until recently, I had never been to one of Defiance County’s most amazing repositories of area artifacts and memorabilia, The Andrew L. Tuttle Memorial Museum.

So, how do we fix this? Hint: it involved getting out of the office and making my way to The Tuttle (located at 514 West Third Street, if you ever want to check it out). My game plan: taking some pictures and writing about them. In my previous career, I had to play music countdown shows from Casey Kasem, Rick Dees, and others, so I decided to call it The Tuttle Top Ten.

This is not a countdown, because it’s impossible to rank all the exhibits at The Tuttle. It’s simply a rundown of some of the cool things I saw that day, some recommended by Judy Dally, who is one of the small band of enthusiasts that make The Tuttle go, and some that really caught my eye for various reasons.


Have you ever looked down one of our rivers and imagined Native Americans and British or French fur traders using those rivers to get from Point A to Point B? The Tuttle has a huge collection of items that were used by native tribes every day, from tools and arrowheads to the pendants you see here.


Defiance wasn’t just the location of Fort Defiance. Fort Winchester sat essentially southwest of the current intersection of Second and Washington streets. Here are some of the tools used long ago to build and maintain Fort Winchester.


There was the Miami & Erie Canal, which ran from Toledo to Cincinnati, passing through Defiance along the way. Long story short, not too many years after the canal was completed, a little thing called “the railroad” came along and this massive project slowly became obsolete.  Here’s a picture of part of one of the canal locks from downtown Defiance.


During World War 2, many German prisoners of war were sent to America to be used for general labor. One of the German POW camps was in Defiance, located (I think) near where the Defiance County Sheriff’s Department is now. Over the years, that area has been a golf course, a hospital, and housing for married Defiance College students. Pictured is a German POW uniform. FOOTNOTE: When I worked at the radio complex on Baltimore Street, I was told that the building was haunted by a German POW, so I always assumed the camp was on the west side of town.


So, in addition to trucks, car engines, and wagons, Defiance also built airplanes! The Simplex Airplane Corporation began operations in Defiance in 1928. Simplex airplanes weren’t manufactured for too many years, but The Tuttle tells us that all this led to what was to be Defiance’s first airport, near East Second Street and Squires Avenue. Visit The Tuttle’s website to read about the Labor Day 1928 flying circus that put Monty Python to shame!


(See, I just had to work in a countdown somewhere!) This organ was owned by the founder of Rettig Music, and actually touches on a couple different bits of history…See the sheet music? The title may be a bit difficult to read, but it’s an ode to Prohibition called “The Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine”. The words date back to 1874, and music was added at a later date. You probably won’t find it on iTunes or Spotify, but its memory lives on just the same.


(Not to be confused with the Twilight Zone episode of the same name) This camera is just like thousands of Kodak cameras sold in the early 20th century, but its connection to Defiance is very special. It was owned by Edward Bronson, who was Mayor of Defiance for many years and gave the world hundreds of amazing photos of Defiance, from parades to visiting dignitaries to everyday street and farm scenes.  


One of Defiance’s first manufacturing giants was the Turnbull Wagon Works, which was located near where B&B Molded Products stands now. By the year 1880, Turnbull had annual sales of half a million dollars (not bad now, pretty amazing then!) and at one point employed as many as 400 people. They eventually added truck production to their business. Here’s a picture of one of the wagon wheels that was Turnbull’s bread and butter.


Another longtime industrial fixture here was The Defiance Machine Works. It started out as a woodworking tool maker, and eventually did millwright work for various industries. In fact, one of Defiance Machine Works’ biggest jobs was one where many of its workers didn’t know the whole story. DMW designed the machines used to drill holes in uranium processing tanks for something called The Manhattan Project. Here’s a model of one of the machines used in that era.


What red carpet looks were sharp-dressed military men and fur-trading fashionistas repping 2 centuries ago? How about these timeless threads? Here we see a replica of typical clothing worn by both European and Native American hunters and trappers. The military uniform is identical to the uniform of a Kentucky Militia Captain who would have been part of the building of Fort Winchester.   

There’s a lot that I wanted to include, from the history of Defiance’s banks to Civil War money from both sides, to the CD player I used while playing Whitney Houston and Phil Collins music to death. (Actually, that ended up in a dumpster behind the old Mix 98-1 building.) If you want to get lost in Defiance area history, you can stop by The Tuttle pretty much any Thursday from 10AM till 4PM...Or you can visit 24/7 online.

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