By Nancy Huth
When story-teller and Amish historian Eli Miller moved to Mesopotamia in 1951 he was 15. This past spring at age 80, he closed his 50-year-old Leather Shop and Country Store to enjoy some years of retirement. But being who he is, Eli soon got busy sorting through his memories as well as thousands of news clippings collected in albums over the years by his son Joe. The result is his new 80-page book entitled Memories and More of Mesopotamia, Ohio. On Saturday, Oct. 14 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eli will autograph his book in the old Harness and Leather Shop in Mesopotamia. This will also be the only opportunity for you to buy memorabilia and collectibles still in his shop.
In his book, published by Carlisle Printing of Walnut Creek ($20), Eli writes of the bygone decades of the 50s and 60s. As the book cover states, “Eyewitness to it all,” Eli Miller spins the lives and times of Mespo townspeople into a captivating history of his hometown. Each chapter leads you into the next: farming and how it was done back then; local businesses round about; people, places and happenings. To cap it off, the author describes how the changes through the years, for better-for worse, have made Mespo what it is today.” You may well find your name or picture among the many pages of photos and news clippings. You will find auction announcements, advertisements, maps, little league photos and more.
So, was Mespo just a sleepy farming town in Trumbull County? Not if you count the four illegal liquor raids in the 60s where gallons of “moonshine” were seized on Girdle Road. Or the “Murder in Mespo.”
Over the years we have all seen changes in our society, especially with the advancement of technology. Being an observer and being Amish, Eli summarizes the years so,
“As years went by farmland became more expensive and farm income decreased, so many started working away from home to supplement farm income. As the population increased the next generation built homes on frontage from the family farms, worked in factories and the trades.
Home-based businesses such as blacksmith, buggy and harness shops opened to meet the needs of the Amish. Later, shops specializing in sheet metal work, cabinet making, welding and furniture making were established. Lumber mills, pallet making and the raising of garden produce, services and products that were not available just anywhere, brought a lot of business from surrounding areas which in turn provided employment for a lot of local Amish.
Now we see many home-based stores selling footwear and clothing, hardware, gifts, groceries, and general merchandise.” As one local business stated, “The Amish have created their own economy.”
The book can be mailed for $23. For additional copies contact: Eli Miller, P.O. Box 34, Mesopotamia, OH 44039. Don’t miss Eli’s book signing on Oct. 14.