Huron Family Diaries Shed Light On Avon History
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photography / Huron Heritage Collection, Avon-Washington Township Public Library
According to Susan Truax, the local historian for the Avon-Washington Township Public Library, Joyce Huron Trent (91 years old) is one of the biggest names that come up when discussing Avon’s history. Her grandfather, Seth Thomas Huron, was very active in the Avon community.
“If there was an organization, whether that be a Farmer’s Mutual Benefit Association or a children’s association of some sort, he was the secretary for it,” Truax says. “He and his family weren’t real wealthy, but they did a lot for this community.”
“Not everybody stayed around, despite what we may think,” Truax says. “We tend to assume that our ancestors rarely moved around, but they did.”
Starting in 1871, Seth Thomas wrote regularly in diaries. The Avon Library has about 15 of those diaries, most of which are legible. The library staff is currently in the process of transcribing them. In them he talks about day-to-day life — taking care of the cattle, going to church, finishing high school, starting his teaching career. But he also writes of fun and frivolous things like taking singing lessons and going sledding with friends. One instance that he didn’t provide many details about was his wedding. He wrote only, “Had an important day today.”
In one entry, however, he went into great detail about chasing down a female cow and her newborn who had gotten out of the pasture. Just like in today’s generation, it seems that some days we find that we’re feeling more prolific than others.
For the most part, Seth Thomas kept things “light,” though occasionally he complained about the “inner urban” that was encroaching upon the land.
“The inner urban was supposed to go south of 36, but it went north,” Truax says. “His father’s land was right in the path of the inner urban and many of their trees had to be cut down, which Seth Thomas didn’t like at all.”
Seth Thomas’ irritation wasn’t just about deforestation. He was also concerned about children being able to safely cross the inner urban.
“You have to remember that his dad, Benjamin Abbott Huron, was killed by a train in 1888,” Truax says. “We don’t know the details on exactly what happened, but that may be why he was extra concerned about safety issues.”
It was Seth Thomas’ family who donated the land to build the original 4-room schoolhouse, which held grades all the way up to high school. The school was located very close to where Avon’s first fire department sits, across from what is now Avon Middle School South.
“We have the chair that Seth Thomas used when he was in school,” Truax adds. “He started teaching at age 21 at the 4-room Avon School.”
Seth Thomas’ son Leroy, who was deaf from 18 months on, was Joyce Huron’s father. Leroy met his wife, Myrtle, at the school for the deaf, and they had Joyce. Leroy decided to return to Avon to farm, not letting his handicap deter him from pursuing his dream.
Joyce was just 18 months old when her father died from cancer. Since her mother remained at the school for the deaf, she was raised by her Aunt Auggie Williams in the 4-room schoolhouse.
The day after graduating from high school, Joyce started working at the Indy Trust Bank Company, working her way up to Vice President of Speedway State Bank, now PNC Bank on 16th Street.
“Though she never did receive a college degree, she’s very smart and very much of an investor,” Truax says.
She wed twice (widowed by her first husband) and never did have children. She’s still married to her second husband, Wendall Trent, 93 years old.
“Joyce gets emotional whenever she talks about her grandfather Seth Thomas,” Truax says. “Clearly, there are a lot of good memories there.”
In one of Seth Thomas’ notes, he writes of attending a farmer’s conference where the family was to bring food to a pitch-in meal. They didn’t have much money so their contribution was bread buttered with sugar.
“It wasn’t fancy, but Seth Thomas wrote that it was the best dessert there was,” Truax says.
It’s a reminder that sometimes it’s the simple things in life that bring about the greatest pleasure. For Seth Thomas that included sledding, ice skating, farming and always learning.
“The Huron family believed strongly in education and felt that learning was a lifelong process,” Truax says. “They worked hard from sun up to sun down but had fun doing it. To me, they represent the best part of who we are as Americans.”