NEW MADISON — Some people say that Marilyn Fritz is pretty good at her history work. Others may argue that is a huge understatement. In December 2016, Marilyn was honored with the Phyllis Cole Dubbs Library Service Award.
“My membership with the New Madison Library and the Friends of the Library are very sincere,” Marilyn said. “Brenda K. Miller is the director of the library, and is a beautiful lady to be working and associated with.”
For the past two years, Marilyn has been the Genealogist Specialist at the New Madison Public Library. She helps folks trace their family trees through information they provide, and with the help of her collection of historical books containing cemeteries, townships and maps.
“I am not certified and I don’t profess to be the best, but I have done it enough – about 25 years,” she said.
“She is a huge asset,” Library Director Brenda K. Miller said. “Her passion is genealogy and helping others to find their roots. She has used that gift to further the work we do at the New Madison Public Library.”
Speaking of gifts, Marilyn has a list that is difficult to fit into one story. She married Virgil Eugene Fritz in 1966, in Greenville. They have four children and eight grandchildren. She has belonged to the Darke County Genealogical Society for at least 25 years. Also, she and has belonged to the Greenville Bicentennial Committee, when she won a painting of the Greenville Peace Treaty signing. She was a member of the Daughters of America, in Greenville.
In addition to being a historian, Marilyn is a prolific author with more than 50 self-published fiction books. She also co-authored with her sister Betty J. Broderick, four family tree booklets on the Wakefield Settlement and wrote two booklets, “Family Traditions: Recipes & Memories” with her mother Opal E. Reel Lease about their family traditions.
“My mother told what it was like to be a farm girl, hitch up the horses, plow the fields, chop the wood, churn the butter and raise baby chickens,” she said. “That was partly why she was such a good cook – she knew how to butcher – she knew how to do it all. Her pies were mouth-watering and her potato salad was so exotic!”
She has also written collections on folklores of different German settlements, mainly where her and her husband’s families came from. Her husband Virgil’s family was from near Fritzlar, the area where the Brothers Grimm originated. Some of Fritz’s other compilations include stories about her mother’s aunts, who were the World’s Famous Russells. They had dog acts, were championship knife throwers, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show performers and Vaudeville theatre performers, Marilyn said. Additionally, she wrote 10 volumes of Greenville and Darke county historical clippings and photos. Her books have been placed in numerous libraries across the nation, as they are full of pioneer history of her forefathers in Darke County that lived in what was then, Greenville Township.
As far as her own history, Marilyn’s has attracted other authors, such as Howard Burba. Her German forefathers came to what was once Greenville Township and helped originate the first Lutheran Church, she said. They got the land and her great grandmother, Charlotte Lease, was very instrumental in the church as she was a missionary. Plus, she was murdered in her own kitchen at age 71. She and Lease’s son-in-law, Christian Oelchlager, got into a dispute over Lease’s daughter, the farm and money.
“He stabbed her 31 times with some of the grandchildren looking on,” Marilyn said.
Here is an excerpt from the article “Darke County’s Most Cruel Crime” By Howard Burba, which appeared in the Dayton Daily News, Dec. 4, 1932.
“The site that met their eyes within the walls of what had for so many years been a peaceful, happy home, baffled description. The carpet was literally soaked in blood, while splashings upon the wall and the cloth from the table, which had been overturned in the struggle, carried an added message of gruesomeness. On the floor, bleeding from many wounds, lay the unfortunate victim of the madman’s wrath.”
Marilyn’s maiden name is Lease and Lease Avenue, in Greenville is named after her forefathers. The shopping center with Kroger and Arby’s was a part of their homestead, she said. It might be easy for someone to like history, with a history such as Marilyn Fritz, but she said everyone has a beginning that is worthy of tracing.
“I like history because it was our beginning of what life was – what they succeeded in and what they lost; what they accomplished, made and did for us. It’s like a time capsule. Most pioneers did something – they didn’t just sit home watching the birds fly. That is where it fools you – it is interesting.”
Fritz is at the New Madison Public Library the second Tuesday of every month from 1 – 2 p.m. The library is located at 142 S. Main St, New Madison, Ohio.
The writer may be reached at 937-569-4354. Join the conversation and get updates on Facebook search Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.