A meeting of historical minds

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Earlier this month, when President Dale Knobel spoke to Tony Lisska’s class, “The History of Granville: A Narrative of Migrations,” the president joked that he was there to check up on the philosophy professor because, Lisska was “practicing history without a license.”

Lisska, of course, is such a devoted history buff that he’s practically famous for it. Despite his tireless pursuit of philosophy through the years, with a special emphasis on the texts of Thomas Aquinas, Lisska has also made time for his “intellectual avocation”—regional history. And Knobel is a “historian-president” with all the credentials to be talking about the past: in addition to his bachelor’s degree in history from Yale and his Ph.D. in history from Northwestern, he holds a bank of knowledge about Granville’s past—a past he’s studied extensively during the 14 years that he has led the college and resided at Monomoy Place.

So put them together and what do you have? A great class discussion about the real story of Granville’s past.

Knobel talked with students about two essays of his—one published back in 2002 by The Historical Times, founded by Lisska, which is the quarterly publication from the Granville Historical Society, and one published in 2005 in Granville, Ohio: A Study in Continuity and Change—both aimed at getting to Granville’s true roots.

His message may catch some people by surprise: Granville wasn’t always a peaceful, quiet, New England-esque village, but it’s easy to get wrapped up in such a romanticized version of the place. Even though Granville’s founders came from New England, they weren’t hoping for bucolic farmland. “They were hoping to become the next Philadelphia,” said Knobel. Those dreams were dashed when the railroad passed the small village by.

The truth is, he said, Granville was made up of hat makers and gun makers and stone quarries and a slaughter yard. “It was a noisy, smelly, busy little place.” In other words, Granville wasn’t born a quiet village, but the people who lived here made it one. “The Granville you see today,” he said, “has been artfully reconstructed.”

And that’s part of Granville’s history, too. “A community of people,” Knobel wrote in Granville, Ohio, “inevitably takes some of its character from its location, its natural setting, and even from its built environment of human construction.”

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5:05 PM February 20, 2012

maggie Brooks wrote:

For anyone who is interested in a readable short history of the industrial dreams and enterprises of Granville’s early residents, I can recommend the latest volume of the Granville Historical Society’s Pocket Histories, “Granville’s Industrial Past,” written by Theresa Overholser and edited by Denison faculty member Bill Kirkpatrick. It enumerates the disasters, dashed hopes and financial failures that resulted in today’s quiet village. It’s available at the Denison bookstore and at Granville’s Reader’s Garden bookstore, and from the Society.

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