Darrtown native dedicates time to share local history online


Photo by Devin Ankeney

Fred Lindley jumps at the chance to share history about Darrtown.

By Devin Ankeney

Former Darrtown-area resident Fred Lindley has been on a mission since 2007: to chronicle the history of Darrtown, its people and everything that happened there since its founding in 1814.

The 85-year-old man has retired twice in his lifetime after spending decades teaching children in local schools and helping prospective principals become ready to do their jobs as best he can. 

Lindley grew up near Darrtown and lived there for much of his life. He now lives in Centerville.

Since 2007, he’s used his career of experience in teaching and design to build and fill a website devoted to sharing the history of his hometown with anyone who stumbles across it. 

“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s my hobby.”

He doesn’t stop smiling and loves to talk. He could ramble on about Walter “Smokey” Alston, Darrtown’s “claim to fame” and former Dodgers manager, or any tidbit about Darrtown he’s learned in his many years. 

“Walter Alston, if you go back into Dodger history, was selected to manage the Brooklyn Dodgers, I think in ’54,” he said.”And, it was because Leo Durocher wanted more than a one-year contract, and Branch Ricket wouldn’t give it to him. They reached down into the minor leagues and picked Walter Alston, and one of the headlines in a New York paper read: ‘Who’s he?’”

“He was the manager of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers for 23 consecutive seasons,” he said. “23 consecutive one-year contracts.”

Over the past 16 years, Lindley has compiled a massive, unprecedented collection of history about Darrtown. He’s included a family tree of over ten thousand people, 622 pages of history and thousands of images. 

He’s found memoirs from one of his favorites, L.A. Miller, a Darrtown resident from the early 20th century, and posted much of the content online. He’s built a monthly newsletter to showcase all the new things he’s learned and compiled to anyone and everyone.

He’s put together a virtual museum to share every artifact and photo he’s found, and has a page dedicated to sharing recollections of current and former residents of the town in their own voice.

Lindley grew up on a farm just south of Darrtown and was a graduate of the last class of Stewart High School in Oxford in 1956, right before Talawanda High School opened its doors for the first time. He graduated from Miami University in 1960 with a degree in teaching, and then went back to Collinsville Elementary School in Milford Township to teach sixth grade. 

In the 47 years between graduating college and retiring for the second time, Lindley taught sixth grade, was principal of multiple schools, managed an Ohio Department of Education training program for future school principals and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Miami University. 

In retirement, Lindley has made local history his focus. He delights in sharing the strange facts about Darrtown, like how from the mid-19th century until the 21st century, the town shared ministers with nearby towns and rotated between Lutheran and Methodist services while providing the “Union Sunday School,” a non-denominational Christian church that ensured all churchgoers had a place every weekend.

He’s collected newspaper clippings describing the first-ever newspaper to be printed in a balloon and the baseball teams that played out of Darrtown many years ago. They are available on his website.

“I’ve done the work but not without the contributions of so many people,” he said. On his website, he has compiled a page full of people who have donated to his site. 

Alongside Mike Jordan, his friend who helped him put together the website in 2007 and Kim Johnson, who helped him assemble the massive family tree, he’s made graphics and written countless pages of history after doing endless hours of research. 

“Not only do I enjoy history and research and writing, I really enjoy working with symbols and colors and design,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun for me.”

Lindley said he worries about what will happen to the website after he passes away. He’s reached out to the Oxford Lane Library, hoping someone will ensure his project doesn’t get lost once he can no longer put hours and hours into it. 

Right now, he’s working on his newsletters for July… and August… and September, as well as compiling a history of the Nichol family and the old Darrtown post office.

“This has become a labor of love, it’s a hobby for me,” he said. “I’m a teacher at heart so I love to share, and I think maybe that shows.”