Why care about Simon Truby?

Most people who grew up in and around Apollo can list a few locally historic family names: Owens (of Owens Grove), Chambers (Chambers Hotel), McKinstry (McKinstry Hill), and General Samuel J. Jackson, a Civil War hero whose grandson was film icon Jimmy Stewart (who sometimes visited his grandpappy in Apollo).

But Truby was a name I’d never heard growing up—even though, it turns out, our family has been living for 40 years in the house Simon Truby had built more than a century before. And all of our neighbors, stretching nearly a mile to the north and to the east, dwell on property that was once home to wheat, rye, corn, and apple fields that were part of Simon Truby’s farmland. In fact, about one-third of present-day Apollo borough exists on land once owned by Simon Truby (see map).

“In fact, about one-third of present-day Apollo borough exists on land once owned by Simon Truby.”

How had Simon Truby’s name been so thoroughly forgotten in his own hometown? Why was he barely mentioned—or not listed at all—in various histories of Apollo written over the past 100 years?

Stepping back a bit, I began to worry and wonder: how many other important townspeople have already been forgotten, their stories unknown and maybe lost forever? And how many other towns are just like Apollo, with large portions of their histories and families forgotten and unknown? Lots of towns, probably.

Why give a hoot about Simon Truby? He’s just another forgotten farmer from a small struggling town. But in researching his life and the history of his house, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of my hometown’s history, its families, and geography. I’ve learned to navigate digital databases and government records to uncover cool facts and startling stories. And I’ve gained a great respect for the friendly and knowledgeable staff/volunteers at local historical and genealogical societies and libraries.

If you follow Simon’s story, you might learn a bit about small town life and ghosts of the past. You might glean some tips for researching the history of your own house and enhance your knowledge of historic architecture.

You might learn, as I did, that your house’s history has unexpected ties to your own family history, and you might uncover the criminal past of your great-great uncle (my great-great Uncle Les, to be exact).  You might look around your own neighborhood and recognize some historical research that would be fun to pursue. And you might develop the otherworldly frame of mind, where everywhere you go, you start imagining what it must’ve looked like 100 or  more years ago—which might be a blessing or a pathology.